The New England Science Fiction Association is an old and active club based in the Boston area. It sponsors Boskone and ran NESFA Press. It has significant membership in common with MCFI and its members have been behind the Boston Worldcons.
- 1 History
- 2 Today
- 3 Organization
- 4 NESFA Clubhouse
- 5 Publications
- 6 NESFA Press
The Early Days
NESFA coalesced in the aftermath of the collapse of the short-lived Boston Science Fiction Society and its (utterly) failed Boston in '67 Worldcon bid. Prompted by discussions at NYcon 3, the 1967 Worldcon, an organizational meeting was held September 23, 1967, at Bill Desmond's house. Tony Lewis was elected Acting Chairman and NESFA held its first meeting a couple weeks later on October 8, 1967.
Naturally, the first order of business was to select a name. The existing Boston Science Fiction Society was rejected because it had developed a troubled reputation. Also rejected were "Massachusetts Science Fiction Association", "Bay State Science Fiction Association", "Massachusetts Bay Science Fiction Association" and "The Boskonians" or The Eddoreans (The Eddoreans was actually used for a time as an alternative name, but didn't catch on.) The latter two were a deliberate following the tradition of The Lunarians.
NESFA's early projects included Boskone (though the first four of the modern series were run by people who would be NESFA members before NESFA had been organized) and indexes to the SF Magazines. To start with, NESFA stepped in to save Erwin Strauss's MITSFS Index, raising money by selling Boskone Life Memberships, but it then continued the Strauss index with annual NESFA Indexes.
Another major event in NESFA's history was Noreascon I, the 1971 Worldcon chaired by Tony Lewis. While Noreascon was technically run by a separate corporation, it was staffed by most of NESFA, and its considerable success was a major boost to the club's self-confidence. (Which was never low.) In fact, a couple years after the convention, its corporation was terminated and its remaining cash given to NESFA to publish the Noreascon Proceedings.
In the mid-70s, NESFA went through a period later referred to as The Crisis in which interpersonal issues blew up into a grand fight with a consequence that, sadly, many previously active members gafiated. Few details are publicly known and few, if any, of the participants regret this fact. All [Boston] Fandom Was Plunged into War.
The Years of Rapid Growth
In the late 70s, NESFA benefited enormously from the rapid growth of the minicomputer industry around Boston, especially the enormous success of DEC. These companies attracted fans and meant that Boston was home to a large number of well-paid, highly competent fen some of whom joined NESFA and many of whom attended Boskone. (In fact, by the late 70s the influence of DECies (as they were called) was so great that (entirely joking) proposals were tabled to limit DEC employees to no more than 50% of the membership, and potential new members were greeted with the question "DEC or non-DEC?")
1980 saw Noreascon Two, the 1980 Worldcon chaired by Leslie Turek which was also a very successful convention. Like Noreascon I, it was run by a separate corporation (MCFI) which was entirely independent of NESFA, but which had significant overlap in its membership, basically those members who really wanted to run a Worldcon.
Boskone grew slowly through the 70s but, unbeknownst to NESFA, Boskone was about to explode in size. In 1977 it had 900 members growing rapidly in the runup to Noreascon II. The success of Noreascon II, an unusually well-organized Worldcon taught the people who ran Boskone (who were mostly the same people) how to successfully run a large convention. After the Worldcon, growth started again and NESFA -- for a time -- was able to cope with it. By 1995 Boskone was being called the "Winter Worldcon" (in 1985 it was the largest SF convention held anywhere) and reached over 4200 attendees in 1987. This growth had badly overstretched the club and the 1987 Boskone had serious problems which resulted in Boskone being unwelcome at any Boston hotel big enough to hold it.
The Collapse of the Giant Boskones
This is an interesting complex matter which has its own article: See Rise and Fall of the Giant Boskones for a detailed discussion.
The post-collapse Boskones settled into a more comfortable size of 1000-1300 members. Many NESFA members were part of the third Boston Worldcon, Noreascon Three, which was also quite successful. The major new project for the club was the expansion of NESFA Press which published a series of hardcover reprints of classic SF under the NESFA's Choice imprint. In 2004, MCFI (again with NESFA members playing a major role) ran the successful Noreascon 4.
Today Boskone continues, though NESFA Press is diminished and NESFA seems to have lost its appetite for major new projects.
It is one of the rare sf clubs that boasts its own clubhouse, in which the group holds weekly meetings most Wednesday evenings, for socializing, projects, and miscellaneous business, plus two weekend meetings each month: a Business Meeting (for administration), and the Other Meeting. The club also publishes a regular newsletter, Instant Message, and hosts an annual convention, Boskone.
Their vigor in approaching fan politics and tendency to congregate together at conventions, sometimes in matching t-shirts, has caused some acerbic fans to refer to them as the "Marching NESFAns," and to remark, "NESFA makes the trains run on time."
From the start, NESFA was set up so that it would be run by the people who did the work. (The founders felt that the previous Boston club had been killed in part because the people doing the work got outvoted by non-workers.) Consequently, NESFA has several types of membership:
- Subscribing Membership: An open class of membership that gets club publications. It is meant for people who normally do not participate in person in club activities.
- General Membership: A class of member which is voted on, but is otherwise essentially the same as Subscribing. It is intended for people who participate in person in some NESFA activities, but who do not wish to be active in the club.
