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The Futurian Society of Sydney The Futurian Society of Sydney i(A38793 works by) (Organisation) assertion (a.k.a. Sydney Futurians; Sydney Futurian Society)
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The Sydney Futurians, known by various similar names, is an unincorporated group of science fiction and fantasy aficionados that was established to provide opportunities for fans to discuss, express their fandom and to explore the world of scifi/fantasy literature with other like-minded people.

1939-1943: The group was founded in November 1939 by Vol Molesworth, William D. Veney, Bert F. Castellari, and brothers Eric and Ted Russell. Others to be closely associated with the newly established society were Bob Meleski, Ronald E. Levyand, Graham B. Stone. All were then high school students who has been inspired to create a fan society after hearing about the formation of one in England three years earlier. At that time science fiction fandom in Australia was very much in its infancy, but the very nature of its futuristic promise meant that individuals needed to join together to discuss possibilities and develop the skills that might lead them to writing their own works. The group was going to be called the Sydney Science Fiction League, but when word spread (surprisingly as far as New York City), Don Wollheim persuaded them, via correspondence, to take the name of the legendary New York fan group instead (ctd. Lynch, n. pag.).

At the group's eighth meeting in January 1943 a formal definition of the term 'futurian' was adopted. Vol Molesworth recorded :

'A Futurian is, in short a person who is active in the shaping of a better future.' The policy of the club was also defined at the meeting as" 'Interest in all subjects of possible benefit to the future of humanity, including futuristic fiction, scientific ideas, and the encouragement of youthful intelect' (Molesworth 'A History' p. 15).

The concept of a unified group of science fiction fans coming together to share their passion was short-lived, however. Internal ructions in 1940 brought about the first of the society's several self-imposed suspensions and the formation of a number of splinter groups. Bruce Gillespie, in 'Science Fiction in Australia' records that the original group had an 'infinite capacity for feuding among themselves.' However, 'when they were not disputing over standing orders,' he writes, 'they sought out the small number of overseas books and magazines that reached Australia, and swapped them among themselves' (n. pag.). A further interruption to the society was brought about severe shortage of paper brought on by World War II, the call-up for duty of several key members - notably Veney and Castellari, and Molseworth's hospitalisation for several months.

1947-1950: The Futurians Society was revived in 1947 by a small group of former members (Molesworth, Stone and Eric Russell) and two new fans (Stirling Macoboy and Molesworth's wife Laura). The group managed to put together the first issue of a new zine, The Sydney Futurian within a month, and by the end of the year had more than doubled its membership. The application for associate membership by a British fan caused the committee to reconsider its name, and a motion was carried to drop 'Sydney' from the Society (Sydney was reinstated the following year, however, amidst concerns that the society was expanding too rapidly). Within the first year the overseas membership included, for example, four Americans and two Canadians. Among the new members, too, was Arthur Hadden, former leader of the Futurian Association of Australia (F.A.A.) and a past member of the Sydney Furturian Society. The new members were also increasingly coming from tertiary students with a passionate interest in science fiction. Physics student Nick Solntseff was one of the new members to become quite heavily involved in the Futurian Society while studying at Sydney University. Within three years, however, the membership had once again begun to splinter into different factions as members attempted to pursue or their own agendas.

The late 1940s/early 1950s saw the Sydney Futurians expand to the point where there were enough people to hold meetings three times per week in its own clubroom. The attendance in some instances was as many as 40 fans. When it was discovered that 14 fans (including several Futurians) were studying various degrees at Sydney University a chapter was formed there, but this didn't last long. According to Richard Lynch, the feuds and schisms which had plagued the founding group had again surfaced between various factions, one of these being the 'Thursday Night Group' (also called the Bridge Club Rebels), which comprised people expelled from the Sydney Futurians for seemingly minor infractions. In correspondence with Lynch by a former member of the society, it is claimed that one of the rebels, Dave Cohen, said he would 'pay for meeting space in the Sydney Bridge Club clubrooms, and anyone except Graham Stone would be welcome.' Another of splinter group had enough stability to last until about 1960 and even hosted a visit by Robert A. Heinlein during his trip to Australia in 1954. As Lynch observes, however, 'It was the independence of some of these splinter groups that caused some friction with some fans, notably Stone, who believed that Sydney fandom was better served by a single monolithic organisation.' Stone in fact went on to form the Australian Science Fiction Association (ASFA) in 1951, and was given much support through the short-lived Woomera journal (1950-1953).

