George Phillies is a science fiction author, science fiction fan and editor of the National Fantasy Fan Federation, also known as N3F. I have contributed several science fiction, fantasy and horror author interviews to the publication. And I had the opportunity to sit down with George Phillies to discuss his work.


Tamara Wilhite: The National Fantasy Fan Federation or N3F has been around for eighty years or so. How long have you been involved in the organization?

George Phillies:  Let me start at the very beginning. I first had direct contact with science fiction on television when we visited my grandparents in Ellwood City, Pennsylvania. I was 4 or 5 years old at the time. This was one of the few communities in the United States which received the Dumont Network, so very early on I saw Captain Video. In 1954, I was seven years old at the time, and my parents and grandparents agreed that I was reading enough that they would be agreeable to having a television in the house. This happened just in time for me to see the syndicated version of Captain Z-Ro and later on Commando Cody and Rocky Jones, Space Ranger. Television science fiction was miserable; if you were lucky, you could find one television science fiction show. I do recall Science Fiction Theater and Superman.

After a somewhat slow start I started to read. My mother insists I learned how to read on Roscoe’s Destroyer Actions in World War II, but I as much remember the Tom Swift, Junior books. I also had an interest in flying saucers which waned after nineteen sixty or so. I finished high school year early, in nineteen sixty-four, and went off to MIT, where I joined the MIT Science Fiction Society, which even then had the world’s largest Science Fiction library. It is now vastly larger. At some point around nineteen sixty-eight or so I spent three years as president and librarian of the society, contributing a great deal of time to getting our collection of old pulp science fiction magazines bound. I also read more or less all of Astounding/Analog and Amazing from their earliest days and most of the books in the library.

In 1975 I went off to UCLA as a post-doc, followed by seven years at the University of Michigan as an assistant professor in chemistry. There was a Michigan science fiction club of sorts, though they did not have a library. I had for much of this time been a member of NESFA, through which at best guess I heard about the N3F.  I started writing short stories for NESFA science fiction writing contests, and started sending my entries also to the N3F. I am not sure I was consistent about renewing my membership. I was extremely busy with my professional activities and with my other hobby, collecting board wargames. At some point around 2000 or a bit later I was elected to the N3F Directorate, meaning I suspect that I had the only write-in vote and there was a vacancy, but I was not very effective, even when I was elected as Chairman of the Directorate.

I then faded from sight, returning in 2012-2014 as a member of the Directorate and Chairman. I was actually a slightly active chair, perhaps not the best. At the start of 2015, I became President of the N3F. At the same time, long time activist David Speakman had become busy with other things and had no complaint when I took over editing and publishing The National Fantasy Fan, the world’s oldest continuously-published science fiction fan magazine. We were founded in 1941, as Bonfire, and have come out more or less regularly ever since. World War II provided particularly effective disruptions.

I have since made vigorous effort to make the N3F a more vigorous and active fan organization. In doing this I have had the great good fortune that the N3F has a good number of members who are willing to do some work for the club. The Birthday Card Bureau sends out cards every month. The Writers Exchange Bureau receives and comments on manuscripts. Some bureaus have gradually faded. At one time we had a Bureau in which fen read aloud from paperback or hardback books and circulated the 8 inch reel magnetic tape recordings to fen who were blind. We had a Round-Robin Bureau in which members sent each letters discussing some topic, the letters going in a circle, but that activity has been more and more difficult to sustain.

We have new Book Review and Pro Bureaus that review published works and that circulate articles on how to be better writers. We have Internet outreach pages and groups on Facebook and MeWe. Of course, members come and go. Some fine fen have indicated that advancing years have told them that it was time to stop their vigorous fannish activities. Others have become involved in politics.

The National Fantasy Fan, under my leadership, was and is published monthly. Our second oldest magazine, our APA N’APA, had sunk to being an email exchange between two or three people. I started publishing it and got it back onto a regular bimonthly schedule. The number of contributors has now climbed markedly so that one recent issue was well over a hundred pages.

