My principal contribution (if you can call it that) to science fiction fandom was to serve as chairman of the 58th World Science Fiction Convention. To see what the event was like, visit its Web site. (The site is no longer updated but preserves a record of the convention.) Among the materials that I have preserved are interviews with the Guests of Honor and a few photographs. (There should have been many more, but I let myself be distracted.)
Update, 5/1/02: Chicon 2000 memory books, containing reminiscences, statistics and photos, were mailed to members about two weeks ago. If you were an attending or supporting member of the convention and don't receive one, please send your name and current adress to firstname.lastname@example.org.
"Daddy is a Spaceman", a song about Chicon 2000 that appeared in the convention's filk anthology. (I'm sure that the editor accepted it purely on its merits.)
"Moskva 1995: Igor's Campaign", my lone published short story, is speculative fiction on a fannish theme: What if the World Science Fiction Convention were to find itself one year in post-communist Russia?
As chairman of Chicon, I had to furnish a "chairman's letter" for each of our Progress Reports. Portions of these dealt with matters of transitory interest (e. g., the convention's table of organization, how to make hotel reservations, where to find cheap parking, etc.), but, in the great tradition of John W. Campbell, I took advantage of my soapbox to air my opinions about life, the universe and everything.
Becky Thomson and I are curators of the Pro Photo Gallery, an exhibition of photographs of 438 science fiction authors, artists, editors and publishers. The pictures were taken by Christine Valada, mostly between 1988 and 1996. Work is under weigh to add new ones next year. The gallery was first displayed at Noreascon Three in 1989 but has appeared only sporadically at Worldcons since then. Becky and I hope to make it a regular feature. Our biggest initial task was to update the captions, many of which verged on comical obsolescence. They are being published here (as updated for Noreascon Four, September 2004, with some later updates as noted), both because they may be of interest to readers and in the hope of receiving additional information about some of the less well-known pros. Additions and corrections should be sent to Tom Veal and will be greatly appreciated.
Notes and comments on fanzines that happen to attract my attention. For the benefit of the uninitiated, I reprint part of the definition of "fanzine" from The Old Fan's Almanac, which describes the kind of publication under consideration.
fanzine n. A magazine published on a nonprofessional basis by a fan for the amusement of other fen. Fanzines sometimes contain material devoted to science fiction or fantasy, but just as often do not, instead including personal essays and articles on fandom and any other subject that happens to interest the editors. Except in mediazines, fiction is rare, most faneds having come to the conclusion that if a story isn't salable, it isn't worth publishing.
In general, fanzines have irregular schedules, small press runs - well under 1,000 copies per issue - and do not pay their contributors . . . or contain paid advertising. While they may take subscriptions, these rarely cover even the expenses of publishing, and most faneds send out the bulk of their production for the usual. Publishing a fanzine is a labor of love.
-- The Old Fan's Almanac, 2000
6 in 60 was produced for Chicon by Marcy Lyn-Waitsman. It chronicles, in suitably haphazard fashion, six decades of Chicago fandom.
Argentus #1 is two-time Hugo (Best Fan Writer) nominee Steven Silver's new, gender-transgressive genzine. Stromata awards it an electrum (not "electrus") medal.
Vanamonde is John Hertz's one-a-week, two-page personal zine, the most elegantly crafted, IMHO, of all fannish periodicals.
The Science Fantasy Publishers by Jack Chalker and Mark Owings is a gigantic history and bibliography of small press SF and fantasy publishing from 1923 to the present. In the best Gernsbackian spirit, it has left the realm of paper behind and is now published on CD-Rom.
The White Papers, published by NESFA Press for the 1996 World Science Fiction Convention, collects both science fiction and fannish essays by the convention's Guest of Honor James White.
Camille Bacon-Smith's Science Fiction Culture looks at SF fandom through heavily tinted academic spectacles. It is hard to tell whether the author seriously dislikes what she sees or is simply wafted along on a current of trendy clichés.
C. S. Lewis' Perelandra trilogy is a science fiction classic. After Lewis' death, a false start on a fourth novel (an immediate sequel to Out of the Silent Planet) was found among his papers. The conventional wisdom is that The Dark Tower is woefully inferior to Lewis' other fiction, and literary essayist Kathryn Lindskoog has argued determinedly, most recently in Sleuthing C. S. Lewis, that it is a forgery. My view is that the fragment is better than its reputation and that Lindskoog's case has little, if any, foundation.
Frequency #3 is an audio magazine, distributed on compact disk, rather than a book, but this seems like the best section for a review. The idea is a very good one, and the execution does not disappoint.
