Deep in the Heart of Texas, Part 2

Last time I wrote about the fanzine lounge activities and such at the upcoming 71st World Science Fiction Convention in San Antonio, Texas, also known as LoneStarCon  3. It will be happening over the Labor Day Holiday weekend here in America, which translates into August 29-September 2, 2013. As promised in that blog entry, this time around I want to talk about the Fan Funds: what they are, what they mean to science fiction fandom, and who are this year’s Fan Fund delegates who will be attending LoneStarCon 3. This event is only two weeks off, so it’s better now or never to give folks an overview of the Fan Funds.

It is a very simple concept: a Fan Fund is a fund drive to build up enough money to help bring a science fiction fan from one country or continent to another. The purpose of these is to promote good will and connectivity between fans around the world.  Here is a quick description of the oldest one, TAFF:

From the TAFF ballot form: The Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund was created in 1953 for the purpose of providing funds to bring well-known and popular [science fiction] fans familiar to those on both sides of the ocean across the Atlantic. Since that time TAFF has regularly brought North American fans to European conventions and European fans to North American conventions. TAFF exists solely through the support of fandom. The candidates are voted on by interested fans all over the world, and each vote is accompanied by a donation […] These votes, and the continued generosity of fandom, are what make TAFF possible.

Walt Willis at the 15th World Science Fiction Convention, Loncon, 1957 (click to read his con report on Fiawol.org

Walt Willis at the 15th World Science Fiction Convention, Loncon, 1957 (click to read his con report on Fiawol.org)

The first fan to benefit from this was the legendary Irish fan Walt Willis, who produced the fanzines Slant and Hyphen back in the 1950s, plus he co-wrote – with Bob Shaw, another legendary Irish fan – one of science fiction fandom’s magnum opuses, The Enchanted Duplicator. The initial fund was created to bring Willis to Chicon 2 in 1952, and by 1953 Willis published the original founding document for TAFF in Hyphen #4 (Oct. 1953). In 1970, the Down Under Fan Fund was created by Australian fan John Foyster along the same principles as TAFF, only DUFF’s intent is to send fans from North America to Australia/New Zealand, and vice versa in alternate years. Other fan funds following the TAFF model have likewise been created along the way, too: there is GUFF (the Get Up and over Fan Fund, or Get Under Fan Fund) to ship fans back and forth between the United Kingdom and Australia/New Zealand; another fund is CUFF (the Canadian Unity Fan Fund), which sends Canadian fans across the vast expanses of that country to attend conventions and meet fans. Every so often a specialty fan fund is created, such as HANA (Hertz Across to Nippon Alliance) to send Los Angeles fan John Hertz to the Worldcon in Japan in 2007. Not surprisingly, fans being fans, a couple of hoax fan funds have cropped up over the years, the best known being MAFF, the Mid-Atlantic Fan Fund, which provides just enough funding to get a deserving fan to, say, the Sargasso Sea area of the Atlantic Ocean and leaving them there. With a bit of luck, prevailing currents and that fan’s ingenuity, the MAFF winner just might be able to make it to either America or England  – provided they survive, of course – depending on whether it’s an odd or even numbered year.

Which is usually how it works. The direction of the fund, that is, not dropping them off halfway.  For TAFF, during even numbered years, the race brings a fan West to East, from North America to England/Europe; convention destinations range anywhere from the Worldcon (which is in London in 2014) to other cons like Eastercon or Novacon, which are both in England, or the EuroCon, which moves around the continent. Last year’s TAFF winner, by the way, was Jacqueline Monahan of Las Vegas, Nevada, so she visited fans in the British Isles besides attending Eastercon.  Then during odd-numbered years, like this year (2013), the TAFF race is East to West, so this year’s winner is attending LoneStarCon 3, the aforementioned WorldCon. DUFF operates the same way, only running North-South in even numbered years, and South-North in odd years. As a result of this arrangement, both of the winners of this year’s TAFF and DUFF races will be attending LoneStarCon 3, which is unique. To honor these delegates – Jim Mowatt (TAFF, United Kingdom) and Bill Wright (DUFF, Australia) – there will be a Fan Funds Delegate Reception held in the main convention suite  (a.k.a., hospitality suite) on Thursday, August 29th from 9 PM to 10 PM. The fanzine lounge, which I am in charge of for the con, is hosting this reception, so I encourage readers of this blog to come on up and meet these fine gentlemen. [Note: giving credit where due, the idea for this reception came from the 2010 DUFF winner, John Hertz. More on this in a moment.] So drop in, have a drink, nosh on munchies, meet the lads, and have a good time.

