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A Discursive History of Baltimore Fandom as Related to the Baltimore Science Fiction Society

by Mark Owings- edited and with comments by Sue Wheeler originally published in the Mark of the Beast Newsletter on 12/1979 with additional serializations in later Mark of the Beast Newsletter Editions...

Since I know of them only secondhand, and them know not much of them, I shall - your permission, mesdames et messieurs - quite ignore the early primordial stirrings of Baltimore fandom, and proceed directly to the 1962 Phillycon. Science - Fiction Times had, for the first time since I began subscribing to it; actually announced an upcoming convention while it was still upcoming and even a week before. Wherefore, it being CLOSE, I went.

There I met JACK CHALKER and DAVE ETTLIN for the first time in most of a year, and first met one David Katz. Bob Pavlat commented that since there were now four fans in Baltimore talking to each other, we should start a club. I objected that four seemed too small a number, to which he said that WSFA started with three. Now both Jack Chalker and Dave Ettlin have claimed to have founded the BSFS, but I prefer to remain neutral in this duel of titans and blame it all on Bob Pavlat.

Things then lay dormant for a period of two months, until, at about New Year's Dave Ettlin asked if I were going to the WSFA meeting on January 4th. I hadn't really considered it, but said yes. As we gathered in the Trailways station that Friday, I met, besides the prior trio, Enid Jacobs, the only BSFS femmefan for the first year or so, whom Jack Lad met on his paper route. WSFA meetings then were held at a large house with many steps, a half block from the Maryland Line, overlooking Rock Creek Park, in D.C. Enid and I (perhaps David Katz) were inducted at that meeting and given our membership cards.

On the back seat of the Trailways bus, returning that evening, the five of us discussed, forming a Baltimore club, and agreed to meet in Dave Ettlin's basement next Friday. (January 11, 1963) Someone (David Katz?) mentioned another person who would be interested, named Jerry Jacks.

We elected Jack Chalker Chairman, I suppose out of lassitude; held very serious business meetings and did much of nothing. A few people came to a couple of meetings and vanished forever. David Katz stopped coming in about June of 1963. (I'm told he discovered girls, then gave them up to transcendental meditation).

The hard-core members minus Enid Jacobs shared a room at Discon that year, your Procopius stationed with head firmly against door to keep the maid from coming in and finding the room stuffed.

The activities those first years mostly consisted of planning trips to conventions together. I recall all of three programs in the first four years; a slide-show of the recent eclipse and Lovecraft's New England in, in 1963, by John Westfall (who vanished not long after); a slideshow of Dick Eney's trip to London and the worldcon, in 1965; and Jack Chalker telling us how to spot potential book rarities.

We published a roster every six months, rewrote the constitution about once a year, and gained a few members. Kim Weston and Charles Rein joined in September of 1964, Ron Bounds joined in 1963, and Judith Ann Shanker joined in the spring of 1964. The last left with a bang in 1966 under circumstances I still don't understand. Jerry Jacks left hurriedly for California in 1966, came back two weeks later, then left again. Mike Hakulin joined in 1966, left in early 1968, and still shows up at Balticons.

In about the spring of 1966, the meetings stopped wandering and settled on a regular basis at the building on North Avenue where Dave Ettlin, his then wife and Chuck Rein and his them wife had apartments.

Somewhere in there, for three years, we had a Worldcon bid, too.

In 1963, meetings were changed from Fridays to Saturdays to meet the convenience of the secretary, which says a couple of things about the club. For a long while, the treasurer kept trading stamps for the club, as well as money. We had the notion that we would be buying club furniture, you see.

Pat Kelly joined in 1967.

A detailed and accurate record of BSFS activities for the end of 1967 and much of 1968 is impossible for me - I was not there - and could be subject to a libel action anyway. This would not really bother me, except that I can not prove half the things I would like to. Let us say that no one who joined in the last days at North Avenue is in the club now and some may not be at large.

The last meeting of the old BSFS was held on October 12, 1968, on a Baltimore Transit Company streetcar. Pat Kelly brought some 78 rpm records, and I think there was actually dancing in the aisle. I had come back from New York for the occasion, and walked down the aisle at one point swinging a lantern and chanting backward in Latin.

