Poncier-looking than Fans Across the World Newsletter! More jokes than the NHS league tables! Not nearly as late as Deliverance! It can only be....
Rises from the grave
First thing I did when I got back from the USA was, er, go to bed; then, oh, various family and political things, but the very first thing I did on returning to the real world was ring Dave Langford and demand a newsletter title. He groaned. Look, I explained, it's really important and traditional for a TAFF newsletter to have a silly punning title, and I'm just too wrecked to think of one, so you have to. He groaned again, with the air of one who suddenly rather wished he'd been kidnapped by aliens in 1991. 'Actually,' he said, 'I could never see what was wrong with TAFF Talk.' (Translation: if it was good enough for me and Peter Roberts, it's good enough for you, scumbag.) During the rail strike, I toyed with reviving Greg's TAFF Vale; more recently, I wondered about doing a Joseph with TAFF Inferno. But no: TAFF Talk it is. immutable as Clause Four and the Law of Three Staples.
Anyway, my line on newsletters is that there's no point in issuing them in the absence of news. But now we have news: the race is on! Candidates are Samanda b Jeudé, Dan Steffan and Joe Wesson, and a ballot form detailing their many virtues (in their very own words) is enclosed. You have until 29 May to vote, so do spend some time considering your vote; I'm sure the candidates' supporters will be happy to give you whatever you need (information, fanzines, weekends at the Paris Ritz...) to make an informed choice.
Meanwhile, back at the bank
The fund now stands at £1933.06. Thanks to: Iain Banks and Patrick Curzon; Covert Beach; Dave Langford and Paul Barnett (books, general assistance); Andy Hooper (fanthologies); Novacon, Mexicon and Sou'wester (auction facilities); Sou'wester again (donation); Mic Rogers, Roz Kaveney, Dave Mooring, Caroline Mullan and a cast of thousands, auction donations.
This looks dead healthy, but the big spending period is just six months away. The cost of sending an American fan to Intersection (since it's started calling itself The Scottish Worldcon on its own posters, the old name is declared terminally uncool) and thence all over the place depends on the winner's plans, but it's unlikely to be cheap. In addition, I plan to spend some money on publications. At least two of these (my and Rob Hansen's trip reports) will be self-financing, since we can claim $500.00 each from a past US Worldcon, and of course they will be sold once out. But we still have to pay production costs up front.
Publications are an investment for the future. Air-fares are relatively cheap now, and the pound and the dollar in reasonable equilibrium, but this may change. Rail privatisation may greatly increase travelling costs here. We should also allow for travel beyond the UK, if possible. I'd hate to see it ruled out by lack of money. And while Vince Clarke is still capable of changing his mind, I think TAFF should stand by Pam Wells's offer to pay for the trip he couldn't take in the fifties because of insufficient funds. (Take the money and run, Vince! Trust me, you need to see the Pacific Ocean....) So I'd like to bequeath some saleable assets to my successor, now, while printing is VAT-free and we aren't scuffling for every last penny.
TAFF and the future
We're constantly discussing TAFF and the Worldcon, never, it seems, do we get round to deciding either to stick with present practice or open things up. My own thinking on this matter has been slightly, but significantly, changed by the arrival of the GUFF ballot. GUFF, it appears, avoids the whole argument by simply nominating a convention for each race. Why shouldn't TAFF do the same? In most cases, the nominated convention might well be either a US Worldeon or a British Eastercon; but if there were, say, a group of potential candidates who were keen to attend a particular US regional, or a specific convention in continental Europe (Millennium is an obvious name that springs to mind, but of course there's also a Eurocon every year), why not have a change?
TAFF, I think, is partly a victim of its own longevity. When it was set up, fandom was smaller and less complex; continental fandoms had very little contact with the Anglophone countries; there were fewer actual conventions; and we had (glory glory) Full Employment, which must at least have made taking extended trips easier to square with one s employers (and a transatlantic trip was a once-rn-a-lifetime thing, which may also have helped there). Don Fitch, in the current Attitude, suggests requiring a four-week trip in future: while I agree wholeheatedly that travelling round the host country and staying with fans is the most important part of a TAFF trip, I think this is unrealistic. More and more of us are. essentially, casual workers: we may glorify ourselves with titles such as 'computer consultant', or 'freelance editorial manager', but in the end we're just like the men who used to crowd round the dock gates hoping to catch the foreman's eye for a day's work hauling cargo. I lost six months' half-time work because my TAFF trip clashed with the client's schedule. Those of us who are employed might often have trouble getting a full month's continuous leave, and those on the dole would get no benefit for such a long holiday -- ie, they'd have nothing to pay the rent with. I'm not too bothered now about my own loss of income (I found other work. and the company in question is a pain in the neck, anyway), but TAFF wasn't meant to be a millstone. Obviously candidates have to make a commitment, and bloody well stick by it, but in an age of flexible (ie, screw the workers) employment, TAFF ought to be moving in the direction of more, not less, flexibility. Over to you, dear readers.
Fan-funds united shall never be defeated
GUFF, as well as an inspiration, is another worthy fan cause. Why not support its current race too? Past winner Joseph Nicholas is handling the fund in the UK, since current adminstrator Eva Hauser lives in a soft currency area. Contact him at 15 Jansons Road, London N15 41U. (And how about a plug in your next newsletter, Joseph?)
Yes, all this witter about what convention TAFF winners should attend rather marginalises the trip itself. There's life outside conventions, you know. All in all, I visited five cities (or six if you count Bloomington separately from Minneapolis), one distinctly non-metropolitan fan centre, with side-trips to Mount Rainier (and what, if it were here in Heritage Britain, would be called Twin Peaks Country), Red Rock Canyon, Nevada, Muir Woods and Berkeley: all in 22 days, followed by a strange, automatist period as I watched the BNP and the Anti-Nazi League fighting it out in my local streets (on television), travelled down to Somerset for my cousin's wedding (and got a useful update on the East End political situation from a Stepney vicar while there), came home and threw my zombie self into canvassing pit-bull country in the infamous Millwall by-election. We lost; we spun around in misery and mutual recrimination, and it was a good month or so until I managed to lose that weird, desperate, agony-and-ecstasy on-the-road feeling.
Since then, I've worked on Mexicon 6; gathered material for and run three TAFF auctions; spent 13 hours on my feet on council-election polling day; and just about scraped a living in between. Somehow it all seems seamlessly linked. Hell, I can't resist it: what a long, strange trip it's been. See y'all after Christmas.
TAFF Talk comes from Abigail Frost, 95 Wilmot Street, London E2 OBP, to whom comments, donations, TAFF ballots -- anything in fact except bribes, chiz chiz -- should be sent forthwith.