LASFS at 75

The Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society threw its 75th anniversary bash at the Castaways in Burbank on October 23. Perched high on a hillside our banquet hall had a vast scenic window opening onto a magnificent view of twinkling city lights. It was the perfect place for us, halfway to the stars.

Master of ceremonies John Hertz had not dressed like Beau Brummell (though he sometimes does) which he emphasized by pointing out “This is one of the rare occasions when Len Moffatt is better dressed that I.” John did wear his beanie, however, when he introduced our first speaker, Roy Test.

Roy at last got the attention he’s always deserved as one of the club’s founding members. The late Forry Ackerman was also present at the club’s creation in 1934 and was such an influential part of LASFS history as well as its most polished raconteur that he was able to fully satisfy people’s curiosity about the past. (I snapped a photo of Ackerman waving for the camera at the club’s 70th anniversary, only later discovering Roy Test was there and by luck I had captured Roy walking past in the background of the same picture.) However, Roy’s story is quite interesting in its own right.

After Hertz helped him up to the dais Roy joked, “I was a little more agile when I first started reading sf stories.” He remembered a preliminary club meeting at a movie theater one afternoon. And most of his memories are of meetings at Clifton’s Cafeteria when he was 13 or 14 years old. He remembered the green drink circulating in Clifton’s fountain. He said his mother, Wanda Test, volunteered to be club secretary as a way to come to the meetings “and see what kind of oddballs I was associating with. Maybe it didn’t occur to her I was the oddest one there.”

(According to Forry Ackerman in Mimosa: “That very first meeting of all was attended by nine people. There was a young fan named Roy Test; he was interested in Esperanto, so we called him ‘Esperan-Test’. His mother, Wanda Test, was our first secretary. In those days of the 1930s, Thrilling Wonder Stories was on our minds, so her minutes became known as ‘Thrilling Wanda Stories’.”)

Roy remembered discovering a used bookstore with a trove of very early sf pulps selling for 15 cents each. He worked at a gas station for 10 cents an hour, so every hour-and-a-half he could buy another copy from the magazine’s first year of publication.

Within a few years World War II started, and Test went into the Army Air Corps and piloted B-17 bombers. He is, in fact, still an active flyer in the Commemorative Air Force (see photos of him in uniform here and here.) Roy said he occasionally flies a Russian paratroop plane, the largest single-engine biplane in the world. By coincidence, my family had toured the Planes of Fame museum in Chino a year or so ago and I saw some items donated by Roy on exhibit — the first time I knew that part of his story.

Roy was followed by Len and June Moffatt. It was great to see them together – they’ve been part of LASFS for around 60 years. Other speakers included John DeChancie, Karl Lembke (Chair of the LASFS board of directors), Mel Gilden, Laura Brodian Freas, Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle.

Larry Niven said in 1963 he decided he was going to be a writer and took the Famous Writers School correspondence course. He was then 25 years old. Having met Ray Bradbury years before (when they had the same doctor) he wrote for advice, was referred to Forry Ackerman and ended up attending LASFS meetings at the Silver Lake Playground. That opened the way to all kinds of adventures, and to meeting his future wife at the 1967 Worldcon. Larry said that Fallen Angels(written with Pournelle and Flynn) embodied what he felt about fandom.

Jerry Pournelle quoted Heinlein to the effect that authors who read their own works in public probably have other nasty habits, but he agreed with Niven’s sentiments about Fallen Angels. He too had joined LASFS in the Silver Lake days, when Paul Turner was promoting the idea that we’d someday own our own clubhouse. Jerry said he grew up with a future – “I knew in the 40s I would live to see the first man on the moon. I didn’t know I’d live to see the last one.” Although the future isn’t what it used to be, “I think it’s still there… One of these days we’ll find people who do believe it and we will get our future back.”

Fannish entertainers provided a change of pace between the speakers. Lynn Maudlin sang “Gotta Kill My Clone” and “High Frontier” (her response to the space shuttle tragedies). Storyteller Nick Smith spoke. Charles Lee Jackson II reminisced about Forry Ackerman. And throughout the evening letters were read from our absent friends: Ray Bradbury, Ray Harryhausen, Paul Turner.

I shared a table with Milt Stevens, Marc Schirmeister and Joe Zeff, and also enoyed seeing a lot of other long-time friends.

Thanks to Christian McGuire and Arlene Satin for their excellent work organizing the event. And also for publishing the incredible 75th Anniversary Memory Book. What a treasure that is!

One thought on “LASFS at 75

  1. It sounds like you had a lovely dinner and I’m glad of it. Regardless of what some others might think I think, I actually think it’s a remarkable achievement that LASFS [*] has thrived and prospered this long, and I’m glad that those to whom it has brought so much pleasure and comraderie were able to celebrate those.

    Congratulations, Mike. I think it’s fair to say that a lot of the success of the LASFS [*] has to do with your help in running it. Your good will, fannish enthusiasm, and basic common sense have been and will continue to be essential items in proper club management.

    [*] Not willing to take a side in The Eternal Argument, note that I have managed to organically refer to both “LASFS” and “the LASFS” in the same comment!

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