Now, if you decide that you are a fan worthy enough to make a go of running for one of these fan funds, you must know that even though the winner gets to enjoy the spoils of victory and have a great time, the winner automatically  becomes an administrator of that particular fan fund for the next two years. So, this means that Jim Mowatt will be responsible for raising funds in various ways for TAFF and raising awareness of it until 2015 when a new East to West winner is saddled crowned with this honor. ( Oh, I meant “honour” since the blighter is British.) Likewise, Bill Wright will cover these duties until 2015 on the underside of the planet, far from the prying eyes of North American fans. I guess we will just have to trust that Bill will do a good job. Anyway, the winner of a fan fund is also expected to write a full trip report of their adventures. Over the years, some wonderful TAFF and DUFF trip reports have been written. Two worth mentioning are Walt Willis’ “The Harp Goes Stateside,” his account of going to Chicon 2 back in 1952, and Guy H. Lillian III’s “The Antipodal Route,” his account of their (he and his wife, Rosy) DUFF trip to Australia in 2003 and their attendance at Swancon, the Australian National SF Convention. Last year  in my fanzine Askance, issues 27 and 28 included segments of Jacq Monahan’s 2012 TAFF report; other segments appeared in the fanzines Beam and Banana Wings. Hopefully her composite trip report will be available for purchase or auction at LSC3.

To wrap this up, allow me to share my personal experience with these funds. I have long been a supporter of them because this is a cause that many fans dearly believe in: to promote the camaraderie of science fiction fandom around the world. A couple paragraphs ago I mentioned that John Hertz was the winner of the 2010 DUFF race that brought a North American fan to Australia/New Zealand, and that year’s destination con happened to be Aussiecon IV, the 68th World Science Fiction Convention. Well, the field of contestants vying for the 2010 DUFF delegate title was a full one. Hertz beat out four other worthy fans for the honor: Other contenders were Jeffrey Boman, Terry Fong & Jannie Shea (they were a team), Melanie Herz, and John Purcell.

Yes, you read that right. I stood for DUFF that year, and pubbed Askew #2 as my DUFF campaign fanzine. Even though I did not win, it was fun to be involved with the DUFF race of 2010. By getting involved with the process, I learned that a person needs to be nominated by five people (depending on the destination, nominators must be two from the host country/continent and the other three from the sending country/continent), plus the most important thing to know is that if you do win, keep in mind that you are representing fans from your country/continent, so besides not being an idiot should you win, understand that for the next two years you are responsible for raising money for the fund, which means hosting fan fund auctions – which LSC3 has scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 31st at 3 PM (I don’t know the location of it at the moment, but the full schedule is due to be published on the WorldCon’s website in mid-August) – and promoting the fan fund. So the winner has to not only get out and be visible, but be a living example of the good things that science fiction fandom exemplifies.

Which is what the Fan Funds are all about. The science fiction community may be a very large one now, but we are all united by our love for the genre and the friendships we make in fandom make the effort so worthwhile. I hope to meet some of you in San Antonio. So until then, create your packing lists and get ready for a good, old fannish time deep in the heart of Texas.

Just please don’t forget the sunscreen. It is beastly hot at that time of the year down here.

 

[ Credits: LoneStarCon 3 logo by Brad Foster, from www.lonestarcon3.org; cartoon by  Ian Gunn, used with permission of KRin Pender-Gunn]

 

 

 

A professor of English and ESOL (teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) at Blinn College in Bryan, Texas, John Purcell has also been at various times in his life an insurance assistant underwriter, worked at a pig-packing plant in Iowa, and a professional jazz musician. John gave that last one up for teaching because he needed a steady paycheck to take care of a growing family. Yes, he is married – for 23 years now – and has three children, all grown. Well, almost; the youngest is 17 and still living at home, but as soon as that kid is done with college and gets a job, he gets the boot.

John currently publishes the online fanzine Askance, which is available for viewing and downloading at www.efanzines.com, and has been involved with science fiction fandom in one way or another for 40 years now. He is hosting the fanzine lounge at the upcoming World Science Fiction Convention in San Antonio, Texas – LoneStarCon 3 – and is looking forward to attending his first world con since 1978!

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