Believe it or not, science fiction (S-F) did exist before "Star Wars"--even before "Star Trek." Some say it goes back to Mary Shelley's 1818 masterpiece, "Frankenstein." In its most basic form, science fiction poses the old question: "What if . . . ?" And this covers the gamut from speculations and expansions on realities to times and places beyond all but the writer's ken.
Starships, Wookies, Tribbles, sandworms and Superman represent but the tip of the planet. Wherever the genre began, the field and subsequent public interest in it has grown to the point that an S-F or fantasy novel appears on best-seller lists almost every week.
So starship troopers: If you want to get involved with the far-out world of S-F, here are 10 ways. Call ahead for business hours of stores.
Bookstores--There are many specialty shops dealing with S-F and its sister genre, fantasy. Dangerous Visions, 13563 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, (818) 986-6963, has a nice selection of signed and first editions, and used books and they will do searches. They also have frequent book signings. Closed Mondays. A Change of Hobbit, 1853 Lincoln Blvd., Santa Monica, lays claim to 15 years as a science-fiction bookstore. It has more than 75,000 new and used books. Authors do signings 15 times a year--David Brin ("The Postman") and William Gibson ("Count Zero") will appear Saturday at 2 and 4 p.m., respectively. They also have a free search service and publish a newsletter. Closed Sundays. Alice and Marty Massoglia at A & M Book Cellars, Unit I at 19801 Vanowen, Canoga Park, (818) 716-6259, deal in used books with an emphasis on S-F. Alice is knowledgeable in mysteries, Marty knows the S-F field and they're happy to do searches.
Book Club--If browsing through bookstores is too dusty and tedious, you can always browse by mail through the Science Fiction Book Club titles, owned by Doubleday Books. It offers four to five new books every month. There are always 40 to 50 titles in stock. There's no annual minimum order, except for the first year, when four titles must be ordered. All hardbacks are discounted up to 65%, and at least one of the main selections can go for as low as $4.98. The Science Fiction Book Club also occasionally offers other merchandise, such as books on tape, even cookware. Write to: Science Fiction Book Club, Department BT-153, Garden City, N.Y. 11535. Telephone (516) 873-4561.
Magazines--If you're interested in behind-the-scenes information about the latest "Star Trek" film (or the upcoming new TV series) or a look backward to "The Day the Earth Stood Still," you can pick up a copy of Starlog magazine each month or buy an annual subscription ($27.99). Address: 475 Park Ave. South, New York, N.Y., 10016, (212) 689-2830. If you're interested in S-F authors, agents and book reviews, try Locus, published by Locus Publications, P.O. Box 13305, Oakland, Calif. 94661, (415) 339-9196. Subscriptions are $24 a year. One of the many pulp magazines still publishing short fiction is Analog, Science Fiction/Science Fact (Astounding), which the masthead states has published continually since 1930. Subscriptions are $19.50 a year for 13 issues. Write P.O. Box 1936, Marion, Ohio 43306, or call (614) 383-3141.
Organizations--Want to meet new friends who are interested in war gaming, Doctor Who or Admiral Kirk? Join the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society (LASFS) (founded in 1934), 11513 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood, (818) 760-9234. Rick Young is the registrar. Weekly meetings are Thursdays at 8 p.m. The first three meetings are free; on the fourth, you pay a $5 membership and $1 at every meeting you attend thereafter. Every second Sunday of the month there's a 2 p.m. open house for those interested in gaming and talk. The society also sponsors the annual Loscon, an S-F convention on Thanksgiving weekend at a local hotel.
Computers--If you're a child of the electronic age, you may want hands-on experience with your favorite universe and/or be the captain of your own starship. S-F or fantasy-oriented games, such as Bard's Tale and Wizardry, can be found at any of 23 Egghead Software stores, including 14651 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, (818) 783-6214, and for science-fiction buffs, there's the Kobayashi Alternative (a "Star Trek" situation). At Software, Etc., Topanga Canyon Mall, No. 83, 6600 Topanga Canyon Blvd., Canoga Park, (818) 348-6030, the big sellers are computer games that run in series: the Enchanter's Trilogy, the King's Quest 1-4, Ultima and the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. They also have books at some 20 Southland stores that show you how to create your own computer adventure game.
Role-playing and board games--If you'd rather see your opponent actually keel over from a "poison dart" than register numerical points on a screen, then role playing and board games may interest you. Up to 10 people can play some of these games, but beware: The rules can be as labyrinthine as the plot. Hundreds of games are offered at the Last Grenadier, 8823 Reseda Blvd., Northridge, (818) 886-7116. Dungeons and Dragons, Hawkmoon, Talisman, games based on TV shows and movies are some of the more popular items. The Last Grenadier has a sister store with gaming rooms in Burbank at 335 N. Golden Mall, (818) 843-0951. In Fullerton, there's the Game Castle, 2514 E. Chapman Ave., (714) 871-5800. Among the selections they have are How to Host a Murder and Squad Leader (based on battles in World War II).