Tightbeam began as a letter zine. It was the successor, so far as I can make out, to the oft-forgotten zine Postwarp, also titled Warp, which published through the 1950s. I recently acquired, thanks to the wonderful people at FANAC.Org, a partial set of issues, which I have put up on our webpages. A somewhat amusing note was the 1905 N3F apparently-member who managed to get his fanzine banned from the mails, even though it did not violate so far as I can tell the contemporary rules on uncladness or descriptions of fornication. Thanks to Bob Jennings, Tightbeam moved to near-monthly publication, where it has remained ever since.

Simply by encouraging other people to do things, we have moved from three fanzines to approximately nine. It appears that Films Fantastic is on hiatus because of challenges currently faced by the editor, but we recently picked up a convention listing newsletter thanks to the hard work of Mindy Hunt and her husband Jason P Hunt.

Mangaverse had been active years and years ago; it is now been picked up twice, first by Jessi Silver and now by Patrick Ijima-Washburn.  Very long time member Jon Thiel had published Ionisphere some decades ago and has now come back and publishes both that zine and also Origin.

My most recent effort is another N3F zine, The N3F Review of Books Incorporating Prose Bono. The objective is to publish a reasonable review of every new novel. We are not currently close to there, though we do cover several dozen books every month. We would need a considerable number of additional reviewers in order to make The N3F Review the magazine I want it to be.


Tamara Wilhite: And how long have you been in charge of it?

George Phillies:  I took office as president in2015. “In charge of” is perhaps a misnomer, because it is far easier to herd cats than to tell fen what to do. I have tried to encourage people to stay on an even keel, rather than engaging in that most holy of all fannish activities, the fan feud. Books have been about fan feuds during the last century. For the most part, we have recently avoided those, though with the increasing level of unreality pervading modern American politics we have occasionally had events in which someone got upset about something. After all, this is America in 2021, and, no matter what you say, someone will be grossly offended. Recent events have focused on non-members deciding that they should tell us what to do, based on their particular political predilections.

My general policy has been to avoid politics, and to diminish contact with people who get upset about political issues where we are not agreeing with them, because the alternative, pursuing fan feuds, simply gets people upset.


Tamara Wilhite: Can you tell us more about N3F in general?

George Phillies:  The N3F is the world’s oldest non-local science fiction fan club. We were founded in nineteen forty-one by the likes of Damon Knight, EE Smith, Ray Bradbury, and sixty-three other noble fen. There are a few local groups that are older than we are. We have now climbed to having just under two hundred sixty members of all sorts. We publish ten fanzines (one on hiatus) sent to all members with email addresses  and have more than three dozen offices and Bureau heads filled by someone doing some sort of fannish work. We are presently contemplating running our first convention. NefferCon would be all-electronic, run on a social media group just as ConCellation is run on a social media group.

I would have to concede that in the last year or eighteen months we have somewhat plateaued in activity, but perhaps we are resting and gathering our strength for the next great expansion.


Tamara Wilhite: You’re also a science fiction author. I’ve reviewed your book “Mistress of the Waves” for Liberty Island Magazine. Is there a sequel in the works?

George Phillies:  I am indeed writing Sequels for number of my novels. Mistress of the Waves has the feature that it actually comes to a natural end in the sense that the heroine has figured out how to achieve her objective and it is now merely a matter of doing it. Amanda Kirasdotr starts the book is an orphan, an early teenager, with the fishing dinghy. She is in a world where technology is frozen at a level before electricity on a world that has very little metal. The people who established her world, the planet Goddard, were somewhat like the people who created David Weber’s Safehold series, except they had more time to think about what they were doing so their methods for freezing technology were much cleverer. A variety of plant pharmaceutical products ensure that residents of Goddard rarely become sick, always become well, and live to a happy old age in good health. All knowledge, after all, on Goddard is contained in the hundred thousand books.

