The British Science Fiction Association was formed in 1958, with its origins traceable to a fanzine article written by Vincent Clarke in early 1958. The club came officially into existence at Cytricon IV, the 1958 Eastercon. Clarke was unable to attend, sending a collection of reactions to his article instead. A series of meetings at the convention brought about creation of the club. Other fans who were active in the formation process included Terry Jeeves, Archie Mercer, and Eric Bentcliffe.
The club experienced a difficult first year, trying to rise from obscurity. Little publicity about the club was produced at first, and some of fans leading the club had to cut back activity for various reasons. De-facto leadership was assumed by Bentcliffe, with Jeeves editing the club's publication Vector. The club finally came of age in 1959, when Brumcon, the Eastercon in Birmingham, was run under BSFA sponsorship.
But by the end of the 50s, both Jeeves and Bentcliffe had resigned, and their places were taken by Bobbie Wild (who married and became Bobbie Gray the next year) and Doc Weir, though ill health forced Weir to turn the BSFA Secretary position over to Sandra Hall after just a few months.
The officers of BSFA include the usual complement of Treasurer, Secretary, etc. The President of BSFA, however, is an honorary figurehead, ceremonial in purpose. Presidents have included Brian Aldiss, and Edmund Crispin. In the early 60s, the Chairman of BSFA was the person actually in charge of club, but by end of 60s, this too had become a figurehead position. Chairmen of BSFA in the 60s included Terry Jeeves, Ken Cheslin, Roy Kay, Ina Shorrock, Phil Rogers, and Roger Gilbert. By end of 60s, the Vice-Chairman of BSFA was the person actually in charge of the club.
Club publications over the years include Vector, Focus (current), Paperback Inferno, Tangent, the BSFA Newsletter, and the BSFA Bulletin (defunct). A BSFA fanzine lending library was established by Chris Priest in 1965 as a companion to club's existing SF library.
The BSFA holds an "Annual General Meeting" each summer, combined with the Science Fiction Foundation AGM as a mini-convention open to the general public, and has sponsored a lecture at the Eastercon since 2009. It sponsors the BSFA Award which is presented at Eastercon. Dave Kyle was initially appointed to oversee the award's administration. It became the BSFA Award as of the 1970 Eastercon.
Controversy erupted in late 1960 over the club's purpose. Its stated purpose was "furtherance of science fiction", but its actual purpose appeared to be bringing new people into fandom. Both sides of controversy has its supporters. John Phillifent, who wrote SF, complained that BSFA was "being run by, and heavily slanted toward 'fandom'", a group that he felt negative toward. Archie Mercer wrote that it was only the fannish fans who were interested in doing the work necessary to keep BSFA going. The ongoing dialog resulted that lasted for a number of months in the letter column of Vector. The differing positions of both sides of the argument were summed up by Daphne Buckmaster in vector 10: "The main problem seems to be the fact that you [the officials of BSFA] are trying to cater for two separate and differing bodies of people, fans and non-fans. I would suggest, with all modesty, that you cannot do both in one magazine. The editors and publishers in the professional SF field have never made any secret of the fact that they do not want or need any contact with fans, as such. It is my belief, therefore, that you will either have to decide that you are going to be a reputable organization to encourage a serious and impersonal interest in the SF field or that you are an organization for recruiting SF readers into the ranks of fandom. And if you want to do the first, you will need a more formal attitude if you want to be taken seriously."
In 1969, the club's purpose again became point of discussion in Archie Mercer's fanzine Pertinence. BSFA divorced itself from sponsorship of Eastercons in the late 60s. Many fans thought this a mistake, as Eastercon was the major annual event of British fandom. Suggestions were put forth by Chris Priest and Bob Rickard on how to rejuvenate the club. Priest suggested a strategy on how BSFA could expand membership sufficiently to have the resources to bring in a full-time secretary to actually run the club. Rickard thought club's image was that of chaos and anarchy, and needed change before any improvements could happen. Unfortunately, discussions had no effect on BSFA, and club decline gradually continued until its collapse in the mid 70s. It was, however, successfully revived and continued as a center for British fandom for decades after that.
See Peter Weston's web page on the origins of the BSFA: http://www.gostak.co.uk/bsfarchive/BSFAorigins.htm
|from Fancyclopedia 2 ca. 1959|
|British Science-Fiction Association, a newly-formed organization (Easter 1958) meant to organize and recruit in British fandom. It put on a successful con at Birmingham in 1959. An official organ, fairly regular, and a number of valuable activities are planned, but little data is yet to hand.|