LASFS

Fred Patten, Loscon program booklet 2006, updated to February 2007. Used by permission.

A Brief History of the LASFS

[Note: Spellings and phrasings have been checked for exact correctness. For example, the 1929 NYC SF club is "The Scienceers", not "the Scienceers". The column in Amazing Stories that brought the first fans together was "Discussions", not "Letters". Several authors have been removed from the list of regular LASFS members who were successful SF authors, either because they were never LASFS members although they may have visited the LASFS a few times or been a panelist at a Loscon, or because they did not become successful authors until long after they dropped out of the club. Anyone tempted to make changes in this text (such as adding Robert Bloch as a LASFS member just because he is known to have lived in Los Angeles in the past) should make sure that the changes are correct.]

[Note: It is a LASFS tradition that Forrest J Ackerman's name is deliberately spelled without a period after his middle initial.]

The Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society, held its first meeting on October 27, 1934, is the world's oldest living science fiction club. However, the LASFS did not form spontaneously from a vacuum. It required the support of an organized science fiction fandom.

The pioneering science fiction magazine, Amazing Stories, began monthly publication in April 1926. It printed opinions and criticisms from its readers, along with their full addresses, in a "Discussions" column. Rejoicing in their newfound kindred, many early fans, most of high school and college age, began writing to each other. Within a few years, a group of two or three hundred of these pen pals around North America and Britain had formed a loose social association. Some organized more formally. A Science Correspondence Club was started during 1928, and began publishing a club magazine, The Comet, in May 1930. By the early 1930s several of the more literate fans, individually or in collaboration, started their own amateur magazines in emulation of the professional SF magazines. The prevailing attitude and sense of purpose of these early fans and fanzines was the serious advancement of science fiction.

(See Eofandom for more about the period.)

The earliest localized SF club was The Scienceers in New York City, which first met on December 11, 1929. Its fanzine, The Planet, began in July 1930. In addition to amateur fiction and popular science articles, it reported on the meetings and social activities of the club. Copies of The Planet were mailed throughout the fledgling SF fandom, and encouraged many fans to start similar clubs in their cities. These clubs usually drifted apart after a few months or years as their adolescent members developed other interests, but there were always some SF clubs to inspire new fans to create or join local clubs.

In May 1934, Wonder Stories announced the creation of the Science Fiction League, an international SF club which was to be coordinated through a column in the magazine. Members living in the same city were encouraged to get together and start a local SFL chapter. The first SFL chapters were on the East Coast, but on Saturday, October 27, 1934, seven Los Angeles SFL members and two guests met in the garage of member E. C. Reynolds. These nine fans sent a letter to Wonder Stories asking to become an SFL chapter. The Los Angeles Science Fiction League (LASFL) was granted a charter dated November 13, 1934 as the club's fourth chapter.

The LASFL met irregularly during its first year. This changed when Forrest J Ackerman, a hyper-enthusiastic L.A. fan who was in college in San Francisco at the time, returned home at the beginning of 1936 and quickly became the club's most active member. Bolstered by Forry's efforts, LASFL began meeting regularly every other Thursday in February 1936, increasing to the first four Thursdays of the month in January 1939 and every Thursday in July 1942. He became the nucleus of a group of similarly enthusiastic young fans such as Walter Daugherty, T. Bruce Yerke, Paul Freehafer, Ray Bradbury, and Ray Harryhausen who transformed the LASFL from a tiny literary discussion club into a lively social group. They invited all SF authors visiting or living in Los Angeles to come to the LASFL. Arthur J. Burks, Robert A. Heinlein, Jack Williamson, Henry Kuttner, and other celebrities accepted the invitation.

Ackerman was particularly active in helping the LASFL publish its own mimeographed fanzines. They were full of humorous, pun-filled reviews and parodies of current SF, as well as discussions of the LASFL's picnics, holiday parties and group outings to scientific lectures at Cal Tech or the local planetarium in addition to the club meetings. These soon established the LASFL's reputation throughout budding SF fandom as "Shangri-L.A."; a paradise for young SF fans. This reputation helped L.A. fandom win the World Science Fiction Convention for 1942 (postponed until 1946 due to World War II).