Memorabilia--Do you remember the good ol' days when men were Flash Gordon and women were Brenda Starr and a gentleman in a blue-and-red outfit fought for "Truth, Justice and the American Way"? Well, return to yesterday by visiting stores devoted to memorabilia. The Ninth Nebula (the Comic Book Store), 11517 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood, (818) 792-5667, next to the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society and behind the dental office, gets 200 to 300 new comic books a month. The new arrivals come in Thursday nights. The store's most popular collectible comics are from the early '60s and are priced from $8 to $35. Also available are T-shirts, some games and S-F-oriented art books. Closed Sundays and Mondays. There's also the American Comic Book Store, 12206 Ventura Blvd., Studio City, (818) 980-4976. Other branches are at 2670
Florence Ave., Huntington Park, (213) 589-4500, and 3972 Atlantic Ave., Long Beach, (213) 426-0393. Its warehouses store about 5,000 old pulp magazines: "The Shadow," "Weird Tales," "Amazing Stories" from the '30s and '40s, as well as 300 to 400 Big Little Books (comics in small-book form). They have comics from the '30s, but the '60s are the most popular collectibles right now. For the serious collector, there's Barry R. Levin Science Fiction & Fantasy Literature (mail order only: 2265 Westwood Blvd., Suite 669, Los Angeles, Calif. 90064, (213) 474-5611. Levin has produced a catalogue with 87 selections. They vary in price from $100 for a signed presentation copy of Philip Jose Farmer's "The Alley God" to a collection of Robert A. Heinlein first editions and other scarce items for $18,500. Levin deals mostly in first editions, proofs, manuscripts and an occasional piece of original art.
Conventions--Talking about Luke Skywalker or Elfquest is all well and good, but how about donning the costume of your favorite character and attending a three- to five-day convention in a major hotel? Or sitting in the dark with fans and watching "Duck Dodgers in the 24 and 1/2 Century," or getting Robert Silverberg to sign your well-thumbed copy of "Lord Valentine's Castle"? There are S-F, fantasy, horror and media conventions every weekend somewhere in the United States and beyond. Closer to home, there's the annual West Coast Science Fiction Convention on Fourth of July weekend (July 2-6). It's called Westercon 40 and is scheduled at the Oakland Convention Center and Hyatt Regency Hotel in Oakland. For information: Westercon 40, P.O. Box 28427, San Jose, Calif. 95159, (408) 998-0264. Or Lepercon 13 (June 5-7) in Phoenix at the Hyatt Regency. Information: P.O. Box 26665, Tempe, Ariz. 85282, (602) 968-5749. Phoenix will also host the Cactuscon/North American Science Fiction Convention (Sept. 3-6) at the Phoenix Hilton, Civic Plaza Convention Center and Hyatt Regency. Information: Cactuscon, P.O. Box 27201, Tempe, Ariz. 85282, (602) 968-5673.
Fan clubs--And where would science-fiction films, actors, novels and authors be without their fans? Jeff Kirshner, communications chief for the International Brotherhood of Jedi Knights, headquartered in Denver, runs a local chapter of the club (which has other science-fiction interests other than "Star Wars") from 5415 Newcastle Ave., Encino, Calif. 91316, (818) 343-8352. There are about 150 members. The club produces the Jedi Times bimonthly and an annual fan magazine. The $5 annual dues includes monthly meetings and the newsletter. Commander Selek runs Starbase 2 from her home at 270 Robincroft Drive, Pasadena, Calif. 91104, (818) 798-0442. She helps "Star Trek" fans find others with similar interests. Whether it's pen pals, where to buy a phaser, a Leonard Nimoy Fan Club or convention, Commander Selek provides this information without charge by phone or to Trekkies who write and include a self-addressed, stamped envelope. The Official Star Trek Fan Club, P.O. Box 111000, Aurora, Colo. 80011, (303) 341-1813, is licensed by Paramount Studios. Annual dues are $15; there are more than 25,000 members worldwide. Judy Hubbard and Don Archer at P.O. Box 13712, Tucson, Ariz. 85732, run the Steven Spielberg Film Society, which produces a quarterly newsletter for $10 a year. The society gives special attention to Spielberg films scored by John Williams.
Videotapes--Thanks to the Force, there are hundreds of video stores that provide an opportunity to see your favorite films over and over again. At Tower Video, 14621 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, (818) 995-7373, and several other stores in the Southland, there are about 600 titles in the S-F- horror-fantasy genre for rent or purchase. The biggest sales and rentals seem to go to the perennial "Star Trek," with 52 TV episodes and three films available, and the classic "Star Wars" trilogy. Rentals at Tower are $1.99 a day. At the three Videotheque stores (1035 Gayley Ave., Westwood, (213) 824-9922; 330 N. Beverly Drive, Beverly Hills, (213) 858-7600, and 8800 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, (213) 657-8800), some 3,000 S-F and fantasy titles are available.