L.A.S.F.S. THROUGH THE YEARS


Based on the brochure prepared by the LASFS Public Relations Committee; Edited by Charles Lee Jackson, the Second; Written by CLJ II, with Fred Patten, R Laurraine Tutihasi, Bruce E. Pelz, Marjii Ellers, Rick Young, and other members of the Society.

THE LOS ANGELES SCIENCE FANTASY SOCIETY, this world's oldest club for enthusiasts of fantastic literature, meets every Thursday night (come Hell, high water, or holidays) in Freehafer Hall, one of the buildings on the group's own property. A typical meeting night will find the other building (called 4SJ; like Freehafer, it is named in honor of an important society member) opening at about 7 PM for socializing as the members and guests arrive. During this interval, the print and video libraries will open, for members to borrow from the club's extensive collection of genre material; and the Registrar will begin to circulate, looking for new faces. At about 7:30, in Freehafer Hall, there is usually a pre-meeting programme, an old movie-serial chapter, or cartoons, or a preview of a new movie. Just after 8 PM, the President calls the Business Meeting to order. The Scribe reads the minutes of last week's meeting, followed by reports from club committees, announcements, reviews, and other important club business. During this period, the Registrar will announce and introduce any guests. The meeting per se lasts a little over an hour, and is frequently followed by a programme. A LASFS Programme could be a speech or panel featuring well-known authors, a movie or video (foreign cartoons are popular), games, an auction of SF items, or a special event. Twice each year the Society elects new officers, and each November votes on members of the club's Board of Directors. Some members leave early, departing in groups for nearby restaurants, while many stay until the Tontine Committee (the last man out) shoos them away and locks up, around 11:30.

Meetings are always open to visitors, and guests are cordially welcomed. Prospective members are encouraged to attend up to three meetings before joining. Life-time membership is a bargain at $5. US, and dues (paid by meeting attended, or monthly, yearly, or for life) are inexpensive, too.

The LASFS clubhouse is a busy place on other nights, too. Every Friday, the Vice-president opens up for an evening of gaming and socializing. The second Sunday each month brings a meeting of the Board of Directors, followed by an all-day version of Friday nights. The Library is usually open at these times. Fourth Sundays are usually Movie Days.

Other special-interest groups, both within and outside the club, use LASFS as a venue, including computer hackers, "Doctor Who" fans, and others.

Dedicated to the preservation and dissemination of science fiction and fantasy, LASFS also provides a place for fans of all special and related interests to get together and have fun.


MEMBERS OF LASFS have been involved in many aspects of fandom, not the least of which has been Convention-running, including some of the biggest: WorldCon, which literally spans the globe, from Europe to Australia, and WesterCon, which runs from Vancouver to San Diego to Phoenix, across the west.

But LASFSians also wanted a con they knew would be local every year. So the club established Loscon, the L. A.-area SF convention.

Begun in the mid nineteen-seventies, Loscon is now held annually, at a hotel in the L. A. metropolitan area, over the Thanksgiving week-end. Attendance ranges around one thousand members from various fannish persuasions. (Fan conventions sell "memberships" not "tickets", encouraging people to become actively involved.)

Some people come to meet or listen to the Pros -- the authors, editors, and artists who produce their favorite literature. Some show up for the "media" events and personalities, exhibits, or films. An even more specialized group comes to watch "Japanimation" (Japanese cartoons). Some arrive with songbooks, ready to "filk" -- that is, sing fannish folk songs; others come for Fantasy Role-play gaming. A core group spends the week-end "SMoFfing" (convention masterminding and brainstorming worthy of S ecret Masters of Fandom). But many are there just to meet with old friends, and make new ones, and to sit around discussing their particular areas of interest.

Activities at Loscon, like most conventions, run from mid-morning until late at night. Dealers set up to sell memorabilia, craftwork, and especially books. The Art Show fills a room with paintings, drawings, prints, sculpture, and other works (some of which are available to the highest bidder). Afternoons are filled with panels and speeches.

Virtually the entire con turns out for the Masquerade, to watch or to wear some of the cleverest and most beautiful costumes around.

A relatively new addition is dancing, not only contemporary style, but English-Regency style, which has developed a broad following within fandom.

Though not official con events, dozens of small parties will be going full-tilt in hotel rooms upstairs.

And of course, once it's all over, the committee of LASFSians who put it all together will return home, wearily promising themselves "never again" -- until next year, of course.


THE ACTIVITIES OF LASFS and Loscon today are the result of the club's sixty year history. The society's origins date back to the nineteen thirties, a time of prosperity -- not financial, of course, that was the era of the Great Depression. Rather, it was a time of prosperity of thought, of ideas, of popular literature. Even though dimes were hard to find, the newsstands of the United States were flooded with magazines costing that price. Magazines of all sorts were begun, westerns, mystery, technical... and science fiction.

The science fiction of the day was hard-core escapist literature, like most of the other genres. For a few hours, you could get away from bread lines and sad-eyed human faces, and confront instead comet trails and bug-eyed monster faces.

