This zine supports BECs (Bat Eared Cons J)
I now have a web page of my own - and many thanks to Colin Harris who is designing it for me. Its intended to include issues of Babel-On there, but just now has only "Travels with my Cuddly Vulture", which I immodestly consider my best ever bit of writing, and some other bits and bears J
My page is at http://www.intersec.demon.co.uk/tactfree/
Articles should be about fans, cons, travelling, and should definitely be interesting and fun to read, and not "worthy" in any sense. Anything sent to me in response to this fanzine will be assumed to be for publication, unless clearly indicated otherwise.
In response to the first issue of BabelOn2 I got various stuff - con details from various countries, serious worthy discussion pieces (despite saying I wouldnt be either), and odd comments on travelling abroad. Then Drazens article arrived. Despite its length, Ive reprinted it in full, since it had me falling about laughing - just the thing!! J
Of course, after reading Drazens unique brand of vituperative vegetative invective, and identifying the victim as very likely Vlatko, I had to send Vlatko Juric-Kokic a sneak pre-view of this issue, so that I could include his comments on Drazens article too! Vlatkos footnoted little rockets are indicated by (V1, V2, etc) J So thats the lead piece - followed by Juergens details of experiencing Croatia as a foreigner, odd snippets from locs, and some stuff on those various cons
I wasn't particularly keen to attend the convention. I was sort of a renegade; I left the concom about half a year before the convention, utterly unsatisfied with the events at the time and the general direction in which the convention was heading. For that reason alone I probably should not write this report, but that means I would have to find someone else, brainwash him/her/it, perform some lobotomy and ensure that the article looks right. That's way too much trouble and it is much simpler just to write the thing and be done with it. The fictional `we' used in the text is purely fictional and does not represent any visible group.
As I was saying, going to the convention was not very appealing. Friday caught me out of town, skipping the usual fuss at the beginning. I was back in Zagreb on Saturday afternoon, still undecided about attending. Being a net.addict beyond help, I went to the office to catch up on a week's worth of news and mail. Feeling pretty good and satisfied after flaming my usual victims, I decided to show up at SFerakon. The convention's web page promised fresh reports every hour, but somehow they were missing. Reassured with this familiar episode, I went to eat something and waste a little time.
I arrived at the time of awards ceremony (I won't say that was not intentional) when the convention center looks like a ghost town. I don't know why people expect to be assigned numbers and treated like cattle, but they do, and the experienced conrunners take full advantage of that. All of the programming stops, computers are unplugged and people are herded into the hall where the ceremony will take place. Hey, a TV crew is filming and we have to have the auditorium crowded. That leaves one person at the desk, one at the bar and a handful of immovable beings scattered around. Those would be asked to do the herding next year, giving them the feeling of importance. Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated.
The award ceremony is usually fun, as it is never well organised[1,2] and all kinds of embarrassing things happen. The only trouble with it is the no-smoking policy, since it lasts a long time and my addicted self would need a few shots before the show is over. I meant to sneak in and scan the setting, without being noticed. The registration was done quickly (although the cupboard key decided it didnt want to be found) and the only thing between me and the ceremony hall was the bar. Bartender, I mean, since my favourite fuhrer was doing the job. As it happened, the bar needed supplies, I was the only person in sight and she agreed to stuff my jacket with roaches behind the bar. She also has this beautiful smile when she wants something from you. So off I went[3,4], missing all the fun at the ceremony.
A convention without a scandal is not a proper convention and I've just missed a good one. The winners are voted on by the committee whose members have to read the entire year's production. There is (or was, I'm not sure) also this consensus-reaching obligation, an endless source of fighting and broken friendships. The committee produces some kind of explanation, aimed at enlightening the losers, but the tastes change constantly, as nobody does that job for long. (V2) People want to have some friends, after all.
