Every Thursday night, scores of science fiction and fantasy fans gather for the weekly meeting of the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society. As the world's oldest continuously meeting science fiction and fantasy society and one of only a handful that have a designated clubhouse, LASFS (pronounced Loss-Fuss or Lass-Fass) is not your average fan club.
LASFS began in 1934, as a charter group of Hugo Gernsback's Science Fiction League. Gernsback, editor of the prominent science fiction magazine Wonder Stories, created the League so that magazine fans from across the country could correspond with each other. By 1940, the Los Angeles charter had split with the failing Science Fiction League. Led by a young Forrest J. Ackerman (founder of the Ackermansion and perhaps sci-fi's greatest spokesperson), the group established its own identity: the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society.
Since its inception, the society has had a number of notable members including Golden Age authors A. E. van Vogt and Ross Rocklynne, sci-fi moguls Ray Bradbury and Ray Harryhausen, and even Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard. Today, contemporary writers such as Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle are known to attend meetings.
LASFS is also responsible for the founding of two major science fiction and fantasy conventions, Loscon and Westercon. In fact, LASFS is such a powerful force in fandom that during the McCarthy era the FBI placed an undercover agent in the society to monitor Communist influence in "fannish" subcultures. Later, in 1968, the society flexed its fanboy muscles and helped save Star Trek from cancellation through a national letter writing campaign directed at NBC executives.
As one would expect of a fan club as reputable as LASFS, the society has its own motto which is echoed in their coat of arms: De Profundis Ad Astra or "From the Depths to the Stars." LASFSians even have their own rules and bylaws, some serious and some silly, such as Rule 0: "Death will not release you." Perhaps most importantly, the society has had its own clubhouse since the 1970s. This luxury has allowed them a reliable meeting place, a home to their extensive library, as well as a means to inspire the creation of various subgroups. In 1977, the first Japanese anime fan club, Cartoon/Fantasy Organization, held its first meeting at the LASFS headquarters.
While past society activities included publishing mimeographed fanzines and group outings to scientific lectures, typical meetings today feature guest speakers and auctions of science fiction items. And if you're lucky, the video librarian will share an obscure 1950s serial just before the meeting. Members are also encouraged to arrive to meetings early for the Neverending Panel, a weekly forum for fan-submitted discussion topics. The subject matter of these conversations can range from the best sci-fi death scenes, to Enterprise vs. Galactica, and even "how society would adapt to sex changes if they were as easy as changing your hair color."
Newcomers are welcome at LASFS, but should expect to be formally introduced to the group and publicly admit to any history of bedwetting. The first three meetings are free and after that members are required to pay dues. In exchange, any society member is allowed to borrow from the LASFS library, which boasts more than 20,000 volumes of sci-fi and fantasy books, magazines, audio and video tapes. For the shy ones, the "aftermeeting" dinners at nearby Coral Cafe offer a more intimate environment to socialize with LASFS regulars.