[Charlotte & I were lucky enough to have One Who Was There reviewing our humble efforts at fan history. Hank Reinhardt informs me that it was he who brought the Light of Fandom to Benighted Birmingham (caps his) in 1966 when he moved there from Atlanta. Attempts at forming a club based at Gene Crutcher's bookstore came to nothing much, Reinhardt's introduction of the SCA to the South into something very much indeed. Reinhardt also admits to introducing Meade Frierson III to fandom.
Nevertheless, there was some fanac from out of B'ham in the late '60s. (For this next bit I am indebted to Richard Lynch's outline of fan history in the 1960s, where I lifted it.) In 1969 Reinhardt organized the Al Andrews Typewriter Fund, raising money through the mail and at the '69 DSC and Worldcon to buy Andrews an electrical typewriter, as his muscular dystrophy had progressed to the point that he was no longer able to use his manual typewriter. The fund succeeded in its goal, and Andrews returned to SFPA in November of 1969, only to die a few months later in early 1970. Reinhardt moved back to Atlanta in 1976.--TKFW]
Birmingham fandom coalesced in the 1970s when Meade and Penny Frierson began to notice other Birminghamians (Wade Gilbreath, Frank Love, Adrian Washburn and Charlotte Proctor) at regional conventions. At Meade's behest, Penny, Wade and Frank bid for the 1977 DeepSouthCon. Their guests were Michael Bishop and Charles Brown. Shortly thereafter, Meade said, "Why don't you guys form a club?" So we did. The first meetings of the Birmingham Science Fiction Club were at the Homewood Public Library, which was subsequently sold--but we don't think BSFC meeting there had anything to do with it.
Wade, as first club President, thought the Club should, "Do" something. So, in 1978 Wade began to publish BSFC's clubzine, Anvil. The next year, Jim Gilpatrick took over both jobs. Other club presidents have been Jim Cobb, Debbie Rowan and Julie Wall.
In 1981, Jim chaired BSFC's next DSC, with Bob Shaw, Jerry Page and Hank Reinhardt as guests. This was the first of Bob Shaw's many Southern fannish appearances. In 1982, Charlotte graduated from Chief Typoist to Editor in Chief of Anvil, a position she held until burnout in 1993. Julie Wall, back from her exile in Virginia, co-edited the last few issues.
In the mid 1980s, in response to membership problems and the Homewood Library shutting down, the club met in private for several years. This was a hotly debated move, with Adrian championing the rights of the individual and Charlotte the rights of the group. By the 1990s, meetings moved to the Southside Public Library, which was subsequently torn down, but we don't think BSFC meeting there had anything to do with it.
Since BSFC doesn't have the energy to throw the type of annual convention as its brethren in Huntsville and Chattanooga do, we began having annual summer parties at small hotels. Relaxacons, if you will. The hotel we liked best, not a chain, doesn't understand Science Fiction, fandom, nor conventions. They do, however, understand and host a lot of Family Reunions. Linda Riley exclaimed, "Jophan Family Reunion!" A quick note to BoSh gained us permission to use the Jophan name. The hotel doesn't have a clue and when we check in they say, "Your family is in the upper courtyard." Our guest "Relative of Honor" is always a fan--Joe Celko, Ken Moore and Greg Turkich, to name a few.
In 1994, Julie Wall chaired BSFC's latest DSC with guests Lois McMaster Bujold, Mike Resnick and Bob Shaw. There is talk of bidding for future DSCs.
As of March 1996, the Southside Public Library is BSFC's new home--on the corner of 11th Avenue South and 19th Street in Birmingham's historic Southside neighborhood. Visitors welcome. Current officers: President Merlin Odom, Treasurer Debbie Rowan. Annual dues are $15 per person, or $20 per family. One must attend at least three meetings before joining. Mailing address: P.O. Box 94151, Birmingham, AL 35220-4151. Website: http://www.bham.net/bisfic.
Note: Birmingham was awarded the 1998 DSC, to be held June 12-14, 1998, at the Parliament House Hotel. Guests will included Michael Bishop, Buck & Juanita Coulson, Wilson "Bob" Tucker, and David & Lori Deitrick. Membership: $20 to 6/8/97, $25 to 5/15/98, then $35. Info: B'hamacon 4, P.O. Box 94151, Birmingham, AL 35220-4151. http:members.aol.con/xwing63/dscflyer.htm.
I was tempted to call this article "The Three Ages of (Huntsville) Fandom but when I considered the analogy between the three ages of man and the fact that Huntsville is now in its "third age," I thought better of the idea. Nevertheless, it's true that fandom in Huntsville, Alabama has come in three waves. Since I am personally acquainted with only the "modern" era the bulk of my ramblings will be on that, but the earlier ages certainly deserve mention so here goes.
