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This essay appeared in APA:NESFA #132, May 1981. No one, not even me, ever followed up on writing a history of NESFA. However the NESFA web site does have history page containing collected articles. I have added notes to the essay, explaining, clarifying, and obfuscating references.


Random Notes on NESFA History

I am, he says, somewhat fond of the notion of actually gathering up a NESFA history. I envisage someday a leather bound tome, entitled It Happened in Boston or some such foolishness, published by NESFA press, $49.95 to nonmembers. Given inflation, and the likelihood of such an item coming out real soon now, that price may cover the cost of bringing it out in mimeo. In any case, as one of those who was around when it all happened I feel it incumbent upon me to bore you all with my probably inaccurate reminiscences. I suppose we should divide history into several parts. For the sake of having some names I shall call these parts Eohistory, The Stranger years, The Dark Ages, The Early MITSFS years, The Later MITSFS years, The Vanderwerf Era, The Early NESFA years, Noreascon I, The Post-Noreascon Interlude, The Feud, Post-Feud, and NESFA discovers children. The less said about the latter phase, the better.

Eohistory covers the period before WW II. If there was any activity in Boston of a fannish nature it is a deep dark secret to me. During the 40's there was a small club called the Stranger Club. As I understand it, there were never more than a dozen members. Harry Stubbs (Hal Clement) was a member. It was written up somewhere but I don't remember where - it may have been in a Boskone program book. I believe Harry Warner Jr. mentions it in All Our Yesterdays. As far as I know there was no organized activity in the Boston area between the dissolution of the Stranger's Club and the founding of MITSFS. If I recall correctly, that happened in 1952. Judging from the old minutes, MITSFS acquired its, ah, sophomoric air almost immediately. In the late 50's Dr. Lewis and a number of other persons made the scene. ARLuis, the Evial One, as he was known in those days, was instrumental in getting the library started. During the later MITSFS years a number of non-MIT types joined and MITSFS gradually became a quasi-fannish social center. It was not, however, connected with fandom. The MITSFS slogan was (and still is) "We're not Fans. We just read the stuff."

The hookup with fandom came with Dave Vanderwerf. Dave attended MIT. However he also knew about fandom and was actively interested in getting people involved with it. He started the modern series of Boskones and staged a bid for Boston in '67. (Not to be confused with the Highmore in 1967 Bid that finished fifth out of four contenders.) He also started BoSFS - the Boston Science Fiction Society. BoSFS was a miscellaneous collection of non-MITSFS SF people. It included Ben Bova (then with AVCO), Harry Stubbs, and Alma Hill, who had started an SF group in MENSA. The best authority within NESFA on BOSFS would be Leslie Turek. BoSFS lasted 1965-1967. It dissolved in acrimony and was replaced by NESFA. Dave also was one of the cofounders of LOCUS, the others being Charlie Brown and Ed Meskys.

Dave's activities resulted in the MITSFS crowd getting involved with fandom. The proximate cause was Boskone 1. Basically what happened was that the MITSFS crowd got to meet a bunch of fans, found them to be interesting people, and started going to conventions. The first Boskone had 66 attendees. A fair share of the out of town attendees were the CCNY crowd, notably the Browns (Charlie and Marsha in those days) and the Brownsteins ( Stu and Amy). I don't remember if Elliott Kay Shorter made the first Boskone or not. This had a number of consequences. New York fandom was highly factionalized in those days. For all I know, it still is. The CCNY crowd was a faction within the Lunarians, who were sort of at odds with the Fanoclasts.

To be continued


Notes

[1] NESFA: the New England Science Fiction Association
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[2] MITSFS: the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Science Fiction Society
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[3] If I recall correctly, Dave Vanderwerf came from somewhere in the midwest where he had come into contact with SF fandom. He attended MIT for a while and eventually dropped out. He was a charter member of NESFA, but eventually dropped out of NESFA, and gave up contact with fandom. Quite some years later I ran into him at a Boston convention. He lamented that he had started it all and nobody even knew who he was.
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[4] In the fullness of time the children grew up. Would that their parents had done the same.
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[5] Harry Warner Jr. (deceased) wrote extensive histories of early SF fandom.
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[6] Anthony R. Lewis, PhD, is one of the two parents of Alice Lewis. The other is Suford Lewis, nee Hereford.
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[7] On paper MITSFS had (has) a bizarre bureaucratic structure that is totally ignored in practice. Plants have been known to vote in MITSFS meetings. The MITSFS adjournment song was (is?) sung at meetings to force adjournment. The words, endlessly repeated, are:
Rabbits have no tails at all,
Tails at all, tails at all,
Rabbits have no tails at all,
Just a powder puff

Same song, next verse
Never gets better, never gets worse
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[8] I should point out that I wasn't there in 1952. I had read the old minutes. Arluis says that it was 1949; it may well have been; he is often reprehensibly correct in these matters.
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[9] The non-MIT types included three Boston University Coeds colorfully nicknamed Schultz, Dooley, and Esso. There were at least four Radcliffe women, Susan Hereford (Suford) now married to Tony Lewis, Steffie Robinson, who married Dave Lewis, Cory Seidman, who married Alexei Panshin, and Leslie Turek. Harvard contributed Dave Lewis (deceased), who later became a prominent philosopher.

