Learn About SAFF, the Space Agency Fan Fund

Astronaut Jeanette Epps (seated) and unidentified fan flashing the “Live long and prosper” handsign.

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.

Sponsor a Bench at MidAmeriCon II

MidAmeriCon II’s Patty Wells and Melissa Morman are looking for help furnishing the exhibit hall at this year’s Worldcon in Kansas City. Here’s their pitch:

One of the advantages of being favored with five acres of exhibit hall is that we have the room to make our dreams come true. One of our dreams is to put a river through it — so we have also gone and put a park alongside that for good measure. And what is a park, or a river, without park benches to sit on and admire the view or converse with a friend?

At the Worldcon in London a couple of years ago, the convention scattered benches throughout the Fan Village and other parts of the Exhibit Hall, and asked fan groups to sponsor a bench with a plaque commemorating their group, their bid, or a member of their group on it. This idea was well-received by the fannish community and much fun. M2 is continuing this tradition (it’s been done once, so it’s now a tradition, right?).

We are therefore offering you and your group the opportunity to get your message out, publicize your group, or memorialize a lost friend. The benches we are ordering for the fan fair are a lovely metal bench in a design sure to add to your local con should you take the option of taking the bench home after the con.

There are multiple ways you can participate:

OPTION 1 — Sponsor a Plaque ($150)

Send us your group’s name and/or message and we will have it engraved on a plaque that will then be attached to one of the park benches (see above). If, like many of us, you are traveling to KC from distant lands, the plaques will be removable for you to take home as a memento for the group or person you honored. We will have the plaque made with your message. The plaques will take two lines of text, with roughly 20-25 characters per line.

OPTION 2 — Sponsor a Bench! ($200)

This gets your group’s message on a plaque AND you can take the bench with you when the convention is over as a comfortable addition to your next fannish event. And if you are taking the bench home, arriving during Exhibit Hall set up and decorating your bench in some fannish fashion to make it more memorable is encouraged.

OPTION 3 — Sponsor a Bench AND a Park ($500)

Want more exposure for your group? Sponsor a pocket park along the river! Surround your bench with flora and maybe even some fauna; make it distinctive! M2 will name the park after your group and place an acknowledgement sign in the park which may also contain a custom message (“Come to your party on Friday night!”, “Vote for Trantor in ‘99”, or even “Ygnvie is a Louse!”). With this option, you may again take the bench home with you (along with its plaque!) as well as the acknowledgement sign.

If your sponsor dollars are received early, your sponsorship can be acknowledged in the convention’s pocket program.

For more information, please send an email to:

mmorman@earthnet.net or contact Melissa Morman on FB.

Thank you for your consideration. The more we personalize something as large as a Worldcon exhibit hall, the more fannish the Worldcon is.

Psychological Distance

The day after Aussiecon 4 ended, Renovation, the 2011 Worldcon, issued a press release drawing attention to the “changing of the guard.”

“With four of the last six Worldcons held outside the U.S., it’s great to bring Worldcon to Reno for the first time,” said Patty Wells, Renovation’s chair. “We hope to welcome back many fans who may have missed the last couple of conventions as well as reach out to new fans who have never been to Worldcon.”

I hadn’t thought that 2009’s “outside the U.S.” Worldcon was really that far away, Montreal being a mere 331 miles from the center of the publishing universe in New York. But when I said so several fans answered that the requirement of crossing the U.S. border was a more important deterrent than the trivial distance involved. (We had this discussion before Peter Watts’ border experience — I wouldn’t have to be convinced now.)

How many fans will feel that a Worldcon held in Reno is psychologically less far away than the geographically-nearer Worldcon in Montreal?

The full press release follows the jump.

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Renovation Mails First Progress Report

The 2011 Worldon’s Progress Report #1 was mailed this week. But if you’re the kind of fan who can’t wait for a paper copy to come in the mail, you can read a PDF copy online right now. (Same applies if you aren’t even expecting a copy in the mail because you’re coincidentally not a member. Oops, I blabbed.)

I recommend Patty Wells’ “Chair’s Message,” which hits a real grace note.

The full press release follows the jump.

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Levine’s “Homebrew Gravitics” at Reno in 2011

Award-winning writer David Levine’s short story “At the Twenty-Fifth Annual Meeting of Uncle Teco’s Homebrew Gravitics Club” has been posted on the Reno in 2011 bid website, giving everyone a new reason to visit. Patty Wells announced online:

We have been using articles, and now a story, in our New Frontiers section to help push our thinking on what are the new frontiers, but also to add in some of the content we always wished would show up on websites. A story by David Levine always falls into this category, as do the other material we’ve run, and we thank our contributors.

It’s Reno in 2011

I’m overdue to post about Seattle pulling out of the race for the 2011 Worldcon. They didn’t have the required facilities committed by the February 6 filing deadline. Only Reno put in an official bid, so when the votes are counted in August Patty Wells’ crew should receive most of them.

Fans in Los Angeles know from hard-earned experience there’s nothing pleasant about losing a Worldcon bid, with a record of six defeats in ten campaigns over the past 50 years. Yet I am sure it’s even more painful and frustrating to pour out years of effort and thousands of dollars and be forced out short of the final vote – a thing Seattle fans have endured twice in the last 11 years.