Magazine editor Hugo Gernsback established not just a formula but a system for science fiction. In the years to come, readers would get to know the authors, and fan and pro alike would come to feel as part of a family. A science-fiction correspondence club began, and in 1934, the magazine Wonder Stories announced a new, nation-wide club of SF enthusiasts.

The club would be called the Science Fiction League, and local groups across the nation could become chapters simply by applying to Wonder Stories for a charter. Several opened up within a few months, mostly in major east-coast population centers.

But not long after flourishing, the SFL began to falter. New editors were less interested in co rdinating chapters, and the individual units tended to break up as the members grew up and entered the work force.

But one group -- chapter number four, in Los Angeles, California -- had something the other chapters lacked: a dynamic go-getter, one Forrest J Ackerman, a hypertrophic fantasy literature and cinema fan. His interest kept the LASFL going when others failed. Too, several authors made the area their home, and it never hurt to have it known that pros visited the club.

And so by 1940, the club had broken away from the Science Fiction League, and, now meeting on a weekly basis every Thursday, had been re-dedicated as the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society -- LASFS.

At about this time the club was overwhelmed with an urge to publish, and much of the activities centered around the club's new fanzine, Shangri L'Affaires (a "fanzine" is simply an amateur magazine), usually printed by mimeography or some other very cheap reproductive method. Most of the members worked on the publication, with the editorship changing hands over the years. "Shaggy", as it is known to intimates, died and was revived many times over the years, and is still being published today, though now the 'zine is xerographed. (The future is here!)

The club survived the Second World War with few problems. Many of the members were below draft age, and SF fans from all over the country dropped by on their way to Pacific theatres of war.

In the nineteen-fifties, the club became something of a writers' group, and the few members who weren't already SF writers were encouraged to become pros.

Like all such sizable groups, the LASFS had its share of assorted factions. The counter-culture of the 'sixties brought a whole new look to the group, with fans of JRR Tolkien and other fantasy writers finding the club. The "Star Trek" phenomenon had its effect, too. David Gerrold, writer of "The Trouble with Tribbles", joined the club and even served as Director. Long- time member Bjo Trimble was instrumental in the "save Star Trek" campaign. Many members doubled as trekkies.

Through this period the club had met at a variety of places, all in or near Downtown Los Angeles, mostly homes of members, or the activity rooms at public playgrounds.

One member, Paul Turner, made what was considered a silly suggestion: that the club establish a "building fund" with which to one day buy its own clubhouse. Silliness, however, never stopped the LASFS, and so the fund was set up. Over the next decade, the fund, watched over by treasurer Bruce Pelz, grew to surprising proportions.

Meanwhile, the club had bowed to the great American spirit and had begun "westering". From Downtown to Wilshire Center to, eventually, Santa Monica, which is as far west as it could go and stay dry.

In 1968, the club made an important change when it incorporated as LASFS, Inc., a non-profit literary corporation.

And then, in the early nineteen-seventies, the club found itself with sufficient funds to make its clubhouse goal a reality. With help from a few members, LASFS purchased its own clubhouse, the first time any SF club had accomplished such a goal.

With nowhere west to go, the club, like the city of L.A., turned north, and had its first meeting in its own new building, on Ventura Boulevard in Studio City.

Now, with a permanent base, the club could expand on a scale previously unknown. And within four years, the club had grown (in regular attendance) to a point where a new new clubhouse was vital.

And so in 1977, the Society relocated to its current location in North Hollywood. Now housed in two buildings, the club, though still bursting at the seams, has room for its library -- one of the largest private special-interest libraries in the country -- as well as rooms for the computers that now are an integral part of the club, and of course, a big room for its weekly business meeting.

Many activities are conducted from the LASFS buildings. One group of LASFSians, incorporated as the Southern California Institute for Fan Interests (SCIFI, probably not pronounced the way you think), puts together local convention bids. Other groups based within fandom make the LASFS their home as well.

LASFS members represent a variety of special interests, some not obviously connected to SF and Fantasy. Many are comic-magazine fans, many love mystery stories. A small group of LASFSians started what became the "worldcon" of mystery fandom, BoucherCon. Within the society is even a small contingent of fans of Western movies and literature -- but don't tell anybody.

People of like interests can gather each week, and have common grounds for discussion (though said discussions rarely seem to be about SF). Parties are a regular social activity, and LASFS even has an appointed officer whose job is to host official club picnics and group activities.

LASFS has long provided a haven for those to whom "crazy Buck Rogers" ideas never seemed so crazy, the people who fostered the use of computers, mid-wived the Space Programme, and generally made technology seem friendly. In the years to come, the club will hopefully follow the rest of Mankind into the outer space that the club has so long championed.

The society motto is "De Profundis Ad Astra", which, loosely translated, means "from the earth to the stars". That's the message of the future; LASFS is ready for the twenty-first century.

Why, it's been ready since nineteen thirty-four!


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