Robert Jackson's
Little Dictionary of terms used by SF Fans (1976)

Robert Jackson's


of terms used by SF fans

What is an SF fan?

That's a very good question. An SF fan is someone who reads and enjoys SF, sure; but in the context of this dictionary he is someone else, too. He is one of that collection of people who produce and read amateur magazines and attend and organise clubs, conventions and other social events and who share literary science fiction as a common interest.

Thus "SF fan" in the context of this dictionary refers to one who is in touch with other fans through these channels. The network of SF fan contacts is worldwide - SF fans can be found in the USA, in Australia, Canada, Germany, Italy, France, Japan, even New Zealand and the Argentine as well as the U. K.

Because of these contacts - especially because of the magazines SF fans publish and send to each other, and have been sending to each other since the 1930's - a vocabulary of terms useful in the SF fan subculture has developed. These terms are often new, usually concise (often little more than acronyms) and can be very puzzling indeed to the newcomer, the SF enthusiast who has just discovered fandom. Hence the need for a dictionary like this.

You will find that in many of the definitions I've given, there are words which themselves may be unfamiliar and are defined elsewhere in the dictionary; where I've used a word you don't understand, please look it up. I've tried to omit complicated and explicit cross-references to these words, so as to make the definitions as simple and clear as I can. The key words from which all the other definitions stem are "fandom", "convention", and "fanzine"

Because many keen SF readers hope sometime to write SF themselves, I have also included a few words used in the SF publishing business. Though there is far less "jargon" in the professional publishing world than in the SF fan world, it may be helpful to the aspiring authors among you to know the meaning of a few specialised words.

This dictionary has not the slightest pretence at completeness; I have simply aimed to give a basic working knowledge of terms in common use currently in British SF fan circles. For a more complete listing, especially of American terms, I'd refer the interested reader to Elst Weinstein's The Fillostrated Fan Dictionary, two beautifully produced booklets giving the definitions of close on 1,000 words (largely the names of U.S. SF clubs etc.), which is available in this country from: Peter Roberts, London.

Also available from Peter is his own excellent Little Gem Guide to SF fanzines, which performs its stated function admirably at the very reasonable price of only 20p. This dictionary is intended to be partly complementary to the Little Gem Guide. I am also indebted to Lisa Conesa and Zimri, her fine fanzine in whose fourth issue a few of the better definitions herein were first published, and to Gray Boak and Peter Roberts (again!) who provided her with information for those definitions; finally I am also indebted to Tom Jones and Mic Rogers who between them suggested and inspired this little project.

THE LITTLE DICTIONARY OF SF FAN TERMS is edited and written by Robert Jackson, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK. (c) Robert Jackson 1976. Printed by the hardworking Chris Fowler, and published jointly by the editor and the BSFA Ltd. Available for 10p post free in the U.K., and for one International Reply Coupon abroad, from the editor. Distributed free to BSFA members.

Agent: Someone who arranges the sale of an author's (or artist's) work to a publisher for the author, in return for a percentage commission.

Amzine: Amateur magazine. Term now mostly obsolete; superseded by "fanzine".

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.

Bidding committee: Group of people who are putting forward a bid to hold one of the regular SF conventions, who if their bid gains more votes than any other then become responsible for organising the next convention.

Blog: Mythical fannish drink. Any potable consisting of an incredible mismatch of ingredients.

BNF: Big Name Fan. One of importance and influence in fandom; well-known and with a solid reputation. E.g. Peter Roberts; in the States Richard Geis; in Canada Mike Glicksohn.

BSFA: British Science Fiction Association; a title which is self-explanatory. For details contact Elke Stewart, London.

BSFG: Birmingham Science Fiction Group, who hold monthly meetings with discussions, films etc. For details contact Vernon Brown, Birmingham.

Camera copy: The finished artwork (typing plus illustrations) as supplied to the printer for an offset lithographed publication (eg. Vector, Little Gem Guide),

Checkpoint Fan Poll: Poll of British SF fans taken annually by the newszine Checkpoint, for the best in various spheres of fanzine production in Britain in the previous twelve months.

