Multiple interview with the European Science Fiction Society’s New Board

  • Carolina Gómez Lagerlöf (Sweden) – Chairperson
  • Saija Kyllönen (Finland) -Vice-chairperson
  • Vanja Kranjčević (Croatia) – Treasurer
  • Gareth Kavanagh (Ireland) – Secretary
  • Bridget Wilkinson (UK) –  Award Administrator
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From left to right: Bridget Wilkinson (UK), Vanja Kranjčević (Croatia), Carolina Gómez Lagerlöf (Sweden), Gareth Kavanagh (Ireland), Saija Kyllönen (Finland)

Congratulations for your new position within the ESFS Board!

Thanks for the congratulations. For simplicity, we have chosen to answer these questions as a group, except where the question is aimed at individuals. We hope that is ok.

What’s your ESFS Board’s term?

The ESFS Board has been elected for a 3 year term. As such we will be in place until the 2016 eurocon.

A feminine or feminist new ESFS Board with a male minority? Putting ladies in charge equates automatically with “problem is solved”?

While the board currently has a majority of women, we do not see that as a “Putting Ladies in Charge” and it definitely is not problem solved. There are many issues that surround the ESFS, and we do not believe that the gender balance of the board was the cause of them.

Did you expect to be elected?

Carolina Gómez Lagerlöf (Sweden), Chairperson : I knew that I was going to be nominated for the post as a chair and I had accepted the nomination. I was prepared to be elected, but I also knew that I was not the only candidate so I was not sure if I would be elected as chair in the end.

Saija Kyllönen (Finland), Vice-chairperson : No, I didn’t expect to be elected in voting because I am relatively new in ESFS surroundings. I dared to be a candidate for being rather experienced in the board work of other organisations. The gender or age or any other personal characteristic of board members does not count. The important things are commitment and love for the cause.

Vanja Kranjčević (Croatia), Treasurer : It was a real surprise when some people mentioned that they will nominate me for a position on the BOARD. I always thought of myself as a low profile member of Fandom (outside of Croatia) and didn’t expect a nomination, even less to be elected ( since the other candidate for treasurer was Dave Lally !).

Gareth Kavanagh (Ireland), Secretary : I admit, that even unopposed as I happened to be, that I was still a little worried that people would not vote for me as I have only been involved in Fandom outside of Ireland for a short number of years.

Bridget Wilkinson (UK), Award Administrator : I could see that a ‘revolution’ was going on, so I didn’t know what was going to happen!

There was and there is an horizon of expectations concerning the new ESFS Board. Cheryl Morgan was keen and swift to mentioned it, “there appears to have been something of a revolution… for as long as I can remember, the European Science Fiction Society has been run by the same small group of people. Now we have a new committee… That’s a much more diverse group than before, and one I expect to be a lot more open and proactive.” What is your opinion?

The new board is made up of people who are involved in European Science Fiction, and all of the new members of the board are involved in running local conventions. We think that means that we at least know that sometimes you need to plan big, but break those plans down into much smaller steps.

There are about 17 months until the next Eurocon, and the General Meeting. We hope that the changes made by the new board will be obvious by then. We have set ourselves a limited number of tasks, with set deadlines. This is mainly to lay a foundation to build the various other things we want to do.

EUROCON was founded in 1972 by European professional SF writers and became a fans’ organisation. What are the results after 40 years?

ESFS and Eurocon were originally set up as a means of promoting contact between East and West Europe when the authorities on both sides had no interest in letting that happen. In the east authors were effectively civil servants, not freelancers, so that money was short, but time was not. On the western side fans and a few deeply politically involved authors formed the steering committee for some rather smaller conventions. On the previous Board, there were two professionals, Roberto Quaglia,  semi-professional author, and Piotr Cholewa a professional SF translator (and winner of a Polish national prize for translation), so the Board was half and half.  However the new board is made fully of fans. Though this seems to be a well established pattern, for example, in the UK at present in general the only SF professionals who get involved with SF committees are SF academics, not freelancers. This tendency is even more marked in the USA, and indeed the Worldcon that the original Eurocon imitated was run entirely by fans. We would love professional involvement with the organisation and the board, but none were elected this time around.

