Jargon In British Science Fiction Fandom

An Encyclopedia Of British SF Jargon

by Dave Langford (ansible@cix.compulink.co.uk)
written 01 Jul 1992

This article is classified "Real"

[ Submitter's Note: Written for an updated 1993 edition of the SF Neofans'
  Guide, published in the USA.  It will probably not be used there in any
  recognizable form, since a very long time after requesting articles, the
  SF Neofans' Guide editors revealed that they didn't want articles, just
  little snippets which their own infinitely superior literary powers would
  stick together. ]

So you're interested in this thing called British science fiction fandom,
but have certain reservations?  Ah, it's the jargon that bothers you!
I know the feeling: I dislike most of it myself, but the good news is that
most of the really silly terms invented by easily amused fans of yesteryear
have fallen into welcome disuse.

`Real' fan parlance in 1990s Britain centres on a few functional
abbreviations (con for convention; fanzine for fan magazine; fandom for the
community of SF fans) or acronyms (APA... see below).  If someone comes up
to you and starts babbling on about `femmefans' or `crifanac' or `Ghu' you
may be sure that he (it is always a he) is young, has overdosed on old
fanzines, and will regret this one day.

All the same, British fan conversation is larded with strange terms, mostly
proper names, and some of the printable ones appear below.  This glossary is
avowedly incomplete, because (a) a large part of the fun is finding out more
for yourself; (b) although the network of British fandom is tatty and full
of large holes, any one point of contact will eventually lead you to all the
others; and (c) I am extremely lazy (see Omissions, Flagrant).

          ---------- Jargon in British Science Fiction ----------

Albacons: Glasgow Eastercons (name also given to smaller summer conventions
  up there).

Ansible: intermittent SF/fan newsletter produced by reprobate Dave Langford.
  May or may not be in existence at any given time, but a stamped self-
  addressed envelope (where can I buy these envelopes that address
  themselves?) will get you the latest issue and/or information on current
  convention addresses.  I promise.  Contact: 94 London Road, Reading,
  Berkshire, RG1 5AU.  In England, like all the other addresses mentioned.

APAs: Amateur Press Associations, closed-shop fanzine distribution outfits
  too numerous to list.  They resemble paper versions of discussion groups
  on more or less anything you can imagine.  One British APA is or was
  allegedly produced by fans' soft toys.  `Tonstant Weader Fwowed Up.'

Armageddon Enterprises: dedicated team of detonation-loving fans responsible
  for apocalyptic firework displays at conventions and elsewhere.  Said to
  be negotiating for the former Soviet Union's stocks of SS-20s.  Contact:
  any large and suspiciously smoking hole in the ground.

The Astral Leauge [sic]: dubious cosmic cult invented by Leeds Group fan
  D. West in the mid-1970s.  All rituals, initiations and hymns are strictly
  optional, the central dogma being that neophytes must give 50p to D. West.
  Exerts vast yet mythical influence over practically everything.

Astral Pole: fiendish initiation of The Astral Leauge, involving entangling
  oneself in a complex way with a broomstick and rotating one's spine and
  limbs through dimensions not convenient to describe.  I did however
  attempt to describe it in my TAFF trip report The Transatlantic Hearing
  Aid -- still in print.  (Advertisement.)

Bar: the functional and social centre of almost all British conventions.
  Hence the traditional versicle and response at the opening ceremony:
  `And now I'd like to introduce Pel Torro, our Guest of Honour this
  weekend....' All: `He's In The Bar!'

Beer: more copiously consumed at British conventions than at any other
  country's.  New fans should however note that drunkenness remains fairly
  rare; distrust those con reports in fanzines which imply colossal but
  untrue drinking feats as a sort of metaphor for the general euphoria of
  being at a good convention.

BFS: British Fantasy Society, which once upon a time split off from the BSFA
  because the BSFA tended to ignore fantasy in favour of sf.  The whirligig
  of time brings in its revenges: nowadays the BSFA has plentiful coverage
  of fantasy, while the BFS tends to ignore both fantasy and sf in favour of
  horror.  Contact: David J. Howe, 61 Elgar Avenue, Tolworth, Surbiton,
  Surrey, KT5 9JP.

