Trap Door Spiders

The Trap Door Spiders are a literary male-only eating, drinking, and arguing society in New York City, with a membership historically composed of notable science fiction personalities. The name is a reference to the reclusive habits of the trapdoor spider, which when it enters its burrow pulls the hatch shut behind it.[1][2][3]

History and practices

The Trap Door Spiders were established by author Fletcher Pratt in 1944, in response to the June 7, 1943 marriage of his friend Dr. John D. Clark to operatic soprano Mildred Baldwin. The new Mrs. Clark was unpopular with her husband's friends, despite their participation in the ceremony (Pratt's own wife Inga Stephens Pratt was matron of honor, and L. Sprague de Camp served as Clark's best man).[3][4][5] Pratt reasoned that the club would give them an excuse to spend time with him without her.[3][4] The presidency of the club rotated among the members, the president for a given evening being the member who had volunteered to host the meeting by giving the dinner and supplying a guest.[3] Over the course of its existence the Trap Door Spiders has counted among its members numerous professional men, many of them writers and editors active in the science fiction genre, along with some prominent fans such as Dr. Clark.

The get-togethers of the Trap Door Spiders followed a set format, which remained consistent through the years; a dinner, given by the host for the evening, to which he would invite a guest who would be grilled by the others and form the focus of conversation for the evening.[1][3] The grilling was traditionally begun by the host for the evening enquiring of the guest "How do you justify your existence?" or some variation, such as "Why do you exist?" Jack Coggins remembers that an editor for Reader's Digest went home from a meeting in tears after a brutally personal grilling. Coggins once invited Worthern Paxton, art director of Life Magazine, to a meeting.[6] As of 1976, the club met roughly one Friday a month, eight or nine times a year, and maintained a membership of thirteen, among whom the privilege of hosting the meetings rotated. The host of a given meeting selected the restaurant, wine, and menu for the evening, and had the option of inviting one or two guests he believed might prove interesting to the other members.

The group remained active through at least January 16, 1990, when its members attended a party given by Doubleday for Isaac Asimov at Tavern on the Green in New York City. The event commemorated Asimov's seventieth birthday and the fortieth anniversary of the publication of his first book.[7] According to L. Sprague de Camp, the club was "still thriving" as of 1996.[3]

Membership

Membership of the club was by invitation, and varied as some Trap Door Spiders died or moved away (or in at least one instance was dropped by the consensus of the other members) and as others were admitted on the nomination of existing members.[3] People known to have been members of the club include:

According to magician and skeptic James Randi, other prominent figures attending Trap Door Spiders meetings included authors Frederik Pohl and L. Ron Hubbard, as well as Randi himself.[20] All three appear to have attended as guests rather than members (Pohl in particular has written he was never a member),[22] though Randi did consider himself an "honorary" member.[20][23]

Owing to the writings of Isaac Asimov (see below), those most closely associated with the group are Bensen, Cant, Carter, Clark, de Camp, del Rey, and Asimov himself.[8]

The Trap Door Spiders in fiction

The Trap Door Spiders are fictionalized in L. Sprague de Camp's historical novel The Bronze God of Rhodes (1960), as "The Seven Strangers," a social club holding symposia in the ancient Greek city-state of Rhodes. Such Spider elements as the rotating presidency and the question put to guests are faithfully represented in the practices of the Strangers.

The club was also the inspiration for Isaac Asimov's fictional group of puzzle solvers the Black Widowers, protagonists of a long-running series of mystery short stories beginning in 1971.[24] Asimov, a Boston resident who was often an invited guest of the Trap Door Spiders when in New York, became a permanent member of the club when he moved to the area in 1970.[4]

Asimov loosely modeled his fictional "Black Widowers" on six of the real-life Trap Door Spiders. He gave his characters professions somewhat more varied than those of their models, while retaining aspects of their personalities and appearances. Asimov's characters and their real-life counterparts are:

Other real people, including members of the Spiders and others, also occasionally appeared in the series in fictional guise. These included Fletcher Pratt (albeit deceased and offstage) as Widowers founder Ralph Ottur in the story "To the Barest,"[25] and (as guests) Asimov himself (in a humorously unflattering portrayal) as arrogant author Mortimer Stellar in "When No Man Pursueth",[26] James Randi as stage magician The Amazing Larri in "The Cross of Lorraine",[27] and Harlan Ellison as writer Darius Just (a character who first appeared as protagonist of Asimov's 1976 mystery novel Murder at the ABA) in "The Woman in the Bar."[28]