Collate: To assemble a copy of a publication from individual sheets. To collate a forty-page fanzine you will start with twenty piles of printed pages laid out in order; collating is the act of picking up one piece of paper from each of these piles. The pages are then lined up accurately and stapled.

Collating party: Collating can be very boring; having a gang of helpers relieves the tedium greatly.

-con: Attached as a suffix to part of a place name or other suitable word, to denote the name of a specific convention, or series of conventions. E.g. Eastercon; Tynecon '74 (Newcastle upon Tyne Convention).

Con hall: Main meeting room of the hotel where a convention is being held. Most of the items on the convention programme are held there.

Conreport, conrep: Account of the happenings at an SF convention. Usually published in a fanzine, and often written with an emphasis on the author's own experiences.

Convention, con: A meeting of SF fans, usually in a hotel, lasting over a weekend or over a long weekend of up to five days, attended by any number of fans from less than twenty to five thousand or over - even more in the case of special interest cons such as the American Star Trek conventions. Generally there are discussion panels, talks, SF and fantasy films, an art show and a book dealers room (huckster room), and often there are a fancy dress parade, a banquet, and an awards ceremony. At smaller conventions, though, many or all of these features may be absent and the event is more purely a social occasion. The most respected and prized SF convention is the World Science Fiction Convention, usually held in America, where it may be attended by over five thousand people. The World Convention's members vote for that year's Hugo Awards. There are over fifty SF conventions a year in America. In Great Britain there are four, in decreasing order of size and complexity the Eastercon, Novacon, Silicon and Faancon.

Convention bidding: The right to organise one of the major series of conventions is highly prized, and votes of attendees are taken to determine which group of organisers will arrange the convention in one or two years' time. A group of British fans is bidding for the 1979 World Convention, and by the time they present the bid at Suncon, the 1977 World Convention in Miami Florida, they will have been working on the bid for over three years. If you would like to support the British bid, send 50p. to: Leroy Kettle, Britain in '79, London for pro-supporting membership, which brings you the bid's Progress Reports and a reduction in the price of your eventual convention membership.

Copy editor: Employee at publishing firm who goes through your manuscript and corrects it prior to publication.

Croggled: Astounded, fascinated, amused.

Crottled greeps: Mythically dreadful fannish food. No-one has ever yet encountered the real thing, though several convention attendees claim to have come close at some of the worse hotels used for conventions.

Crudzine: Badly produced or written fanzine. There are many, unfortunately.

Degafiate: To return from a period of loss of contact with fandom. See gafia.

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.

Duplicated: Printed on a duplicator with typed stencils, like this dictionary. See mimeo.

Eastercon: The major British SF convention of the year, held every Easter. Attended by around five hundred people. The 1977 Eastercon will be at the Holiday Inn in Leicester; to join the convention send £1.00 to David Upton, Brierly Hill, West Midlands.

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".

Faancon: A small convention without programme, held purely as a social occasion for friends, in February each year.

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.)

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 literary 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.

F and SF: The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.

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. For further details of what a fanzine is, and of how to obtain some, read Peter Roberts's Little Gem Guide, address as in the introduction.

Faunch: Yearn.

Feghoot: Elaborate pun told as a short story about half a page in length, originated by Grendel Briarton (Reginald Bretnor). Many published in F&SF.

Femmefan: Female SF fan.

Fen: Plural of "fan". "Fans" is perhaps more widely used.

Feud: Disagreement between fans leading mostly to bitter words and temporary loss of each others friendship. Seldom serious.

Fhan: "Fan" with an unnecessary extra fannish "h". Only used by very few SF fans, and frowned on by most others.

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!

Filksinglng: The singing of fannish folk songs (of which there are many, especially in America) at a convention or other fannish gathering. Usually late at night, and enjoyed by the participants but avoided by any potential audiences.

Fillo: Short for "filler illo." Small illustration used to fill what would otherwise have been empty space in a fanzine.

First Fandom, etc: Numbered "fandoms" are generations of fans - the first arising in the nineteen-thirties, and including many well-known names of today such as Asimov and Pohl; the equivalent generation in England produced Wyndham and Clarke - who can be seen historically as having formed a social or ideological entity.

