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The definitions: fan....a person who reads science fiction

                            faan....a person who really reads science fiction and goes to cons

                            neofan...a person who's never been to a con before...brand new.

                            Joe Fan...the average sf far as sf fans are ever average.

And fiawol? Fandom Is A Way of Life.

For devotees of the sf conventions, it may well be a way of life. It's a community like that of many other convention many respects. Since conventions take a lot of work over a lot of months to organize, those who put on annual conventions may ask themselves Is there Life Beyond Fandom?

While fiction of the type got its start with Greek myth, with Homer, with Vergil and Dante and the Arthur epic...with Verne and Conan Doyle and Wells, sf fandom got its start as a community of readers off the pulps, back in the 30's. The activity [fanac=activity of a group of fans] left off somewhat for WWII, and resumed again in the late forties and early fifties. Conventions by then were a handful of fen [plural of fan] in a hotel room or small hotel function space, and almost everyone knew each other in advance...somewhat like the communications through 'zines, that is, amateur magazines, mimeographed and mailed. 'Zines and LOCs...a LOC being a letter of comment in such a publication...or in one of the handful of actual professionally distributed magazines...were the method through which people discussed Ideas and stories and their view of the universe.

People had 'handles', names they went by in the letters column. These fan-names might appear on the name badges, a tradition honored to this day at modern sf cons.

The professional writers of sf were somewhat indistinguishable from the readers of sf in those days, since a good many did and write, and contribute LOCs to the 'zines. Don and Elsie Wollheim, Isaac Asimov, Frederick Pohl, all in the northeast, Jack Williamson, elsewhere, Andre Norton, Catherine L. was quite a community, with numerous fans as well as writers who made themselves legend...and who, having more time than the writers, I suspect, flung their creative impulses into the creation of conventions.

This wasn't to say politics didn't rear its head in fandom. Oh, yes. Early on there were smofs...[secret masters of fandom.] )Politics, politics, politics. But fandom survived it. Conventions survived, and grew.

With the advent of freedom to travel [during the war years gasoline was severely rationed, and one didn't travel for pleasure or recreation] came the larger and larger gatherings: and with the larger aggregations of people in the same city who knew one another's names...came fan groups...groups not dedicated to any single area of sf...[science fiction wasn't divided into sf and fantasy in those days, and I'm not sure I approve of it doing so now, even if a friend of mine and I devised that silly unicorn that now graces the SFFWA magazine cover.] In those days you had sf, sword and sorcery, sword and planet, and it was all under one roof, written by the same people, as the mood took them, and published by the same houses. I myself cross those lines myself, and don't like this specialization in which one side sniffs at the other as if they were some other species. No, no, no. We started out one creature. I don't care if 'they' have spots. We're still the same breed of cat: see my notes on conventions.

The internet's a great thing...but there's a reason why people who started out doing LOCs in 'zines turned to convention-holding and meeting; and I hope to perpetuate that custom of face-to-face meeting of sf readers, now widened to introductees through the internet. There's only so much fun can be had with a keyboard...that's the reason why writers go to the cons, too. So give me those URLs and I'll create links where visitors can do a little research in their own districts.

And the neos among you...check out the sites. Give them a try. The sight of several hundred dedicated loners simultaneously discovering there are other regional readers of their favorite literature is rather a heart-warming one.

More definitions?


Get Away From It All. To drop out of fandom for a while, or quite a while.

a con

.yes, there are jokes. But it's short for, obviously, or not...convention. Every sf convention has -con somewhere in the title. Most cons are in hotels, and have panels all day, parties most of the night...many of the parties being bid, or campaign, parties seeking to win fannish support or to promote their city's upcoming convention. You miss a lot if you  don't stay in the hotel. Tip: at a very big con, encompassing multiple hotels, ask which is the 'party' hotel, and take an          alternate if you're a light sleeper.

con security

..convention staff members who help the hotel troubleshoot. They are volunteers trying to assure the convention is welcome in the hotel next year. Appreciate these volunteers, who are other fen, help them out, and make their job pleasant. They give up their nights'  sleep to be sure the convention succeeds. Read the convention security policies before you come.