The remaining member of the Widowers, the group's waiter and unfailing sleuth Henry Jackson, was completely fictional, though Asimov did liken the character to that of P.G. Wodehouse's Jeeves from the Bertie Wooster novels.[8]

References

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Asimov, Isaac. I. Asimov, a Memoir, New York, Doubleday, 1994, page 377. ISBN 978-0-385-41701-3.
  2. ^ a b Sullivan, Walter. "Willy Ley, Prolific Science Writer, Is Dead at 62," in The New York Times, June 25, 1969, page 47.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h De Camp, L. Sprague. Time and Chance: an Autobiography, Hampton Falls, NH, Donald M. Grant, 1996, page 196. ISBN 978-1-880418-32-1.
  4. ^ a b c d e Asimov (1994), pages 376-377.
  5. ^ "Mildred Baldwin Bride: Opera Singer Wed to Dr. John D. Clark in Ceremony Here," in The New York Times, June 8, 1943, page 24.
  6. ^ a b Miller, Ron. "Jack Coggins," interview and article in Outre Magazine No. 23, 2001 pages 42–49.
  7. ^ Asimov (1994), pages 538–539.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h Asimov (1994), page 378.
  9. ^ Asimov (1994), pages 377–378.
  10. ^ Gardner, Martin. Undiluted Hocus-Pocus: The Autobiography of Martin Gardner. Princeton, New Jersey, Princeton University Press, 2013, page 147.
  11. ^ a b Albers, Don. "The Martin Gardner Interview Part 4," on fifteen eightyfour: Academic Perspectives from Cambridge University Press (blog), October 10, 2008.
  12. ^ Gardner (2013), page 148.
  13. ^ Levy, Claudia. "Decorated Rear Adm. Caleb B. Laning Dies," in The Washington Post, June 8, 1991, page B6.
  14. ^ a b De Camp (1996), page 362.
  15. ^ De Camp (1996), page 265.
  16. ^ "Fletcher Pratt, Historian, Dead," in The New York Times, June 11, 1956, page 30.
  17. ^ Scithers, George. "George Scithers," in "Editorial: In Memories Yet Green by Isaac Asimov, George Scithers, Kathleen Moloney, Shawna McCarthy, Gardner Dozois, and Sheila Williams," Asimov's Science Fiction, April/May 2007, p. 4.
  18. ^ Glyer, Mike. "Martin Gardner Dies," on File 770: Mike Glyer's news of science fiction fandom (blog), May 25, 2010.
  19. ^ "The Amazing Show: Isaac Asimov and the Trapdoor Spiders (at 3:40)". iTricks.com. 11 October 2007.
  20. ^ a b c "James Randi talking about the Trap Door Spiders (starting at 1:48)". YouTube.com. 13 February 1999.
  21. ^ Asimov (1994), p.468.
  22. ^ Pohl, Frederik (2009). "The Trap Door Spiders", TheWayTheFutureBlogs.com. "Although Wikipedia appears to think I was a member, I never was."
  23. ^ "The Amazing Show: Isaac Asimov and the Trapdoor Spiders (at 3:13)". iTricks.com. 11 October 2007.
  24. ^ Asimov (1994), p.373.
  25. ^ Asimov, Isaac. "To the Barest, Afterword" in Casebook of the Black Widowers, New York, Doubleday, 1980.
  26. ^ Asimov (1994), pages 378-379.
  27. ^ Asimov, Isaac. In Joy Still Felt, New York, Doubleday, 1980, chapter 41, section 19.
  28. ^ Asimov, Isaac. "The Woman in the Bar, Afterword" in Banquets of the Black Widowers, New York, Doubleday, 1984, page 36.

