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You gotta have souls!

With an annual pilgrimage to the outer reaches of… Castle Mount, the Sci-Fi Society is nothing if not adventurous.

- 3 minute read
Student in scarf

Good news for everyone except the Lizard Men of Antares IV. The Constitution of the Cambridge University Sci-Fi Society (CUSFS, pronounced, naturally, Cussfuss) holds that all live sentient beings – except the Lizard Men of Antares IV – are eligible to join.

It’s certainly true that members thoroughly enjoy silliness – highly appropriate, surely, for a university that boasts Douglas Adams (St John’s 1971) among its alumni. But they also hold a deep respect and love for science fiction and fantasy – its richness, its roots, its history, its ability to bring people of all walks of life together, and its often-political intent.

“It’s really important to us that we are not politically neutral, as many of the other literature societies choose to be,” says Chairbeing Sam Hutton (Selwyn, Second Year). “Science fiction has always had a political bent to it, and if we were to be neutral, it would stifle any discussion we could have about it.”

Student in scarf

Those discussions take place as part of the society’s “two and half” regular events, including the regular Monday night get-together in a St John’s supervision room to discuss a specific aspect of science fiction and fantasy. All sci-fi is up for discussion, from TV, film and books to board and video games, with debates ranging from the ridiculous to the timely. Saturday night is film night: in the Easter term, tradition dictates that these films should be dreadful. Every two weeks, everyone just goes to the pub.

Hutton is keen to highlight that, despite the official name, this is actually the science fiction and fantasy society. At some point in 1974, a radical element in CUSFS split off to form fantasy society Jómsborg the New. At some point after 1974, everyone involved realised that they were still basically the same society and got back together, except people still liked various aspects of Jómsborg the New, such as mead-drinking, and having a separate Jómscommittee headed by a Reeve. “So, our official name is CUSFS and Jómsborg the New. But that’s not very snappy,” says Hutton.

Student in scarf

January sees the annual pilgrimage up to Castle Mount for the Afmaelisdagr ceremony, the origins of which are probably still on the website somewhere, but nobody is quite sure where. “We banish the sun and go to someone’s rooms nearby to play board games all night,” explains Hutton. “Then we go back up at sunrise and the Reeve gets to choose the shape of the sun for the coming year.” (Last year’s shape was a teapot. Again. This year, it is the face of a baby named Beatrice.) And the Veizla is the annual dinner of Jómsborg the New. It marks the inauguration of a new Reeve, who must be carried halfway to the nearest body of water, wrapped in Souls, the Society’s trademark bright orange scarves.

“I sometimes think that special-interest societies get relegated to a sort of second-tier, after sports and the very CV-friendly societies,” says Hutton. “But CUSFS could only ever exist in Cambridge. It’s completely bizarre and brilliant. At one point we were the largest society in Cambridge, and we are really starting to grow again. It’s open and it’s fun, and it’s so fantastic to see more and more people discovering us.” Apart from – of course – the Lizard Men of Antares IV.

From top: Lauren Mason, Selwyn, Second Year Natural Sciences; Sam Hutton, Selwyn, Second Year Natural Sciences; Sol Dubock, Caius, Second Year Computer Science.

Find out more about CUSFS.

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