First Sydney Conference

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The First Sydney Conference was an early convention held in Sydney, NSW, Australia, on December 6, 1940. Ten fen attended and the major order of business was what to do about the moribund state of Sydney fandom at the time.

Vol Molesworth reported in Triton 3 (1949, p. 12):

The First Sydney Fan Conference was held on December 6, 1940, at a time when the Futurian Society of Sydney had suspended meetings and tempers were flar­ing in the fan press. Three months earlier, when the Society had been suspend­ed, Futurian Observer reported: "The plain facts of the matter amount to this: During the last few months the Society has been aimless. Most proposals have been squelched, and, even with the change in the executive committee, there has been nothing to keep members interested. As a result everyone is fed up."

It was "to settle in some way the present fan conflict and the state of the F.S.S., and to endeavour to arrive at some conclusions which will forward Australian fandom", that the First Sydney Conference was called.

Only ten fans attended the conference - a small, but important group. Charles La Coste, genial veteran of the old Sydney Science Fiction League (which had existed around 1936), was in the chair. Bert F. Castellari, top flight editor of the Futurian Observer and progressive, took the minutes. Others present were Ronald B. Levy, editor of Zeus, Eric F. Russell, editor of Ultra, Alan Cordner, Bruce Sawyer, Graham Stone, Colin Roden, Edward H. Russell and William D. Veney.

To quote Melbourne Bulletin # 3, "the meeting was opened at 7:45 P.M. by an address from Veney, who briefly outlined the situation from his viewpoint and requested others to do likewise. Castellari, La Coste, Levy and Roden each voiced opinions which were diverse in many ways but all led to one conclusion - the reestablishment of the Futurian Soc. of Sydney on a working basis. This decided, the next and more important problem came into view ... what was to be this 'working basis' ?

"Veney then read an 8-point plan which he had prepared after discussion with most Sydney progressives, and asked for criticism. It came from all sides and in wondrous abundance. For over an hour the matter was evenly and hotly contested. There were no definite sides or clique in operation. Each fan spoke his mind irrespective of whom he was attacking. 

"One by one the points were changed and reworded to suit the majority, un­til finally seven of the 8 points - now greatly modified in several cases - were passed and accepted as part of the F. S. S. constitution. Then came the most important item. Was the Futurian Society to close its doors to new members, except to those of unquestionable merit, or to remain open to all? Veney took a stand on the former; Levy and Cordner of the latter. The following argument was long and arduous, involving many phases of fan development, but the final voting was decisive. For the open club, nine; for the closed, one."

There had been, prior to this conference, some unpleasantness in Australian fanzines, and it was decided that fan editors would be admitted into the club on condition that they refrain from printing damaging material about the other mem­bers. To allow the club to defend itself, a club organ would be issued which could easily be converted into a defensive barrier against attack. Intelligent controversy would continue in the fan press, but personality damning had to stop.

The effects of these decisions may be seen in Australian fandom even today - seven years afterwards. On January 28, 1941, the Futurian Soc. of Sydney was revived, and it continued to meet until its war-time suspension nearly two years later. The air had been cleared, and fan activities went ahead with redoubled energy, despite the ban on American magazines and the increasing tempo of war.

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