Copyright: (c) Vicki Rosenzweig
Maintainer: Vicki Rosenzweig <firstname.lastname@example.org>
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Frequently asked questions for rec.arts.sf.fandom: Questions included in this FAQ: 1. What is this newsgroup about? 2. But where's the science fiction? 3. What other fannish newsgroups and mailing lists are there? 4. So, is anything off-topic here? 5. Can I post my e-zine or convention report to this group? 6. So, why do you all post this endless chat? 7. I don't want chat, I want information. Can I find it on the Web? 8. Where else can I find out about upcoming conventions? 9. You said it's social. Do I have to know you folks already? 10. How do I introduce myself? 11. What is a RASSEF Award? 12. Who gives out RASSEF Awards? 13. Can I give out RASSEF Awards? 14. Just like that, without asking anyone? 15. Where can I read RASSEF Award-winning posts? 16. And what is a RASSEF Gold Star? 17. Why do the subject lines have nothing to do with the contents of the posts? 18. Is this a family newsgroup? 19. You know what I mean! 20. Who is Patrick O'Brian? 21. Why all the Jewish minutiae? 22. What's the difference between beer and ale? 23. Why do people worry when someone's name is the subject of a post? 24. What defines an sf convention? 25. Are "media conventions" sf conventions? 26. What's the difference between a "membership" and a "ticket"? 27. What is the Worldcon? 28. How do I join? 29. I can't afford the amount for the upcoming Worldcon, and would like to find a less expensive membership. Or, I want to transfer my membership, can I do that here? 30. What is whinging? 31. What are TAFF and DUFF? 32. What about the rest of the world? 33. What is V*nn* B*nt*, why shouldn't I talk about her, and why are there those funny stars in her name? 34. Avram, can we put this in the FAQ? Pretty please? 35. What does AKICIF mean? 36. Are cinnamon raisin bagels real bagels? 37. D? 38. Why "You are XXX and I claim my five pounds?" 39. I think the FAQ is jes' fine, except I didn't see a single reference to Pogo or Walt Kelly in it. 40. * 41. Who is Vicki Rosenzweig and why is she keeper of this FAQ? 42. What is Mornington Crescent? *Frequently Asked (Hah!) Questions for rec.arts.sf.fandom:* 1. What is this newsgroup about? A. First of all, science fiction fandom. That includes conventions, fanzines, fan funds, and other matters related to fandom. Second of all, almost anything else people want to talk about. The true subject of this newsgroup appears to be food, but politics, gardening, religion, and almost anything else is grist for the mill. 2. But where's the science fiction? A. Discussions of written science fiction (novels and short stories) are in rec.arts.sf.written. Discussions of movies and television are in a number of places, including rec.arts.sf.movies, rec.arts.horror.movies, rec.arts.horror.tv, rec.arts.sf.tv, rec.arts.sf.tv.babylon5, rec.arts.sf.tv.babylon5.info, rec.arts.sf.tv.babylon5.moderated, rec.arts.sf.tv.quantum-leap, rec.arts.comics.other-media, and arguably rec.arts.sf.starwars.info and rec.arts.sf.starwars.misc, and probably a large number of alt.* groups. If you want to be a science fiction writer, you might want to read rec.arts.sf.composition. Announcements of science-fiction-related events (radio programs, author readings, online discussions, etc.) go in rec.arts.sf.announce, which is moderated, and may be crossposted to one of the other rec.arts.sf.* newsgroups. For more information, check rec.arts.sf.announce for the regular posting "Rec.arts.sf groups, an introduction." 3. What other fannish newsgroups and mailing lists are there? A. uk.people.sf-fans is a newgroup focusing on science fiction and fandom in the UK. upsf is a good place for announcements and discussion of club and pub meetings in the UK. rec.music.filk is for discussion of filk music. There's also a whole rec.arts.comics.* hierarchy. Timebinders is a mailing list for people interested in the history of sf fandom, but also carries a fair amount of other fannish chat. To subscribe to the Timebinders mailing list, send mail to LISTSERV@SFLOVERS.RUTGERS.EDU with the command SUB TIMEBINDERS YOURFIRSTNAME YOURLASTNAME SMOFS is a low-traffic list that deals with convention-running. To get on smofs, send mail to email@example.com. However, you should not join this list unless you have some experience with or interest in con-running. It's not a general-purpose mailing list. The newsgroup alt.fandom.cons is deprecated, along with the rest of the alt.fandom.* groups, since rec.arts.sf.fandom has essentially replaced it. However, there is no mechanism for removing an alt group, so it will probably be with us for a long time, and some people like the fact that there's very little traffic on alt.fandom.cons. 4. So, is anything off-topic here? Two answers, one long, one short: A. Discussions of actual science fiction will get more response elsewhere in rec.arts.sf.