SMOFing around in Iowa

I think I finally understand that I am in the sticks. For real, not for joking.

Recently, there’s been a small kerfluffle regarding a SMOF zone sign at LoneStar 3 that seemed to some members of the con to want to keep regular fans out of a business meeting. Another us versus them moment. And Jim Hines got caught in the cross hairs of that. And I am sure that it was a moment of indecisiveness for some, like my friend Kathryn Sullivan.

I think that conventions are highly charged atmospheres right now, and we do want to watch how welcome we make people, given a lot of the conversation regarding exclusivity. But I have a confession to make. In Iowa, I might be Papa Smof. Well, Mama SMOF, but you get the idea.

Mindbridge, the organization of which I am the board president, puts on three conventions a year: AnimeIowa, Icon, and Gamicon. We are NOT the only organization and the only cons in Iowa, but we’ve been doing this for a heck of a while. There are certain other SMOFS in our area who “man” convention committees, tirelessly work con suites, and so on. SMOF for us, around here, in the sticks, can mean at its worst definition: “sucker who does nothing but run cons every year” and at its best definition: “person who works hard to give us a good time and is willing to put in hours to do so.”

Is there a power side of SMOFing? Yes. Pretty much everyone does what I suggest for the cons and so forth. But with great power comes great responsibility, and we try not to use our power for evil. Except, perhaps when two other SMOFs are not treating each other respectfully, and I have to pull out the Evil Eye to get them to reconsider their actions. Hey, organizations are hard to manage.

Our SMOFS have done a few good things. We fund charitable events as well as our conventions. We give out scholarships. We try to make it possible for other fans to have a good time three times a year.

But we never have a SMOF meeting. We call our meetings Mindbridge meetings. This week, we have a Mindbridge Board meeting, and that’s SMOF-y, but people can come if they have a need, or if they’re curious. In general, board meetings are pretty boring. Occasionally, there are grievances among members, and those meetings are closed while we plan for adjucation and discussion.

Then we have a general membership meeting where we keep folks abreast of events, convention votes, and equipment approvals, and have a bit of a social life. This week it’s geek food contest. Bryon and I will be making the graboid cups tomorrow.

All of these meetings are transparent, with notes placed on the Internet.

So, what am I saying? First of all, I gotta wrap this up because I am working on my manuscript today. Secondly, we know that a volunteer base is a valuable commodity, so we want as many Secret Masters of Fandom as possible in Mindbridge. All that means to us is nice people who want to make a good time happen. Heck, we’re not the Masons or the Scottish Rite Temple or something! We don’t even have a secret handshake.

The point is this: you can present something to be inclusive or exclusionary. We prefer inclusive. We didn’t call ourselves SMOFs first, but when people found out we were a board, we were labelled SMOFs. And you know, as long as no one presumes a package that comes with the word, we’re good, because I suspect the kind of SMOFS we are are not the kind who wouldn’t let anyone in to help. God, we need people to help us. Please help us.

So, just throwing that out there. Because semantically, when you get involved in making assumptions, it’s always a bad scene.

Author: Catherine Schaff-Stump

Catherine Schaff-Stump writes fiction for children and young adults. Her most recent book, The Vessel of Ra, is the first book in the Klaereon Scroll series. She is currently working on its sequel, as well as penning the middle grade adventures of Abigail Rath, monster hunter.

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