When I came back from my TAFF trip, a huge stack of mail was waiting. Even after I threw out the junk mail, there were still ten fanzines (in addition to the dozen or so new zines handed to me while in England), a dozen letters (most of them LoCs), some FAPA dues payments and other business, and a whole flock of orders in response to the "fanzines by the pound" advertisements that the editors of Locus and SFC had generously run gratis for TAFF. It worked out that I received paid orders for more than twice as many fanzines as I had available. One person sent a check for fifty pounds! After filling as many orders as possible – smallest ones first in order to spread the zines as widely as possible (never got near the fifty-pounder!) – I had to return quite a few orders with a letter of apology. In addition, there were several apa deadlines to meet and, before many weeks had passed, a FAPA Secretary-Treasurer's report to prepare.
I was fanning my butt off in an effort to stay on top of the huge wave of fannish energy that I'd brought in off the road with me. Also, at odd moments my mind would boil over with instant replays of various portions of my trip. I let it out somewhat by writing a fairly brief report for a very small apa in which I participate, mostly just a loose chronology of my travels and bare bones reportage; later, I expanded on one day (the one I spent with a non-fan friend in Cambridge) in my FAPAzine. Altogether I wrote about 8,000 words, making no reference whatsoever to my two hours of taped notes (which I still have not played, wanting to save them for when I Get Serious about writing my report). As summer heated up, I allowed myself to enter without guilt into my annual summer slump. This is usually caused by the weather; it gets too hot to sit in my room over a keyboard for anything other than the bare minimum of maintenance fanac. I believe I combined this slump with a belated post-trip one, for by the time it finally struck it was impossible to say whether weather or post-TAFF letdown was the cause. But whatever, I have not worked further on that pre-report since the end of July. If anyone is interested in seeing what I've written so far, send me a $2 donation to TAFF and a long SASE, and I'll run one off for you. If you like, I'll also include a copy of a six-page list of fanzines and other items for sale to benefit TAFF. For anyone wanting only the sale list, it is available for a long SASE (overseas send an IRC instead).
My three weeks in the U.K. were (insert your own pet superlative). While this is not going to lead into any sort of serious trip report – it's too soon for that – I can't just let this editorial slide on by without restating my belief that fannish institutions like TAFF do work and are for the people involved (as well as for fandom as a whole) well worth the risk and hard work involved beyond the glory days of the trip itself. (To explain, the risk is that, in running, one puts oneself in place as a public target for any possible surprise potshots or downright nastiness from anyone so inclined; the work is in administering your half of the fund after your trip is over and the coma Roger refers to may have set in.)
In my own case, the prospect of finally getting to meet the people who have been in and on my mind for up to thirty years was the stuff of sheer fantasy; that's what buoyed my spirits through the months of Being a Candidate. To have it actually happen was overwhelmingly fulfilling.
The truth of the old adage "All knowledge is contained in fanzines" really hits home when you travel around a familiar yet strange new land and meet, visit, and live a little of your life with people who previously were only names at another end of the fannish nexus. Although it is all new, it is also quite familiar. You've been there in your mind already. Of course, sometimes reality and the contents of your imagination can clash. For instance, as a youngfan in the late '50s, I imagined ATom's residence, at 17 Brockham House, Brockham Drive, to be an elderly red brick low-rise apartment block situated in a verdant, park-like setting, amidst stately oaks, rose gardens and manicured hedges, in a cul-de-sac with no traffic. One would leave one's car in a nearby parking area and stroll through the formal gardens to Arf's front door. Of course, in my neoish dreams I couldn't ever work out whether he lived on the ground floor or up a flight of stairs. But the address itself was exotic to me. In reality, Chuch and Sue Harris and I ascended to the Thomsons' apartment on a lift. The building was not red brick. I don't remember much greenery. Damn good to see Art again, though (only other time was in '64 during his TAFF trip), and meet Olive, a dynamo of energy who brews a mean pot of tea and kept us plied with sweets and good conversation.
Many other disparities between illusion and reality come to mind, but the most interesting are the cultural features you didn't even think of. For instance, I knew that in the U.K. one drives on the left side of the road in cars with the driver's seat on the right side, but I was completely unaware of the use of roundabouts (traffic circles) for the junctions of arterial roads. The joys of "freshly cut" sandwiches (as opposed to ones embalmed in plastic wrappings) and pub food were brought home to me. There were whole categories of stores mostly non-existent in post-industrial America but in evidence in generous quantities wherever I went: little news agents, bakeries and betting parlors. Another surprise was how old and new architecture was all situated together, just like in America. My mental picture was that the old stuff would be in separate places, to enhance its historicity. Juxtapositions like the modern buildings at one edge of the centuries-old Cambridge open market were constant mind-bogglers. I don't know why I thought it would be different.
One of the fringe benefits of being a TAFF delegate is that you can generally move between feuding elements of the host fandom without rancor on anyone's part. Often I felt like a Heinleinesque "fair witness" as I spent time with various of the warring factions and got to hear their respective viewpoints of the battle lines of British fandom. Preferring mostly to socialize and sightsee, when interfan hassles were discussed, I usually just listened – to scope out for myself (if possible) the truth (ever shifting and often elusive) of the various positions I'd previously seen espoused in fanzines. When I occasionally commented, it was mostly in a general way, trying my best not to take sides. Sometimes this was challenging, but I felt (and feel) that I can be a more effective commentator than participant if I'm equally informed by all parties. In retrospect, the main thing I regret about 1989's version of the good ol' fan feud (I've never enjoyed feuds – they are not among my reasons for participating in fandom) is the apparent loss of Owen Whiteoak, one of my favorite fanwriters throughout the '80s who also turned out to be a Good Person when I finally met him. If there was anything I could have said or done that would have helped to prevent that particularly unhappy turn of events, I'm sorry to have overlooked it.
Well, life does go on despite these setbacks, and TAFF is continuing in its appointed ways, too. This year, since the Worldcon is in the Netherlands it will be the convention most European fans will attend that time of year. This fact has resulted, despite much canvassing by the Twins and me, in an overwhelming lack of candidates interested in going the following weekend to a Nasfic in Southern California. Therefore, Christina, Lilian and I decided (after also soliciting the opinion of a wide range of TAFF founders and former administrators in order to broaden the consensus) last fall that there would be no 1990 TAFF race. The next race will be from Europe to North America for the 1991 Worldcon. This summer, in my first TAFF newsletter, the schedule for that race – from opening nominations to announcing the result – will be published. There will also be fannish items for sale and up for auction (mostly fanzines – one particular oddity to be offered is a small collection of riders that accompanied various issues of Slant). (Contributions of auctionable items, by the way, are always in order.) The newsletter will go to TAFF's rather large mailing list, which will include all North American and Southern Hemisphere Trap Door readers, since they are within the sphere of activity of a "North American TAFF administrator." (A few Europeans, primarily newszine editors and former TAFF administrators, will also get it, and others need only apply.) Watch for it.