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 exclusive habits of the trapdoor spider, which when it enters its burrow pulls the hatch shut behind it. [Asimov, Isaac. "I. Asimov, a Memoir", New York, Doubleday, 1994, page 377.]

History and practices

The Trap Door Spiders were established by author Fletcher Pratt in 1944. The impetus for its formation was that his friend Dr. John D. Clark was about to marry. As the new Mrs. Clark was unpopular with her husband's friends, Pratt reasoned that the club would give them an excuse to spend time with him without her. [Asimov, Isaac. "I. Asimov, a Memoir", New York, Doubleday, 1994, pages 376-377.] 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 meal, to which a guest would be invited by one of the members to be grilled by the others and form the focus of conversation for the evening. [Asimov, Isaac. "I. Asimov, a Memoir", New York, Doubleday, 1994, page 377.] 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. ["Outre Magazine" No. 23, 2001 pages 42-49. Title: "Jack Coggins". Interview and article by Ron Miller] 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. [Asimov, Isaac. "I. Asimov, a Memoir", New York, Doubleday, 1994, pages 538-539.]

Membership

Membership in the club varied as some Trap Door Spiders died or moved away and others were admitted on the nomination of existing members. People known to have been members of the club include:

*Isaac Asimov, author [Asimov, Isaac. "I. Asimov, a Memoir", New York, Doubleday, 1994, pages 376-377.]
*Don Bensen, editor [Asimov, Isaac. "I. Asimov, a Memoir", New York, Doubleday, 1994, page 378.]
*Gilbert Cant, editor [Asimov, Isaac. "I. Asimov, a Memoir", New York, Doubleday, 1994, page 378.]
*Lin Carter, author [Asimov, Isaac. "I. Asimov, a Memoir", New York, Doubleday, 1994, page 378.]
*Lionel Casson, archaeologist [Asimov, Isaac. "I. Asimov, a Memoir", New York, Doubleday, 1994, pages 377-378.]
*John D. Clark, chemist [Asimov, Isaac. "I. Asimov, a Memoir", New York, Doubleday, 1994, page 377.]
*Jack Coggins, artist and author
*L. Sprague de Camp, author [Asimov, Isaac. "I. Asimov, a Memoir", New York, Doubleday, 1994, page 377.]
*Lester del Rey, author and editor [Asimov, Isaac. "I. Asimov, a Memoir", New York, Doubleday, 1994, page 377.]
*Kenneth Franklin, astronomer and educator [Asimov, Isaac. "I. Asimov, a Memoir", New York, Doubleday, 1994, page 378.]
*Martin Gardner, mathematics and science writer [Asimov, Isaac. "I. Asimov, a Memoir", New York, Doubleday, 1994, page 378.]
*Richard Harrison, cartographer [Asimov, Isaac. "I. Asimov, a Memoir", New York, Doubleday, 1994, page 377.]
*Caleb Barrett Laning, naval officer and writer
*Jean Le Corbeiller, mathematics teacher [Asimov, Isaac. "I. Asimov, a Memoir", New York, Doubleday, 1994, page 377.]
*Frederik Pohl, author and editor. [cite web |url=http://itricks.com/randishow/?p=7 |title=The Amazing Show: Isaac Asimov and the Trapdoor Spiders (at 1:59) |publisher=iTricks.com |month=October | year=2007 | day=11]
*Fletcher Pratt, author [Asimov, Isaac. "I. Asimov, a Memoir", New York, Doubleday, 1994, page 377.]
*James Randi, stage magician and scientific skeptic. [cite web |url=http://itricks.com/randishow/?p=7 |title=The Amazing Show: Isaac Asimov and the Trapdoor Spiders (at 3:13) |publisher=iTricks.com |month=October | year=2007 | day=11]
*George H. Scithers, author and editor
*Roper Shamhart, Episcopalian minister [Asimov, Isaac. "I. Asimov, a Memoir", New York, Doubleday, 1994, page 377.]
*George O. Smith, author. [cite web |url=http://itricks.com/randishow/?p=7 |title=The Amazing Show: Isaac Asimov and the Trapdoor Spiders (at 3:40) |publisher=iTricks.com |month=October | year=2007 | day=11]
*Robert Zicklin, lawyer [Asimov, Isaac. "I. Asimov, a Memoir", New York, Doubleday, 1994, page 468.]

