Election Special
Abi Frost

Election Special #1: February 1991

A TAFF campaign fanzine from Abigail Frost, 95 Wilmot Street, London E2 OBP

Inevitably it's come to the point where angry news junkies are phoning the BBC to complain about the snooker interfering with the war. All Mrs Thatcher's fault. The resignation was just too much of a good thing. We who have drunk the Paradisal milk of 24-hour John-Cole-on-a-Westminster-doorstep dispatches were easy meat for the pushers of the hard stuff -- Pentagon briefings and retired generals with maps. But more of them later.

It's bizarre to find oneself living in a country where everyone loves the Prime Minister. Nobody loved even Churchill in my lifetime; Macmillan wins the all-time charm prize, but I don't think anyone got soppy about him. Wilson had some things in common with Major John -- but his man-of-the-people act (pipe, barefoot schooldays) was viewed with deep scepticism.

Some cheeringly unreconstructed attitudes slipped out. Towards-a-classless-society note: Lord Blake, Tory don, 'He went to a grammar school but he speaks the same as everyone else.' Blake is wrong, of course; from a South London state-school perspective (mine), Our Leader's accent is, I fear, dead common.

The Tory election campaign was great stuff: the combination of small electorate and the devious Berkley/Home rules made for good dirty sport. (One reported comment: 'They're getting so confused they're stabbing each other in the front'.) The triple-bluff element in Kinnock's no-confidence motion had us all jumping up and down in delight. And Maggie's farewell performance in the debate became pure joy. A nifty heckle from the great Dennis Skinner knocked her out of Party Conference mode and into a bravura improvisation; I don't think anyone thought she had it in her.

For a few days, Britain seemed unusually cheerful. More fun followed when Major played the class card (Newsniqht showed the old Beyond the Fringe 'we had to get up before we went to bed and lick t'road clean' sketch as a comment on candidates' behaviour). Frost eagerly awaited a third ballot -- then Heseltine wimped out and it was all over.

But not quite. Anyone Peter Weston can nail down knows already that the Brum Group's high level of debate, decorous conduct, continued survival, etc are all down to his wisdom and foresight in basing its constitution on the Young Conservatives'; but clearly the hidden Tory hand in fandom reaches further. What is TAFF's justly celebrated 20% rule but a bigger and better version of the Tories' 15% rule? I fear it gave me Ideas. A few blackmailing phone calls and here I am.

So vote for Frost -- the only candidate who knows it's all a Tory plot. And meanwhile, for fans of the only Northern Irish superstar since George Best:

Doomsday in the Committee Rooms

'And it's over to John Cole for the latest on the TAFF campaign ...'

'Thunk you, Unna. And ulready the knives are out in this three-horse race between the Frastinies, the Wellsiuns and the Agorolekkies. The Wellsiuns claimed their polls proved their cundidate's name hud the highest recagnition fuctar among SF fans, but the Frastinies issued an instant communique stating thut The Wur of The Worlds was not nated for having wan any funzine awards. But this is just whut insiders expect ut this stage. The dark harse thus time is Bruno Agorolec, whose New Eurofun supporters were looking farward to finding out from his platform just what he stunds for. I'm afraid they're in for a disappaintment here, though --'

The Campaign Manager switched the television off, ignoring the Candidate's wails of complaint. His strong masculine hands guided her masterfully to the computer, while with his feeble effeminate hands he passed her a green duplicated sheet. 'Type it out, NOW. And verbatim, remember. Don't want the competition crying foul because you failed to reproduce the Twins' typos, do we? This is war, toots.'

Sulking, the Candidate tapped out the TAFF ballot, using the spell-checker frequently to ensure she hadn't accidentally spelt receive correctly. Then she cheered up: 'I say, it doesn't say anything about layout, does it? Couldn't we put my platform in huge great letters and the others in 6pt -- no, 5pt? And how about a photo of me looking glamorous and chic and Pam in something that makes her look like a balloon? And you can get these scratch and sniff inks now, print mine in Shalimar, no, in Miss Dior and Pam's in Stale Curry and Bruno's in Boiled Cabbage? And --'

'What do you think, Caroline?' said the Campaign Manager. The Woman in Grey Suit consulted her Filofax. 'There is 50p in the publicity account, Abigail. Before we make overambitious commitments we should take a good hard look at the polls. I'll go down to the parrot house and see what they say.'

