Art Guest(s) Of Honor -- a professional sf/fantasy artist whose presence, presumably, will attract fans to the convention. The Art GOH usually gives a special presentation (often a slide show or drawing demonstration), signs autographs, attends parties, and participates in as many other con activities as possible. In addition, the Art Show usually has an exhibition of works by the Art GOH.
Art -- be it book/magazine covers, interior art, or graphic
novels -- is a very important part of the sf field, and big-name
artists can be as popular as writers or actors.
(rhymes with "Art GOH") A convention's art gallery. Artists, both pro and fan, pay a small "hanging fee" to exhibit their work and, if they wish, to offer it for auction to the fans. All pieces of art have bid sheets, upon which a fan can write a bid for the work. If a work garners enough bids (usually 3-5), then that work will "go to auction" -- that is, it will be put up for voice bids (starting at the highest written bid) at the Art Auction (which usually takes place on the last day of the con.)
Works without enough bids to go to auction, are sold to the highest bidder. Works with no bids, or those not for sale, are returned to the artists. The con usually gets a percentage of all sales, in addition to the hanging fee.
The art in convention Art Shows ranges from sublime masterpieces to downright awful. Even if one is not in the market for a piece of art, a stroll through the Art Show is still one of the great pleasures of a con.
An oasis from the hurly-burly of the con, a place to get bheer (or its stronger cousins), munchies, and (usually) ear-splitting mundane music. In fine fannish tradition, the bar is the place to find writers.
If there are several bars in the hotel, the writers will probably choose the least noisy, the furthest out of the way, or both.
An ancient brew, akin to ambrosia, prepared with barley, malt, and hops and served in dark bottles or pop-top aluminum cans (as well as a superior version available on tap at bars.) Once the drink of choice in fandom, bheer's popularity has declined in recent years. In these enlightened times, we know that the merest sip of alcohol will turn any adult into an antisocial, murderous, pitiful alcoholic, and is utter poison to anyone under the age of 18 (no, make that 21)(no, better still, 25). Temperence hunters have vastly reduced the herds, and today wild bheer are seldom spotted in their erstwhile habitat, the ice-filled bathtub.
Fans nostaligic for the old days, when fleet-running bheer covered the plains and darkened the skies, are now reduced to attending British cons, where bheer's more robust relations still survive in great numbers.
Worldcon moves from city to city each year, so that fans in all areas of North America (and outside) will have a chance to attend without onerous travel costs.
A group that wishes to hold Worldcon in their city must "bid" for it. This involves announcing the city's eligibility and willingness (i.e. "Baltimore in 1983"), proving that physical facilities are available, forming a committee to run the con, and convincing fans to vote for the city over its competitors.
The actual decision is made by vote of the Worldcon membership, three years in advance. (The period used to be two years, but that did not allow enough lead time for reserving facilities.) (Later addition: This period was changed back to two years, because three years was too much lead time for most facilities. Fandom is like that sometimes.) The city with the most votes wins (of course, one of the entries is always "none of the above," and arcane procedures exist for settling the location should "none of the above" ever actually win).
The major method of securing votes is to hold parties at regional cons and other Worldcons. A determined bid can easily start holding bid parties ten years in advance of the Worldcon for which they are bidding. Bid parties are lavish bacchanalias with tons of food, drink, and even professional entertainment.
Of course, some groups find that they like throwing parties more than actually holding the Worldcon. Fandom's classic example is the group that was bidding to hold the 1973 Worldcon in Minneapolis. They lost -- but the parties were so fun, that they were back next year, still bidding for Minneapolis in '73. Minneapolis in '73 bid parties continue to this day.
A subset of bid parties is the hoax bid -- parties thrown by a group which doesn't actually intend to hold a Worldcon. Notable hoax bids have been "Not Dundalk (please, anywhere else!)" and "I-95 in '95 (hold the Worldcon in the median strip of Interstate 95)."
I have always believed that "if you can't say something nice, you shouldn't say anything at all."
In the mundane world, these are often called "lapel pins." They are an indispensable part of any fan's ensemble. Unlike the buttons you see in mundenmark ("I Like Ike," "Coke," or the ubiquitous smiley-face), sf buttons are almost always witty, thought-provoking, or subversive. Fans wear them by the dozens, sometimes by the thousands. In the mundane world, it is considered somewhat rude to wear legible clothing or accessories, and even ruder to be obvious about reading such accoutrement -- in fandom, it is rude not to read someone's buttons.
