The Northern Guffblower: 5

Special out-in-time-for-Seacon issue
August 1979

Featuring Chris Priest on the why and how of GUFF -- not to mention the which, the whither and the whence -- and including his insights into the character of GUFF winner John Foyster of GPO Box 4039, Melbourne, Victoria 3001, Australia, who as the first GUFF delegate will take over the Australian end from hardworking Leigh Edmonds, while the UK administrator for the time being is still Dave Langford of 22 Northumberland Avenue, Reading, Berks, RG2 7PW, UK, to which address donations may still be sent since although GUFF may have been planned as a one-shot fan fund there have been Further Developments whose nature is hinted within: clue -- you too can support Australia in '83 by sending money and encouragement to PO Box JI75, Brickfield Hill, NSW 2000, Australia ... Priest Reveals All within ...

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Your guarantee: this front page was filled with a full 4 ounces of wit and wisdom at our factory, but contents may have settled during transit.

But For Whom ...

This is an attempt to round up the names of all those superlatively Nice people who gave money or auction material to GUFF, paid ludicrous amounts for such publications as Gonad the Barbarian, or otherwise advanced the cause. Of course there are omissions: those who thrust money at Leigh Edmonds in Australia appear in his lists rather than mine, while buyers of GUFF fundraising publications in fanrooms and at auctions are not recorded anywhere, so their names must remain one of the great mysteries of the 1970s. Thanks to all, whether named below or not.

John Alderson, Harry Andruschak, Jim Barker, Paul Barnett, Birmingham SF Group, Judy Blish, Pamela Boal, Ron Bounds, Vernon Brown, Joanne Burger, Derek Carter, Geoff Cox, Bob Day, Alan Dorey, Carolyn Doyle, Graham England, Jan Howard Finder, Don Fitch, Al Fitzpatrick, James P.O. Fleming, Rune Forsgren, Keith Freeman, Glenn Garrett, Margaret Gemignani, Mike Glickson, Seth Goldberg, William T. Goodall, Steve Gould, Brian Hampton, Julian Headlong, Steev Higgins, Martin Hoare, Terry Hughes, Linda & Mike Hutchinson, Rob Jackson, Phil James, Terry Jeeves, Douglas Kaufman, Paul Kincaid, Leonard Kirkup, Hazel Langford, Denny Lein, Ann Looker, Ian Maule, Janice Maule, Laurence Miller, Joe Nicholas, Peter Nicholls, Keith Oborn, Jonathan P.R. Palfrey, Celia, Parsons, Roger Peyton, Dave Piper, Dai Price, Chris Priest, Andy Richards, Peter Roberts, Mike Rohan, Dave Rowe, Florence Russell, Paul Ryan, Joyce Scrivner, Bob Shaw, 'Bob Shaw', John Shire, Cyril Simsa, Kevin Smith, Brian Stableford, Andrew Stephenson, John Stewart, Kevin Tyler, Roger Waddington, Peter Weston, Donald Whyte, Martin Morse Wooster.

VOTING DETAILS as recorded in The Northern Guffblower 4 differ minutely from those noted in Leigh's Guff Fundies 6. Not that it's of any cosmic importance: Leigh merely includes a vote for 'nobody' which somebody sent in. (Since GUFF was originally intended as a one-shot -- but see the next item! -- we didn't include a 'Hold Over Funds' option.) I now confess that I had a vote marked 'I vote for not having to make a choice between these wonderful people' or words to that effect, but didn't list it as a vote -- only as a donation. Pedantry rules and Foyster still wins by a landslide -- but that should be two votes for nobody, Leigh. Yah-boo-sucks. You got it wrong as well ...

Before this sentence has reached its close, this filler will have served its purpose and ... ah, here we are. Now read the good bit.

A Message From Our Founder
Chris Priest

Once upon a time I was met at an airport by a rabbi, and the rabbi was wearing a track-suit, and the track-suit had paint stains all over it. This was the earliest impression I had of our great former colony south-east of India, namely, Australia.

During the summer of 1977 I got a distinct impression that people were avoiding me. Why, I wondered, did people yawn when I talked about Australia, why did doors slam in my face when they saw my bush-hat and boomerang? Was I really going on about it as much as my friends (who had obviously seen too many Lifebuoy adverts) were claiming? In the end, I found I was boring even myself ... so perhaps there was some truth in it all.

