randy_byers: (cap)
I'm one of Sarah Gulde's TAFF nominators, and because the voting deadline is coming right up, we are taking the unusual step of posting the PDF of the new issue of Chunga (#25) before we've mailed out the paper copies. If you haven't made up your mind about who to vote for yet, please download the PDF of the new issue, read Sarah's delightful article about the Nerd Camps she's organizing in Portland and then read my endorsement in Tanglewood. Then download the ballot using the link on this page and vote! Instructions for how to vote online can be found on the ballot. Pay close attention to the eligibility requirements, because not everybody can vote for TAFF. Good luck, Sarah!

Corflu 34

Jan. 15th, 2017 07:36 am
randy_byers: (shiffman)
I've purchased a membership to Corflu 34 in LA. I'm curious what kinds of pre-convention plans people have.
randy_byers: (cap)
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David at the Hugo Losers Party at the Glasgow Worldcon in 2005

In the wake of his death a few days ago, I've already posted a few thoughts about David Hartwell on Facebook, but I wanted to expand on those here. Although I don't remember exactly when I met him (like Art Widner, David always seemed to be around on the science fiction convention scene when I arrived) I knew David for probably thirty years or more. I most likely met him at a Norwescon, the regional Seattle convention that I attended regularly starting in 1979. I have a clear memory of listening to him and Algis Budrys singing a sweet duet of "Teen Angel" in the wee hours of a party at what must have been a Norwescon. The presence of Budrys makes me wonder if it was the one where Bridge Publications threw a party for William Gibson. The Norwescon history page says Budrys was Toastmaster in 1983 (Art Widner was Fan Guest of Honor at that one), which sounds about right, although I would have sworn Gibson had published at least one book by this time, which doesn't match the chronology. Indeed, this all seems to have been completely wrong, and it seems that the party I'm thinking of may have been Arbor House's release party for Gibson's Count Zero and Burning Chrome, which would probably make it the 1987 Norwescon, where David was Toastmaster. David was working at Arbor House at the time and was apparently Gibson's editor there. The "Teen Angel" memory, on the other hand, could well be from 1983.

Whatever the case, David became a fixture of the science fiction community for me starting around that time. He used to come to Norwescon quite frequently, maybe Westercons too, and I'd also see him at the sporadic Worldcons I attended. He also taught at Clarion West workshops, so I'd see him whenever he came out for those. On top of that, he and Kathryn Cramer eventually became an item, and because she was from Seattle and her parents and sister still lived here, she and David would come to Seattle fairly frequently to visit. I even had dinner at the Cramer household a time or two during that period, but David would also include me in occasional dinners at conventions, usually on a publisher's tab, but what the hey. It made me feel as though I were vaguely part of the industry, and that was largely down to David's hospitality and inclusiveness.

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With David in later days, at the pirate party at the 2005 Worldcon

I was an aspiring science fiction writer in the earliest period of our friendship, but I never tried to leverage our relationship into any kind of help with my development as a writer. Partly it was because David was a book editor, while I was trying to write short stories, and partly it was because I hadn't a clue what I was doing, even when I did try to make use of my professional connections to get feedback on something I'd written. But one of the great things about David is that he was a fan as well as a pro, and he and I could mindmeld completely on the level of enthusiasts of the literature of science fiction. From my fanboy perspective, it was always a delight to be able to talk to him about favorite writers, such as Gwyneth Jones, whom he was working with directly as an editor. He was a font of stories about what was going on behind the scenes. He also had a keen knowledge of the history of science fiction, and as I've related elsewhere, we once got into a discussion about A.E. van Vogt in which he told me that van Vogt's four biggest acolytes were Charles Harness, Philip Dick, Phil Farmer, and Barrington Bayley Jr. All of those writers other than Farmer are huge favorites of mine, and David opened my eyes as to why in one fell swoop. Maybe I should read more Farmer one of these days too.

When you start delving into all of David's accomplishments in the field, it starts to seem bottomless. He was, of course, a major book editor for several decades, publishing many important writers and novels over the years. He was also a major anthologists, who, along with an annual best-of collection, put together a number of very influential genre or subgenre anthologies, including for horror and hard SF and space opera. His Age of Wonders is one of the best general introductions to science fiction ever written and once again displays his fannish cred by including a correctly attributed epigraph citing Pete Graham's fanzine quip, "The golden age of science fiction is twelve." His small press, Dragon Press, was also extremely influential, especially with the Gregg Press imprint of hardback reprints of the best of classical science fiction from the beginning up through the late '60s or early '70s, and also through the publication of The New York Review of Science Fiction -- a monthly magazine of reviews and criticism that published several of my own reviews once upon a time. The World Fantasy Convention, which he helped to found, is a bit more controversial in its accomplishments, particularly for those of us who prefer the old fan-oriented model of conventions, but it's safe to say that it has had an enormous impact on the field as well, if nothing else through the awards it hands out. (And hey, the one World Fantasy Convention I attended, which I mostly didn't enjoy very much, saw John Shirley introduce me to Howard Kaylan -- of the Turtles and Frank Zappa fame -- which reduced me to the worst kind of fanboy spluttering about, "What was it like to work with Zappa?! Gibber, tweet!")