First reader: Person employed by book or magazine publisher/editor to read manuscripts submitted to the publisher, and weed out the more terrible ones so as not to waste the senior editor's valuable time.

First world serial rights: When you submit a short story to an American magazine, this is what you will probably sell them if they buy it; it means you don't sell the story outright but retain the right to sell it again for reprinting. If you are lucky enough to find a market for an SF short story in Britain, you will probably sell first British rights only, which means you can sell it in America. For further details of the technical side of selling science fiction stories to publishers, I recommend Graham Poole's fanzine Cyclotron, in whose pages people far more expert than I will advise you,. Write to Graham Poole, Cheltenham, Glos.

Foo Foo: A fannish god. The others are Ghu and Roscoe; I don't know of anyone who takes them seriously.

Fugghead: A stupid person, or maker of asinine statements.

Gafia, gafiate: Get Away From It All. To relinquish contact with other SF fans.

Gannets, Gannetfandom: A group of SF fans in the North East of England who originally began meeting in a pub called the Gannet.

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.

Ghod: Unlike its use in the word bheer, the extra "h" does not here necessarily imply extra respect, but here simply reflects a mode of pronunciation.

Ghu: Another fannish god; see Foo Foo. Ghu is the one most commonly mentioned.

GoH: Guest of Honour, at a convention. Usually a professional writer (or artist or editor), but in Britain the Eastercons are big enough to afford a Fan Guest of Honour also, and the Novacons sometimes have a fan as their main Guest of Honour.

Grok: To comprehend, absorb, feel at one with. Term first coined by Robert Heinlein in Stranger in a Strange Land.

Grotch: To grouse, grumble, complain.

Huckster room: Book and magazine dealers room at an SF convention. Where most attendees spend quite a lot of money.

Hugo: The Hugo Awards, or officially the Science Fiction Achievement Awards, are voted for annually by members of the World Science Fiction Convention during the early months of the year, then presented at the convention itself. They are called 'Hugos' after Hugo Gernsback, the first editor of Amazing Stories. The categories in which the members vote are generally ten in number: Best...... Novel, Novella, Novelette, Short Story, Professional Artist, Editor, Dramatic Presentation, Fanzine, Fan Writer, and Fan Artist... of the previous year.

Illo: Illustration.

Ish: Issue.

Kitten: A loosely bunched group of fannish fans meet regularly in Kingston-upon-Thames and are known as the Kittens.

LiG: Liverpool Group. A group of fannish fans who were most active in the Fifties and Sixties.

Litcrit: Literary criticism. (Commonly used adjectivally by SF fans in the phrase "litcrit pseud")

Litho: Printed by offset lithography, like Vector or Little Gem Guide.

L.O.C., Loc: Letter of comment. As fanzine editors are particularly interested in the reactions of their readers to what they print, and because the comments made are often extensive expansions on a theme set in a previous article and thus interesting in themselves, letters often form a large part of the contents of a fanzine. If you write a letter of comment, the editor of the fanzine takes this as a thank-you and a sign that you are interested, and it usually earns you a free copy of the next issue of the fanzine, in which your letter may (if you have said something interesting) be printed.

Loccer: Writer of a letter of comment.

Loccol: Lettercolumn.

MaD Group: Manchester and District SF Group. Organisers of the 1976 Eastercon.

Mailing comments: Comments within a fanzine distributed in an APA, on the other fanzines distributed in the previous mailing of the APA.

Market: Publisher to whom you may sell your work. (Also used more loosely to describe a general area of operation, as in "The American original anthology market.")

Milford: The Milford SF Writers' Conference used to be run in Milford, Pennsylvania by James Blish and Damon Knight as a week-long meeting of twelve or so SF writers who criticised each other work in intense detail; when the Blishes moved over to the U.K. they also started it here.

Mimeo: Duplicated. (In the States, a duplicator is also known as a "mimeograph. ")

MS: Manuscript.

