In the Challenge Cheryl series of articles, Pip R. Lagenta asked:
To the best of my knowledge, four science fiction clubs in the United States own their own clubhouse (NESFA, LASFS, BSFS and SFSFS). Is the time right for BASFA to establish a permanent “Building Fund” in order to start the process of purchasing clubhouse property?
Before answering this I need to set a little background. People outside the USA tend to assume that America is one, homogenous state full of fiercely patriotic folks who hold allegiance only to their country. Nothing could be further from the truth. A brief review of American history shows that the country is actually divided into large two groups – Yankees and Rebels – which share a strong dislike for each other. Further, there is much inter-state rivalry, especially with regard to Texas (whose people still think of it as a separate country) and California (which the rest of America wishes was a separate country). Furthermore, there is some intra-state rivalry.
California is divided into two distinct regions: Superior California (in the north) and Inferior California (in the south). Superior California is home to the glorious (if currently hugely incompetent) San Francisco Giants baseball team, whereas Inferior California is home to the Epitome of Evil, the Los Angeles Dodgers. The two regions are separated by a hotly contested border region just south of Monterey. Carmel might seem like a quiet and peaceful town now, but when Clint Eastwood was first appointed Mayor it was a violent border outpost and known stopping place for raiding parties from both north and south bent on rustling herds of surfer girls from enemy territory. Thankfully, under Clint’s iron hand, the region has been temporarily pacified.
Our friend Pip happens to be a sometime member of the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society (LASFS), proud owners of Westercon , LosCon and one of the finest science fiction clubhouses in the known faniverse. Enquiries about a BASFA Clubhouse could therefore be taken as indicating that the folk in Inferior California have somehow got one over on us folks from the north (BASFA being the Bay Area Science Fiction Association of which Kevin and I are long-standing members). But have they? Read on, and you can be the judge.
BASFA has, as Pip probably knows, always had a Building Fund. Right from the club’s very beginnings our far-sighted founding President, Michael Wallis, had a dream that we too would have a clubhouse of our own. Unfortunately, the San Francisco Bay Area has some of the most expensive real estate on the planet. Despite decades of saving and ingenious money-making schemes, we still only have enough money to buy a small closet. However, how we got to that point is an adventure worth re-telling.
Wallis himself knew that something of the Silicon Valley spirit of entrepreneurship would be required if the club was to succeed in its ambition. But his idea of raising money through a vast network of fannish Amway franchises failed to take off. Dave Clark thought that perhaps we could raise money by going into the book selling business, but that too has proved relatively unsuccessful to date.
We had heard, of course, that if you ran a successful enough Worldcon then you would have a vast surplus that you could then spend on your clubhouse. Unfortunately our cunning plans to make a fortune out of fandom came to naught. Kevin nobly volunteered to take on most of the debt himself, and he is still paying it off today.
More recently some of our members have come up with more adventurous money-making schemes. One of our most brilliant members, Baron Frankwustein, conceived the idea of designing an artificial science fiction writer who could make a fortune for us from his books. The Baron worked through many prototypes, each indicated by a letter of the alphabet. The early models were mostly sad failures, and the Bs were positively homicidal. However, with the model J, Frankwustein finally achieved something that not only worked, but wrote as well. I have to say that J didn’t look entirely human, and we had a lot of difficulty passing it off at conventions because it would only eat cheese, but it did work with Frankwustein to produce books. One of them even got published.
Unfortunately this artificial creature eventually developed a mind of its own and began to rebel against its creator. It wanted the money and girls for itself, it said, and anyway it had grand ideas for books of its own that the good Baron felt would never sell. Eventually the creature escaped from Frankwustein’s laboratory and ran away. The last we heard it was hiding out in the forests of the far north, frantically writing novels for all that it is worth. We hope it manages to sell some of them. Baron Frankwustein was heartbroken by the creature’s defection and has resolved never again to make an artificial man. These days he contents himself with creating giant space chickens.
Our next wizard wheeze involved us entering into partnership with the League of Evil Geniuses. This shadowy organization, operating out of a secret headquarters deep beneath Mount Shasta, has worked with us to run fund-raising parties at numerous conventions around the world. In particular they helped mastermind our most recent Worldcon bid, that for Hollister in 2008. Sadly our fabulous location of Casa de Fruta proved unpopular with the voters in Los Angeles (doubtless as a result of fiendish LASFS plotting) and we have since sold the entire operation off to these folks who seem to have done rather well with it.