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Lennart Uhlin with David at the 2014 Worldcon in London

Because he was such an important figure in the field, he seemed to know all the writers, artists, editors, and publishers, but as I say he was equally friendly with mere fans. He seemed to genuinely enjoy people, and he could remember details about everyone. Most recently I was struck at the 2014 Worldcon in London when David joined me at a table in the village green where I was sitting with the Swedish fan, Lennart Uhlin. I asked them if they new each other, and they both said, "Of course," and David proceeded to talk about Lennart's bookshop in Stockholm, which he had apparently visited at some point. The fannish connection does remind me, however, that I wasn't completely above trying to get David interested in my writing. Or textual amalgamations, as the case may be. I'm pretty sure that, based on our shared enthusiasm for van Vogt, I mailed him a copy of the cut-up van Vogt chapbook I produced called Promethean Wakes, using sentences from van Vogt's novel The Weapon Makers. He never said anything about it, so I have no idea whether he even read it. However, I also sent him a copy of Travels with the Wild Child -- a long piece I wrote in 1996 about my friendship with Tamara Vining, who was also a good friend of David's. David seemed to really like that one, and he offered to trade me a Gregg Press book (Zelazny's Damnation Alley) for several more copies, which he asked both Tami and me to sign and which he said he'd be offering for sale at conventions. I wonder whether he actually ever sold them. More recently I invited him to contribute to the Joanna Russ tribute in the fanzine I publish with Andy Hooper and carl juarez, Chunga, since David had long been an advocate of hers and had dreamed aloud more than once in my company about publishing a collection of her SF reviews and criticism. He told me he hoped he could send us something, but he ended up not doing so. A year or so later I saw him at a convention, and he apologized for failing to come up with anything. He seemed genuinely crestfallen that he hadn't been able to participate, but I just assumed he was a busy man with a lot of other things on his plate.

There are so many other memories, but I'll try not to ramble too much. Another favorite one was finding him at the Hugo Losers Party in LA in 2006, which I'd been avoiding despite the fact that Chunga was nominated that year until Ulrika, whom I'd sent as my avatar, came and dragged my ass to it, where I promptly found David celebrating his first Hugo win and was able to happily add my heartfelt congratulations. He consoled me for Chunga's loss, assuring me it was a fine fanzine. We had added him to our mailing list by then. As I've also mentioned elsewhere, the last meal I had with David was at the London Worldcon, where he treated me, Rachel Holmen, and his two youngest children, Peter and Elizabeth, to dinner after a mad dash through a publishers party where the creme de la creme of British science fiction writers were having fun at the top of their lungs while drinking comped margaritas. One of the big topics of conversation at the London Worldcon were criticisms from younger writers and fans that the science fiction establishment (both pro and fan) was too white, male, straight, and old. David had been hit with some of that criticism and was frustrated, because he felt he had been on the side of the angels when it came to the demographic changes in the field. Still, he took the criticisms seriously and was more than willing to discuss them at length. We also talked about the amicable state of his ongoing divorce settlement with Kathryn, and it was good to hear that things were going as well as possible on that front. I'll always remember that at the end of that meal, as David put the bill on Tor's tab, he gave me a huge smile and said, "Now *that* was a true Worldcon conversation!"

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David with Charlie Stross, who had just won his first Hugo, at the 2005 Worldcon

A year later, at the Worldcon in Spokane, he came to the TAFF reception for Nina Horvath in the evening fanzine lounge, where I was one of the putative hosts, although Ulrika, Liz Copeland, and Scott K. were doing all the actual work. He talked about how proud he was to have been one of Nina's nominators and how proud he was of her win and of her star-making role at the convention, particularly at the Hugo Awards, where the conversation had turned from lack of diversity in the field to the Puppy complaints that political correctness was destroying the good old-fashioned values of science fiction. That David was keyed into something like the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund once again demonstrates his fannish cred. At the end of Sasquan, I saw him for what would end up being the last time ever, and he told me about how he'd been up until 2am dancing at George R.R. Martin's anti-Puppy post-Hugo party. David said he hadn't known he still had it in him to party like that. He had looked and sounded increasingly frail over the past few years, but he was still rocking the awful shirts and clashing suits and ties. His fashion sense was legendary and otherwordly. He basically embraced conflict and the garish on that front. The fashion atrocities clashed, in turn, with his slightly patrician mid-Atlantic accent and genteel air.

