Annual Report of David Lenander for 1996
Member of The Council of Stewards
Publicity liaison & Secretary for Discussion & Special Interest Groups
My job is to promote the establishment of Discussion & Special Interest Groups for Members of the Society, to publicize their existence to Society members, and to maintain some kind of contact with the groups that exist. In the past year I’ve undertaken some initiatives that have been more productive than any previous endeavors in these regards, perhaps since Glen GoodKnight started groups in the late sixties. We’ve tended to have about a dozen groups active around the country for a number of years. When a new groups starts, it seems, an old one is likely to wither away. But the new WorldWideWeb pages on the Internet have brought us some new attention and members, and maybe most importantly, new prospects and hope for finding those potential members of groups scattered about the country.
For many years we could let Society members know about groups in their areas, or give organizers the Society Directory to help them in finding groups. I’ve sometimes been able to give a few extra names to organizers of non-member fans that I know if in their areas, who might be interested in regular discussion, or of other Inklings and/or fantasy interested groups which are not chartered by the Society but which meet in their localities, but it’s very hard to help locate the “unchurched.” That is, the Inklings or fantasy fans who might be interested in regular discussions, but who either haven’t heard of The Mythopoeic Society, or haven’t yet seen the light in terms of joining. To be truthful, in most Discussion Groups the majority of active participants do NOT belong to the Society, though often the healthiest and most active groups end up, in effect, recruiting for us. Or evangelizing for us, to continue the metaphor of “unchurched” and “seeing the light.” For many years we could list potential groups in Mythprint, but unless new subscriptions came in from one’s area, this was not a lot of help, because the newsletter only went to the already “converted.” With the new Web-page activity calendar, we’re suddenly available to people who never before suspected our existence. And we’re getting responses from some of these people!
There are also many discussion groups by electronic mail, and this has proven to be yet another avenue for publicizing the Society, in electonic discussions like that carried on by the International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts, or in Coinherence, the online discussion group devoted to Charles Williams, or in Mere Lewis, the “listserv” devoted to C.S. Lewis. There are also similar groups devoted to Tolkien and to Tolkienien linguistics. And there are other web-pages devoted to George MacD/donald, and to Owen Barfield.
Meanwhile, whenever Mythcon visits a new city we are able to connect with a few people who’d not previously heard of us, including those who haven’t yet joined the computer age. This year we were in Boulder, CO for the first time. There were nibbles of interest in local discussion from Boulder/Denver, from Boston and from Ohio. We’re looking forward to the next couple of years in southern California and Chicago, especially the opportunities attendant on our planned celebrations of the centenaries of C.S. Lewis and Owen Barfield.
In the area of publicizing the Society, Publicist Jan Coulter is undertaking some new mailings about the Society to bookstores and other organizations. Whenever new people learn of our existence, there is a chance for new Discussion Group members, as well. Similarly, when a local group like Knossos, in Washington, D.C., or Samath Naur, in Hawaii, become very active and undertake new things, there is a chance for synergy in furthering our common interests in mythopoeic fantasy, discussion, and fellowship. Likewise, when some of our groups publish their own issues of ‘zines, like Vinyar Tengwar, or the North Carolina Tolkien Society’s Eldarin Times, we find that our interests are extended, as well. I am pursuing extending this synergy to such non-affiliated groups with common interests as Beyond Bree, the IAFA and the New England Tolkien Society.
Personally, I feel somewhat revitalized by this incipient success. After years of plodding along, I have more contacts than I can keep up with, and yet I find myself re-contacting the old stalwart groups to learn that, yes, they’re still going strong. I’m excited by the new prospects. I’m even following up on old ideas that never quite seemed worth the effort. And I’m finally working more on Mythprint, like I always meant to.
In short, there’s never been a better time to start a discussion group in your area, or join an existing one. Check out the pages of the Activity Calendar, if there isn’t a group in your area, drop me a line about starting one. If that just isn’t feasible, consider joining an online group, if you have the connections and computer, or one of our APAs (correspondence groups–we have them devoted to both general fantasy books and to children’s fantasy books, you could start a new apa, too!), or the Tolkienien Linguistics group, the Elvish Linguistic Fellowship, which has both meetings on either coast and also bi-monthly newsletters with lively letters columns.