Melbourne Science Fiction Club

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The MSFC, a science fiction club in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, currently meets monthly on the third Friday of the month. It was founded on 9 May 1952 as the Melbourne Science Fiction Group.

The founders were Bob McCubbin, Merv Binns, Race Mathews, Dick Jenssen, and Lee Harding. Other early members or visitors included John Baxter, Pat Terry, Kevin Dillon, Bob Smith, Jack Wodhams, Tony Thomas, Diane Bangsund, John Bangsund, John Foyster, Elizabeth Foyster, Leigh Edmonds, Marshall McLennan, Warwick Hockley, Peter Kemp, Tony Santos, and Paul Stevens.

The earliest meetings were in people's houses. Then, from 14 August 1952, they started meeting in Val's Coffee Lounge at 123 Swanston Street, until by November they had taken over the whole west end of the upstairs area. Val's was discovered to be also a meeting place for lesbians. Bob McCubbin declared "Introverts and extroverts we may be, but perverts never." So they had to leave.

Subsequent meetings, from late November 1952, were held in the basement room of the Manchester United Order of Oddfellows Hall at 30 Latrobe Street, a room found for the group by Keith McLelland. The room had a cupboard that housed the club library.

A few members banded together as Amateur Fantasy Publications of Australia (AFPA), and produced, amongst other fanzines, a newszine called Etherline, whose first series ran to (at least) issue 100.

Issue 54 of Etherline, published in 1955, records a club room at 168 Lennox St, Richmond, at the corner of Bridge Rd, but also mentions making of cupboards; it was not advertised as the club meeting place until issue 59, published later that same year.

Issue 82 of Etherline, published in 1957, reports a new (rented) club room at 506 Little Collins St; and issue 83 reports that library shelving had been put in. That issue has a Melbourne Science Fiction Group Report, whereas issue 84 has a Melbourne Science Fiction Club Report.

In the March 2002 issue of eFNAC, John Foyster mentions meetings of the MSFC in the St James Buildings, sometime after the 1958 Australian national convention.

In issue 5 of The Somerset Gazette, Foyster recalls that in 1960 the club was using a (rented) room on the third floor of McKillop House in McKillop Street.

In late 1961 or early 1962, the club moved from McKillop Street to a more spacious venue that was found for it by Merv Binns. Merv, who worked at McGill's Newsagency, enabled the club to lease from McGill's premises on the third floor of the McGill's warehouse at 19 Somerset Place. Somerset Place was a narrow laneway, and entry to the clubrooms was via a water-driven lift.

The Somerset Gazette, edited by Noel Kerr for the Melbourne Science Fiction Club and the associated Melbourne Fantasy Film Group, refers to clubrooms at 19 Somerset Place, as does the April 2001 issue of eFNAC, which includes a few photos of fans playing table tennis there back in October 1962.

The Melbourne Science Fiction Club at 19 Somerset Place was the venue for the seventh Australian Natcon, in 1966, and for parts of the eighth, in 1968, and ninth, in 1970.

In "A Tale From Down Under: The Night the Melbourne SF Club Burnt Down", which is reprinted from issue 8 of Qwertyuiop in the program book for Aussiecon, Mervyn Barrett describes the clubroom and its eventual closure as a fire hazard, which occurred by the end of 1970.

Issue 22 of Norstrilian News, dated February 7 1971, reports that the club had re-located to the home of Paul Stevens and John Breden above a chemist's shop at 147 Toorak Rd, South Yarra. A convention, called Mini-Melcon, commenced there on Friday 9 April 1971.

When Merv Binns was running his own SF Bookshop, Space Age Books, on Swanston Street, the possibility of the Club meeting there was considered, but was initially rejected due to lack of space.

Issue 25 of SF Commentary, dated December 1971, reports that Lee Harding had taken a flat above Space Age Books, which the MSFC would be taking over for a few months.

Norstrilian News, Vol. 3, No. 1, dated mid-June '72, mentions Wednesday meetings of the MSFC upstairs at 317 Swanston Street.

The conbook for Eastercon '73, held in April 1973, includes an ad for the Melbourne Science Fiction Club inviting fans to weekly meetings on Wednesday evenings at the De Graves' Street Tavern.

When Space Age Books had moved to larger premises, at 305 Swanston Street, the club met there.

The club constitution was drafted in late 1981 by Lindsay Jamieson and David Foot. It was formally adopted in 1982.

Ethel the Aardvark, the club's current fanzine, was first published in March/April 1985. Its first editor was Michael Wauchope.

In August 1985, it was announced that Space Age Books would be moving. Potential new premises in St. David's Uniting Church Hall, 74 Melville Road, Brunswick West (or "West Brunswick", as the suburb is known to locals) were found for the club by parishioner "Jocko" (James Allen) by October of that year. The club moved in there in early December 1985, in response to the news that Space Age Books would be closing by Christmas of that year. A club meeting appears to have been held at the new premises on Sunday 13 December 1985.

