One of the hats I’ve picked up and worn this year is to have been nominated and won the 2017 Down Under Fan Fund. As a result of that, I am currently the Fan Fund Administrator, and as a result I attended Lexicon and Continuum, the National Science Fiction conventions of New Zealand, and Australia, met fans and writers from the Antipodes, and got to see some of the countryside as well. But I sense you may have questions, and I am here to answer them.
What’s a Fan Fund?
Even in the early days of SF Fandom, fans communicated across the globe. A couple of fans pooled funds in the 1940s for some transatlantic exchanges between England and the US, bringing fans together, sharing our love of SF. These exchanges led to the formalization of the exchange, the Trans Atlantic Fan Fund (TAFF), in the 1950s. In alternating years, a fan travels from North America to Europe, and a fan travels from Europe to North America. The goal is to attend conventions, meet fans, and exchange knowledge and love of science fiction. In the days before the internet, where slow postal exchanges of fanzines meant that knowing what was happening on the other side of the Atlantic was a slow process, TAFF helped bring fans face to face.
The Down Under Fan Fund is a successor spin off of TAFF and started in 1970, and was set up in likewise manner to bridge the Pacific, to bring fans from Australasia to the United States, and vice versa.
Other Fan Funds exist, too. GUFF connects Australasia and New Zealand to Europe. In fact, I met the 2017 GUFF Delegate, author Donna Maree Hanson, while at Continuum. FFANZ hops “the ditch” and connects New Zealand and Australia, and I met Lynelle Howell on both legs of my Fan Fund trip.
How do you get to be a Fan Fund delegate?
If you are in the region that has a Fan Fund, and it’s your region’s turn to have a delegate go to the other side of the Fan Fund, then you can participate in the race. You need to be nominated by fans on both sides of the Fan Fund. For example, to be a candidate for DUFF, I needed fan nominators from both North America and Australasia. Fortunately, in this era of the Internet, and having good relations with a number of Australians, this was not difficult for me to manage. But since the Fan Fund is a way to bridge between fans, it makes sense to me that a candidate should be known on both ends, so that those connections can be highlighted.
A nomination, by the way, is also a $5 donation to the Fund (and putting yourself up as a potential candidate is as well).
Anyway, once all the people who have gotten nominations have done so, then the voting period begins. Anyone in fandom on either side of the Fund can donate and vote for their candidate. The voting runs like the Hugos with ranked-choice voting. Your ballot could look like this:
- Jane Doe
- John Smith
- No Preference
- Hold Over Fan Funds
Hold Over Fan Funds means, basically, that you’d rather none of the candidates go, and the Fund just lie fallow for a year. There have been instances in Fan Fund history where Hold Over has won over every candidate!
In my case, I ran into a situation that I did not expect. I had gone into the race fully expecting other candidates, more “viable” candidates, to step forward, and defeat me. I got into the race fully expecting to lose. Instead, I turned out to be the only candidate. Now, as you see above, this was no guarantee of victory on my part. I could still lose to “Hold Over Fan Funds”. And while a few people DID choose for that over me (no hard feelings!), I scooped up a majority of the votes and was named the 2017 DUFF delegate. It was a complete accident on my part that no one decided to run against me and that I wasn’t so bad a candidate after all.
What do you do once you are the Fan Fund delegate?
The central activity is to attend a major con and meet fans in the other side of the fan fund. If you can do more, meet more fans, do more fannish things, that’s even better. This is all about fan connections, after all. My original plan in my case was to just attend Continuum, the National SF convention of Australia. It was then pointed out to me that Lexicon, the New Zealand National SF convention, was just a week before (a temporal alignment that does not always occur). So I managed to arrange things to visit New Zealand first, and then travel to Australia.
Also in Fan Fund tradition, it’s encouraged that you stay with fans, see fannish things and do SFnal geeky things with people on the other side of the Fan fund. In my case, while I was in Australia, I visited the aforementioned Donna Maree Hanson when I reached Canberra, and was delighted to get a tour of the Geosciences Laboratory and a visit to the Deep Space station run by NASA. I also had breakfast with author Kaaron Warren and tried vegemite, but we won’t go into detail on that experience.
Another responsibility of a Fan Fund delegate is to create a trip report that can often be sold for money to replenish the fund and in general promotes the fan and its activities. It’s expensive to take a trip after all! My own Fan Fund report “What I did on my Summer Vacation, the 2017 DUFF Fan Fund Report” is now available for a $7 donation to the Fund. The pictures you’ve seen in this article are only a small sample of those available in the report, which goes into much further detail as to the shenanigans I got up to.
What happens after the trip?
Replenish and promote the fund! (Hi, here I am!). These Funds are entirely done by donations of various sorts, and without fan donations, the Funds cannot and do not function. The Fan Fund winner, now administrator, is expected to replenish the coffers of the fan fund. The report is one way, participating in auctions at cons is another. I did this, not very successfully, at Worldcon in Helsinki. I still have a lot of work to do.
Next year, it’s part of my responsibility to help organize the “reverse trip”, as it will be time for an Australasian fan to travel to North America and attend a con, probably Worldcon 76 in San Jose. And then, in 2019, I hand off the Fund to the next North America to Australasia winner, and the cycle begins anew.
How can I donate?
If you are interested in reading my fan fund report, a $7 US donation to the Down Under Fan Fund will get you a copy of “What I Did on my Summer Vacation”. Possibly the longest Fan Fund report every done, it’s a 200+ page report of photos and adventures. And its all in a good cause.
How can I get further involved?
Well, if you are a fan in SF fandom and are eager to meet other fans and help promote SF across the globe, you can put yourself forward as a nominee. I really think that even in the internet age where I can have a skype call with an author in the UK, or a fan in Singapore, that face to face meetings are still of enormous value to SF Fandom. The Fan Funds help make that happen. You can tell others about the Fan Funds. And as noted above, you can always donate. You don’t have to donate just money. If you have something that might be auctionable (I am looking at YOU, author friends, a signed copy of your latest novel, for instance), that can help the fan fund out enormously.
Thank you for your time and attention.