Melbourne University Science Fiction Association
Issue 2 of The Somerset Gazette, dated May 1970, records that the Melbourne University SF Association had been started on the first day of term.
MUSFA barely survives its second year — the vicissitudes of a student club. Yggdrasil appears as part of a separate Grigg fanzine (The Slithy Tove, details here) but has its third edition also this year.
There is an influx of fresh blood. Most committee positions are taken by new members and a cohort of 4–6 will remain active and expand the club over the next 4–8 years.
A lunchtime meeting is held every Wednesday during term. This continues for the life of the club.
Another influx of fresh members who also will be active for many years.
Sometime around here, Yggdrasil became a regular, once a term (3 a year) production. The emphasis was on printing short fiction written by members of the club. A prize for the best story was implemented early on. The first award was called a ‘Hugo’, a takeoff of the real Hugo, and was a miniature Hugo dictionary. Afterwards, it became the Shakey Leaf which consisted of a robust twig attached to a wooden base. A spring (sourced from a Biro) was mounted on the end of the twig with a plastic leaf (courtesy of the nearby Melbourne Cemetery) attached to it. Hence, the Shakey Leaf Award.
Yggdrasil itself was initially produced in good fannish fashion on a Roneo or Gestetner with cut stencils, transferring to stencils made from photocopies. The later productions used the offset-like printing available through the Union. There was a minor fracas when one editor blew the whole budget on a colour cover.
Also during this period the MUSFA Bistro Nights began. Roughly one a term, some of them become infamous, especially the end of year, post exam events when some members were ‘overcome’ by the prospect of months of free time. The earlier Bistro Nights featured a guest speaker (Union Clubs received a grant to cover the cost of their meal). Either the policy changed, we wanted to eat somewhere other than the Union Bistro, or the Union Bistro refused to take our bookings, but later Bistro Nights were held in one of the many restaurants in nearby Lygon St.
Sometime in the late 70s, early 80s the Bistro Night morphed into a regular Wednesday at Café Paradiso, a cheap but okay, eatery on Lygon St.
One of the club’s attractions was its extensive library available for members to borrow from. Most of the library was acquired over time with grants from the Union. One aim was to ensure all Hugo nominations were in the library.
The club operated as a ‘collective’ with the titular committee positions (as required by the Union) being swapped around over the years.
MUSFA receives a Union grant to build a full sized Dalek. Construction takes place in a member’s father’s garage. Plan is to use it at the start of the next academic year to drum up members.
First post-end-of-year-exams get-away/camp was held for a week in one of the University owned houses in Blackwood, a small, old goldmining town in a bush setting about an hour's drive out of Melbourne. The Blackwood end-of-year camp becomes a yearly event. Run like a relaxed writer’s workshop but with no ‘big name’ writers, only members of MUSFA.
MUSFA holds Unicon II at Ormond College, Melbourne University. Of particular note is the film program featuring a 35mm film projector and projectionist. A semi-relaxacon with a local GoH, talks, panels and the First Great Dalek race with entrants from Sydney, Adelaide and Melbourne University SF Clubs.
The Adelaide Dalek disintegrated itself, the Melbourne one raced along at 1 mile per hour while the Sydney one sprinted away on its tricycle frame to finish before it started. (See Daleks Down Under for pictures and a slightly different story.)
The great MUSFA trek to Unicon III in Adelaide.
MUSFA holds Unicon IV, which ends up as the 17th Australian NatCon. Not by design. Unicon IV was meant to be another university student relaxacon but no one put up their hand for the NatCon. Ever optimistic, the MUSFA crowd takes it on — how difficult can it be?
The Dalek advertises the convention, has a ‘chat’ with a policeman in the city centre. Amazingly, the Dalek has a permit.
True to the way MUSFA tended to operate there was a concom but no recognised chair or convener. The convention was held 24–27 March 1978 at the Melbourne Town House Hotel, Swanston St, Melbourne and was opened by two members of the committee, Roger Weddall and Alan Wilson. Again, a particular feature was the extensive film program. Due to Roger Weddall’s enthusiasm (or expectation of refusals) three invitation where sent out for an author GoH and Brian Aldiss and Roger Zelazny both accepted. Samuel Delany apparently was not checking his mail regularly and was too late.
There was some trepidation with the unexpected expense of two GoHs but after resolution of a complaint about the cost and quality of the Town House coffee the convention was (only just) in the black. (Note: I know, I was the Treasurer too.)
Yggdrasil goes quarterly. More fresh members took up the reins and I believe MUSFA continued on until mid to late 1980s when interest waned. I understand that the library ended up amalgamated with the Student Union library.
Members included David Grigg, David Firman, James Campbell, Elaine Cochrane, Christine Forbes, Claudia Mangiamele, Francis Payne, Alan Wilson, Gill Brown, Dennis Callegari, Gary Hughes, Chris Chaundy, Mark Lawson, Terry Stround, Roger Weddall, Michael Joseph, Charles Taylor, Kevin Noonan, LynC, Justin Ackroyd, Clive Morley, Denise Noonan, Joseph Leach, Charles Morgan, Torbjorn von Strokirch, Phil Ware, Alan Small, Sean McMullan, Janie Russel-Clarke, Ian Porter, and Brian White.
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