Birmingham SF Group: perhaps Britain's longest-running local society, this
  feat ascribed by co-founder Peter Weston to his having based the
  constitution on that of the Young Conservatives.  (Jesus Christ.)  Runs
  Novacon every year and holds monthly meetings of semi-formal character,
  i.e. admission fee and guest speaker or panel rather than the British norm
  of a rabble in a pub.  After the semi-formal bit, the BSFG reverts to
  being a rabble in a pub.  Contact: Bernie Evans, 121 Cape Hill, Smethwick,
  Warley, West Midlands, B66 4SH.

BSFA: British Science Fiction Association.  Produces six hefty mailings each
  year, with news, commentary, criticism and reviews (and more reviews, and
  capsule reviews, and reviews duplicating other reviews in the same
  mailing, etc).  The quality of BSFA magazines varies wildly as editors
  burn out from over-exposure to Piers Anthony sequels and give way to more
  or less untalented replacements.  Overall, good stuff if you like reading
  about SF.  Also organizes its own monthly pub meetings in London; these
  are rather a moveable feast, but at present seem to have settled in The
  Conservatory (a pub formerly called the Cafe Munchen in St Giles High
  Street, near Tottenham Court Road tube station) on the second Wednesday of
  each month.  It's best to enquire first.  Contact: Alison Cook,
  27 Albemarle Drive, Grove, Wantage, OX12 0NB.

COA: Change Of Address, a handy abbreviation in fanzines.  Fans are nomadic
  and love to falsify address lists by hopping around the country (or out of
  it) like demented fleas.  Some percentage of the addresses even in this
  frighteningly authoritative piece will doubtless have changed when you
  read it: do not despair, but try another suggested contact, however
  seemingly unrelated.  They're all in it together, you know.

COFF: Concrete Overcoat Fan Fund, a joke unpopularity award presented at
  Novacons during the 1980s; raised trifling sums for genuine causes but was
  dropped owing to unpopularity (some had taken it seriously).

Conspiracy '87: British Worldcon, deeply traumatic for most of those
  concerned.  `Young fan, you know not the unwritten law.  You spoke of
  that convention.  Here in this land, men do not utter that name.' See
  Malcolm Edwards.  Do not see Scientology.

Critical Wave: news and reviews fanzine, trying determinedly to be the
  British Locus.  Initially plagued by dire reproduction, worse design and
  a fearful hack-journalistic style, but has improved a great deal despite
  persistent money trouble and British publishers' deep-rooted horror of
  placing ads which might tell unauthorized personnel about their books.
  Contact Martin Tudor, 845 Alum Rock Road, Birmingham, B28 2AG.

Doc Weir Award: presented by popular vote at Eastercons to some fan whose
  all-round efforts and/or niceness fall outside the scope of more specific
  awards.  How the voting works: `Psst, who's the fix in for this year?'
  `Oh, a few of us think XXXX really deserves it....' If uninterested in the
  victory of XXXX, you might as well not bother to vote.  (Seriously,
  there's an element of realism in this procedure: award eligibility is so
  widespread and nebulous that without `a few of us' in their smoke-filled
  room, every single vote is likely to be for someone different.)

Eastercon: the British national convention, held by decades-old tradition
  over the Easter Bank Holiday weekend.  (See, you're beginning to
  understand this arcane jargon already.)  Something for everyone, including
  those who like to complain a lot, those who actually want to talk SF, and
  those preferring to lurk in the bar.  With a new committee and site
  (chosen by vote two years in advance) each year, Eastercon organization
  wavers between total shambles and the hyperefficient marshalling of 57
  simultaneous programme streams in a desperate effort to ensure that you
  can't possibly see more than one-57th of what's happening.  Goes under
  different confusing names each year: thus `Illumination' in 1992,
  `Helicon' in 1993 (see Tim Illingworth), `Sou'Wester' in 1994,
  `Confabulation' in 1995...  but titles can recur, as with the numerous
  Albacons (Glasgow) and Yorcons (Leeds).

