Jack Robins

Jack Robins

Jack Robins and Robert A.W. Lowndes were both founding-father Futurians, but in most other ways as little like each other as any two Futurians could be.

Jack was with us from the start, and stayed with us partly because he was a fan, partly because he shared the dominant mode of leftish politics and partly I cannot imagine why. As a member, he was generally present at most of the talk that went on, but more as an auditor than as a participant.

When Cyril Kornbluth briefly started college at CCNY as a freshman he ran into Jack on campus. Jack had plugged away and was now a senior. “It changed the atmosphere,” Cyril told me. “I was suddenly deferring to him.”

Jack startled me, too, by one day showing up with the manuscript of a play he had written, all by himself, in the privacy of his family’s home. It was called “The Ivory Tower,” and what it was about was us Futurians, all of us, and it was marked with insights that made me catch my breath. He continued plugging away, too, winding up with a doctoral degree and a career as a research chemist.

Bob Lowndes, on the other hand, took note of the fact that I had achieved an editorial position by the simple expedient of asking for it. A quick learner, Bob then followed my example by approaching a small pulp publishing company owned by Louis Silberkleit. He got the job as editor of Silberkleit’s science-fiction magazines. When those died, he moved effortlessly over to other periodicals in the same chain, and remained working on one or another of the Silberkleit magazines until almost the end of his life.

And why have I teamed them like this? Because Jack (who is still alive and like me, in his nineties) has recently made available to me some reminiscences of his own. I had been wishing there was some way of getting a more rounded picture of the Futurians than my own experiences, so I asked Jack if I could post some of them. One in which I don’t appear at all, about Jack himself, along with Bob, will be coming up soon.

7 Comments

  1. Stefan Jones says:

    Cool, guest bloggers!

  2. Dwight Decker says:

    For what it’s worth, Louis Silberkleit was one of the founding partners of an outfit called MLJ Magazines (he was the “L”), which later became Archie Comics, still with us today. A recent massive reprint of the first couple of years of Archie newspaper comic strips (published by IDW) has a lengthy article in the back about the MLJ-associated SF pulps with some nice cover reproductions. The article is wildly out of place in that particular book, but it’s nice to have.

  3. Jonathan K. Stephens says:

    Hi there Mr. P.,

    I really like your little trips down memory lane. On the strength of them I recently purchased, read and thoroughly enjoyed “The Way The Future Was”. I unhesitatingly recommend it to any interested in the history of SF (a nice companion is Damon Knight’s ‘The Futurians’). My understanding is that many of these blog entries will form the basis of a sequel. Any timeline on its possible completion?

    All the best,

    JKS

  4. Lamont Cranston says:

    Was the play ever performed? Did Jack ever get any publication?

  5. Todd Mason says:

    Charles Hornig, you might remember, had lost his gig with Gernsback, and was editing Silberkleit’s SCIENCE FICTION when he was imprisoned for his voluble WW2 pacifism, and Lowndes stepped into that sudden hole (Wollheim apparently made a show of not wanting to, but Lowndes was feeling more desperate, as his account in the Knight goes). Lowndes managed to keep the various Columbia magazines interesting till Silberkleit shut the remaining ones down in 1960, and Lowndes found himself working for the smaller Health Knowledge, where by ’62 he’d convinced them to let him launch MAGAZINE OF HORROR, which was the group leader for a set of rather good no-budget fiction magazines that ran till 1971, when Health Knowledge was taken over by a firm called Countrywide (sinister chord in light of the mortgage crisis). Not long after, Lowndes was working at Gernsback Publications, largely for SEXOLOGY (he’d started at HK editing their imitation of that magazine), and perhaps also doing some service for their other major title, RADIO-ELECTRONICS.

  6. Bob Jones says:

    Is there somewhere that sells The World at the End of Time as an eBook? I’ve seen some free downloads but I’d rather pay at a mainstream book seller. Amazon don’t seem to have it.

  7. Raja Thiagarajan says:

    Bob Jones, you can buy the ebook of _The World at the End of Time_ from Baen:

    http://www.baenebooks.com/s-238-frederik-pohl.aspx?pagenum=2