Chimera, A Place to Enjoy Science Fiction
by Toni Carter
(NOTE: I don't have the date on this one, it's a DTH article from sometime in 1983, I think)
The six college students laughed and joked as they posed in their costumes for the photographer. The medieval warrior provoked the woman in the tunic with the pointed ears. The spaceman pointed his blaster at the Dr. Who fan, who wore a very long scarf and a floppy hat.
Other students walked by. Some smiled and some shook their heads, perhaps wondering about the group's sanity.
The costumed students were members of UNC's fantasy and science fiction club, Chimera.
A chimera, in Greek mythology, was an animal with a lion's head, a goat's body and a serpent's tail.
"The club, ideally, is a forum for communication for people who enjoy imaginative literature," said Robert Hurt, a sophomore physicas major and president of Chimera. Interested people shouldn't worry if they don't have costumes or don't know the lines from Star Trek by heart, Hurt said. The club tries to be a place to exchange ideas and to make friends.
"I came here as a junior transfer student from Northwestern University in Illinois and I didn't know anybody," said Dorothy Wright, a junior biology major. "Joining the club helped me meet people." Wright said she has made many friends and they have gotten her interested in science fiction she'd never have read.
Not all club members are UNC students. Poppy Bryte, a student at Jordan High School in Durham, saw a Chimera poster that mentioned Harlan Ellison's name. Ellison, a science fiction writer, is a favorite of Bryte's, so she came to the meeting. She said she calls friends to find out when the meetings are. [ed note: Yes, this is THE Poppy Z. Brite, horror novelist.]
Danny Reid, a senior physics major, said science fiction is his only hobby. He was president of Chimera last year and built it from a membership of 2 to its current number - about 40.
Attitudes about science fiction's value and place in society are as diverse within the club as the parts of the chimera itself.
"Science fiction," Reid said, "is today the most effective genre for exploring our society." Science fiction keeps one's mind active, Hurt said.
"The best science fiction should be only entertainment" - not the social gospel that The Lord of the Rings and Star Trek are, said Paul Thompson, club member and third-year graduate student in education. [ed note: Paul's handwritten comment on this statement is, "I never said that."]
Reid said he also believed in the entertainment value of science fiction. "Star Wars may not be scientifically correct," he said, "but it's a lot more exciting to watch than 2001: A Space Odyssey."
The club is not simply an arena for debate. In the past, it has traveled to Florida to watch a launching of the space shuttle Columbia and has visited the Three College Observatory, south of Burlington, to watch the night sky.
The members have heard speakers such as Jeffrey Elliot, a political science professor at North Carolina Central University, who has interviewed many writers for magazine articles. In the future, Hurt hopes to get Manly Wade Wellman, a local writer of science fiction, horror, and non-fiction, to speak to the club.
Another activity most club members enjoy is attending science fiction conventions - or cons as they are known. Cons are usually sponsored by a college or city science fiction club, and they usually last from one to three days.
At a con, old and new science fiction, fantasy, and horror movies are shown. There is usually a dealers' room where one can buy almost anything from buttons to books to original artwork. Costume contests also take place, and many con-goers wear costumes even though they do not enter a contest.
Popular science fiction writers are invited to the cons so that fans are able to meet their favorites. Science fiction authors seem to enjoy attending cons and staying in touch with their fans, Hurt said. Hurt has attended many conventions.
The largest science fiction convention is called WorldCon. It is an annual event which began in the late 1930's. It is held in a different city each year, and this year it will be in Baltimore, MD. Several Chimera members are planning to go. Admission to the five-day event costs $100 at the door. Some of the club members sent their money in as early as last November, when the admission fee was $20.
This March there will be a three-day con in Greensboro. It is the eighth annual Stellarcon, sponsored by UNC-G's Science Fiction and Fantasy Federation. Chimera members also plan to attend.
The club's faculty advisor is D.D. Wills' a lecturer in linguistics and anthropology. Wills said that she had been interested in science fiction since she was five. She said she tried to plan activities for the club, such as the picnic that was held at her home last semester. "It's a diverse group of people," she said. "A lot of them have interests that many other students would consider bizarre."
"In my opinion," Reid said, "there is no more varied and interesting and exciting group of people - and other entities - to be found at this University."
The next Chimera meeting will be March 23.