It seems that the Church had been left a large bequest that provided for the Church Hall, on condition that a room be used to house a community library. The Club had a library in need of a room, and the Church was to have a room in need of a library. The Club began using the Church Hall prior to the library room being built, during renovations that also added indoor toilets. Prior to those renovations, the club's library was housed in a little room beside the stage where chairs were, at least subsequently, stored.

A wooden cupboard in the library at St. David's Uniting Church Hall has been said to date from a time when the club library was stored at games shop Mind Games.

In late 1986/1987, club meetings were held in the storeroom of Mind Games. Later meetings were held at St David's.

Some calendars drawn by Ian Gunn to advertise MSFC meeting topics are included in Thyme. The club for many years met most Fridays, apart from Good Friday and an end of year break.

On 18 December 1991, the club officially incorporated as an association.

On 19 April 2005, the club held a ceremony at which certificates of life membership were presented to Merv Binns, Dick Jenssen, Bill Wright, Bruce Gillespie, Alan Stewart, and Lee Harding. Race Mathews, Paul Stevens, and George Turner were also recognised as Life Members. (Alison Barton commented that life membership may have been bestowed upon some of them earlier.) Jack Dann was MC.

In 2009, certificates of life membership were presented to Helena Binns and James Allen.

In October 2013, the club began looking for a new home, as it had been advised that the Uniting Church was planning to sell the property. An article, Uniting Church in Bid to Raise $56m, in Melbourne newspaper The Age includes a picture of the church in Brunswick West and its hall.

A Special General Meeting on 29 November 2013 approved moving the club. Most of the club library was put into storage on Saturday 7 December 2013; some special items had been rescued earlier.

It seemed likely that the last MSFC meeting at St. David's Uniting Church Hall would be on Friday 13 December 2013. However, as reported in an article, Uniting Church auction nets $56m from nine properties to pay Acacia College debts, from another Melbourne newspaper, the property escaped being sold when the auction at which it was to be offered was halted early.

The first Club meeting for 2014 was held on 24 January at St. Augustine's Anglican Church, 100 Sydney Rd, Coburg, and that became the new venue for weekly meetings.

On Saturday 6 September 2014, the club library (or that portion of it that was then in commercial storage) was relocated from Fry's Self Storage, Fitzroy, to a similar storage facility in another suburb.

At an AGM on Friday 10 July 2015, club members voted against two motions to wind up the club, and in favour of a proposal that the incoming committee be permitted to schedule monthly meetings rather than weekly ones. The venue having been paid for, weekly meetings continued for the rest of that month. Subsequent meetings were usually held on the third Friday of the month.

The September 2017 meeting was held at a nearby pub, the Woodlands Hotel, due to renovations at the usual venue. The August 2017 meeting had also been held there, for other reasons.

The December 2017 meeting was held on Thursday 14th December at the Sir Louis Matheson Library of Monash University, where an event was held acknowledging donations of fanzines from the club, Yvonne Rousseau (from Adelaide), and Geoff Allshorn (of Austrek). Leigh Edmonds spoke about his project of doing a history of Australian fandom to 1975, and was later joined by Bruce Gillespie and Sean McMullen for a question-and-answer panel.

In September 2018 there were two meetings, one at the usual time and place, and another to try out a new time and venue, the following Sunday (23rd September), 1pm - 4pm, at Edendale Community Environment Farm in Eltham. The first meeting was largely a planning session for the second meeting. The second meeting had two guest speakers, Darren Maxwell and Cheree Peters.

Edendale Community Environment Farm was also the venue for a meeting, 1pm - 5pm, on Sunday 28th April, the regular meeting time having been on Good Friday. The meeting had Rose Mitchell as guest speaker.

At the following AGM, in July 2019, it was announced that meetings at that venue would be held quarterly, and such a meeting was held that month, on the 28th. It started at 9:30am with a book sale, which continued through to 4pm or so. This was combined in the afternoon with a presentation by Mark Ford on the Apollo space program; browsing was permitted to continue. The books that remained unsold were boxed by 5pm.

By 2022 the Club had resumed making some newly acquired books available to be borrowed. In late 2023 it gained access to some storage space at its meeting place that allowed it to supplement them with many books from storage.

Club chairmen have included: Bob McCubbin, Julian Billan Club presidents have included: Sue Ann Barber, Alison Barton, Paul Ewins, Ian Gunn, Beverley Hope, Lindsay Jamieson, Murray MacLachlan, Natalie MacLachlan, Terencio Rene Monclova, Karen Pender-Gunn, Sam Rooney, Jon Swabey, Apollo Zammit.

Alan Stewart was club secretary for so many years (1984-2002) that the holder of that position is sometimes referred to as "honorary Alan Stewart". Emilly McLeay was the club's first honorary Alan Stewart.

See also Melbourne Science Fiction Club Achievement Award.

For more information see the MSFC website and the following articles:

Race Matthews also spoke about the foundation and early days of the club in the opening address of Aussiecon 2, which can be found at File 770 58, p. 2, p15.

Club 1952
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