Thursday, February 6, 2014

John Giunta (ca. 1920-1970)-Part 2

Science fiction fandom of the 1930s culminated in the First World Science Fiction Convention, held July 2 to July 4, 1939, at Caravan Hall, in New York City. Science fiction fans, artists, and writers from all over the country flocked to the convention. Forrest J Ackerman and Ray Bradbury came in from Los Angeles, Jack Williamson from New Mexico. Ray Cummings, Manly Wade Wellman, Edmond Hamilton, L. Sprague de Camp, Isaac Asimov, and the esteemed Frank R. Paul also showed up. The convention also boasted the attendance of magazine editors John W. Campbell, Jr., Leo Margulies, Mort Weisinger, Charles D. Hornig, and Farnsworth Wright. Wright was of course the editor of Weird Tales. Giunta and Wright may have met. Who at this point can say. But by the time Giunta's first illustration appeared in Weird Tales in November 1942, Wright was gone from his post as editor. He was in fact in his grave.

John Giunta was a part of the crowd and in front of the crowd at the First World Science Fiction Convention. Giunta, James V. Taurasi, and Sam Moskowitz auctioned off, among other gems, original art by Virgil Finlay that went for as little as two dollars apiece. (1) In a softball game between the Queens Science Fiction League Cometeers and the Philadelphia Science Fantasy Society Panthers, Giunta replaced the Queens pitcher, A. Langley Searles, in the fourth inning and finished the game despite being pounded by the Panthers. The final score was Queens 23, Philadelphia 11. (2)

Science fiction conventions continue today, but that First World Science Fiction Convention came at the beginning of a fateful summer, for two months later, war began again in Europe. American involvement was still two years off, but science fiction fandom of the 1930s was reaching not only a chronological end but also a sort of spiritual end. As Isaac Asimov wrote:
Beginning with the third decade [of life], after [age] twenty, life becomes filled with adult responsibility and turns to lead. But that second decade, from ten to twenty, is gold; it is in those years that we remember bliss. (3)
Asimov turned twenty in 1940. If John Giunta was born in 1920, then he, too, entered his own age of lead that year. Nevertheless, Taurasi and Moskowitz organized a new science fiction fan club, The Cometeers, on October 14, 1940, at Giunta's home. Other members included Ray Van Houten, John Peterson, Elliott Dold, and F. Orlin Tremaine. According to Harry Warner, Jr.:
Membership was by invitation only, and eventually the group either became so exclusive that it lost all contact with civilization, or it disintegrated; the last positive evidence of its survival is at the start of 1944. (4)
I don't know whether Giunta was still a member in 1944, but by then he was well on his way as a comic book artist and magazine illustrator, the career that would carry him through to the end of his brief life.

To be continued . . . 

(1) The Immortal Storm: A History of Science Fiction Fandom by Sam Moskowitz (1954), p. 221.
(2) Moskowitz, p. 222.
(3) From "Introduction" by Isaac Asimov in Before the Golden Age: A Science Fiction Anthology of the 1930s (1974), p. xiii.
(4) All Our Yesterdays by Harry Warner, Jr. (1969), p. 220.

Original text copyright 2014 Terence E. Hanley

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