External links

Banquets of the Black Widowers

Banquets of the Black Widowers is a collection of mystery short stories by science fiction author Isaac Asimov featuring his fictional club of mystery solvers, the Black Widowers. It was first published in hardcover by Doubleday in September 1984, and in paperback by the Fawcett Crest imprint of Ballantine Books in June 1986. The first British edition was issued by Grafton in August 1986.This book is the fourth of six that describe mysteries solved by the Black Widowers, based on a literary dining club he belonged to known as the Trap Door Spiders. It collects twelve stories by Asimov, together with a general introduction and an afterword by the author following each story. Nine of the stories were previously published; "The Driver," "The Wrong House" and "The Intrusion" are new to this collection.Each story involves the club members' knowledge of trivia. Nearly every story here is about decoding a riddle, each of which provides a clue based on dying or last words, misunderstood words, forgotten words, or withheld words. A few are based on facts that are, perhaps, not generally known to the public – Asimov was a frequent writer of popular science and his inclination to explain anything and everything for the general public carried over into other fields, such as history and sociology – but all the mysteries play fair with the reader, who is given either enough information to figure out the solution or a satisfying conclusion that is based on previously given facts and personality qualities.

Barychelidae

Barychelidae is a spider family with about 300 species in 42 genera. Its members are known as brushed trapdoor spiders.

Most spiders in this family build trapdoor burrows. There are some species that avoid flooding by plugging their nests. Others can avoid drowning by trapping air bubbles within the hairs covering their bodies. Some members of this group have a rake on the front surface of their chelicerae used for compacting burrow walls.The approximately 10 mm long Idioctis builds its about 5 cm deep burrow just below high tide level, and seals it with a thin trapdoor. The approximately 20 mm long Sipalolasma builds its burrow in rotted wood, with a hinged trapdoor at each end of the burrow.Like the Theraphosidae (tarantulas), they can run up glass. Some species can stridulate. However, unlike stridulation in the theraphosid Selenocosmiinae, barychelid stridulation, based as it is on very weak lyra, is not audible to humans.

Black Widowers

The Black Widowers is a fictional men-only dining club created by Isaac Asimov for a series of sixty-six mystery stories that he started writing in 1971. Most of the stories were first published in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, though a few first appeared in Fantasy & Science Fiction, Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, and the various book collections into which the stories were eventually gathered.

Asimov wrote "there are few stories I write that I enjoy as much as I enjoy my Black Widowers."

Casebook of the Black Widowers

Casebook of the Black Widowers is a collection of mystery short stories by American author Isaac Asimov, featuring his fictional club of mystery solvers, the Black Widowers. It was first published in hardcover by Doubleday in January 1980 and in paperback by the Fawcett Crest imprint of Ballantine Books in March 1981.This book is the third of six in the Black Widowers series, based on a literary dining club he belonged to known as the Trap Door Spiders. It collects twelve stories by Asimov, nine reprinted from mystery magazines and three previously unpublished, together with a general introduction and an afterword by the author following each story. Each story involves the club members' knowledge of trivia.

Ctenocerinae

The Ctenocerinae are a subfamily of spider wasps, Pompilidae, which contains a small number of genera, two in the Neotropics, four in Australia and the remainder in Africa. Ctenocerine wasps have evidently evolved from a common ancestor with the Pepsinae, but are specialized for preying upon trap-door spiders (Ctenizidae).The genera in the Ctenocerinae include:

Abernessia Arlé, 1947

Apoclavelia Evans, 1972

Apteropompilus Brauns, 1899

Apteropompiloides Brauns, 1899

Arnoldatus Pate, 1946

Ateloclavelia Arnold, 1932

Austroclavelia Evans, 1972

Clavelia Lucas, 1851

Claveliella Arnold, 1939

Cteniziphontes Evans, 1972

Ctenocerus Dahlbom, 1845

Epipompilus Kohl, (1884)

Hadropompilus Arnold, 1934

Hypoferreola Ashmead, 1902

Lepidocnemis Haupt, 1930

Marimba Pate, 1946

Masisia Arnold, 1934

Maurillus Smith, 1855

Micragenia Arnold, 1934

Paraclavelia Haupt, 1930

Parapompilus Smith, 1855

Parapsilotelus Arnold, 1960

Pezopompilus Arnold, 1946

Protoclavelia Arnold, 1932

Pseudopedinaspis Brauns, 1906

Psilotelus Arnold, 1932

Spathomelus Wahis, 2013

Stenoclavelia Arnold, 1935

Teinotrachelus Arnold, 1935

Trichosalius Arnold, 1934

George O. Smith

George Oliver Smith (April 9, 1911 – May 27, 1981) (also known by the pseudonym Wesley Long) was an American science fiction author. He is not to be confused with George H. Smith, another American science fiction author.

Gilbert Cant

Gilbert Cant (September 16, 1909 – August 1, 1982) was a London-born American journalist.

