Armchair Speculators of DePaul University

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A club at DePaul University in Chicago which published the clubzine Effen Essef. Also known as the DePaul University Society of Science Fiction Freaks and Armchair Speculators.

The club was formed in the early 1970's by Jeff Duntemann and others, and was joined by Chip Bestler, Steve Johnson, and Phil Foglio, among others, soon thereafter.

The fanzine Effen Essef was published by the club, comprised of three issues, with contributions from DePaul club members and other Chicago-area fans. Issues of Effen Essef can now be found in DePaul Library's special collections, as well as the private collections of the editors.

Members of the club were very active in helping organize WindyCon, particularly WindyCon II, where Steve Johnson arranged for teletype terminals at the hotel to be connected to DePaul's timesharing service so that the interactive Star Trek game could be played by convention attendees.

Club members would often travel together to other science fiction conventions in the Midwest, including Minicon, Chambanacon, Rivercon, as often as once a month. The club's faculty advisor, an excommunicated Jesuit priest, joined the members occasionally on these trips.

Members of the club were also regular attendees at the Chicago-area Thursday meetings, where they connected with the members of the University of Illinois / Chicago Circle and University of Chicago clubs, as well as the larger fan and pro community.

One of the club's activities was the rehabilitation of the DePaul University observatory, a project largely done without faculty supervision or even permission. The telescope had been used in 1910 for the Chicago area's first observation of the return of Halley's Comet by a faculty member, and had sat largely unused until refurbished in the 1960's. By the mid 1970's, the telescope had fallen once again into disrepair. The members of the science fiction club arranged for or performed the cleaning and restoration of the telescope, the observatory offices, and the dome, which had fallen off its track. The consummation of the project was celebrated by a party advertised at the university with a poster of a dragon eating the moon, drawn by Phil Foglio.

Another of the club's activities was the construction of a radio-controlled robot, this in conjunction with Tullio Proni, Jeff Duntemann, and Jim Fuerstenberg, core members of the nascent General Technics group. This timely project was completed during the spring of 1977, just in time for the premiere of Star Wars - A New Hope. Steve Johnson provided access to the university's machine shop and electronics shop, where he worked as a student. Tullio Proni contributed machining skills, Jeff Duntemann contributed the radios and control interfaces. Members of the DePaul and other university clubs attended the opening of the movie at a theater in Northlake, a northern suburb of Chicago, and by the next evening had painted the robot to look like R2-D2, had created rudimentary light sabres, and had sewn some costumes. The theater management welcomed the fans, allowing free entry into the movie, and word eventually got back to 20th Century Fox. On a publicity tour that summer, Mark Hammill invited the robot's creators to meet him, Carrie Fisher, and Harrison Ford. The robot made appearances at subsequent WorldCons, and still exists (in some form) in the posession of its creators.



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