I’ve previously mentioned in passing that I am a member of a sci-fi group. It’s called the League of the Non-Aligned, or LOTNA for short. The name comes from Babylon 5, hence the picture, which gives it bonus points in my book. This past weekend the group has been celebrating it’s twentieth birthday, and I wanted to share what the group means to me.
I moved back to London just over four years ago, and for the first few months back, I found it difficult to reintegrate. I assumed that I fit straight back into my old life, but I soon realised things had moved on whilst I was away and things didn’t feel quite right. I ended up becoming a social hermit, spending my time on my own at home. My friends did try and get me to go out, but I just didn’t really care.
This lasted about six months, until I hit my personal nadir when I took my normal summer two weeks off work and ended up doing nothing. I mean nothing. I only left my flat to go food shopping during that fortnight. Otherwise, I was staring at my TV not having a clue what was happening in the world around me.
It wasn’t until I came back to work that I realised that it was wrong. You know what happens, when someone comes back from a break and you ask what they did. My reply was that it was a good opportunity to catch up with myself. Of course that means that I didn’t do anything. Thinking about it, I thought to myself that I needed to change.
Things still felt awkward when going out with friends, so I decided that I wanted to do something new. A colleague asked if I had ever tried meetup, and I did, finding something called The London Sci-Fi and Fantasy group. I RSVP’d to a meeting and I dragged myself there.
I’ve always been interested in Sci-Fi and Fantasy so at least I would have something to talk about, and it was really easy for me to get to. Another bonus point. I wasn’t sure what to expect, would I have to demonstrate a Vulcan death grip to get in? Would there be people in costume? Was there a quick escape route if things got too much? Would I spend an evening in a real live flame war?
The reality was just a bunch of people sitting around having a chat, there being some announcements, and then having a quiz. People were welcoming, friendly, and enthusiastic about the geeky stuff that they loved. It was a positive environment, which is so different from what you experience online. I felt at home.
But wait a second. I hear you cry. You’re talking about the London Sci-Fi and Fantasy group not LOTNA. They are one and the same thing, with the London name being something that is easier to advertise as. To paraphrase the first season intro to Babylon 5. LOTNA is a home away from for diplomats, hustlers and wanderers. Or more accurately, it’s a home for those that like being a geek.
I don’t really think of LOTNA as a group, but more on a inlife community (rather than an online one). If there is something in the geeky wheelhouse of the group going on, then you can normally find a meetup going. Cinema trips are organised, and away teams are sent to most conventions. There’s the LARPing aspect of the group, as well as monthly boardgames afternoon.
And that leads me to the main reason why I feel that I am part of the community. There are no expectations within the group. You can float in and out as much as you want, and everyone is chill with things. I think that communities are only as good as the people in them, and I’ve found myself a really great bunch of people. They are literally my friends, acquaintances, and people I meet in the pub.
The other good thing is that there isn’t a membership fee, and the only qualification to joining is arriving at your second meeting (You go once to check the group out, the second time you really should have known better). You don’t even have to be any good at quizzes. Unlike me, who can get a little frustrated because I’m a wee bit competitive.
Groups like LOTNA aren’t for everyone, but it’s something that I’m glad to be involved in.