Harry Turtledove combines alternate history with a strong dose of the real thing in Ruled Britannia, in which William Shakespeare pursues his calling as a dramatist in the aftermath of the Spanish Armada's conquest of England.
The Children's War by J. N. Stroyar takes a mainstream approach to the familiar alternate history theme of Nazi victory in World War II. It ranks as one of the best, as well as the biggest, of its subgenre.
Wolf Time by Lars Walker harks back to urban fantasy's Christian roots, but it deserves more than a sectarian audience.
Not science fiction but with enough exotic elements to fit here better than anywhere else is Clyde B. Clason's 1930's locked room mystery The Man from Tibet.
Comments on SF-related matters frequently appear on Stromata Blog. Those who would like to avoid the blog's political content (and most fans will fall into that category) should go straight to its Science Fiction or Science category.
Best Novella Hugo nominees, 2004: Five solid, but slightly unsatisfying, stories compete for this year's honors. The best of the lot IMHO is Kage Baker's wild and wooly (perhaps even shaggy) tale of the Martian frontier. [5/26/04]
Closing out Chicon 2000: Here is how the 2000 World Science Fiction Convention got rid of its leftover funds (after much tsimmis). [1/5/04]
Torcon 3 - Some Assembly Required: Neither the best nor the worst of Worldcons, the 61st World Science Fiction Convention gave us a new synonym for the Hugo Awards, an impending revolution in site selection politics and encouraging evidence of the resilience of fandom. [9/6/03]
Best Novelette Hugo nominees, 2003: I pick Ursula K. LeGuin's stfnal ghost story but expect the voters to prefer Michael Swanwick's tale of the exploration of Titan. [5/24/03]
Best Short Story Hugo nominees, 2003: The prolific Michael Swanwick has two stories on the ballot, while Geoffrey Landis ventures to Mars with a yarn reminiscent of Cordwainer Smith. [5/21/03]
First thoughts on the Hugo nominations: The speed with which the nominating ballots were counted is this year's big surprise. Among the nominees, there is little of the unexpected. [4/19/03]
The annoyance of riches: High on a Worldcon chairman's list of fears is running a deficit. High on his list of worries, once bankruptcy is no longer a fear, is how to dispose of a surplus. High on his list of grievances is the pain of dealing with that issue. [3/16/03]
Boskone 40 Report: The Boston area's oldest convention returns to its home town after 16 years of suburban exile. [2/16/03]
Luna and the loony Left: A left-wing Web site thinks that Lunar exploration poses dire threats to life on Earth. [9/23/02]
ConJosé Report: Fandom's natural pessimism proves quite wrong about the 60th World Science Fiction Convention. [9/13/02]
2002 Hugo results: My predictions weren't as far wrong as I'd had every right to expect. [9/2/02]
Best Novelette Hugo nominees, 2002: Ted Chiang pens a compelling theological fantasy, while Allen Steele offers a Twilight Zone-like account of a man doomed to live alone on a ship traveling between the stars. [7/28/02]
Best Short Story Hugo nominees, 2002: The top two candidates present vastly different pictures of bioengineering: Michael Swanwick uses it for brilliant comedy, Mike Resnick as the core of a moral dilemma of competing goods. [7/20/02]
Westercon 2002 report: The absence of Bruce Pelz was the major presence at the year's Westercon, a convention in which he has played a major role for thirty years. [7/8/02]
Bruce Pelz, R.I.P.: Coming into science fiction fandom by way of spelunking, Bruce Pelz was one of the jiants of fanzines, fanhistory, convention running and conviviality. [5/11/02]
George Alec Effinger, R.I.P.: The only one of my college classmates to take up SF writing has died after a distinguished, though troubled, career. [5/4/02]
War of the Ants: The biggest, bloodiest battles in European history take place unnoticed in back yards across the western half of the continent. [4/15/02]
Norwescon 25 report: The Pacific Northwest's biggest convention continues to ride off madly in all directions. [4/2/02]
Remembering Challenger: The sixteenth anniversary of the Challenger disaster reminds us of the timidity of mankind's venture into space. [1/29/02]
A Hugo recommendation: Terry Pratchett is consistently overlooked by Hugo nominators. His latest book, The Last Hero, deserves attention. [1/27/02]
Ice instead of fire: The latest analysis shows that our distant descendants won't be swallowed up by an expanding Sun 7.5 billion years from now. [1/5/02]
The two big fantasy movies: The Fellowship of the Ring and Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone were the two most eagerly anticipated fantasy movies of all time. Here is my personal compare-and-contrast. [12/22/01]
Global Warming comes to Mars: It looks like temperatures are rising on the Red Planet. How long before the Left blames George W. Bush? [12/7/01]
Loscon 28 report: Southern California's Thanksgiving gathering for SF fans was as relaxed and enjoyable as usual this year. [11/27/01]
The Prime Time Party: For those fans who will be at Loscon, here is an invitation to a late-night fannish get-together. [11/18/01]
Isaac and Osama?: The latest strange theory is that al-Qaeda took its inspiration from the Foundation novels! [11/11/01]
Overlooked by the Hugo voters: The Dish, a small, funny movie from Australia featuring sheep and radio telescopes, outshone last year's big budget SF&F crop. [10/8/01]
J. K. Rowling and the Keepers of Hugos: The creator of Harry Potter knows little about Hugo Awards or Fandom, but Chicon's experience indicates that she isn't unfriendly toward either. [10/3/01]
Artifacts of Fandom
"Conventions – We Quote" is a collection of speech excerpts (and a few other texts) from early Worldcons. It was published in the April 1953 issue of the Australian zine Science Fiction News, edited by G. B. Stone.