Do you have a strategy concerning ESFS ? Or everything is just perfect as it is, once a year some SF tourism and some Eurovision type awards ? When we’ll see an assumed ESFS Board’s agenda, with clear objectives, with terms and priorities?

I)                   Set up a new website and update the information.

We have already started the process of creating a new page that will be easy for us to update. We may also look at having a bigger presence on social media sites like Facebook, however that would never replace a website as the primary source of information.

II)                Have a updated version of the statutes at the website.

At the moment the statutes on the website are not up to date on changes made at the last business meeting, and we are hoping to also make it clearer  when there are changes up for verification.

III)             Make the presentation of the awards better.

One of the things that intend to continue from the good work of the previous board, is the awards administration. Changes were made that meant people had to have nominations in early, this  has been much better. For next year the presentation of the nominations can be improved by:

a) Have a good presentation of the nominations on the website with links to pictures of the artwork etc.

b) Improve presentation at the convention.

c) Put out the winner on our website as soon as possible.

IV. We would like to have a general discussion about the awards. It is difficult to understand what some of the categories really cover.

What is the responsibility of the ESFS Board?

The responsibility of the ESFS Board is laid out in the Statues of the ESFS.

  • to ensure the progress of the Society between two General Meetings,
  • to prepare the report submitted to the General Meeting,
  • to arrange for the places and the dates of the Eurocons and Euroconferences,
  • to determine the utilisation of the Society’s resources,
  • to debate and decide on all other issues related to the Society’s activity.

These however are very open, and are shared with the general committee of the ESFS. However we, as the board, believe that our main responsibility is to make sure the society continues to grow, and that Eurocons and awards continue to run. While we have other things that are needed as well, that is in our belief the primary function of the ESFS board.

Is such a thing as european SF&F? If, yes, what is and what should be the input of the ESFS Board?

Yes, there is. Look at the difference between US and UK science fiction, and work from there. There is a conversation regardless of language within Europe that is lacking in the US (although not in Canada). ESFS was set up to promote that conversation, via the convention and awards. The Board should do what it can to further that conversation.

EUROCON is not a service mark as “Worldcon” and “World Science Fiction Convention” (“World Science Fiction Convention”, “Worldcon”, “World Science Fiction Society”, “WSFS”, “NASFiC”, “Hugo Award”, and the distinctive design of the Hugo Award Rocket are service marks of the World Science Fiction Society. These names are owned by the World Science Fiction Society (WSFS), an unincorporated literary society whose purpose is to promote interest in science fiction. The most important standing committee is the Mark Protection Committee (MPC), which is responsible for maintaining the society’s trademarks and domain names.“ http://www.wsfs.org/). The result is that the EUROCON acronym became generic and it’s used by anyone who wants to use it, religious organisations, technical organisations, etc. What do you intend to do about it?

There is very little we can do. The term Eurocon has become very widespread, including been used by some companies, and it is difficult to believe that the ESFS could secure a trademark on the term. Even if we did, we would need to protect that mark, and as it stands the ESFS does not have the funds to get involved in active trade protection.

There are 24 official languages of the European Union, 25 with the croatian starting with the 1st of July 2013 (“The European Commission employs English, French and German in general as procedural languages”) and 38 official languages in Europe. A real linguistic Babylon! The European Union supports the inter-EU literary translations via specialized programms. Any intentions to propose any ESFS translation projects to EU for the inter-european languages SF&F texts? What about the non-EU languages as Russian, Ukrainian, etc? ESFS is a pan-european organisation with an EU majority, isn’it?

