SwanCon 18 – "Ditmars, the care and feeding of"

being page 2 (inside front cover) of ‘Progress Report the Last (March 1993)’ for SwanCon 18.

SF fandom is fond of silly traditions, tradition being defined as any event that has happened twice. Some of them have no known origin, like the habit of putting the letter “h” in words just for the fun of it, like “bheer” and (in Australia) “Thyme”. Others can be traced back to typos – typographical errors – committed ‘way back in the Dark Ages when a spell checker was something encountered when reading sword an’ sorcery. In this class we find ‘filk music’, instead of ‘folk music’. Or they simply arise out of the mind-set of SF fans, like punning. (Of course, those who delve into the mind-set of fantasy fen are likely to wind up with a lot of dirty hobbits.)

The Ditmar Awards are like that, and not like that. (Do not go to the fans for advice, for they will say both “yes” and “no”. Also, “Thanks, mine’s a double”.) Word has it that they were named after a famous old-time fan whose names escapes me. Another story is that ‘ditmar’ is actually the Swedish word for ‘penis’, and was snuck into Australian fannish history by certain low-minded persons who have now moved to Sydney and become video freaks, or done things equally depraved.

However they came to be named, the Australian SF Awards are still called the Ditmars, twenty-five years on. They are no more than a trophy – a piece of art with the recipient’s name on it – and they are awarded once every year. The things they have been awarded for have varied, but usually there have been awards for the best SF writing published in Australia that year, for art, for publications and for criticism. They are nominated by Australian SF fans in general and are voted on by the members of the Australian National SF Convention for that year. They are awarded at the Convention, which in 1993 is SWANCON 18, held in Perth over the Easter weekend.

Now you know about the Ditmars. If you’re a member of SWANCON 18, you can vote, and if you have any opinion about the works nominated, you should think about doing so. The Ditmars are about thanking people for the pleasure they have given us, about encouraging our own achievers, about finding our own distinctive voice in a mass global culture.

Is it strange that we Australian SF fans should find that worthwhile? After all, we spend our time promoting a future in which nations are generally dismissed as either anachronistic or evanescent, and where world culture has replaced parochialism. Isn’t it time that we abandoned the idea of uniquely Australian awards? Are we just kidding ourselve?


Dave Luckett.

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