The chairman himself was handling the ceremony and reading those little drops of poison. Little did he know about the contents, since he was too busy in the games room and he didn't have the time to read it before the show.(V3) The last item was the award for the best novel. Our glorious chairman took a deep breath and cheerfully read that nobody deserved it, but the committee decided, without consensus, to give the award for the best children's novel instead and that one went to Predrag Raos.
Predrag is a good writer, the best we have when it comes to novels, but most of his fame and glory are due to something else. He never holds back his opinion and his opinions are rarely flattering. To give you a better picture, (V4) let me say that after having some trouble with a publisher known as ACB among friends, Predrag was saying that he would never again have any business with publishers whose intimate organ is smaller than 16 centimeters to anyone who would listen. Being somewhat rushed, he did not bother to use a two word phrase, of course. Award ceremony or not, TV recording or not, does not make much of a difference. The person who runs the show does, but that is another story.
So, after having realised what he has just read, our leader's face turned into a healthy shade of green. (V5, V6) Nobody believes that Raos rhymes with chaos accidentally any more (not in English, though), and our captain shifted the colour towards grayish upon hearing "I don't mean to expostulate, but..." Everybody were having the best time of the entire convention, save one person. But we don't count vegetables among people, of course. The funny thing is that one filk, a year old, predicted the situation. It's the epic type, so I won't quote it here, but it ends with no award in the novel category and Predrag beating the hell out of committee members. Isitpine has his moments of inspiration.
Blissfully unaware of the situation, in the middle of the stage stood Guy Gavriel Kay, the guest of honor, who was giving the awards to the winners, thus earning this year's title of being the SFerakon blonde. The newsletter was polite enough and did not point this out, but the newsletter was too polite, tactful and serious this year. As everybody knows, the sole purpose of a newsletter's existence is to expose every target in sight to the public disgrace, starting with the chairman, of course. People were complaining that the newsletter is too much for the "in" people and they don't understand what it's all about, though there is a simple cure. Became an active member of fandom and then you'll understand all of it. You will earn your own place there, as well. Then you'll want out, but it would be too late. Scars left by the newsletter never go away. I know. People are still telling me I'm not real, and it has been four years ago.
Upon returning to the convention I realized, to my absolute astonishment, that I have been the second most sought after person there. Everybody wanted to get hold of me and so I've learned all this (and more, but I ain't tellin'). Aside from fun at the ceremony, people were somewhat bored and there was a certain dullness in the air. Some of it was due to the novelty called no smoking anywhere.(V7) That was not as bad as two years before, when the much-praised conrunners enforced the insanity of no drinking, but it was close. People were grouping outside the building and it was much livelier there.
Anyway, that gave me the opportunity to educate the audience about some hard to see, but statistically correct facts. In a few words, the atmosphere at the convention matches the chairman's personality. My favourite example was a certain young man who tortured everyone, including the poor filk singers who dared to produce audible sounds. Until he got dead drunk and even managed to find a girl who wanted him. After that everyone relaxed and even had fun. Yes, that was the no drinking convention. Prohibition tends to produce sad effects. Just go and ask the Americans. We had only one of those. A singular redheaded American, who was cheerfully contemplating the world from Maya's pocket.
I have missed all of the programming I thought could be interesting. Everybody else has too, although not because they weren't at the convention. I am happy to report that we are all still sane and nobody attends programming items as usual. Lecturers are expendable. The head of programming was somewhat unhappy, since he only had 32 items. Before he took the job nobody thought two-digit number of items possible (or needed), but he belongs to the Worldcon bidding aliens and if futility makes him happy, that's fine with me. Although, when I think about it, there might be something in one of the previous footnotes. She has still not regretted it. Yes, she is a blonde. Why do you ask? No, not Kay, dummy.
Thinking some more, I would have probably dropped into the Worldcon panel to enjoy the emptiness for a while. I was told the panellists outnumbered the audience, which is a tasteful perversion, considering all those Worldcon bidders around. Croats just want to enjoy all blessings of the Western civilisation and have some fun along the way. That Worldcon running is a part of those blessings was a short term delusion among some, but most of them would be satisfied with the usual blessings today. Coke, jeans & Roy Orbison are just fine, thank you.