The earliest fandom in Huntsville was circa the early-to-mid '60s. The most often noted aspect of this is DeepSouthCon 1 (or MidSouthCon as it was actually known at the time), which graced David Hulan's house in Huntsville in 1963, but this was actually an outgrowth of the Southern Fandom Press Alliance, which in turn was an outgrowth of the Southern Fandom Group. (You can read more about SFPA--which is still going strong--and about DeepSouthCon history elsewhere in this handbook.)
DeepSouthCon 4 (1966) was also in Huntsville (and by this time it was actually called DeepSouthCon--that happened at DSC 2), having come here because the chair, Lon Atkins, moved to Huntsville after winning the vote at DSC 3. After this the recorded sources available to me peter out of information about earliest Huntsville fandom.
For the next era of Huntsville fandom, I have even less information. When Nelda and I moved to Huntsville in January of 1978, there were indications that some activity had been occurring--rumors of a recently-defunct Star Trek-oriented organization for instance--but nothing was happening that we could find. So all I really know is that there was some fannish activity going on in the '70s, but that's about it.
The modern era (if you will) of Huntsville fandom started in 1980 at yet another con called MidSouthCon. Andy Purcell, a dealer living in south Tennessee, wanted to run a con and Huntsville was the closest sizable town so he located it here--at the now-defunct Sheraton Inn on University Drive. Nelda and I had been to a few cons but were quite surprised to find out about a convention in our still-new home town. Needless to say, we attended. Some years before this, our earliest introduction to anything approaching fandom had been though Nelda's son, Alan, who was very into gaming and comic books. The comics aspect was thoroughly covered in MidSouthCon's dealers room but we knew that gaming was an up-and-coming interest among young con-goers and sponsored a very informal game room at that con. Nelda and I had been wondering for some time how to get some organized fandom started in Huntsville and she came up with the bright idea of posting a sign-up sheet in the con suite to get a list of names of others so inclined.
So not long after that NASFA, the North Alabama Science Fiction Association, had its first organizational meetings and by late 1980 or early 1981 club members were already talking about starting our own annual convention. Many of us boned up on details by working at other area cons, and in December 1981 ZerCon (short for Zero Con) was held at what was then the Kings Inn. I'm convinced that this one-day party-cum-con still holds the all-time record for the coldest video room. The one person at the hotel who knew how to turn on the heat in the unused hotel bar, where they were letting us use their large-screen TV, was out of town that weekend and the sub-freezing temperatures outside easily made their way inside.
Even while planning and executing ZerCon, the first Con*Stellation was being plotted. The club had struggled to find a permanent name for our con (going so far as looking through a list of many hundreds of words with the letters "con" in them supplied from an early electronic dictionary by Mark Paulk) and was not particularly happy when Baltimore, after winning the bid for the 1983 Worldcon, announced their con would be called Constellation. Nonetheless, NASFA decided to retain the name since Con*Stellation would be an annual event while Constellation was a one-shot deal (albeit a big one-shot deal).
Through those first few years of Con*Stellation we also struggled to find a permanent time of year for the convention. The first one was a summer con (16-18 July 1982), while the second one was a spring con (25-27 March 1983). It wasn't until plans for Con*Stellation III were being laid that we settled on a fall date (then October, now early November). Because of the year-and-a-half long gap between Con*Stellation II and Con*Stellation III, we conceived another December two-day mini-con as an interim measure and held Con*Stellation II.V on 10-11 December 1983. For this con we probably hold the record for the coldest "dealers room." We had no actual dealers room, but one dealer showed up to sell out of his room while another--the cold one--sold stuff out of the back of his van just outside the con suite.
Two other Huntsville cons from around this same time certainly deserve mention. NASFA hosted both DeepSouthCon 23 and DeepSouthCon 25 (in the summers of 1985 and 1987 respectively). DSC 23 attracted over 800 fans and DSC 25 neared 1000, making them the most successful DSCs to that date (measured by the admittedly limited yardstick of attendance). [See Part II for more detail.--TKFW]
Coming to our collective senses after hosting so many cons in the early- and mid-80s, NASFA has restricted its con-running activities to our annual Con*Stellation. As I write this in late November 1995, we have just hosted Con*Stellation XIV and are deep into the planning for Con*Stellation XV. It looks like we could go on forever (he says with an air of resignation). I'll spare you the blow-by-blow description of all the Con*Stellations, but you can check out the attached table for some of the key info.
Of course NASFA fannish activities are not limited to Con*Stellation, and Huntsville fannish activities are not limited to NASFA.