As she left the remaining members of the team came in. 'Take me, America, I'm my own woman!' cried the PR Specialist, thumping his chest like Tarzan. The Campaign Manager looked worried. 'Is there something you want to tell us, Ian? Something you'd like to share with a sympathetic ear?' asked the Dirty Tricks Department. 'Brilliant, isn't it? My new slogan for Abi! Gets the feminist vote without alienating the lubricious MCPs! I've been working on it all night!'

The Woman in Grey Suit returned. 'Hoareplan says 98.7% of good ol' conrunners would vote for a good ol' conrunner. Gallbrum says that Pam has the West Midlands in the bag. (Best place for them.) Analytical Analysis finds intense apathy in the Leeds area, and our own canvass returns indicate that North London Dead Hippiedom is 100% asleep. I'm afraid,' she said with icy distaste, 'It's over to Roz.'

The Dirty Tricks Department, who was picking her toenails petulantly in the corner, jumped eagerly to what could pass for attention. 'Yes! I thought for openers I could pull a mud-smeared rabbit out of Gamma's laundry-bag. Or if Ian wants something more spectacular, dive into the Wellington lavatory clad in sheets of their lasagne. Then for a really big finale I'd --'

The Campaign Manager sighed. 'Television is better than this.' He stared intensely at a flickering Anna Ford for a few seconds, then rose to silence his chattering staff. 'It's war, chaps. Bloody, horrible, vicious, technological war.'

'Oh, I wouldn't go as far as that, Dave. Pam and I are quite good mates, really. And how could I possibly have anything against Bruno?'

'Not here, fluffyhead, in the Gulf. It's going to be horrible. Carpet bombing ... Chemical warheads ... Terrorist outrages on airliners ...'

'Oh my God,' said the Candidate. Then she perked up. 'No problem! I'll go on the QE2. Dancing all night with handsome Petty Officers! Shipboard romances! Unlimited champagne in First Class! Everybody out to raise funds for the fare! Roz, take Alex Stewart's wallet. Caroline, hack into the Speculation bank account. Ian, try your third form's piggy banks ...'

The Campaign Manager drew back the curtain and sighed. 'What's a nice boy like me doing running a campaign like this?' The lights were going out all over London: 'Oh, Christ. Bloody Sorensen's been pissing off the tekkies again.'

(To be continued)

Actually, I saw Armageddon break out at Roz's. Like everybody else, we zapped between channels, disdaining the hastily-assembled pundits for more of CNN hanging the microphone out of the window. Later I walked home thinking about the Blitz. My parents were teenagers; my mother lived in London throughout, and my father could see London glowing in the sky from the wilds of Essex. In Bethnal Green Road you can see where the bombs fell: Victorian, Victorian, Victorian, 1940s, Victorian, goes the brickwork above the shops. At home I saw it all over again in black and white, telling myself I was watching on my Dad's behalf. (He was an AP reporter for many years, and covered the previous Kuwait show. Met Kim Philby there.)

This set an unfortunate precedent for the next couple of weeks, as an increasingly baggy-eyed Frost stayed glued to the telly. ITN quickly devised a cunning ploy to keep me there: just as even I begin to wonder if this retired general and his map are worth losing sleep for, they stop him in mid-sentence. 'And over to the Pentagon --' Adrenalin! What's up? Quick, quick! Another general (serving, this time) with another map ...

Military Euphemism of the Month: a reference to the enemy having 'absorbed a lot of ordnance'.