The books have designs for everything. Because the designs, for example for sailing ships, were optimized with a great deal of computer analysis, they are much better than anything that anyone will build by themselves, so efforts to do technological innovation hit the serious problem that the innovative products are inferior to things around them. Lurking behind all this is The Brotherhood of the Bell, whose objective it is to make sure that off world technology and ideas do not circulate. Amanda rescues a starfarer from drowning, and ends up deciding that she secretly wants her own spaceship, which will be very difficult to do with Goddard technology in which the hottest ship has three masts and a full set of sails.  Amanda moves from being an orphan with a very small boat to being an extremely wealthy ship-owner and nascent industrialist.

She does rescue a trio of off-worlders, but they are not the usual archetypes. One of them is a newspaperman. The second is a would-be Marxist revolutionary student, except he’s never heard of Marx and has totally different ideas. The third is a university professor. Is he an engineer? No he is a Professor of the History of Literary Criticism. He doesn’t do literary criticism himself; he writes about the history of quantum retrodictive deconstructionalism, an important literary school of past millennia.  None of these guys have a clue how to make, for example, gunpowder. However, the newspaperman brings the radical idea that you can publish your own books, and if you work hard you can publish a newspaper, an object unknown on Goddard. The student teaches indirection. The professor finally leads Amanda to the realization that she could found her own University and figure out from scratch how to build spaceships. Thanks to the alien she rescued, she’s actually immortal and can pull this off, but she has no special knowledge or advantage. The novel than actually comes to a reasonable conclusion.

My other novels are much more open to sequels, if I ever get around to writing them. This weekend I almost finished Stand Against The Light, the third novel in my Eclipse-The Girl Who Saved the World series. I also this weekend need to do an issue of The N3f Review Of Books.  Of my other novels, Minutegirls is a space opera in whose sequel I could readily cover what would pass for American mobilization, space battles with aliens, efforts to advance in the right direction in difficult circumstances, and the like. Minutegirls, after all, offers space battles, politics, hand-to-hand combat, and hot babes with guns. What could possibly go wrong?

The One World features the Three Musketeers, so to speak, invading what they view as the kingdom of the Amazons, meaning they have matchlocks and the other people have bows, arrows, and people who have actually thought about military strategy. Their first invasion is been smashed but there could be more in the future.

Against Three Lands has part of a sequel written. The hero lives in the Hundred Isles, a place that is not exactly Japan of 1600, with neighbors who are being invaded more or less successfully by people who are not exactly Europeans, but sort of resemble them. The hero could be recognized as a daimyo, who on one hand needs to greatly strengthen his position, and on the other hand does not want to incur the suspicion of the Emperor or the All-Conquering Generalissimo. He’ll make some progress at this in the next book if I ever finish writing it.

Eclipse is now a series of three novels, with two more in some form partially completed. I also have several other novels in partial form. I could spend a lot of time writing, if I weren’t so lazy. I also have the issue that I have become president of  AHIKS, the world’s oldest and largest play-by-mail board wargaming club(that means hex-and-counter board wargames), which had gone through a prolonged period of somnolence. It hadn’t gone downhill, but it wasn’t going uphill either. I have been vigorous in trying to move it to a newer and higher plane, and truthfully have been somewhat successful.  Membership is increased by perhaps 1/3 since I became president last November, there are a lot more club activities, and there are new, active club officers. However, I did have to redo its webpages, which were several decades out of date, and at the same time had to redo the much larger and more complicated N3F webpages, because the former Webmaster had asked us to move them off his server.


Tamara Wilhite: You’re a retired physics professor. But what led you to write your own physics textbook, Physics One: The Alpha Edition?

George Phillies:  The current state of teaching freshman physics in the United States should be recognized as a crime against civilization. Physics One is based on two equations. One equation is Newton’s Second Law.  The other equation is  PHYSICS MINUS CALCULUS  EQUALS NONSENSE.

