MITSFS Library Update

MITSFS’ Kat Allen has given an update about the club library materials that suffered water damage in February, and work to repair the club’s space on campus.

As previously reported, over the February 4-5 weekend water pipes in the MIT Student Center in Boston froze and burst, causing significant damage throughout the building including to the fourth floor where the MIT Science Fiction Society club library is housed. The MITSFS Library, the world’s largest public open-shelf collection of science fiction, had an inch of water in it.  Students initially were denied access to the area to rescue books for several weeks, but eventually they were able to assess the extensive mold damage that occurred (see “MITSFS Library Damage Assessed”.)

Kat Allen told NESFA President Rick Kovalcik:

We were able to get MIT to pay to have the collection moved by book preservation specialists, who could address the water damage issues.  Now it is in special storage with that company, waiting for the student center renovations to complete—the original timeline for those renovations was August, but I don’t think we were given any updated dates when the scope increased due to the water-damage-caused asbestos remediation.

So “we’ll be back in August maybe, TBD” is the status of the Library, and the Society is back to being mostly online like we were during the pandemic.

[Thanks to Rick Kovalcik for the story.]

UMass Amherst SFF Library Still Homeless. Sign the Petition!

Paul Basile, a member of the UMass Science Fiction Society at UMass Amherst from 1966 to 1970, reports the group is flourishing but still has no space for its 9000-volume library two years after the university took away the offices they were using. File 770 signal boosted news of the eviction in 2021. The Daily Hampshire Gazette covered it, too, in “Storied sci-fi library lost without a space at UMass”, with response quotes from University spokespeople, and statements by other affected student groups.

Basile recently contacted NESFA and several fan news outlets to mourn that the state of affairs has remained unchanged since 2021, and ask fans to help by contacting the University, signing a petition at, or sending e-mails to the RSO asking them to reconsider.

Basile’s recent email reminded readers: “Two years ago the Office of Registered Student Organizations threw the club out of their offices where they maintained a library of over 9000 science fiction books. They were forced to put them in storage. These materials were available to the entire University community and the town of Amherst. I have been in contact with the group and have written many e-mails to the RSO office and the president of the University. They have done and will do nothing to help. The group has all its books in storage where they do no good for anybody. I have also contacted some former members of the club and the local TV stations as well as the Daily Hampshire Gazette, but no one seems able to change the RSO’s mind.”

The petition, “Help save a historic student library”, has gained over 4,000 signatures since it was created in 2021. Sign it at the link.

MITSFS Library Damage Assessed

MITSFS now has an idea how much flood damage the MITSFS Library suffered at the beginning of February.

Over the February 4-5 weekend water pipes in the MIT Student Center in Boston froze and burst, causing significant damage throughout the building including to the fourth floor where the MIT Science Fiction Society club library is housed. The MITSFS Library, the world’s largest public open-shelf collection of science fiction, had an inch of water in it.  Students initially were denied access to the area to rescue books for several weeks, and unable to assess how much mold damage was occurring.

MITSFS’ Kat Allen told NESFA’s Rick Kovalcik that when the initial MITSFS team got into the building in late February there was water on the floor in the entire library. While the books on shelves were mostly safe, anything in boxes was exposed to water. The books in boxes molded, and were almost a total loss. Some of the books in boxes were near shelves, and the books on those shelves including, unfortunately, in “Damnation Alley” where the bound magazines are shelved, have visible black mold.

The team removed everything obviously moldy, trashing over 1000 volumes, mostly paperbacks and unbound magazines. They isolated the bound magazines with desiccant and hope to save them.

Rick Kovalcik says since then NESFA has been in touch with MITSFS on an ongoing basis. And what’s more, NESFA just found in their dead storage an archive of multiple copies of old magazines including Astounding/Analog in remarkably good condition (given that they were stored in an unheated storage area.) They have mentioned this to MITSFS as a possible replacement for some of their damaged collection.

First Fandom Takes Aim at the Future

After the last original member of First Fandom, Bob Madle, died last October, the organization’s leadership decided to canvass the membership, now composed of Associate Members who have been active in fandom for more than three decades, asking whether First Fandom should continue and in what form. President John L. Coker III has shared the results of the survey in the group’s newsletter and with File 770.