Nebula: The Nebula Awards are voted for annually by the members of the Science Fiction Writers of America, and presented at the Nebula Awards Banquets each April. There are five categories: Best Novel, Novella, Novelette, Short Story and Dramatic Presentation. It is difficult to generalise, and there are exceptions to every tentative rule, but it is said that the Nebula voters, being writers rather than fans, tend to look more for literary quality and less for stimulating plot and ideas than the Hugo voters.

Neofan, neo: A newcomer to fandom; one who is not yet familiar with the ways of SF fans.

NESFiG: North East Science Fiction Group, who hold monthly meetings with authors, films etc. Started by members of Gannetfandom.. For details contact: Alan Isaacson, Newcastle upon Tyne.

Newszine: A small and fairly frequent fanzine (about monthly) containing news of SF and fandom. The major newszine for SF is Locus.

Nova Award: Presented by Novacon for the best British fanzine of the previous twelve months, Currently decided by a small panel of judges.

Novacon: The second biggest British SF convention, held each November and run by the Birmingham SF Group. Attended by about two hundred and fifty people. For details contact Stan & Helen Eling, Smethwick, West Midlands.

OE: Official Editor. The person who coordinates and runs an APA.

Offset: See litho

One Tun: Pub near Farringdon tube station where London SF fans congregate on the first Thursday of every month. It's on Saffron Hill; as you come out of Farrlngdon station, turn right, go straight across Farringdon Road and Saffron Hill is the first turning on the right.

Orbiter: SF stories circulated round-robin fashion round their writers for criticism. Mainly to help new writers.

OUSFG: Oxford University Speculative Fiction Group.

Personalzine: Fanzine mainly written by the editor in which he recounts and discusses events in his own life; a personal account of his attitudes on all kinds of subjects; often used as a letter-substitute.

Pieria: A group of young SF writers in the South of England who meet regularly at week-ends for criticism of stories.

Pro: Professional.

Programme book: The major publication of an SF convention, handed out to members as they arrive. Apart from details of the programme, it contains articles, miscellaneous information, and advertisements for SF publishers, other conventions, fanzines, and other SF fan institutions.

Progress Report: A leaflet sent out to convention members in advance, giving them information on how the convention is coming on, telling members what to expect when they arrive and what preparations they may need to make for it.

Propeller beanie: Seen mainly in fanzine illustrations, this is a small hat with a little propeller on top, used to indicate that the person wearing it is an SF fan. Supposedly, the fan's head is able to take off towards the clouds...

Prozine: Professional science fiction magazine; e. g. Analog in the States, SF Monthly in Britain.

Pub: (1) Public house. Type of hostelry in which many SF groups meet.

Pub: (2) Publish. As in "pub my ish".

Rats, Ratfandom: A generation of SF fans who came together in London in the early Seventies. Characterised in their early days by their iconoclastic attitude, and occasionally uninhibited language. They are more respectable now...

Real Soon Now: Fannish promise of imminent activity, now meaning "far in the future." Capitals denote sarcasm.

Rejection slip: Printed message from a professional magazine accompanying a story MS. which they have returned to you as rejected for publication. Magazines receive so many stories that to write individually - even to type out a form letter - would be an impossible strain on secretarial resources,

Room party: Late night party held in a hotel bedroom at a convention. After the bar closes, the talking and other revelry must go on...

Roscoe: The third fannish god. See Ghu and Foo Foo.

Sci-fi: Term used by outsiders to describe science fiction. Regarded by SF fans as an unbearably ugly and condescending abbreviation.

Sercon: Given over mainly to serious and intellectual discussion and criticism of science fiction. An adjective condensed from "serious and constructive", this word can be used of a fan or a magazine. Vector is a sercon magazine. The word used to have a pejorative connotation of humourlessness, but this has fallen out of use.

SF, Sf: The abbreviation of "science fiction" preferred by SF fans.

SF Foundation: An institution attached to the North-East London Polytechnic which arranges higher education courses and lectures on SF, publishes a magazine of SF criticism - Foundation, and houses and administers both its own and the BSFA's SF library. Peter Nicholls is the Administrator.