To Them That Hath dept: Neil Gaiman, at his birthday boasting session in November, 'We've won an award from the San Francisco Wiccans, and we're on the short-list for the Deo Gracias Christian Book Award ...' (5 February 1991; next issue, next Tun)

TAFF campaign flyer (February 1991)

Election Special #2: March 1991

A TAFF campaign fanzine from Abigail Frost, 95 Wilmot Street, London E2 OBP 7/3/91

This fanzine isn't meant to be entirely about my late-night TV addiction, but. Sunday 24 February, 1.40am; Twin Peaks ends. To bed via computer, quick tweak of Mexicon PR text. Radio announces start of ground war -- back to TV to check out. ITV has 1953 film of War of Worlds. Looks quite well done so might as well watch last half-hour and catch news after.

US scientists have just started analysing Martian blood but are pressured to nuke them NOW. A-bomb ["the very latest in nuclear fission"] to go from Flying Wing which I want for Christmas (at least until I see the Martian battle-craft -- fabulous fifties free-form with nice bouncing fireballs). Thousands watch from nearby hillside; intrepid scientists cower in dark glasses behind sand-bags; radio journalist gives commentary, ending "there's no radio, not even radio contact with the Flying Wing. So [sound of script being hastily patched] the reason I'm making these tape-recordings is for future history -- if there is any...."

Bright flash. (Watchers on hillside blink a bit.) Loud bang. Blast of wind. Observers leap up unscathed from their sandbags and hillsides and run like hell -- A-bomb has failed to kill Martians. (Not surprising given its lack of effect on humans.) Civilisation is doomed! Pause for commercials and ITN newsflash. Back to film. Panic panic panic. Mobs throwing brave scientists out of lorry in effort to escape doomed Los Angeles. Much violence and throwing away of suitcases of worthless money. Nifty bits of detail, eg child and dog feasting on stock of abandoned hot-dog stand.

Our hero searches deserted streets of ruined city for his girl-friend. Martian craft all around going ker-whizz! and destroying things. Finds her in church. Ker-whizz!es drown out sound of hymns and organ. Everyone goes outside; Martians everywhere, city in flames. Martian craft crashes into church wall; opens; Martian hand comes out. Everyone paralysed with fear. Martian hand goes flop. Saved by the microbes! Glory hallelujah (what would Wells have made of the film's Christianisation of his story, I wonder?). Great film, it would seem. Must see it all one day.

The point is this. For years I've been sneering at old bores who go on and on about how The Establishment Doesn't Take Skiffy Not Half Seriously Enough. They were right all along, dammit. When episodes of Monty Python and 'Allo 'Allo have been cancelled due to Extreme Unsuitableness in Present Circumstances, they let that go out then?

Blackout in the Committee Rooms

The story so far: Abi is standing for TAFF, and has sent out her team (Caroline, Ian and Roz) on a fundraising drive. But Campaign Manager Dave has his doubts -- there seems to be something wrong with the electricity. Now read on.

The Committee Rooms hummed with eager activity. In one corner, a hand-picked team of ace safe-crackers was working on Alex Stewart's wallet. The Woman in Grey Suit was directing relays of hackers through the complex electronic maze which led to Speculation's bank account. The Candidate was almost quiet, trying on evening frocks behind an embroidered screen. Even the Dirty Tricks Department was harmlessly occupied, tipping Green Slime into the false bottom of a cat-litter tray, and then thoughtfully pouring it out again. The Campaign Manager looked around his kingdom, and saw that it was good.

In the centre of the room whirred the Campaign Manager's pride and joy: a cat-powered generator to render the team independent of obstreperous tekkies. It was his own invention, and its sheer conceptual elegance still gave him a tiny, secret thrill. In a moment of happy distraction, he tickled the fluffiest cat behind her ear. She sank her teeth into his wrist with a look of utter devotion.

'Dave, Dave, it's the postman!' The Candidate's voice brought him back to reality. 'I can't go -- I'm halfway out of the pink bubble-skirted taffeta and halfway into the skintight black Lycra velvet sheath!'

His injured hand could scarcely manage the weight of the BSFA mailing the postman gave him. He passed it to the PR Specialist for comment, and went to check on the hackers. 'Not bad at all,' whispered the Woman in Grey Suit. 'We're just getting into NATO, then it's a left turn through Mossad and the back double past Glasgow City Council. Once we've done that it's plain sailing all the way through East Germany, cut through the White Fish Authority and we're nearly there.'