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. [Asimov, Isaac. "I. Asimov, a Memoir", New York, Doubleday, 1994, page 378.]

The Trap Door Spiders in fiction

The Trap Door Spiders are notable as the inspiration for Isaac Asimov's fictional group of puzzle solvers the Black Widowers, protagonists of a long-running series of mystery short stories. [Asimov, Isaac. "I. Asimov, a Memoir", New York, Doubleday, 1994, page 373.] 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. [Asimov, Isaac. "I. Asimov, a Memoir", New York, Doubleday, 1994, pages 376-377.]

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:

* Geoffrey Avalon (L. Sprague de Camp)
* Emmanuel Rubin (Lester del Rey)
* James Drake (John D. Clark)
* Thomas Trumbull (Gilbert Cant)
* Mario Gonzalo (Lin Carter)
* Roger Halsted (Don Bensen) [Asimov, Isaac. "I. Asimov, a Memoir", New York, Doubleday, 1994, page 378.]

Fletcher Pratt was also fictionalized (albeit deceased and offstage) as Ralph Ottur in the story "To the Barest." Asimov once even wrote himself into a Black Widowers story (as guest Mortimer Stellar in "When No Man Pursueth") in a humorously unflattering portrayal. [Asimov, Isaac. "I. Asimov, a Memoir", New York, Doubleday, 1994, pages 378-379.] 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. [Asimov, Isaac. "I. Asimov, a Memoir", New York, Doubleday, 1994, pages 378.]

Footnotes

ee also

*Black Widowers
*Isaac Asimov

External links

* [http://www.heartstorming.com/archives/2006/05/why_do_you_exist_trap_door_spider_society.html Ian Summers' account of a Trap Door Spiders meeting at which he and the Amazing Randi were guests in the mid-1970s]


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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Trap Door Spiders — Die Trap Door Spiders (engl. für ‚Falltürspinnen‘) waren ein 1944 gegründeter literarischer Kreis in New York City. Die rein männliche Mitgliedschaft rekrutierte sich anfänglich insbesondere aus dem Umfeld bekannter Science Fiction Autoren. Der… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • trap-door spider — any of several burrowing spiders, of the family Ctenizidae, that construct a tubular nest with a hinged lid. [1820 30] * * *       any member of the spider family Ctenizidae and certain members of the families Antrodiaetidae, Actinopodidae, and… …   Universalium

  • trap-door spider — trap′ door spi′der n. ivt any of several burrowing spiders, esp. of the family Ctenizidae, that build a tubular, lidded nest • Etymology: 1820–30 …   From formal English to slang

  • trap-door spider — noun American spider that constructs a silk lined nest with a hinged lid • Hypernyms: ↑spider • Member Holonyms: ↑Ctenizidae, ↑family Ctenizidae * * * ˈ ̷ ̷ˌ ̷ ̷ noun : any of various often large burrowing spiders especially of the family… …   Useful english dictionary

  • trap-door spider — noun Date: 1826 any of various often large burrowing spiders (especially family Ctenizidae) that constructionct a tubular subterranean silk lined nest topped with a hinged lid …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • Torreya trap-door spider — Conservation status Data Deficient (IUCN 2.3) Scientific classification …   Wikipedia

  • weather door — Trapdoor Trap door , n. 1. (Arch.) A lifting or sliding door covering an opening in a roof or floor. [1913 Webster] 2. (Mining) A door in a level for regulating the ventilating current; called also {weather door}. Raymond. [1913 Webster]… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • spider — spiderless, adj. spiderlike, adj. /spuy deuhr/, n. 1. any of numerous predaceous arachnids of the order Araneae, most of which spin webs that serve as nests and as traps for prey. 2. (loosely) any of various other arachnids resembling or… …   Universalium

  • Barychelidae — Taxobox name = Brushed trap door spiders regnum = Animalia phylum = Arthropoda classis = Arachnida ordo = Araneae subordo = Mygalomorphae infraordo = Tuberculotae superfamilia = Barycheloidea familia = Barychelidae familia authority = Simon, 1889 …   Wikipedia

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