First Fandom Questionnaire

(Reprinted from Scientifiction, the First Fandom quarterly newsletter, No. 75 – 1Q2023, edited by John L. Coker III.)

(75) questionnaires were sent out to the members.  (57) members responded (that’s an approximately 78% participation rate).  Here are the four questions:

(1) Now that there are no original members left, should we continue as an organization?

(2) If you do feel that we should continue, should we reorganize under a new name to legitimately continue our original mission of presenting awards, issuing our publications, keeping alive the memories, and having fun?

(3) Do you agree that, in the new organization, the members’ annual dues should be current?

(4)  Do you wish to become a Charter Member?


(1) An overwhelming majority of respondents said that we should continue as an organization, and only four said we should not continue as an organization.  One respondent felt that “it was time everyone moved on to something else, whether it be a foundation or something not yet thought of.”    One stated that they did not care. Another: “I like the idea of an organization bringing together long-time fen interested in the history of fan-dom.  I’m not enthusiastic about organizing the group as a memorial to a generation of folks all of whom I love to read about but not all of whom I necessarily feel comfortable lionizing.” Another: “I think First Fandom should now be ended.  Some kind of organization to honor the first fans is a nice idea.  I’ll applaud it, but probably won’t join it.  Another: “First Fandom was *their* thing.  I was friends with some of them, but I wasn’t *one* of them.  Some of those guys made it clear to me that they wanted the organization to end when they did.  So, I say, let it end.”

(2) An overwhelming majority of respondents said that we should reorganize under a new name so that we could continue our original mission, and only three respondents said that we should not reorganize under a new name.  One person stated “…they had no problem keeping the organization going with the original name.”  One stated they did not care.  Another wrote: “Count me in!” Another person wrote: “If the questionnaire were longer, I’d vote for measures to broaden rather than freeze the definition of ‘First’.” 

(3) All but two respondents felt that, in order to belong to the new proposed organization, the members needed to be current in their dues.  One person felt that if some members were unable to afford dues, that their dues should be paid for them by a reserve fund.  One person noted that in the past some members had made a lifetime dues payment.

(4) An overwhelming majority of respondents felt that they did want to become charter members of the new organization.  Only four respondents did not want to become charter members.  One respondent said it depended on the cost.  Another suggested that we could merge with or align themselves with another organization (for example, the Science Fiction Research Association) so that our members would have opportunities to be published.


Based on written responses to the questionnaire, the great majority of our members agree that we should continue, but that we should reorganize under a new name.  Most agreed that members should pay annual dues.  Nearly all respondents felt that if a new organization was formed, they wanted to be charter members of that new organization.

So, according to our membership, it seems that “First Fandom is not dead.”  It is just reorganizing.  Dinosaurs that adapt will not as easily go extinct.  More information about our path forward will be made available soon.

BSFS Reports Results of the Code of Conduct Investigation Concerning Balticon 56

The Baltimore Science Fiction Society (BSFS) Board of Directors today issued a statement about their investigation into “Stephanie Burke’s comments at Balticon 56 and our senior staff’s treatment of Stephanie Burke.”

They determined Burke’s statements on Balticon 56 program did not violate the Code of Conduct. They also looked at the actions of two “Senior Staffers” and determined one “acted courteously” but the other violated the Code of Conduct and “will be barred from volunteering for Balticon for a period of 2 years and from serving as a Department Head for an additional 2 years.”

The full text of the press release follows:

The BSFS (Baltimore Science Fiction Society) Board of Directors (Board) Investigation Team, (consisting of Paul O’Neil and Leona Thompson) have concluded their investigation into Stephanie Burke’s comments at Balticon 56 and our senior staff’s treatment of Stephanie Burke. The Board has reviewed their findings and recommendations and made the following decisions:

Of the complaints against Ms. Burke, our Investigation Team determined there were no Code of Conduct violations. Witnesses confirmed that she was speaking of her own experiences and not making general statements about another individual or class of people. Speaking one’s own truth is not a violation of our Code of Conduct. Ms. Burke is welcome to be a program participant in the future. Again, we apologize for the manner in which the reports were communicated. 

