N.B. - This page is devoted to the British Fantasy Society of the 1940s, which has no connection with the present-day organisation of the same name, for which click here.
As part of the project to get every copy of WWII newszine FUTURIAN WAR DIGEST online, copies of the British Fantasy Society publications mailed out with FWD were also uploaded. This page lists all known BFS publications and served as a front page for them so that those who wished to concentrate on the Society and to skip FWD could do so. As each publication was uploaded so that listing was turned into a live link. Should copies of currently unavailable publications turn up the entries for those too will be made live links. It is not expected that every listing will eventually turn into a link as copies of some of these publications may prove impossible to locate. This being the case, the 'NEXT BULLETIN' links at the bottom of each bulletin will only link to the next issue that's available.
These listings are taken directly from the British Fanzine Bibliography.
After the listings there is a brief history of the BFS extracted from THEN, my history of UK SF fandom.
...................... Rob Hansen.
The BFS letterhead:
QUESTIONNAIRE: ed. Mike Rosenblum
BRITISH FANTASY SOCIETY BULLETIN: ed. D.R. Smith
BRITISH FANTASY SOCIETY PROSPECTUS:
SCIENCE FICTION FANDOM - an introduction: ed. Ted Carnell
A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE BRITISH FANTASY SOCIETYFollowing up on his desire for a new national fan organisation, Rosenblum had sent out seven chain-letters canvassing opinions and by November 1941, when three had been returned to him, a favourite idea that seemed to be emerging was for any new organisation to be connected with America's NFFF (National Fantasy Fan Federation). This doesn't actually seem to have happened, but the idea does appear to have influenced the name of the organisation, at least initially. Rosenblum's original suggestion had been to call it 'The Futurian Society of Great Britain', but the first two bulletins sent out with FWD, in March and April 1942, were titled BRITISH FANTASY FAN FEDERATION PRELIMINARY BULLETIN. The third, and final, of these bulletins the following month was titled BRITISH FANTASY SOCIETY PRELIMINARY BULLETIN.
The organisation took a long time to get together and it was not until June 1942 that the British Fantasy Society came into being. (NOTE: This is no relation to the current organisation of the same name, which was started in 1971 and originally called the British Weird Fantasy Society.) Rosenblum was its Director, Carnell its President, and D.R.Smith its secretary. It published an official organ, the BFS BULLETIN, which Smith edited and which usually went out bound with FWD. By the time of its first issue, in July, the group had a score of members, listed Arthur Busby as treasurer, and had a library section headed by Jack Gibson. Simultaneously with the BFS, the Fanarchists announced their existence (in what appears to have been the earliest use of this term in fandom). This group consisted chiefly of Harry Turner, Marion Eadie, and Doug Webster (long the stencil-cutter and production assistant on FWD), and its activities seemed limited mainly to stressing that they were not 'Organisation Men'. Despite this Webster was appointed coordinator of the BFS advisory board.
Within a year of its formation, Carnell had to resign as president of the BFS due to a long overseas assignment and illness forced Gibson to resign as librarian (he was replaced by J.P.Doyle and Fred Goodier). On Whitsunday 1943, the BFS organised the Pendle Expedition, which involved some half-dozen fans descending on a bungalow at Highford, Lancs., owned by Rosenblum's mother. The group climbed Pendle Hill, compared it unfavourably with the Martian landscape, and decided there should be a British APA. To this end the July FWD announced that Ron Lane, Roy Johnson, and Don Houston (all of whom had been at Pendle) were sponsoring BFAPA (the British Fantasy Amateur Press Association) and urging anyone interested in the idea to get in touch with them. Since there is no record of BFAPA ever having come into existence the response can't have been all this group had hoped it would be. Between 23rd and 26th April the BFS sponsored a convention, MIDVENTION. Originally scheduled for Birmingham, MIDVENTION eventually took place in Leicester and was attended by fourteen fans. The committee was directed by Roy Johnson with the help of Rosenblum, Don Houston, Arthur Williams, Ralph E.Orme, and A.W.Gardner, with assistance from a Birmingham based sub-committee of Tom Hughes and Arthur Busby - quite a team for such a small convention. There was an auction conducted by Ron Holmes, a debate between Terry Overton and Bert Lewis on the difference between fantasy and SF, and, on the programme at least, a fencing contest. As Ron Holmes recalls:
"In fact the event did not happen even though it was on the programme. Roy Johnson and I had never met, but we were both swordsmen of a sort so it seemed to be a good idea to have a bout. We were to eneact a scene from 'Warlord of Mars', he to be John Carter and I Tars Tarkas. The casting being that way because I was taller. In the event, when we came to practice, he produced real sabres for us to use. He was very much smaller than I (I'm over six foot) and wore glasses. I did not think he looked the part very much, but when we practiced I could see that I had the superior weight and strength of arm and eventually I decided not to go on practicing because I thought it was dangerous. He was rather disappointed."The BFS was sufficiently successful by this point that there was talk of it sparking a revival of the prewar SFA (Science Fiction Association), but the advisory board squashed this idea claiming that the BFS would continue after the war in its place. Secretary D.R.Smith put the board's case in the tenth BFS BULLETIN:
"The actual reason why the SFA could not function in wartime was that its constitution did not allow for a dispersed Executive communicating by correspondence, and foresaw the dispersal of the members of its governing Council. The BFS arose by accepting the correspondence method of government - a method having many and obvious defects - and also because an unexpectedly large number of fans have settled down to more or less permanent positions for one cause or another. The point we have to face is - would it be possible, even if desired, to ressurect the SFA after more than four years of coma? In all fairness I think it must be admitted that it would not be practicable without an amount of work equal to creating an entirely fresh society."By mid-1943 the group's library owned several hundred prozines and had established a branch to handle the sale of magazines. By the autumn the BFS had acquired 87 members, formed a sub-group devoted to weird fiction (headed by Terry Overton of Cardiff), and was thriving. However, an attempt to hold an advisory board election late in 1943 almost brought it to grief. The only candidate to get a unanimous vote, J.E.Rennison, resigned. Somehow, though, a board was eventually elected composed of W.R.Gibson, Don Houston, Terry Overton, R.Silburn, Dennis Tucker, and Edwin MacDonald.
The final issue of FUTURIAN WAR DIGEST appeared in March 1945. In it Rosenblum claimed he could "...no longer manage to put out any regular magazine", and urged British fans to build the British Fantasy Society into a fully-fledged national organisation. As he put it:
"Fandom is a minute community or culture of its own, and hence not indispensibly in need of a framework or organisation, which is what the Fanarchists maintain; YET, once you want to get things done, there are only two possibilities: dictatorship or some variety of democratic organisation. So far we have had a nice balance in Anglofandom, because for some reason I have been accepted as a focal point. But this isn't going to apply any longer...my own future is now in a state of flux."In this he wasn't alone, and his hopes for the BFS were to come to nothing. With the revival of the Leeds group a non-starter and Rosenblum settling into inactivity (though he would help form a new Leeds group in the early fifties), the lights of fandom in that city went out. Looking back on the BFS, D.R.Smith reached this conclusion:
"The organisation was fundamentally unsound. The Executive Council consisting of President Gillings, Director Rosenblum, Secretary Smith (D.R.) and Treasurer Busby lived remote from each other and had to confer through circular letters, than which a more tedious and inefficient method could hardly be conceived. The other two will forgive me if I say that most of the actual work devolved on Michael and myself. I being both idle and unsocial this brought it down to Rosenblum. Michael had enthusiasm, energy and sociability, but he had been producing a fan-magazine for ten years, he maintained a huge correspondence with fans and book-collectors both here and in America, and his health began to deteriorate. Transfer of the library to Ron Holmes and Nigel Lindsay made an asset out of what had been for too long a liability, but the end of the war brought no signs of any fan resurgence in which the management of the BFS could be transferred to more lively, less-wearied hands, and the iniquitous Secretary put more honest enthusiasm into winding it up than he had put into any other activity."The final issue of the BFS BULLETIN was dated November 1946, the society's last gasp. With the dissolution of the BFS, Ron Holmes and Nigel Lindsay, who at this point made up about half of the remaining active membership, combined its library and chain letter to form a new organisation called the British Fantasy Library.