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Couple Invite Sci-Fi Fans to Phone Their Home

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Fullerton-Based Hot Line Provides News of 4 Counties


Halloween fun-making and masquerading comes but once a year for most people. Not so for science fiction, science fantasy and horror buffs, who have turned their interest in the exotic and the macabre into a year-round series of costume parties and conventions.

To keep this ever-growing group of science fiction aficionados abreast of the latest happenings in Southern California, The Science Fiction Hotline was started last August by William and Jean Hart of Fullerton.

The first such hot line in California, according to science fiction observers, it provides free information on coming science fiction events in Orange, Los Angeles, San Diego and Riverside counties.

Seven days a week, 24 hours a day, the hot line spews out information to callers. By dialing 526-8115, devotees of every form of science fiction can hear William Hart's recorded voice listing current events, coming conventions, personal appearances by authors and personalities, fan club activities, author autograph parties and just about anything else of interest to fans of the genre.

(The hot line is listed with telephone information in Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties. "So if you lose the number," William Hart, 30, said, "just call information and ask for The Science Fiction Hotline.")

"The hot line's a very valuable service because it allows people to find out about these events in plenty of time to make plans to attend them," said Mike Hodel, host of the long-running KPFK (90.7 FM) radio program in Los Angeles that features science fiction and fantasy as well as such related fields as comics, science and fantasy games each Friday night from 10 p.m. to midnight. As host of the 11-year-old program, Hodel keeps his finger on the pulse of the Southland science fiction community.

"Beyond that," Hodel said, "the hot line is a way for people who have been interested in just one aspect of science fiction, such as 'Star Trek,' to broaden their horizons by being exposed for the first time to the other activities listed on the tape."

Indeed, it was this desire to break down the Byzantine barriers existing between many science fiction clubs that was one of the chief factors motivating him to set up the hot line, William Hart said.

As the Harts explained the hot line's operation, they sat in their den, surrounded by some of the 5,000 science fiction novels, 700 hours of videotaped science fiction and horror films, and other science fantasy paraphernalia collected since their interest in science fiction began eight years ago. They jovially allowed that their exotic collection would undoubtedly send shudders down the spines of many of their suburban neighbors.

"William and I are not very mundane," said Jean Hart, a 42-year-old quality control supervisor for a Chino computer disc manufacturer. Nor is the couple afraid to tackle a problem that has baffled science fiction devotees for years: how to find out about all the events going on in the Southland.

"The attitude of a lot of people is that 'Those who need to know will know,' " William Hart said. "But they seem to forget that everybody's life doesn't revolve just around science fiction conventions and clubs. For us, it's a hobby, not a way of life.

"So, until the hot line came along there was really no way to get this information out to a broad cross section of people," William Hart said. "There's a great deal going on in Southern California, but there's little interaction between the clubs except at conventions. "People relied on word of mouth," he said, "which meant that the word never got out beyond a small group of friends. Or they relied on newsletters that often are just geared to one type of science fiction. And even when the newsletters cover a broad range of subjects, they quickly become dated, and distribution is a major problem."

William Hart recalled how, frustrated one day last summer about having missed yet another science fiction event, he blurted out to a group of startled friends, "Somebody ought to do something about this!"

It was while taking a shower later that day to cool off that the idea of setting up a hot line occurred to him, and within weeks it was in operation.

Eclectic Tutee

Among the coming Southland events listed on the hot line for the rest of October and the month of November are such gatherings as the Creation Convention; Pan-Galactic Convention, the Los Angeles Comic Book and Science Fiction Convention--the Five Faces of Superman Fantasy Show and Exhibit, the Valley Comic Convention and Loscon 10, which, in science fiction parlance, means "Los Angeles Convention 10."

In keeping with the Harts' eclectic science fiction tastes, the hot line provides the meeting places and meeting times of clubs of almost every imaginable persuasion. Among the groups listed on the hot line are the Orange County Science Fiction Club, the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society, the Star Trek Assn. of Irvine, the Jedi Knights of Orange County, the West Coast Comic Club, the Society for Creative Anachronism, the South Bay Trekkies, the Science Fiction Club of Cypress College, the C. S. Lewis Society of Southern California and Filkers Anonymous—the latter being folk singers of science fiction and fantasy ballads.

For the more artistically inclined, the hot line lists and gives synopses of plays. Listings have included "After Stardrive" in Santa Monica, "Little Shop of Horrors" in Westwood and "Hunger" in West Los Angeles.

