Dessert of the Day: The Science Fiction Special

Illustration by Shannon Noah (shannonnoah. com)

We have the word “experience” in the name of our project for a reason. We’re hoping to bring early fandom to life in a more visceral, accessible and interactive way than previous histories of the period. To that end, we’re always searching for examples of what fans of the 1930s did when they weren’t slaving over a typewriter, mimeograph machine or steaming vat of hectography gelatin.

One thing some of them did is eat ice cream. Not remarkable in itself, but we’d assume that hard-core science fiction fanatics would find a way to make dessert a part of their primary fixation.

As we can see from this article by future-Futurian Frederik Pohl in the The International Observer (v2n7, January 1937), we know that they did just that.

Illustration by Shannon Noah (shannonnoah.com)

Donald A. Wollheim and John B. Michel published an enhanced and refined version of the recipe in The Science Fiction Bugle, May 1937.

We’re tempted to believe the stain on the Bugle is chocolate sauce from 1937. Untangling the references:

  • The “last Clayton Astounding Stories” was March 1933, pictured above, the ship on the cover apparently sliced up banana-wise.
  • “The Affair of the Brains” by Anthony Gilmore appeared in the March 1932 issue of Astounding Stories. “Five human brains lay all immersed in the glowing case, each resting in a shallow metal pan.” Seems like we should have two more scoops to be fully aligned with the story. Kirk chose strawberry, vanilla and pistachio.
  • “The Last Evolution” by John W. Campbell is from Amazing Stories, August 1932. Humans build machines that evolve into sentient beings of pure force, obsoleting men who can’t change as fast. Just like whipped cream?
  • “Derwin” is the D in Charles D. Hornig, then-Editor of Wonder Stories and an object of scorn among Wollheim’s posse. We do not know the particulars of the “Gorong Gun,” and can only presume that things did Go Rong, the cherry syrup representing poor Derwin’s spilled blood.
  • “The Brain-Eaters of Pluto” by Kenneth Sterling appeared in the March 1934 issue of Wonder Stories. It was written by Sterling when he was thirteen years old. “…a parodic collection of puns, wise-cracks, contemporary slang, period references, etc., loosely draped on a rescue plot…” (Bleiler & Bleiler, The Gernsback Years).
  • “The Brain Stealers of Mars” by John W. Campbell was published in Thrilling Wonder Stories, December 1936. Here we met the shape-shifting creatures who would later inhabit Antarctica in “Who Goes There?” and the film The Thing.
  • Pecans look like tiny brains, obviously.

In an interview with John L. Coker III, David Kyle recalled this treat as a regular feature of meetings of the International Scientific Association, one of the warring fan-factions of New York at the time:

“I went to a meeting of the ISA and there I met Donald Wollheim, Fred Pohl, Dick Wilson, John Michel, and a few others who came a little later, like Robert W. Lowndes, Chester Cohen, and Cyril Kornbluth.  After the meeting, which was on a Sunday, we did what all young guys did in those years: we went to a soda fountain.  Somebody said that they wanted certain flavors, with nuts and a cherry, custom-made by the ice cream shop.  It was called the ‘Science Fiction Sundae.’  It was a small store and we went there regularly.  You didn’t have to go through a routine of the ingredients, we’d just ask for it by name.”

Be on the lookout at upcoming conferences for a “Science Fiction Special” ice cream event sponsored by First Fandom Experience!

Illustration by Shannon Noah (shannonnoah.com)

2 thoughts on “Dessert of the Day: The Science Fiction Special”

Comments are closed.