I became a member of NESFA at the behest of Natalie Urban who was a co-worker of mine at the AFCRL data analysis lab. My first visit to the MITSFS library was quite interesting. There were three people present, Tony Lewis, Natalie, and a chap named Peter. Tony was reading aloud from Letters to the Earth while Natalie made comments about immature males. Somewhat later I learned that she had just dumped Tony for Peter. Tony later claimed Peter as his best friend.
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[10] Boskone was a major center of evil in E.E.Smith's Lensmen Space Opera. It is also the name of the regional SF conventions put on by BoSFS and NESFA.
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[11] The vote for the site of the 1967 world SF convention (worldcon) was voted on in 1966 at TRICON, the worldcon held in Cleveland. New York won the vote; Boston came in a distant fourth.
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[12] The Highmore in 1967 bid should not be confused with the Highmore in 1976 bid. The 1967 consisted of little more than a blurb page in a fanzine. The 1976 bid was a serious hoax bid that came dangerously close to winning.
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[13] Highmore SD would be an important center of fannish activity if it had more than one fan.
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[14] Harry Stubbs (deceased) was a science teacher at Milton Academy in Milton MA. He wrote hard SF under the name Hal Clement. His most famous work is "Mission of Gravity". His collected works have been reprinted by NESFA press. Harry was quite active in NESFA in its early days.
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[15] Ben Bova later became editor of Analog Science Fiction (ASF). At the time he was promoting using magnetohydrodynamics to generate electric power.
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[16] Leslie Turek and Dave Vanderwerf were a couple at that time. As far as I know she is the only BoSFS member still active in Boston fandom. Mike Ward and Erwin S. Strauss (Filthy Pierre) are still active in SF fandom.
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[17] Today LOCUS is the "New York Times" of the Science Fiction world. In its original conception it was a fannish newszine that would publish fan news with a Boston slant. Originally there were three editors who would take turns being editor and publisher. Dave Vanderwerf and Ed Meskys both dropped out of the troika fairly quickly. Under Charlie Brown's editorship it evolved into a slightly stodgy but very well put together newszine with a greater emphasis on industry news than on fandom. Charlie Brown has won an inordinate number of Hugos.
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[18] Ed Meskys publishes the Hugo award winning fanzine, Niekas. He is now blind but still manages to publish fanzines with a little help from his friends.
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[19] NESFA has a page on the history of Boskone. The Stanger Club sponsored five rather small conventions in the period 1941-1945. The NESFA history lists them as Boskones I through V with Roman numerals. The modern series began with Boskone 1 in September of 1965. Three of the first four were under the auspices of BOSFS, the third under the auspices of MITSFS. From 5 on they were put on by NESFA. back
[20] The notes on the NESFA history of Boskone page mention Mike Ward, Dave Vanderwerf, Erwin "Filthy Pierre" Strauss, Leslie Turek, Alma Hill, Ed & Paul Galvin, Andrew A. ("Drew") Whyte, Hal Clement, and Ben Bova as members of BOSFS. Ed Galvin, Andrew Whyte, and Hal Clement (Harry Stubbs) are deceased.
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[21] Fan: Short for Science Fiction Fan. SF fans are activists in the Science Fiction Community (fandom). Recent research suggests that fans are the missing link between humanity and wombats.
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[22] If I recall correctly Boskone 1 was attended by several authors, including Isaac Asimov and Lester Del Rey (both beceased). At the time Isaac lived in Newton and was on the faculty of Boston University. Isaac was active in NESFA during the period between his divorce from his first wife, Gertrude, and his move to New York where he met his second wife, Janet.
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[23] CCNY: City College of New York. It had an active SF club at the time.
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[24] Marsha Elkin is a prominent femmefan. She was married both to Charlie Brown and to the artist Eddie Jones (deceased). She also kept house with yours truly and was a prominent member of NESFA whilst in Boston. She was responsible for the first Boskone art show. Currently she works for DAW books.
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[25] Stu (deceased) and Amy Brownstein moved to Boston in the early 70's and were prominent members of NESFA for several years until they moved to California.
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[26] My understanding is that New York fandom has become completely moribund. This seems odd, given the size of NY City. One explanation is that fandom is a middle class activity and that NYC has become completely unliveable for the middle class. I am told that NYC fandom does exist after a fashion and that NYC does have a middle class; his name is Fred.
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[27] The Lunarians put on a con called Lunacon. In the early days of NESFA Lunacon was a major convention. The Lunarians are all but defunct. Lunacon moved to New Jersey. My sources inform me that it hasn't quite died yet, but that it has a tubercular pallor.
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[28] The fanoclasts were a NY group that was into faanishness, perhaps best described in psychiatric terms. Faans conceived of fandom in egalitarian communalist terms with an emphasis on obsessive fanac (fan activity). Principally this meant publishing the trivia of one's life in fanzines, along with doing drugs. Ted White and Arnie Katz were fanoclasts. I used to amuse myself in PB by writing provocative material that produced diatribes in response from Ted White.
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[29] In 1975 NESFA had a major blow up. It ought to be written up someday; it is an important part of NESFA history. I rather fancy, though, that those NESFA members who were around in those days would prefer not to be reminded of their behaviour during those stressful times.
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This page was last updated December 2, 2004.

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