. ...a person not interested in science fiction or not participating in the convention, as in, Security said, "There are  mundanes next door: keep it down." It's not meant as an insult, but to indicate a perfectly innocent person who's not participant in the convention and who consequently shouldn't be bothered or annoyed with merry-making. Most conventions share the hotel with regular guests, who paid their money to get some sleep.

This is why conventions usually declare 'party floors' and request traffic avoid certain other floors at night, where the hotel has 'blocked' or grouped, mundane guests...airline pilots seem to have an uncanny knack for lodging in convention hotels: or as one pilot said, on Saturday night, [the hotel had put him on the party floor.} "Hey, I may be flying you guys out tomorrow."

The sum of it all is, if you want to host a party, arrange to have a room on the 'party floors' . Check early enough on the day of your arrival that that's where you are and that the area is all fen: the hotel can sometimes move someone and save everyone's weekend.


a custom borrowed, 'tis said, from the old Vikings. If a sword or model gun is part of your hall costume, q.v., most cons require it be tied down so it cannot be drawn. I was a witness of pre-peacebonding times, was narrowly missed, and assure you this is a good idea. Read the convention weapons policy.



{noun} a Secret Master of Fandom: a person who runs fandom and dictates how things work [not usually complimentary

to smof.....[verb

to talk as if one is a smof. Some consuites have signs reading "No smoffing," meaning: don't talk fannish politics here.


convention committee. The group that contracts for the hotel, assigns jobs, and otherwise are volunteer labor who don't get thanked enough for the jobs they do.


the hospitality suite in a convention hotel: open to all members, usually with free refreshments, often with a contribution  dish...don't miss either the suite, or the dish.


congoer in con-goer, one who goes to...etc.


.the convention chairman.

Sturgeon's Law

...after Ted Sturgeon, 90% of everything [written since the beginning of time] is junk. This has been extended to proverbial status: don't dismiss anything because of its worst representatives.


....There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch. Don't expect something for nothing. Attributed to Robert Heinlein


science fictional or fantasy folk music, sometimes to borrowed tunes, as in "to filk a song", to write new, fannish lyrics to a  piece; sometimes music and lyrics written together. A filk is a fannish gathering to play and sing, traditionally in convention space vacant for the night. Stairwell filks, while known, are not highly favored.


...a fannish drink. [It's a running joke to insert 'h' into things associated with sf.]

hall costume

...a masquerade costume that's not intended for the masquerade, but to wear during the day in the halls. Some are quite fine. See Sturgeon's Law.


.plural of fan.


....a female fan, a distinction made when females at sf cons were remarkably few: it's also descriptive, when a distinction  adds to the story. Three femmefans played a trick on the conchair....


..pronounced skah....Society for Creative Anachronism: mediaeval re-creation hobbyists who sometimes attend in hall costume.   As in: Three SCA guys played a trick on the conchair....

Hugo Award

.voted by the World Science Fiction Convention, at the annual Worldcon.

Nebula Award

..given by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Inc., at the Nebula Award Ceremony....

Chesley Award

voted by ASFA, presented at the Worldcon.


.... pronounced SEF-wa, The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.


....pronounced AS--fah, The Association of Science Fiction Artists.




.three of every four years in the US, the fourth year somewhere else. Each Worldcon has a unique name: offhand, there's been MAC [MidAmeriCon, in Kansas City], CHICON [Chicago], SEACON, [Brighton, UK], SUNCON [Miami],  and so on. Whenever the WorldCon is not in the US, there is a North American convention, called a NASFIC...don't  ask me what the I's for. The NASFIC is in whatever place 'bids' to have it: that is, a fangroup volunteers and campaigns to win the site selection, voted on by the membership of the World Science Fiction Convention of years prior. My first convention ever was MAC. I had a marvelous time....but I still don't advise making your very first convention a worldcon.  You really should work up to it: build up your endurance.

five fannish food groups

oil, salt, chocolate, alcohol, and caffeine. The multiple vices of convention food.

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