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ORION 21, edited by Ella Parker – February 1959

Once upon a time, somebody just happened to notice that fandom was going to the dogs. Whereupon he said so. To his great surprise, everyone immediately agreed with him – even the dogs – and one and all except, of course, the dogs – promptly entered into serious and earnest discussion about how to go about saving it. As a direct result the BSFA was born amid a surge of popular enthusiasm at Kettering over the Easter, 1958. Overwhelmed by such an untypically fannish burst of constructive activity a lot of fans hastily decided to re-appraise (still as seriously and earnestly as ever, natch) the situation.

The father of the BSFA, the fan who provided the original seed, was Vince Clarke, Anglofandom the mother. Vince was not, however able to be present at the birth, a fact that I regretted at the time and still do. To be fair, so does he. I also regret that he – among others – has not as yet seen fit to join us. here, his attitude appears to be (to persevere with the metaphor) that the baby was premature, and as he was not on hand to give his expert assistance in the midwifery department the result was a mis-shapen monster that failed to arouse any particularly paternal feelings in his breast. This is understandable, but nevertheless a pity. If only we had a Raybin ( or even a Kyle family) in the house, we might be able to slap an affiliation suit on Vince and make him pay maintenance. In the meantime the little monster’s not doing at all badly considering that we – “we” being the forsaken mother Anglofandom – have had to cope with the high cost of baby-food.

At this point I’d like to interject a personal note – the tone of this article so far tends (ineveitably) to be considerably more critical of Vince than I’d like it to be; it should, of course, be borne very much in mind that the number of worthwhile fannish projects which he has initiated, or in which he has participated prominently, is considerable, right down to his current preoccupation with the proposed London clubroom. In fact it has seemed at times almost as if he was bearing the entire weight of Anglofandom on his broad shoulders. Furthermore he remains one of the nicest people – fan or otherwise – that I know and been so for at least as long as I’ve been around fandom. nevertheless, I continue to regret his absence from membership of the BSFA, I’d say that if the BSFA has one fault, it is that Vince is not a member. And if Vince has one fault (he probably has two or three more hidden away somewhere, but I can’t find them offhand) it is that he is not a member of the BSFA. Right, back to the main train of thought.

In the absence of Vince the job of midwife was unhesitatingly taken on by Dave Newman, with Ted Tubb standing by with the boiling water. What emerged was to - change the metaphor - a blueprint for a casting. An ad hoc committee was charged with producing the casting and machining it down, to give the most practical shape to the finished object. You probably know how we lined up- Dave as Chairman, Ted as editor of the official organ, Eric Bentcliffe and Terry Jeeves to handle the secretarial chores between them and. myself as Treasurer. We had the good. wishes of the convention behind us - Dave has said he was astounded at the amount of support he found at Kettering, and that it would have been almost criminal not to take advantage of it to get things moving while it was concentrated in one spot - and fell-to with a will. The enthusiasm behind us may have fallen off slightly in some quarters, particularly (it would seem) where it once was greatest. Nevertheless, the will is very much there, new sources of enthusiasm are coming forward to take the place of the old, and we’re still on the upgrade.

So far, the BSFA has been afflicted with two main sources of trouble – people who’d sooner criticise than join ( criticism is always welcome, but it comes a lot more pleasantly from those who are giving active support by subscribing), and the defection of two of the original committee – the two “midwives”, no less, for various reasons. This last is considerably the greater handicap of the two. Dave Newman, as all who participated in the Kettering meetings will agree, could hardly be bettered as Chairman - just so long as his enthusiasm remains equal to his capabilities. Unfortunately it didn’t , and we were reluctantly compelled to relinquish him to full-time gafia. Ted Tubb, too, whose presence in the Editorial chair we had been counting on as potentially one of our major selling points to the public, found himself unable to stand the extra activity on top of his bread-and-butter commitments and resigned from office after producing the first issue. His resignation, however, was sweetened by a considerable donation of reading matter to the BSFA library. That left three of us, and a threesome we at present remain. However, without being unduly boastful – for I am actually the least active of the three – I think it can be fairly said that this “proud and lonely” type threesome has produced as much hard achievement during its reign as the previous quintet. Terry Jeeves, taking over the editorship of the magazine has produced a far more balanced second and third issues than Ted did the first one, whilst Eric Bentcliffe, doing literally what was originally scheduled as three men’s work, is getting things moving right and left. The work those two have put in to the Association since Dave and Ted dropped out deserves nothing short of complete success. (Have YOU joined the BSFA yet?)