Seattle’s bid for 2002 collapsed in 1998 when Starwood hotel management declined to commit any of their facilities, so it became impossible to meet the hotel and convention center reservations requirements set by the World Science Fiction Society. Now, a fatal inability to secure necessary facilities has overtaken Seattle’s bid for 2011. Seattle Chair Bobbie DuFault told readers:

This is due to an unforeseen event and our inability to reach a formal first option agreement with our preferred facilities. We had initial options on facilities, but when it came time to reduce them to formal writing, we found that our preferred facilities had groups willing to make the financial commitment ahead of us. Seattle is such a popular destination for conventions that all of the reasonable dates (early August through early September) already have groups that have firmer commitments than we do.

Cheryl Morgan observed, “The Seattle folks were obviously trying right up until the last minute to find a deal that would rescue their bid.”

That’s possible, though I suspect hope genuinely slipped away months earlier – not based on any inside knowledge, but on the indefinite nature of the answers given me about facilities when I asked about them in June 2008, right after Reno announced. For some of the most respected Worldcon runners to launch a bid for 2011 at that time seemed an implicit criticism of a political weakness in the Seattle bid that I wanted to understand. Seattle’s facilities and committee were two obvious areas to probe.

A Seattle bidder, on background, emphatically assured me they had commitments from many hotels to block rooms for the traditional Labor Day weekend — yet, at the same time said their bid was negotiating to move earlier in the month. In my mind, that begged the question: Why would a committee risk existing facilities arrangements and abandon the weekend promised by its campaign publicity – unless it already had a compelling need to do so?

No committee makes a binding financial commitment to a hotel or convention center before it is voted the rights to the Worldcon. That’s why Worldcon bids are always vulnerable to the possibility of losing their intended facilities to another group able to immediately sign a contract.

Seattle was already trying to shift dates in June 2008. In the end, they were unable to get acceptable facilities on a workable date. One can only guess how long the bidders spent grappling with this crisis behind the scenes.

Lead Time: Most analysts of Seattle’s predicament dwell on the facilities problem, the reason given by the bidders, becase it fuels a perpetual debate about how much lead time should be built into the site selection process.

Tom Veal reminded Stromata blog readers:

In 1986, the site selection lead time was changed from two to three years, largely in hopes of mitigating this problem. It didn’t work very well, as the subsequent travails of the D.C. in 1992 bid (withdrawn after another group preempted their main hotel), Baltimore in 1998 (forced to change its date) and San Francisco in 2002 (exiled to San José) illustrate. Now we are back to a two-year cycle, and nothing has changed.

Just the same, there’s been a lingering sense that Seattle’s best chances expired awhile ago. The fans at the Las Vegas Westercon I questioned about the 2011 race (none of them part of either committee) felt Reno had all the momentum, and that has never changed.

Lead time isn’t an isolated factor, but must be balanced against the requirement to keep a volunteer committee together and motivated for years of bidding and years of preparation after they win the Worldcon.

Selecting Worldcons three years in advance did not keep bidders from losing dates and facilities. The shorter two-year cycle, however, reduces the stress and punishment inflicted on bidders – which may encourage more fans to get involved or, at least, make the experience more tolerable for veteran conrunners.

Go North, Young Fan: I’m sorry Seattle is such a tough market for a 5,000-person Worldcon. Nor is the irony lost on me that in just a few weeks Corflu members (meeting in the University District, not downtown) will be enjoying everything that Seattle in 2011 has talked up, especially the Science Fiction Museum. Maybe you can’t pass a camel through the eye of a space needle, but Corflu Zed will slip through, and room to spare.

Reno Wants the 2011 Worldcon, Too

Patty Wells has declared a bid to hold the 2011 Worldcon in Reno, Nevada.

Other committee members listed on the newly-unveiled website are: Aaron Curtis, Vincent Docherty, Don Glover, Mark Herrup, Rick Lindsley, Tammy Lindsley, John Lorentz, Jim Mann, Laurie Mann, Ruth Sachter, Larry Sanderson, Heidi Schaub, Joe Siclari, Edie Stern, Ian Stockdale, Geri Sullivan, Marc Wells and Ben Yalow. Proposed dates are August 17-21, 2011.

Patty and several other members of the bid have hosted regional conventions in their hometown, Portland, however, running a Worldcon there isn’t an option. “Portland doesn’t have the bedrooms, but I found a place that had such good, friendly facilities and is so pretty that I almost feel disloyal to Portland for liking Reno so much,” she wrote on the Smofs list. “For those of you who’ve worked with me on worldcons before, I hope you remember the experience as a positive one, and consider the experience of me and my committee, as well as the advantages of Reno as a site, when you vote next year.”

With site selection voting for 2011 a little over a year away, this would be what Ben Yalow calls a “sprint bid,” against a Seattle in 2011 committee that announced in 2006 and began actively campaigning at Nippon 2007. Seattle’s meeting facility would be the Washington State Convention and Trade Center located in Downtown Seattle. They would hold the con in August, too, according to a bid flyer, but I have never seen a specific date proposed.

Reno in 2011’s complete press release is behind the cut.

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