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drawing of ancient tower of Babel

Fanspeak Mini-Glossary

When entering the realm of a Worldcon, it helps to know the Fannish language.  Noreascon Four Fan Guest of Honor Jack Speer (1920-2008) wrote the first Fancyclopedia back in 1944, and the lexicon has grown only larger.  Here are some useful terms.

art show (n.)  At many conventions, this is similar to a gallery showing of art, with the added advantage that if you see something you like, you can often buy it.  The artwork in this case can be everything from small 3-D figurines or jewellery to large, dramatic oil paintings originally done as book covers.

ASFA (prop. n.)   Association of Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists.  Many of the field's artists and artisans belong to this association; ASFA annually gives the Chesley Awards (named in honor of astronomical artist Chesley Bonestell) for excellence in genre art.

badge (n.)  Fan-run science fiction conventions do not provide tickets to a show.  Instead, fans are "members" of the convention as a whole.  Badges are provided to all of a convention's members, and the badges identify the member and provide access to the convention itself.

bheer (n.)  Something like a 'tea' or 'kaffeeklatche,' where serious discussions of a literary nature occur.  Distinguished from tea and kaffeeklatsche by its location and lubrication.

bid (n.)  Worldcons, NASFiCs, and several large regional science fiction conventions are held in different locations each year.  For a group to win the right to host the convention, the group must first "bid" in a convincing manner and be selected in a site selection process.  Members of Nippon 2007 will have the right to vote for the site of the 2009 Worldcon.   Also: bid party (n.)  As groups bid for Worldcons, etc., they will often host social functions at conventions (especially at Worldcon) to interest voters in what they have to offer.  Bid parties are the core of a Worldcon's evening social activities.  Look for bid parties and other large parties on a to-be-announced floor of the Grand Yokohama Hotel.

bid pre-supporter(n.)  One who supports, before the vote, a bid for a Worldcon or NASFiC.  Pre-supporters will usually provide some monetary contribution (currently, around US$20) in support of a given bid.  You can also pre-oppose (don't ask)  Also: bid friend (n.)   People who are "friends" of a given bid usually support that bid at a higher rate, giving more financial contributions, and often helping bids with their parties and other activities.

Business Meeting (prop. n.)  When written this way in relationship to the World Science Fiction Convention, the formal meeting of the World Science Fiction Society is intended.  The Business Meeting is usually three meetings occurring in the mornings of consecutive days of the Worldcon.  At the Business Meeting, new rules to guide WSFS are passed, clarifications to existing rules are recorded, and the selection of sites of future Worldcons and NASFiCs is formalized.

con (n.)   Fanspeak for "convention": a gathering of fans, pros, and others, to talk about science fiction, fantasy, and fandom, among other things.  There are even categories of cons:

  • relaxacon (n.)  A small group of people who get together to do things fannish for a good lost weekend, but whose con doesn't necessarily involve things as structured as program items, art shows, and so on.
  • sercon (n. or adj.)  A "serious and constructive" convention, originally a somewhat derisive term, now used as a general adjective. 
  • Worldcon (n.)  The big one, held annually since 1939 (although briefly suspended during WWII).

ConCom (n.)   Concatenation of "convention committee," these are the volunteers who organize, plan, and run the actual convention.  For fan-run conventions like the World Science Fiction Convention, all of the ConCom are unpaid volunteers.

dealers room(n.)   Shopping?  We have shopping!  The dealers room at a Worldcon is a large exhibit space chock-full of vendors selling books, music, artwork, clothing, jewelry, and other artifacts of a science fiction/fantasy-ish nature.

picture of a rather green alien lady found in the hallway fan (n.)  A person who enjoys science fiction, fantasy, and related literature, film, television, art, music, etc. and engages in any of a number of social activities with others of the same bent.  (A participant in fandom.) If you're reading this glossary, it might be you.  Also: fen (n.)  The plural of fan.  Also:   fannish (adj.)  Of or relating to fans and fandom.

fanac (n.)   A concatenation of "fannish activities" or "fan" and "activity."   Fanac is what fans do in fandom: anything two fans do together is, theoretically, fanac.

fan club (n.)  A group of fans who bond together and form an enduring social unit, typically in a specific geographical area.

fandom (n.)   The group of people involved in various fannish activities relating to science fiction and fantasy literature, film, television, art, music, etc.

fan fund (n.)   Several "fan funds" exist whose goal is to help fans from one country travel to another and provide a kind of fannish cross-pollinating.  The two fan funds connected with the United Kingdom are TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund—US-UK) and GUFF (Get Up-and-over Fan Fund—Australia-UK).  Fans from the respective areas alternate years in travelling to the other country.  TAFF and GUFF representatives are elected to the honor by other fans.  The TAFF and GUFF representatives who will be attending Nippon 2007 will be announced a couple of months prior to the convention after voting has closed.

filk (n.)  Fannish music, typically vocal, which is often a parody of existing music.  Filk may consist of putting new words to familiar tunes, or it may be the general performance of music with a ballad-like story line at a fannish event.  The term is derived from a decades-old typo. It stuck.