Fannish buttons come in two types, which are physically indistinguishable. Custom-made buttons are created for the wearer, either by a professional button dealer or by a friend with a "button whomper" machine. Mass-produced buttons are sold in the dealer's room, and display thousands of slogans (many of which were originally custom-made buttons.) Slogans are drawn from science fiction and fantasy literature and media, from comic strips, and from the ever-fertile imaginations of fans. Some slogans are self-referential, referring either to the person wearing the button ("Mobile no-smoking zone" "Caution: Fan may start up at any time") or to the button itself ("Deadly Ninja Throwing Button") Sometimes the recursion gets even more complicated, as with buttons that refer to other buttons ("Do not meddle in the affairs of wizards, for it makes them soggy and hard to light"). Some slogans are meant to be read in sequence ("I thought YOU silenced the guard." "Guard? What guard?" "You Fool, I AM the guard!" or "Time spent at conventions does not count against ones alloted span" "Unfortunately, time spent waiting for elevators DOES.")
Seen as a totality, the worldwide collection of fannish buttons is (among other things) an early precursor to the World Wide Web (and is about as easy to understand.)
A small sampling of our favorite button slogans is available here.
Every con issues attendees a badge -- generally a rectangular piece of cardboard, printed with a fantasy or sf picture and the name of the con, encased in a clear plastic badge holder. The con badge serves many purposes:
A con badge, bearing one's name, serves as a social introduction. After one spends a weekend (or longer) being able to engage people in conversation and address them by name, one misses con badges in the mundane world.
The group, large or small, which organizes and puts on the convention. SF conventions are unusual in that all are organized by volunteers; most other groups use professional convention organizers.
The Con Committee consists of a Con Chair (or Co-Chairs), who is the ultimate ruler and bears ultimate responsibility; Department Heads, who manage such areas as Security, Programming, Guests, Facilities, Registration, Art Show, Dealers, etc.
The ConCom of a small local con might consist of a Chair, six or eight Department Heads, and twice as many committee members (i.e. grunts.) The ConCom of a large Worldcon can easily consist of two dozen Department Heads, each with a staff of twenty or thirty. (Reminder: all of these people are volunteers.)
In addition to organizing and running the con, the Committee deals with the inevitable crises that crop up over a convention weekend. Thus, when something goes wrong, look for the nearest Committee member.
The Con Committee is assisted by legions of Gophers.
A room or rooms, open to all con attendees, and usually stocked with basic munchies and drinks (nonalcoholic, nowadays). The Con Suite is a place to hang out, to enter into conversation with other fans, to refresh oneself in between program items. There are usually parties in the Con Suite at night.
At large cons, the Con Suite may be open 24 hours a day throughout the weekend; at smaller cons, it usually closes in the dead of night.
The marketplace of the con. The Dealers Room consists of rows of tables (which are rented from the con by dealers) displaying all kinds of merchandise: books, jewelry, costumes, buttons, videos, collectibles, swords and other weapons, handicrafts, etc. Each table is handled by its resident Dealer, who gladly accepts money from passing fans interested in his/her mechandise.
The Dealers Room is usually open only during limited hours (usually 10 am - 6 pm), in order to allow individual dealers to eat, sleep, and enjoy the con.
In the world's salad days, at least on the East Coast, the
Dealers Room was affectionately referred to as the "Hucksters'
Room" and Dealers were called "Hucksters" (or,
sometimes, "Feelthy Hucksters.") In the fullness of
time, the expression has changed to "Dealers" and "Dealers
1. Hugo Award category which includes movies, TV, radio, live performances, etc.
2. A play, skit, or some other similar event presented at a convention for the enjoyment (?) of the audience.
Fan Guest(s) Of Honor -- a big-name fan whose presence, presumably, will attract fans to the convention. The Fan GOH usually gives a speech (the "Fan Guest of Honor Speech"), signs autographs, attends parties, and participates in as many other con activities as possible.
