Welcome to ISFiC

By Steven H Silver, based on an article by Ross Pavlac

Congratulations, you are a member of ISFiC, one of Chicago’s oldest science fiction organizations. So, what does that mean?

When you pay to join Windycon, you’re actually joining ISFiC, the organization that runs Windycon and continues to have a presence throughout the rest of the year. Your membership in ISFiC allows you to attend other ISFiC events.

In 1962, Chicago fandom brought the world together for the twentieth World Science Fiction Convention, known variously as Chicon II or Chicon III. After that event, which boasted a massive membership of 550 people, Chicago fandom splintered. Although there were some fannish activities, such as Advent:Publishers or small get-togethers, Chicago fandom entered a period of dormancy.

ISFiC, Illinois Science Fiction in Chicago, was founded in the early 1970s by a group of science fiction fans who decided that it would be a good idea to get con-running experience so they could run a Worldcon. They later realized that this was a silly thing to do, but by that time, they had founded Windycon, a general science fiction convention held for the first time October 25-27, 1973 at the Blackstone Hotel in Chicago. Joe Haldeman and Lou Tabakow were the guests of honor and Bob Tucker served as toastmaster.

The original board of directors of ISFiC was made up of Larry Propp, Mark and Lynne Aronson, Ann Cass, Jon and Joni Stopa, and Mike and Carol Resnick. Under their early guidance, Windycon became an annual event, with the Aronsons chairing the first three events before passing the chairmanship reins on to Larry Propp, who would use his knowledge to co-chair Chicon IV in 1982.

Although ISFiC was organized, in part to help run conventions to give people experience for a Worldcon and bring Chicago fandom together, ISFiC has never actually run a Worldcon, leaving that activity up to individually created organizations.

So, what does ISFiC do when it isn’t running Windycon?

After Chicon IV, ISFiC had successfully attained the goal of building an ongoing committee that could run Windycon from year to year, at least, as much as any local group can be said to. ISFiC thought about what could be done to make Windycon a better convention. One factor in this was that Windycon's excess funds were starting to pile up. As a 501(c)3 corporation, ISFiC is supposed to use the excess funds for the benefit of fandom. So, rather than let the money pile up ISFiC decided to put the money back into Windycon in creative ways. One way was in providing grants to Windycon to bring in special guests over and above the normal guests of honor. In this manner, Windycon was able to compensate for the fact that most SF authors and editors live on the East and West Coasts. Once ISFiC started bringing in authors and editors, many liked Windycon so much that they have continued coming back on their own accord

ISFiC looked further afield and also provided grants to other groups in Illinois that wanted to help increase the range, breadth, and depth of fandom. Other conventions, both in Chicagoland and downstate came to ISFiC looking for either money or resources. ISFiC’s charter made providing this assistance a key goal. Some of the other organizations that have benefited from ISFiC largesse include Chambanacon, Whatcon, Capricon, Duckon, and the Speculative Literature Foundation. Not just financial assistance is given. In some cases, the Windycon art show hangings are rented for a nominal fee (to cover maintenance and upkeep costs). ISFiC is always interested in hearing from groups running Illinois conventions that have a specific project they would like some assistance with.

While ISFiC was running a convention in November, many of the people who ran the convention realized that even though they got to see fleeting glimpses of friends, their con-running duties kept them too busy to fully socialize. Looking for another excuse to get together for fannish camaraderie, and because there was no summer Chicago con at the time, in 1986, ISFiC created Picnicon, an annual picnic held in a variety of forest preserve and parks over the years. As a relaxacon, ISFiC provides the hamburgers, hotdogs, and grills and asks the attendees to drop a couple (literally) bucks in the hat and bring a side dish or dessert. Think of Picnicon as a massive outdoor con suite.

Also, in 1986, ISFiC elected to run an amateur writers contest, open to all members of ISFiC (Windycon), or people living in Illinois or a bordering state (including Michigan, ‘cause on a clear day you can see it across the lake). That first year, the contest was won by Richard Chwedyk, who would go on to become a professionally published author and winner of a Nebula Award. The ISFiC Writers Contest is held most years in conjunction with Windycon. The winner receives con membership, a gold coin, and publication of their story in the ISFiC Program book.

In 2004, ISFiC created ISFiC Press. Each year, this arm of ISFiC publishes a hardcover book at Windycon, generally, but not always, by the Windycon author guest of honor with a cover by the Windycon artist guest of honor. ISFiC Press’s first book, Relativity, by Robert J. Sawyer, received an Aurora Award, the Canadian National Award presented by fans. In addition, ISFiC Press has published unrelated science fiction novels and the Hugo Award-nominated Worldcon Guest of Honor Speeches. ISFiC Press ceased operation in 2016 after publishing 17 volumes, most of which remain available.

The ISFiC board of directors has nine members, with three directors coming up for re-election each year for a three-year term. Any fan who is a member of ISFiC (see the first paragraph of this article) is eligible to be elected; come to the ISFiC board meeting at Windycon and nominate yourself. Meetings of the ISFiC board are normally held at Windycon and Capricon. The meetings are open to the public.

Ross died on the evening of November 12, 1997. We miss him greatly.