'How about the wallet, Fingers?' The gnarled old East End character beamed with craftsman's pride. 'Won't say it's bin easy, squire, but my lads is up to it! Had a couple of tricky moments wiv them explosive bolts, know wot I mean, squire, but not long now and LOADSAMONEY!'

'Dave, Dave!' Again the Candidate shattered the calm. 'It's not fair! Jenny's plugging Bruno in Matrix, and Martin's putting Pam in Critical Wave! Bring me to a new audience AT ONCE!' The Campaign Manager sighed. 'I suppose I could lend you my column in Gamesmaster International ...' The PR Specialist pursed his lips. 'Might work, but she'd need an image rethink ... I'll get back to you thisonewise.'

'I've got it!' cried the Dirty Tricks Department. 'You see, the Slime goes in here, look, while the fireworks go there, and if I lose some weight I'll just fit in there. Should be really spectacular.'

Suddenly all the screens flickered at once. 'Get those bloody cats back to work pronto!' yelled the Woman in Srey Suit. 'We're just at the tricky point in Tim Illingworth's ribbon-collection database!' The Campaign Manager roughly seized the Candidate's ivory shoulders and hurled her into the treadmill, while he remonstrated with the Head Cat. 'Tray-break. Union rules,' said the cat, hopping cross-legged towards the Dirty Tricks Department.

In the treadmill, the remaining cats started a demarcation dispute with the Candidate. 'Stop it! No! That's a Christian Lacroix, and I was going to wear it to the Hugo ceremony! Please! Roz -- call them off!' But, at the litter-tray, the Dirty Tricks Department had her own problems. The cat's desperate scratching had set off the fireworks, sending the whole contraption flying towards the generator.

The Candidate was a symphony in ripped satin, smelly mud, and Green Slime mingled with hopeless tears. The Campaign Manager, who could not bear to see a woman cry, offered a consoling arm, only to recoil when what he'd taken for the latest fashion in abstract expressionist earrings proved to be a mummified cat-turd. 'You're useless, useless, useless!' wept the Candidate. 'Magic!' said the PR Specialist. 'The perfect image for GMI readers, you geniusette!' The Candidate tried to kick his head, but her jewelled slipper hit the treadmill and sent it spinning at 900 rpm.

'Thanks for the extra power!' cried the Woman in Grey Suit. 'We've gone through 312 organisations in 27 seconds! We've made it! Look!' A message was forming on her screen. 'Dear Mr Ulation,' it said. 'It is with deep regret that we note that you have once again exceeded your overdraft limit. Kindly inform us of your proposals by return. Meanwhile, no withdrawals whatsoever will be authorised ...'

'Damn and blast!' said the Campaign Manager. 'How are we going to pay for this fanzine, then?' The safe-crackers were now his only hope. 'Nearly there, squire,' said good old Fingers, to his relief. 'Just get past this last little fingy ...'

A loud explosion rocked the Committee Rooms, and everything went black.

(To be continued)

Election Special comes out appropriately on election night this month -- the by-election at Ribblesdale, which I reckon the Tories will hold despite everything. (Any Tun latecomers who've heard the BBC exit polls let me know.) You may not realise that there is actually a by-election fandom -- roving activists of all parties who turn up and sleep on the floors of somewhat bemused constituency officers. I discovered them in Kensington (1988) when helping out a friend who had a real Committee Rooms to run, with only about half-a-dozen members in the ward (it was Campden, possibly the richest ward in Britain), of whom her next-door neighbours the Pinters were keeping a low profile because Antonia's son was a Tory councillor, and the rest mostly too ancient to make it round the doorsteps. At the count I failed to sticker Screaming Lord Sutch. Cynthia Payne made a saturnalia-after-the-tragedy speech (sample joke: "I'm used to facing stiff competition"); I thought this deeply appropriate but by-election fandom was sniffy. (Anyone see a parallel?) Conservative Students out in force -- a nasty-looking bunch in taffeta ball dresses and chandelier earrings (and [yawn] that was just the girls). We knocked a c 9000 majority down to three figures and got almost no media -- it's a plot, I tell you.

