On the TAFF Trail
1984 TAFF Report: Rob Hansen


Since it's just conceivable that someone reading this may not know what TAFF is, I suppose a few words of explanation are in order. TAFF (the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund) exists to send European fans to American conventions, and vice versa, as 'cultural ambassadors' in order to strengthen the links of friendship between our fandoms. TAFF is supported entirely by donations from individuals and conventions and by proceeds from the sale of occasional special publications such as this one. (The current administrators may have slipped flyers between these pages giving further details.) It was the special fund organised by American fans to bring Walt Willis to the US in 1952 that provided the inspiration for the birth, a year later, of the continuing fund that is TAFF. As for me....

I got into fandom in 1975 and put out my first fanzine, EPSILON, in 1976. (It won the Nova Award for Best British Fanzine in 1982, the same year I won the Nova Award for Best British Fan Artist.) In 1981, Harry Bell suggested I stand for TAFF, but I didn't think I was then well-enough known in the US. In 1982, Ted White suggested it again, and kept suggesting it -- as did others -- until they'd convinced me to stand. The next east-west TAFF race was for a trip to the US in 1984, so I set about securing the necessary nominations, including these two:

"I, HARRY BELL, fan of this parish, do hereby nominate and endorse as candidate for the forthcoming TAFF race to the USA the ever-lovely ROB HANSEN. I disagree that being Welsh should be an impediment. Well, hardly at all."

"I, DAVE LANGFORD, being of soundish mind and in receipt of the usual vague bribes and threats, hereby nominate ROB HANSEN as a deserving (ie. Welsh) TAFF candidate for the 1983-4 TAFF race, in the full and frank understanding that in the event of his victory I am free to ask to publish a bit of his TAFF report and Rob is free to say 'Piss off!'"

And just like that I was a contender. I fought off a very strong challenge from D West to win the race, and the following pages tell the story of the trip that followed, in a mere 33,000 words.

It's expected that the TAFF winner will write a report on their trip when they return, a tradition that's fallen somewhat by the wayside in recent years. Indeed, Dave Langford's report on his 1980 trip, THE TRANSATLANTIC HEARING AID (1985), is the only other completed report to be published in the past 18 years. Traditionally, the various chapters of the report are first published in various fanzines, as many in this report were. With the tenth anniversary of my trip coming up and three years having elapsed since I last wrote a chapter, I decided to get the remaining 40% or so of the report written so that it could finally be published as a whole. As to why it's taken ten years to complete.... Well, as soon as the trip was over I became deeply embroiled in a feud, the TAFF Wars/Bergeron Affair, which was probably my most unpleasant experience in fandom. Since this was already making itself felt while I was on my trip it was impossible to write about that trip without covering this (particularly in the latter stages), and it's taken until now for me to overcome my aversion to the subject enough to be able to do this project justice. A synopsis of the TAFF Wars, adapted from a brief history of UK fandom I wrote in 1987, has been included in an appendix in order to provide the necessary background for those unfamiliar with it.

Finally, I'd just like to thank all those who put me up during my trip (a complimentary copy of this report will be going to them by way of thanks), Steve Stiles for his prompt response to my request for a particular piece of background information, and last, but far from least, Avedon Carol for more than can be listed here but in particular for copy-editing and formatting.

This is ON THE TAFF TRAIL and is copyright © Rob Hansen, 1994. Ten years ago, as I write, I was on my TAFF trip.

Rob Hansen, London
August/November 1994.