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Vol Molesworth Vol Molesworth i(A41487 works by) (a.k.a. Voltaire Molesworth)
Born: Established: 1925 ; Died: Ceased: 1964
Gender: Male
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The son of Voltaire Molesworth, a journalist and member of the New South Wales Parliament, Voltaire Molesworth Jnr was schooled at Blue Mountains Grammar School and then Sydney Grammar. In late 1939, Molesworth was part of a coterie of students, all passionate science-fiction fans, who co-founded the Sydney Futurians. In December that year, a month after the society's inaugural meeting, Molesworth brought out Luna, a twelve-page, foolscap-sized fanzine that lasted three issues, before he began producing a magazine called Cosmos. This publication lasted thirteen issues, between March 1940 and January 1941, and was essentially published in opposition to two zines also being published by fellow Futurian founders: Ultra (edited by Eric and Ted Russell) and the Futurian Observer (a newspaper-style zine produced by William D. Veney and Bert F. Castellari). Increasing levels of friction from within the Futurians led to Molesworth's resignation in April 1940. Although the other members later voted to invite him to re-join, the Sydney Futurians was soon afterwards forced into a period of inactivity following the ban on imported magazines from the US and a severe shortage of paper.

After gaining his Intermediate Certificate, Molesworth left school to become a cadet journalist and, while in his late teens, wrote a number of novellas that were published by Currawong. Most of these early stories were written in the murder/mystery genre, including Prelude to Death, Satan's Understudy, and The Wizard Returns. Molesworth's most successful publication during this period, however, was the science-fiction story 'The Stratosphere Patrol'. He then began to write mostly in this genre until around 1945, at which time he returned to the more literary novel. Two unpublished novels from the 1940s were Cry for Me, Sydney and Concerto for Type-Writer. Molesworth's association with journalism also saw him report for and edit for several Sydney newspapers (and briefly, during the war, newspapers in Newcastle and Melbourne). In later years, he edited a number of trade journals and house organs.

In the late 1940s, Molesworth undertook studies to complete his schooling, and subsequently gained an Unmatriculated Adult Scholarship to Sydney University. He initially intended to study literature but, after winning the Caird Prize for topping Philosophy 1, he redirected his studies towards that field. Altogether, he won the Caird Prize three times and eventually graduated with a BA and an MA in philosophy. This led both to employment as a tutor and lecturer and to the publication of two books: Logic for Beginners and Landmarks in Logic. In the early to mid-1950s, while still studying for his BA, Molesworth suggested the formation of a philosophy club in Sydney, an organisation that became a reality in 1957 through one of his lecturers, Professor John Anderson. Reverend G. Stuart-Watts, in his chairman's address preceeding the Sydney Philosophy Club's 1977 John Anderson Memorial Lecture, mentioned that both Anderson and Vol Molesworth were then the only two honorary life members. He also expressed the belief that while Anderson had been well regarded as one of Australia's foremost philosophers, Molesworth's untimely death in 1964 at age 39 had deprived the country of one of its brightest minds. At the time of his death, Molesworth was undertaking a PhD at the University of New South Wales, where he tutored at the School of Business Administration.

The late 1940s and early 1950s saw Molesworth once again associated with the Sydney Futurians. He and Graham B. Stone were instrumental in reviving the society in 1947, along with Eric Russell, Stirling Macoboy, and Laura Molesworth. Molesworth was initially elected secretary/treasurer, but later took on the position of director. By September that year, the new group had published the first issue of The Sydney Futurian, and began re-building the club library. Within six months, the membership had increased to almost thirty members. In January 1949, Molesworth resigned as director, citing the pressure of work and study as his reason. His place was taken over by John Cooper.

In September 1950, Molesworth purchased a new Adena printing press and registered the business name Futurian Press, the object being to publish limited editions of science fiction and selected fantasy. That same year, Nick Solntseff had published a twelve-page, folded foolscap, duplicated fanzine called Woomera. In early 1951, having decided to abandon the duplicated format, he and Molesworth joined forces to publish the zine through Futurian Press. (Four issues were released up until 1953, at which time the pressure of university studies on both men led to the zine ending.) 1951 also saw Molesworth's re-election to the position of director and the publication of two novellas by Futurian Press: his own Blinded They Fly and Stone's Zero Equals Nothing.

By the end of 1955, thanks to internal bickering and the gradual departure of people through careers and marriage, the Futurian Society of Sydney was moribund. While Graham Stone attempted to keep it alive, the Futurian Society of Sydney was effectively a one-man operation during that time. Vol Molesworth, by this time, had begun to lose interest in both science fiction and fandom, as his university studies and teaching load began to once again take up more of his time. Although he continued writing, this was largely directed towards textbooks or more serious literary genres.

In addition to his passion for writing and philosophy, Molesworth had interests in radio and television, gaining amateur operator's certificates for both mediums. This interest in communications technology led to his being given the job of manager of the University of New South Wales's educational radio station. A by-product of his work was the book Factors in Effective Communication. He left the position in 1963, however, in order to devote more time to lecturing and completing his PhD.

Over the course of a number of years, he wrote a record of Australian science-fiction fandom, which was published in various zines: The Mentor, Ark, and Forerunner Quarterly. These various versions were later collated by Ron L. Clarke and published in 1980 as A History of Australian Fandom 1935-1963.

Vol Molesworth died on July 14 at the age of 39 after a long illness. Although he had spent much time in hospital during his life as a consequence of his diabetes, his death was the result of a coronary occlusion from which he never recovered. Molesworth was survived by his wife Laura and children David and Lynette.

Most Referenced Works


  • Further Reference

    Molesworth, Vol. A History of Australian Fandom 1935-1963 (1980).

    Stuart-Watts, G. 'Chairman's Address.' 1977 John Anderson Memorial Lecture. Setis, University of Sydney Library. Online. (Sighted: 6/09/2010)

    'Voltaire Molesworth, 1925-1964.' The Mentor 80 (July 1995), p.21. Online. (Sighted: 30/09/2010)

Last amended 13 Nov 2013 10:27:52
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