December 17th, 2013

My speech from the last night of M.S.F.C. at St. Davids Hall West Brunswick

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the last night of this incarnation of the Melbourne Science Fiction Club.

“There is a theory which states that if ever anyone discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable.
There is another theory which states that this has already happened.”
- Douglas Adams, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

For the last 27 years the MSFC has met here in St David's hall in West Brunswick. I remember when we first came here in late January 1986, it seems so long ago now, the hall seemed so big, the kitchen old and cramped and it was in West Brunswick, far away from the lights, shops and attractions of the centre of Melbourne, where we used to meet, wander off to shop or to get a coffee. How was it all going to work out here, on Friday nights, in the dark and quiet of West Brunswick?

It did, but it took time and experimentation. We had to change and adapt. Which we did. Meetings were later in the evening, rather than from 6-9 in the city. A 7.30pm start meant people could finish work or study and then catch a number 55 tram to West Brunswick. I opened and ran the kitchen for the first 9 years we were here, so people could get a drink and a snack and the club could raise some money. In those early days I learned about Coffee. Would you believe we actually had Pablo instant coffee, till David Syber proved to me it was rubbish and put me onto the path of real ground coffee beans and a drip filter machine? I used to love going to the Footscray market on Fridays in my lunchbreak and buying 250 grams of fresh ground coffee. I love the smell of freshly ground coffee and the way the paper bag is slightly warm to the touch.

So we were doing things at club meetings; next the committee gave them themes and the What's On at the Club calendar first appeared, drawn by Gunny. Now you could plan to come to a discussion night or an author talk (Did you know we had Terry Pratchett twice in the early 1990s?) or to the show and tell nights, the create an instant fanzine night, the film screenings (who can forget the night I showed a 16mm print of Stalker, the great Russian film which went for well over 3 hours!) (or Shirley Thompson Verses The Aliens—check it out, it is Bodgies and Widgies in Sydney up against Space Aliens!) and many others. When we couldn't think of anything there were cake and conversation nights. I opened and ran the kitchen for the first 9 years. Finally you could get a pretty reasonable cup of coffee and something to munch on from our own kitchen. Of course we had Twin Peaks nights with “Damn fine coffee and cherry pie, although no-one got wrapped in plastic, that I know of.

More infamous nights were the Medical Oddities night, where people brought along their X-Rays and compared notes, shudder—we swore an oath on the skull of St Fanthony never to repeat that and we never have. Some of the Bring a Salad nights were wild too; fans can have odd ideas about food—I remember Les Robertson's five bulbs of Garlic salad—you could smell that from past the tram stop on hall street. I saw him prepare it in my kitchen, with a claw hammer wrapped in a plastic bag, smashing up all the bag of Garlic he had bought. We also had odd concoctions of blue food, a couple of times there was bright green chocolate cake, whichfew people would eat and of course the amazing iced cakes David L. Russell used to turn up with, usually to celebrate a birthday or anniversary.

My wife insists I tell you about the craze for electric water pistols one summer. People were running about shooting one another and everyone seemed to get wet some nights. The kitchen floor was awash and finally the committee asked people to stay outside, as it was annoying some people, especially when people started to throw around buckets of water. I remember George Ivanov coming into the hall dripping wet. Someone (not me) had seen him get off the tram and as he did had thrown a full bucket of water over him.

Best I can work out there have been over 1240 meetings of the MSFC in West Brunswick. There were lots of good times, but there were also arguments and disagreements. On the whole it has been a good time. I know I had a lot of innocent and not so innocent fun (Yes, I started Get Stuffed fanzine here in the hall—I was annoyed with the people running Natcons, who did not believe there really was a fanzine called Ethel the Ardvaark. We showed 'em, when we won a Ditmar in 1989 for best fanzine at the Natcon.)

We made the club work out in the remote darkness of West Brunswick. I don't know how much of the ride you in the audience were along for, but I hope you have enjoyed being a Science Fiction fan in this place. This has been a good place for our community for 27 years. I would like to thank the congregation and elders of St David's for putting up with us for all that time. We were the people who managed to smash a window with a Teddy Bear. Gunny was swinging it around his head on a chain. The chain broke and this teddy went straight through a window. I was outside and saw it come through. Amazingly it mad a teddy bear shaped hole-head, arms, body and legs. The Callistenics club broke windows when they used the hall, but we managed something weirder.

I want to end with a quote from someone much in the news again lately, (No, not the Tenth Doctor saying “I don't want to go”, which is true, but irrelevant); no, I look to J.F.K. speaking before the Democratic convention on the eve of his presidential nomination:

I believe that the times require
imagination, and courage, and
perseverance. I'm asking each one of
you to be pioneers toward that New
Frontier. My call is to the young at
heart, regardless of age; to the
stout of spirit, regardless of party;
to all those who respond to the
scriptural call, "Be strong and of
good courage. Be not afraid, neither
be dismayed." For courage, not
complacency, is our need today.

Thank you.

(This is a slightly corrected and altered version. It incorporates one or two little ad-libs. I was pleased I managed to stay on top of what I wrote and apart from a bit of emotion during the final JFK quote, it wasn't too hard to deliver. Jocko 17/12/2013.)