Famous Fan: Mirko Karas

SFerakon 2011 Photo by Mirko Bulaja

At first I thought it might be a good idea to present some of the people behind SFera and SFeraKon. Then I realized I already had this idea while I was Down Under and had just never gotten around to realizing it, as such things go in fandom. So here it, the first one in what will be a series of short interviews with people who either are (or should be) famous in fandom.

Mirko Karas is the current president of SFera, which means he manages a large number of women who want. things. done. now. This in turn means that he finds his day job managing a number of teams quite relaxing. Some of you may remember him as the Shamrokon Fan Funds Auctioneer, and Croatian fandom loves his stunts as the GUFF auctioneer.

Mirko Karas at SFerakon 2010Mirko was born in Zagreb in 1975, but does not remember those first years of his life very well, except that he always liked reading. When not fundraising (i.e. working his full time IT job), he is trying to reconcile his many of hobbies (which include skiing, underwater hockey and hiking), get some time to read good books and finally put all those stories in his head on paper. At the moment, he is one half of the editorial board of Parsek, SFera’s long living fanzine and very busy preparing the junkyard wars style Grunf’s Little Workshop at SFeraKon 2015. Among other things. Like preventing programming for throttling overbearing con participants.

1. How did you discover SF?

Beats me, I was crazy about “Blake’s 7” and “Terrahawks”. I remember these TV shows from the first years of elementary school, just about the time “The Empire Strikes Back” hit the cinemas. When you are 10 and there are light sabres around, you are hooked for life!

I guess my Dad also had some accidental influence via all the books he left lying around. I think I was around 10 when I left my staple of Karl May and Tarzan books for long enough to read Asimov’s “I, Robot”. I liked it a lot because of the robots, but I had to reread it several times afterwards to get what it was really about. Then The Hobbit came along and I discovered fantasy as well.

Eurocon 2011 Photo by Monika Tresk
Eurocon 2011
Photo by Monika Tresk

2. What’s the best thing about SF fandom?

You can have normal conversations about weird stuff. Most of the time.

3. What was you first convention like?

Uneventful. I was unaware of half of the stuff that was going on because the guys who had dragged me there were obsessed with throwing a LAN party. At my second convention, though, which is incidentally considered to this day to be the worst organizational flop in the history of Croatian fandom, was a blast!

4. And how did you get sucked into organizing them?

I was a slowly boiled frog. First, I started helping out some people I barely knew. Then I wanted to contribute to the program with something cool and SFera said “Sure, please do”. Then I was pissed off by all of it and thought some things could be done better, and SFera said “Sure, please do”…

By the time I realized what was going on, I was president, looking for people to say Sure, please do to…

5. You run – at SFeraKon and at SFera – Grunf’s Little Workshop. Tell us about it.

Grunfs. Photo by Moniq
Grunfs. Photo by Moniq

That was one of those early contributions to the program. I actually stole it from the Engineering competitions organized by the Board of European Students of Technology I was a member of. The point is to get a bunch of junk and put it together to create a catapult, a self-propelled vehicle, a parachute for an egg, a functional bridge… Whatever. Then your contraption competes with others of its kind made by opposing teams. The winning team gets a chocolate and a photo shoot with an airman’s leather helmet and goggles.

When I explained this idea, people liked it. However, when we put it on at the convention for the first time, no one actually got what it was really about, so nobody showed up. I think describing it with “You’ll do stuff like MacGyver” did not help. Next year, we changed the name to honour Grunf, an incompetent but creative inventor and pilot (that’s why the helmet is there!) from the Alan Ford comic (very popular in these parts) and people started applying like crazy! Proof of the power of the marketing!

The funny thing is, now there are kids competing with adults, often beating them. People still like it, but I think we’ll need to implement some changes soon.

Loncon 3

6. You are the president of SFera, which, as is often repeated, is run by women. How’s that working out for you?

You mean how do I live with the gender inequality? That’s not an issue. Surviving in a group of control freaks we all are is the real achievement.

7. Who are you favourite authors?

That’s a tough one. I usually get hooked by a novel or series, so whomever I mention, I will continue going on. Let’s say Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. And I’ll read anything from Phil and Kaja Foglio.

8. What’s the best SF book you have read last year?

“The Stories – Five years of original fiction on Tor.com”. It probably does not really count as an answer, since I’m still reading it, and I probably will keep reading it in 2015, between other books.

SFeraKon 2013 Photo by Miroslav Šilovic
SFeraKon 2013
Photo by Miroslav Šilovic

9. At Croatian cons you are also well known as the GUFF auctioneer. How did that come about?

You did not let me go away after the first one? 🙂
I had some stuff for that first auction and had a good idea how to spin a story on them. So I volunteered to be the auctioneer that time. Nobody expected anything big, I think. People reacted great, actively joined the performance and everyone had fun. Aaaaand… you conscripted me for the future.



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