Recently I got chatting with a friend who I meet at conventions because he comes with his wife, but he doesn't consider himself a science fiction fan. I mentioned GUFF, and tried to explain what it is. I could tell by the look on his face that I wasn't doing a very good job. So I hope I can do a better one here.
Let's start with a little history. It all started back in the 1950s when some UK fans decided it would be nice to send their mate Walt Willis to a Worldcon in Chicago.
Back in 1952, transatlantic travel for something as frivolous as a holiday was something that only the very wealthy, so Walt must have been pretty well respected by the fanish community. But to show that respect was well placed, Walt felt he shouldn't just turn up and party (though I'm sure he did plenty of partying while he was there).
Instead, he went out of way to do as much to help with the convention as he could. And when he came back, he filled several fanzines with his report from the convention. Remember, this was long before the internet, so fanzines were the only way people got to hear about far away conventions. It was also before desktop publishing and cheap photocopying, so fanzine production was a slow, mechanical process involving typewriters and Letraset, and nasty chemical processes to produce stencils, and turning the handle on the Gestetner machine yourself. There wasn't just ink on the pages, there was blood (hopefully just metaphorical blood, not actual blood, though paper cuts can be a killer).
Take a look at some of those old fanzines. On one level they look rubbish compared to the professional look you can run off in a couple of hours with a modern DTP package, but when you look deeper and realise the effort that went into them they really are amazing.
But I digress. The Americans really enjoyed having Walt, so it was decided to make it a regular event. But who to send? They decided to have an election. Fans could put themselves forward, and by making a donation to their travel fund, their peers could vote for their preferred candidate.
A couple more Europeans went to America before it settled into a pattern of alternating directions on alternate years that it follows to this day, with Robert Madle the first American to make a fan fund trip to Eurpoe in 1957.
The fan fund was born, and pretty soon it became known as the trans-Atlantic fan fund, or TAFF. It was also widened from UK/America to Europe/America, and other countries to have been represented over the years include Ireland, Sweden and Jersey (which is not actually part of the UK).
The Down Under Fan Fund, or DUFF. alternately sending fans between the US and Australia was the next major fan fund, and this was followed by GUFF, which stands for either Going Under Fan Fund or Get Up-and-over Fan Fund, sending fans between Europe and Australia.
There are other smaller funds, such as CUFF, the Canadian Fan Fund, which sends fans fans from one side of that great country to the other. There have also been one-off funds, such as JET, which sent a UK fan to the Japanese Worldcon in 2007.
So that, in a nutshell, is what fan funds are. In my next instalment I will tackle the thorny question my good friend retorted with.