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Moskowitz, Sam

Entry updated 19 February 2024. Tagged: Author, Critic, Editor.

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(1920-1997) US sf historian, author and anthologist; he also worked, as Sam Martin, as an editor of trade magazines for the frozen-foods industry, retiring in 1985. For a long time, as a prominent member of sf Fandom since 1936, Moskowitz was among the best known of all historians and commentators from within Genre SF; his work in this field antedates that of nearly all non-genre historians of the field, with the notable exception of J O Bailey. Though he had earlier compiled David H Keller's Life Everlasting (1947), his first authored book was The Immortal Storm: A History of Science Fiction Fandom (essays Fall 1945-Fall 1953 Fantasy Commentator; 1951 mimeograph; rev 1954), a history of early sf fandom which recounted the feuds of the late 1930s among the then-tiny sf community with great detail and a passion quite unabraded by the passing years, and which won a 1955 Hugo. Of more general interest were Moskowitz's profiles of sf authors and discussions of sf themes, which appeared in various sf magazines, primarily Amazing, from 1959; he also published many essays, some of considerable length, for A Langley Searles's Fantasy Commentator between 1945 and 2003. Much of this material was collected (and revised) in three volumes: Explorers of the Infinite: Shapers of Science Fiction (coll 1963), which concentrates on the period up to 1940; Seekers of Tomorrow: Masters of Modern Science Fiction (coll 1966), which concentrates on writers 1940-1965; and Strange Horizons (coll 1976), about such sf themes as Religion, women (see Women in SF), Blacks and antisemitism in sf. Moskowitz's scholarship and criticism were not to everybody's taste, and these works have at times been criticized within the genre and by academics for inaccuracies and a not always fluent style. But the fact remains that, though some of his data and conclusions have been argued, Moskowitz did more original research in this field than any other scholar of his period and few since; no later history of sf has failed to make use of Moskowitz's painstaking work, especially his research into the early History of SF.

Another nonfiction work of note is Science Fiction in Old San Francisco: Volume I, History of the Movement from 1854 to 1890 (1980) (California). Moskowitz's research also surfaced in the form of long historical introductions to some of the many anthologies and collections he edited, the most important of these including Science Fiction by Gaslight: A History and Anthology of Science Fiction in the Popular Magazines, 1891-1911 (anth 1968), Under the Moons of Mars: A History and Anthology of the Scientific Romance in the Munsey Magazines, 1912-1920 (anth 1970), The Crystal Man (coll 1973) by Edgar Page Mitchell, and Into the Sun and Other Stories: Science Fiction in Old San Francisco, Volume II (coll 1980) by Robert Duncan Milne – the stories being chosen to illustrate arguments in Volume I above. Although Moskowitz was not an academic, and did not always lay out his findings as carefully as academics might like – being sometimes rather cavalier in his occasional withholding of sources of information – the above books are a major contribution to sf scholarship, for which he won a Pilgrim Award in 1981. It might also be noted that he gave the first college-level course in science fiction, at the New York City College, in 1953.

Moskowitz's professional connection with sf included a brief stint as a writer, with three stories in 1941, the first being a Space-Opera novella of distant galaxies, "The Way Back" (January 1941 Comet), and several more into the mid-1950s. (Earlier fiction had appeared in the Fanzines Scienti-Snaps, Spring 1938, and Science Adventure Stories, October 1938.) He was an sf literary agent 1940-1941, and managing editor for the last Gernsback magazine, Science-Fiction Plus, 1952-1954. He also edited a brief, four-issue revival of Weird Tales 1973-1974. He was special consultant on and largely responsible for Contact (anth 1963) edited by Noel Keyes and The Pulps: Fifty Years of American Pop Culture (anth 1970) edited by Tony Goodstone. Moskowitz's other work included his editorship of the two useful Hyperion Press series of reprints of sf classics in 1974 and 1976; the Hyperion series includes also reprinted of six of Moskowitz's most important historical works.

Moskowitz was active as an editor of Anthologies and single-author collections or editions, usually solo and under his own name, though he also ghost-edited four as by Leo Margulies, two as by Roger Elwood and three as edited by Alden H Norton. Solo work began with Editor's Choice in Science Fiction (anth 1954); other titles of interest included Modern Masterpieces of Science Fiction (anth 1966; vt in 3 vols Doorway into Time 1966, Microcosmic God 1968 and The Vortex Blasters 1968); The Man Who Called Himself Poe (anth 1969; vt A Man Called Poe 1972), a collection of essays, poems and stories about Edgar Allan Poe, plus two stories arguably by Poe; Ultimate World (1971) by Hugo Gernsback, a late and dreadful novel by Gernsback Moskowitz edited to half manuscript length; When Women Rule (anth 1972); A Martian Odyssey and Other Classics of Science Fiction (coll 1974) by Stanley G Weinbaum and The Raid of "Le Vengeur" (coll 1974), hitherto uncollected stories by George Griffith; Out of the Storm: Uncollected Fantasies (coll 1975) by William Hope Hodgson, Far Future Calling: Uncollected Science Fiction and Fantasies (coll 1980) by Olaf Stapledon and Howard Phillips Lovecraft and Nils Helmer Frome: A Recollection of One of Canada's Oldest Science Fiction Fans (anth 1989), most of this volume focused on H P Lovecraft; A. Merritt: Reflections in the Moon Pool (coll 1985). For further titles, see Checklist. In 1981, Moskowitz was given the Pilgrim Award for his multifarious accomplishments. Along with Forrest J Ackerman, he was the most significant twentieth-century American collector of sf books and memorabilia, describing his extraordinary library in "Anatomy of a Collection" (in Science/Fiction Collections: Fantasy, Supernatural & Weird Tales, anth 1984, ed Hal W Hall). Tragically, his library was dispersed after his death. In memory of his sf collecting activities, First Fandom has since 1998 presented, irregularly, the Sam Moskowitz Archive Award for excellence in sf collecting. [PN/JC]

see also: Collections; Critical and Historical Works About SF; Definitions of SF; Generation Starships; New Wave; Optimism and Pessimism; SF in the Classroom; Sociology.

Sam Moskowitz

born Newark, New Jersey: 30 June 1920

died Newark, New Jersey: 15 April 1997




nonfiction: individual titles

works as editor

individual authors, collections and novels


nonfiction works as editor


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