 As it stands the ESFS has four official languages, (English, French, German, Russian) from our statutes. There have been meetings held in French in the past, though it has become common place to hold the business meetings in English.While a Translation project sounds interesting, it would take a lot and time and effort of the organising committee, who are already very busy people. If we were to do such a thing we would need a sub-committee actually interested in doing the work. Any translations would either have to be commissioned from professionals, and paid for, or crowd-sourced from among fandom – a job which is probably better done by a small independent group. And there are a lot of bad translations already out there (also some very good ones from fans, that’s how professionals cut their teeth).

What about a possible individual ESFS membership open to anyone who adheres to the ESFS rules?

Statue 4(a) of the ESFS covers this :

To join the society it shall suffice to subscribe to this Constitution and to inform the National Delegate who will notify the ESFS Secretary, or to notify the ESFS Secretary directly.

We do have a membership list, however we do not publish it because of Data Protection Laws in the jurisdiction where the list is maintained, previously the UK and now Ireland.

Should ESFS be reformed?

Yes. Every organisation needs to reform itself on a regular basis. Not because it was wrong before, but because the environment in which it now exists has changed from when it was first set up, or was last reformed. Saying that though, we cannot just make changes for the sake of change. We need to reform the organisation so that it reflects the needs of European Science Fiction as a whole, not just on an individual (person or country) basis.

What do you intend to do in order to bring back the european SF&F professional writers within  ESFS?

We had a number of professional writers at this year’s meeting, and far more attending the convention. If the Board gets busier, professionals are even less likely to volunteer to take part in it because of the time and money involved. A meeting lasting a couple of hours is a different issue. If ESFS grows further, professionals are even less likely to play a major part. The professionals are interested in the awards, and to a lesser extent the bids for future cons, so to attract them we would need to reduce the amount of other business, or separate it out. However at this current moment we have no plans in relation to this.

What had happened with the ESFS site (www.esfs.info/)?

It is our intention to do a complete redesign of the site. To make it both easier to update, and also to find information on the site. This is one of the first things we intend to get done over the early part of our term. With the site in place properly, we can then look at making the changes that we hope to make.

InternationalSpeculativeFiction and EUROPASF had launched a digital EuropeanSFAnthology in english,  collecting stories from eight european countries. Why isn’t ESFS launching its own brand of yearly european SF anthologies?

Well, our answer here is very similar to our answer to question 8. Such a step is not within our current plans. The organisation is about promoting European Science Fiction, which we have chosen to do by organising an event where fans can mix. While we might look at other ways to do so in the future, we do not want to make promises that cannot be kept.

EUROPA SF, the European SF Portal, had been awarded by ESFS with the occasion of the 2013 Eurocon in Kiev, The Best European Website Award. What do you know about EUROPA SF and how could we help ESFS and the European SF&F fandom?

 We are aware of the Europa SF portal, and think it is a wonderful project. We also believe that  the anthologies are the most important thing that Europa SF does – news is available elsewhere. Keep on publishing them. The existence of decent quality translated SF disproves the myth that ‘all foreign SF is rubbish’. That really helps contact within European fandom. We are not sure how you could help the ESFS at the moment, but keeping an eye on us, and making people aware of what we are doing is probably the best thing you could do for European SF&F fandom. We have a responsibility to ensure the progress of the society between Eurocons. Some of the things we do may annoy some people, some will be annoyed because we changed something, and others will be annoyed that we have not changed enough.

Kindly address some words to our european and worldwide readers. We wish you a lot of success, but remember that we’ll keep an eye on your ESFS activities!

We are mostly new to our positions on the board, and are taking over from an outgoing board who have worked hard for a long time keeping things going. They should be acknowledged for all of the hard work that they have done. We will be making changes, hopefully making the board of the ESFS more open to people interested to science fiction in Europe, this at no point should be taken as meaning the previous board was not hard working. We hope that people will give us some time to make changes, and to give us an opportunity to talk about any issues that may arise.

Thank you.

© Cristian Tamaş & the ESFS Board

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