On the TAFF Trail
1984 TAFF Report: Rob Hansen


As it had been in the late-1950s, TAFF was the focus of a lot of acrimony in 1984. The race that year was between D West and me. We drew in the UK, but I won the North American vote. The North American administrator at that time was Avedon Carol and during her TAFF trip to the UK in 1983 (she was Fan Guest of Honour at ALBACON) we'd developed a close personal relationship, one which was far from being secret. Over in Puerto Rico, Richard Bergeron -- a fervent supporter of West during the race -- chose to believe that Avedon had unduly influenced people to vote on my behalf and, taking an offhand comment about him in one of her fanzines as a jumping off point, launched into a series of attacks on her in both fanzines and in private correspondence. Americans such as Ted White and Patrick & Teresa Nielsen Hayden, and Britons such as Chuck Harris and Dave Langford (a group including some of West's nominators), wrote letters arguing that he was mistaken but were unable to move him. A feud was brewing and it started to come to the boil as I was beginning my TAFF trip across the US. Seeing this, Dave Locke and Jackie Causgrove of Cincinnatti, fans who had had grievances of their own with the administration of the fund during previous races, entered the fray in support of Bergeron. D West, Avedon's supposed victim, thought Bergeron's charges against her groundless and wrote an open letter dismissing them out of hand, but it did nothing to stop the feud. By this point it had taken on a life of its own. Even so the feud, though the cause of much stress among those caught up in it, aroused little interest among British fans as a whole since most of the action was occurring in the pages of private correspondence. That all changed when the 1985 TAFF race was drawn into the conflict.

Usually those wanting to run in a TAFF race make their intentions known long before the nomination period opens and there are rarely eleventh hour entries, but in the 1985 race there was one. As the nomination period was drawing to a close, the administrators began to receive nominations for Martha Beck. Since one of her nominators missed the deadline date by a week, Beck failed to make the ballot, but that was not the end of the matter. In early November '84, copies of a 'Martha Beck for TAFF' flyer that was being circulated in the American Midwest by Jackie Causgrove were 'leaked' to Linda Krawecke Pickersgill. This document urged local fans to vote for Beck by writing in her name on their TAFF ballots, and called her 'the Midwestern candidate'. (Of the other candidates, Rich Coad lived on the West Coast and the Nielsen Haydens on the East Coast, though none of them were actually from these areas originally.) TAFF has never operated on the basis of the candidates representing any particular region of the sending country but there were reasons why Midwestern fans were peculiarly susceptible to such an appeal. During the business session of the 1984 Worldcon, Ben Yalow, an East Coast fan, had suggested that for the purposes of Worldcon rotation the US in future be split into two zones rather than the current three "... in order to eliminate wimpy bids". This quote got somewhat garbled on the grapevine and word went round that an attempt was being made by East and West Coast fans to squeeze out 'the Wimpy Zone', ie ... the Midwest. Much was made of 'the Wimpy Zone' in literature for the Martha Beck write-in campaign, as if a Beck victory would somehow show fans from the coastal regions that the Midwest was still a force to be reckoned with and not so wimpy after all. Needless to say, this appeal to US regional chauvinism didn't go down at all well in the UK since British fans didn't give a damn about such matters. Indeed, they viewed the attempt to swamp the ballot with a massive Midwestern vote as an attempt to disenfranchise them, to render their vote and their voice in this race irrelevant, particularly since no-one involved in the Beck campaign ever directly informed British fandom at large about it. Beck was completely unknown in the UK and there was no attempt made to start a campaign over here or even to make copies of the flyer available. Noting that candidates Patrick and Teresa Nielsen Hayden had strongly supported administrator Avedon Carol in the still-raging feud, and that Jackie Causgrove had supported Richard Bergeron, many found it impossible to believe that Causgrove's campaign was unconnected with the feud. A British response to all this was inevitable, and it soon materialised.

Linda Krawecke Pickersgill was appalled by the campaign and determined to do something about it. With then-husband Greg, she put together a petition that spelled out what was happening and the importance of taking a stand against it. "It is vital that we make our voices heard even though our votes may now seem to count for nothing", read the petition, "... we must register our protests with the TAFF administration over the way our vote is being disregarded". The petition argued its case eloquently enough, but it was reading the copy of the 'Martha Beck for TAFF' flyer attached to it that convinced many to sign. "If the majority of British TAFF voters protest the use of British TAFF funds to support candidates who have no contact or interest in British fandom", concluded the petition, "there will be a mandate for the freezing of such funds until a more acceptable solution is reached". Such was the offense the Beck campaign had caused that copies of the petition rolled in from all parts of the UK, the signatories including most of the best-known fans of the day ... and 57% of those who had voted in the TAFF race over here. What with feelings running so high, and all the talk of withdrawing from TAFF and setting up an alternative fund, it was beginning to look as if TAFF couldn't survive a Beck victory. As TAFF administrator, I was faced with a serious quandary. I hadn't been elected to preside over the dissolution of the fund, the destruction of a worthy cause that had endured more than three decades, but could the wishes of a British fandom that had so unequivocally stated its position in this matter be ignored? Whoever won, this was going to be the most crucial race in TAFF's history.

The voting deadline was midnight on 31st December 1984, and the next day the votes were tallied. The final count said it all. In North America, Martha Beck received 183 votes and the Nielsen Haydens 144, while over here the figures were 6 and 117 respectively, which meant the Nielsen Haydens defeated Beck by 261 votes to 189 (both the largest TAFF vote in the UK ever, and the largest overall). It also spelt an end to the feud as far as most of the antagonists were concerned. However, that one half of TAFF thought it was possible to be disenfranchised by a group in the other, and that such acrimony could be generated by something intended to improve the links of friendship between our two fandoms, showed that the TAFF rules were in serious need of another overhaul. Ironically, I'd seen the danger of something like this happening and had proposed a couple of changes shortly after assuming office. Unfortunately, Avedon vetoed these because Bergeron had just begun his attacks on her and she thought that any tinkering with the rules at that point would have just given him another excuse to pillory her. I'd proposed introducing a requirement that in order to win a candidate must secure 25% of the vote in the host country, and was in favour of dropping the write-in vote option, an American electoral tradition rather than a British one which, in the context of TAFF, had always seemed merely a way of avoiding the nomination requirements. Both Avedon and the Nielsen Haydens thought the latter would be too difficult to sell to US fandom but a version of the former, modified to the requirement that a winning candidate must secure 20% of the vote on both sides of the Atlantic, was accepted. This proposal was incorporated into the TAFF rules after being ratified at a meeting of current administrators, previous administrators, and founding fathers of TAFF that took place in Leeds at the 1985 Eastercon, the UK National Convention. Greg Pickersgill won the next UK to US race (defeating Judith Hanna and Simon Ounsley) and he too suffered attacks from certain US fans both during and after the race. The pretext usually given for these attacks was that he had written a piece in 1981 in STOP BREAKING DOWN #7 criticising the contemporary state of TAFF. However, since most of the attacks came from those he'd opposed by helping to organise the protest petition during the 1985 race, people thoroughly discredited in the eyes of most British fans, they were largely ignored over here. And so the TAFF Wars came, finally, to an end.

... from The Story So Far, Rob Hansen, 1987