Cant arrived in the U.S. in 1934 and began working for the New York Post in 1937. He was a war correspondent in the Pacific during World War II and wrote three books on the subject, The War at Sea, America's Navy in World War II, and The Great Pacific Victory. He joined Time in 1943 and was their medical editor from 1949 to 1969.

Cant was a member of the all-male literary banqueting club the Trap Door Spiders, which served as the basis of Isaac Asimov's fictional group of mystery solvers the Black Widowers. Cant himself was the model for the Thomas Trumbull character. After Cant died, Asimov dedicated the collection Banquets of the Black Widowers (1984) to his memory and to that of Frederic Dannay.

John Drury Clark

John Drury Clark, Ph.D. (August 15, 1907 – July 6, 1988) was an American rocket fuel developer, chemist, and science fiction writer and fan. He was instrumental in the revival of interest in Robert E. Howard's Conan stories and influenced the writing careers of L. Sprague de Camp, Fletcher Pratt, and other authors.

John Traherne Moggridge

John Traherne Moggridge (8 March 1842 – 24 November 1874) was a British botanist, entomologist, and arachnologist. A Fellow of the Linnean Society of London, he was known as a keen naturalist with great observational skills, as well as his paintings and illustrations. He wrote several articles on the fertilisation of plants, and his paintings of plants of southern France appeared in Contributions to the Flora of Mentone. His two volume study, Harvesting Ants and Trap-door Spiders, among other observations, confirmed that harvester ants are present in Europe, and was one of the first comprehensive treatments of the burrowing behaviour of trapdoor spiders. He was a correspondent of Charles Darwin, who cited his work in his books Fertilisation of Orchids and The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex.

Moggridge was born in Swansea, Wales to a family already steeped in natural history. His father, Matthew Moggridge, was a naturalist and geologist, a Fellow of the Linnean, Geological and Zoological Societies, while his mother, Fanny Moggridge, was the daughter of Lewis Weston Dillwyn, a naturalist and member of parliament. John attended King's School, Sherborne (now known as Sherborne School) in Dorset and in 1861 enrolled in Trinity College, Cambridge, but health problems interrupted his studies, causing him to relocate to the warmer climate of Menton, France, in the Provence region of southern France.He died in Menton of tuberculosis in 1874 at the age of 32, following a lengthy period of invalidity. He was posthumously commemorated in the genus name Moggridgea, a group of spiders named by Octavius Pickard-Cambridge, who also named a species of nemesiid spider (Nemesia moggridgii, now N. carminans) after Moggridge.

More Tales of the Black Widowers

More Tales of the Black Widowers is a collection of mystery short stories by American author Isaac Asimov, featuring his fictional club of mystery solvers, the Black Widowers. It was first published in hardcover by Doubleday in October 1976, and in paperback by the Fawcett Crest imprint of Ballantine Books in November 1977. The first British edition was issued by Gollancz in April 1977.This book is the second of six that describe mysteries solved by the Black Widowers, based on a literary dining club he belonged to known as the Trap Door Spiders. It collects twelve stories by Asimov, nine reprinted from mystery or science fiction magazines and three previously unpublished, together with a general introduction, and an afterword following each story by the author. Each story involves the club members' knowledge of trivia.

Ph as in Phony

Ph as in Phony is a mystery written by Isaac Asimov in 1972. It was first published in the July 1972 issue of Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine under the title The Phony Ph.D. The reason for this title change was that the magazine ran a series by Lawrence Treat with similar "_ is for _" titles. When it was republished in Tales of the Black Widowers in 1974, the original title was restored. It is the second published story about the Black Widowers, a gentlemen's club that solves mysteries based loosely upon the Trap Door Spiders, a stag-club of which Asimov was a member. It was reprinted in the collection The Return of the Black Widowers in 2003.

Puzzles of the Black Widowers

Puzzles of the Black Widowers is a collection of mystery short stories by American author Isaac Asimov, featuring his fictional club of mystery solvers, the Black Widowers. It was first published in hardcover by Doubleday in January 1990, and in paperback by Bantam Books the same year. The first British edition was issued in hardcover by Doubleday (UK) in April 1990, and the first British paperback edition by Bantam UK in April 1991.This book is the fifth of six that describe mysteries solved by the Black Widowers, based on a literary dining club he belonged to known as the Trap Door Spiders. It collects twelve stories by Asimov, nine reprinted from mystery magazines and three previously unpublished, together with a general introduction and an afterword by the author following each story. Each story involves the club members' knowledge of trivia.

