A Brief Early History of SFSA

By: Simon Scott

In early 1969 Tex Cooper of Pretoria became interested in the possibility of founding a South African sf club as the result of some correspondence with an American, Dorothy Jones, who was a member in California of N3F.

He wrote to a national Sunday newspaper expressing his desire to form such a club and solicited public response - there were 37 replies.

On a cold winter night in June, nine brave souls travelled to Tex Cooper's Pretoria home and discussed sf and the possibility of forming a club.

A "thank you" letter was sent to the newspaper and this resulted in another 25 letters from interested people.

The first annual general meeting of the newly-created Science Fiction South Africa club was held in Johannesburg in October that year and the first committee was elected, a lending library with 200 books was established and a one-page newsletter was published.

A number of weekend meetings were held at members' homes and guest speakers were invited to discuss assorted subjects.

The second year - 1970 - saw a wide range of meetings and the publication of the first "Probe", SFSA's clubzine.

And the following year the club launched its annual sf short story competition with some modest cash prizes.

Teenage member Nick Shears published his own sf effort called "Entropian". Several get-togethers were organised and films shown.

However, the next three years saw SFSA suffering from a general malaise, apathy, you name it. Tex Cooper, writing in Probe, warned that SFSA would come to a close if members didn't start becoming more interested in the running of the club.

In 1975, SFSA started getting to its feet again with more meetings and film sessions.

Probe, though, was coming out less regularly. There were only four meetings in 1976 and two Probes. Planned monthly meetings of the third Saturday of each month were organised in 1977 (a format which has since been maintained).

And in 1978, SFSA held its first convention in Johannesburg at the University of the Witwatersrand. Several hundred attended and there were plenty of sf films and speakers to enjoy. The convention has since become an annual event, largely organised by SFSA committee members.

During 1979 a central Johannesburg venue was found for the monthly meetings - at the Total House Gallery - where films, talks and sf quizzes were arranged on a regular basis. The average turnout at the monthly Total House meetings ranged between 25 and 40 people. Every third monthly meeting became a Pretoria meeting to cater for members from that area.

1979 was also the lOth anniversary of SFSA and Probe continued to be brought out on a regular quartertoy basis by editor Gail Brunette.

SFSA entered its third decade in 1980 (!) with the "usual" - convention, short story competition, films, speakers, and so on. And the club could also boast 100 paid-up members.

Suggestions were again voiced about starting up chapters in other parts of the country with little success.

In 1981 SFSA members finally visited the Johannesburg planetarium; discovered the convention was becoming easier to run; continued to add to the library; introduced a trophy for the short story competition - the "Nova" - and brought out "The Best of South African Science Fiction", volume 1.