Donald A. Wollheim

Donald A. Wollheim bigraphy, stories - American science fiction editor and writer

Donald A. Wollheim : biography

October 1, 1914 – November 2, 1990

Donald Allen Wollheim (October 1, 1914 – November 2, 1990) was an American science fiction editor, publisher, writer, and fan. As an author, he published under his own name as well as under pseudonyms, including David Grinnell.

A founding member of the Futurians, he was a leading influence on science fiction development and fandom in the 20th century United States.

DAW Books

Wollheim left Ace in 1971. Frederik Pohl describes the circumstances: Unfortunately, when Wyn died [in 1968] the company was sold to a consortium headed by a bank. … Few of them had any publishing experience before they found themselves running Ace. It showed. Before long, bills weren’t being paid, authors’ advances and royalties were delayed, budgets were cut back, and most of Donald’s time was spent trying to soothe authors and agents who were indignant, and had every right to be, at the way they were treated. DAW Books logo used from 1972 to 1984 Upon leaving Ace, he and his wife, Elsie Balter Wollheim, founded DAW Books, named for his initials. DAW can claim to be the first mass market specialist science fiction and fantasy fiction publishing house. DAW issued its first four titles in April 1972. Most of the writers whom he had developed at Ace went with him to DAW: Marion Zimmer Bradley, Andre Norton, Philip K. Dick, John Brunner, A. Bertram Chandler, Kenneth Bulmer, Gordon R. Dickson, A. E. van Vogt, and Jack Vance. In later years, when his distributor, New American Library, threatened to withhold Thomas Burnett Swann’s Biblical fantasy How Are the Mighty Fallen (1974) because of its homosexual content, Wollheim fought vigorously against their decision. They relented.

His later author discoveries included Tanith Lee, Jennifer Roberson, Michael Shea, Ian Wallace, Tad Williams, Celia S. Friedman, and C. J. Cherryh, whose Downbelow Station (1982) was the first DAW book to win the Hugo Award for best novel. He was also able to give a number of British writers — Michael Moorcock, E. C. Tubb, Brian Stableford, Barrington Bayley, Michael Coney — a new American audience. He published translations of international sf as well as anthologies of translated stories, Best From the Rest of the World. With the help of Arthur W. Saha, Wollheim also edited and published the popular "Annual World’s Best Science Fiction" anthology from 1971 until his death.

Wollheim as fan

The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (first edition, 1979) calls Wollheim "one of the first and most vociferous sf fans." He published numerous fanzines and co-edited the early Fanciful Tales of Space and Time. His importance to early fandom is chronicled in the 1974 book The Immortal Storm by Sam Moskowitz and in the 1977 book The Futurians by Damon Knight.

Wollheim organized the first science fiction convention. A group from New York met with a group from Philadelphia on October 22, 1936 in Philadelphia. The modern Philcon convention claims descent from this event. Out of this meeting, plans were formed for regional and national meetings, including the first Worldcon.LOCUS, December 1990, Donald A. Wollheim: Obituaries and Appreciations, pp. 68–70.

Wollheim was a member of the New York Science Fiction League, one of the clubs established by Hugo Gernsback to promote science fiction. When payment was not forthcoming for the first story he sold to Gernsback, Wollheim formed a group with several other authors, and successfully sued for payment. He was expelled from the Science Fiction League as "a disruptive influence" but was later reinstated.

In 1937 Wollheim founded the Fantasy Amateur Press Association, whose first mailing (July 1937) included this statement from Wollheim: "There are many fans desiring to put out a voice who dare not, for fear of being obliged to keep it up, and for the worry and time taken by subscriptions and advertising. It is for them and for the fan who admits it is his hobby and not his business that we formed the FAPA." In 1938, with several friends, he formed the Futurians—arguably the best-known of the science fiction clubs. At one time or another, the membership included Isaac Asimov, Frederik Pohl, Cyril Kornbluth, James Blish, John Michel, Judith Merril, Robert A. W. Lowndes, Richard Wilson, Damon Knight, Virginia Kidd, and Larry T. Shaw. In 1943 Wollheim married fellow Futurian Elsie Balter (1910–1996). It proved to be a lasting marriage and a publishing partnership.