Harry Turner's Footnotes to Fandom
Midnight Shakes The Memory #4    | FOOTNOTES Page | Obituary Page |

Take Four

I have a couple of sheets of official SFA notepaper, brown with age, held toqether with a rusting paper clip, fron the ‘Executive Headquarters & Council Offices’. An expert could detect Arthur Clarke’s smudged fingerprints on them somewhere. The letter is dated 22 May 1938 and addressed ‘To our Friends of the new Manchester Branch’.

It was brought up by Arthur and Maurice for the official opening of the branch in the attic clubroom at my home. A very select gathering, only eight or nine of us. Arthur complimented my mother on the meal she dished up, and she never ceased to remind me of that fact, years after, every time Arthur was mentioned on radio or TV. [Editor's Note : I also had the benefit of my grandmother's memories of Arthur Clarke. P.H.T.]

I think it’s worth quoting something of the letter to try and recreate the dedicated spirit of those days:

‘...Whilst we send this message by the hand of two Officials from the Association’s Headquarters, we wish to initially take the opportunity of expressing our disappointment that we cannot all be with you...’

‘We would be serving no useful purpose here if we were to discuss the merits of our favourite form of literature, or the enjoyment derived from the perusal of it, but we do think that you will find, now that you have an Association Branch in your fair City, that your science-fiction will mean a lot more to you. You will no longer be an individual who reads a queer kind of magazine and has strange notions and ideas, alien to the ordinary layman. Now you will be in the company of others with coincidental tastes and who think along similar lines to you, yourself.'

‘You will no longer have to sit down to write a lengthy letter and await an answer if you wish to make contact with others of your particular zest and perception – you will find these people at your local Branch.’

‘There you will read, discuss, debate and, mayhap, write science-fiction, you will imbibe fantasy and go away from your meetings with a feeling of satisfaction that it is impossible to obtain other than by direct contact with persons with sympathetic apprehension of your ideas. You will, as we have said above, enjoy your science-fiction more.'

‘We say, with all due pride, that you could not belong to any more dignified or distinguished Association connected with science-fiction, were you to go to the utmost ends of this little speck of cosmic dust we call, Earth....’

And so on and so on. I think that letter was influential in directing my later fannish activities.

War broke out, the SFA folded.

And such is fan’s ingratitude to fan, that when efforts were made a year or so later to impose another organization on fandom, I found myself ganging up with Doug Webster in a fanarchist revolt against the organisation men. We lost out, of course, but that’s another story... ■

SFA letter, page 1

SFA letter, page 2

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