Over the past week or so I have seen quite a few people complaining on Twitter about the evil SMOFs. This doesn’t exactly surprise me, but at the same time I’m always interested to see what they’ve been up to, and actually they are not always at fault.
One of the clear issues is programming at Chicago, which is apparently generating a lot of angst. I have no involvement, so I have no idea whether we are facing a Toronto-style disaster or it is just a lot of entitled whining. What I will say, however, is that as someone who has been officially blacklisted from program by a Worldcon, I’m finding the complaints of conspiracies by people who are not getting as many panels as they think they deserve a bit over the top.
Something else that is doubtless bubbling along is the idea that, because René Walling is a past Worldcon chair, everyone involved in Worldcon is liable to be an evil creeper. I remind people that René is no longer involved in the Hugo Award Marketing Committee, and if he has any other responsible positions in WSFS I expect that to end with this current Worldcon.
The main excitement, however, appears to be a consequence of someone’s delusions of grandeur being taken seriously. No one — not Kevin, not Ben Yalow, not Vincent Docherty, or any other well known Worldcon runner — is an official spokesman for fandom. Some people think that they are, and to understand why requires a little history.
Long, long ago in the dark ages known as the 20th Century, all fandom was plunged into war. Some people insisted that the only legitimate function of a fanzine was to discuss science fiction. They were known as “Serious and Constructive” fans, or “sercon” for short. Others held that “Fanac is what fans do”, that is that anything that fans do is legitimate fodder for a fanzine, and if you wanted to write about your cat, or your passion for trains, or feminism, or whatever else engaged you, that was OK. This latter group called themselves Trufen (which meant True Fans).
In time the Trufen won, in no small part because they had the fearsome satirical pen of Langford on their side. And anyway, Worldcon was growing fast and the idea that fandom was centered on paper fanzines became a bit silly. But if the idea of True Fans reminds you of people like the True Finns and other people with deeply conservative political ideas then you won’t be surprised that there is still a small rump of people who believe that they are the sole true guardians of authentic fannish tradition. They call themselves Trufen and Core Fandom and if you don’t know much about them you might assume that they are somehow representative of fandom at large. Nothing could be further from the truth.
One of the most prominent members of this group is Arnie Katz. To get some idea of what he’s like, you can read his views on the Readercon affair, or his lead article in this issue of his fanzine. He’s also apparently still telling other people what they can and cannot put in their fanzines.
Katz does have something of a track record of throwing his weight around. He’s railed against me for a long time, and I’m afraid I tend to laugh at him. And wave my Hugos in his general direction. But if he and his friends had any real power, or spoke in any way for the majority of fans, I would never have won those Hugos. He doesn’t even have any role in Worldcon. He doesn’t attend (even when it is in his home state). He despises WSFS (and Kevin in particular). And he apparently thinks that the only legitimate “Worldcon” is Corflu, the annual fanzine fan convention.
Of course Arnie is entitled to his opinions, but he doesn’t speak for fandom, for WSFS, for SMOFs, for fanzine fans or even for the vast majority of the people who identified as Trufen back in the days when it mattered. Treating Katz as if he is in any way official and important is like assuming that Fred Phelps speaks for all Christians. Just ignore him, or if you must take notice, laugh at him like I do.