Sidney Leonard Birchby was born around 1918 in England. I know nothing about his family or early life beyond that he had a brother named John. Birchby was an avid science fiction fan and in 1937, when not yet 20, he joined the Science Fiction Association, one of the first SF fan groups in the world. It was a difficult time in British history, with World War I still in recent memory, the empire closing, and the planet-wide depression of the 1930s. And so it is little wonder that Birchby saw in science fiction the path to a better future. He would later say,
"As I re-read those early fanzines, the general air is one of humbug. Of course, it was the age of humbug. Down in London where I was living, I was conducting a steady and worthy correspondence with a number of fans and writing pages of the grossest self-deception and pomposity. I was convinced that fandom, or rather science fiction, was going to sweep the world. To me, the Leeds Conference, which I did not attend, was like thunder in the heavens, and the resolutions of those present were edicts to be treated with profound respect.
Even then, you see, there was an Inner Circle to Fandom; the very first in Britain. It consisted of the handful who had taken the initiative to meet one another. At Leeds they gave each other resounding titles: within months they were the BNFs and lone fans like myself, happier writing to other fans than meeting them, were content to know that British Fandom was starting off in a properly constituted manner, guided by duly elected Secretaries and Chairmen. For me, the Conference was a Parliament whose authority was not to be questioned, but which at the same time I saw only as something remote from my hobby and myself. Leeds was a fan club run by strangers. I did not for some time see it as the start of a national movement.
Such an attitude could hardly exist today, when no fan tells another what he shall or shall not do. But this was the age of Baldwin. Only a month before the King of England himself had been thrown out for not conforming with the Establishment. As a fan, I felt it was quite right and proper that the fanzines that the new SFA sponsored, such as TOMORROW and NOVAE TERRAE, should print their steady diet of pep articles on 'Whither Mankind?' and 'Science Progress'.
It was the New World we were making, and the golden tool was Science. Around us the world was moving into the first steps of the dance of death. Spain was in the middle of her civil war; Italy had just finished the Abyssinian war; Germany had re-occupied the Rhineland. Against this background, British Fandom reflected that middle-class respectability which Britain as a country maintained in the face of rising chaos abroad.
But in 1937, the SFA was determined to go through with its regulating policy. The satirical articles of D.R.Smith in NOVAE TERRAE were carefully buttressed about with stodge about Branch Meetings and Votes of Thanks. There was to be no slipping out of Fandom's foundation garments while the Establishment lasted.”