After a few years in Croatian fandom, when I finally got to know most of the people crazy enough to do esefnal things such as conrunning, writing workshops, publishing and such as a hobby, I realized how awesome all these people were. (And I will present each one of them separately on this blog so you can get to know them, too!) Mostly, my realization came from the fact that as I got more and more involved in the actual running of cons, I saw less and less of them. Although some of the older members of Croatian fandom already knew about SMOF cons, I was introduced to the concept at Denvention and was thrilled to have such a good excuse to see all the people I never had any time to talk to during a con. So in winter 2008 Croatian SF fandom came up with its own version of SMOF – and we called it ŠTRUMF.
It’s a Croatian word for smurf. As 2008 was the 50th anniversary of Smurfs, we liked it so much we did not stop until we made ŠTRUMF stand for štuffi rezignirani ujedinjeni majstori fandoma, meaning Fed-up Resigned United Masters of Fandom. The last three words are pretty self-explanatory and, obviously, modeled on SMOF. We dropped the “secret” part because everybody knew who ran stuff, if only to be better able to write all kinds of shit about them on internet forums, as is, I found out later, also quite usual in international fandom. No, Croatians are not immune nor exempt from this phenomenon. We are, however, rather small, not matter how loud, so we do all have to learn how to get along in the end, like all other kids who wish to in a restricted sandbox.
In order to illustrate that, and some other things that go hand in hand with organizing cons for years on end, we picked štuffi because we were all fed up with the fact that we greatly unappreciated both by the wider Croatian SF fandom as well as the mainstream public. (This has gotten better in the mean time, but being pessimistic is a national trait so there will be no change here.) It is a dialect Istrian word with Italian roots – fitting for the first word of a concept that we came up with in Pazin, the capital of Istria and the site of two SF events every year. It was during the Festival of Fantastic literature in August that we came up with ŠTRUMF.
Rezignirani is there because we felt resigned to the fact that quality staff for conrunning will always be difficult to find, more difficult to animate and motivate and even more difficult to keep. We are still there. Ujedinjeni was added because that was a time in Croatian SF fandom when hot debates were raging online and IRL about which con is better – the old-school SFeraKon with GoHs and lectures or Istrakon, the new kid on the block full of fun games, treasure hunts, silly geeky contests and beer. Of course, organizers of both cons volunteered for each other’s cons, but somehow that always escaped everyone’s notice. Also, at the first ŠTRUMF in 2008 we had Slovenian delegates as well.
That first ŠTRUMF was held on the weekend of November 29- 30 2008 at one of only three skiing sites in Croatia, Platak. We rented a large chunk of the mountaineering home Mali dom, where they cooked a lovely dinner for us and made us breakfast with lots of tea. There was enough snow to play in and there was no programming but what came of on the spot inspiration. So there were all kinds of games and film screenings. It was wonderful. You can see the photos here.
The idea was that each team of conrunners will take over the running of ŠTRUMF for a year and then pass it along. I have no idea how that went as I gave birth in 2009 and have zero memory of the second two ŠTRUMFs ever happening. People assure me that they did happen. Alas, I cannot find any pictures.
The fourth one happened on the penultimate weekend in January 2015, back at the same site, Platak. The food at the Mali dom was still very good, the rooms as they were, the atmosphere – different. For some reason this time we did not get a separate dining room, which resulted in us sharing the larger dining room with some other people who wanted to listen to really loud hillbilly music. Problem was, 30+ of wanted to talk and game.
Again, there was no programming, but there was sleighing, and walks in the snow, and fun conversations. We spent the night playing a huge, very funny version of Taboo and that continued into the wee hours of the morning. I only went to sleep around 7 am. Got up at 9 am and the conversations, walks and plans continued. Lots of plans, some of which were thought up two years ago at a post-con lunch and look like they will finally happen this year.
I used to think it was a great idea to close the year with a ŠTRUMF but now I love the idea of beginning the year with one. The weekend was relaxing and much fun, despite the freezing cold room and lack of any water in the morning. (Find the photos here!) That buzz a successfully run con was there, with a lot less effort and stress on everybody’s part. It feels like maybe we have found a way to stay motivated in the boring bit of conrunning that needs to be done months in advance, when panic has not set in yet and everybody tends to tend to their private lives.
And, of course, somehow I managed to volunteer to run ŠTRUMF next year. Luckily, my co-chair went to Germany for work so I will not be spending the next month working on it (which is where our enthusiasm would have taken us). But I really look forward to the next one. I know it will be great.