The Fan GOH is usually chosen on the basis of fannish achievements;
at Technicons, however, an auction is held each year for the postion
of next year's Fan GOH.
(from "filk song," an early fanzine typo for "folk song.")
Cons attract practitioners of many different artforms, and music is one of them. Most cons have an area where fans can perform (or just listen), usually late into the night. Fans who enjoy amateur music are called "filkers."
Technically, a "filksong" is an existing tune with new sf/fantasy words -- but the filk community has produced vast amounts of original music, and the term "filksong" has expanded to include original music as well as existing tunes.
A particular type of filk activity is the "Bardic Circle," in which each person in turn performs a song, often of his/her own composition, all the way around the circle.
A table (or tables) reserved for free handouts. These include fliers for upcoming cons (local, regional, or national), publicity materials, fliers for fan clubs, and just about anything else that might interest a science-fiction fan (which could be anything.) Promotional buttons, posters, and the like are allowed, but food and live animals are often frowned upon.
Terms borrowed from the hotel profession. Function space is ballrooms, conference rooms, etc. that can be used for the convention.
A typical con will require rooms for a dealers room, art show, main track programming, additional tracks of programming, all-night gaming, all-night filking, Con Suite, Green Room, etc.
A hotel without adequate Function Space is not a viable venue for a con.
Greater Columbia Fantasy Costumers Guild: the founding chapter of the International Costumers Guild (ICG). A creation of the inimitable Marty and Bobby Gear, the GCFCG is the oldest, most stable, and most fun group of convention costumers in the known universe (excluding Dundalk).
Incidentally, at a recent meeting it was voted that the acronym "GCFCG" shall officially be pronounced "Founders."
Fandom has no organized religion; in fact, fandom maintains a healthy low-level hostility toward organized religions in general. However, since divine powers are useful (if nothing else, for swearing purposes), fandom does have several hanging around.
The general fannish attitude toward religion, like the general fannish attitude toward most things in life, involves constant questioning, redfining, and mucking about with the boundaries, and is summed up in an old fannish catchphrase: "I like your game, but we're going to have to change the rules."
Guest(s) Of Honor -- a writer (or actor) whose presence, presumably, will attract fans to the convention. The GOH usually gives a speech (the "Guest of Honor Speech") which is widely attended, signs autographs, attends parties, and participates in as many other con activities as possible.
In addition to the main GOH, larger cons may have an Artist GOH, Editor GOH, Music GOH, or Fan GOH.
Don was GOH at Gaylaxcon VI.
(from "go fer" or "go for," as in "go for a screwdriver" or "go for the Con Chair.")
Con attendees who volunteer their services to help the con function. Gophers give anything from a couple hours to a whole weekend, and they work wherever semi-skilled labor can be useful. Security Gophers check con badges, Programming gophers fill water pitchers and run nametags to panels, Art Show gophers assist in assembling and tearing down the Art Show, etc.
Gophers are free agents, not considered part of the Con Committee. They are not expected to solve problems or take responsibility; they are there only to help the con run smoothly. Gophers are accorded great respect and gratitude in fandom, despite their cry of "stop me before I volunteer again." Truly, no con could run without gophers, and everybody knows it.
Taking a turn as a gopher is a good way to see behind the scenes at a con, and perhaps to become more involved in next year's Con Committee.
A set of reactions, usually seen in a neo at his/her first
con, or in even experienced con-goers at their first Worldcon.
The Syndrome, which is caused by extreme weirdness overload, is
characterized by wide eyes, slack jaw, weak knees, and puppydog
behaviors (including fawning and simpering in the presence of
A place for program participants to gather, specifically before their scheduled panels (but usually at all other times as well.) At most cons, the Green Room contains tea, coffee, soft drinks, and minimal snacks; at larger cons, the Green Room spread may be a junior buffet.
Entrance to the Green Room is usually limited to program participants, their specified companions, and con staff. It is in the Green Room that writers and other guests can let their hair down, schmooze, grumble to one another, or just grab a quick cup of coffee between panels. Guests and program participants should always check in at the Green Room several times a day, because that's the most logical place for someone to leave a message.
Unlike the Con Suite, the Green Room is generally open only during the main program (i.e. daytime); it tends to close around dinner time, forcing writers in search of something to eat to scramble to the bar.
