Fanspeak: What the heck is a “slanshack”? I’ve touched briefly on the fact that SF fans, the kind who “pub zines” and go to “cons” (and who used to be called “actifans”), have a language of their own. Until recently, there was a lot more fanspeak than there is today, because a lot of it was used partly because fans purposely wanted to separate themselves from the “mundanes” (who generally thought fans were “a bunch o’ weirdos, I’m telling ya!”)—possibly in a sort of self-defense. The “Fancyclopedia” (Limited First Edition shown) had practically all the fannish info you could ever need. I think it’s now up to the third edition, which is online at the link above.) If you will recall, I said there was a saying “It is a proud and lonely thing to be a fan.” But that was before, let’s face it, George Lucas and Star Wars. (You will excuse me if, occasionally, I slip into “old phart” style; I don’t mean to. Sometimes simple explanations sound like lecturing: “Why, back in my day, we didn’t have these newfangled computers. We had to bang rocks together in binary!” I try to make my explanations uncomplicated enough that people with no fannish experience can understand them. If I go to far, it’s because—probably—I am an older phart. But not ancient yet!) Lucas and Star Wars changed everything—because suddenly the mainstream realized that what they called “sci-fi” was worth money! Millions and millions of dollars! After Lucas, the deluge. Unfortunately for the fan, especially the hard SF fan, Lucas at least had some idea of what SF was all about, but most of the Hollywood followers had little or no idea, nor did they care. Whereas previously, comics and SF readers had a little corner of the bookshops, and the occasional specialty shop (“A Change of Hobbit” being one of the older ones in the US; London had the late lamented “Dark They Were, and Golden-Eyed” bookstore), specialty shops popped up everywhere, publishers were devoting acres of shelf space to anything vaguely resembling SF or fantasy—now all lumped together under the rubric of “sci-fi”—and Hollywood was going all-out to try to pry some of this money loose. I’ve been amused for years by a story told by my friend William Gibson (Neuromancer, Johnny Mnemonic, et al.) about being flown to LA from Vancouver for story conferences for a movie being made from one of his books. This might have even been when he was being courted to write a sequel to the movie Alien. Although most of us have fond memories of Aliens, how great would a Gibson sequel have been? (But I digress. [Usually.]) Basically, it went something like this: “I get up in the morning, fly to LA and a limousine takes me to check into one of the big hotels. A limousine takes me to the studio for a conference; we get there just before lunch. I go into a room with a bunch of suits; they talk about nothing for an hour, then we break for a long lunch. After lunch, we go back into a conference room for another hour or two, where we all listen to some studio exec tell us what the film is about and basically talk about nothing. Then the limousine takes me to my hotel, and I fly back to Vancouver in the morning.” I may have forgotten the exact details (this was some time ago), but Hollywood was ready to spend enormous amounts of money—even flying the writer out for no particular reason—on anything they saw as “sci-fi” as long as it got done their way. Which means taking out anything even vaguely related to the book, usually—when they used a book, or science if it was science fiction.
The bubble eventually burst a bit, aided by such vanity projects as Kevin Costner’s Waterworld, and Kevin Costner’s The Postman (based more or less on David Brin’s book). But SF and fantasy, now known by the outside world as sci-fi, had been hauled, kicking and screaming, out of the closet and fandom—willy-nilly—with it. And, let’s not forget, this is also the (more or less) post-literate age; more books than ever are being written and read—but really by fewer people. And the largest number of sci-fi books being read are by young people who don’t know any better and who read largely “sharecropping” books set in Lucas’s worlds, or the Star Trek universe, or other hugely popular media series, leaving fewer original books available. (Which could be a good thing or a bad thing depending on your age and experience, I guess.) But fans continued being fans, and even now—as I’ve said before—fanzines are still being produced. Fewer paper zines, that’s true. And there’s less fanspeak being used; I’ve already been taken to task for saying “sercon”—because the meaning of sercon has changed since I gafiated. (Remember? Sercon—serious and constructive or ironically, kind of self-important; gafiate—to Get Away From It All.) So how does a neofan (just called “neo”—but not used as much anymore) learn all this fanspeak? There are several ways. Remember I told you about efanzines.com? Well, if you explore efanzines, you’ll find there is a smallish fanspeak glossary there. Here you will learn some of the most common acronyms and phrases. A few examples follow from that page, slightly edited (my corrections mostly in italics): Annish: Anniversary issue of a fanzine. APA: Amateur press association. A group of fans who send copies of their fanzines in bulk to a central coordinator (the Official Editor) who then mails out copies of each fanzine he has received to the members of the APA. Such mailings occur regularly, at least every three months. This system saves postage, and gives a group identity to the APA which can be friendly for insiders, but may seem cliquish to outsiders. Bheer: Beer. The special fannish spelling implies extra respect for the