* but aren't actually off-topic if they arise out of on-going discussions here. But if you want to ask who wrote "The Vitanuls" or for the name of the Brunner story about the children who got born without any souls, please do it on rec.arts.sf.written - and the same goes for similar media questions in the appropriate forums. Mostly, what's inappropriate here is what's inappropriate in general: spam and trolling. It's okay to post "CON: Namelesscon, April 1, Arkham, Massachusetts" and tell us where it is, who the guests are, how to register, and so on. It's not okay to tell us how to Make Money Fast. And don't post that CON announcement every day for a month, but occasional reminders and updates are reasonable. (If your guest of honor has had to cancel, or you've just convinced J. Famous Author to attend, sure, post that.) Also, binaries don't belong in non-binary newsgroups, of which this is one. Basic netiquette. See news.announce.newusers and news.newusers.questions. There is no Cabal, but it seems to be watching out for us anyway. A. This is a social group--what is off or on topic is very hard to define. (However, commercial posts are generally off-topic.) Your best bet, as with most newsgroups, is to read the newsgroup for a while and get a feeling for the place. 5. Can I post my e-zine or convention report to this group? A. If you think it will interest us, sure. If it's very long, you might want to post a pointer to a Web address instead, if the zine is available on the Web. If your zine involves lots of graphics, definitely point to a Website, or give us a plaintext version with a note of where we can find the illustrations. Pointers to convention photos are also welcome. 6. So, why do you all post this endless chat? A. Basically, science fiction fandom is a loose community of people, many of whom live a long way from each other. rec.arts.sf.fandom is one of the ways we keep in touch with our friends. (Others include fanzines, conventions, clubs, other newsgroups and mailing lists (see question 3) and the telephone.) 7. I don't want chat, I want information. Can I find it on the Web? A. Quite a bit of it, yes. http://fanac.org/index.html is a good starting point for stuff about science fiction fandom. Dave Langford's newszine Ansible can be found at http://news.ansible.co.uk. For TAFF information, there's http://taff.org.uk. The New England Science Fiction Association (NESFA) has a variety of useful links to clubs, sf-related archives, convention listings, sf publishers, and fans' email addresses, as well as information about NESFA, Boskone, and NESFA Press, at http://www.nesfa.org/ The Plokta News Network at http://www.plokta.com/pnn has news, con reports, and the occasional fanzine review. The emphasis is on British fandom, but they cover other parts of the world as well. Rich brown (firstname.lastname@example.org) has put together a glossary of fannish slang. It's available on the Web at http://www.smithway.org/fstuff/termsA-B.html (that's the starting point, and includes links to the rest of the alphabet). 8. Where else can I find out about upcoming conventions? A. The SF-Lovers Conventions Listing at http://sflovers.rutgers.edu/Reference/fandom/conlist/cons.html and the ConNotation UK, European and World Science Fiction Convention Listing at http://www.smof.com/conlist.htm. There's also a Webring of sf con Web sites, so if you find one (possibly via the listings cited above) you're likely to find pointers to quite a few others. 9. You said it's social. Do I have to know you folks already? A. No. Think of it as wandering into a party that your neighbor is hosting. Hang out, see if we're talking about stuff that interests you, and make yourself comfortable. 10. How do I introduce myself? A. Any way you like. You can do a formal delurk--"Hi, I'm Z, I've been reading this newsgroup for a while. I have three children, live in a tree in Maine, and want to be a tiger when I grow up"--or just jump into the conversation. If we might know you from other contexts, you can include your name or nickname if your email address is less than informative. ("Mike3765@aol.com" won't help us know which Mike you are.) If, on the other hand, you want to be known only as "Purple Rain" and by your yahoo address, you can do that, but some people may not take you seriously. 