TAFF campaign flyer (March 1991)

Election Special #3: April 1991

Not the Mexicon programme book, really, but a TAFF campaignzine from Abigail Frost

Election night again, and to keep up my unblemished record I confidently predict a Tory landslide. Presumably the theory behind running P Hain in Neath is that, unlike your run-of-the-mill Walworth Road carpetbagger, he can at least prove that he's been to a rugby match.

(Oh dear; long pause while I weigh up votes I might lose if I don't explain that to under-30s and Americans against likely deaths from boredom if I do.)

Some of you will be getting this with issue 2, whose mailing was delayed because space opera is undergoing one of its periodic rebirths. Twenty years ago, as the New Wave lapped fitfully onto its final shore the most vigorous voices waiting to replace it belonged to writers like John Varley. In novels like The Ophiuchi Hotline... SHUT UP, Kincaid! Back to your own disk this minute! Yes, it's Mexicon programme book time, and suddenly I wonder if I've Taken Too Much On All At Once.

I am supposed to be writing something on fandom since last Mexicon, as well as producing the rest of the programme book, and fate keeps smashing another pleasantly sententious thesis into little bits. There I was all set to pontificate on Declining Eastercon Numbers and Speculation ends up with the same 700ish figure as everyone else. I'm pleased about this because the committee includes friends of mine, and it's not nice to see one's mates in trouble. Reports of the con are so far mixed, from 'totally brilliant, except for the hotel, the bar prices, and a bit of bother with tech' (the admittedly biased PR Specialist), via 'well, I had a great time, but...' (a Mexicon mole) to horror-story on horror-story (someone else's conrunning mole).

The Big Fight at the Tun will be between Caroline, me and Bernie for our Eastercon Award. Now that is pleasing in a more positive way. One thing about the Reptile is that I do at least have a record of what was going on when for much of the period I have to write about. Too much writing about fandom is based on the elusive Last Dangerous Visions, the vast, fabled White Whale that Capt. Ellison is doomed to hunt through icy seas until the crack of doom -- Greenland! You should know better! Go and stand in the corner with Paul.

No good, no good. Never do two things at once. My next TAFF campaign will be planned six years in advance, I will have a video directed by David Lynch and computerised telephone canvassing. But I hope I'll still have Langford for my Campaign Manager, in spite of:

Close Encounter at the Committee Rooms

The story so far: Abi's team's fundraising drive has been fractionally less successful than anticipated, due to a booby-trapped wallet. Now read on.

A heap of rubble smouldered where the Committee Rooms had been. The Campaign Manager rose shakily to his feet, rubbed his aching head and looked around. Nobody was injured, but all seemed bruised and bedraggled, except the hackers, most of whom looked rather smarter than they had before the explosion.

Into his blurred field of vision fluttered a solitary five-pound note. He reached out end caught it, wondering if it had anything to do with the case. It was so hard to remember, somehow...

'Quick!' said the PR Specialist. 'Talk to that TV team! Opportunity knocks!' The Campaign Manager staggered towards the cameras, but the Candidate had got there first. Fuzzily he wondered whether this was a good idea. She had been known to overdo it a little sometimes.

'I'm at the scene of the outrage,' said the TV reporter, 'And I've got the Candidate here. Tell me, has the incident affected your decision to stand for TAFF?'

'No! No! No!' cried the Candidate. (She seemed to remind the Campaign Manager of someone, but who?) 'We shall never give in to these cowardly men of violence! Our cause is just and the British people are 100 per cent behind us! They may slay their thousands but we shall slay our tens of thousands! Rejoice! Rejoice!'

Suddenly a louder voice rang down the street. 'Give me back my wallet, you rotters!' Alex Stewart, the Middle-Sized Owl of Interzone, stood before the Campaign Manager all puffed up with righteous indignation. 'Dave! You rotter! That's my special fiver! I've been keeping it safe since 1983! Give it back! Gimme! Gimme!'

