Dr. Fandom's Corflu Primer
by Ted White
The time: Early 1984. The place: The Claremont Hotel, Berkeley- Oakland, CA. The event: Corflu 2.
I was in a room with Linda Blanchard and rich brown. We were getting sercon (new usage).
"This is a great con," I said."You're right, Ted," Linda said. "And I think we should do the next one!"
"Do the next one?" I queried deftly.
Linda was in the process of moving to Northern Virginia, as a part of her new relationship with rich, and she was full of fannish enthusiasm. "Sure," she said. "You, me, and rich. We could put on a Corflu!"
"Well . . ." I said, a little dubious about getting into running cons again. "I'll help, but it's your con," I said, gesturing at both of them.
"Okay, then!" Linda said. "I'll talk to Allyn." That was Allyn Cadogan, one of the co-founders of Corflu.
Linda Blanchard does not remember this conversation, or at least not the way I do. But rich brown remembers it, and majority rules.
Subsequently either rich or Linda told me that it had indeed been discussed with Allyn, and that she had suggested "we" wait another year, since they wanted to do the second Corflu -- I guess to make sure it was established as a continuing event -- at which we could present our bid.
And thus it transpired: The second Corflu was held in Napa Valley, I presented the "Falls Church" bid (rich wasn't there, and by then he and Linda had amicably split, Linda moving out of the area), and with no opposition the bid was unanimously accepted.
Subsequently, rich, Dan & Lynn Steffan and I (as the collaborative "Desk Set") put on the third Corflu in Tyson's Corner, Virginia.
During the second Corflu Bill Bowers approached me to ask what I thought about a Cincinnati Corflu in 1987 -- the fourth Corflu. I think he wanted to sound me out about this for several reasons, only one of which being the presumptive fact that "I" would be putting on Corflu 3. There was also the Recent Unpleasantness then known as "Topic A" and later as "the TAFF wars," which began in 1984 and not only continued but escalated with the intrusion of Dave Locke as a participant. Locke was a fellow Cincinnati fan, as well as a declared antagonist of rich and mine. I think Bill wanted assurances that this wouldn't be held against him or Cincinnati fandom in general. I gave him those assurances, at least as far as I was concerned, and told him I'd support his bid. It was unopposed, and Cincinnati put on Corflu 4.
Now, none of this was done in secret. Our request to put on Corflu 3 was generally known and accepted, pretty much fait accompli. The same was true of Bowers' bid. No behind-closed-doors sessions occurred. No secret negotiations. It was all done as "Gentlemen's Agreements." Bear in mind that this was early in Corflu's history.
There were as yet no "traditions" to speak of with the exception of the selection of GoH by lottery, and the inclusion of the banquet on Sunday in the attendance fee. We were still feeling our way, and Corflu was still picking up momentum as a convention and a concept.
There was no competition for sites. People who wanted to put on a Corflu were encouraged to get in line (a very short line) and pretty much guaranteed their turns in the barrel.
And that's how a "bidding process" which has since been characterized by some as "bullying all opposition into silence," was established: more or less accidentally, unplanned, an evolution of procedure growing out of experience.
At least one commentator has stated that "It's Corflu's extremely vague method of making decisions like this that has led to . . . misunderstandings. Corflu's boosters and organizers have tended to make much of the virtues of 'consensus' and 'mandates,' and (in my presence, more than once) to claim superiority, because of this, to those low-class convention fans with their meeting minutes and campaigns and actual formal voting."
I think this is a profound misunderstanding of the Corflu Process, its reasons for existence, and its virtues.
Some of us are old enough to remember Worldcon bidding in the 50s, and there is a potentially strong parallel there, because what the Worldcon was to fandom then, Corflu is becoming now -- while current-day Worldcons are another animal altogether. Before the Rotation Plan was introduced, Worldcon bidding was a nasty, devisive process, full of back-room intrigues and angry losers. (Indeed, the Rotation Plan was originally set up to curb the worst abuses of the day, which had become flagrantly obvious by 1953.) Speaking as one who took part in the Worldcon bidding process in the 60s (for NyCon3), even with the Rotation Plan in place, there were out of rotation (rogue) bids to contend with, and Much Money to be spent campaigning. One could exhaust one's fannish energies just going after the bid, and end up drained before embarking on the task of actually putting on the convention.
Corflu is too small and fanzine fandom too fragile to sustain this kind of thing. The bidding wars, money, time and energy spent in pursuing a bid are an unnecessary drain on us. There is a better, easier way. It's what we have now.
I feel that not only is bidding competition unnecessary where Corflu is concerned, it has rarely been an issue. The real issue has been, in recent years, to find a willing host for a Corflu. People have had their arms twisted before they agreed to "bid" for and put on several recent Corflus.
The topic for this column comes from recent Internet discussion of the "mandate" awarded in Nashville for a British Corflu in 1998. And here we are on shakier ground.
No "bid" was presented, as such, by Pam Wells at the Nashville Corflu. Instead, as a centerpiece program item, Pam solicited attendees' opinions on the validity of an overseas Corflu, and received an overwhelming endorsement, in principle, for a British Corflu in 1988.
This was not the same as the formal acceptance of a bid, which is done at the Sunday banquet, and solely for the Corflu in the following year. But it had the same effect: a consensus that Britain was next in line (after 1997) to host a Corflu.
Several people have cited another "tradition" connected with Corflu bidding: Bids must be presented in person, at the previous Corflu. This has never been formalized as such; it's just the way it has turned out, thus far.
I am told that Ian Sorenson and Lillian Edwards will be at Corflu Wave to present their bid, and that's fine. But had no one from Britain (representing the bid, in any case; there has been a growing British presence at recent Corflus) been able to come, I would have been happy to present their bid on their behalf, acting as their agent -- and I'm sure I'm not alone in this regard.
I'm glad Ian and Lillian will in fact be there, just because I look forward to seeing them again. But the real reason for their attendance is more simple and straightforward: How can you plan and put on a Corflu if you've never been to one? It's one thing to "know" what the ingredients of a successful Corflu are, the "traditions," and so forth. It's another to actually experience a Corflu and get a feel for what, underlying the trappings (which can vary), a true Corflu really is.
That said, I want to make another, even stronger point: Corflu is becoming the Worldcon of fanzine fandom. And as such, it should be attracting more than just the fannish hardcore. It should be drawing the sercon (original usage) fanzine fans as well. Where are the publishers of Fosfax and Lan's Lantern? Corflu should be their convention also. And I'd like to see the publisher of, say, Thingummybob, at the British Corflu, if he's not at sea then. All of fanzine fandom is only a sideshow at modern Worldcons. Our center of focus as a community in fandom is now Corflu.
Maybe that's why events surrounding the Corflu bidding process have recently assumed such importance.
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Next article: Flaming Names, by Andy Hooper.