Clare Sammells 95 speaks softly and carries a big stick. it is carved with suns and roses. As Co-chair of HRSFA (Harvard Radcliffe Science Fiction Association), she forcefully bangs it on the floor of the Sever room, bringing members out of the worlds of their animated conversations and into...reality? That remains to be seen.
The meeting begins with an announcement about the Masque, an annual dancing fundraiser for HRSFA (pronounced "hearse-fa") "It's kind of like Halloween," Co-chair Christopher J. Hernandez '96, who is a Crimson editor, explained later.
"People come dressed up," Sammells says, leaning on her staff. "There are a lot of cloaks. I saw someone as Princess Leah once; I don't think anyone ever came as a Star Trek character, though," her sentence peters out--is she scheming for her own costume?
After an unexpected pause in the meeting, Sammells' voice becomes even as she enigmatically proclaims "Star Trek schism," which she later repeats several times. Star Trek really sets the stage for HRSFA, which was actually founded eight years ago to coincide with the premiere episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Claudia Mastroianni ('91-'94) joined HRSFA two episodes alter, though she is known as a "Founding Member." She graduated last year, but she still comes to weekly meeting and gets together often with HRSFA members to watch movies. She is planning to line up at 3:00 a.m. this coming weekend for 24-hour sci-fi movie marathon in Brookline. When she invites any other members to join her, a couple replies that they would come just to see how much she'll pay for coffee at 7:00 a.m.
After announcements of upcoming events, it is time for SIG (Special Interest Groups) Leader reports. The newly appointed Voyager SIG Leader begins, "Voyager is like Gilligan's Island in space." Her voice is flat and I hope her comment is positive I liked Gilligan, the Skipper too. "It's better than Next Generation at this point," she continues. Although it is common knowledge that the rings around the Voyager spaceship have the wrong proportion, coming close to 2000 miles in circumference, members are anxiously singing upon a list to borrow the taped episode.
HRSFA was originally founded as an umbrella organization for a number of SIGs. Eight years ago, an unwilling Dean vetoed the formation of a gaming club; and then of a comics club; a science-fiction association was okay, though, and came to embody all the fantasies that were not allowed in Harvard reality.
Mastroianni notices a different mentality in the group today than eight years ago, saying "At first all people wanted to do was watch the shows, all that alpha serial stuff. Now, people want to take charge and move the group places." She laughs and sighs, relieved that I don't ask her what those places are.
"That's what I really like about sci-fi: it's a fantasy. I don't know where I am; It's just fun," says Hernandez. Is he talking about the way I feel at this meeting?
As I jokingly tell Mastoianni about imagining laser beams and alien skin beneath the long trenchcoats and felt hats of the HRSFA members, Mastroianni responds, "Oh, I love all the cheesy sci-fi about gadgets and laser guns, but in my favorite sci-fi the gadgets should be integrated and not the focus. When I first read A Wrinkle in Time in fourth grade, amid all the magic, I could constantly ask the question 'What it?"
"I really like (science fiction) as a genre," Sammells adds. "The appeal is that it puts you in a situation that you would never be in. And then you have to deal with it. The possibility of human reaction is limitless."