The Dark Ages then settled in. There were periodic gatherings, some centering on Discon II or the bid preceding it, but mostly just game sessions. The primary and characteristic Baltimore activity of the time was traveling long distances to get involved in the politics of other clubs.

A retrogression here about Balticons. The first was planned by the old BSFS, partly as promotion for the Baltimore bid for the 1971 worldcon. This second bid was nominally BSFS-run, but the bulk of the work was done by Jack Chalker. He kept at the job of running Balticon until 1970, when an irresponsible guest of honor caused him to give it up. Ted Pauls, Dave Halterman and myself took it over in 1971. Halderman left for Spain in 1973, and at the 1974 Balticon, Fred Lerner was heard to complain that Baltimore really should have a club again. (He still has not come to a meeting, or a Balticon since, and living in New Hampshire is not a sufficient excuse.)

Sue Wheeler Narrative begins:

As Mark noted in the last issue, Fred Lerner started the discussion of a Baltimore Club at the February 1974 Balticon. Unfortunately, I was one of the people he talked to. Living in Vermont is definitely not an excuse for not returning to what Fred hath wrought. (Some newer BSFans may be more familiar with Fred as a founder of the Church of the Sacred Cat, Moloch. It was said church that conduced the trial of Lew Wolkoff in our rooms at Philcon '77.) Fred and several other people, such as Barry Newton, Mary Reynolds, and Becky Leisure, now Becky Berkely, also encouraged dreams of a revived club. (Mary is either the reason why Fred was in Baltimore in 1974 or the reason why he never came back or both. We got along well after I watched Fred turn and walk over Mary because he could not see her. She was, and most likely is, 5' tall.) (Becky assured me that she would be interested in joining a club. She has yet to appear at a BSFS meeting, but does still attend Balticons.)

Barry Newton and I spent most of Sunday afternoon discussing the audacity of my thinking I could organize a club after two whole years in fandom. While we sat there missing Fred Pohl's GoH speech and exchanging cold germs, an elderly gentleman approached us to ask if there were a local club. He had just moved from Texas, and was quite interested in finding fans. That was the real moment of conception for a restored BSFS.

After Balticon that year I thought I was safe. "Ignore it and it will go away." However, I started getting calls asking me when an organizational meeting would be held. This started a long tradition of appointing Sue Wheeler. The habit has become so ingrained I now appoint myself. Please, if you have any suggestions for breaking such a habit, let me know.

Sometime in April 1974 a meeting was held at the apartment I had on Ballona Ave. Seven people were there: Sally Turner, Ed Turner, Barry Newton, Judy Newton, Jack Toolan, Sharon Jenson and myself. Sally and Ed Turner continued to be more or less involved in Baltimore Fandom for the next 2-3 years. Barry and Judy stopped coming to meetings after they were rather rudely received when they arrived at one session in Micky mouse ears. (The bollixed word is "stopped"). (I really am sorry, but it had been another in a series of constitutional meetings that started at 8:00 P.M. and ended at midnight because the guard threw us out.)

Jack, I know, came because I served food. I have little idea why Sharon came except that Jack was there. (It was the occasion of Jack & Sharon's wedding and my subsequent q-bliss appearance at a BSFS meeting that caused me to gain the title of club alcoholic.

I don't remember much about that meeting. We did decide that we wanted to have a restored club, that there should be some activity, other than game sessions, for those who did not go to cons or who felt the cons were too few and far apart. (This was 1974, remember.) As Salley Turner pointed out, there were 43 subscribers to Locus in Baltimore at that time. Who they were I still don't know.

At any rate, my next step was to take all the Baltimore addresses from the T-K Graphics mailing list and send flyers, 81 hand-addressed flyers. A far cry from the 1980 Balticon list. At the same time, flyers were distributed at Disclave telling of a diverse, but strangely interesting group of people in Baltimore who wanted to meet some science fiction fans.

We grew, sometimes slowly, sometimes by leaps and bounds. One memorable night the membership doubled...from 9 to 18. We met for a while at Ed Welch's place on St. Paul St. He was the fan/lawyer from Texas who had added the final impetus to Fred Lerner's initial nudges.

There the narrative ends as should have been continued in another issue, but no further text has been found...

In 2020 Sue Wheeler ( Mark Owings passed in 2009) was offered an opportunity to update this saga and said, "Let it stand as is"

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