This leads us to the sad story about two lost Germans among the barbarians. I don't mean to cause a diplomatic incident, but the poor devils didnt have a chance. They came all the way from wherever, promoting their Worldcon bid. Local lunatics have been ramming the Worldcon down my bleating throat for over a year and my attention span is about ten seconds when someone mentions the Worldcon bid, barely enough to invite me to the bid party with lots of naked dancers. As Worldcon panel has clearly shown, that goes for just about everybody else. I was even polite enough to help in promoting their cause, filking something along the line of "First we take Manhattan, then we make a Worldcon in Berlin", but they did not meet it with enthusiasm. The Brits were much better, presumably because the Worldcon disease was behind them. I think the Germans will need to change their tactics next year. There are a few words about the southerners in _The Lord of the Rings_. Act accordingly. Bring all the Teutonic tourists you can find. Two are not nearly enough.
I'll admit I was anxious to see the man who carried Intersection on his shoulders. For some demented reason rooted deep down in my miserable childhood, I've imagined a Clint Eastwood type, cool and quiet and macho. Martin Easterbrook turned out to be somewhat shorter and rounder than my imaginary hero, quite talkative and not scary at all. I'm sorry I didn't spend more time with him, but the Englishmen have this insane way of pronouncing words, so it doesn't sound like English in the end at all. Communication problems. I wanted, I really, really wanted to be a good boy and attend his panel about fandom in Britain. But you see, a certain person scheduled an interview I was supposed to conduct at that time and I missed all the gossip. Im terribly sorry I can't report about the state of affairs in that far away realm, but I suppose you can always ask the Germans.
That interview, starring Darko Macan, had a presence on Usenet, in a weird thread crossposted to alt.religion.emacs and alt.sex.sgml, among others. Darko is responsible for the short story collections that are being given away to SFerakon attendees. He went to Intersection, got their book there and said "If they can, so can we." That is not the weird part. I was doing my best to find someone who would make a drawing of him to accompany the text. One of my friends (who never wanted to become something more) commented that: "He's been pressing a distinctly female person of stunning good looks against the wall. I've seen him with my own eyes." Now, I was only trying to get her attention to the drawing business. I swear I didn't touch her. Much.
All conventions must end and the tear down is usually the interesting part. Somebody has to take on the burden for the next year. The exact deciding procedure is fascinating. Perhaps it was because of the bottle which appeared out of nowhere (much appreciated, Martin), perhaps it was because of correlated moon phases, nobody will ever know, but three girls decided to co-chair the next convention. Men are incompetent, as was shown year after year and this might be a good change. It will be the 20th Sferakon and everybody will be trying a bit harder, but girls are taking over. Let us hide while there is time! (V8)
I've missed the happy scene (yes, again), as I was trying to dance on the bar, but nobody joined me and I am not much of a dancer anyway, so I stopped making fool of myself and went to talk with one from the Trio Fantastica. She informed me about the latest events and I was puzzled a bit. "OK", said I, "You are the one who usually works here, but you never did any of the public functions. How come?" "Don't be stupid. You know who will be the public person." "You sickening manipulator!", said I, delighted. Her better half came along and she turned to him saying "Protect me! He told me I was a sickening manipulator." He turned to me, somewhat puzzled, and said: "She's not sickening." She ran off screaming, of course. Men are utterly incompetent sometimes. He tried to fix things up, saying that means that nobody is manipulating her, but to no avail. She went straight to our glorious chairman, presumably because he had some experience with protection. OK, protecting a bottle from the thirsty crowd is not the same as protecting a woman from the filk singer, but I suppose there was nothing better. Men are incompetent, right Fiona?
(Fiona: no, no, men arent incompetent, they just need to be told what to do!! J) (V9)
This is the end, I suppose. It is now safe to go watch your Star Drek. By the way, if you happen to drop by next year, bear in mind this awfully nice tradition Martin has set. We expect Brits to come along with a bottle of whiskey in each hand. And you know how it is with traditions in fandom.
