Catherine Schaff-Stump

Interview With a SMOF: Catherine Schaff-Stump

Catherine Schaff-Stump is an author, a professor, a conrunner, and so much more. She’s published short fiction as well as the YA novel Hulk Hercules: Professional Wrestler [Amazon | B&N].

Catherine is also a self-identified SMOF, so I asked if she’d be willing to talk a bit about her experiences working behind-the-scenes, her perspective on fandom and inclusivity, and her thoughts on our community.

I’m hoping to do a few more of these interviews, because I find the conversations helpful and informative. And because you probably get sick of just hearing me babble all the time.

Thank you, Catherine!

1. Tell us about yourself and your entry into the Wide World of SMOFs.

The first time I heard the word SMOF used about myself was when I was casually talking to some Wiscon planners late night in a Con Suite. I mentioned that I was involved with Mindbridge, the organization that runs some of the cons in Iowa, and at that time, someone asked us what we were talking about, and my conversation partner said, “She’s Mindbridge, and we’re SMOFing.”

What we meant in that conversation was that we were talking about convention planning. There are certain members of Mindbridge who shoulder a bigger share of planning and running conventions, and we meet the definition of SMOF because we do this. I’d say there are actually about 10 “full-time” SMOFs in the Mindbridge Organization, people you can count on to shoulder many of the projects through administrative or personnel management. There are many more “part time” SMOFS who run conventions certain years, or volunteer for huge jobs like Con Suite. Some of the cons call them different things, like AnimeIowa calls their SMOFS gym leaders. I don’t know why, but the idea is the same–people who work hard to pull off conventions.

As the president of the Mindbridge Board, in my state, I am seen as a super SMOF. Really, the power of the board president resides in making out the agenda for our monthly meetings, but the illusory power is that some people think I can make lasers come out of my eyes and fry people I dislike. Which I’ve never done. No, never. However, the board is the public face of Mindbridge, so we try to look like real business people. Which is hard when you are super geeks just out to have conventions to have a good time.

Because we wanted to be more involved in the convention planning scene, four of us from the board tried going to a con planning convention a few years back, and met more SMOFs, but we actually didn’t go back to the convention again, because we actually thought our systems for running cons were pretty good, and we’d gone to a lot of expense traveling to the convention without learning a lot that was new. So, we chat with other convention runners at their cons, and bring back good tips and trade ideas.

2. You lie. I have totally seen you do that laser-eye thing! Okay, that explains what a SMOF does, but what does “SMOF” actually mean?


Open Books Post

All right, time for a break from the intense blog posts. Let’s talk books! Last night I finished The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms [B&N | Mysterious Galaxy | Amazon] by N. K. Jemisin.

Wow. I’d heard a lot of buzz about this one, which always makes me nervous, because big book buzz doesn’t always translate to a book I’ll enjoy. But I have to say, this is the best book I’ve read so far this year, and as soon as I can remember how, I’ll be recommending it for the Nebula.

Was it a perfect book? No book is. But I loved the narrative style, I loved the worldbuilding, I loved the gods and most of the characters. It was a very well-written fantasy that sucked me in and kept me up late for the past two nights to finish it.

Jemisin has the first three chapters posted on her web site. Go forth and read.


One of the nice perks of being an author is that you get the occasional ARC or review copy. This has been a good month. Sitting on my To Be Read pile are review copies of:

I love being a writer 🙂 I’ve also got a copy of Nnedi Okorafor‘s Zahrah the Windseeker [B&N | Mysterious Galaxy | Amazon], which I picked up at her signing in Lansing last week.

What about you? What have you read and enjoyed lately, and what are you looking forward to picking up next?

Jim C. Hines