British Fantasy Society

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The British Fantasy Society (BFS) has been the name of two unrelated UK national organisations. The first existed in between 1942 and 1946 and was a successor to the pre-War Science Fiction Association and was in turn succeeded by the British Fantasy Library. It used fantasy as a broad term for the full spectrum of fantastic fiction including science fiction. The second was created in 1971 and was originally named the British Weird Fantasy Society. It used fantasy in the modern sense as distinct from science fiction. It dropped the 'Weird' from its name in 1972.

(1) 1942–1946[edit]

By August 1941, two years after the suspension of the Science Fiction Association, J. Michael Rosenblum was wondering in the pages of Futurian War Digest #11:

... whether it would be nice for us in Britain to form some sort of loose federation during the present emergency. We feel the lack of a sort of club spirit which the FIDO mailing tries to fill, but I felt that it might be better to have (say) a Futurian Society of Great Britain. What do you people think about it?

In the following issue he reported one person definitely against, one sitting on the fence, and six in favour, and promised a special chain-letter around 'the active portion of the FIDO clientele'.

He distributed a circular questionnaire with Futurian War Digest #17 (February 1942) about 'some sort of British science fiction organisation', and soliciting opinions about what it might be called. Options were British Fantasy Fan Federation, the Futurian Society of Great Britain, or the British Fantasy Society. The initial response drew 16 members and a preference for the first name, but as more members joined opinion swung in favour of the third and that was the name used in the first official British Fantasy Society Bulletin, edited by D. R. Smith and distributed alongside Futurian War Digest #21 in June 1942.

That first bulletin announced officers:

The British Fantasy Society Prospectus setting out the object, aims and constitution of the Society was distributed with the fourth bulletin. By the fifth the organisation claimed 60 members. In the eighth bulletin, Smith proposed:

that the BFS be hereafter known as the Beefas, that male members be known as Beefasms, female Beefasmettes, JMR the Beefasdic, moi the Beefasec, this here thing the Beefasbull, and the motto 'Be good, sweet fan and Beefasm'.

After 79 'Beefasms' their first 'Beefasmette', Anne Gardiner, joined the following month. Bulletin #17 in July 1944 announced new officers:

Membership passed 100 in September and after a few fallow months there was a further surge in March 1945. Bulletin #22 in June 1945 was the first to be distributed independently following the cessation of Futurian War Digest. These later issues were longer, taking over some of the news functions of FIDO.

A total of 28 bulletins were issued under Smith's editorship through to November 1946. However, bulletin #27 in August 1946 carried his resignation to take effect when he was replaced or at the end of the year and with nobody willing to take over the BFS dissolved. Ron Holmes and Nigel Lindsay turned the BFS library into a new organisation, the British Fantasy Library.

See also British Fantasy Society membership 1942-1946‎‎‎ for a list of known members.

From Fancyclopedia 1, ca. 1944
The British Fantasy Society. The SFA, former head organization in Great Britain, suspended for the duration when war hit, but there continued to be considerable activity in British fandom, and new fellows coming in who had never joined the SFA. So Michel Rosenblum organized the BFS. It established a library of books and prozines, managed the circulating of chain letters in specialized fields, chains for circulating prozines, and cooperated in issuing some fanzines. By such means wartime difficulties to fan activities were surmounted.

(2) 1971 onwards[edit]

The modern British Fantasy Society, is an organization formed in 1971 as the British Weird Fantasy Society. It is unrelated (except, perhaps, in spirit) with the earlier one (see above).

The BWFS was an organization "catering for all devotees of fantasy, horror and the supernatural" it had "a magazine, Dark Horizons, and a monthly Bulletin with news and information, free advertising and details of Society services. Other services include, a lending library (already quite extensive), a fanzine library where you can keep up with the latest fan-magazines, a magazine chain, circulating the professional magazines, an amateur writers circle..."

It was founded in 1971 by Keith Walker, Phil Spencer and Rosemary Pardoe. Pardoe was secretary and the first BWFS publication, The Bulletin, was edited by Walker. During 1971 two other publications were started: A Fanzine Newsletter and Dark Horizons, both edited by Pardoe. Other publications included the British Fantasy Society Journal, Mystique, and Shellings.

In 1972, the BWFS had its first general meeting, at the 1972 Eastercon, Chessmancon – it took places in a crowded hotel room! At this meeting, the word 'Weird' was dropped from the society's name — from now on it was the British Fantasy Society – and the presidency of the society was made honorary. The first president was Ken Bulmer who was followed by Ramsey Campbell. It also began awarding the August Derleth Award (named after August Derleth, who suggested it.)

It sponsors Fantasycon was first held in 1975 in Birmingham, UK. It also awards the British Fantasy Award.

BFS also publishes a series of BFS Booklets of fiction and non-fiction.

For more information see “A History of the BFS.”


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