11. What is a RASSEF Award? A. This is one of the ways people say "Hey, that was a really great post." The emphasis is on humor, but rassf awards are given for excellent serious posts as well. Since nobody runs this newsgroup, they have no official status, but people who receive them tend to cherish them. The awarders sometimes dress them up--not just "RASSEF Award" but "RASSEF Award with gold leaves and elephants" or some other notional ornamentation that refers back to the post being commended. Patrick Nielsen Hayden introduced them here (imported from The WELL), and Jo Walton started dressing them up. 12. Who gives out RASSEF Awards? A. Anyone who has been sufficiently moved by a great post. 13. Can I give out RASSEF Awards? A. Yes. 14. Just like that, without asking anyone? A. Yes. But don't hand out too many, it cheapens the effect. They should be awarded for what you think are really great posts. If you think there are dozens every day, raise your standards. 15. Where can I read RASSEF Award-winning posts? A. There is no specific archive, but you can always try using Google's Usenet search for messages with "RASSEF Award" in their bodies, then read the messages they're following up to. Or just read whatever Ray Radlein posts. 16. And what is a RASSEF Gold Star? A. Aahz Maruch introduced this term for posts he thinks deserve recognition, but aren't quite as noteworthy as those that get RASSEF Awards. Since there is no scale for what qualifies for an Award, in practice the two are very similar. 17. Why do the subject lines have nothing to do with the contents of the posts? A. Because people are lazy. Given the chatty nature of this newsgroup, topic drift is a way of life. And it's easier to just hit "reply" than to edit the subject line to say "Tom Godwin's Law (was Re: Nazi Space Pilots)." 18. Is this a family newsgroup? A. Well, it seems to have a bunch of cousins, but no spouse or children. And it's not very good at match-making, though we've tried. 19. You know what I mean! A. Okay, okay. The FAQ compiler just dislikes that particular euphemism. Most of the posts on this group are suitable for all audiences, at least in the sense that they're unlikely to scar anyone's psyche. We do, however, talk about whatever we feel like, and that has been known to include sex, politics, and religion. If reminders that ordinary people differ from you in any or all of these areas might be painful, you may not be happy in this newsgroup, since there's no guarantee that the thread labeled "Patrick O'Brian" or "Orycon report" won't be about weaponry or sex. Caveat lector. 20. Okay, who is Patrick O'Brian? A. The author of a series of novels about the British Navy, which many people on this newsgroup enjoy and talk about. 21. Why all the Jewish minutiae? A. Why is this newsgroup different from all other newsgroups? A. I have no idea, but they do keep coming back. Combine the newsgroup's general talent for topic drift with a penchant to analyze any philosophical or legalistic question (and many of the questions about Jewish practice are both) into the ground, and it's probably inevitable. 22. What's the difference between beer and ale? A. (by Mike Cheater, with minor editing by Vicki Rosenzweig): Ale is a drink that can be traced back to prehistoric times from Sumeria and is brewed from malted barley, yeast and water to produce an alcoholic beverage. Beer was introduced to Britain in the 15th century by brewers from Germany and Flanders. Essentially beer is ale with the addition of hops, a flowering plant, which adds to the bitterness of the product but more importantly enables it to keep longer. Malt, hops, yeast and liquor (water) were the traditional ingredients for beer until the 1950s (and in Germany are still the only permitted ingredients [I think EU regulations have overridden this, but "brewed according to the German beer purity laws" sells beer, even outside Germany.--VR]). In the late 1950s and early 1960s British brewers, amongst others, discovered that the quality of beer was dependent on the skills of the cellar man of the pub who sold them. To produce a more standard product practices like pasteurisation (to kill the yeast bacteria that gave living i.e. real beer its character) and the addition of carbon dioxide (to make the beer fizzy and give the impression of being alive) became common since the product only had to be kept at a constant temperature and the skills of the cellar man were dispensed with. Many people disliked the cold metallic taste of "keg" beer and in the U.K. an organisation called CAMRA (The Campaign for Real Ale) emerged to promote the cause of traditional beer. The difference between ale and beer was forgotten for the sake of a memorable acronym. Nowadays Real Ale is a term used to refer to Beer produced to a traditional recipe whilst beer is a generic term that includes real ale, keg bitters, lagered beer and others. 