Ways to Keep Your Club Vibrant, Tip #207

The fan who sent me the link hoped I’d headline the story — “NESFA’s Hosting a Gaming Con, Possible Sign of Impending Apocalypse.”

But as much fun as it is to tease NESFAns, I know from their clubzine, Instant Message, the venerable New England Science Fiction Association has been holding game days for awhile. Deciding to host the New England Gaming Convention is growing an interest they already have.

The con runs September 22 from Noon til Midnight at a VFW in Somerville, MA, with members playing board games, card games, tabletop games, RPGs, and dice games.

“Great tournaments, awesome prizes, and epic freebies” are promised. Memberships are $20. Full details on the web page.

[Thanks to Anonymous for the story.]

Pam Fremon, F.N. Passes Away

Pam Fremon died November 7 of a heart attack reports Deb Geisler. Fremon, a long-time NESFA member, lived in Waltham, MA. She chaired the 2002 and 2006 Boskones, served several terms as Clerk of the NESFA, and was selected a Fellow of NESFA in 1990.

“She brought together MCFI and Bill Neville who did all our Lens-Family art, and was a major force in the group that did the starry vests that you showed in a recent item,” Chip Hitchcock recalls, adding this praise: “She was invariably calm when people around her got more and more tightly wound.”

“At Noreascon Four, [Pam] was the goddess of signs, pumping out many, many signs for the convention while not-quite chained to the large-format printer we had bought for the task,” said Deb, pointing to the photo below.

I remember the deftly humorous meeting reports she wrote when Clerk of the NESFA – some bits so funny I had to share them in File 770. Here are two examples: each begins with my couple of lines of introduction, followed by Pam’s quotes.

From 2000:

Hardly anyone is embarrassed to be seen entering a NESFA meeting anymore, but there seems a good reason not to attract attention on the way out. Clerk Pam Fremon says at the end of the January 23 meeting:

     “We stole away into the night, mindful of the wolves.

     “Through the years, many creatures have, of course, chased NESFAns on the way to Other Meetings — such a common occurrence that it has never seen mention in Instant Message….until now.

     “Wolves are fairly typical predators for winter meetings, but going a little further north (say, Andover, MA), polar bears are not uncommon, though they don’t usually appear until January (in December they’re too busy with Coca-Cola commercials.) In most of the rest of the year the chasers vary: moose, snakes, coyotes, pigeons. In one notably hot day when even cars were so hot that they could manage just 15 mph, members were chased by turtles.”

From 2003:

Instant Message 711 (and what issue could have a luckier number than that?) Clerk Pam Fremon reported the menu of NESFA’s November 24 Other Meeting:

     “Deb [Geisler] and Mike [Benveniste] fed us to the gills with an enormous tray of lasagna (containing 5 lbs. of meat and 2 lbs. of mushrooms). It was a free-range lasagna that had been humanely slaughtered and carried no trace of fur, feathers, nor scales. Deb acknowledged that this year she hadn’t also made an emergency back-up lasagna, figuring that this one would be enough. As she said, people had brought enough sweets for 27 courses of desserts. At the end of the meal there was only one helping of lasagna, and Dave Grubbs (after some coaxing) valiantly threw himself onto it.”

Pam Fremon with the large-format printer at Noreascon 4.

Facelift for NESFA Clubhouse?

The New England Science Fiction Association has voted to spend over $20,000 to cover the front of its clubhouse with James Hardie sheeting. The minutes of the August 5 meeting frankly state –

People question the value of this project. However, our front is uninviting; it looks abandoned.

Google Maps’ snapshot of the property doesn’t show much, but if the Clerk of the NESFA says it’s so, who’s going to argue?

Strange to think I’ve never visited there. I must add put that on my bucket list.

NESFA Clubhouse, Movie Star?

The NESFA clubhouse is in the running to become a location for Ben Affleck’s next movie, The Town, announced Tim Szczesuil at the June 7 meeting. A location manager for GK Films inquired about the possibility of renting the property, and took photos of the clubhouse that the producers will use to make their selection.

Wnd what kind of movie will this be? “Calling all thugs with a Boston accent” was the lead in one website’s announcement of a local casting call. The Town is an adaptation of Chuck Hogan’s novel Prince of Thieves, and as Affleck explained in a recent interview:

It’s based on a true fact that there is this neighborhood in Boston called Charlestown where there are more armed robbers per capita than anywhere else in the world.