 Two years ago, Igor Kordej won Sfera for the best colour illustration. He was not present at the ceremony, but we had him on the phone and the conversation was broadcast at the convention. After having patiently answered all the usual questions, he was asked to address the audience. "Oh, you mean they can hear this?" said he.
 A bit of a taxonomy here: SFera is SF club in Zagreb. The annual convention organised by the club is called SFerakon. Actually, it's SFeraKon, but the obnoxious capitalization is dying away, fortunately. Sfera is the one and only SF award worth having. In Croatian sfera means sphere. Internet version of the Merriam Webster dictionary lists only six English words starting with sf, all of them having Italian origin. Another SF club here is called Sfinga (Sphinx). I know you are jealous.
 I was also ordered to fetch a guitar, but when it was time to use the thing, she just sat and cried.
 Because I was singing.
 There is a number of Croats who don't subscribe to this point of view, but those are the ones who never find out who ended up with whom in a certain dark room. I'm not even sure the existence of these dark places is known to them. All things considered, it's probably best that way.
 The explanation was written by a professional journalist who insisted on writing it himself. Never trust those creatures.
 Arrogant Conceited Bastard, (c) 1994 SFerakon newsletter.
 You know how to calculate inches from centimeters, don't you? No? Here is a hint, then: the speed of light is 299 792 458 meters per second.
 He is a vegetable.
 Sometimes he looks like a dead vegetable.
 I don't know if anybody took pity and explained to him where hed come to.
 Don't ask.
 Except a certain person who was the most wanted toy around, but at least I didn't have to hide from my fans.
 If you plan to leave any concom, you should have better theories than them.  She regretted that bitterly. However, I have noticed that chairmanship is a rather popular sport among single males.
 There are several persons here who are very proud of their diplomatic and psychiatric abilities. Patch this up, sweethearts.
 Perhaps "But you see, it's not me, it's not my family, in your head, in your head..." would be more appropriate? I've been keeping that for the local nuts, but I suppose it's not nice to withhold the best from your guests.
 And don't forget the naked dancers.
 I have to be tactful with the Brits. After all, St. Fiona is supposed to publish this.
(Fiona: I havent hesitated to publish, as you can seebut tactful??? Can Drazen really mean Brits??? And anyway after being declared God, Ill fight any attempt at demotion to mere sainthood!! J)
 But, as I've said, our diplomats are boasting too much.
 It never left Croatian news servers, unfortunately.
 That's none of your business, anyway.
 Perhaps because the music was produced, arranged and performed by Pink Floyd, but that CD was the closest thing to dance music. Did I tell you it was a boring convention?
 Mentioned somewhere above, but she doesn't deserve a footnote of her own.
(V1) Quite limited, as he dropped out of the concom (as he says himself), and didnt want to show his face at club meetings. And then appeared at the convention on the Saturday evening.
(V2) I cant say its statistics, but its the next best thing J There are several people whove been doing jury duty for the last three or four years.
(V3) Heh. That happens when you drop by thinking youre the smartest and cutest person around, and dont check the facts. I knew about the outcome even before they finished the voting J
(V4) To give you an even better picture, let me say that Raos is not nearly as good a writer as he (both Drazen and Raos) thinks. His fame is due only to several quarrels and poisonous articles and remarks. I cant stand him since several years ago, when I quarrelled with him (Raos) about the way he was talking about the first Sferakon collection. Actually, the only thing he really objected to, but didnt say aloud, was that he was neither consulted nor invited to write something.
(V5) So called licentia poetica. Or poetic license, for those who are not keen on dead languages J Drazen never lets facts corrupt a good story J
(V6) And I believe that footnote (10) refers to my tendency of going around unshaven. Pure envy on Drazens part J
(V7) Unfortunately for Drazens story, the decision was made by the authorities of his beloved college where the convention was taking place.