1951-1959: The founding of the AFSA in 1951 was essentially a response to the decline of members, and particularly those wishing to be involved at committee level, from with the Futurian Society. After it was discovered that most of the FSS library had disappeared (30 books and 297 magazines had been reduced to 6 and 90 respectively), it became apparent that the society could no longer function properly. Although Molesworth and Solntseff were elected Director and Secretary/Treasurer in August, various members splintered into other groups. Buoyed by the success of Stone's venture the F.S.S. once again began to organise its small core group of members, and set about planning what was to become Australia's First Science Fiction Convention (March 1952). Resuming under the name Sydney Futurian Society, the principle organisers were Vol Molesworth, Graham Stone, Doug Nicholson, Dave Cohen and Arthur Haddon, a tattooed ex-sailor who became one of the society's mainstays during the 1950s. According to Nicholson, Haddon 'brought perhaps somewhat deficient literacy but enormous vigour to the pursuit of fannish activities' (ctd. Lynch, n. pag.). The convention's success eventually led to a marked increase in members from around Australia.The Society later organised the second and third Australian science fiction conventions (1953 and 1954 respectively) and Sydcon in 1955 (featuring guest of honour A. Bertram Chandler).

While the F.S.S. had undergone increasing growth during the early 1950s the membership also became once again caught up in division and dissension, so that by 1955 it couldn't really be called 'organised' any more. Richard Lynch records that the 1955 convention saw so much acrimony (largely involving the Bridge Club Rebels and what remained of the Sydney Futurians), that the Melbourne clubzine Etherline included an 'In Memoriam' page in Issue 48 that read "Sacred to the memory of organised Sydney fandom, which passed away after a lingering attack of schizophrenia April 1st 1955.

According to Vol Molesworth the internal disruptions of 1954 and a subsequent failure to heal the breach in 1955 led to other capital cities, and particularly Melbourne, taking over the initiative of progressing science fiction fandom after the F.S.S's 20 years of leadership. 'For the next four years (1956-1959) the Futurian Society of Sydney was kept alive largely by the efforts on one person - Graham Stone' (p. 57). Indeed, by 1959 there were only three financial members - Stone, Molesworth and Alan South.

1960-1979: Between 1960 and 1963 Graham Stone operated the Futurian Society almost as a one-man show, handling all the activities associated with the club's library with occasional help from Alan South and Kevin Dillon. Stone's involvement ceased in 1963, however, when he was offered a job in Canberra. Any chance of the Society being reignited by foundation members ended in 1964 following the untimely death of Molesworth.

After falling into another period of moribund inactivity, the Sydney Futurians was revived by Graham Stone, Bob Smith, Ron L. Clarke and others in the late 1970s. In 1980 Clarke compiled and published Vol Molesworth's A History of Australian Fandom 1935-1963, a collection of insights into the F.S.S, (along with other fan groups from around Australia) that were originally serialised in The Mentor, Ark and Forerunner.

1990-: Membership of the current Sydney Futurians group, which was established in the early 1990s, is by participation rather than by official registration. According the Society's website 'anyone who attends meetings and participates is considered a Sydney Futurian.' As an unincorporated body without membership fees, meeting entry costs or even a formal committee structure, the Futurians primary purpose is meet and talk about science fiction in an informal manner. Each year it also holds Freecon, an event that features Australian and international science fiction and fantasy writers, panels; presentations; discussions; a paradox auction and short-story competition.

Most Referenced Works


  • Although various science fiction fan groups from around the world have used the name Futurians over the years, none have ever had any connection with one another. Other significant groups include those established in Los Angeles (1945-), San Francisco (ca. 1940s) and New York (1937-45).

  • Further Reference:

  • Futurian Society website (Sighted 6/09/2010) - link broken
Last amended 20 Mar 2013 15:07:19
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