Today, interest in science fiction is massive. It’s become a major mode of popular culture. Just look at the size and scope of science fiction, comic book and gaming conventions. Barely a week goes by without a major event like this going on somewhere in the world. Thousands of people attend them and some are so huge, they can dominate a local economy for a weekend.
But back in the early days, things were far more modest. In fact the first World Science Fiction Convention or “WorldCon,” in New York had only a handful of attendees. It was held in 1939 to coincide with the Word’s Fair. Within six months World War II would begin.
The official pamphlet of the ’39 World Fair read: “The eyes of the Fair are on the future — not in the sense of peering toward the unknown nor attempting to foretell the events of tomorrow and the shape of things to come, but in the sense of presenting a new and clearer view of today in preparation for tomorrow; a view of the forces and ideas that prevail as well as the machines.”
I can’t think of a better description of science fiction. So it was a fitting place for the first WorldCon – a place where thinking people could peer closely at the forces at-hand and extrapolate what they might bring for tomorrow. In a way, WorldCon was a microcosm for what was happening on a larger scale at the World’s Fair – or for that matter the world.