The need for a general fan organization was perceived in the earliest days of fandom, but one did not actually get off to a successful start until Damon Knight wrote "Unite – Or Fie!" (a play on the Michelist speech "Mutation -- or Death!" for the October 1940 issue of Art Widner's fanzine Fanfare, in which he said in part: "I sincerely believe that a successful national fantasy association is possible, that it could offer a needed service to every fan, and that it could be established today." Reader response soon led to the formation of the National Fantasy Fan Federation (abbreviated NFFF or N3F) with 64 charter members, and while knight's interest soon waned, Widner, Louis Russell Chauvenet (who coined the term "fanzine") and other prominent fans of the day guided the initial development of the club.
The organization had several early successes, including but not limited to publication of a book by Dr. David H. Keller and sponsoring (with Forry Ackerman and the LASFS) the first Fancyclopedia. For much of its existence, however, the N3F was not held in high regard; it became something of an ignorant backwater in the hands of those whose only activity was in the N3F and who behaved as if the N3F was synonymous with fandom rather than just a part of it. Accordingly, the club was the subject of much satire and derision and it languished for many years. But the organization endures while others have come and gone, and it has been on an upswing in more recent times, with the publication of a new club Handbook and current activities including its quarterly fanzine, The National Fantasy Fan, an annual amateur short story contest (among other writing projects), the annual Neffy Awards presented in a variety of categories, and 25 bureaus/activities (including its own apa, N'APA), all of which are participated in by the membership.
The 60s was mostly a quiet decade for the organization, in contrast to the high-power feuds that racked it during the 50s. There was a moderate amount of excitement in 1963 when former director Alma Hill started impeachment proceedings against Al Lewis, who was then the chairman of the Directorate of the NFFF. Lewis had written an article in the club's fanzine, The National Fantasy Fan, defending the worth of the newszine Fanac to its readers, which came across as an unfavorable review to the consternation of many readers. Hardly had that fracas blown over when Lewis was once again the subject of an impeachment proceeding, this time by Clay Hamlin. Lewis had defended Earl Kemp from libelous charges leveled at him by an otherwise little-known fan, D. Bruce Berry, in a fanzine article. Ron Ellik reported, tongue-in-cheek, on the two impeachment attempts: "That Lewis sure is a scoundrel."
- In May 1963, John & Bjo Trimble hosted what was billed as "The First Annual N3F Swim, Beer, and Good Clean Fun Afternoon" in Los Angeles.
- An annual story contest with cash prizes to the winners. The judges included Fred Pohl (1966)
- A sponsored hospitality room at worldcons
- A 'fanzine clearinghouse' distribution service was handled by Seth Johnson. The service paid for ads in some of the prozines to sell bundles of fanzines to science fiction readers who could be potential neofans. He also took it on himself to locate new recruits directly by scanning prozine letters columns for addresses, then sending them packages of fanzines. The problem was, some of the fanzines he sent out were so poorly produced and written that it often had the opposite effect. This led some fanzine publishers, most notably Ted White, to claim that Johnson had no understanding or appreciation of fannish writing.
- Sponsored an amateur press association, N'APA which was founded in the 50s and open to all members of NFFF. The Official Editors during the 60s included Robert Lichtman and Fred Patten.
- Sponsored a letterzine
- A fanzine Tightbeam
Hear an mp3 of Art Widner explaining how the N3F was founded and more... time: 12:50 - Recorded at Corflu 25 - April 2008 - Las Vegas, Nevada -(audio courtesy of TheVoicesOfFandom.com (IA)) Art Widner describes the founding of the N3F and along the way gives a general personal history including anecdotes regarding his fanzine YHOS, his 34 year Gafia, his years as a teacher, the game TSOHG and more!
|From Fancyclopedia 2 ca 1959|
|The National Fantasy Fan Federation, the chief general fan organization. (Forbye, it's international, despite the name.) It was organized in 1941 by elements of the Stranger Club of Boston, Mass, stimulated by Damon Knight's article "Unite -- or Fie!" in Art Widner's Fanfare, which had suggested formation of a new general organization with the decline of New Fandom. In 1941 the group began functioning after a preliminary election, and President Chauvenet drew up a rather long constitution. Plans were laid to finance the Federation by a tax on activity by amount, rather than by equal dues; a majority of members had approved this notion when Widner advanced it, but when the Finance Committee offered a concrete plan (omitting calculation of how small the sums would actually be) a great babble went up about "penalizing activity", "paying tribute", usw. This prevented the adoption of the constitution at first; an altered one was finally adopted, but did not prevent the Interregnum in June 1942. And after Evans' Blitzkrieg the removal of active fans by wartime difficulties made it impossible to work the governmental structure envisioned for the N3F. Tho this trouble, as explained under Interregnum, was eventually resolved, the N3F has never since gotten out of a sort of permanent embryonic state. It continues to day by an act of faith among those who Believe in it, but few knowing outsiders would dissent from some such opinion as the one Harry Warner expresses:
"I've heard this assurance that big things were around the corner for the N3F so frequently... it's funny by this time. The N3F invariably has a half-dozen energetic members who can get things done, and several hundred who are either content to let the others work hard, or jealous that the others are active. The organization may be justified by serving as an outlet for fans during a period of six months to a year -- the period when they're just getting acquainted with fandom, with a yen to read long lists of fan addresses, high-sounding words about purposes, and so forth. After that, a verbal arrangement with two or three other people can accomplish more than the N3F has ever done."
The organization started out with fine plans for recruiting fans, inspiring activity, setting up regional subordinate organizations (for New England, Dixie, the rest of the East, the Midwest, West [Mississippi-Rockies], and Pacific areas), selecting convention sites, and so on. The central administration of the Federation, besides the elected officers and the Advisory Board, would include several committees and a permanent judicial or legal body of certain middle-aged fans.
It is said to have a membership of about 400, give or take 100 either way, and supposedly publishes a frequent bulletin, The National Fantasy Fan. But the N3F has never managed to be an important force in fandom, tho some of its aims -- organizing, standardizing, and coordinating fan activities, providing a common meeting ground, and publishing informational booklets like this one -- would be worthwhile. It is so large and unwieldy that it never gets off the ground; the normal official lethargy of fan organizations is multiplied by the fact that the N3F officers consult by correspondence; and the "benefit list" of projects whose fruits are going to drop into the N3Fers laps Real Soon Now is a standing joke in fandom.
The chief complaint seems to be inertia among the membership, which require to be treated like the rank-and-file of large mundane organizations. N3F officials have usually included active and competent fans, even some BNFs of legendary status like Speer, Warner, and Rapp, but the routine of administering a flaccid mass of marginally interested stfnists is such as to drive personalities of the sort fans have into gafia, Insurgency, or paper-doll-cutting. The efficient chaser of details who forms the backbone of any administrating organization is not a type plentiful in fandom, and even when found can usually get greater rewards of egoboo through individual fanac. Fans would probably do better at coordination -- which was the original idea, after all -- and the activities which call for it to exercise only this function, like the Round Robins (chain letters) and N3F APA are the most successful in the club; but as a rule activities to coordinate is just what the N3F lacks.
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