substances. Blog: Mythical fannish drink. Any potable consisting of an incredible mismatch of ingredients. This is as distinguished from what you’re reading now. BNF: Big Name Fan. One of importance and influence in fandom; well-known and with a solid reputation. The examples given here were mostly deceased BNFs. I, personally, don’t know who is a BNF these days. BSFA: British Science Fiction Association; a title which is self-explanatory. Croggled: Astounded, fascinated, amused. Crudzine: Badly produced or written fanzine. There are many, unfortunately. DUFF: Down Under Fan Fund. Promotes interchange between North American fans and Australian fans by providing funds in alternate years for a well-known Australian fan to travel to the World Convention, and for an American fan to travel to an Australian convention. (Not related to beer in Simpsons cartoons.) Egoboo: ego boost. What an author gets when somebody tells him “Your latest novel is tremendous!”; fanzine editors, writers and readers also enjoy receiving egoboo. Any mention of your own name – say, in a convention report, or a fanzine review column – can give you egoboo; it’s an ego-boosting thing to see your name in print. Egoscan: Looking quickly through a fanzine just to see if one’s own name is mentioned. Faan: A fan who has become much more interested in enjoying the social aspects of SF fandom – the conventions, parties and fanzines – than in SF itself. Hence the adjective “faanish.” Fafia, fafiate: Forced Away From It All. To be forced by pressure of circumstances (such as work or family difficulties) to cease taking part in SF fan activities. See gafia. Fan: An SF reader who is a member of fandom; see the introduction, and see below. (The term does not necessarily imply a knowledge of, or enthusiasm for SF so great as to be daunting to the inexperienced.) Nowadays it doesn’t necessarily mean a reader, either. Fandom: The collection of people who publish and read amateur magazines, and organise and attend clubs, conventions and other social events, and who share a common interest in science fiction. The network of SF contacts is worldwide – there are SF fans in the USA, Australia, Canada, Germany, Italy, France, Japan, Now Zealand and even in the Argentine. SF fandom is by no means unique: there are similar networks of enthusiasts for comics, skydiving, Tony Hancock, stamp collecting, old steam railways, wrestling – you name it, there’s probably a network of enthusiasts about it similar to SF fandom. Faned: Fanzine editor. Fannish: A fannish fan is one who has a large measure of interest in the social activities of SF fans as well as in science fiction itself, hut is not necessarily exclusively a socialite in the way that a faan is. Many SF authors are fannish fans. A fannish fanzine is one which may concern itself with discussion of personalities and events in the world of SF and fandom, but also with any subject or topic of interest to the writers and readers, science fiction naturally included. Somebody once said “All knowledge is in fanzines” – this claim is certainly overinclusive, but the range of subjects that may be discussed in fannish fanzines is potentially unlimited. Fanzine: Amateur magazine published by a science fiction fan. (Comics fans also use the term “fanzine” to describe their magazines.) To describe in detail the sorts of things SF fans write about in fanzines would double the length of this dictionary; suffice it to say here that they talk about SF, but not only about SF by any means; and that for many people publishing a fanzine is a hobby in its own right. Femmefan: Female SF fan. Not used much anymore by the socially ept, except ironically. Fen: Plural of “fan.” “Fans” is now perhaps more widely used. FIAWOL: Fandom Is A Way Of Life. Acronym for a philosophy of enthusiasm for SF fan activity and attitudes. An opposing view is summed up as: FIJAGH: Fandom Is Just A Goddam Hobby, an acknowledgment that there are other things in life! Filk, Filksinging: The singing of fannish folk songs (of which there are many) at a convention or other fannish gathering. Usually late at night, and enjoyed by the participants but avoided by some potential audiences. Fillo: Short for “filler illo.” Small illustration used to fill what would otherwise have been empty space in a fanzine. Fugghead: A stupid person, or maker of asinine statements. We all get a little fuggheaded once in a while. Gafia, gafiate: Get Away From It All. To relinquish contact with other SF fans. Genzine: A fanzine containing articles of general interest, both about SF and about other topics. The name also implies that the fanzine is generally available, for subscription as well as for other fanzines in trade or for letters of comment. Ghu: A fannish god. GoH: Guest of Honour, at a convention. Usually a professional writer (or artist or editor), but many cons are big enough to afford a Fan Guest of Honour also, and some also have a Science GoH. That ought to be a big enough list to chew on for now. Once you have a handle on the fanspeak, some of what was opaque to you in zines might now be more comprehensible. If you encounter words or acronyms you can’t figure out, feel free to comment here or to email me. (My email is stevefah at hotmail dot com. Or, if you bang rocks together in binary, I might hear you.) Oh, and by the way: A slanshack is a sort of a fannish commune. A house or apartment building inhabited solely or mostly by fans. Not common at all these days. As always, comments and/or brickbats are welcome. Coming up, fanzine reviews, book reviews, movie reviews and so on. Until next time, when I hope to provide more information that will help you in your fannish odyssey.