What did the great Robert A. Heinlein, author of Starship Troopers, Stranger in a Strange Land and countless other classic science fiction novels, think of fandom? At one point he felt that it was made up of "a bunch of neurotic, selfish, childish, insensitive and unimaginative, vicious bunch of jerks," according to a 1945 letter posted today over at Letters of Note.
Clearly he hadn't always believed that—after all, in 1941, he was the guest of honor at that year's World Science Fiction Convention—but World War II changed his mind.
After Forrest J. Ackerman wrote Heinlein requesting a fanzine contribution, Heinlein offered condolences for the recent combat death of Ackerman's brother, but refused the request, explaining, "These bastards let your brother die, Forry, and did not lift a hand to help him."
Heinlein told Ackerman he should stop associating with fans and that it was instead time he "tackled the problems of the real world."
I have read the fan publications you have sent me and, with rare exceptions, I find myself utterly disgusted with the way the active fans have met the trial of this war. By the fan mags I learn that many of these persons, who are readily self-congratulatory on their superiority to ordinary people---so many, many of these "fans" have done nothing whatsoever to help out. Many of them are neither in the army nor in war work. Many have found this a golden opportunity to make money during a war boom---by writing, by commercial photography, through the movies, or by other worthless activities---worthless when compared with what your brother Alden was doing. These bastards let your brother die, Forry, and did not lift a hand to help him. I mean that literally. The war in Europe would have been over if all the slackers in this country had been trying to help out---would have been over before the date on which your brother died. The slackers are collectively and individually personally responsible for the death of Alden. And a large percent of fans are among those slackers. Alden's blood is on their hands. ...
Fandom has had a chance to prove itself and it has failed. I find the mags crowded with escapism and other nonsense; I find that fans now call themselves "Slans" (God save us!) on many occasions. I find many other evidences of group paranoia and of psychotic infantilism---and unwillingness to face up to adult problems and to cope with them. Forry, you may write the most inspiring things for a better world possible; if you direct them to this group, they will be worthless in carrying on with Alden's unfinished work, for they will fall on sterile ground. I am not generalizing; there are a few adults among them and there was a fair percentage before the war. I do not indict any who are carrying their load. But there are many (and you know that I am right) who are doing nothing and did nothing to save your brother's life. A bunch of neurotic, selfish, childish, insensitive and unimaginative, vicious bunch of jerks! It is time you quit associating with them and tackled the problems of the real world.
Heinlein obviously changed his views later on, as in 1976 he once more allowed himself to appear as guest of honor at a World Science Fiction Convention.
For a complete transcription, visit the always entertaining Letters of Note.