  [ I don't know what the sell-by date of the Guide is intended to
  be, but here for the record are contact addresses for the 1994 and 1995
  Eastercons: Sou'Wester, 3 West Shrubbery, Redland, Bristol, BS6 6SZ;
  Confabulation, 3 York Street, Altrincham, Cheshire, WA15 9QH. ]

Malcolm Edwards: alleged chairman of Conspiracy '87, which see.  Now too
  awesomely famous in Real Publishing to bother with the likes of us.

Eurocon: the pan-European convention, normally merged with the national
  event of the current host country.  British Eastercons doubling as
  Eurocons: Seacon '84 and Helicon in 1993.

Fan Funds: see COFF, GUFF, MAFF, OWFF, and (in particular) TAFF.

Fannish: one of those tricky terms whose meaning depends on the speaker.
  (a) having to do with fans; (b) neutral term describing those fans,
  fanzines, groups and conventions centered on the fan community itself
  rather than, or as well as, SF; (c) abusive term describing anyone even
  less SF-centered than one's own sub-fandom.

Fans Across The World: deeply earnest and worthy organization dedicated to
  improving links between countries... e.g., arranging visas and assisted
  travel to western European cons for eastern and former-Soviet fans lacking
  hard currency.  A frequent newsletter lists cons in unpronounceable places.
  Not to be confused with Fans Across The World Alliance, the international
  Salman Rushdie appreciation society founded by A. Khomeini.  Contact
  Bridget Wilkinson, 17 Mimosa, 29 Avenue Road, Tottenham, N15 5JF.

FOKT: Friends of Kilgore Trout, the local group of Glasgow and environs.

Foundation: much-respected SF critical journal, published since 1972 by the
  SF Foundation.

Friends of Foundation: fan group dedicated to the funding and preservation
  of the SF Foundation, which see.  Suggested contact: Roger Robinson, 75
  Rosslyn Avenue, Harold Wood, Essex, RM3 0RG.

Globe: site of monthly London SF pub meetings until they moved to the One
  Tun, which see.  Older fans sometimes confuse everyone by referring to
  present-day meetings as `the Globe'.

GUFF: a fan fund (see TAFF) which conveys popular fans between Europe and
  Australia.  Invented by Chris Priest with a little help from yours truly.
  Having been first set up to bring an Australian to Seacon '79 in Britain,
  it began life as the `Get Up-and-over Fan Fund': this name perforce
  changes to `Going Under Fan Fund' or something of the sort for the
  alternate, southbound trips.

Hamilton Hall: a pub on London's Liverpool Street Station which housed the
  monthly SF meetings for a brief while (late 1992 to early 1993) while the
  Wellington was being overhauled by builders.  Thoughts of making the HH a
  permanent venue were firmly quashed by its massive and life-threatening
  crowds of commuters in suits.

History of British Fandom: there is no room.  In 1937 we held the first ever
  SF convention (all right, there's a rival 1936 claim from America, but
  British fandom chauvinistically doesn't accept a gathering in a private
  house as a convention, especially when it wasn't announced as such
  beforehand.  Hear those axes grinding?).  Fan historian Rob Hansen has
  published several hefty compilations of British fan history: contact 144
  Plashet Grove, East Ham, London, E6 1AB.

Tim Illingworth: awesome and inarguable guru of British convention runners.
  Always involved with some convention or other, so propaganda should be
  available from 63 Drake Road, Chessington, Surrey, KT9 1LQ.

Intersection: 1995 Worldcon, to be held in Glasgow, Scotland.  Contact 121
  Cape Hill, Smethwick, Warley, West Midlands, B66 4SH.

Interzone: long-running (since 1982) British SF magazine, wittily known to
  its fannish detractors as Interzonk or Internoze.  These dissidents
  refuse to forgive its initial funding, being the profits of the 1981
  Eastercon (Yorcon II, perceived as having made said profit by not spending
  money on the convention; guests of honour were requested to skip breakfast
  as the budget was so tight, etc).  It's a good magazine nowadays, and gets
  a regular Hugo nomination in the `Best Locus' category.  Contact 217
  Preston Drove, Brighton, BN1 6FL.