The fact is I had a terrific time in Australia, and I'm proud to be one of the small but growing band of Yanks and Pommies in the sf world who have made the long journey south. Bob Tucker, William Rotsler, Ursula Le Guin, Terry Carr, Bob Silverberg, Vonda McIntyre, Brian Aldiss are a few of the others. As far as I know, we all retain much the same sort of happy impression of the place ... I had what I think of as the best time of my life down under. It's hard to say why, exactly ... because it's true that Australia can offer little more than is readily available in Britain or the States, except perhaps the novelty of a different accent, and awe-inspiring scenery. I think that one of the strongest feelings I had out there was one of reassurance. When you fly from London, you pass through most of southern Asia, with the countries you visit briefly becoming progressively more alien and confusing: in the case of the flight I was on, Iran, India and Malaysia. Then, when you are least expecting it, you land in a place that looks like a cross between Torquay and Oxford Street, where the natives speak English (OK, a garbled form of English, I know, I know), and where they play cricket and watch Star Trek and drive on the left and collect old runs of Astounding and generally act in more-or-less comprehensible ways. There was also reassurance in the feeling that Australia is a long way from everywhere else, that if nuclear war broke out no one would get around to bombing the place until you'd had time to dig a nice safe hole. And reassurance in the fact that it is so culturally old-fashioned; Melbourne in 1977 felt to me like London used to feel in 1967, a sense of things beginning to open up, and general health and prosperity ... and girls wearing mini-skirts (which alone brought a few nostalgic tears to the eyes of this particular sexist pig).

And why should the science fiction world be interested in Australia? They've got nothing there we can't supply for ourselves. They've a few sf writers, and they've run a Worldcon, and they've got fandom, and they have feuds and alliances and monthly meetings, just like us. I must confess (and indeed, have hitherto made no secret of it) that before I made the trip I shared this feeling in some measure. Australia, considered in prospect, felt as if it was going to be a cultural and social suburb, one where the only possible difference would be that strangers in pubs would call you a Pommy bastard. I was wrong, and I grovel in abject apology for ever letting the notion occur to me. Not only did no one ever call me a Pommy bastard (and they didn't call me 'cobber', either), but the whole time I was there I experienced a quite indescribable and intangible sense of difference, one which was all the more confusing for being overlaid with apparent similarities. Whatever the cause, I felt energized and inspirited by the visit in ways I hadn't felt since I first encountered fandom in 1962. Because they are just like us, in the sense that they read New Worlds and Astounding and Hyphen and Vector, and they have cons where boring people drone on about boring things on boring panels, and they have the other sort of cons where interesting people drink too much and become indiscreet and highly entertaining. Ok, they haven't got the Astral Leauge, but they've got a Magic Pudding Club (or at least they had one while I was there), and they've got the Paul Stevens Show and the Golden Caterpillar Awards ... and what amounts to a sort of parallel fannish tradition, where the differences became apparent because I was no part of them, but where the similarities also were apparent, because it was all unmistakably fannish.

(And in case anyone's interested, the art of sf writing has the same quality of difference/similarity. There is a certain amount of Australian sf which is derivative of Anglo-American writing ... but there is also a new kind of Australian sf, practised most by the newer writers, naturally enough, where there is a new inwardness, a new sense of response to their own cultural/literary environment.)

Anyway, if you look back at those names I listed of visitors to Australia, you'll see that most of them are of writers, not fans. (Though some of the writers do have fannish links.) During the first weekend I was in Australia there was a con, and during this I was struck by one of my occasional IDEAS. We've had TAFF for years, in which, as everyone in fandom knws, a fannish visit from or to Britain or America is paid for by fannish charity ... and more recently DUFF has been in existence, in which fannish visits between America and Australia are arranged. It suddenly occurrred to me that it was time the third side of the triangle was closed, and after a few minutes of non-sober reflection in the bar, GUFF was created by unanimous consent.

The Get Up and over Fan Fund was created with the specific intention of bringing an Australian fan to Britain for Seacon '79. After a few early hiccups, GUFF came into formal being, and, mostly because of the hard work and dedication of the two Administrators, Dave Langford in Britain and Leigh Edmonds in Australia, not only was sufficient money raised, but a clear winner was found. That winner was John Foyster, who is here at Seacon. Foyster was my own nomination for GUFF (based on the entirely unprejudiced fact that I have met neither of the other two candidates, Eric Lindsay and John Alderson), which gives me special pleasure in the fact of his win.

Which brings me back to the rabbi in the paint-smeared track-suit, for it was none other than he.

I'm at a loss to describe John objectively, because my knowledge of him before my Australian visit was minimal. I knew his writing through his work in Australian Science Fiction Review, where he went in for intelligent if idiosyncratic criticism of sf. Later, I read JOE (The Journal of Omphalistic Epistemology), which was a sort of round-letter discussion fanzine about sf. I had heard he edited something called BOF (Boys' Own Fanzine), in collaboration with Leigh Edmonds. And I knew he had been on the committees of various cons in Australia. What I didn't know was he looked like a rabbi.