The association with the League of Evil Geniuses had an unintentional consequence in that it gave some of our members a taste for partying. Despite valiant resistance from our devoted treasurer, Dave Gallaher, each year members now vote hundreds of hard-earned dollars from the Building Fund to be spent on convention parties for the greater good of fandom. While this is undoubtedly hampering our primary mission, the cause is good so we can hardly complain.
The most recent scheme we came up with involved nothing less than the blackmail of a foreign government. A careful campaign of ballot stuffing on our part saw BASFA’s current Vice President (or President of Vice as we prefer to call him), Chris Garcia, packed off to the UK as part of the Trans Atlantic Fan Fund project. On his arrival we contacted Prime Minister Gordon Brown and threatened to leave Chris there unless the UK paid us a substantial ransom. Unfortunately Mr. Brown did not take our threat seriously (if only Tony Blair had still been in office – he was much more prone to being bullied by Americans). As we really wanted Chris back home, we didn’t fully carry through with our threats, but we did fulfill our promise to destroy Heathrow airport’s new Terminal 5, a mission which Chris carried out to spectacular effect. The British government is now threatening reprisals, but we are not concerned. They have already sent us James Bacon. How much worse could it get?
Other projects are still bubbling along nicely. In 2004 we came very close to our target of achieving total domination of the fan Hugos, winning two of the categories and coming second in the third. We are now working on a plan to capture all of the nominations, if necessary by cloning Chris Garcia so that we produce so many fanzines that voters are not aware of anyone else. We have offered to put our massive voting block at the disposal of John Scalzi, but as yet we have been unable to agree upon a fee.
Probably our most effective fund-raising project, however, has been the Numismatic Responsibility Act™. This brilliant piece of legislation is available on our web site, but for your convenience I am reproducing it here in full:
The Numismatic Responsibility Act™
Whereas the formation of the club having been approved, and addressing the matter of raising funds for such activities as the members may deem worthwhile, it is hereby proposed that said funds, in part, be collected as a tax on puns.
- Make A Pun – Pay A Fine: The fee for making a pun during any meeting or gathering when a BASFA quorum(1) can be established shall be set at 25¢, payable in coin of the realm.
- Deposition Of Coin: Having made a pun, you may elect to walk up to the jar and drop your coin in, or you can elect to toss the coin from where you sit.
- Staying In The Jar: Should you elect to toss your coin and it doesn’t stay in the jar, there is an additional 5¢ fine for missing.
- Not Even On The Table: Should you elect to toss your coin and it doesn’t even hit the table the jar is on, there is an additional 10¢ fine to discourage wild throws.
- Protection For Officers: Should you elect to toss your coin and it strikes one of the club officers (who are frequently in the vicinity of the jar), there is an additional $1.00 fine to discourage assassination attempts.
- Volume Punning: Should anyone feel an excessive number of puns may be likely at any time, they may ask for a Pun License. Such a license shall run the remainder of the evening and allow unlimited puns without further penalty.
- Determination Of License Fees: Should someone request a pun license, the cost of that license for that evening shall be determined by vote of the other members present at the time. The person requesting the license may choose to decline it if they feel they would be overcharged by this price, in which case they are again subject to Rule 1.
Footnotes: (1) “Quorum shall consist of fifty percent (50%) of the members present at any given meeting.”
Unlikely as it may seem, this simple rule has generated thousands of dollars for BASFA over the years. It, and other BASFA traditions such as “Chicago-style democracy™”, “birthday auctions” and “recreational parliamentary practice™” have proven highly effective in generating revenue from fannish gatherings. As a result (and with kind assistance from our trademark and patents experts, Kevin Standlee and Frank Wu) we have recently patented the BASFA club concept and trademarked certain key elements thereof. For a not unreasonable fee (and royalties) we are now willing to franchise the entire operation to any group of fans hoping to set up their own science fiction club. As a result we expect to see BASFA franchises being created all over the faniverse and soon we will not have just one clubhouse, but many of them. We wait in anticipation to see how our friends in LASFS will manage to match that.