Wednesday, April 29, 2020

The Mysterious Dolgov-Part Three and a Half

A month ago I wrote part three of this series on The Mysterious Dolgov. Then the world came to an end. Since then, my copy of Frederik Pohl's memoir The Way the Future Was has been sitting on the floor, waiting like a child to be picked up again. Like I said before, I have only a paperback edition of this book and there isn't any index in it. Today after finishing a job, I picked it up again and looked through it a little more closely than before.

And I still didn't find Boris Dolgov's name.

However, there are some clues scattered like breadcrumbs through the text. They may not lead to The Mysterious Dolgov, but they lead to a supposition. Here are the breadcrumbs, from the Ballantine Books edition of May 1979:

First, Pohl listed the names of the original Futurians, a science fiction fan club formed in 1937 in New York City. "As near as I can remember," he wrote, "[they] were:

Daniel Burford
Chester Cohen
Jack Gillespie
Cyril Kornbluth
Walter Kubilius
David A. Kyle
Herman Leventman
John B. Michel
Jack Rubinson
Richard Wilson
Donald A. Wollheim
Dirk Wylie

"Later additions," Pohl continued, "included Hannes Bok, Damon Knight, and Judith Merril [. . .]." (p. 67) (I have made bold the names of writers and artists who later contributed to Weird Tales. Click on them for links to other places in this blog.)

Second, on May 11, 1937, Frederik Pohl met a woman he described as "strikingly beautiful, and strikingly intelligent, too, in a sulky, humorous, deprecatory way [. . . ]." (p. 74) Her real name was Doris Marie Claire Baumgardt, but her friends--and her future husband, Frederik Pohl--called her Doë. Doë was a writer and artist. In 1940 and 1941, again in the 1950s, all under the name Leslie Perri, she wrote fiction and non-fiction and drew pictures for science fiction publications. Here are her professional credits, in their entirety, from the Internet Speculative Fiction Database (ISFDb):
  • Cover and interior illustrations for The Final Men by H.G. Wells, a seven-page chapbook published by Robert W. Lowndes in March 1940
  • "Fantasy Reviews: Fantasy Films," review published in Astonishing Stories (June 1940), with Forrest J. Ackerman, and under editor Frederik Pohl (1)
  • "Fantasy Reviews: Fantasy Music," review published in Super Science Stories (July 1940), under editor Frederik Pohl
  • "Space Episode," short story published in Future (Dec. 1941), under an uncredited editor and behind a cover illustration by Hannes Bok
  • "In the Forest," short story published in If (Sept. 1953), under editor James L. Quinn
  • "Under the Skin," short story published in Infinity Science Fiction (June 1956), under editor Larry T. Shaw (also appeared as "The Untouchables") (2)
So here we see some of the same names again: Pohl, Lowndes, Bok.

Third, Pohl became editor of two new magazines, Astonishing Stories and Super Science Stories, in the fall of 1939. (Both made their debut in 1940.) He had a budget of about a penny per word for fiction. "Art was something else," he remembered, continuing:
When I brought my budget to Aleck Portegal, the art director, he looked at me with compassion and disgust. Where the hell was I going to get artists to work for that kind of money? Writers, sure. Everybody knew what writers were like. But artists did a job of work for a dollar, and they wouldn't take less. That didn't worry me because I had a secret weapon. In fact, two of them. There were the fan artists, as eager as the fan writers for publication in a science-fiction magazine. And besides, my girlfriend, Doë, was an art student at Cooper Union. She had at her fingertips a whole school of striving newcomers to whom five dollars would look like a hell of a price for something they would gladly have bribed us to print. (p. 102)
Unfortunately, the art students proved "a disappointment," Pohl wrote, "and most of the fans were worse. But there were a couple who were competent, and one--Hannes Bok, whom Ray Bradbury had been touting at the World Convention not long before--who was superb." (p. 102) A few pages later, still recounting his travails as an editor strapped by a tight budget, Pohl wrote: "Hannes Bok, Doë, Dave Kyle, and others did illustrations for me, and I farmed out departments and columns to those who wanted to do them [. . .]." (pp. 110-111)

And that's it. No matter how hard I try, I can't get Frederik Pohl to say Boris Dolgov's name.

So, did Dolgov contribute to magazines edited by Pohl? Not according to ISFDb. But then I don't think we should rule out that Dolgov worked anonymously or under a different name. In any case, we know that Dolgov contributed to magazines edited by two other Futurians, Robert W. Lowndes and Donald A. Wollheim, and that these five drawings came in 1941. Three were collaborations with Hannes Bok. (3)

So again, I'm working on the idea that Boris Dolgov was born in about 1910, probably in New York City, and that he was peripherally attached to science fiction fandom in that city during the late 1930s and early 1940s. Like I said, Bok came out of fandom, too, and I wonder if that's where they met and where they decided to collaborate. But what if instead Dolgov was an art student at Cooper Union in about 1939-1940, and what if he was recruited into the science fiction field by Doë Baumgardt? Maybe a look at the student rolls from Cooper Union, if they still exist, would tell us something . . .

By the way, Doë Marie Claire Baumgardt Pohl Owens Wilson, aka Leslie Perri, was born one hundred years ago this week, on April 27, 1920. Happy Birthday, Doë!

To be continued . . .

(1) Pohl and Doë were married on August 31, 1940 (in a Presbyterian church of all places). See The Way the Future Was, pages 112 and following, for more on their short-lived marriage.
(2) Doë also contributed to fanzines during the 1930s and '40s.
(3) Dolgov's first illustration for Weird Tales was in the issue of September 1941. His last appeared in July 1954. In other words, after working very briefly for a couple of science fiction magazines in 1941, Dolgov found regular work with Weird Tales and stayed with it until the very end.

The Way the Future Was: A Memoir by Frederik Pohl (1978), with cover art by Joseph Lombardero (1922-2004). Ignore the -dero part: as far as anyone knows, Lombardero was not an evil, cavern-dwelling creature sprung from the imagination of Richard Sharpe Shaver.

Original text copyright 2020 Terence E. Hanley

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