23. Why do people worry when someone's name is the subject of a post? A. Because that type of subject line may convey the wrong message. For a long time, it has been a rassef tradition that bad news about the person is conveyed in such posts--announcements of ill turns of health or death, for instance. Rassef functions as a bush telegraph--we pass along information about friends and acquaintances, because other people may also want to know. It's best to use subject lines which are more informative--"Query about John Barnes's Books"; "Fred Derf's teeth"; or "RIP Joe Shablotnik 1919-2001"--to reduce misunderstanding. (Thanks to Kevin Maroney for revising this answer.) 24. What defines an sf convention? A. A science fiction convention is a gathering of the tribe, or some part of the tribe, or just some folks who want to hang out for the weekend. Most sf conventions ("cons") have programming--speeches, panels, slide shows, etc.--some of which is related to science fiction, fantasy, horror, or fandom. And some of which isn't. If the guest of honor wants to organize tai chi at 8:30 Sunday morning, most con committees will let him. 25. Are "media conventions" sf conventions? A. This one is open to debate. Most fans, regardless of whether they attend them, would agree that being devoted to a particular television program, or a particular author's work, doesn't make something not an sf con. On the other hand, if the main activities involve actors, and most of those are autograph sessions, a lot of people don't think it's a real con. In other words, of course a con can discuss Babylon 5 as well as, or even instead of, the writing of Philip K. Dick or Ursula Le Guin; if it isn't interested in discussing much of anything, it's not a convention--a gathering of people with shared interests--it's a show. 26. What's the difference between a "membership" and a "ticket"? A. Attitude, either that of the buyer or of the organizers. If the convention says it's selling tickets, it's almost certainly a commercial venture, whose main goal is to make a profit for the organizers. This isn't necessarily a sin, but it does mean that you're likely to find little conversation or sense of community, and a major distinction between the stars and the people who buy tickets. If a convention is selling memberships, the expectation is that, to some extent, the members will make their own fun and help make the convention happen. Those people wearing ribbons that say "staff" or even "committee" will be volunteers, and even the people who are on programming won't be paid for their time and effort. (A few guests of honor will have their expenses paid; some other participants may get their memberships free but will pay for their own transport, hotel rooms, and meals.) Back to the party analogy: your $30 or $45 isn't buying you a weekend's entertainment. It's paying for the rental of the hall, and for some snacks. You can go to the panels that interest you--and contribute if you're so inclined, and if the moderator has time to take audience comments. Or you can sit in the bar or (if it's a North American convention) the con suite and just chat. If things are going really well, you can spend an hour in the bar with someone you just met, discussing the last panel or the guest of honor's speech. You can also spend the weekend in the video room, or go home every evening after the formal events are over--nobody will stop you, but you'll miss a lot of the fun. >From another angle, if you've bought a ticket to a show and there's a long line to get in at the door, you'll kvetch. If you've bought a membership in a convention and registration is going slowly, you might say "Hi, can I help here?" and spend an hour working at the registration table. Put in enough hours and you might get a free t-shirt, but that isn't why most of us do it. We do it because we want the con to happen, and because there's pleasure in a job well done. 27. What is the Worldcon? A. The Worldcon is, in some sense, the center of the fannish/convention year. Among other things, it's where the Hugo Awards (for best science fiction in a variety of categories, plus related categories such as best fanzine, best editor, and best artist) are given out. Worldcons can be held anywhere in the world, though (so far) most have been in the United States. They're usually held at the end of August or beginning of September (August bank holiday weekend for UK Worldcons, Labor Day weekend for US Worldcons), but that isn't a hard and fast rule. 28. How do I join? A. You join by sending money for your membership to any active Worldcon committee. Worldcon sites are chosen two years in advance, by a vote of members of the then-current Worldcon. Thus, in November 2005, there are active committees for 2006 and 2007, each of which will be happy to sell you a membership. The Web site http://www.worldcon.org/ is an online home for all Worldcons. You can buy a supporting membership--which