(V8) I think theres no danger of Drazen being invited to be on the concom ;) Especially after he quit this years concom. It was his n-th quitting.
(V9) Well see next year, says the token man on the next years concom, that is, me J
Various LOCs: Letters Of Comment. Ive been told that it isnt usual in Croatia for fans to write in to fanzines to get the letters (or extracts from them) published by the fanzines there. Im quite happy for anyone and everyone to write in to me, and I may or may not include your letter, or part of it, in a future issue, if I feel its appropriate, as in the case of the two letters Ive included extracts from this issue:
Eddie Cochrane firstname.lastname@example.org
Its good to see a fanzine with the avowed intention of considering BECs. Fiona, Im very happy to see another addition to the post- Intersection fanzine boomlet. If I read many more I may even become eligible to vote for a Nova (shock, horror!). The emphasis on Big European Cons is welcome. The discussions going on about BECs on intersmof and other fora are interesting, but they dont always give an opportunity for considered thoughts and proposals. However, I assure you I had no personal expectation of BabelOn2 being "seriously worthy".
Hermans list of Norwegian food brought back many happy memories from my skiing trips to Norway as a child, but I have to admit that while some of the descriptions are familiar, absolutely none of the names are. Perhaps I shall have to reconsider my finances and go to Quartercon to reacquaint myself with the cuisine.
I can add one more useful URL to Juergens look at British Rail travel, it is http://www.railtrack.co.uk/travel/ which is an on-line train time- table, with the particularly useful feature of being able to calculate journey times based on arriving before a given time (just the thing for travelling to those distant committee meetings).
Ive always been slightly put-off from going to conventions in other European countries due to my complete lack of aptitude for foreign languages, and the fact that the additional difficulties of travel to a convention outside of ones own country, whilst easily surmountable, can be sufficient to deter when there are other conventions that are easier to get to. However, when I think back to how I was first introduced to fandom, I was faced with similar worries due based on my own lack of experience with fandom.. I might never have made the jump into convention-going if it hadnt been for the healthy push I was given by Martin Hoare, and his introducing me to others in Reading fandomc so that I would start off already knowing people at the con. Perhaps there is a role not only for encouragement of fans to visit conventions in other countries, but also a role for organisation, sharing knowledge and experience, perhaps enabling disparate fans to travel together as a group, (volunteering them as a group [FX: Evil laughter]). What do you think?
Fiona: Well, yes, I know the Germans organised themselves into a car convoy to go to Jersey for Helicon, and I think the Croats all arrived on one bus for Evolution, but its not exactly de rigeur. OTOH a while ago I said Id quite like to take a couple of weeks travelling across Europe from Croatia to Sweden via various countries en route, depending on if I could find suitable cons to visit on the way, and apparently this has been some interest in this as an idea. Though it depends on how soon my finances stabilise - a happy windfall from the Building Society my mortgage is with (yet another of those changing to become a bank) means my finances are suddenly surprisingly healthier than expected, (for non-Brits, one of the legacies of our latest round of bloody capitalistic rule was a shake up in mortgage societies deciding to become profiteering businesses rather than supportive (of house buyers) institutions, entailing them having stock market flotations and giving their borrowers and savers so many shares each to launch the flotations) so I may look into the possibilities for 98/99, but thats not a definite commitment.
Ashgrove, Didgley, Fillongley, Coventry, CV7 8DQ, England
Herman Ellingsens glossary of Norwegian soul food (makes me point out) that no matter how much you describe different foods, the only way to be sure that communication is getting through is to actually go to these places and eat them. Perhaps however a note for UK readers might be helpful here: some European customs take a little getting used to, such as seating yourself (once in a Chinese restaurant in Vienna, I asked for a table, and the waiter thought I was a repo man), and eating at the railway station caf. Brits accustomed to the awfulness of the late British Rails catering take a little persuading that station restaurants in Europe are generally some of the best and cheapest places to eat, especially out in the sticks. Often they have been franchised out to local owners for many years, and they are also good places to sit and watch local characters. The other, more Germanic, habit to remind Brits abroad about is not to neglect the "imbiss" stalls. I for one was glad of the imbiss on Munich station once when heading overland from Salzburg to Paris. A 5am start had left my hotel unable to cope with breakfast, so a sausage at Munich at 7:30am was most welcome!