What IS this BSFA anyway? you may be asking. You know it stands for the British Science Fiction Association and is dedicated to serious constructiveness and like that, but so what? Well, if you’ll just glance back at my opening paragraph you’ll see some mention of fandom “going to the dogs”. Specifically, it was generally agreed that insufficient “new blood” was being attracted into actifandom, whether trufandom, fanzine fandom, convivial fandom, or any other brand,. fanzine fandom was gradually vanishing up its own rear end in an ever-diminishing spiral, and the weekly gathering at the Globe was just about dead on its feet. Fandom in its various allotropic forms had in the past provided much enjoyment for its members, and was therefore worth taking positive steps to preserve as a vigorous entity. But first it was necessary to get hold of some of the abovementioned “new blood”. A majority vote at Kettering decided that the best way of attracting – and holding – this “new blood” was to found a society charged with going after it and showing it (when found) what it was missing.

It has been argued that a full-scale society, with memberships, subscriptions, and the rest, was not an ABSOLUTE necessity – that maybe an information bureau with a small but enthusiastic stall would produce just as effective a result. this may be so – provided that a suitable means could be found of financing the bureau – but SOMETHING was certainly wanted, SOMETHING now exists, and we’re making it work. It would be easier if we knew that the whole of fandom was behind us, of course, but we (the committee, that is, though in the wider sense it can be extended to include the membership as a whole) do sincerely feel that what we are doing is worth the doing, Apart from one or two diehards who tend to argue along the lines of “well, I found fandom okay without the BSFA, and any other potential fan worth his salt will do the same” everybody seems to be in basic agreement with us – differing only on detail, even though some of the points of detail (for instance, the value of a society against that of a bureau only) seem to be more fundamental to some than others.

One fairly fundamental detail concerns the level of the annual subscriptions, This was fixed at Kettering at £1 for full membership and 10/- for associates (under 18 or overseas memberships), however many fen think this is too high – including plenty who have nevertheless paid it. The principle argument n favour of having comparatively high subscriptions is that any society that wants to do anything worthwhile can hardly take any other course. I’m not, myself, entirely in agreement with this as a long-term policy – nevertheless we have to provide members with something in return for their subscriptions, and it stands to reason that £1 per person will go a lot further than 10/- for each of two people, leaving furthermore a bigger proportion over for what is ultimately the Association’s main purpose and reason for existence – the hunt for new members, and then the demonstration to them of what fandom has to offer. In other words, to recruit more specimens of congenial humanity to fill out the diminishing ranks of what we generally recognise as fandom.

However, if a person pays £1, he or she wants to know that it will be personally worthwhile. For the established fan, £1 in the cause of the simple preservation of an existing hobby is maybe worthwhile in itself (and here let me say that I honestly can’t imagine any adult in normal circumstances who just CANNOT produce £1 if he wants to). But the brand-new member, to whom fandom is just a word (if indeed he’s ever heard of it in the first place) wants something more concrete. So for a start, we give him our official journal, VECTOR, four time a year. FOR A START, I said. But VECTOR doesn’t cost anything like five bob a year, as several fen have already pointed out. We have a postal lending library already in operation, but that is mainly self-financing. We have three separate checklists in various stages of preparation (including one Vince Clarke is preparing for us) each of which should prove of considerable utility, particularly to the new member without detailed knowledge of the field. We are definately putting on a convention this year, at which membership of the Association covers convention membership. (You’ll be hearing more about this convention in due course). Of course some of the convention expenses should be recoverable, ditto with at least some of the checklist expenses – this being the Association’s first year of existence. We are also in the process of setting up a fannish advice bureau, which will include putting members in touch with other members sharing the same extra-stefnic interests where required, and performing a general service for the membership besides being incidentally one of the strongpoints of the BSFA’s original purpose – the induction of “new blood" into the pre-existing order of things fannish.

Archie Mercer.

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