The teaching of freshman physics has had inflicted on it people with the crazy notion that there are such things as concepts, and if you teach the concepts the students are getting what they need, even though they are unable to do calculations or solve difficult problems. This difficult situation is likely to get much worse as the crazy political people are now dismantling the teaching of advanced mathematics like trigonometry in high school. Physics One is based on the use of calculus, and problems that you can only solve with calculus. It assumes that a student starts out by being able to take simple standard derivatives and integrals, so that calculus and vectors are integral to the entire course.

Actually, vectors are another issue of some importance in physics. I suffered through many years in which certain colleagues, now deceased, maintained that space was two-dimensional, so that you could specify a vector by specifying its magnitude – which they referred to as the length of the vector – and one angle. No. Space is three-dimensional, and to specify a vector, you somehow need to specify three components, not two. Physics One starts from the beginning by treating vectors as three-dimensional.

The final atrocity in physics teaching is the use of purely numerical problems, in which the student asks “which equation should I plug these numbers into” so the student idea of problem-solving is plugging numbers into equations whose meanings are not entirely clear. I did give some numerical problems. They included numbers that had nothing to do with solving the problem, leading a certain class of students unable to solve the problem because they couldn’t imagine a problem in which they were given numbers that they did not need, no more and no less.  Physics One is based on analytic  problems, in which the student is supplied with algebraic quantities indicated by letters and must perform an algebraic calculations in order to reach a solution.

That’s what a legitimate freshman physics courses are about.

Oh, yes, Physics One has one other important feature.  It costs $19.99. One of the competing textbooks cost, at one date last year, literally twenty times as much. Said differently, this competing textbook cost twice as much, albeit in depreciated dollars, as my father’s first automobile.


Tamara Wilhite: What else have you written?

George Phillies:  Two dozen books.  170 technical papers, including one in a law journal. A complete list of books is:


This Shining Sea

Nine Gees


The One World

Mistress of the Waves

Eclipse-The Girl Who Saved the World

Airy Castles All Ablaze

Stand Against the Light (coming soon)


Game Design

Contemporary Perspectives in Game Design (with Tom Vasel)

     Modern Perspectives in Game Design (Second Edition; with Tom Vasel)

Design Elements of Contemporary Strategy Games (with Tom Vasel)

    Designing Modern Strategy Games (second edition, with Tom Vasel)

Stalingrad for Beginners

Stalingrad Replayed

Designing Wargames – Introduction



Stand Up for Liberty!

Funding Liberty

Libertarian Renaissance

Surely We Can Do Better?



Elementary Lectures in Statistical Mechanics (Springer Verlag)

Phenomenology of Polymer Solution Dynamics (Cambridge University Press)

Complete Tables for ‘Phenomenology of Polymer Solution Dynamics’ (Third Millennium)

Physics One (Amazon)


Tamara Wilhite: I have heard a rumor that you ran for president on the Libertarian slate in 2008. Is that something you’d like to discuss?

George Phillies: The New Hampshire Libertarian Party had to choose its Presidential candidate very early on, before the National Party did. They chose me. I did what I could.  I also ran for the national party nomination.

It was generally agreed that I had by far the best organized Presidential campaign, but the national convention preferred to run a Republican carpetbagger, Bob Barr, who soon after the election returned to the Republican Party.  Most of the money his campaign raised went to campaign consultants.  In 2012, we ran another Republican carpetbagger, and got a rather similar treatment.  In 2020 a third Republican carpetbagger showed signs of wanting our nomination, but fortunately did not receive it.


Tamara Wilhite: Is there anything you’d like to add?

George Phillies:  I have tried to make science fiction fandom a better place by improving its pre-eminent international organization, the N3F.  I have succeeded to some modest extent thanks to the great support of many other fannish activists.  For more on the N3F,  For more on my writing, And for wargaming,


Tamara Wilhite: Thanks for speaking with me.