The mail started arriving the next week. Our first letter was not the hate-filled screed we’d been expecting, but from a supporter eager to join our crusade. Not from the south, but from Madison, Wisconsin, hundreds of miles from Chattanooga. What the hell? Over the next weeks and months we received all kinds of interesting mail – requests for info that didn’t include return addresses, Christian Crusade flyers with responses written in colored marker, 5-page essays on “Good Fantasy VS Bad Fantasy,” point-by-point rebuttals from angry fans from Minnesota to Massachusetts, and a well-reasoned essay from actual SF author Hal Clement. I still feel bad about that one. Sorry to waste your time, Hal. We did not reply to any letters whatsoever, with one exception which will be explained shortly.
We produced a secondary Crusade flyer, a half-page affair sporting language even more over-the-top than the first flyer, which was left at Magnum Opus Con V, along with more copies of the original. Singling out free thinking as the greatest evil facing "our children," it should have made it very clear just what our true intent was, but the hyperbole seemed to pass unnoticed.
By the time we’d decided to reveal the hoax (via yet another flyer) it was too late. SF fanzines, APAs, newsletters, and the fandom grapevine had spread the Christian Crusade far and wide by viewing with alarm, commenting thoughtfully, and reproducing the Christian Crusade flyer, thereby perpetuating the hoax. Gauntlet Magazine, the anti-censorship periodical, also printed our flyer in full. Had they actually contacted us first, I would have advised them it was all a hoax. But no. As we discovered later, some fans would much rather have mysterious enemies.
As the year progressed, we learned that the urban legend factory had been hard at work concocting mischief to blame on the Christian Crusaders. Apparently it was a real group. Their PO box was next to that of a right-to-life organization. The Christian Crusade drove a black van with Alabama plates, and attended SF conventions for the sole purpose of committing acts of vandalism so that SF fandom would be blamed. The former head of Atlanta Fantasy Fair security had "defected" to the Crusade, not to mention that the Crusade had robbed 300 cars at the previous year's con, which had taken place six months before we'd even started the hoax. At least two different people claimed to have been responsible for getting Crusade members jailed. Fans told us these falsehoods, to our faces, as if they were the gospel truth. One woman swore up and down she’d talked to them in person. Well, she had, just not in the way she’d thought. One con chair took the stage at his own convention to denounce the Crusade and to exhort the con members to keep an eye out for them-and if any were found, to "beat the crap out of them and then bring them to me"-and used the pages of his convention’s promotional magazine to keep the “controversy” alive long past its expiration date.