Let us return now to those thrilling days of yesteryear when Australian fans were called upon to vote for the “Best Fannish Cat” in the Ditmar Awards.
The earliest of these two forgotten episodes in SJW credential history occurred in 1991. The nominees were:
1991: Suncon, Brisbane
Best Fannish Cat
- Apple Blossom, humans: Elaine Cochrane & Bruce Gillespie
- Constantinople, human: Phil Wlodarczyk
- Emma Peel, human: Terry Frost
- Godzilla, humans: Ian Gunn & Karen Pender-Gunn
- Honey, humans: Gerald [Smith] & Womble
- Satan, human: Phil Wlodarczyk
- Truffle, humans: Mark Loney & Michelle Muijsert
- Typo, human: Roger Weddall
Typo won the award.
“It’s a long story,” recalls Bruce Gillespie. “The person who was Chair of the convention in Brisbane stuffed up many aspects of the convention. She was also part of a non-Melbourne group who believed that every aspect of the Ditmars was a cruel plot by Melbourne fans to keep all the Ditmars for themselves. So she allowed members of the convention to vote for the categories as well as the items in the categories. Irresistible bait to Melbourne fans in general — who ganged up to include Best Fannish Cat in the categories.”
Marc Ortlieb says that wasn’t the only mischief fans got up to at Suncon. “That was the year that things got really silly. The NatCon was in Brisbane and, as a joke, Mark Loney created stuffed cane toads to present at the ceremony, with the real Ditmars to be presented at the closing ceremony. The cane toads were presented, but the real Ditmars weren’t ready.” The real ones would be distributed later at a Nova Mob club meeting.
Even though the award was a put-on, “Best Fannish Cat” made such an indelible impression on Australian fanhistory that the category would be revived in a future round of Ditmars.
As Gillespie sees it, “The list of nominees was regarded as so exemplary that the category was repeated (once) in a later set of the Ditmars. Apple Blossom was our nominee in 1991, and Flicker was our nominee in the much later Ditmars. Neither won, but the winners were very popular cats who had been met by many Melbourne fans. The general effect was to confirm the suspicion of Perth fans that Melbourne fans ‘did not take the Ditmars seriously’.”
Roger Weddall, owner of the winning cat, Typo, was elected the DUFF delegate in 1992. Unfortunately, he was diagnosed with lymphoma shortly before leaving for North America, and ended up cutting short his trip after attending Magicon. He died a few months later. Thus it really was with affection that in 1993 someone drafted “A Modest Proposal for the [Swancon 18] Business Meeting” urging the creation of the “Roger Weddall Memorial Ditmar Controversy” and crediting him with some of these shenanigans:
It happens without warning, under no man’s control. None can predict where it will strike or how often. Yes it’s the Ditmar Controversy! It is time to take the guesswork out and have a permanent, official Ditmar Controversy each year and every year. Let us not leave it to chance and ConCom whim to arrange a proper and fitting controversy but instead let us make a firm and binding commitment for now and forever to have
In honour of Fandom’s best Ditmar Controversers, the man who brought you the best Fannish Cat, Cane Toads and other Ditmar atrocities,
At the 1993 Natcon Business meeting
However, there are Aussie fans for whom these memories of the ’91 Ditmars are not bathed in a golden glow. A 2005 Swancon XXX progress report solicited nominations for the Tin Duck Award (a genuine, annual award) with the warning – “Please do not invent new categories. (e.g. No Best Fannish Cat. We’ve heard it before, and it wasn’t funny the first time.)”
But with the passage of time nostalgia kicked in. Dudcon 3, the 2010 Australian National Science Fiction Convention revived Best Fannish Cat as a special committee award. The less facetious eligibility rules included requirements that nominees be “natural members of the species Felis Catus,” and be alive and resident in Australia at the time of the nomination.
Thoraiya Dyer unsuccessfully advanced her cat, Aerin, as a candidate by forcing it to be photographed in a Darth Vader costume.
Instead, these cats made the finals:
He is a big, lazy, neutered Tom, who just hangs around the house and sleeps on Genevieve’s bed. Sometimes he lays on the couch with us while we watch Doctor Who, but I cannot claim any other great fannish activity.
– James Allen
His real breeding name is Mystical Prince Felix, but he answers to Fifi. If fannish credentials other than his owning us are required, I will point out that the last line of the bio that Damien Broderick wrote for my story in the current Cosmos is: “She devotes her life to Mystical Prince Felix, a truly enormous Ragdoll cat.”
– Jenny Blackford
Peri Peri Canavan
Named for being orange with attitude, just like the sauce.
Is a firm believer in First Breakfast, Second Breakfast, Elevensies, Luncheon, Afternoon Tea, Dinner and Supper.
Knows that a library chair is a great place to nap.
Enjoys a good SF TV show/film/book because it means an available lap.
Can time travel, if the time involved is dinner time.
Stomach is larger on the inside than the outside.
– Trudi Canavan
Origin: derelict building in Collingwood.
Official description: black domestic shorthair.
Fannish credentials: How many fannish cats know their fathers? Flicker is father of Harry and Sampson Gillespie, as well as Miss Smith Endacott and Rascal Taylor. Now that his fathering days have been cut short, Flicker will sit on any visiting fannish lap that stays still for more than a few seconds.
– Elaine Cochrane
Named for the Exorcist’s demon,
He meows ’cause he’s endlessly dreamin’
Of food and the flap
Which he knows is a trap
Set up by that bad Nemo”s schemin’
His nemesis one day will pay
But meanwhile he spends all the day
That fridge, pantry and bed
Are all his, and that that way they’ll stay.
So he’ll crash at a run through the door,
Spread litter all over the floor,
Scrounge every crumb,
Bite my elbow and thumb
then curl up with Foyle and his war.
– Robert Hood
(The verse is by Robert Hood the Australian writer – not our Rev. Bob.)
Voters chose Peri Peri Canavan as the Best Fannish Cat of 2010.