Later, I heard him in action at the con ... he goes in for a sort of sly fannish troublemaking, with a style and wittiness that gladdens the heart; he is an excellent extempore speaker. After the con, while I was drifting around on the fringes of fandom, I began to get to know him a little better. There are three things about him, events really, that I remember.

Firstly, he had the pleasant habit of taking me to bookshops; not the glossy, obvious bookshops, but the sort of hidden-away secondhand shops I wouldn't have been able to find without either a much longer stay in Melbourne or a native to show the way. Secondly, he introduced me to friends of his outside the fannish world; although this perhaps sounds like an anti-fannish sentiment, it was actually something I appreciated a lot at the time. Thirdly, he showed me the true essence of Australia. We were waiting for a tram one hot evening in Swanston Street, a long straight road that runs through the centre of Melbourne on a roughly north-south line. Suddenly, John looked solemn. 'This street,' he said, 'contains the very essence of All That Is Australia.' I glanced around at the numerous Chinese restaurants (one of which we had just left), and said something smart, cynical, and unoriginal. 'Listen you Pommy bastard,' he said, contradicting what I said earlier, 'I'm being serious. This street is symbolic of The Essence of Australia. There we have the Symbol of Australia's Past' ... and he pointed towards the south, where on a small hill stands the Shrine of Remembrance, all Corinthian pillars and steadfast architecture. Duly sobered, I nodded with appropriate solemnity. 'And there,' said John, pointing towards the north, 'we have the Symbol of Australia's Future.' I looked, and at the other end of Swanston Street, almost as impressive in its own way, was Foster's brewery ...

GUFF doesn't, or shouldn't, end with John Foyster's visit to Seacon. I'd like to think that his is the inaugural fannish trip between Australia and Britain, and that many more will follow in years to come. Don't let us allow it to wither away in indifference! It strikes me that the next opportunity for a GUFF trip could be in 1983, when Australia is bidding for the Worldcon. Then it will be our turn to send a British fan on a visit which, I can promise sincerely, will be highly enjoyable and eternally memorable. Here's what we have to do:

Support GUFF with cash. Treat it as a fannish charity on a par with TAFF and DUFF. Give freely ... or donate auction-material whenever possible. Support the Australia in '83 campaign. Join the Worldcon of 1981, and vote for Australia in '83. When the GUFF campaign begins, lobby for the chosen candidates, vote for your choice ... and give freely.

And if Australia doesn't win the '83 bid, support GUFF anyway ... because after all, a Worldcon is just a slightly better excuse for a trip, and there are numerous regional and national Australian cons which will do almost as well.

Meanwhile, make the effort to seek out John Foyster and make him feel at home. If he calls you a Pommy bastard, what you have to do is call him a drongo (Australians don't like this), or alternatively, if you're the peace-loving type, buy him a drink (and we'll send out a gunboat later). Incidentally, if he doesn't look like a rabbi these days, don't blame me.

Chris Priest


GUFF Miscellany: JOHN ALDERSON is hurt at being omitted from Leigh Edmonds's list of GUFF benefactors, though he overstates the injustice by listing things he would have donated had they not been destroyed in a fire. Never mind, John -- I haven't forgotten you. Reminds me that silly Langford ran off several dozen GUFF ballots without Eric Lindsay's name in the voting section; luckily I didn't send them out ... • JOHN FOYSTER will tour Europe after Seacon, later spending 15th-25th September in the UK. About GUFF's future, he writes: 'Leigh's suggestion of Australia in '83 as an appropriate time seems fine to me, but that is rather far in the future: clearly if Australia does have a worldcon in '83 that would be appropriate, but perhaps GUFF itself could be run a little more regularly -- something like every two years. I know Roy Tackett is concerned about lack of support for TAFF, but out here we are just beginning to get going on an exchange with Japanese fans (first Japanese fan to this year's national con in August). The alternative I used to favour (and I'm still not convinced that it isn't the best solution) is a 'round the world fan fund' with the winner touching down for conventions in the UK, USA, Australia and possibly other places (eg. expand UK to Europe) ...' The round-the-world idea doesn't enthrall me -- you get more flexibility with three funds, TAFF, DUFF & GUFF -- but it would be good to maintain the UK/Australian link despite the alternation problems (whether annual or biennial, a regular GUFF is going The Wrong Way in '83). • For the rest, C. Priest has said all the obvious things.