Mike Cheaters adventures with German interested me. I have rarely been spotted for being English by my speech in Germany or Austria - I suspect because in the latter country, the locals mangle the language enough to make foreigners with shaky German indistinguishable from everyone else. Where I have been identified as English was Dresden - a city which all the best tourist guides said "Dont expect to find English spoken widely - most people had to learn Russian as their second language". This generalisation ignores the question of what second language people wanted to learn. Most people I came across who answered my German with English seemed vastly amused to do this. (A possible reason for my being identified was that I was, for a change, travelling in a group - and getting to grips with a different tongue when youre also concentrating on making conversation with others takes up more processing space than my brain can cope with)
My European excursion this year is ten days in Switzerland, touring by train. This does not involve touching an aeroplane at all: and as the blessed Air Miles now offer Eurostar tickets (450miles plus GBP15 approx, depending on type of ticket required), most destinations this side of the Rhine are accessible in one days travel from London, with (for most major destinations) one change of trains only. Even the prospect of overnighting en route shouldnt be too daunting: getting to Northern Germany is best done via Brussels, and an evening of beer sampling in that city is an interesting prospect that no true fan should pass up! (Though if youre going further afield the next day, perhaps you should bear in mind the necessarily early start!) Planning the journey can be as much fun as anything else, and the Thomas Cook European timetable should be an indispensible companion. But then again, Im just a rotten old tourist at heart!
Fiona: For UK fans, Sainsburys is now doing one reward voucher to be exchanged for 40 Air Miles points, which is far more attractive than the GBP 2.50 cash you could exchange it for instead. You have to collect your voucher, then take it to some other point in the store for them to swap it for airmiles with you, and you need your Sainsburys card at the same time.. Booking Airmiles is easy enough - you just ring up their number, tell them where you want to go, and they book it for you. They also send out a brochure listing what each European destination costs in terms of airmiles. For instance, my flight to Hamburg will be 950 points for a return journey, although they offered me only a very limited choice of flights on the days I wanted to travel. Dont know if that was because they were almost booked out already, or if they have a limited number of airmiles seats per flight
Intuition first: since there was lots of info last ish, this ish only refers to our website address: http://www.ast.cam.ac.uk/~acb/intuition/
16-17th August 1997
The national Finnish SF convention, held in the Old Student House, in the Centre of Helsinki, Finland
Free admission. Most programming in Finnish, but they hope to get one more GOH to increase the number of things English-speakers will understand. Also including films (subtitled not dubbed), masquerade, parties, and a bar.
GOHs Norman Spinrad, Ian McDonald
email: Jukka Rasanen email@example.com
by post: Toni Jerrman, Junailijankuja 1 B 29, 00520 Helsinki, Finland
Science Fiction Tage NRW
March 21-22 1998
To be held in the Harenberg City-Center Building, Dortmund, Germany
GOHs Alan Dean Foster, Mark Brandis
Includes workshops, discussions, presentations, and shows
post: Science Fiction Tage e.V., Friedhofstrasse 2, D-45478 Muelheim an der Ruhr, Germany
telephone: 0049 208 59 28 90
Attending membership: DM 45 until Dec 12th, DM 50 to Mar 15th, DM 50 on the door. DM 40 for all students, unemployed, and those receiving welfare benefit. Bank transfers to Stadtsparkasse Dortmund, Account no 371 005 811, Bank sort code 440 501 99
SF Tages UK Agent: Mike Cheater
post: 42 Elm Grove, Southsea, Portsmouth, England
Attending membership GBP 20, cheques payable to "German Conventions"