(from the equivalent in American football) An event (or events) presented during the Masquerade, while the judges have retired to other quarters to debate the awards. The Halftime entertainment is intended to keep the audience amused during judicial deliberations. The Halftime entertainment may be a musical performance, jokes, a short play, or anything else that the committee can come up with. Some cons have a costume parade at halftime, where those in costume who did not compete are encouraged to walk across the stage, so that everyone can see their costumes.
Fandom's equivalent of the Oscar, a yearly award that honors the best in the science fiction/fantasy field. Hugos, voted by the fans, are awarded for Best Novel, Best Novella, Best Novelette, Best Short Story, Best Editor, Best Professional Artist, Best Fanzine, Best Fan Writer, Best Fan Artist, Best Nonfiction, and Best Dramatic Presentation. Other awards, presented along with the Hugos, include the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, the E. Everett Evans "Big Heart" Award, the First Fandom Award, and whatever others the con committee wishes to allow.
In the beginning, the Hugos were awarded at a banquet that was the centerpiece and high point of the Worldcon; in later years, the Hugo ceremony has become divorced from the banquet (indeed, some Worldcons don't even hold a banquet at all.)
List of Hugo Award Winners
Ethnologist Camille Bacon-Smith talks about Hugo Awards ceremonies
Local cons are small, often intimate affairs with an attendence in the 100 - 500 range, one or two major guests, and few attendees from further than 100 miles away. Local cons are almost exclusively Friday - Sunday deals.
More properly, a Masquerade Show, in which costumers get on stage to present their work to the audience and judges. The sf/fantasy masquerade costume is a distinct artform, in which presentation is as important as costume, and in which it is not unusual for people to spend hundreds of dollars and hundreds of hours preparing for sixty seconds on stage.
At large cons, the Masquerade is often the biggest and best-attended event.
Participants are judged on a skills division system, so that newcomers are not competing with Master Costumers. At a small, local con, it is usual for all participants to receive some kind of award in recognition of their efforts. At larger and regional cons, a few awards are given in each class: Novice, Journeyman, Master, and Re-Creation: possibly Best, second, and third in each class, plus Best in Show. At Worldcons, where competition is on a level best described as Obsessive Perfectionist, awards may be fewer still. Three awards in any division "jumps" one to the next division; costumers with suffient chutzpah can also voluntarily compete in a higher division; if they win an award, they are automatically promoted to that division.
Master is the highest division.
Large convention masquerades are usually videotaped, and the tapes sold or traded later. While video cannot do justice to the presentations or the costumes, a tape is often the only way to see a legendary presentation. The artform is an impermanent one.
At Trek and media cons, the Masquerade is usually called "Costume Call." This may stem from some ancient show business tradition.
While the judges are deliberating, many cons offer some sort of halftime entertainment.
Ethnologist Camille Bacon-Smith talks about Masquerades
A program item, usually at the beginning of the con, with the noble purpose of allowing con-goers to meet and interact with the Pros who are at the con. No matter how noble their motives, most Meet the Pros parties turn out to involve lots of people milling around in a ballroom, sipping drinks from a cash bar that the hotel has set up in the room. (The major way to entice Pros to the Meet the Pros party is to give them a chit good for a free drink.)
The Meet the Pros Party is usually held on Friday evening, before many Pros have arrived, and while those who have arrived are scheduled on simultaneous panels in another room. Pros tend to dash in, get their free drink, say hello to those they recognize, and then dash out because they are overdue for a panel.
For some reason, con committees persist in believing that the Meet the Pros Party is a successful event.
Those who are not fans are termed "mundanes." The word is supposedly used in its original sense (from the Latin mundus = world, "of, relating to, or characteristic of the world"), not the modern perjorative sense of "ordinary" -- but fans are certainly aware of the the word's connotations, and the use is quite deliberate.
Mundanes are those who live in the "real world" outside the social and psychological boundaries of fandom. The Mundane World (often termed "Mundania" or "Mundenmark") is the antithesis of fandom; if science fiction and fantasy are "escape literature," then it is from the Mundane World that readers escape.
Non-science-fiction is often referred to as "mundane literature." An English teacher of my acquaintence was shocked when she went to her first con and heard Shakespeare, Keats, Shelley, Hemingway, and the like referred to as "mundane."
