Washington Science Fiction Association


WSFA History

A History of WSFA

1947: The Washington Science Fiction Society was founded by seven people who had met at that year’s Worldcon, which was in Philadelphia. We met every other Sunday, in the Transportation Building, 17th and H streets NW, Washington DC, Room 1030. We continued to meet there until 1953. The seven founders were Russell Swanson (the first president), Robert Briggs (vice president), Franklin Kerkhof (1923-1986) (secretary-treasurer), Robert Pavlat (1926-1983), Charles ‘Chick’ Derry (1925-1995), Phyllisann Courtis (1926-2005), and Reginald ‘Ray’ Courtis (1885-1971).

1948: Meetings changed to first, third, and fifth Sundays. On July 18, the club adopted its first constitution, and changed its name to the Washington Science-Fiction Association, the name it’s had ever since (except for the hyphen, which we lost in 1980).

1949: We published our first fanzine, QUANTA.

1950: We held our first convention: the first Disclave. Disclaves were held sporadically at first, then every year from 1965 through 1997. Attendance varied from 22 (1953) to 1485 (1979).

1953: Meetings moved to a club room provided by Franklin Kerkhof at 2112 O St. NW, Washington DC.

1954: Meetings moved to Dot Cole’s home in Arlington, Virginia.

1956: Meetings moved to Elizabeth Cullen’s home in Washington DC, and stayed there until 1967.

1959: WSFAn Dick Eney published Fancyclopedia II. Its entry on WSFA is still pretty accurate.

1960: Meetings changed from first, third, and fifth Sundays to first and third Fridays, the schedule they’re still on as of 2007.

1963: We hosted our first Worldcon. The Baltimore Science Fiction Society (BSFS) was founded by WSFA members returning late at night on a Trailways bus from a WSFA meeting to their homes in Baltimore. BSFS is still thriving, has its own clubhouse, and has hosted Balticon every year since 1967. Baltimore held Worldcons in 1983 and 1998.

1965: The first issue of The WSFA Journal was published in March. Except for a three year gap, 1975-78, it’s been published regularly ever since. Don Miller was the editor for its first and most prolific ten years.

1967: Alexis Gilliland started hosting First Fridays at his home. This venue continued until 2006. He then lived at 2126 Pennsylvania Avenue #3 NW DC, but moved to his present house in Arlington, Virginia in 1974. For the next seven years Third Fridays were at a variety of homes, including the Pavlats and Haltermans.

1969: Don Miller started publishing the Son of the WSFA Journal.

1974: We hosted our second Worldcon. The Gillilands moved from Washington DC to Arlington, Virginia. The Bergs started hosting Third Fridays at their home in Hillcrest Heights (PG County), Maryland.

1975: Don Miller stopped publishing the WSFA Journal and the Son of the WSFA Journal, left WSFA, and founded the Potomac River Science Fiction Society (PRSFS). He died in 1982. PRSFS is still thriving.

1978: The second series of WSFA Journals was started by Somtow Sucharitkul, Joe Mayhew, Jack Lechner, and others, and has been published approximately monthly ever since. We have all the second series issues online.

1980: We removed the hyphen from our name. Third Fridays moved to Olivers’, in Clinton. We hosted a relaxacon, Datclave, to commemorate February having a fifth Friday. We continued to hold February or March relaxacons each year through 1985. (Perhaps we’ll revive this tradition in 2008 when February next has a fifth Friday.) Update: We did.

1983: Bob Pavlat died.

1984: Bill Berg died. Somtow Sucharitkul and Timothy R. Sullivan left WSFA and founded the Washington Alternative SF Association (WASFA), which didn’t last long.

1985: WSFA membership was combined with Disclave membership for tax purposes. (They were separated again in 1998.)

1986: Third Fridays moved to the Bloom/Morman home in Silver Spring (Montgomery County), Maryland, and occasionally the Heneghan/Normandy home in College Park (PG County).

1989: WSFA Press began. One book by each Disclave’s Guest of Honor was published each year through 1992. 500 or 600 copies of each were printed. Some are still available.

1991: Third Fridays moved to the Burgess’ in Montpelier (PG County). Doll Gilliland died.

1992: Third Fridays moved to the Lewis/Peacock home in Silver Spring (Montgomery County), then to the Ginters’ in Beltsville (PG County), where they stayed until 2004.

1995: Chick Derry, one of the founders of WSFA, died.

1997: John Pomeranz created the WSFA website. Cuban SF author and fan Bruno Henriquez visited WSFA. The last Disclave, best known for a broken fire sprinkler, was held.

1998: WSFA membership was separated from Disclave membership with the adoption of our current constitution, which makes us a 501(c)(4) organization.

1999: Writing Science Fiction, a forum co-sponsored by WSFA and the Smithsonian Associates, was held. To save money, we switched from having the club buy food for meetings to having members bring food. The club still pays for drinks.

2000: We held an event at the Arlington Central Library. Joe Mayhew died.

2001: The first Capclave, our new annual convention. (Current Capclave)

2002: The email chat list was started.

2003: We hosted the 29th World Fantasy Convention.

2004: Pat Kelly died. Fantek hosted their last Evecon, leaving Capclave as the DC area’s only annual SF convention. We hosted SMOFcon 22, and started bidding for the 2011 Worldcon. Third Fridays moved to the Madigans’ in Greenbelt (PG County).

2005: Phyllisann Courtis, the last surviving founder of WSFA, died, as did Jack Chalker. WSFA Press returned after a 13 year hiatus, and published the Future Washington anthology.

2006: The location of the First Friday meetings was moved to the Scheiner’s.

2007: First WSFA Small Press Award given to “El Regalo” by Peter S. Beagle

2008: Datclave II will be held, as February has a fifth Friday for the first time since 1980.
British author Charlie Stross visits the April First Friday WSFA meeting.
Datclave II was held in Gettysburg, PA , February 29 March 1-2. Bob Macintosh and Lee Strong gave a tour of the Battlefields.

2009: WSFA Press returns with Reincarnations by Harry Turtledove

2010: The white bunny no longer bites. For years, whenever the club met at the Madigan’s house and when the hosts gave their announcements, they began with “The white bunny bites.” In August of 2010, the white bunny died of old age. An era came to an end. In lighter news, WSFA Press continues with The Three Quests of the Wizard Sarnod by Jeff VanderMeer and Fire Watch by Connie Willis, copies of which are, regretfully, sold out.

2011: WSFA Press publishes Straying from the Path by Carrie Vaughn, and Silently and Very Fast by Catherynne M. Valente.
British fantasy writer Terry Pratchett makes a surprise appearance at Capclave

2013: SF Author David Brin visits WSFA for the April First Friday WSFA Meeting
Largest Capclave ever as George RR Martin is a guest of honor. We occupy the entire hotel.

2015: John Madigan died of brain cancer on the 9th of January 2015 after a 14 month struggle against the disease. John and Candy Madigan hosted the club’s 3rd Friday meeting in Maryland for years and Candy continues that legacy. John setup the club’s MeetUp group giving the club a useful tool for alerting area residents to the existence of the club, its activities, and annual convention.
WSFA Press publishes signed limited edition of Slow Bullets by Alastair Reynolds (October). The novella is named a Hugo Finalist in 2016.