entitles you to nominate and vote for the Hugo Awards, vote for the site of the three-years-later Worldcon (for an additional fee, which gets you a supporting membership in that future Worldcon), and receive all publications--or an attending membership, which gets you all of that plus the chance to attend the convention. The price for attending memberships increases as the convention draws closer. (Getting money early is useful for a variety of reasons--the con has expenses well before people show up for a five-day extravaganza--and knowing how many people will show up is useful to people who are trying to plan everything from how many panels to have on Friday afternoon to whether a particular hall is big enough for a convention banquet.) 29. I can't afford the amount for the upcoming Worldcon, and would like to find a less expensive membership. Or, I want to transfer my membership, can I do that here? A. Yes. As the Worldcons approach, there are people who offer memberships for transfer at rates lower the the current registration rate. But you need to be quick, they tend to get grabbed quickly. Once an agreement is reached, you'll need to contact the Worldcon about the transfer by supplying both names and addresses and the membership number. It's also a good idea for the new member to have a written backup to bring with them to the Worldcon. 30. What is whinging? A. This wonderfully expressive term seems to be primarily a British and Australian usage, or at least not a North American one. To quote the Oxford English Dictionary: whinge, v. orig. Sc. and north. dial. Forms: 6 quhinge, quhynge, 9 winge, wheenge, 8 whindge, 7_ whinge, 20 winge. [North. form of OE. hwinsian, corresp. to OHG. win(i)stn (MHG. winsen; cf. MHG., G. winseln):---OTeut. *_winisojan, f. root of hwmnan to whine. For the suffix cf. OE. clfnsian to cleanse, bletsian to bless, rmcsian to rule, ON. hreinsa to cleanse; for the phonology of the form whinge cf. clenge, ringe, north. forms of cleanse, rinse.] intr. To whine; esp. to complain peevishly. Hence whinging (also w(h)ingeing) vbl. n. and ppl. a. [Sorry, this isn't 7-bit clean--the etymology may look weird to some people, but the definition should be clear.] 31. What are TAFF and DUFF? A. These fan funds (that's what the "FF" stands for in both) are long-running projects to enable fans to travel between (for TAFF) North America and Europe, and (for DUFF) North America and Australasia. TAFF is the "Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund" and DUFF is the "Down Under Fan Fund." Fans tend to think of them as part charity, part award, but they aren't registered charities and have no legal existence. The person who will make the trip is chosen by a vote; the eligible constituency is people who have been active in fandom for at least 18 months, and the practical constituency is some subset of that number, who think it's worth having these things happen and are willing to contribute a few dollars or pounds to the cause. 32. What about the rest of the world? A. It's all purely voluntary, and there are other fan funds. GUFF sends fans between Europe and Australasia; FFANZ sends people between Australia and New Zealand (which are not as close together as North Americans tend to think); and CUFF sends Canadian fans to Canada. Okay, okay, from one part of Canada to another. There have also been a number of one-time funds designed to bring a specific fan to a specific place/event: TAFF is the outgrowth of a fund to bring Walt Willis to the United States (from Ireland) in 1952. Walt wrote about the trip in "The Harp Stateside." More recently, a number of British fans paid Gary Farber's <email@example.com, a prolific poster to this group> way to Britain for a month, and the Auld Lang fund raised money to send Dave Langford (a witty man who says he has too many Hugos) to Australia for the 1999 Worldcon. 33. What is V*nn* B*nt*, why shouldn't I talk about her, and why are there those funny stars in her name? A. She is the author of a very bad novel. She claims it is "quantum fiction" rather than science fiction, so I suppose we could argue that it's off-topic, except that isn't the point. The point is that some people (who may be aliases for the author or her publicist) who had not otherwise participated in this newsgroup came in, posted at great length about how wonderful the book was, and precipitated quite a bit of flamage. The stars are in the name because at one time she or her supporters seemed to be searching the Usenet feed for her name. (If you care that much, the stars in the first name are a's, and the stars in her last name are an o and an a, respectively.) The novel, Fl*ght, seems to have been self-published, and is the only book I have seen or heard of in which the publisher faked the Library of Congress cataloguing-in-publication data, replacing a simple set of material that might be useful to librarians with a badly written blurb. 