Typical Mundane reactions to fandom involve bewilderment, shock, panic flight, or catatonia.
Marion Zimmer Bradley, creator of Darkover and reigning goddess of the Darkover Grand Council. MZB was one of the first writers in sf/fantasy to present sympathetic gay characters in her work.
(Short for "neo-fan") Someone who is new and inexperienced in the ways of fandom and cons. Unlike a Mundane, a Neo wishes to become part of fandom.
It usually takes three or four cons for someone to gain enough
experience to cease being a neo.
The New England Science Fiction Association, one of the oldest and most powerful organized groups in fandom. NESFA puts on the annual Boskone regional convention, as well as occasional Worldcons (Noreascon). NESFA is very good at running conventions; several times the organization has been called upon to backstop a Worldcon committee that has fallen apart. Whatever else can be said of NESFA, good or bad, they sure do make the trains run on time . . . .
Worldcons and regional cons usually issue a newsletter, at least daily, to inform the attendees of program changes, previously-unscheduled events, notices of room parties, and various & sundry gossip and foolishness. Newsletters usually have clever names (the Boskone newsletter, for example, is named Helmuth -- after the "Doc" Smith character who always referred to himself as "Helmuth, speaking for Boskone") and include art (some of it by big-name pros) as well as informative and funny tidbits.
At Worldcons, the "daily" newsletter may actually come out three or four times a day, to keep up with the frantic pace of events.
Reviewing old con newsletters is a great way to remember and re-live the con.
From "professional," someone who makes money from sf. A pro can be a writer, editor, artist, actor, director, or just about anyone else who does professional work in the sf field. Usually, Pros are guests at cons, although it is not unusual to find a Pro who is not on the program.
Collectively, "Pros" are the contingent of professionals, of all types, who are attending a particular con. When they are not on panels or other program events, Pros are most likely found in the Green Room or the Bar.
The formal, scheduled events at a convention. Program items usually include panel discussions, speeches, demonstrations, slide or video shows, etc. Special events (such as a masquerade, award ceremony, banquet, opening/closing ceremonies, dramatic presentation, etc.) are generally considered part of the program. Continuing attractions (such as the Art Show, dealers room, exhibits, etc.) are not considered part of the program.
As time goes by, the tendency is for cons to increase the number of program tracks: i.e. two, three, or more events may be scheduled for the same time period. Most cons now have separate tracks for video, gaming, anime, etc.
In British cons, the program is referred to as the programme.
Also refers to the printed schedule of events at a con. In the beginning, the printed program appeared in the aptly-named Program Book; as Program Books grew larger and more elaborate, the printed program moved to a folded sheet optimistically called the Pocket Program (aka the "Too Big To Fit In Your Pocket Program.") At recent Worldcons, the Pocket Program itself has become a small booklet of nearly a hundred pages, and a simplified version appears in a format that actually does fit into a pocket.
Any day now, we expect that Pocket Programs will be transmitted via wireless network into attendees' personal datapads.
The Program Book (now sometimes called "Souvenir Book" or "Memory Book") contains biographies of the guests, general information about the convention, and other articles of interest to the con attendee. Program Books for large regional cons or Worldcon may have beautifully-illustrated color covers, and may even be hardcover.
In the hierarchy of cons, Worldcon is the three-ring circus; Regional cons are one- or two-ring shows. A regional con draws fans from across a multi-state area, has multi-tracked programming appealing to diverse interests, many different guests, and has an attendence in the 1,000 - 3,000 range. Most regional cons are Friday-Sunday events, but some extend into a Monday holiday.
Major regional cons include Boskone (New England), Balticon (Mid-Atlantic), Lunacon (Mid-Atlantic), Philcon (Mid-Atlantic), DragonCon (South), ChattaCon (South), WindyCon (Midwest/Great Lakes), and Westercon (West Coast).
The first thing every con attendee searches for is the Registration table(s). Here, volunteers check pre-registered attendees (or take money from at-the-door registrants) and issue the all-important con badge and registration packet (containing, at least, the Program Book and Pocket Program).
Registration also acts as a nerve-center for most cons; if you need something (or someone) and don't know where to go, Registration is usually a safe starting point.