Alex's pink little hands pounded the Campaign Manager's poor bruised body, knocking him into the road with a thud. As merciful unconsciousness loomed, the Dirty Tricks Department came to the rescue. She lifted Alex four feet off the ground and magisterially turned him upside down. 'Ow! Garosh! Yaroo! Give me back my wallet!'

'It's a shared world, Alex,' said the Dirty Tricks Department. 'And we thought it was time you shared some of your money. Now, if I turn you the right way round and put you down again, will you agree to stop this nonsense and go away?'

'Never!' said Alex, biting her kneecap and bounding free. 'I say, you fellows!' he cried, pushing the Candidate out of camera-shot. 'These rotters are fooling you! That was no IRA outrage, but a simple security device in MY WALLET, which they jolly well stole! They're a gang of international wallet-thieves and -- oh, no, they've got my Turtles bubblegum wrappers too! Stop them and bring them to justice!'

The Campaign Manager lay on a double yellow line, his body now covered with a litter of small change, VAT receipts, and Alex's bubblegum-wrapper collection. It was so peaceful down there in the road, he thought, gazing up at the beautiful sky with its lovely green glow ... And that strange, almost magical, woo-ooh sound ... So relaxing after the rigours of campaigning ...

The Woman in Grey Suit emerged from the wrecked Committee Rooms carrying miles of computer print-out. 'SHUT UP ALEX!' she cried. (And he did, too.) 'Look what's come out of the printer! It's phenomenal! Unbelievable! The greatest scoop in the history of fandom, and WE GOT IT! Critical Wave knows nothing!'

'That's news?' asked the Dirty Tricks Department.

The green glow in the sky seemed to consolidate into an oval shape. As it came nearer, the Campaign Manager thought he saw a door open in its belly. 'I'm hallucinating,' he thought. 'It's a strange mental state, that's all. I shouldn't have eaten that chocolate cake at Chris Atkinson's ten years ago ...'

Down from the belly of the ship (for he could no longer call it anything else) came a long grabber-arm, which gently scooped his up. Slowly, so as not to damage the delicate life-form it had collected, it telescoped back up towards the ship.

'Dave! Where are you?' He could hear the PR Specialist below. 'It's fantastic! Caroline's computer has detected an alien reconnaissance ship nearby, and I've made a deal for Abi to greet it on all networks!'

'Dave, you rotter! You've only left £4.83 here and I know there was £4.87!' That was Alex, scrabbling in the road.

It was the Candidate who thought to look up, and her rage crossed the blue atmosphere undimmed. 'DAVE! Get back down here at ONCE! I need a thorough briefing on past alien encounters, a quick run-down on chaos theory, some Larry Niven quotes and a petty cash chit for a new hair-do! I'm not kidding, you'd better get back here quick or I'll ...'

He could see her tiny, ant-like figure stamping its minute foot, but her voice was now beyond the range of his hearing. For him, he supposed, the campaign must be over. 'Goodbye, Ian, Caroline, Roz ... Goodbye Abi.' He shifted a little in the grabber, and made himself comfortable. The door of the ship was close now, and he could see strange faces gazing down at him. He smiled, and hugged the grabber-arm.

'Take me, aliens, I'm yours.'

[To be concluded]

With the Campaign Manager currently out of play, the Candidate will now nag the readership. THIS IS NOT A FREEBIE, as some people at the Tun seem to think. If you get this, and find it amusing (and if you don't why have you read this far?) you are supposed to Do Something in return. Crudely, I want your vote in the TAFF race. Well, I suppose, she said grudgingly, just your interest. I believe there may be a couple of other people you could vote for if you insist, though the names escape me for the moment. If you don't know much about TAFF, now's a good time to find out, since Critical Wave and Matrix are covering it this month.