The BSFS Investigation Team and Board of Directors have found that Senior Staffer 1 who approached Stephanie Burke prior to her panel and asked her to step away acted courteously and in accordance with our policy. Senior Staffer 2’s behavior during the discussion violated our Code of Conduct. The Board has determined that Senior Staffer 2 will be barred from volunteering for Balticon for a period of 2 years and from serving as a Department Head for an additional 2 years.

BSFS gives every complaint equal attention and will not tolerate inappropriate behavior at any BSFS-related event, including Balticon. All members and guests are encouraged to bring such matters to the Board’s attention at any time, without fear of any adverse action being taken against them for doing so.

The Baltimore Science Fiction Society, Inc. is an all-volunteer 501(c)(3) organization founded in 1963. BSFS holds an annual convention, Balticon, during Memorial Day weekends in Baltimore, MD. In addition, BSFS offers a 14,000+ lending library at its building in eastern Baltimore City, as well as ongoing events featuring book discussions, movies, anime, and gaming. The calendar of events is available at

File 770’s previous coverage of the events and issues is here:

Save Uncle Hugo’s – December 2021 Update

A future location where Don Blyly can reopen Uncle Hugo’s and Uncle Edgar’s may have been found he says in his December update, if he can get it at the right price. His two stores were burned by vandals in 2020 while protests were happening elsewhere in Minneapolis. Blyly has since cleared and sold that lot, and is looking to reopen elsewhere assisted by an insurance payment and the Official Help Save Uncle Hugo’s Fund at GoFundMe which has raised $190,880 to date.

Don Blyly

Here are the highlights of Don Blyly’s December 23 “How’s Business?” update.

Last month he found three prospective buildings to consider – one would be satisfactory if he can get it for the right price.

Around the first of November I found 3 new listings that seemed to be worth looking into.  One was another strip center in Richfield which claimed to have 25 off-street parking spaces.  When I got there, I counted 15 off-street parking spaces and no on-street parking spaces for blocks.  The building seemed to be divided into two spaces, both of which had signs in the windows to indicate that they had businesses operating there. The one that had about 2/3 of the space was clearly occupied, while the other side with about 1/3 of the space looked empty.    Any property I buy has to be used at least 51% by the Uncles to avoid really bad tax consequences, so I crossed this option off the list.

The second new option claimed to be in Edina, but was actually in Minneapolis near the border with Edina, but was priced high enough to have been in Edina.  It had four off-street parking places, and parking on-street looked very difficult.  The total retail space would have been a little over half of the old Uncles location.  I crossed this option off the list.

The third new option was in south Minneapolis.    The city election was November 2, with a battle between the abolish the police faction and the fix the police faction.    I waited until I saw that the “abolish” faction had lost before I was willing to look at the third option.    The third option has about the same retail space as the old Uncles location (but as one large space instead of two separate rooms), and about as much basement space as the old Uncles basement and back storage room combined.  It doesn’t have any off-street parking, but lots of on-street parking is available.    The owner of both the building and the business in the building wants to sell the building, wind down his business, and retire.  I’d be able to bring in contractors to do remodeling in the spring and open for business sometime in the summer.  It looked like a great fit. 

The seller knows how to run his business, and I know how to run my business, but neither of us is an expert on real estate transactions.  So, we are both represented by real estate agents.  One of the many functions of the agents is to come up with a “fair” price for the building, and this is done by looking at comparable recent sales.  My agent looked at 12 sales of single-story commercial buildings in the area to find what the average price per square foot of retail space was, and then figured that the basement space was only worth half of what the first floor space was worth per square foot. My agent concluded that the “fair” price for the building was about $250,000 less than the asking price.  The seller’s agent only looked at the 3 highest prices per square foot in the area and ignored the other 9 sales.  Also, a property that includes a building with off-street parking is going to go for more than the same building without off-street parking.  If you look at a sale that includes off-street parking and claim that the entire sales price should be used to calculate the per square foot value of the retail space, that will substantially inflate the value of the retail space.  The real estate agents have been doing a dance with their vastly different numbers, and my agent has been searching for other buildings to go on the market at a price he considers more reasonable.  I’ve offered considerably more than my agent considers a “fair” price, but we still don’t have a deal.  If we reach an agreement on the price, I’ll pass along more information about the location and an estimate on when the Uncles might re-open; but there’s no point in doing that now.

