This bit of navel lint inspection appeared in APA:NESFA #81, February 1977. Although the particulars are parochial, the issues are general.
Joe Ross raises again the question of whither NESFA, a topic that staleth not in its infinite lack of variety for those who are interested in such things. Prior to the excitements of two years ago the topic seemed to revolve around a general feeling that the club was failing to offer a certain something that was rather hard to articulate. Numerous formulations were offered, including the notorious issue of bureaucracy. Little ever came of them, except for the Other Meeting, and I suspect that whatever inspired the original calls of whither NESFA was never determined or resolved.
The present call is somewhat different in that issues and problems can be sharply defined. I fear, however, that the problem is not really any more resolvable than it ever was, and that, whatever the real issues are, there is nothing to be done about them.
“We once had a large contingent of enthusiastic teenagers. They worked gladly on …”Well, yes, we once did. But the truth of the matter is that that large contingent entered NESFA quite some time ago – seven years or so now. They grew older and, in due time, ceased to be teenagers. Once we had digested the high school clubs we only got a small handful of teenagers – most of whom have disappeared from the club. On these grounds I think it is fair to assert that NESFA has little to offer teenagers and does not attract them, and that it has not done so for some time.
What is to be done about this? Little. NESFA is too formidable, too organized, too formal, and not enough fun to be attractive to teenagers.
“… Now we must keep relying on the same people. Without recycling people who have previously served, who will be out next …”A good question. The answer is obvious. We will keep relying on the same people. We will recycle people through posts that they held before. There is nothing particularly wrong with that. The original idea was to spread the experience so that almost everyone got some of it. The main thing is not to lock new people out.
Is NESFA cliquish, a self-contained and dwindling minority of the Boston fan population? Well, yes, it is. I suppose this is inevitable though. There are a large number of fans who are not into the things that NESFA is into, and who are into things that NESFA is not. It is only natural that NESFA and the Boskones would have brought people into fandom, and that many of these people would not be interested in what NESFA has to offer.
What is more ominous is the number of people who have left because of one squabble or another. The excitements of 1975 were the most important of these squabbles, but they were not the only ones. It occurs to me as I write this that there is a point I had previously overlooked. It is easy enough to blame people for quarrelling and being malicious, and to attribute the problems of NESFA to people being unreasonable. This is pointless, however, since people will inevitably quarrel and be malicious and feud. The thing is, people who are feuding and fighting really can’t work together on projects and achieve much over the long haul. So a group that is strongly oriented towards projects and “doing things” has no room for both sides of a serious fight. It cannot afford to have a place for both sides; either the group ceases to be effective or it sheds one side or the other. An interesting thought to explore.
“Can we now reach out to the people in Boston fandom that we’ve alienated over the years and invite them to come back and start over?”Well, we can – it just won’t do any good, that’s all. Most of them aren’t interested in the sort of things NESFA is doing – if they were they would still be with the club. Besides, to re-establish contact with NESFA would necessitate abandoning some of the, ah, rhetoric about big, bad NESFA. Some people would appear to derive great moral merit by not being like NESFA members – they will tell you so themselves. And, believe me, I am loathe to persuade anyone to abandon any claim to moral merit – particularly in these days when the genuine thing is in such short supply.
Copyright © 1977 by Richard Harter