- Regular Membership: The only class of member with a vote. People normally become Regular Members only after having demonstrated (by working usefully on club activities) that they are seriously interested in being part of the club and are admitted only on a vote of the regular membership. Regular members make all significant (and quite a few insignificant) decisions for the club at the monthly Business meetings.
- Inactive Membership: To keep their membership, Regular members must attend four of the monthly NESFA Business meetings each year. If they fail to do this -- perhaps because of work or real life intruding -- they can drop to Inactive membership for a time, returning automatically to Regular status when they can again participate.
NESFA Displacement Authority
Monty Wells, the member with the most real skills with tools and building who had supervised turning the building NESFA purchased into a fir clubhouse, developed a plan for building a couple dozen sturdy, cheap, 3'x8' bookshelves to line the clubhouse's walls.
That went well enough that NESFA created a temporary bookshelf-building cooperative, and over the course of several summer weekends, club members built around sixty more bookshelves for their own use.
NESFA purchased its clubhouse at 504 Medford St., Somerville, MA, in 1985. It is used for business and other meetings, the NESFA library, game nights, clubzine collations, con worksessions, storage of Coop crates and a bewildering amount of other stuff, bookcase construction parties, and whatever else local fen need space to do. Oh, there are a lot of books there too.
The clubhouse was a former dry cleaning establishment, and its purchase was finances by the club's available cash, plus a loan raised by means of the NESFA Lunar Realty Trust #1, which raised around $60,000 from club members as well as a generous loan from SCIFI. The club repaid the loans in full within about three years.
Deconstruction and reconstruction (a huge task -- see the articles below for much more on it) was led by the late Monty Wells. Many fen learned valuable skills which they later put to good use when they entered the housing market.
Reports and articles
- Saga of the NESFA Clubhouse by Mark Olson
- Everything I Learned About Buying and Renovating Buildings I Learned from Monty Wells by Laurie Mann
- File 770 56, p. 7 report by Mike Glyer
- The Shaft
NESFA Lunar Realty Trust #1
When NESFA decided to purchase a clubhouse (see Saga of the NESFA Clubhouse), it felt that it had enough income to pay for it, but not enough cash -- it needed a mortgage. But banks are not used to loaning money to fannish clubs (it probably could have been done, but it would have been very hard). Instead, NESFA decided to borrow money from its members and, to keep it formal and above-board, set up the NESFA Lunar Realty Trust #1 (as in Encyclopedia Galactica Foundation #1).
The NLRT was a trust organized under Massachusetts law (and largely set up by Don Eastlake) which collected around $60,000 towards the purchase price. The NLRT sold bonds worth $100 each and paid interest based on the prime rate. Most of the money was raised locally, but S.C.I.F.I., the organization which had just run the huge and financially quite successful LAcon II, purchased $20,000 worth of NLRT bonds. (It's noteworthy that they paid for it with 100 checks for $137 — it's a long story — plus one more check for $6300.) The NLRT bonds were paid off completely over the next two and a half years.
NESFA Press is the publishing pseudopod of NESFA. It published annual GoH books in conjunction with Boskone, a series of NESFA's Choice books bringing back into print the works of deserving classic SF writers, and reference books of science fiction and science fiction fandom.
It was founded in the early 1970s when Bill Desmond (with assistance from Robert Weiner and Donald M. Grant) produced the first Boskone Book. At about the same time, Tony Lewis started the NESFA Index, a continuation of the MITSFS Index. For many years, these were the nearly exclusive focus of NESFA Press.
By the late ’70s, NESFA Press had become moribund -- the NESFA Index was no longer being published and a combination of limited interest on the part of both NESFA and a series of Boskone GoHs, led to the Boskone Book going into hiatus. NESFA Press was revived by Chip Hitchcock (nearly singlehandedly) producing a Boskone Book for Boskone 18 in 1981 (Unsilent Night by Tanith Lee).
NESFA Press was given a Special Committee Award at Denvention 3 in 2008, but by around 2010, the club had lost interest in publishing and the press's output had declined to about a book a year. However, it still brings a NESFA Press Guest to Boskone.
- NESFA Index
- 1976 -- Noreascon Proceedings
- 1990 -- An Annotated Bibliography of Recursive Science Fiction
- 1992 -- Let's Hear It for the Deaf Man by Dave Langford
- 1994 -- Making Book by Teresa Nielsen Hayden
- 1996 -- The Silence of the Langford by Dave Langford
- 2004 -- Fancestral Voices by Jack Speer
- 2004 -- With Stars in My Eyes by Peter Weston
- 2016 -- Making Conversation by Teresa Nielsen Hayden
Starting in 1972 with L. Sprague de Camp's Scribblings at Boskone 10, NESFA Press has usually published a Boskone Book by Boskone's GoH. The books are sometimes collections of stories, sometimes essays, and sometimes trunk novels.
They are always limited, numbered editions. In the early days, the books were a small size -- just larger than a typical mass-market paperback -- but starting with Boskone 30, the Boskone Book became a more normal size: 8.5"x5.5".
The edition is usually split with the bulk of the edition being simply numbered, while the lower numbers were in some way special. In the early days, they were "finebound" -- low-numbered copies of the regular state rebound in leather. Later they were a state bound in leatherette and slipcased. The special state is always signed by the author and artist.
In recent years, having a Boskone Book at each Boskone has started to become the exception rather than the rule.
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