WHAT’S AN ISFiC?
“What’s an ISFiC?” may not be the most popular party question at Windycon, but it does make for an excellent trivia question. Most fans, even in Chicago, are only vaguely aware that ISFiC exists.
ISFiC is Illinois Science Fiction in Chicago and is best known for its role as the parent body of Windycon.
But there’s more to ISFiC than that. ISFiC was formed in the early 1970’s — a period of great change in convention running in SF fandom. the number of regional conventions was exploding, and it seemed every couple of months a new city would announce that henceforth, they would be hosting an annual regional convention. In the course of about five years, the number of SF conventions more than tripled.
Windycon was one of the conventions that led this surge. In 1973, Chicago fans felt frustrated at being in the second largest city in the country, right in the center of the Heartland, and nothing resembling a regional con existed nearer than Minneapolis. Since the Chicon III Worldcon in the early 60’s, Chicago fandom had splintered, and there wasn’t really a strong local club to serve as a focal point for a con committee, as was the case in Boston, Los Angeles, and other cities.
The Chicago fans then hit upon an idea — if a coalition of people from the various factions and clubs could work together on a local con, then a single large local club wouldn’t be needed. Thus was born Windycon. ISFiC was created as part of this process, to provide continuity in leadership and overall guidance.
But the vision for ISFiC and Chicago fandom went far beyond creating a regional con. Though the initial thoughts were vague, the idea was that ISFiC would act as a sort of clearing-house organization for fan activities in Illinois, and do things to support fandom in general.
As with many fannish actions, there was also an ulterior motive. ISFiC’s founders, notably Larry Propp, Mark and Lynn Aronson, and Ann Cass, very carefully crafted things as a staging ground to prepare for a WorldCon bid. Their idea was to have Windycon not only publicize Chicago’s name, but also to act as a training ground for local fans in preparation for a WorldCon bid. The other ISFiC founders, including Jon and Joni Stopa and Mike and Carol Resnick supported the idea. Chicon IV, the 1982 World Science Fiction Convention, came to fruition as a result of this (though Chicon IV and Chicon V, the 1991 WorldCon, as well as Chicon 2000, are separately incorporated and are not directly affiliated with ISFiC). The early Windycons grew rapidly under such chairmen as Mark and Lynn Aronson, Larry Propp, Doug Rice, and Midge Reitan. Most of the Windycon staff worked on Chicon IV, and learned even more from that.
After Chicon IV, there was a lot of reassessment of both Windycon and ISFiC. Having 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 or buy clubhouses, 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 we started bringing in authors and editors, many liked Windycon so much that they have continued coming back on their own accord. Once each summer, ISFiC sponsors a picnic in a Chicago park as a gathering for Chicago fandom.
Windycon is not the only activity ISFiC is involved in. Support has been provided to other Illinois conventions that have an SF, fantasy, or space travel theme. In some cases, the Windycon art show hangings are rented for a nominal fee (to cover maintenance and upkeep costs). In other cases, grants are provided to bring in special guests. ISFiC is always interested in hearing from groups running Illinois conventions that have a specific project they would like some assistance with. The ISFiC board of directors has nine members, with three directors coming up for re-election each year for a three-year term. Any Illinois fan is eligible to be elected; come to the ISFiC board meeting at Windycon (held on Sunday afternoon) 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.