By Patty Wells: While searching out some photo permissions from a group of Thermians (long story, but know that Thermians are very helpful), Mike saw info about the Space Agency Fan Fund (SAFF) fly by on FB and asked about this non-profit. Since we are always happy to have a chance to reach out to a wider audience, let us tell you more!
The mission of SAFF is to keep the factual progress of space exploration out there for our community and to help individual Worldcons and other conventions in dealing with the arrangements and funding of space experts as special guests. For more specific information you can contact us via the website: The Space Agency Fan Fund – Bringing astronauts to WorldCons since 2015.
Multiple Worldcons have arranged for astronauts to appear as special guests with notable success. However, as much as fans and pros enjoyed and learned from space professionals, it depended on the relationships and initiative of individual conventions. Sadly this did not happen every year. Some con runners saw a need and focus on creating a new fan fund for promoting space-related guests.
Sasquan, the 73rd Worldcon in Spokane, WA, had Kjell Lindgren appear online from space, which was wildly popular. After Sasquan, convention organizers had the vision that funding a fan organization to facilitate astronaut and other space agency personal appearances at future conventions (including Worldcons) was a great idea. The Space Agency Fan Fund was born out of this and was incorporated as a non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation. Space enthusiasts and those with NASA contacts were sought out to act as a board of directors for this fledgling fund.
Since Sasquan in 2015, we have reached out to large conventions such as Worldcons and made the arrangements for and funded several astronaut appearances. For MidAmeriCon II, the 74th Worldcon, in 2016 NASA astronauts Jeanette Epps and Stan Love appeared. Both were SAFF funded, both participated in the Hugo ceremony, with Stan accepting the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer on behalf of Andy Weir. Jeanette accepted on behalf of The Martian for Best Dramatic Presentation, an outstanding mix of real and fictional space travel, and gave a great speech about how the film did a such a good job of portraying the teamwork between astronauts in the “field” and mission control solving problems. It is also worth noting that Jeanette carries her own sonic screwdriver (should it be needed) and delighted the children with it during one of her program items.
In 2017, SAFF funded Kjell Lindgren to appear in person at Worldcon 75 in Helsinki, Finland and also for Worldcon 76 in San Jose, CA.
Jeanette Epps appeared again in Dublin, Ireland, at Worldcon 77. Then, of course, the world became very different, very suddenly. However, an astronaut appearance is in the works for DC in 2021, and the first steps have been taken to discuss an SAFF funded appearance for 2022. At each Worldcon, there will be a chance to take advantage of SAFF support in providing NASA astronauts and others as guests and participants.