Next issue will be out at Mexicon. If you are the sort of loonie who'd enjoy being ordered about by a deranged TAFF candidate, Cactus Times, the low-tech, high-class convention newsletter will be back and could do with some staff. If you can't come to Mexicon, copies should reach you at the Tun or via the usual circuitous routes. 3 April 1991

A. Frost, 95 Wilmot St, London, E2 0BP

TAFF campaign flyer (May 1991)

Election Special #4: May 1991

A TAFF campaign fanzine from Abigail Frost, 95 Wilmot Street, London E2 OBP

Well, here we are in the last fortnight of the campaign. Too late now for any more election addresses in newszines; not much point in hassling people to produce fanzines; just about time to wind up the serial and clean my nails ready for biting. Thanks all round to my US nominators, John Berry and Gary Farber; and to my UK ones, Ian Sorensen, Caroline Mullan and Dave Langford, plus Roz Kaveney and Alex Stewart, for taking my extremely unfair lampoons with good humour,

Whatever the outcome for me, at least this race should have increased awareness of TAFF, after a couple of quiet years.

As I've said elsewhere, TAFF is a point of personal contact between American and European fandoms. Many of my own transatlantic contacts can be traced to past TAFF winners. It would be a shame if TAFF simply degenerated into an Old Farts' Society; you can do your bit in stopping this by voting, or perhaps by encouraging someone else to stand in a future race -- or standing yourself.

So thank you for taking an interest; come along to the TAFF presentation at Mexicon (Saturday lunchtime), and think of us candidates biting our nails for the next two weeks.

Return to the Committee Rooms

The Story So Far: Campaign Manager Dave has been kidnapped by aliens. Now read on.

'Earthling! Earthling! Come here and peel me a space-grape!' The Campaign Manager rose obediently. There was something oddly familiar about the Alien Captain's tone.

The Alien Captain lay on a pile of strange, iridescent furs, surrounded by flickering screens. She nibbled her grape and motioned for the Campaign Manager to peel another. 'When you've done that, twiddle the brightness thingy on the gravity monitor. It's giving me a headache. And fetch me some more clothes -- I'm so bored with this dress. It's been out of fashion for at least 20 of your Earth-minutes.'

It felt as if he'd been on the ship for years, yet it was hardly an hour since the aliens had snatched him up. They had put him through an extremely uncomfortable scanner, but showed little interest in the data obtained. {'Bloody Hell. Another of those! When are we going to catch something decent?') Thanks (he later discovered) to the ship's Universal Translator, he'd been able to overhear the alien scientists debating what to do with him. Some were for immediate disintegration {'Why bother to generate oxygen for something of no scientific interest, which won't last long anyway? And there's the paperwork'), but the majority was for letting him live ('He could all use a bit of a break. You never know -- she might even fancy it').

The alternatives were clear enough: attend to the Alien Captain's every whim, or suffer a horrible death. So far, nothing too outrageous had been demanded (though she was obviously not impressed by his attempts at foot-massage) but certain possibilities occurred which were, frankly, scary. They couldn't mean ... could they?

Back on Earth, the TAFF team contemplated their loss. 'He wasn't much use anyway,' said the Candidate. 'He took ages to get my gin and tonic yesterday.' The Woman In Grey Suit was happily drawing up a new shift rota, as the PR Specialist fiddled with his mobile phone. 'Sunday Sport's still bloody engaged,' he muttered.

'Have you no hearts?' cried the Dirty Tricks Department, 'We must rescue Dave at once! It's a moral issue!' Alex Stewart eagerly agreed. 'That's right! He's still got my fiver!' The Dirty Tricks Department sighed. 'Yes, yes, Alex, but I didn't mean that. Have you any idea what goes on in these alien kidnap-ships? My friend Paule's seen Communion and I know ... Terrible things. Things I cannot mention in a family fanzine. Things Dave won't like one little bit.' She whispered to the Candidate, who burst into helpless giggles.

'Oh dear, poor Dave ... perhaps we should do something,' said the Candidate, trying to straighten her face. 'Impossible. We just don't have the personnel resources,' said the Woman In Grey Suit. 'But think of the media potential,' said the PR Specialist. They argued for some time, unaware that they were being watched.

The observer spoke into his wallyphone. 'As we thought,' he said, 'A sitting duck. I've never seen such a quarrelsome bunch of incompetents. Plan A?'

'PRIZZLE ZZTCHZZ ZZLKZ,' came the reply. 'OK, then that's settled. You lot come in and sort out the Committee Rooms, and I'll do the easy bit ...'

