I’m looking for a clubhouse on Burbank Boulevard, and have unsuccessfully scanned the street twice when I see him: a middle-aged man with shaggy hair and round wire glasses, slowly walking down the street. I park my car on a residential street and follow him; for I assume we have the same destination: The Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society.
When I arrive outside the door to the clubhouse, which has a separate house at the rear, I’m conflicted on which entrance to use. A few bearded men are going to the back house. I take a chance and open the wooden door to the front house. The atmosphere is warm and comforting; a few people are lounging on a couch to the right of the hallway, and even more are standing in a corridor to the left.
“Hi,” I say to the group.
“Is this your first time here?” someone asks me.
“Yes,” I say, and state my purpose for attending.
A woman named Michelle rushes to my side and presents herself. She is the registrar, and it is her duty to make guests feel welcome, she tells me. She offers a tour of the house, and we start in the foyer. There are shelves lining both walls: one with comic books, the other with novels. The prices are listed on a sheet of paper; most of the items are under $1. A stack of comic books on one shelf is free, however. To the right of the foyer is the gaming room, where several PCs are lined up. The room is closed in with no windows. A couple of men are playing video games with headphones on. Next, we go to the living room and communal area. The kitchen is stocked with hot chocolate, tea, and other shared items. Starship wallpaper covers the walls.
I’m in the library next, a treasure trove of rare and unique fantasy novels and books. There is a The Art of Star Wars hardcover book, and Dr. Who graphic novels. The literary library is a small hallway, and with the checkerboard flooring, I feel like I am inside an Alice in Wonderland delusion. Behind the library counter, where members are talking excitedly and serving drinks to each other, there is a small children’s library and a video library. I’m told the borrowing rules, which are less rigid that those at LAPL.
We exit the back of the house. A painting on the wall outside says, “Death Will Not Release You.” We walk into the back house, where the meeting is about to start. Most of the seats are filled, and a couple of members are deep in conversation. They don’t look up when we enter. I’m instructed to fill out a comment card. It asks the usual questions: Name, Date, Fan Name. I leave the section blank that asks what area of science fiction I’m interested in. I’ve never read science fiction, unless you count Brave New World. I read realistic fiction, which I imagine is less of a mental escape than science fiction.
I take a seat. When members begin talking, I have the uneasy feeling that everyone in the room is in on a private joke. The subject doesn’t matter when people that know each other well are all gathered in one room. They could be talking about politics or photography and it would produce the same result.
The meeting starts. Number 3,834 ...
Return next week to this column for a continuation of this story.