When the parent Science Fiction League began to fall apart in the late 1930s, Forry aided the club in staying alive by declaring its independence on March 27, 1940 as the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society. Forry remained active in the club for the next two decades. He seldom held a formal club office, but he was always there to keep things moving while others came and went. Forrest Ackerman was Mr. LASFS for thirty years. By the time he stopped participating regularly in the mid-1960s, he left a firmly established club behind him.

The LASFS went through some drastic personality changes before settling down into its current self. SF fandom in the Thirties was dominated by intellectual young men who gave the original LASFL the atmosphere of a college fraternity. During the early Forties, the club almost self-destructed due to fannish politics. Cliques and factions battled, attempting to impeach club officers, arguing endlessly over trivial differences of opinion, and setting up rival local SF clubs. At the same time, with World War II in progress and most SF fans over 18 in the Armed Services, the LASFS took on the atmosphere of a fannish USO. Los Angeles was a major embarkation center for soldiers and sailors shipping out into the Pacific, and LASFS members were always ready to stop fighting long enough to greet and play host to fans in uniform passing through L.A. to the front.

Perhaps in reaction, as soon as the war ended the club swung to the opposite extreme, shunning most fannish activities as irresponsible. The attitude was encouraged that fans should aspire to become professional SF authors, and several local writers including A. E. van Vogt, Ross Rocklynne and L. Ron Hubbard became regular participants. The LASFS instituted a "Fanquet", an annual banquet honoring those members who made their first professional SF sale. Several members did sell one or two short stories, and one, E. Everett Evans (for whom the Evans-Freehafer Award is co-named, with Paul Freehafer; see separate section), became a minor popular author during the 1950s until his death in 1958.

A major accomplishment of the LASFS in the late 1940s was the creation of the annual West Coast Science Fantasy Conference (Westercon). At this time the only SF conventions were in the New York/Pennsylvania/New Jersey area, plus the annual World Science Fiction Convention which had come to Los Angeles in 1946 but was usually held in a city East of the Mississippi. Two LASFS members, Walter Daugherty and Dave Fox, felt that the fans in Western cities deserved their own annual convention. In 1948 the LASFS started the Westercon in emulation of the Worldcon. Los Angeles-area fans held the first three Westercons until the convention was well-enough established that fan clubs in such cities as San Diego and San Francisco were ready to host it. Today the Westercon is almost sixty years old, and has met in cities ranging from Vancouver, BC to Honolulu, HI to Boise, ID to El Paso, TX. The Westercon's Bylaws specify the LASFS as the archive of Westercon business and the default administrator in the case of the failure of any individual Westercon (which has never happened). Westercon 55 in 2002 returned to Los Angeles for the first time in eight years. The 2004 Westercon was in Phoenix, 2005 was in Calgary, 2006 was in San Diego, and Westercon 60 in 2007 was in San Mateo.

By the early 1960s the LASFS had worked through its extremes to become the casual, open-to-all interests club that it is today. There are always some SF authors and artists in residence, from Fritz Leiber in the late Fifties to Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle and John DeChancie today, including Alan Dean Foster, Stephen Goldin, David Gerrold, Steven Barnes, John Dalmas, William Rotsler, and George Barr among others. Some were well-established when they moved to Los Angeles and others became authors while they were fans in the club. But there is no longer pressure for members to write if they prefer to remain fans.

In the Sixties the LASFS regained the lively spirit of its beginnings, with the additional benefit of a growing female presence in SF fandom. The club became more family oriented, with several marriages between members during the Sixties and Seventies including Bjo & John Trimble, Len & June Moffatt, and Bruce & Elayne Pelz. Fans began to specialize into sub-groups, devoting themselves to hard-science SF, Tolkienish high fantasy, SF movies, comic books, specific movie and TV series including Star Trek and Dr. Who, roleplaying games, mystery/detective fiction, computer groups, even cliffhanger serials and old Westerns through the efforts of Charles Lee Jackson II. The Cartoon/Fantasy Organization, the first Japanese animé fan club, held its first meeting at the LASFS in May 1977. Despite this fragmentation, the LASFS counted them all as part of All Things Fannish, encouraging a strong spirit of camaraderie and family. The LASFS began to build this spirit during the 1960s, incorporating in 1968 as a non-profit educational organization and buying its own property in 1973. In 1977 the LASFS replaced it with a larger clubhouse at the current location in North Hollywood. The club acquired its first computer, an Altair, that year as a donation by Larry & Fuzzy (Marilyn) Niven; it was made a member as Altair Niven.

