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.
Notes NESFA: the New England Science Fiction Association
 MITSFS: the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Science Fiction Society
 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.
 In the fullness of time the children grew up. Would that their parents had done the same.
 Harry Warner Jr. (deceased) wrote extensive histories of early SF fandom.
 Anthony R. Lewis, PhD, is one of the two parents of Alice Lewis. The other is Suford Lewis, nee Hereford.
 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,back
 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.
 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.
This page was last updated December 2, 2004.