Blyly continues to sell off his personal collection of books, with the money going toward reopening the Uncles.

I’ve been working seven days per week (but fewer hours when real estate matters claim a lot of time) on listing the books in my personal library on, and I’m now working on the authors with a last name starting with Pa (although I jumped ahead to list Terry Pratchett and Clifford Simak because of multiple requests for those authors, and most of their books were signed)

You can view the Uncles’ Abebooks listing by going here and clicking “View this seller’s items”. You should be aware that none of the images of the books are supplied by me, but rather are stock images from Abebooks which may or may not be accurate. Also, Abebooks wants to sell books, not necessarily just my books, so they make it easy to accidentally go from viewing the Uncles books to viewing books from hundreds of dealers.

He advises customers:

Abebooks takes a commission on both the price of the book and on the shipping charge, so I make more money if you buy directly from me instead of through Abebooks (email me ([email protected]) with what you want to buy and I’ll explain how to go about it). If you only want to buy one book, it costs you the same whether you go through Abebooks or directly through me, but if you want to buy multiple books you will save on shipping by buying directly from me. The money from selling my personal library will go into the pot of money to try to re-open the Uncles.

NESFA 2021-2022 Short Story Competition Taking Entries

The 2021-2022 NESFA Science Fiction & Fantasy Short Story Contest is accepting entries through September 30. The contest “encourages amateur and semi-professional writers to reach the next level of proficiency.” The complete guidelines are here.

Ineligible are writers who have been paid more than $1000 for their writing from any source, and/or have published a novel or multiple shorter works adding up to more than 40,000 words in any paying publication.

A qualifying story must have strong science fiction or fantasy elements and must be shorter than 7,500 words. Stories must be original works of fiction, submitted by their authors. No reprints, fan fiction. or poetry.

There is no entry fee. One entry per author.

The results will be announced during the awards ceremony at Boskone 59, to be held February 18–20, 2022. The winner will receive a certificate of achievement, three NESFA Press books, and a free membership in one of the next two Boskones (their choice). Runners-up will receive a certificate, and two NESFA Press books. Honorable mentions will receive a certificate and one NESFA Press book.

[Thanks to Steven Lee for the story.]

UMass Amherst Evicts Historic 9200 Volume SFF Library Belonging to 3 Student Clubs

Three student clubs are protesting a policy change by the University of Massachusetts Amherst which has evicted their 9,200-volume science fiction library from the permanent space it occupied for almost six decades. The groups have distributed the following press release asking for public support, including signing the “Help save a historic student library” at

The UMass Science Fiction Society (UMSFS) library is a historic public lending library, founded in 1964, with over 9,200 items in its collection. However, a new policy by the University of Massachusetts Amherst has taken away the permanent space for the library which has been in existence for nearly six decades. This new policy effectively denies the public access to the second-largest science fiction library in New England. It acts as the location for thousands of books, videos, and board games which are accessible to anyone who wants to get a library card. In addition to the books available for lending, the library serves as a reading room for its patrons, and meeting space for several clubs. The collection was built through generous donations of books from students, alumni, and other community members, and cared for by generations of student volunteers. As of June 23, over 2500 people have signed the petition to preserve this historic student library. 

This new policy comes at an odd time, just after completion of the $62 million Student Union, half of which is paid for by an increase in student fees, with no mention ahead of time about the curtailment of permanent club spaces. It also comes as most students are finally able to return to campus. Under the new policy, clubs are not allowed to have “designated” spaces on campus. Instead, clubs must rent out rooms in advance. While this might work for other clubs, the library has a large collection which requires a more permanent space. 

History. UMSFS is one of the oldest college science fiction clubs in the country and once hosted Isaac Asimov. Countless students have benefited over the years from the chance to explore this deep and varied collection, meet other students with similar interests, deepen their sense of connection with the college, find their niche and safe space. The students treasure this collection, their club, and their connection with its long history.

