By: Judith Zissman
August 23, 2017

One in a series of enthusiastic posts, contributed by HILOBROW friends and regulars during 2017, on the subject of our favorite squads.


“If you’re going to be a member of the universe you have to keep joining.” — Judith Merril on #squadgoals in her memoir Better to Have Loved

I read a lot of science fiction and fantasy as a kid. Anne McCaffrey, Robert Heinlein, and the other usual suspects — but also odd little pulp paperbacks with strange bright futuristic covers. I was delighted to find my own name, Judith, on one of those books and proudly showed my dad. “Oh,” he said, “Judith Merril. That’s your great-aunt. She was married to my uncle Dan, so she was Judith Zissman, like you. The Merril part comes from her daughter’s name.”

Through her, I discovered the Futurians, a tribe of oddball genius science fiction fans, authors, and editors. Polyamorous Trotskyist pranksters who played word games and shared a pen name and built a secret passageway between their adjoining apartments. Donald Wollheim, Johnny Michel, Frederik Pohl, Isaac Asimov, Cyril Kornbluth, Virginia Kidd, Damon Knight and a handful of others. They filled the pages of the pulps and digests: Galaxy and Thrilling Wonder and Amazing Stories and Wonder Stories and Astounding Stories of Super Science and more.

Judy wrote ten books and nearly 50 short stories. She left my great-uncle for Frederik Pohl, then left Pohl for Walter Miller. She renounced her American citizenship during the Vietnam War and moved to Canada. I met her for the first and only time shortly before her death and tried to explain what it had meant to me to discover the worlds she and the Futurians invented and inhabited, that she’d been a secret room in the all-too-ordinary house of my own family, a space of possibility, the first time I realized that I might someday find my own strange band of outsiders, make unexpected choices, and find entire new universes.

PHOTO: Taken by the late Lynn Hickman at the first Nolacon in 1951, and posted online by Curt Phillips.


GOLDEN AGE SCIENCE FICTION at HILOBROW: Golden Age Sci-Fi: 75 Best Novels of 1934–1963 | Robert Heinlein | Karel Capek | William Burroughs | E.E. “Doc” Smith | Clifford D. Simak | H.P. Lovecraft | Olaf Stapledon | Philip K. Dick | Jack Williamson | George Orwell | Boris Vian | Bernard Wolfe | J.G. Ballard | Jorge Luis Borges |Poul Anderson | Walter M. Miller, Jr. | Murray Leinster | Kurt Vonnegut | Stanislaw Lem | Alfred Bester | Isaac Asimov | Ray Bradbury | Madeleine L’Engle | Arthur C. Clarke | PLUS: Jack Kirby’s Golden Age and New Wave science fiction comics.

#SQUADGOALS: Annie Nocenti on THE WILD BUNCH | Alice Boone on PRETTY LITTLE LIARS | Gordon Dahlquist on BOWIE’S BAND | Rob Wringham on THE HOME GUARD | Jennifer Krasinski on WATERSHIP DOWN RABBITS | Annalee Newitz on ROBIN HOOD’S MERRY PALS | Adrienne Crew on THE BLOOMSBURY GROUP | Mark Kingwell on THE HONG KONG CAVALIERS | Adam McGovern on KAMANDI’S FAMILY | John Overholt on THE CLUB | Greg Rowland on THE VULTURE SQUADRON | Sara Ryan on BETSY, TACY & TIB | Chelsey Johnson on VI ÄR BÄST! | Brian Berger on THE JOHN FORD STOCK COMPANY | Sherri Wasserman on THE WARRIORS | Jessamyn West on FAREYNIKTE PARTIZANER ORGANIZATSYE | Josh Glenn on DADA | Matthew De Abaitua on THE TIME | Mandy Keifetz on THE FOUNDING FATHERS | William Nericcio on ZOOT SUIT PACHUCOS | Deb Chachra on FIREFLY CREW | Matthew Battles on THE ANIMAL FAMILY | Ingrid Schorr on THE HARLEM GLOBETROTTERS | Joe Alterio on THE USUAL GANG OF IDIOTS | Dan Reines on THE BREAKFAST CLUB | Rob Walker on LES TROIS INSÉPARABLES | Devin McKinney on 1975 RED SOX | Steph Burt on DAMAGE CONTROL | Elina Shatkin on THE HOLOGRAMS | Chris Spurgeon on THE ALKALI METALS | Carl Wilson on NEW YORK SCHOOL POETS | Barbara Bogaev on THE MOD SQUAD | Franklin Bruno on THE AACM | Judith Zissman on THE FUTURIANS | Mimi Zeiger on ARCHIGRAM | Jacob Mikanowski on THE RATBASTARDS | Lynn Peril on THE DALY SISTERS | Anindita Basu Sempere on MEG MURRY’S FAMILY | Libi Rose on THE ENIAC TEAM | Gary Panter on THE TRIBE OF HIPPIES | Peter Doyle on CORNEL WILDE BOYS | Ken Layne on THE MONKEY WRENCH GANG | Molly Wright Steenson on BAUHAUS | Katie Hennessey on BEAT POETS | Mimi Lipson on THE RUNAWAYS | Jordan Ellenberg on BOURBAKI | Michael Campochiaro on THE SUICIDE SQUAD | Deborah Wassertzug on THE BLOODHOUND GANG | Colin Dickey on ACÉPHALE | Douglas Wolk on SEVEN SOLDIERS OF VICTORY | David Smay on THE MYSTIC KNIGHTS OF THE OINGO BOINGO | Karinne Keithley Syers on BLACKLIPS PERFORMANCE CULT.