Stranger Club

The Stranger Club, the first SF club in Boston, was active during the early 40s and ran the First Series of Boskones. The club (high school and college age kids) was formed February 18, 1940 and petered out during the later part of the War as members were drafted or moved. It mostly met a member Robert D. Swisher's parents' house.

Art Widner organized the first meeting (as The Nameless Ones) at Louis Russell Chauvenet's home in Cambridge. Attending the meeting of sf and chess were were Widner, Chauvenet, Francis Paro, William Schrange, John Ferrari and R. D. Swisher. In March, a second meeting elected Widner as Director and Paro as Secretary-Treasurer and changed the name to the Eastern Massachusetts Fantasy Society (EMFS) and decided to publish a clubzine, Fanfare.

The next meeting (held at MIT) added more members and changed the name again to The Strangers. (The name came from stories of the Stranger Club written by Laurence Manning for Wonder Stories. The fourth meeting, also at MIT at the grad house, brought to club to 15 members — amusingly, for a Boston club, they had no member who actually lived in Boston!

In spite of being very informal (by the standards of sf clubs of the time), they got a gift of 250 prozines and began a library, and had some very big name speakers, attracting a group of mature and intelligent members. On July 19, 1942, John W. Campbell, Jr. came to a meeting and while his ship was being outfitted, (a pre-Dianetics) L. Ron Hubbard attended a Strangers meeting as his first fan event.

In February, 1941, the Strangers ran their first convention, Boskone I, which seems to have been a one-day affair somewhat like an extended meeting with about 25 fans mostly from Boston with some from New York. This was the first of five held before the pressures of the War ended them.

In 1941 Tom Gardner, a fan and scientist who had made pro sales began to attend meetings before moving to Tennessee. Earl Singleton — he of the pseuicide — was elected treasurer in late 1940. Meetings were held on an irregular schedule (every 2-4 weeks) for the next year or two, at the homes of members and at MIT.

In February 1942, Boskone II was held at the Boston Ritz-Plaza, and again about 25 fans showed up, including fans from Columbia, SC and Columbus, OH. By 1942, fourteen of Massachusetts' 22 known fans were members and five fanzines were being published by members. Boskone III was held February 28, 1943 and was much smaller — only 14 members only a couple of which were from out of town — but one of them was Claude Degler! Sudsy Schwartz called the meeting to order, and the group did its usual discussion of the NFFF. The played Art Widner's new game of "Interplanetary" and Jules Lazar won a Finlay original.

The War was slowing activity to nothing, but a tiny (5 members) Boskone IV was held in February 1945 at the R. D. Swisher home. All of the members were declared to be GoHs! Boskone V was held that September, but it is not clear that there was any Strangers Club involvement.

In the fall of 1946 the club was revived in Cambridge, though Art Widner was the only important holdover as most of the rest of the membership has gafiated or moved elsewhere. Particularly active new members included Timothy Orrok and Chan Davis, while Harry Stubbs, Dave Thomas, Boff Perry, Bill Mason, and John Pomeroy were also active.

It's not clear when the club finally dissolved, but by the time MITSFS was organized in 1949, it was a fading memory which had been utterly forgotten by everyone but Harry Stubbs when BoSF and then NESFA were created in the 1960s.

Read The Stranger Club by Art Widner for a long and lively account of the club's activities.

The club (collectively) was Fan Guest of Honor at Noreascon 3 the 1989 Worldcon. Members in attendance included Art Widner, Chan Davis, Harry Stubbs (Hal Clement), Louis Russell Chauvenet, Timothy Orrok, Norman Stanley, and Robert D. Swisher. Honoring their FGoHship, #11 of the club fanzine Fanfare was published (the previous issue, #10 was published in December 1943.)

Many of the surviving members wrote about the club for the Noreascon Three Program Book:

from Fancyclopedia 2 ca. 1959
In a stf series by Laurence Manning, a club (motto, "Truth is Stranger Than Fiction") where members met to tell and hear "true" fantastic experiences. The name was taken by the Eastern Massachusetts fan organization when they formed in February '40, and the members called themselves Strangers. Members included Swisher, Widner, Suddsy Schwartz, Singleton and a number of others; it was elements of this club that formed the foundation for the N3F. The group threw a number of annual conferences in Boston ("Boskones") and apparently got along with absolutely no internal friction.
from Fancyclopedia 1 ca. 1944
(Manning) - In a stf series by Laurence Manning, a club which had for its motto "Truth is stranger than fiction", where members met to tell and hear "true" fantastic experiences. The name was taken by the Eastern Massachusetts fan organization when they formed in Feb 40, and the members call themselves Strangers. Members include Swisher, Widner, Suddsy Schwartz, (ex-) Singleton, and a number of others. The organization puts on the Boskones and apparently gets along with absolutely no internal friction.