In 1993 the club completed renovations to its front building, remodeling and doubling the size of its SF library which now contains well over 10,000 volumes.

In December 1975 the Society prepared LA 2000, a special convention to celebrate the club's 2,000th meeting. More a relaxicon than a convention in the traditional sense (such as featuring guests of honor or holding a formal program), the event was so enjoyable that it was repeated in 1976, moving to October to honor the club's anniversary and calling itself Loscon for the first time. The Loscon was held twice in 1977, the second that year being the first with an official guest of honor, Jerry Pournelle. By 1978 it had settled into an annual November affair, the Los Angeles Regional Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention, and starting with Loscon 9 in 1982 the Thanksgiving weekend has become traditional. Loscon 7 in 1980 was the first to top 1,000 members, and attendance has not dropped below a thousand since 1984. The Loscon was held in Pasadena from 1983 through 1989, in Burbank from 1993 through 2003, and in 2004 it returned to Los Angeles itself.

In the last quarter of the 20th century the LASFS began to blend and expand its social and literary activities. The annual Fanquet metamorphed through a LASFS Showcase into the LaLaCon beginning in 1995; a two-day "Spring Fling relaxicon, social gathering and open house" held at Freehafer Hall. Attendance is limited to 150; the venue's maximum capacity. Traditional LaLaCon events include a Plutonium Chili Cookoff on Saturday at noon; an Intergalactic Ice Cream Social on Saturday evening; and a Banquet on Sunday. In 1964 the LASFS began APA-L, an unofficial weekly fanzine assembled at each club meeting consisting of individual contributions by members who find it convenient to communicate through "paper conversations" of usually two to four pages; some contributing by mail who cannot attend the club's meetings. APA-L has had contributors from throughout North America and Europe. In 1976 the similar monthly LASFAPA was started. During 2006 APA-L has averaged about thirty pages from fifteen contributors per week. Several of the unofficial sub-groups have grown into technically independent clubs which traditionally meet at Freehafer Hall on an established weekend each month, including the Cartoon/Fantasy Organization and Cinema Animé (animé clubs), the Time Meddlers (Dr. Who), and TRIPE, FWEMS and the Estrogen Zone (movie-watching clubs). Members of these clubs are also the organizers of the annual Los Angeles-area Gallifrey One (Dr. Who) convention, and the new Anime L.A. convention beginning in 2005.

For legal reasons, LASFS members incorporated a separate California non-profit organization in 1982, the Southern California Institute for Fan Interests, Inc. (SCIFI), to be the sponsor and organizer of Worldcons, Westercons, and similar major events within the science-fiction community that are not a part of the LASFS. SCIFI organized the 1984, 1996, and recent 2006 Los Angeles Worldcons, the 1999 North American Science Fiction Convention (NASFiC) and the 1989, 1994 and 2002 Westercons. In 1997 SCIFI created the Fan Gallery, a growing gallery of portrait photographs of prominent SF authors and fans funded from the "Benefit to Fandom" money left over from the 1996 Worldcon surplus. The Fan Gallery was first exhibited at Loscon in 1997 and has become a regular display at Worldcons, Loscons and other conventions since then.

The LASFS has survived some traumatic shocks. The April 1992 Los Angeles Riots occurred on a Thursday, which almost caused the club to cancel its weekly meeting for the first time since the late 1930s. (That meeting was attended by only a few fans who adjourned early to get home before the martial-law curfew.) After the January 1994 6.7 Richter Northridge Earthquake, and again during the October-November 2003 Southern California wildfires, the LASFS became an information center for fans to keep in touch with each other and offer help. A smaller tragedy has become common due to the "graying" of fandom; LASFS regular attendees for decades have started dying or becoming confined to their homes due to the infirmities of old age. In March 2002 Bruce Pelz proposed the establishment of a status known as 'Pillar of the LASFS.' In order to qualify as a Pillar, the member must be dead. The member's estate, or friends, would then make a large, lump-sum donation to the LASFS, in an amount to be determined by the club. The proposal was being discussed when Pelz unexpectedly died in May of a pulmonary embolism. Creation of the Pillar of the LASFS Award was approved in June with the donation set at $4,000, and donations to make Pelz himself the first Pillar of the LASFS were raised within two months at the 2002 Westercon and Worldcon.

