What Happens at a General Meeting?

The General Meeting of the Science Fiction Association is held during the evening of the second Saturday of the month.  We will start with an explanation of what to expect at a typical General Meeting (seven months of the year) and then give a brief note about the meetings which differ from the typical meeting.

Most General Meetings are held at the Bergen Highlands United Methodist Church in Upper Saddle River, New Jersey, but some are held at other venues, so you should always double check the Directions to make sure you are going to the right place.

6:00 - 6:15 PM:  Set Up

The doors open at 6:00 PM and anyone foolish enough to get there early helps me unload the car and get the place set up for the meeting.  We set  up the hot water urn for tea in the kitchen, set out the desserts, and arrange seating and tables as needed.  The sign in table is organized.  A freebie table is set up if needed.  If we are having a slide show or similar presentation, the AV equipment and screen are set up.

6:15 PM:  Writers' Space Salon (New in January 2016)

The Writers' Space Salon provides an opportunity for the genre authors in the Association to network, socialize and exchange information.  Most sessions will be informal affairs.  Others may be dedicated to discussions of particular aspects of the business and craft of writing.  Mini-critique sessions, live readings and shut-up-and-write sessions are also planned.

6:30 PM:  Ice Nine Discussion of Currently Cool SF and more.

Barry holds court in a circle of chairs.  People drift in on this discussion over the next 1-1/2 hours.  There's no telling where this discussion may go.  Barry is a big movie buff, so the discussion often focuses on genre movies, but individual gatherings have also focused on books, television shows, and comics.  Usually the discussion wanders from one media to another.

8:00 PM:  Start of General Meeting.  We hope.

Getting science fiction fans organized is like herding cats, but some time not too far past 8:00 PM, we actually get started.

First on the agenda is welcoming new people, pointing out where to find the snacks and the bathrooms, and other mundane matters.

Next Phil gives a quick run down of upcoming meetings and other club events and business.

After that, members of the audience make their own announcements about conventions, movies, or other events which would interest the group.

The evening's guest speaker is then introduced.  Phil corrects any mistakes he made in the newsletter and makes new ones.

Our speaker then comes to the front of the room to a vigorous applause.  We've never been quite sure if this is cheering the guest or celebrating that Phil is done talking.

There are a number of ways things can proceed from here, especially if there is a video or slide show, but generally speaking, our guest starts talking about their work and people start asking questions.

Somewhere between an hour and an hour and a half, we take a break to allow people to stretch their legs, grab some refreshments, and talk to each other or to the guest less formally.  Early Sunday risers and people coming from a long distance tend to slip out at this point.

The break lasts 15 - 20 minutes.  Then we resume with the program.

The meeting usually officially concludes sometime between 10:30 and 11:00 PM.  Some people go home, but others are just getting started talking to the guest and each other.  (Science fiction fans fall into two categories, those afraid to speak and those who won't shut up.)  Clean up -- which takes a lot longer than set up -- begins.

At a certain point the clean up has been completed.  Some of the group go home.  The rest go to a nearby diner for food and more conversation.  It's actually at the diner that some people actually get to know each other.

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Exceptions:

1.     The summer (June, July and August) General Meetings are held at bookstores in the area.  The Ice Nine discussion starts at 7:00 PM.  No videos are shown at these meetings.  Set up and clean up are minimal.

2.     Our December meeting is a Holiday Party / Pot Luck Dinner.  People bring and share food.  Those that don't bring food bring cash.  This meeting does not usually feature a speaker.  Pre dinner and post dinner videos are usually on hand.  This is another case of being too stuffed to go to a diner afterwards.

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