TAFF Wars

The TAFF Wars, also referred to as Topic A, was a complex feud that erupted in the mid-1980s and (unsurprisingly) centered around TAFF.

In 1984, the TAFF race was westbound, between Rob Hansen and D. West, both Brits. The North American administrator for the race was Avedon Carol, the 1983 TAFF winner, who had developed a close personal (and entirely out-in-the-open) relationship with Hansen, whom she later married. Richard Bergeron, an American fan then living in Puerto Rico, an advocate of West, came to believe that Carol had been biased in favor of Hansen and had somehow influenced his ultimate win. Bergeron took an unfortunate personal comment about him by her in a fanzine as an attack, and started a series of attacks in fanzines and personal letters.

Ted White, Chuck Harris, Patrick and Teresa Nielsen Hayden, and Dave Langford (some of whom were among D. West's nominators) wrote Bergeron, but neither they nor D. West himself were able to convince him. Midwestern fans Dave Locke and Jackie Causgrove, who had been unhappy with aspects of the 1983 TAFF race, became involved on Bergeron's side.

Up to that point, the feud was essentially an American affair, with little notice taken of it in the UK. But during the 1985 TAFF race, an eastbound race to send a North American to the UK, the controversy spread.

The official candidates were Rich Coad and Patrick and Teresa Nielsen Hayden (from the West Coast and East Coast, respectively). Martha Beck, an Indiana fan beloved in Midwestern circles had also been nominated, but her filing was incomplete. According to Hansen and Carol, the administrators, one of her nominators was dilatory, so she did not appear on the ballot. Her nominators, who included Causgrove, denied it and said that, even if one nomination had been slightly late, it was not fannish to adhere that closely to the rules. Beck was well-known and well-liked as a convention fan in the U.S., but was then little-known in the U.K. Beck was not herself involved in the TAFF Wars except as the "Midwestern candidate."

TAFF had never been a regional thing, but Midwestern sensibilities had already been riled by Ben Yalow at the 1984 WSFS Business meeting at L.A.con II. Speaking in support of a motion to eliminate the Central Zone from the Worldcon Site Selection rotation in which he used the term "Wimpy Zone" to describe it. This was taken as an attack on Midwestern fandom (and, of course, was garbled and improved as word made its way along the fannish grapevine).

With this background, the Martha Beck write-in campaign led by Jackie Causgrove was bound to make waves and did so on both sides of the Atlantic, since we now had sectionalism rearing an ugly head in the US, the suspicion that the on-going feud over the 1984 race was at the root of the matter, and a feeling in the UK that a (feared) massive Midwestern vote would marginalize the votes of UK fans. There were also elements of fanzine fan vs. con fan rivalry.

In the end, the Nielsen Haydens won, but not before a record vote, and much bitterness all around. (See 1985 TAFF results.)

To minimize the chances of future regional candidates, the TAFF rules were subsequently changed to require that a winner receive at least 20% of the vote on both sides of the Atlantic.