Notable alumni including Suzanne Palmer, a Hugo Award winner, and Jane Yolen, a prolific and award-winning author, have spoken out about the loss of the UMSFS library. Palmer tweeted “That place was my heart, the first place in my life I felt safe.” Yolen put out a statement on Facebook “I am appalled at such a possible move on the UMass library’s part and devoutly hope they will reconsider it.”

Over 35 other alumni have sent in testimonials as to the value of the UMSFS library. The exploration of science fiction can deepen the joy of reading, help expand imagination, and are part of academic research. The world is changing rapidly and we need people who have a greater vision of possibilities for the future. 

Three Clubs Affected. The library space and collections are shared by UMSFS, the Game Hobbyists’ League, and the Anime and Manga club. The Game Hobbyists’ league has 242 items in its collection. The Anime and Manga Club has 1,026 items. The library is a keystone; it provides a hub for club meetings,  and a space where members of the community can get together and socialize over common interests. All three of the clubs hold weekly meetings during the school year and organize events such as book clubs and film screenings.

Curtailing Access and Endangering the Books. Loss of the space has forced the removal of the books to storage in Bartlett Hall. It would not be feasible to run a lending library from long-term storage. The storage space UMass has provided is not climate-controlled, which could quickly and irreparably damage our books due to heat and humidity. Our library has numerous valuable and rare materials, including first editions, such as Survivor, Octavia Butler’s lost novel, and signed posters from science fiction giants such as Ray Bradbury. This move by the University violates the UMSFS Constitution (which was approved by the University), which states that UMSFS is a lending library. Without a place to lend out the books, they will continue to be confined to storage. UMSFS is a Registered Student Organization with the college, serving students for several generations, but this new policy by UMass Amherst blocks it from achieving its mission. Books and the life of the mind should be respected by an esteemed institution of Higher Education. This student created and run library space is a gem that should be protected by the University instead of replaced by administrative office space.

The move-out is currently in process. The public is asked to assist by:

[Based on a press release. Thanks to Elodie Carel, Rick Kovalcik, and Vivian Spartacus for the story.]

BSFS Shares Outcome of Investigation Into Harassment Complaints

The Baltimore Science Fiction Society has released the results of an outside investigation into four allegations that Balticon 54 committee member and forthcoming Balticon 55 chair Eric Gasior violated the club’s Code of Conduct. (See also “BSFS Opens New Investigation of Harassment Complaints”.)

The investigator, a Maryland attorney who specializes in employment law and also conducts HR training on the avoidance of illegal discrimination and harassment in the workplace, found that two complaints about “conduct in personal relationships” were unsubstantiated, while concluding that two complaints about the treatment of Balticon 54 volunteers was substantiated.

The BSFS Board of Directors has asked Gasior to resign as Chair of Balticon 55. Vice Chair Yakira Heistand will take over as this year’s con chair.

The club’s press release says —

The investigation has been completed into allegations that Eric Gasior violated the Code of Conduct of the Baltimore Science Fiction Society (BSFS”). The investigator found that two complaints about conduct in personal relationships were unsubstantiated. Complaints were substantiated about the treatment of Balticon Tech Department volunteers during preparations for Balticon 54.

The BSFS Board has asked Mr. Gasior to resign as Chair of the upcoming Balticon 55, which also entails no longer serving on the BSFS Board. Ms. Yakira Heistand will move up from Vice Chair and will serve as the Chair of the Con. The Board is taking other steps recommended by an independent investigator to make organizational improvements including providing anti-harassment training for all BSFS leadership, requiring all BSFS volunteers to sign the Code of Conduct, and creating new policies on handling Code of Conduct investigations.

The Baltimore Science Fiction Society (“BSFS”) received complaints against Eric Gasior from four people who claimed that Mr. Gasior had violated the BSFS Code of Conduct and/or engaged in other actions inconsistent with a leadership position within the organization. Mr. Gasior was Vice Chair of BSFS’s Balticon 54 and was elected to serve as Con Chair of Balticon 55. Both positions are part of the Board of Directors.

