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Enigma: Through the generations

By Daily Bruin Staff

February 19, 1997 9:00 pm

Thursday, February 20, 1997

UCLA’s science fiction, fantasy and gaming club celebrates over
10 years of membershipBy Toni Dimayuga

Daily Bruin Contributor

Some UCLA students who are science fiction fans have more to
celebrate this weekend than the return of "The Empire Strikes Back"
on the big screen.

The members of Enigma, the science fiction, fantasy and gaming
club, will be celebrating their 10th anniversary this Saturday. But
according to club founder Robert Hurt, the party is actually a year
too late.

"It’s the 10th anniversary I’ve been trying to hold for a year,"
Hurt said, chuckling.

Hurt, a National Research Council fellow at the Jet Propulsion
Laboratory, explained that when he entered UCLA as a physics
student in the fall of 1985, he expected the campus to have a
science fiction club but found out that there had not been one for
some time.

He decided to create his own club because he realized that
students’ busy schedules ­ going to class and working ­
made it difficult to make friends.

"I found (UCLA) was a difficult place to meet people out of
classes," he said.

Hurt encountered little trouble recruiting people for his
fledgling club. By coincidence, Ackerman Union was playing the
"Star Wars" trilogy that fall, and the club’s first meeting was
announced there. He added how it was fitting that the "Star Wars"
Special Edition emerged the same year as their anniversary.

In fact, the trilogy’s re-release has caused quite a stir among
Enigma members.

"They’re very excited about that. One of the past presidents
managed to weasel his way into the premiere of ‘Star Wars,’" said
Rebecca Strong, a fifth-year history graduate student and the
club’s current president.

The club started with about a dozen members, Hurt recalled.
Today active membership consists of about 20 to 30 people, mostly
undergraduate and graduate students, with approximately 100 to 150
members nationwide.

Strong emphasized the unfairness of people’s perceptions of the
typical science fiction fan, an image formed from television and
the movies.

"You think of somebody who stays indoors a lot, doesn’t exercise
and is very fanatical about Star Wars … that doesn’t describe my
friends," she said.

Being in Enigma has proven to be a positive experience, Hurt
said. A number of members themselves now have jobs related to
science fiction, such as writing science fiction articles or
working in the special effects industry.

Enigma members meet every Monday night in Ackerman Union, with
activities consisting of running role-playing games and screening
science fiction films such as the cult classic "Buckaroo Banzai,"
Strong said.

She explained that role playing games come in two different
categories ­ regular and live. The regular version is passive,
similar to the old Dungeons and Dragons game, with players sitting
around taking turns by a roll of the dice. In the live version,
players get into the game by actually dressing up as their
designated characters.

In addition, members have also created their own short films.
Strong said that their film this year, titled "Children of the
Light," is a reverse vampire story in which a human being is a
threat to a group of vampires.

Other activities have included sponsoring murder mystery dinner
parties, excursions to see movies on opening nights, and science
fiction conventions, Hurt said. They even visited the sets of Star
Trek: The Next Generation.

Besides activities, Enigma meetings have hosted guest speakers
ranging from science fiction and fantasy novelists such as David
Brin and Tim Powers to television writers and producers like
Babylon 5 producer Joe Straczynski.

Current Enigma members such as Raymond Lavoie explained that the
"thing about Enigma that’s really great is that it’s a very open
and social group where people can explore their mutual interest in
science fiction and fantasy."

Lavoie, a senior graduate student in medieval history, said that
he was introduced to Enigma during his first year of graduate
school by a friend, who is currently still in the club.

He also noticed that many of its members manage to maintain
contact even after they have graduated and moved away.

As for Hurt, he is glad that his 11-year-old creation is still
going strong.

"As a founder of the club, I’ve always had a certain pride
(that) it’s been such an active club," he said. "It continues to
bring people together."

Enigma’s website can be found at

"… it’s a very open and social group…"

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