NASFA is still active more than 15 years into its existence. We have monthly club meetings (normally the third Saturday if anyone out there is interested in dropping in) where we conduct business, have a (usually sf-related) program and generally socialize (most often including an after-the-meeting meeting at someone's home). Other get-togethers include group movie-going, picnics, holiday parties, and more. There's also The NASFA Shuttle, the club newsletter. Each monthly issue usually carries, besides club news, convention reviews, a letter column, mini-reviews of fanzines received, and general news of the sf/fantasy/fandom world. For many people, the annual Worldcon issue of the Shuttle is their first detailed news of that event. [Regular loccers include Buck Coulson, Harry Warner, Jr. and Mike Glicksohn, all first-class dudes.--TKFW]
There are other sf/fandom related groups active in the Huntsville area, too. Gaming groups may predominate numerically (the group names and the people have changed over the years), but there's also an SCA shire, an active sf writers group (informally known as the Huntsville Science Fiction Writers Group and Cake Appreciation Society), and Star Trek fandom. All these groups have been helpful time and again in helping at Con*Stellation, plus the gaming and ST folks have sponsored their own conventions.
Huntsvillians, and folks we claim as honorary Huntsvillians, have also been active in wider fandom. P.L. Caruthers-Montgomery--who fits in the latter category as a past editor of the Shuttle even though she never lived in Huntsville--was loaned the use of our bulk-mail permit and our assistance to put out several issues of the Southern Fandom Confederation Bulletin. G. Patrick Molloy, a Huntsville resident since the early '80s, is also a long-time officer of the SFC. Many other NASFAns and other Huntsvillians have been and remain active as committee members and volunteers at many cons throughout the Southeast. The largest single group effort in this regard was at the 1986 Worldcon in Atlanta, when NASFAns formed the core group running registration at the convention. NASFA's involvement in SFC is threatening to expand, as we are in the process of contacting Tom Feller (SFC president) to volunteer Sam Smith's efforts as web-master for SFC.
Well, I've barely scratched the surface of the "modern era" of Huntsville fandom, and have done even less for earlier eras, but since I was asked for "500 words or so" and have written nearly three times that many, I guess I'll stop.
Acknowledgements: Two articles were invaluable preparing this treatise, both in the DSC 25 Program Book. I refer to G. Patrick Molloy's "A History of Conventions in Huntsville" and Larry J. Montgomery's "DeepSouthCon: How it Began." [Reprinted above in Part II--TKFW] Many thanks to those two gents and to all the people who have helped me form good memories of Huntsville fandom.
North Alabama Science Fiction Association (NASFA), P.O. Box 4857, Huntsville, AL 35815-4857. Monthly meetings on the third Saturday at Teledyne Brown Engineering-Building 1. Business portion at 6 PM, program at 7 PM, followed by an "after-the-meeting" meeting for socializing. Dues: $15 annually. Subscription to NASFA Shuttle: $10 annually. Officers: President Rhett Mitchell, Vice President and Newsletter editor Mike Kennedy, Secretary Sam Smith, Treasurer Ray Pietruszka, Program Director Mike Ray, Publicity Director Ron Lajoie.