Fortunately, the LASFS is constantly adding young and enthusiastic SF fans to replace the departed. Major LASFS events during 2004 included the club's 70th anniversary meeting and the 40th anniversary distribution of APA-L (#2058), both in October. The participants of both ranged from their founders to newcomers who only joined during 2004. The 2006 Worldcon, L.A.con IV, was held in Los Angeles (Anaheim), and many newcomers discovered the club through that Worldcon.

LASFS's regular Thursday night meetings, starting around 7:00 p.m., usually boast sixty to one hundred fans of all ages. About half the attendees participate in the formal meeting and program, which may include a speaker, an SF movie, a panel, or auctions of SF items. The rest are present to use the club's library (a trove of SF books, magazines, audio and video tapes, available to all members), or to gather in informal groups in various spots around the clubhouse to socialize, pursue their special interests, or work on individual club projects. (The LASFS has organized SF exhibits for local public and university libraries, and a committee has been publishing an annually updated "LASFS Recommended Reading List for Young Readers" since 1997, which has been requested by librarians across the country. The LASFS maintains social contact with other major SF clubs throughout America.) The clubhouse is also open every Friday night for more informal socializing and open gaming. In addition, on the Second Sunday of each month the LASFS hosts an open house for gaming fans. The LASFS ran a SF exhibition booth at the annual UCLA Book Fair for many years, and it still holds its annual "LaLaCon" two-day relaxicon each Spring.

See the LASFS website for more information.


Comment From Marty - 8/13/07 6:12 AM [Delete]

APA-L was started by members of LASFS, not by the club. APA-L has never been run by LASFS but has always been free to use club facilities.

LASFAPA was started by a single club member, Harry Andruschak, and is also not controlled by the club. Unlike the weekly APA-L, LASFAPA is a monthly APA. Both APA-L and LASFAPA share the dubious distinction of now being much smaller than they were in the late 1970s-1980s, but they both continue the tradition of regular paper fanac.

I currently run both APAs having run APA-L three different times and LASFAPA twice.

Please note that one of our members runs serial chapters, cartoons, and other filmic items for about a half hour before the business meeting begins, with the start of the meetings usually anywhere from 8:00 to 8:10 pm.

The LASFS Board of Directors meets on the Second Sunday of each month, starting around 11:00 am. 2:00 pm is when the Second Sunday Open House begins. Open to all, members socialize, play board and card games, and picnic in the patio 'twixt the two buildings.

from Fancyclopedia 1 ca. 1944
The Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society. The LASFL had also held Overseas Chapter #1 of the SFA, and when they also became a chapter of the Science Fictioneers, and seemed likely to affiliate with other general fan organizations, they voted to take this neutral and, says Yerke, meaningless name.

The most famous members of the LASFS are Ackerman and Morojo, but there have been many other active fans associated with it, including Bradbury, Daugherty, Joquel, Freehafer, the founders of the HFL, the Moonrakers and Yerke, numerous immigrants from the MFS and the Golden Gate Futurians and elsewhere in the war years, and some honorary members and persons who only temporarily lived in LA. The LASFS is the longest-lived local in fandom, most consistently active. In 1940 they claimed the name of Shangri-LA, and became Rome whither all roads led in the months after Pearl Harbor. They have probably had the largest attendance records of any local at some meetings, including numerous celebrities. For a long time they met in the Little Brown Room of Clifton's Cafeteria, but during the war moved their stuff into first one and then another official club room finally finding a swell place in an ex-beauty parlor where members drop in Sundays, days off, and evenings to do the things that a clubroom is designed for.

Between Mirta Forato on the one hand and the Moonrakers or others on the opposite, there have at times been sustained differences. For the most part, these have been kept out of the general fan press and subordinated to club spirit. One emerged for a second in 1938, in the Michelistic period, when a board of censorship was established to keep too controversial material out of Imagination!, the official publication. Another flare-up occurred when Heinlein resigned just before going into the Navy, giving as his reason the attacks on him by Yerke. Toward the end of 1943 a rash of resignations broke out, but that story belongs in 1944. Suffice to say that the reasons appear to have been: Dislike of Ackerman personally; Ackerman's objections to the intrusion of drinking, wenching, ktp, on LASFS affairs; belief that the Society was becoming a collection of psychologically maladjusted people; and discontent with the accomplishments of the LASFS as compared to its possibilities.