KTF: short for Kill The Fuckers, a legendary style of strongly negative
  fanzine reviewing supposed to have flourished in Britain early in the 80s.
  It's not a very helpful critical term, having grown over the years into a
  too-diffuse phrase of condemnation covering a wide range of material from
  the merely abusive and inept (relatively rare) all the way across to
  balanced commentary which expresses negative views even in passing.

LCFI: `London Convention Fandom Inc', a regular or semi-regular meeting of
  con-runners, believed to happen in a pub called the Royal Oak in Pimlico.
  This pub has been selected with infinite care as being one of the remotest
  from a tube station in the whole of central London.  It is, however, dead
  convenient for Tim Illingworth (see Illingworth, Tim); his office is just
  round the corner.

Leeds Group: centre of all fannish evil in the UK (according to certain
  factions), this deep corruption manifesting largely as hanging round in
  bars doing very little indeed, producing rare but offensively literate
  fanzines, and winning too many of the Nova Awards (which see).

London Circle or London SF Circle... older name for the regular monthly
  London pub gathering.  See White Horse and Wellington.

MAFF: Mid-Atlantic Fan Fund, like TAFF but dropping its unpopular winners
  halfway across.  Hilarious and original suggestion made by 49.5% of new
  fans who first hear about the funds.

Matrix: news, gossip, media-review and general discussion fanzine of the

Mexicon: biennial convention whose ostensible Prime Directives are `a focus
  on written SF' and `a single programme stream' -- both these in reaction
  to the multimedia sprawl of the Eastercons.  The directives have been
  bent considerably since Mexicon's zealous early days, but it's still
  regarded as fearfully ideologically unsound by habitual runners of multi-
  streamed and multimedia events.  What is so Mexican about all this remains
  shrouded in mystery and tequila fumes.

Nova Awards: British fanzine awards organized by the Birmingham SF Group and
  presented at Novacon.  Up to 1976, winners were determined by an `expert'
  committee and the award was decried as fallible and elitist.  Since then,
  voting has been open to any convention member who claims to have seen a
  few fanzines, and the awards are therefore scorned as fallible (what do
  these voters know?) and elitist (how dare this self-appointed minority
  set itself above others by bothering to vote?).

Novacon: for a long while (since 1971) this small event was Britain's second
  annual convention after the Eastercon.  It is always held in November
  (which in awkward years has sometimes been deemed to fall late in
  October), in Birmingham (occasionally deemed to fall in Coventry or out
  amid the wastes of the local airport).  Contact address: as for BSFG.

Omissions, Flagrant: this thing will swell and expand and take over the
  universe if I try to cover every topic.  Thus nothing on SF awards, nor
  most fanzines and small-press SF magazines (too many and too ephemeral --
  Ansible is mentioned only out of blatant nepotism), most smaller or one-
  off conventions (get hold of the cited news publications for an up-to-date
  list), `filksinging' (fan folk-singing, a very active sub-fandom in 1990s
  Britain -- but me, I'm tone-deaf), smaller local groups (they keep getting
  thrown out of their chosen pubs and moving on, so recent information is

One Tun: site of monthly London SF pub meetings until driven by the
  landlord's rampant homophobia to the Wellington, which see.  Rather too
  many fans who were used to speaking of the Tun meetings now get all twee
  and call (and spell) the new place the 'Ton.  

OWFF: One-Way Fan Fund, like TAFF or GUFF but without the customary return 
  trip.  Hilarious and original suggestion made by a different 49.5% of
  new fans who first hear about the funds.

Greg Pickersgill: a Famous Monster of Fandom (retired).

Scientology: do not, under any circumstances, see Conspiracy '87.

Seacons: a pseudo-series with no two alike.  Seacon (Coventry, 1975) was a
  legendary Eastercon meant to be held by the sea but shifted by
  circumstances to about as far as you can get from the sea in Britain
  (`Er, South East Area con,' the committee said unconvincingly).  Seacon
  '79 was a British Worldcon run by much the same people, several of whom
  later bid to hold the 1984 Eastercon only to be defeated by the opposing
  Eastercon/Eurocon bid called -- to their huge annoyance -- Seacon '84.
  Such are the ironies of fandom.