34. Avram, can we put this in the FAQ? Pretty please? A: "Rasseff Man, Rasseff Man, Discussing the entire universe, man. Usually some kind of SF fan, Rasseff Man. He'll write a post about a candied yam, And Jewish minutiae in Pakistan, And print it all in his .plan, Eclectic man, Rasseff Man." (with thanks to Avram Grumer and apologies to They Might Be Giants) 35. What does AKICIF mean? A. All Knowledge Is Contained In Fandom. Alternatively, and mostly offline, All Knowledge Is Contained In Fanzines. On rassef, it's being used as a tag by people who want the newsgroup to answer a (usually factual) question on almost any subject. 36. Are cinnamon raisin bagels real bagels? A. Depends on your definitions. I think of them as real because they've been around for quite a while and make a fine breakfast when buttered and accompanied by a cup of tea. Others insist that nothing sweet can be a bagel, because who in their right mind would put lox and cream cheese on a cinnamon-raisin bagel? Plain, garlic, onion, poppy seed, salt, pumpernickel, sesame seed, and egg bagels are definitely real. Blueberry, pesto, sun-dried tomato, and cranberry-orange are newfangled impostors. Cinnamon-raisin is the current borderline between the two, but borders do shift, and it's becoming harder and harder to find a decent pumpernickel bagel. 37. D? A. There are secrets of Chuck Harris with which fandom was not meant to meddle. (The late Chuck Harris, bless him, never quite mastered his news software and was notorious for postings consisting of that solitary letter.) 38. Why "You are XXX and I claim my five pounds?" A. This started with publicity campaigns by the British *Westminster Gazette* (from 1927) and *News Chronicle* (mid-1930s), whose agent "Lobby Lud" prowled pre-announced seaside resorts. If you recognized him from his published photo you could win ten pounds by producing the newspaper and saying, "You are Mr. Lobby Lud, I claim the [name of paper] Prize." When the postwar *Daily Mirror* imitated the campaign, its phrasing "... and I claim my five pounds" passed into the language. It's now used for joky recognitions of "real identity". Thus some r.a.sf.f posting about hideous personal injuries might be greeted with a nod to our most disaster-prone regular: "You are James Nicoll and I claim my five pounds!" Abbreviations: AICMFP or AICM5P. "UR Ralph 124C41+ AICM5P!" [Explanation by Dave Langford, with help from Eddie Cochrane.] 39. I think the FAQ is jes' fine, except I didn't see a single reference to Pogo or Walt Kelly in it. A. We have met the Frequently Asked Question, and it is us! 40. [*] A. An asterisk is the conventional footnote symbol. On rassef, [*] and other forms of asterisk-in-box mean "Please provide the footnote." It's a way of asking for an explanation or cross-reference for a previous message. I believe that this is derived from a panel at Minicon, in which four interesting and erudite fans were invited to sit at the front of the room and chat, while the audience held up paper asterisks whenever confused. The panelists cheerfully explained, digressed, and had fun, as did the audience. We should do it again. 41. Who is Vicki Rosenzweig and why is she keeper of this FAQ? A. Vicki Rosenzweig (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a long-time fan who has been reading this group for a while and decided a FAQ might be useful, or at least amusing. Fandom being somewhat anarchic, she gets to do the work because she's willing. If she screws up badly enough, someone else might take over. If she screws up but not too badly, please let her know, preferably with useful specifics. ("You really ought to have something about X, here's some draft text" is better than "How could you omit X, you fool!") The questions here were contributed by various r.a.sf.f posters; I've dropped some that seemed irrelevant (meaning they're not frequently asked and I couldn't come up with amusing answers) as well as a few that are basic intro-to-netnews stuff. I do have opinions on a variety of subjects, like most posters to this newsgroup; I've tried to keep them down to a dull roar in this FAQ. She hasn't been very active in Usenet of late, and this FAQ is in serious need of further updating. 42. What is Mornington Crescent? A. A station on the Northern Line of the London Underground. Also, a rather odd game. As such, it's one of the places where old threads go to die. You could look at alt.games.mornington.crescent, or uk.games.mornington.crescent, but it probably won't help. Last revised 26 November 2005 Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2005 Vicki Rosenzweig.