When Two Become One
It’s finally starting to come together. Two Leicester groups, both with a fine pedigree in promoting all things SF/Fantasy, are beginning to form links that will, hopefully, bind them (perhaps not in the darkness and with any luck not in the land of Mordor, where shadows lie). I am talking, of course, about The Speculators writing group and Starbase Leicester, the SF fansoc extraordinaire. And it all happened this week… Suddenly, there was three Starbasers at a Speculator meeting and two Speculators at a Starbase one.
I was overjoyed. I have carried the lonely path of following both groups for years now, trying to get them to reach out and see what the other had to offer. Glad to see kindred spirits finally meeting. Should I take the credit? I think I shall. Smug self-satisfaction is so hard to come by these days. And I have been the sole link between them for a while; going to both groups’ events and spreading the word of their mutual existence to whoever would listen. I feel like a back-street marriage-fixer, bringing two sex-starved individuals together: I show them to their hotel room and walk away with a smile on my face, counting the money, before the grunting and panting starts.
Grubby metaphors aside, I hope it all works out. Starbase are five years old next month and a fine little club dedicated to all things SF. They hold regular events throughout the year including film nights, manga nights, console game nights, comic book hero events, lego-building nights… they even hold charity events and climb mountains. Their fanzine, Avatar, is on its second issue and going from strength to strength. The Speculators, on the other hand, have only been going for little over a year. They are, however, the only writing group in the East Midlands specifically concerned with SF and fantasy. We meet every week and write. So far we have come up with one issue of a newspaper; The Speculator, edited by yours truly on a one-off basis, and there is no reason why we should not do more. The talent is definitely there. My hope is that both these groups will flourish, both together and apart, to show that Leicester is the true home of UK science fiction.
In fact, Leicester has a lot going for it already on that score. The National Space Centre is here (a wonderful resource – with proper spaceships) and there are no fan or writers groups to compare in the region. Certainly not in Nottingham, Derby or Northampton. Compared to Leicester, these are cultural deserts as far as SF and Fantasy fans are concerned.
And yet we get so little recognition for our achievements. Even conference organizers see fit to spit in our faces: the British Fantasy Society is holding its annual conference in Nottingham (again) as we speak, Novacon is scheduled for the same city in November. Newcon will be held in Northampton in October and Alt.Fiction was held in Derby. Derby?
I’m starting to get paranoid. The fact that every city in a 20 mile radius is favoured over Leicester is starting to look a wee bit suspicious. What next, a Neil Gaiman theme-park in Peterborough, Coventry to be twinned with Babylon 5, Sleaford to host Worldcon? Do we smell or something?
On second thoughts, don’t answer that.
But this I know for certain. If you are interested in SF or writing or fantasy or genre films/games or just sharing your passion for these things, there is no greater gift that the gods can bestow upon you than placing you in Leicester. We are the fortunate and blessed. And there’s nothing that those pesky SMOFs can do about that.