The Campaign Manager's nerves jangled as he entered ths Alien Captain's quarters. She was wearing nothing but a short, flimsy negligée and a death-ray gun. 'Light my cigarette, Earthling,' she said. 'Thank you. Now remove those garments.'

The Campaign Manager gulped, and wished he hadn't. (Alien ciggies made the Candidate's Superkings seem like pure mountain air.) So this was it. Fearfully he began to unbutton his shirt. 'Really!' said the Captain, 'I swear you are the stupidest life-form this side of the Crab Nebula! The clothes you brought are useless. Take them away and get me something a bit ... sexier!'

Still shaking, the Campaign Manager headed for the wardrobe-module. He felt a hand on his shoulder, and suppressed a scream. Behind his stood a crew-member, but one who seemed friendlier than the others. Almost human, he thought ...

'Shh!' said the alien. 'Do exactly as I say, and it'll be all right. Can you gain access to the Command Centre?' The Campaign Manager nodded, 'OK, let's go.'

The Captain stood before the mirror in a fetching little rainbow number. 'Much better, thank you,' she said, 'Now, why don't you come over here and let me inspect your anatomy ...' Nervously, the Campaign Manager obeyed. While she struggled with his belt-buckle, his new friend slipped in and took over the ship's control-panel. 'Quick! The escape-pod's over there! We have three seconds to get into it!'

Soon the pair were speeding across the vastness of space. 'Thank you! Thank you a million times!' breathed the Campaign Manager, pulling up his trousers. 'That's OK,' said the 'alien'. 'Easterbrook Rescue Bids at your service! I think we're coming in to land now ...'

The pod crash-landed on the green lawn of the Cairn Hotel, and its two astronauts ran to the bar. 'My round,' said the Campaign Manager, pulling a five-pound note from his pocket. This was a bad move. One bank-note's crackle is much like another's, except to the ear of love. Alex Stewart dashed across the bar and caught the Campaign Manager in a headlock. 'I've got him! Can I have my wallet back now?'

The Candidate arrived, 'Do you realise how such trouble you've caused? I've even had to make my own tea. However, if you'll apologise and start taking the last few votes at once, I am magnanimously prepared to say no more about it. No, you can't have a drink; every second counts. Come on, chop chop!' She led him to a crowded function room, where a TAFF presentation was in full swing. In one corner, Bruno Ogorolec's team were unrolling a huge map of Europe, dotted with tiny flags. In another, Martin Tudor stood on an enormous pile of Good Works, doing a roaring trade in Pam Wells badges, T-shirts, mugs and car-stickers. The Candidate was represented by the Dirty Tricks Department: 'And now, ladies and gentlemen, for 20 more votes, I shall saw the Metropolitan Sewer in half, while drinking a pint of Harrogate spa-water! OK, for ten votes ... five ... Look, let me do it and I'll vote for you!'

The Candidate went white with rage. 'Where's my map? Where's my merchandise? You didn't order any. Not even a few stinking badges. More fun gadding about in space, eh?' There was a homicidal glint in her eye. The Campaign Manager ran for his life to the bar. 'Lilian -- Christina -- help me!' The Twins were unmoved: 'We must remain strictly neutral.' His old friend John Harvey was there -- a good man in a crisis. 'No time, Dave, I'm on duty. Talk to me about it after the con.'

His last chance still sat by the bar, however. 'Martin, Martin ...' Easterbrook shook his head. 'Sorry, mate, I'm on my lunch hour.'

The Candidate approached. Something told the Campaign Manager he was doomed.

This is positively your last chance to participate in the 1991 Europe/North America TAFF race. Votes must be made on the official ballot form (probably available wherever you got this) and accompanied by a donation of at least £1 or $2.

Send ballots and contributions to:

in North America
Robert Lichtman,
P.O. Box 30,
Glen Ellen,
CA 95442,

in Europe
Christina Lake,
47 Wessex Avenue,
Bristol, BS7 ODE,

Don't forget: all votes must be with the administrators by 15 May 1991.

TAFF campaign flyer (May 1991)