The science fiction club meets in the Artillery Arms in Bunhill Row. Bunhill Row is in Islington, on the edge of the City and Hoxton. The Artillery Arms is across the road from Bunhill Fields, the old Dissenter burying ground.
In the sixteenth century the London Trained Bands used to practice their archery here after Church on Sunday. Hence artillery.
The science fiction club is more properly the monthly meeting of the British Science Fiction Association. BSFA have been holding the meetings for a while.
You don’t have to be a member of BSFA to go to the science fiction club. You do have to know that the meetings are advertised on the BSFA website.
I had to change at King’s Cross in the peak evening travel period. I didn’t like the crowds.
There has been a pub on the site since the eighteenth century. I would hesitate to date the current building. Downstairs it has exposed wood and bare brick. Upstairs the function room, where we met, is pleasant.
With latecomers, there were about thirty members of the science fiction club that evening. Most were over forty. There was a young couple in the corner near me who looked about thirty-nine.
The largest sub-group were my generation. They were in their sixties. The fans are getting old. Dying out, perhaps?
A lot of people knew each other. They were on first name terms. They had presumably met at other meetings and conventions. The science fiction club is very clubbable.
There were a lot of writers and editors. The members of the science fiction club have a lot invested.
The star turn was Adrian Tchaikovsky. Tchaikovsky is best known for a ten novel fantasy series. He has also done stand alone science fiction.
He was being interviewed by Ian Whates, who is a writer, a publisher and an officer of BFSA. Whates and Tchaikovsky have clearly known each other for some time.
The interview is a format that the science fiction club likes. Interviews appear in their magazines. There are books of criticism that feature mainly interviews.
The meeting was well run. It started on time. There were fifty minutes of questions from Whates, and ten minutes for the floor.
The questions, I have to say, were bland. This was publicity for Tchaikovsky. Nothing more. I found it rather dull.
The science fiction club were well-disciplined. They clapped and cheered at all the right places.
At the end Tchaikovsky signed books. I fled.
This fits with an impression I have that in the science fiction club, once they are established, writers are extravagantly praised for very little. It’s unfortunate.
There are science fiction writers who deserve recognition outside the club, in the mainstream. This isn’t the way they are going to get it.