Sixty Million Trillion Combinations

Sixty Million Trillion Combinations is a short mystery story written by Isaac Asimov. It was first published in the May 5, 1980, issue of Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, and reprinted in Banquets of the Black Widowers (1984) and The Return of the Black Widowers (2003). Asimov originally entitled it "Fourteen Letters," but the magazine's title was kept in subsequent uses of the story. The story is one of a collection of short mysteries whose characters are based loosely upon the Trap Door Spiders, a stag-club of which Asimov was a member.

Stanwellia

Stanwellia is a genus of spiders in the family Nemesiidae.

Tales of the Black Widowers

Tales of the Black Widowers is a collection of mystery short stories by American author Isaac Asimov, featuring his fictional club of mystery solvers, the Black Widowers. It was first published in hardcover by Doubleday in June 1974, and in paperback by the Fawcett Crest imprint of Ballantine Books in August 1976. The first British edition was issued by Panther in 1976. The book has also been translated into German.This book is the first of six that describe mysteries solved by the Black Widowers, based on a literary dining club he belonged to known as the Trap Door Spiders. It collects twelve stories by Asimov, nine reprinted from mystery magazines and three previously unpublished, together with a general introduction, and an afterword following each story by the author. Each story involves the club members' knowledge of trivia.

The Acquisitive Chuckle

"The Acquisitive Chuckle" is a short story written by American writer Isaac Asimov in 1971, first published in the January 1972 issue of Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine. He originally called it "The Chuckle", but the magazine's title was kept in subsequent uses of the story. It was the first of Asimov's stories about the Black Widowers, an eccentric group of men who met once a month. The story is based loosely upon the Trap Door Spiders, a stag-club of which Asimov was a member.

The Black Widowers stories concerned a dinner guest who had a problem or mystery to solve; after the members deliberated, Henry would offer the correct solution. This story, the first, deviates from that pattern in the nature of Henry's "contribution".

The Bronze God of Rhodes

The Bronze God of Rhodes is an historical novel by American writer L. Sprague de Camp. It was first published in hardcover by Doubleday in 1960, and in paperback by Bantam Books in 1963. A trade paperback edition was projected by The Donning Company for 1983, but never published. The book was reissued with a new introduction by Harry Turtledove as a trade paperback and ebook by Phoenix Pick in June 2013. It is the second of de Camp's historical novels in order of writing, and fourth in internal chronology.

The Return of the Black Widowers

The Return of the Black Widowers is a collection of short mystery stories by Isaac Asimov featuring his fictional club of mystery solvers, the Black Widowers. It was first published in hardcover by Carroll & Graf in December 2003, and in trade paperback by the same publisher in November 2005.This book is the last of six books that collect the stories of the Black Widowers, a club based on a literary dining club Asimov belonged to known as the Trap Door Spiders. It was assembled and edited after Asimov's death by Charles Ardai, and collects the last six stories Asimov wrote for the series. These six stories are preceded by an introduction by Harlan Ellison, ten stories selected by the editor as the best from the previous Black Widowers collections, and a homage by William Brittain. They are then followed by an eleventh reprinted tale featuring a fictionalized version of Ellison, a new Black Widowers tale by Ardai, and an afterword by Asimov on the creation of the series drawn from his autobiography I. Asimov.

Trapdoor (disambiguation)

A trapdoor is a door set into a floor or ceiling.

Trapdoor or Trap Door may also refer to:

Trap Door (magazine), a science fiction fanzine

The Trap Door, a British animated TV series

The Trap Door (video game), a computer game based on the animated series

Trapdoor (software), a piece of computer software used for network administration

Trapdoor (company), a video game developer

Trapdoor function, a type of mathematical function used in cryptography

"Trapdoor", in computing, an outdated synonym for "backdoor", a method used to circumvent normal authorization

Trap Door (EP), an EP by T-Bone Burnett, or the title song

"Trap Door", a song by Ozzy Osbourne from Black Rain

"Trap Door" Springfield, a single-shot breechloading rifle designed and produced at Springfield Armory during the late 19th century.

Trapdoor spider, a spider

Trap Door Spiders, a literary society

Trapdoor mechanism for breech loading rifles

"Trapdoor", a song by Twenty One Pilots from their self-titled album

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