It's 8:30 p.m. on Saturday night, and the hounds are out in Harvard Square.
The pack numbers about 15, clad in spandex and blue body paint. Traffic stops on JFK Street as they bound across, barking and snarling into the headlights. Then it's down Brattle Street, stopping once to catch their breath and bay at the moon.
The prey in this "Wyld Hunt" is a sprinting first-year with antlers strapped to her head. The "spectral hounds" following her are mostly hard science concentrators, all with an inhumanly high tolerance for silliness. They "slay" her on the steps of Memorial Church and carry her back to Quincy House inert.
For the Harvard-Radcliffe Science Fiction Association (HRSFA), this spectacle isn't an embarrassing rite of initiation--it's one of their most popular annual traditions.
And it's not even the weirdest thing they've got planned for the night.
"Everybody's crazy," says the stag, Erin R. Leonard '02, as she paints herself before the hunt.
"But we're better at it than most people," says Tom H. Lotze '01.
With about 60 to 70 people involved in one or another of its Special Interest Groups (SIGs), HRSFA's umbrella falls over science fiction, fantasy, role-playing games and sometimes unadulterated bizarreness.
It serves mainly as a connection between these groups and a social outlet for those interested in fun with an unusually imaginative twist.
Like hunting each other through the streets of Cambridge. Or, later the same night, standing on the steps of Widener Library yelling "All Hail Chronos!" in honor of the end of daylight savings time.
It all really happened. We've got pictures.
Long, Long Ago....
HRSFA was founded in 1987 by a group of student Star Trek fans looking to organize in time for the premiere of Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Fans of science fiction and role-playing games, frustrated by the College's refusal to grant them official status, soon joined the organization, and HRSFA acquired an office in Harvard Hall.
Over the years, the group has kept a strong interest in science fiction. A small-scale book swap in the early years has now grown to a 2,000 to 3,000-volume library in Pforzheimer House, complete with videos, comic books and games.