So now you see what comes from allowing too many hucksters to loiter on NESFA’s premises.

Dues and Don’ts

The first reason more clubs don’t own their own clubhouses is that they can’t come up with the price of the building. So they never confront the second reason, which is that it costs a lot to maintain a place to meet.  Membership dues, alone, don’t come close to covering what the NESFA and LASFS require to keep their clubhouses operating year after year.

The New England Science Fiction Association analyzed its finances in Instant Message #819, revealing that it had taken around $100,000 to deal with the clubhouse oil tank line. The club had the accumulated resources to do this. On the other hand, the report concludes, “The NESFA Press pays the bills. The non-Press activities of the club show a $30K annual deficit.”

The Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society’s activities are on a comparatively modest financial footing (their Form 990s on Guidestar show LASFS’ revenue is about one-quarter of NESFA’s), so it still hurt when they had to approve $5,000 for new asphalt on the driveway last year.

LASFS does not run its annual financial reports in the club’s newzine, but I know from my years on the Board of Directors that LASFS depends on the Loscon surplus in the same way that NESFA depends on its book publishing surplus.

Who Owns the Moon?

Can someone own land on the Moon? That was the question before the house at the Luna Philosophie on August 20. Luna Philosophie is the “salon and discussion” hosted by NASA’s CoLab at every full moon in San Francisco. Steve Durst from the Board of Directors of the International Lunar Observatory Association and Dr. William Marshal of NASA Ames each took a crack at the answer. Surprisingly, they both got it wrong! Neither seemed to know that two science fiction clubs already claimed the Moon. (See their video.)

It’s quite appropriate that the meeting happened across the bay from Berkeley, historic home of the Bay Area Elves’, Gnomes’ and Little Men’s Science Fiction, Chowder, and Marching Society. It was the Little Men who, in 1951, filed a claim for mining rights to 2,250 sq. mi. of the Moon. Their claim was widely reported in the media – even by Time magazine. Les Cole told the whole story in Mimosa 18:

Incidentally, filing a claim on the moon was old hat; the Bureau of Mines had hundreds of claims on file. But the Little Men’s claim was different in two ways: we would file before the U.N. — anyone of any sense could see that the U.S. Bureau of Mines had no jurisdiction on the moon — and we would file for a very small piece, not all of the moon; we weren’t greedy…

And then came The Letter. Don [Fabuns] and I worked on that one at some length. It was to be sent to the head of the U.N. Legal Department, and in it, we offered to cede back 85% of the mineral rights, all of any radioactives found (this was 1951, remember, and the romance with them had not yet fizzled), and perpetual U.N. rights to a presence in the triangular area. All the U.N. had to do was recognize our claim.

According to Les, when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon his wife, Es, wanted to bill NASA $0.90/hour for parking.

Unfortunately, the governments of the world bigfooted all over the Little Men’s claim in January 1967 when they signed the Outer Space Treaty declaring that the Moon belongs to all mankind.

Science fiction fandom did not take this lying down. At a December 1970 meeting of the New England Science Fiction Association, “[Tony Lewis] showed the moon map from the Nov 1970 issue of Sky and Telescope. Hugo Gernsback crater was identified, as were Wiener, Ley, Verne, Wells, etc. As a result of this increase in cultural knowledge it was [moved, seconded and passed] that the Moon be designated NESFA’s Moon and that the Aerospace Cadets protect it.” NESFAn Harry Stubbs, then a Lt. Col. in the Air Force, was named commander of the Aerospace Cadets, holding the title “Lord of the Wings.” Later, Alan Frisbie and Paula Lieberman were also enrolled as Cadets.

NESFA shieldNESFA has kept a close eye on its property ever since. When there was a total eclipse of the Moon in July 1982, Tony Lewis wrote a letter protesting the unauthorized use of NESFA’s Moon. The club voted him responsibility for preventing the occurrence of any further unauthorized eclipses. In 1984, Chip Hitchcock reported that Walt Disney’s movie Splash abused NESFA’s Moon by having it wax in the wrong direction. Members voted Chip the job of writing their letter of complaint to Disney Studios’ publicity agency, Craig Miller’s “Con-Artists.”

NESFA even managed to turn Moon ownership into a money-raising tool. They created NESFA Realty Trust bonds to finance the purchase of their clubhouse in 1985.

