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VALLEY WEEKEND | FOR THE KIDS

Love of Sci-Fi Is Not Alien to Local Clubs

For kids who can't get enough of space creatures, the Science Fantasy Society offers events, a library and a free reading list.

November 21, 1996|RICHARD KAHLENBERG | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

This month, apparently, the Earth is again being attacked by space aliens. At least children think so, and they even seem to be learning from it.

And though there is nothing new in all of this, the attacks do seem to be happening with increasing frequency. Last week, Michael Jordan and even Bugs Bunny got in a jam with space aliens. And next month, according to reliable sources, we will be witnessing a Martian attack on Jack Nicholson and Glenn Close.

None of this is actually happening, but kids don't really care about such distinctions, so they are eating up stories of alien attacks, the most visible of which are cooked up locally.

The San Fernando Valley is the acknowledged capital of such goings on--the latest examples being the activities at Warner Studios in Burbank where Michael, Bugs and Jack filmed their recent sci-fi movies ("Space Jam" and "Mars Attacks!"). And Sun Valley is the production site of "Babylon 5," a TV show, which Newsweek this month reported "has begun overtaking 'Star Trek' in the hearts and minds of space adventure devotees."

The Valley is also home to the nation's oldest and largest science fiction fan club, the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society Inc. Many of its members work in the Valley's booming media industry or are locally-based authors in the sci-fi field.

Their permanent headquarters on Burbank Boulevard in North Hollywood houses the largest privately held library of sci-fi books. And for 23 years they have been holding an annual sci-fi fan convention in the Valley, where thousands of fans, young and old, gather to meet the men and women who write and film these fantasies about alien invasions. This year's gathering starts Nov. 29 at the Burbank Airport Hilton.

The librarians at the society, Michael Mason and Joyce Sperling, have combed their superb collection to prepare a publication with the quaint title "Recommended Reading List For Mature Children and Young Adults," which is available free. It's a guide to use at their library, a public library or for shopping at bookstores that have a big sci-fi selection.

Kids who enjoy sci-fi movie and TV shows tend also to be readers, according to Mason and Sperling. This is probably not news to the parents of any young sci-fi fans. But it may be a comfort for them to know that, according to Mason and Sperling, their children are later apt to perform better in school classes devoted to real science.

Bob Null, a vice president of the Society, drew the connection between scientific fact and fiction by pointing out that the writers of "Babylon 5" avoid scripts that have "no basis in scientific fact. "We [the Society] are big boosters of the show," he says.

So is NASA, by the way, which invited the show's star, Bruce Boxleitner, to be a VIP guest at the most recent space shuttle launch. "Everything they've done in that program is doable, and we'd like to be doing it," said a NASA spokesperson.

Kids' appetite for sci-fi also seems to fuel their interest in computer science, according to Jim Lockett, who presides over the official "Babylon 5" fan club, which operates out of North Hollywood, a notion echoed by the librarians at the Science Fantasy Society. Not so long ago, they said, sci-fi fans had rather limited avenues for expressing themselves. Nowadays, kids can jump on a laptop and explore their world and worlds beyond, which itself would have seemed like science fiction not that long ago.

DETAILS

* FYI: Kids are welcome to join the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society Inc., 11513 Burbank Blvd. (818) 760-9234. Its library has a splendid section of titles for younger readers. Meetings are Thursdays from around 7 to 10 p.m. Membership is $5 for life but it costs $35 to attend their big annual convention beginning Nov. 29 at the Burbank Airport Hilton. However, free access is offered to displays of sci-fi literature and wares, including the society's excellent "Recommended Reading List for Mature Children and Young Adults," which is also available by calling the club.

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