If you’ve ever sat around a big circle and had to keep quiet while other people rip apart your beloved creative work, you can thank Judy Merril. She was one of the co-founders of the Milford Science Fiction Writers’ Conference back in the 1950’s, and you can hear the echoes of Milford in Clarion, Sycamore Hill, Viable Paradise, Blue Heaven and other workshops today. Before Milford, Merril was part of the Futurian Society of New York. Of them, she writes:
“The Futurians were extraordinary people. They were a group of young writers who were set to start history, not repeat it. They each had their own visions about the future; it was coming, and they were thinking about it better than anybody else. They were all gifted and talented in one way or another. Most were without academic discipline; drop-outs, either from high school of after a short period in university. All of them had the weird, erotic erudition typical of teenagers immersed in reading science fiction. Like me, they were in flight from their families. Some of them were nice and some were nasty, but they were all very smart.”
She married and divorced, then married and divorced again; moved around here and there until settling on Canada; was a writer, editor, feminist, mom and activist. She spoke up loud and clear. She started writers groups, lived in co-ops, and founded a science fiction collection that still exists today at the Toronto Public Library – almost 70,000 books and other resources. Her biography, co-authored by her granddaughter Emily Pohl-Weary, is a wry, smart, fascinating look at not just her writing and political life but also at the science fiction field in the 1950’s and 60’s and the colorful characters who built it. Highly recommended.