Inexplicably, NESFA never seems to have objected to the practice of selling land on the moon. And they might want to issue a warning to all the entrepreneurs working on spacecraft to send to the Moon who plan to take ownership of the patch they land on, among them Luna Philosophie speaker Steven Durst himself:

[Durst is] linked to one of the Google Lunar [X Prize] competitors, Odyssey Moon, and he said during the talk that he hopes to scratch out his initials on one of the legs of a lunar rover and “claim his acre.”

Dennett Is Letter Perfect

The Library Bookies

The “Library Bookies,” with NESFA’s Gay Ellen Dennett (center) and non-fans Rose Doherty and Lindsey Kiser, survived a 30-minute duel with the Needham Democratic Town Committee team to win the Needham Education Foundation’s 18th Annual Spelling Bee. They triumphed by correctly spelling “formicivorous,” an adjective that means “ant-eating.”

It was the first win ever for the “Library Bookies,” a team that has competed in every Spelling Bee since the beginning (a team by that name, not the same team members). Each year the NEF’s “Library Bookies” team is composed of a trustee, a staff member, and a member of the supporting Friends group. Adding Lindsey Kiser (right) this year may have helped, because her teams have won the Spelling Bee at least seven times.

Footnote to Fanhistory

Before Mapquest, fans depended on Kevin Standlee’s feet.

In 1993, people going to the Worldcon wanted to know how far their hotels were from the Moscone Center. The ConFrancisco committee told them how many blocks, told them how many linear feet, and still had to admit “neither measurements have satisfied many people.”

Having made the admission, Kevin Standlee realized the only other thing he could do was personally pace off routes from the hotels to the Moscone entrance. He counted his steps and published the results under the title “ConFrancisco – Step by Step.” Fandom learned, for example, that the Parc 55 was 968 Standlees from the convention center, a Standlee being the length of a stride by a man 6’3″ tall, or about a meter. The Standlee became part of the fannish lexicon, and Leah Zeldes Smith wrote that the term deserved to be in the next Fancyclopedia.

Not very many fans have been immortalized by having their names attached to a unit of measurement. Two others I can name off the top of my head are both NESFAns.

According to the NESFA Bureau of Standards, a “Drew” is “the unit of displacement needed to move Drew Whyte from Boston to Cambridge.” Volunteers from the club, er, I mean the NESFA Displacement Authority, required five trucks about 20 feet long, packed absurdly tightly, to shift all or Drew’s stuff to his new home.

Another time, Mark Olson told a NESFA business meeting that new bookshelf extensions had been installed and in the process people had coined a new measurement — “the Paula.” The new shelves were three Paulas high.

You would expect such ideas to appeal to NESFAns, having the example before them of MIT’s Oliver Smoot, a fraternity member who was laid end to end (wasn’t that every frat boy’s dream in 1963?) to measure the length of the Mass. Ave. bridge. Today, Google Earth allows users the option of measuring distances in Smoots. And, of course, the image of Smoot on the Mass. Ave. bridge was celebrated at the Noreascon 4 Opening Ceremonies.

Cons Piracy Hits the Web

Heavy aftershocks were felt for months after the New Madrid earthquake of 1812, and according to a popular joke if you asked a man in Natchez how his farm was he’d run home to see if it was still there. You’ll soon be hearing a new version of that story featuring conrunners who’ve been asked how their websites are doing. But the former owners of Eastercon.org and Boskone.com can save themselves the trip: cyber squatters now own their farms.

Cons are often marketed online using internet domain names identical to the convention’s name. Domain names have finite lives and must be renewed.

The Eastercon.org address, which originally hosted a site about the con’s history, with reliable pointers to current Eastercon publicity, was edited (according to a post at Anonymousclaire) by Alex McLintock and Chris O’Shea.

The New England Science Fiction Association unhappily found its “Boskone.com” address evidently had expired and been re-registered by a cyber squatter. The club is taking action on the squatter, according to Instant Message #796.

That is not the only Boskone domain. Boskone.org still forwards readers to NESFA’s official web page promoting the convention. (Athough this state of affairs is destined to end in November, according to www.who.is). On the other hand, Boskone.net already talks about nothing but last August’s Lynch/Cheshire wedding in Seattle, and for the explanation of that your guess is as good as mine.