The Albuquerque Science Fiction Society (ASFS) is a literary-oriented club focused on all things sci-fi as well as other related genres like fantasy, horror and more. Like most other organizations, the ASFS has been virtual for the past year due to the COVID-19 pandemic but continues to persevere in its 55th year in operation.
The group has been meeting monthly on Zoom with events like movie viewings and author visits, co-executive secretary Craig Chrissinger said. The society also puts out a newsletter five times a year with awards, events, books reviews and more.
“The club is a once-a-month opportunity for (science fiction) fans to interact, to listen to New Mexico authors and scientists, to meet new people and greet old friends, to watch a bad film or play a game show and to engage in conversation, debate and thought,” Chrissinger said in an email to the Daily Lobo. “Overall, it's a club and it should be fun, entertaining and/or informative.”
Although the club is focused on literary works, Chrissinger said members also explore other related avenues such as gaming, entertainment, costuming and more.
“I love talking about books with people and getting recommendations for new things to read. It is also a great way to get to know local authors and hear about (what) they're working on,” Jessica Coyle, another co-executive secretary, said in an email to the Daily Lobo. “I also love making (science fiction and fantasy) costumes, and there are a small group of members who are costumers/cosplayers, so I enjoy talking with them about what we're all working on.”
When the pandemic hit in March 2020, the club didn’t meet for two months, but started again in June 2020 in a virtual environment. Although not everyone that used to meet in person attends online, Chrissinger said the goal is to have “a casual socializing period.”
“The move to virtual was to try to give people a feeling of connection, even if it's not the same as in-person,” Chrissinger said.
In 1969, the ASFS started a sci-fi convention called New MexiCon. This was later renamed Bubonicon and became a separate nonprofit corporation in 2014 that still has some overlap with the ASFS’s activities. Today, Bubonicon is New Mexico’s “longest-running sci-fi & fantasy literary and arts convention,” according to its website.
Coyle said she became involved in the ASFS through Bubonicon, and Chrissinger said many committee members and volunteer workers tend to get involved with the group this way.
“I had only been living in Albuquerque for about a year, and I attended the convention in 2008 so that I could figure out what else was being offered in the local science fiction community as I was very involved in these kinds of events in my previous home,” Coyle said. “While volunteering at the convention, several people invited me to ASFS, so I started attending.”
Chrissinger said everyone in the science fiction community had a “gateway” into the genre, or some sort of experience that inspired their interest. For Chrissinger, it was “Star Trek” and the “Creature Feature” movies he watched as a young child, but he said personal gateway experiences can vary.
“Science fiction has had an interesting and colorful history, whether we say it started with Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley's ‘Frankenstein’ in 1818 or ‘Gulliver's Travels’ by Jonathan Swift in 1726 or even earlier,” Chrissinger said. “Today it is more popular than ever, but there still are people who consider it in the gutter — or without literary merit.”
Chrissinger said the science fiction community has grown immensely.
“Today the world of science fiction and fantasy has grown to become immensely popular in pop culture and movies, and it has inspired scientists and astronauts,” Chrissinger said. “And the fans around it have created huge conventions like Worldcon, Dragon Con, the San Diego Comic-Con and such.”
However, the importance of local groups like these aren’t lost on members like Chrissinger and Coyle, and they both reiterated the community aspect that the ASFS provides in New Mexico.
“The club gives people a way to connect with others around a shared interest in a deeper way; I've met some of my best friends through the ASFS,” Coyle said. “Also, it is a great way for local (science fiction and fantasy) authors to introduce their work to a very receptive audience that is very interested in reading what they have written.”
New members and guests are always welcome at the ASFS, according to its webpage.
“The entry point, the gateway, doesn't matter once a person finds out how much more there is to discover,” Chrissinger said.
Megan Gleason is the Editor-in-Chief of the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @fabflutist2716