The Best of Fandom 1958 is an anthology of fannish writing and artwork edited by Guy Terwillinger. As time permits, I will post material from this fascinating collection.
Once upon a time faneds had no computers, no scanners, no paint programs and no desktop publishing. To reproduce artwork was an exacting and exhausting process. The results that were possible through spirit duplication (dittography) are shown in this four-color sketch by Bill Pearson, reproduced from The Best of Fandom 1958.
Jay Kay Klein and Frank Prieto prepared an elaborate "Convention Annual" for Pittcon in 1960. Section 1 featured 191(!) photos by Jay Kay. Section 2 was his con report, which is reproduced here. Jay Kay produced three more Annuals - for Chicon III (1962), Discon (1963) and Tricon (1966) - before the demands of his mundane job made the task impracticable. He thought that all copies had long ago been distributed but recently discovered a small cache in his garage. While they last, he will sell them for $25 each, post paid. Write to Jay Kay Klein, P.O. Box 397, Bridgeport, New York 13030.
The MagiCon Bookmark Anthology is a series of short-short-short stories printed on bookmarks that the 1992 Orlando World Science Fiction Convention bid, which I co-chaired with Becky Thomson and Joe Siclari, issued to publicize our cause.
Fannish Web Sites
ConJosé, the 2002 World Science Fiction Convention, presented a Hugo Award for the best SF-related Web site. As an aid to voters, I compiled an imperfect list of possible candidates.
Worldcon.org is an umbrella site for the World Science Fiction Convention, with links to the individual sites of future Worldcons (and past ones, too, as long as they remain on the Web - 1996 through 2001 are still accessible, though mostly not updated).
MagiCon, the 1992 Worldcon, devoted a portion of its surplus funds to establishing the FANAC Fan History Project, a site devoted to preserving and making available fanzines, fan histories and related material. Excellent for its own content, the site is also a good portal to the rest of Fandom.
The best fanhistorically oriented zine is Nicki and Richard Lynch's Mimosa, which is regularly nominated for the Best Fanzine Hugo and has won five times.
For current news about Fandom, an excellent source is File 770, the electronic version of the multiple Hugo-winning fanzine.
David Langford regularly wins the "Best Fan Writer" Hugo Award, for which there is a reason. Ansible is his monthly zine featuring wittily phrased news from around and about SF (winner of the 2002 Best Fanzine Hugo Award).
Perhaps the most useful fan-oriented Web site is the Fannish E-Mail Directory, maintained by John Lorentz, which has e-mail addresses and Web sites for 3,000 or so SF professionals, fans and organizations.
Christian Fandom is a nondenominational, though mostly Protestant, group devoted to fellowship among Christian fans and the exploration of the religious elements of science fiction.
An organization called "Magic Dragon Multimedia" has put together a detailed "SF Timeline" from the beginning the universe through 2000. It doesn't look like it has been updated for about a year. The "2000-2010" section is an excellent spoof.
SF fans generally have more than a passing interest in news of what's happening in science. Good sources of up-to-date information are Universe Today (astronomy and space exploration), CNN's space coverage (easily the strongest feature of its Web site, almost justifying the mediocre rest), Geek Press (science in general) and, for specialists, Mars Daily. And a good way to start each morning is with NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day.
The Artemis Society promotes privately funded space exploration. Its scheme to finance the High Frontier by selling movie rights may be unrealistic, but stranger things have come to pass.