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Yesterday Today:
SF’s Roots on View at Milford Festival

September 29th, 2017

My previous post concluded with mention of the grand finale at this year’s Milford Readers and Writers Festival and the promise of a follow up post. Here, then, are some of the talking points from our three-hour program at the Milford Theatre, a conversation that considered how science fiction came of age in Milford during the middle of the 20th century.

The story begins with the Futurians, a group of Brooklyn writers interested in moving science fiction beyond its pulp origins. Among them were James Blish, Virginia Kidd, Damon Knight, and Kate Wilhelm, who moved to Milford in the 1950s and whose homes became gathering places for fellow writers. The Blish-Kidd home (left) became known as Arrowhead, and it remains a central part of the sf world today.

The other Milford retreat, the home of Damon Knight and Kate Wilhelm, was known as The Anchorage (right), a place that James Blish described as “a looming, dark and slightly crumbling mansion.” It burned down decades ago but holds an important place in sf history as the the site of the original Milford Science Fiction Writers Conference. It is also the place where sf artist and filmmaker Ed Emshwiller shot The Thing from the Back Issues — a science-fiction short featuring Algis Budrys, Judith Merril, Harry Harrison, Ted Cogswell, Damon Knight, and other sf luminaries.

Last week, as part of the panel discussion at the Milford Theatre, I got the chance to screen that film and discuss it with fellow writers Gordon Van Gelder, Paul Witcover, John Grant, and Robert Levy (who, alas, is not shown in the photo below). The film is a wonderful time capsule, a window back to the early days of science fiction. You can watch it in its entirety by clicking the embedded video at the top of this post. Enjoy … and I’ll be back soon with news about another film — the Mick Garris anthology Nightmare Cinema that is currently making its way to a theater near you. Until then, scop on!

Gordon Van Gelder, Paul Witcover, Lawrence C. Connolly, and John Grant at the Milford Readers and Writers Festival

Images

  • Arrowhead Today. Photo by The 21st-Century Scop.
  • The Anchorage, circa 1955.
  • Four-fifths of the SF-Roots panel at the Milford Theatre. Photo by Christine Cohen.