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I don't count myself as part of the dinner party wing of fandom, the people who seem to see SF conventions primarily as an assembly point for a series of epic meal excursions. Having said that, I have by inclination and income evolved beyond my formative convention experiences where I and my friends could somehow get through the weekend on a packet of a biscuits and a Pot Noodle, with perhaps a bag of chips if we were feeling flush, and so on the Saturday evening of the recent Novacon, Claire and I were in a rather nice restaurant in central Nottingham along with fellow fans Mike and Pat Meara, Doug Bell, and Christina Lake. Now I forget exactly what it was that provoked this particular remark—I imagine we were talking about deadlines for fan fund or award ballots and the need or otherwise to constantly remind everybody what these deadlines are—but something prompted Christina to say, "I don't lead a fannish life."

"Fandom as a way of Life" was the title of an article by D. B. Thompson which appeared in a mailing of the Fantasy Amateur Press Association (FAPA) back in the mid-1940s. It's not clear whether this article was a direct influence, but at some later point people started talking about the idea that "Fandom Is A Way Of Life," often rendered into the acronym FIAWOL.

Fancyclopedia is, as the name suggests, a fannish encyclopaedia. It's gone through three editions, the first two originally in print and the third online, and can help to track the evolution of terms like this. FIAWOL doesn't appear in the first (1944) edition, but it's there in both the second (1959) and the ongoing wiki-based third edition, which notes that the term is usually used humorously because "no one, after all, spends all their time at fanac. Do they?"

That definition is drawn from an online concordance, "Dr. Gafia's Fan Terms." "Dr. Gafia" was a pseudonym of American fan rich brown (that's not a typo; he invariably spelled his name without initial capitals), "gafia" being another fan acronym, this one for "getting away from it all." It's attributed to fan-later-author Richard Wilson and dates back to at least 1940, when it meant leaving aside the concerns of the wider world and immersing oneself in fandom—espousing, I suppose, full-on FIAWOL even if nobody had yet come up with the term. Curiously, towards the end of the 1940s the definition flipped, and subsequently was used to describe those who decided to "get away" from fandom.

There is an antithetical view to FIAWOL, that Fandom Is Just A Goddamned Hobby or "FIJAGH." Fancyclopedia 2 implies this coinage can be attributed to American fan Charles Burbee, although Harry Warner, writing in A Wealth of Fable (SCIFI Press, 1992), says the probable inventor was Dick Ellington, who used Fijagh as the title for a 1958 fanzine and challenged his readers to work out what it meant.

The two terms come together in synthesis in Fandom Is A Ghoddamned Ghood Hobby, a best-of-both-worlds approach which sadly creates an even less pronounceable acronym in "FIAGGH." It also deploys two examples of one of my least favourite fannish linguistic fancies, the "fannish h," as well as taking me into even deeper layers of fan arcana and further away from my original point.

So to return to Christina, she is the co-editor (along with Doug Bell) of Head!. This fanzine has been appearing at a leisurely pace since the turn of the century, averaging an issue per year although there was a long lay-off in the middle of the run. As Christina says in her editorial in #11, echoing that earlier quote I referenced, "there is only so much fanac you can fit into your life when you're meant to be living the laid-back surfing dream in Cornwall."

Head! always seems to me to be a firm illustration of the more-to-life-than-fandom philosophy. In his "Sausage Time" review column in the fanzine Chunga, Andy Hooper writes of an article about ice hockey by Taral Wayne in Head! #11: "It's a clever, friendly piece, but I found myself wondering occasionally why it has appeared in this fanzine—and then stumped myself trying to think of a better place to publish it. Most fanzines are ultimately composed of people volunteering to write about what they love—an innately more ennobling act than complaining about things you don't."

Oddly, the reality of Head! is that it's less of a journal of wider world culture and travel than it is in my, er, head. I think of it as a fanzine where science fiction and fandom are more of an undercurrent, informing the content indirectly without necessarily being the explicit subject. Looking back over the last three issues, however, I see that this ostensible subject matter is considerably more overt while still being reasonably accessible, such that you don't need a minimum twenty-year grounding in fanzines and a note-perfect recall of the chronology of the British Eastercon to get the references. As well as Taral and ice hockey, #11 features Christina on the 2011 Eurocon in Stockholm and Doug on travel as inspiration, specifically for SF stories; other recent issues include Christina's ongoing documentation of her travels to the US as a delegate of the Transatlantic Fan Fund (TAFF) in 1988 (#10) and Doug with some thoughts on his home town, provoked by references to it in John Wyndham's The Kraken Wakes, in #9.

Head! won the Nova award for best fanzine at last year's Novacon. These are given for work in British and (since 2002) Irish fanzines, and they're presented in November for work in the period 1 October to 30 September. As such they don't entirely overlap in eligibility with other international awards like the FAAns or the Hugos, which use calendar years. The FAAn Awards, which have no shortlists, are voting now (until 1 March) and the Hugos are open for nominations until 11 March, with a final ballot due to be announced at Easter. As such we've now entered a season in which some people, fans and professionals, choose to remind the community of their eligibility. As Adam Roberts wrote on Twitter, "It's the season for plaguey 'I published xyz in 2011—please nominate me for awards!' blogposts. Demeaning and contemptible practice." However, not everybody is so down on the practice and Cheryl Morgan argued, "The main reason why established fandom hates pimpage is that it encourages more people to vote."

Now I can see where this idea comes from, because the subject was indeed on the agenda for the last meeting of Established Fandom (it meets every year on Mercer's Day at a secret location in the Ozarks). However, the meetings do tend to go on a bit, and last year everything got bogged down on the question of how best to put fandom back to the way it used to be and whether simply turning off the Internet would be enough or whether it was necessary to reverse every technical, cultural, and social innovation in the last half-century to get back to a world where men wore ties, woman were fannes, and nobody wore costumes at conventions except for the people who did. So what with that, and the perennial subject of entrance exams for new fans and just how many Robert Heinlein novels they should be required to memorise and whether anything after The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (1966) still counts or whether the line should really be drawn at Starship Troopers (1959) . . . well, the whole question of "award pimpage: threat or menace?" just never got onto the table.

All of which is to say that personally I wouldn't be confident to assert what view established fandom collectively takes on the question of awards self-promotion or why it takes that view. Rather I think there are lots of opinions and reasons out there, including on whether it's appropriate to describe the practice as "pimping." On the whole I think I'd rather see articles and posts in which the writer tells me what material by other creators they think is good and worthy of awards consideration, in which respect I will say that I like Head!, albeit accompanied with a special plea to the Strange Horizons editors to take care to preserve that initial capital and italicisation.




Mark Plummer wonders how he will fill the days now he no longer writes a Strange Horizons column. He suspects something will turn up.
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9 Dec 2019

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