Farber Melts Frost!
Abi hopes to pay, even publish
by Andy Hooper
Scant hours after issue #69 finally went into the mail, a message arrived from Gary Farber, who is currently visiting Britain through the largesse of the Farber Fund. The message detailed a conversation with the elusive Abi Frost, presently the focus of attention from all corners of fandom in connection with her failure to pass on money entrusted to her through the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund. Gary's eagerly-awaited account of their meeting, dated November 5th, read in part as follows:
'I called Abigail Frost from Avedon and Rob's phone yesterday afternoon; I began leaving a message on her answering machine, but as soon as she heard my voice, she picked right up. She enthusiastically responded to the thought that we might get together the next day, and we set a plan to meet at her Tube Station, Whitechapel, at 11 a.m. this morning, with the idea that she would show me a bit of the East End, and then head off towards the British Museum. Not a word was said by either of us yet about TAFF, but of course we both knew it was on the agenda.I want to emphasize that this is a heavily-edited version of Gary's letter; he also offered numerous assurances that he felt Abi's claims of illness were entirely genuine, that she is very aware of the havoc she caused in fandom, and that he sincerely hoped people would give her a chance to redeem herself.
'Abi brought up all the facts with no excuses or hesitation. The owed money is approximately Pound2,700. I have a check in hand from her, made out to Martin Tudor, for Pound200, which I will post to him in the morning. She will make payments of Pound80 a month beginning in two months, which should pay off the debt within three years if all goes as planned.
'She will forward the records of who voted, etc., in the 1996 TAFF race to Martin forthwith. She has them, and feels there will be no problem in now getting that information to him.
'Now, naturally, you are asking, "How and why did all this happen? What is Abi's explanation?"
'Abi had a mental breakdown. She's now under medical treatment, and taking prescribed antidepressants. She described not just the crippling depression I expected, but also confessed that in the past year she had suffered psychotic breaks. She described, in horrific terms, her subjective experience of seeing simple page numbers turn into meaningful messages which were telling her secret things. She hallucinated; she became delusional; she lost ability to cope with reality. She recognized that she was in deep trouble, but by then her depression was so severe that she was unable to bring herself to talk to anyone about it, to ask for the help that would, of course, have been forthcoming. In her current state, under the influence of antidepressants, she recognizes the depths of her insanity over the last year. She minces no words about it, and offers no excuses to avoid her responsibility.
'She gave me a detailed account of financial disasters that struck her. The gist was that work she thought guaranteed, including long-standing commitments, fell through. Expected jobs were lost. Her creditors unexpectedly closed in. She was threatened with legal action to have her house mortgage foreclosed. Her bank account went hundreds, if not thousands, of pounds into the negative.
'She told me how she began to hide from fandom, how she refused to answer the phone, and that fear overwhelmed all her attempts to seek help. She described abortive attempts to try to bring herself to confess to a couple of specific fans, and her collapse and inability to get words out. She described without excuse how she fled. She accepts full responsibility for her repeated failure.
'Whether Abi is realistic in her expectations of being able to begin the payment schedule to TAFF of eighty pounds a month, beginning in January, I cannot say. Time will speak to that. Similarly, she felt there would now be no problem in forwarding the records, and she even felt strong enough to speak of beginning work on her trip report, with the idea that this would bring the various monies promised by fan organizations to TAFF. Again, time will show whether this will happen or not.'
It's most likely that this will be just the opening round in a series of negotiations between Abi and Martin Tudor and various other parties concerned with TAFF, but it comes as an incredible relief to hear something from her after so long a silence. It was always hard to believe that she had absconded with the money in a calculated or malicious fashion; with the British TAFF account tipping the scales at Pound2,700, there was never a chance that fandom could afford to let such a loss go unchallenged. And it made some sense that Abigail would be willing to talk with Gary; of all the American fans she met on her 1993 TAFF trip, Farber was among those she got on with the best, and he too, at various times in his life, has suffered from chronic depression.
While this may seem to remove a certain measure of tension from the TAFF equation, I hasten to add that I have no idea what reaction British TAFF administrator Martin Tudor and other fans will ultimately have to this series of secondhand confessions. (We hounded Martin so mercilessly in the process of assembling last issue's TAFF story that we have been quite reluctant to bother him since.) It may be that waiting three years or more to see the funds recovered may not appeal to them; perhaps they feel it would be more appropriate to help Abi secure a loan for the full amount of the fund, and leave it to a bank to enforce her payment schedule. Whatever the eventual outcome to this process, due thanks must go to Gary Farber for helping set it in motion.
On the other hand, even if Abi's proposed schedule of payment is accepted and she follows it to the letter, this still leaves TAFF in a dangerously depleted state. Pound1,200 were raised at Novacon three weeks ago, but this amount must go to repaying the various loans required to finance Martin and Helena's trip of this past summer. Both American and British TAFF accounts must be paid back up if successful trips are to be made to Eastercon in 1997 and Bucconeer in 1998.
As of this writing, I have heard no official announcement of any 1997 TAFF candidacies, and the deadline, December 2nd, is rapidly approaching. At least three potential candidates have mentioned some intention to stand, one quite seriously; so I hope to be able to report that the race will take place as planned in our next issue. Of course, it is not entirely clear that fandom wants this race to go on as announced; several people, including some previous administrators have suggested that it would be best to skip a year, or perhaps send an American fan to Novacon next November instead of Eastercon this March. Others are equally adamant that TAFF cannot afford a third postponement in ten years. Whatever happens, we'll cover it here in Apparatchik.
Other news and items of interest:
Novel: Stephen Baxter, The Timeships
Short Fiction: Brian Stableford, "The Hunger and Ecstasy of Vampires" (Interzone)
Artwork: Jim Burns, cover for Seasons of Plenty by Colin Greenland
Fanzine: Waxen Wings and Banana Skins, Claire Brialey and Mark Plummer
(Second place: Attitude; third place: Plokta)
Best Fanwriter: Alison Freebairn
Best Fanartist: D West
(Second place: Dave Mooring; third place: Dave Hicks/Sue Mason)
Best Fan (Novacon special award): Bob Shaw
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Next article: Now Arriving, by Victor M. Gonzalez.