Donald Wollheim, 1937.

Donald Wollheim, 1937.

When Don Wollheim and Johnny Michel came to convert the Brooklyn SFL to the cause of annihilating Hugo Gernsback, Donald was all of seventeen years old. I was twelve, and to a twelve-year old seventeen looks nearly indistinguishable from grownup. He acted and talked that way, too.

He and Johnny, in fact, were at that BSFL meeting on the very grownup mission of trying to persuade us to join them in punishing Hugo for the cardinal sin of not paying his authors, of which Donald and Johnny were, sort of, two. Gernsback had published Donald’s first story, “The Man from Ariel,” concerning an alien whose home world was so puny that you could pretty nearly jump right off it into space; Gernsback had promised to pay $25 for the right to publish, and had in fact come through with part of it, but was dodging Donald’s attempts to collect the balance.

It wasn’t the case that Donald was hurting for the money. The Depression still lingered, but Donald’s father was a very successful heart doctor with a large and comfortable apartment in the expensive part of West End Avenue. But, though he didn’t actively need the few dollars involved, Donald had the right to collect them and Gernsback was definitely in the wrong.

As we got to know Donald better, I came to have a lot of respect for the frequency with which he generated ideas. He was definitely a leader. I was happy to follow his ever-changing leads … at first.

Later on we sometimes became competitors. But we always remained friends, sometimes off on ventures that excluded even Johnny Michel, to whom Donald otherwise often seemed spot-welded at the spinal column.

More when I get around to writing it. . . .