(In his synopsis of "Hunger," William's taped message says: "Nov. 21-Jan. 11. The Westside Repertory Theatre in West Los Angeles will be presenting Ronald Peet's musical comedy-fantasy-parable ... All the characters are animals, and one of them is Harry the Sheep, a bourgeois intellectual-amateur scientist with a knack for philosophical discourse who believes that knowledge is the key to understanding the universe.") Special film listings have included a Lon Chaney Sr. film retrospective at UCLA, the World Animation Festival in Laguna Beach and a special showing from the "Dr. Who and the Daleks" film series in Venice.

Shopper's Guide

The hot line is set up so that its "What's Happening" calendar runs 24 hours a day, except for two periods weekly when the hot line runs its "Whirlwind Shopper's Guide " from 6 a.m. Monday to 6 a.m. Tuesday and from 6 a.m. Wednesday to 6 a.m. Thursday.

The shopper's guide lists the names, cities and phone numbers of nearly 80 stores in Southern California —from Santa Barbara south to San Diego and east to San Bernardino—that cater to science fantasy, science fiction, and horror fans and collectors.

( Those wishing to contribute information may send it to The Science Fiction Hotline, P.O. Box 395.5, Fullerton, Ca. 92634.)

William Hart keeps the hot line current by stopping by the post office every Monday—shortly after he gets off at 3:30 p.m. from his job of making photography equipment—to pick up notices of upcoming events that have been mailed in.

He then spends four to eight hours culling through the plethora of flyers, conference materials, brochures and newspapers, distilling the most salient information, because the particulars on any one event must be crammed onto a 3-by-5 index card. His home computer makes the task a bit less onerous than it would otherwise be, he said.

(People occasionally leave messages asking that he slow down so they can take down the material easier. "But I've got to cover a lot of ground," William Hart

said. "I tell them they can record the hot line.")

With Jean Hart serving as recording engineer, he reads the cards in staccato fashion with space fantasy music playing in the background.

Even then, the tape runs to 15 minutes. For the convenience of regular hot-line users, William Hart puts the new information for the week at the beginning of the tape so they don't have to listen to the entire 15 minutes.

"I change the tone of my voice to let people know that I am moving from the new listings to the old listings," he said..

In fact, the hot line could not operate effectively if all callers listened all the way to the end since only one person can use it at a time.

"But if things start to get too busy, we'll put in another ( telephone ) line," William Hart said.

It's difficult to calculate how many calls are put in daily to the hot line since the Harts are at work during the day. But William Hart said calls are made to the hot line almost non-stop from about 5 p.m. through midnight.

So far it has cost the Harts $500 to set up the hot line -including such purchases as a $350 tape recorder and an $11 monthly charge for a new telephone line. They have no idea how much time they have put into the project.

"But all the time and energy we've put into it has been well worth the effort," William Hart said, "because for us it's really been fun."

Jean Hart, a smile creeping across her face, added, "Besides, we get all this great information before anyone else does."


Caption: William and Jean Hart sit beside home computer they use to keep track of science fiction events

Caption: William Hart sits amid his home library collection of 5,000 science fiction books and magazines.

Disclaimer: These citations are created on-the-fly using primitive parsing techniques. You should double-check all citations. Send feedback to whovian@cuttingsarchive.org

  • APA 6th ed.: Brown, Doug (1983-10-24). Couple Invite Sci-Fi Fans to Phone Their Home. Los Angeles Times p. Part V, p. 1.
  • MLA 7th ed.: Brown, Doug. "Couple Invite Sci-Fi Fans to Phone Their Home." Los Angeles Times [add city] 1983-10-24, Part V, p. 1. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: Brown, Doug. "Couple Invite Sci-Fi Fans to Phone Their Home." Los Angeles Times, edition, sec., 1983-10-24
  • Turabian: Brown, Doug. "Couple Invite Sci-Fi Fans to Phone Their Home." Los Angeles Times, 1983-10-24, section, Part V, p. 1 edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=Couple Invite Sci-Fi Fans to Phone Their Home | url=http://cuttingsarchive.org/index.php/Couple_Invite_Sci-Fi_Fans_to_Phone_Their_Home | work=Los Angeles Times | pages=Part V, p. 1 | date=1983-10-24 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=26 February 2020 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=Couple Invite Sci-Fi Fans to Phone Their Home | url=http://cuttingsarchive.org/index.php/Couple_Invite_Sci-Fi_Fans_to_Phone_Their_Home | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=26 February 2020}}</ref>