Serious Scientific Talks: a sequence of convention speeches by Bob Shaw,
  each subjecting the word `scientific' to hellish extremes of redefinition.
  The `serious' applies solely to Bob's own mournful face and tone of voice,
  his vast audiences normally being in hysterics.

Bob Shaw: popular SF novelist and Irish fan from way back; see serious
  scientific talks.  Never wears gorilla suits.

Bob Shaw (Fake): Scots fan, a founder of FOKT and the Albacons; can be told
  from the real Bob Shaw by his tendency to megalomania and gorilla suits.

SF Foundation: research and academic contact centre; book, magazine, and
  fanzine library, etc.  Long resident at the Polytechnic of East London but
  recently (1992) cast adrift thanks to vicious cuts in education funding,
  the British government distrusting expense on non-commercial fripperies
  like science fiction, science, research, cultural exchange or books.  It
  is now located at the University of Liverpool.  See Friends of Foundation.

Small Mammal: very long-running (even editors Martin'n'Margaret have lost
  track of how many issues) news sheet distributed more often than not at
  London SF meetings (see Wellington)...  features upcoming events and
  sense-shattering typos.

TAFF: TransAtlantic Fan Fund, a splendid and laudable fan institution which
  arranges free trips to North American Worldcons for popular European fans,
  and vice-versa.  As with Fans Across The World, GUFF and Friends of
  Foundation, the money comes from fandom itself: auctions of memorabilia,
  donations of convention profits, etc.  Small fees are paid by the voters
  who choose the lucky winner.  Active since the early 1950s.  Interest
  declared: TAFF wafted me to Boston for the 1980 Worldcon.  Contact Abigail
  Frost, 95 Wilmot Street, London, E2 0BP.

Unicon: a traditionally small and low-budget convention held each summer in
  some austere university/college site, by a student and not-too-long-ex-
  student committee.

Vector: chief critical magazine of the BSFA.

The Wellington: as I write, the current site of the monthly London SF pub
  meetings.  Fan presence guaranteed from 6pm or earlier on the first
  Thursday evening of each month (with heavy depletion if this falls on
  Maundy Thursday -- see Eastercon).  By closing time at 11pm we have
  usually attained a fair approximation to climactic conditions on the
  surface of Venus.  How to find it: follow the `Old Vic' subway exit signs
  from the central concourse of Waterloo Station; when you reach the street
  the pub can be seen immediately opposite.  Key phrases for gaining
  immediate fannish acceptance are: `You are Dave Langford and I wish to
  buy you many drinks,' or `Luckily I have on my person an atomic-field
  depressor kit which will silence that bloody awful juke-box.' See also
  Hamilton Hall, but not for long.

D. West: a Famous Monster of Fandom, usually described in contemporary
  accounts in such terms as `eldritch', `batrachian', `mephitic' or `drunk'.
  His almost legendary fanzine article `Performance' was dramatized by noted
  author/thespian Geoff Ryman, to general acclaim and alarm.

The White Hart: Arthur C. Clarke's fictional version of the pub where the
  London SF Circle once met.  See White Horse.

The White Horse: London SF pub venue superseded by the Globe (which see).

Walt Willis: living legend of Irish fandom.  Chiefly responsible for one of
  the all-time notable fanzines (Hyphen), producer of much nifty writing in
  many fanzines, the original inspiration for what became TAFF, and modest
  with it.

Worldcon: the World SF Convention has come to Britain roughly every decade
  since Loncon I (London) in 1957.  Seacon '79 (Brighton) was a great
  success.  Conspiracy '87 (Brighton again) was, er, um.  Next comes
  Intersection in 1995....

Zymurgy: traditionally, the last word.  It goes like this: `Hope you'll get
  to one of these conventions... I'll see you in the bar.'

See also:
  • Sad Bastard Test
  • Adelphi Hotel, Liverpool, England, UK, Earth
  • Filks
  • Encyclopedia Of Science Fiction
  • Mundanes

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