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gofer (n.)  One of the wonderful people who, arriving at a convention, sees that the convention has needs and volunteers to help.  All Worldcons are run by volunteers, and we really, really need our gofers!  If this sounds like fun (it is!), please consider volunteering to help us out at Nippon 2007.

green room (n.)   Location where program participants go to connect with each other and discuss the upcoming program item or related issues.  (Some events may also have more temporary "green rooms" where the participants in the event wait until it begins.)

GoH (n.)  The Guest of Honor of a convention; often, there is more than one GoH at a convention.  These are individuals who have been invited by the convention to attend and to allow the convention to celebrate their work and contributions in any of a number of areas.  Conventions may honor different "kinds" of GoHs: professional, fan, artist, editor, etc.  Nippon 2007 has five guests of honor

Hugo Awards(n.)   The Hugo Awards (named for pulp magazine editor Hugo Gernsback) are given to the best in the field of science fiction and fantasy each year.  Members of Nippon 2007 will nominate a slate of potential award winners.  The winners will be decided by a vote (taking place in Spring 2006) of the members of Nippon 2007.  The awards in 2007 are given for work done in 2006, and will be awarded during a gala ceremony on September 1st.

Kaffeeklatsch (n.)  At the Worldcon, these are small get-togethers over coffee that are arranged by the convention's programming team to allow professionals and fans a chance to chat in a more informal setting than a panel discussion.  All kaffeeklatsches are available on a sign-up basis only.   Also: Literary Bheer  (n.)   A kaffeeklatsch which skips the coffee and is often held in a hotel bar area.

Masquerade (n.)   A presentation of costumes designed with science fiction and fantasy themes and representing varied skill levels (from children to "Master" costumers who may be members of the International Costumers' Guild).  Also: Hall Costume (n.)   These are costumes designed to be worn while the wearer attends the convention, rather than just for the formal presentation.  

member(n.)   Joining a fan-run science fiction convention like the Worldcon makes one a "member" of the convention:  membership brings a number of different benefits.  For more information about the different types of memberships in the convention, see our Registration page.

NASFiC (prop. n./abbrev.)  North American Science Fiction Convention, a convention held in years when the World Science Fiction Convention is not in North America.  NASFiC sites are selected a years before the NASFiC is to be held, by a site selection process spelled out in the WSFS Constitution.  The NASFiC in 2007 is Archon 31 and will be held in Collinsville, Illinois (St Louis area) from August 2-5, 2007, when Nippon, the 2007 Worldcon, is being held in Yokohama, Japan.

neofan (n.)  A "new fan," who is just discovering fandom for the first time.  Although you may have been a reader, viewer, etc., for years, there's a kind of bewildered wonderment felt by neofans we all understand.  Feel free to ask questions and look for help from the "old hands" — we've all been where you are now!

photo of writer Nancy Kress pro (n.)  A person who makes a living, or at least some income, from work in the science fiction community: as a writer, editor, artist, art director, film director, etc.  Pro is not the reverse of fan: many, many "pros" are also fans who believe in sharing their visions with the sf community.

Progress Report (n.)  Publications usually sent to members of a convention to tell the members about upcoming information and provide details about the convention planning. Some of Nippon 2007's Progress Reports are online in Adobe PDF format.

SF (abbrev.)  Shortened form of "science fiction," this is generally the preferred shorthand term in the science fiction community. "Sci-fi," more common in the popular culture, is a term coined by Forry Ackerman to sound like "hi-fi." Also: SF &F (abbrev.)  Science fiction and fantasy.

SFWA (prop. n.)   Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, an organization founded by the late Damon Knight in 1965.  The organization includes among its membership many of today's science fiction and fantasy writers.

SIG (abbrev.)  Special Interest Groups — these are usually gatherings of fans with an interest in some particular, but perhaps not sf-ish, topic.  We are hoping to offer space to a number of SIGs — email us at to put your topic on the list!

Site Selection (prop. n.)  The process of determining the location of a Worldcon or other convention which changes location each year.  All full Members of Nippon 2007 (Supporting and Attending) are eligible to vote in the 2009 Site Selection.  However, unlike voting in the Hugo Awards, voting in Site Selection will require payment of an additional fee, which is usually around $40.  All voters will become supporting members of the 67th Worldcon, no matter which bid wins.

smof (abbrev.)   Abbreviation for "Secret Master of Fandom," the term today generally refers to those fans who run conventions.  (There's even a "Smofcon": an annual convention for convention runners, and several regional conventions of the same type have also begun to emerge.)

WSFS (prop. n.) The World Science Fiction Society, an unincorporated literary society that is made up of all members of the current World Science Fiction Convention.  WSFS has no corporate offices, but it does have a constitution.

zine (n.)  Short for "magazine," but encompasses less formal printed SF-related publications.  There are fanzines, prozines, semiprozines, filzines, and we even have a mezzanine.

We would like to thank Interaction for allowing us to adapt their Fanspeak guide which they adapted from Noreascon 4's Fanspeak guide.  For more definitions, see the online Fancyclopedia II.  You'll also find an excellent Fanspeak Glossary at with more expanded definitions.

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