‘The Time Has Come’
Captain Ken tries to organise fandom…

Following the success of his Operation Fantast trading bureau, (Captain) Ken Slater issued a circular in August 1948, titled ‘The Time Has Come’, pushing the idea of a national SF fan organisation. He proposed that there should be a series of levels, from single fans through towns or area groups, county representatives, etc., culminating in a Council. Each fan would register his abilities and resources with the next higher level and orders would be transmitted to him through this chain. As someone later commented: “all it needed was a uniform and a Field-Marshall”.

The organisation that resulted was the Science Fantasy Society, which at its height attracted some 150 members. But it only lasted three years.

“What’s wrong with Fandom?”
asked Eric Jones, chairman of the
Cheltenham SF Circle , in April 1956     

In his fanzine Sidereal Eric said; “Something seems to be wrong with recent conventions. The graph definitely shows a downward trend, culminating in a negative attendance figure next year! Why is this? What’s wrong with fandom for it to be so off-hand where conventions are concerned?”

Fandom continued in its anarchic way until Peter Mabey produced this chart after the 1956 convention.

A year later only 30 people attended Cytricon III.   What was to be done?

‘Don’t Just Sit There…’
In December 1957, long-time London fan Vince Clarke put out a plea in his fanzine Zymic, suggesting it was time to rejuvenate British fandom …

Response was overwhelming. Vince said, "I appear to havestruck a spark and started a conflagration. The case for Doing Something about the apathetic state of British fandom has certainly been put before, and I'm surprised that the response has been so great; I feel like a man who has casually ushed a button and seen the ICBM take off with a W hoosh!"


The founding meeting

At Cytricon IV, Kettering , Easter 1958

The Liverpool Group (LaSFaS) were enthusiastic about Vince Clarke’s ideas and on the Sunday afternoon Dave Newman chaired a discussion:

Dave said that most fanzines being published no longer had any real connection to SF and were unlikely to attract new people, and conventions themselves had moved so far from SF that they were not likely to appeal to newcomers either. Evidence to support this was the falling attendance of recent Eastercons, which coincided exactly with the shift in emphasis from strongly SF-oriented events to largely social affairs, and the fifty or so fans at Cytricon IV realised that drastic action was required.

Since the demise of Operation Fantast there had been an almost complete absence of channels of recruitment to British fandom, and so a number of ways were explored by which the situation could be improved.

After hours of debate it was decided that a new national organisation was the only answer, one ostensibly devoted to the serious study of SF but whose publications would also carry material about fandom, the hope being that those hooked and nurtured by the organisation would eventually provide fandom with vital new blood. A motion was passed unanimously:-

‘This meeting proposes that a national science fiction society should be formed, whose aims and objects will be the encouragement of readership of science fiction and liaison and general social and literary contact between SF readers, and that the persons present in this room shall, when called upon to do so, fork out a sum of money to set up a capital fund for the formation of this society.’

What’s in a name?

Should the new organisation have the words 'science fiction' in its name? Dave Newman was in favour with Ted Tubb against:

Tubb: “Consider what the BBC did at the World Science Fiction Convention [ Loncon, in 1957]. They did not go there with the idea of worshipping at the feet of idols but of making mugs out of people who'd come a long way to do something they thought highly of. We don't want that to happen every time we meet the Press, and every time we meet the Press that is what happens.”

Eric Bentcliffe and Terry Jeeves at the George Hotel, Kettering , site of the 1958 Cytricon III. They became joint secretaries in the first year of the new BSFA.

Newman : “Well, merely calling ourselves 'The Imaginative Fiction Society' or 'The Fantasy Society' is not going to make any difference; the Press will immediately say ‘This so-and-so society, what are they? Oh, they're science fiction readers.’ The damage is done. My personal feeling about this is that avoiding the use of the name ‘science fiction’ in the title is cowardice in the face of the enemy, and I strongly disapprove of it.”

On a show of hands Newman carried the day and it was agreed that the new organisation should be called ‘The British Science Fiction Association’. It was further agreed that the organisation would henceforth be responsible for the management of the annual convention. The meeting then went on to elect Officers.


BSFA – The First Year Committee members, 1958-59





Above ; the first Constitution. Below; advertisement from Nebula, showing subscription rates.




Chairman: Dave Newman
(Liverpool Group)
Elected by acclamation after chairing inaugural meeting, he issued a report of the Cytricon IV discussion and then vanished, never to be seen again!

Joint Secretary: Eric Bentcliffe
Manchester Group)
Voted onto committee, Eric wrote the first Constitution, and efficiently handled all enquiries for the first twelve months.

Journal Editor: Ted Tubb
(London Circle & professional author)
Ted wrote most of the first issue of Vector before resigning in September.

Joint Secretary: Terry Jeeves (Sheffield)
Terry produced the first issue of Vector and after Tubb’s resignation became de facto Editor and Publisher for the remainder of the first year.

Treasurer: Archie Mercer (Lincolnshire)
Archie was an (unqualified) accountant and handled subscriptions and the Association’s finances competently for the first year and beyond.



Thoughts of Chairman Dave:

Had Dave Newman remained in fandom he would have made an excellent Chairman.

He said, “It is the opinion of those who inaugurated the BSFA that the longest way round, in this case, may well be the shortest way home and that readers, once they are given a sense of belonging to the field as a whole, may very well find their way into fanzine fandom".

And, “I should, I suppose, also add that officially we regard fandom as being a part of the BSFA, and not the reverse, as some people seem to think".