A small convention, usually in an out-of-the-way location, held for the express purpose of relaxation. Guests are few (or, indeed, missing altogether), and programming minimal. There may be no Art Show, Dealers Room, or other elements.
Most often, a relaxacon is announced as such beforehand -- but occasionally, a con may turn out to be a relaxacon even though it was not planned as such.
In a fine old tradition of fannish hospitality, a person or group (often a fan club) will throw open his/her/their hotel room for a night's party. Snacks and drinks are usually provided -- ranging from a few bags of potato chips and sodas from the hotel coke machine, to lavish spreads involving table upon table of exotic food and drink.
Usually, Room Parties are "open" -- i.e. anyone can attend -- and are indicated by an open door, or a sign on a door partially propped open. "Closed" parties are supposed to be invitation-only, and are indicated by a closed door with no sign, and/or someone standing at the door checking identification.
It is customary, especially at large cons, for attendees to move from party to party all night. Often, the daily newsletter will list upcoming open parties, and will rate the previous night's parties.
In the good old days of fandom, bheer and other alcoholic beverages were freely available at most room parties -- the bathtub full of ice, bheer, and sodas was commonplace. In modern times, alcohol is no longer a given, and most open parties are BYOB (if they even allow that).
The Society for Creative Anachronism, a national medieval re-enactment and re-creation group. There is enormous overlap in membership between fandom and the SCA. Officially, the SCA divides North America into a number of minor kingdoms; Maryland, for example, is the kingdom "Markland." There is a strict order of rank and means of progressing upwards.
Members of the SCA take on personae with names such as Lord So-and-so or Lady Such-and-such; sometimes these names are related to their mundane names, sometimes not. A given peron's SCA name may be different from his/her regular fannish name, which leads to the interesting pheomenon of hearing people talk about someone you don't know (say, Lord Billingsgate), only to find out later that Lord Billingsgate is the same person that you know as "Molex the Magnificent."
Even fans who have never been to SCA tournaments (such as Don and Thomas) have a nodding familiarity with the conventions and lingo of the SCA.
According to an old fannish legend, once upon a time, Harlan Ellison was asked The Dreadful Question: "Where do you sf writers get your crazy ideas?"
Ellison replied, "We subscribe to the Idea of the Month Club, which operates out of a Post Office Box in Schenectady. As long as you pay up, they send you a new idea every month."
The notion caught on in fandom . . . .
Before the Prudes took over fandom, bathing suits were optional at hotel pools, especially after midnight.
Now, of course, it is well-known that a glimpse of the naked human body (of any gender) is an experience of such horror and utter depravity, that the glimpser is lucky to escape with his/her mental faculties intact -- and if that glimpser is under the age of 16 (no, make that 18) (better still, 21), irreparable psychic trauma is the sure result. To protect all these vulnerable babies (of all ages), as well as the tender sensibilities of the hotel employees, swimsuits are now an absolute requirement at pools during cons. And nudity is banished to where it belongs: on book covers and on the in-room TV.
Short for World Science Fiction Convention, the main event of the fannish year. Worldcon, which has been described as "a weekend party with five thousand of your closest friends," moves from city to city annually, according to a system only slightly less complex than figuring the date of Easter. Worldcon usually begins the Wednesday before Labor Day, and ends the evening of Labor Day.
Each Worldcon has an official nickname decided by the Con Committee. These nicknames may be derived from the city (L.A.Con, Chicon, Nolacon, Denvention, ConFrancisco), a geographical area (Pacificon, Tricon, Noreascon, MidAmeriCon, ConAdian), or (increasingly) an applicable word that has the letters "con" in it (ConStellation, ConFederation, ConSpiracy, Bucconeer). Occaisonally a Worldcon nickname comes completely out of left field, such as ConFiction or Intersection.
Properly, a Worldcon is referred to as "the [nickname]"
(i.e. "the MidAmeriCon, the ConStellation"). If repeated
Worldcons have borne the same name, they are properly referred
to as "the [number] [nickname]" (i.e. "the fourth
Chicon, the third Noreascon"). However, this is a useage
observed today only by purists -- most people say "at ConFederation"
rather than "at the ConFederation."
(Enjoy this glossary? You might enjoy some of the author's other works.)