The Sunday Los Angeles Times ran an interview with Benjamin Nugent headlined “Anthropology meets the pocket protector in American Nerd: The Story of My People.” Surprisingly, several graphs were devoted to Nugent’s visit to LASFS:
You traveled the country for this book, and some key chapters take place in
Southern California. What did you find here?
Southern California has an amazing nerd landmark, the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society in
North Hollywood. It’s a relic of a time when nerds physically got together in one place to discuss their interests, like sci-fi and the space race and D&D and anime.
I went through some records, and the attendance used to be larger and, more important, the average age used to be late 20s, and now it’s clearly middle-aged to late-middle-aged. The people who would have been their [new] members are on the Internet.
Why was that physical getting together so important?
I think a lot of people in these subcultures think that it’s not important, that they’re exchanging ideas, or playing a game that’s fun, or figuring out problems — they really do crave social contact and community and a kind of spiritual release. The things they did at the Science Fantasy Society were in some ways like a Quaker meeting house. They’d eulogize a member who had recently died, or a writer they were a fan of.
Was there a writer who seemed to be the favorite?
[Robert] Heinlein seemed to be pretty universally looked up to there. I also visited a “polyamorous” household that was inspired by his writings; this group household where everyone can kind of make out with everybody else.
[Thanks to Bill Warren for the story.]