SFWA: Science Fiction Writers of America, an organisation which is partly a critical discussion forum and partly a near-trade union.

Silicon: Small convention organised each August Bank Holiday by Gannetfandom, held largely as a social occasion but with a small amount of SF programming.

Slipsheet: When a duplicated magazine is being printed, the wet ink on the newly printed sheet may smudge onto the back of the next sheet to be printed, making the printing look tatty. To prevent this, one can slipshect, or insert by hand spare sheets of old paper (sometimes called crudsheets) between sheets as they are printed. Another word for this process is interleaving.

Smooooth: Appreciative noise to be made on drinking Jim Beam, an American liquor. Popularised by Bob Tucker (see below) at American conventions.

St. Fantony: SF fan organisation active in the Fifties and Sixties; they used to organise shows at SF conventions, and "Knights of St. Fantony" were pledged to help new fans find their way round at their first convention. No new Knights have been created since 1970 as far as I know.

Sub: Subscription: to a prozine, a fanzine, a club, to anything which accepts subscriptions.

TAFF: Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund. Promotes interchange between European and American fans by providing funds in alternate years for an American fan to travel to the British Eastercon, and for a European fan (most of whom have been British) to travel to the Worldcon.

Trade: The act of exchanging your fanzine for another on an equal basis. Most fanzine editors trade all issues of their own fanzine for all of the other editor's, and only end the trade when they gather the other editor has ceased publication.

Trufan: A true fan. A dyed-in-the-wool SF fan, familiar with the ways of fannish fans and enthusiastically active.

Tucker, Bob: American SF fan active since the late Thirties. One of the most universally popular men in fandom. Writes SF (and other books such as mysteries) as Wilson Tucker.

Usual, the: Most fanzine editors expect to get little monetary return for their product, preferring to regard the fanzine as an enjoyable hobby; and what they most enjoy is getting response to their work, and further material to publish next issue. Hence "The Usual" is what most fanzines are available for: letter of comment, another fanzine in trade, or contribution of written material or artwork. To this can be added a subscription rate, or a rate for an initial sample copy to which the person who asks for it must then respond with one of "The Usual" to get the next issue.

Viewpoint character: Term used by SF writers and critics to denote the person through whose eyes the reader is being asked to see, or whose thoughts are being followed as the plot unfolds. Not necessarily first-person.

Willis, Walt: Irish SF fan who was one of the most popular men in British SF fandom during the Fifties and early Sixties, but then gradually dropped out of fandom, to return recently. His wide popularity led to the saying "Walt Willis is Ghod".

WKF: Well-Known Fan. See BNF.

Worldcon: World Science Fiction Convention. The 1977 Worldcon is Suncon, to be held in Miami, Florida over the first weekend in September 1977. (Labor Day week-end.) If you join even as a supporting member you can vote for the Hugos, and also for the site at which the 1979 Worldcon is to be held. The British Agent is Marsha Jones, Higher Bebington, Wirral. Supporting membership costs around £3.50, but as rates fluctuate it may be best to write and ask Marsha how much money to send first.

Word rates: SF magazines and anthologies tend to determine how much money an author receives by payment by the word. SF Monthly's word rate was around 1p, except for big name authors.

Wraparound: Adjective used to describe the cover of a book or magazine which extends to the back cover as well as the front, making one single illustration.

Zine: Magazine, either amateur or professional. (Prozine or fanzine.)

There. That's your list of funny words! There may be some I've missed out - there aren't any reference works to consult which tell me what to include - and I hope I haven't missed out any important ones. There should be enough here, though, to enable you to listen to an experienced SF fan talk and know more about what he's saying than you did before..., but don't be too surprised if you find that virtually all the words SF fans use are just normal, ordinary ones with just one or two of the above specialised words thrown in. If you start talking to an SF fan (or reading an SF fanzine) I think you'll have fun. I think you'll find they are nice people...

Printed by Ke-We Press, Reading

Editor's note: Addresses in the original 1976 publication are long out of
date and have been removed in this web version of the Little Dictionary.

Last revised: 22 June, 2005

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