Self-help supermen: The politics of fan Utopias in World War II-era science fiction

Andrew Pilsch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


This essay provides a case study of politically engaged fandom during the "superman boom" that corresponded with both the dawn of sf's Golden Age and World War II, uncovering how, during a period of transition from Hugo Gernsback's scientifiction to John W. Campbell, Jr. 's social science fiction, fan culture emerged in its modern form. This emergence is marked by a number of Utopian responses to superman Fiction wherein fans saw themselves mirrored in the genetically superior beings chronicled especially in the work of A.E. van Vogt. This rhetoric of genetic superiority and human evolutionary change-which fan organizer Claude Degler labeled "fanationalism"-echoes, whether intentionally or not, the nationalist rhetoric of European fascism. In tracing the development and decline of fanationalism, this essay considers the "Slan Shack" movement of fan-created Utopian communities, the popularity of General Semantics among sf writers of the period, and Degler's infamous Cosmic Circle as related instances of superman utopianism. The essay concludes by suggesting that the crisis provoked by the association between fanationalism and Nazism ultimately proved politically unsustainable, but the sense of community established during the period helped shape what we now know as modern sf fandom.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)524-542
Number of pages19
JournalScience-Fiction Studies
Issue number3
StatePublished - Nov 1 2014
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Literature and Literary Theory


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