Name Date Facility Con Chair Guests ~~~~ ~~~~ ~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~ DeepSouthCon 1 1963 David Hulan NA (MidSouthCon) DeepSouthCon 4 1966 Lon Atkins NA MidSouthCon 20-22 Sheraton Andy Purcell Fred Pohl (GoH), June Frank Kelly Freas (MC), 1980 Wilson "Bob" Tucker (FGoH) ZerCon 21 Kings Rhett Mitchell NA Nov. Inn 1981 Con*Stellation I 16-18 Sheraton Mike Kennedy, Phyllis Eisenstein (GoH), (The Pleiades) July Mark Paulk Andrew J. Offutt (MC), 1982 Ken Moore (FGoH), Lou Moore (FGoH) Con*Stellation II 25-27 Sheraton Sunn Hayward, Joe Haldeman (GoH), (Gemini) March Mike Kennedy Jack C. Haldeman III (GoH), 1983 Frank Kelly Freas (MC), Kevin Ward (AGoH), Charlie Williams (FGoH) Con*Stellation II.V 10-11 Sheraton Mike Kennedy, NA (Ursa Minor) Dec. Nelda Kennedy 1983 Con*Stellation III 19-21 Sheraton Nelda Kennedy, Gordon R.Dickson (GoH), (Ursa Major) Oct. Mark Paulk Frank Kelly Freas (MC), 1984 Mark Maxwell (AGoH), Maurine Dorris (FGoH), "Uncle Timmy" Bolgeo (FGoH) DeepSouthCon 23 21-23 Carriage Mary Axford, Marion Zimmer Bradley June Inn Richard (GoH), Algis Budrys (MC), 1985 Gilliam Barclay Shaw (AGoH), Bob Sampson (FGoH) Con*Stellation IV 11-13 Sheraton Howard Camp, Wilson "Bob" Tucker (Aquarius) Oct. G. Patrick (Special Guest) 1985 Molloy Con*Stellation V 24-26 Hilton Rich Garber, Orson Scott Card (GoH), (Andromeda) Oct. Glenn Marta Randall (MC), 1986 Valentine Ron Lindahn (AGoH), Val Lakey Lindahn (AGoH), Rusty Hevelin (FGoH) DeepSouthCon 25 11-14 Marriott Richard Robert Bloch (GoH), June Gilliam, Hugh B. Cave (Special 1987 G. Patrick Guest), Ramsey Campbell Molloy (MC), Phil Foglio (AGoH), Lee Hoffman (FGoH) Con*Stellation VI 9-11 Holiday Sunn Hayward, Julius Schwartz (GoH) (Lyra) Oct. Inn Mike Stone 1987 Con*Stellation VII 21-23 Hilton G. Patrick John Varley (GoH), (Centaurus) Oct. Molloy, Mike Algis Budrys (MC), Todd 1988 Kennedy Cameron Hamilton (AGoH), Ricia Mainhardt (FGoH) Con*Stellation VIII 13-15 Sheraton Karl Sackett, Gary K. Wolf (GoH), (Cetus) Oct. Nelda Kennedy George Alec Effinger (MC), 1989 Debbie Hughes (AGoH), Mark Paulk (FGoH) Con*Stellation IX 19-21 Univer- Mike Kennedy, Lois McMaster Bujold (GoH), (Sagittarius) Oct. sity Inn Elaine Hinman C. J. Cherryh (MC), 1990 Tom Kidd (AGoH), Susan Honeck (FGoH) Con*Stellation X 8-10 Hilton Sam Smith, Algis Budrys (GoH), (Draco) Nov. Nelda Kennedy Toni Weisskopf (MC), 1991 Bob Giadrosich (AGoH), Buck Coulson (FGoH), Juanita Coulson (FGoH) Con*Stellation XI 6-8 Hilton Jay Johns, Kristine Kathryn Rusch (Scorpio) Nov. Mike Kennedy (GoH), Dean Wesley Smith 1992 (GoH), Michael Flynn (MC), Stephen Hickman (AGoH), Mike Glicksohn (FGoH) Con*Stellation XII 12-14 Hilton Sam Smith, Jim Baen (GoH), (Orion) Nov. Robin Ray Julius Schwartz ("Super" 1993 GoH), James P. Hogan (MC), David O. Miller (AGoH), Marcia McCoy (FGoH) Con*Stellation XIII 4-6 Tom Robin Ray, Spider Robinson (GoH), (Musca) Nov. Bevill Rhett Mitchell Timothy Zahn (MC), 1994 Center Alan M. Clark (AGoH), Sue Thorn (FGoH) Con*Stellation XIV 3-5 Tom Sam Smith, Rick Shelley (GoH), (Monoceros) Nov. Bevill Randy Cleary Roland Castle (MC), 1995 Center Ruth Thompson (AGoH), Adrian Washburn (FGoH) Con*Stellation XV 8-10 Tom Mike Kennedy Stanley Schmidt (GoH), (Aquila) Nov. Bevill Rick Cook (MC), 1996 Center Chloie Airoldi (FGoH)
Well, there was a fandom in Tuscaloosa, and may be again for all I know. Back in the early '80s there was fairly peripetetic group called SAM: The Tuscaloosa Science Fiction and Fantasy Club. Active members included Jerry McNight, Debbie Burden, Ward Smith, John Hedstrom, Chanda Fehler, Richard Powell, and Sandra Paris. Other names I see mentioned in their rather amusing clubzine include Mike & Nelda Kennedy, Sue Thorn, and Alan Clark. They produced a mimeo'd (ah, trufans!) newsletter called Asi Achih ("and so it went" in a language found only in Jack Vance's work) and at least 4 issues of a genzine titled The Illustrated Fan. They visited the Birmingham folks, attended conventions, went to movies, ate pizza, and I have no idea what happened to the club after 1981. Probably what usually befalls clubs in college towns: everybody graduated and dispersed. In 1994 I ran into Thom Brannon who had organized some sort of gaming convention down there and wanted to do more, but after joining the SFPA waitlist he wasn't heard from since. Asi achih.
More AL clubs and conventions:
Mobicon (May 30 - June 1 '97), Ramada Inn on the Bay, Mobile, AL. Guests: Steven Butler, Jean Corbin, Margali, Linda Baker, Jan Zimlich. Membership: $30. Info: P.O. Box 161257, Mobile, AL 36616. Website: http://home.earthlink.net/~daffyduck.