The BSFS Board is committed to providing a safe and welcoming environment for all attendees and volunteers at BSFS events and Balticon. Any complaints of Code of Conduct violations are taken very seriously. To resolve concerns that the Board did not make an effective response to the complaints against Mr. Gasior, we retained Melissa Menkel McGuire, Esq. of Wright, Constable & Skeen, LLC to conduct an independent, thorough, and fair investigation of the complaints against Mr. Gasior.

The full report is not being released to protect the privacy of the complainants, witnesses, and Mr. Gasior. Further, maintaining confidentiality creates an environment in which people will feel comfortable reporting issues of harassment, discrimination and other violations of the Code of Conduct while protecting the integrity of investigations.

The nature of the complaints and the investigator’s conclusions are as follows:

Complaint #1: Mr. Gasior failed to respect personal boundaries during a friendship with the complainant, who also expressed concern over Mr. Gasior’s leadership role at BSFS.

This complaint was found unsubstantiated.

Complaint # 2: Mr. Gasior failed to respect personal boundaries in a prior personal relationship in 2015 and 2016. The allegations were unrelated to any BSFS event. The complainant’s articulated reason for submitting the complaint to BSFS was due to a concern about Mr. Gasior having a position of power within BSFS.

This complaint was found unsubstantiated.

Complaints #3 and #4: Two people complained that Mr. Gasior engaged in actions that were disruptive to members of the Technical Department during preparations for Balticon 54.

The investigator found that these complaints were substantiated.

The BSFS Board is taking the following actions in response to seven recommendations in Ms. McGuire’s report:

1. The Board has informed the complainants of the results of their individual complaints. A copy of the investigation report will not be provided to any party. The report is subject to attorney-client privilege and the Board is not waiving this privilege on the advice of counsel.

2. The Board will release a public statement addressing the disposition of all complaints without identifying complainants by name. In further respect of the privacy of complainants and witnesses no details beyond the text of this statement will be released.

3. Under the BSFS By-Laws, the Board does not have the power to remove Mr. Gasior as Chair of Balticon 55. He has not agreed our request to voluntarily step aside from that position. Accordingly, his continuance as Con Chair and member of the Board is subject to a review by the BSFS membership at the monthly meeting on April 10, 2021.

4. Effective immediately, all volunteers are required to sign an acknowledgment that they have read the Code of Conduct and will abide by its requirements. Submissions from current volunteers are due not later than May 1, 2021. New volunteers will meet this requirement at the beginning of their service. An online form will be provided in the near future to accomplish this.

5. The Board will develop and adopt a policy and guidance for conducting any future investigations of Code of Conduct violations.

6. An anti-harassment training program for all BSFS and Balticon leadership and critical personnel will be implemented to minimize the potential for Code of Conduct violations at Balticon, BSFS events, or through BSFS controlled communication channels. The program will include a requirement for documenting training completion. A guidance document will be provided to volunteers in other positions. The program will be implemented before the return to in-person Balticons.

7. The Board will explore ways to improve communications within the Balticon Committee and strengthen our ability to treat our volunteers with the respect they deserve.

The Baltimore Science Fictions Society, Inc., a 501(c)(3) all volunteer organization, exists to promote the creation and appreciation of science fiction and fantasy cultural arts primarily through literary art forms, but also embracing the many related graphical, musical, and theatrical creations inspired by SF. The public is welcome to attend a variety of BSFS sponsored events. Please see the calendar on for the current event calendar.

BSFS Taking Entries in Jack L. Chalker Young Writers’ Contest

The Baltimore Science Fiction Society invites young writers between the ages of 14 and 18 who live in or attend school in Maryland to enter the Jack L. Chalker Young Writers’ Contest.

The contest is looking for original, highly imaginative science fiction stories under 2,500 words. Submissions are being taken through March 31. See the complete guidelines here.

The submissions ranked first, second and third receive cash prizes of $150, $100 and $50, respectively. The three winners also receive complimentary registrations for Balticon for themselves and their parents or a guest. They also receive a Balticon T-Shirt.

Chalker, an award-winning sff author who helped to found the BSFS in 1967, also was a history teacher in Baltimore City Schools for 12 years. Chalker was best known for his Well World novel series. He died in 2005, and the writing contest was named in his memory beginning in 2006.