He was really quite an amazing and fascinating man all around. I can't say I was deeply close to him, but having seen him so much over so many years, even in dribs and drabs, leaves a feeling of perhaps unearned intimacy. As with Art Widner, whose memorial party at Sasquan David regretted missing because I failed to publicize the event, it's hard to imagine what fandom will be like now that he's gone. He died trying to carry part of a book case upstairs from the basement, when he took a fall and hit his head, causing a massive brain hemorrhage. It's a horrible loss, but in a very fannish pursuit. A man who loved books like they were breath, killing himself wrangling a bookcase. I feel bad about losing the future pleasure of his company, but I feel worse for Kathryn, Peter, Elizabeth, and David's older son, Geoff, whom I first met at the 1993 Worldcon in San Francisco and who became a buddy for a few years after that. My condolences to the family (I've never met the older daughter, Alison) and to the entire world of science fiction, which lost a singular figure and friend in David. Long may his crass ties fly, if only in memory.

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David and Sharee Carton at the pirate party at the 2005 Worldcon
randy_byers: (shiffman)
At The Narrow Boat.jpg
At The Narrow Boat pub in Skipton with Debbi Kerr, D. West, Victor Gonzalez, and Hazel Ashworth in 2003
(Photo by Ian Sorensen)

There's a memorial gathering for D. West in Skipton in West Yorkshire today. I can't be there, but I'll be drinking a pint in Don's memory later today.
randy_byers: (shiffman)
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Photo by his son, Mick, from 1983

Last Saturday word arrived that D. West had died of cancer on Friday. I hadn't known about the cancer, so the news was completely unexpected. It was only a few month ago, probably in May, that I received a letter from him talking about the struggles he was having with the piece we'd asked him to write for Chunga, but there was no hint of ill health. A little over a month ago I received a cryptic message from his partner, Hazel Ashworth, saying that he was "out of action at present and unable fulfill any Chunga functions anytime soon." I had no idea what that was about, but in retrospect I now realize this must have been after he'd received the cancer diagnosis.

I only met Don West once, on my TAFF trip in 2003. I'd certainly heard of him before that and had seen his artwork and cartoons in fanzines, and thanks to Victor Gonzalez, who practically worshiped the man, I had read some of his fan-writing, including the brilliant conreport "Performance," which delivers the metaphor of participation in fandom as performance at epic length. Victor introduced me to the man himself in 2003, when he joined my in Keighley, outside of Leeds, and took me to a pub to meet Don and Hazel. I spent a couple of days in the area talking to Don and Hazel and a couple of the other members of the old Leeds Group, which had mostly disintegrated by that point. I was intimidated by Don, largely because of his KTF reputation, but for the most part I found him very congenial. Still, he wasted no time telling me how much and why he hated Chunga's layout and how he couldn't understand the praise it garnered. He offered to write us a piece, but only if we dropped our standard layout for those pages. (I believe the pitch was that it would be about an old bus route he used to ride, perhaps to fannish destinations, and the title would be "Route 666".) I turned him down with a smile, and that seemed to be okay by him. He offered us a pair of covers instead, and I accepted.

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Illo for my TAFF report published in Chunga 5, August 2003

It almost felt like a rite of passage of sorts, or a trial by fire. He threw some punches, I shrugged them off, and then he proceeded to give us some of his incredible artwork. I can't claim to have known the man well enough to fully understand his character, and I've certainly seen that trial by fire approach turn into an antagonistic relationship with other people. But to me it seemed like he was basically taking the piss and then judging me by how I reacted. It probably helped that I thought his criticisms of our layout were really funny, in the over the top, exaggerated way that a lot of British invective has (cf Monty Python), and I halfway suspected he was halfway pulling my leg. If he had really thought Chunga was such an awful-looking piece of shit, he wouldn't have given us any of his work at all, or at least that's how I interpreted it. I also felt that there was something of the Tall Poppy Syndrome going on. Chunga was currently all the rage in some sectors of fanzine fandom, and he wanted to bring us down a notch. Considering how easy it was for me to think we really were the hottest shit ever, it was probably a good thing for someone of stature to fire a couple of shots across my bow.

He never stopped criticizing our layout or letting us know if we had fucked something up in his eyes, but he pretty much always had a reasoned argument for his perspective. We printed those first two covers of his on dark-toned paper, and he let us have it with both barrels. The dark colors destroyed the contrast with the black ink of the artwork, he said. Looking at the printed covers (two masterworks of pointillism), I had to agree with him, and since then we've only used pastel or astrobright colors for our coverstock.

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This early work is from a set of illustrations of Tolkien self-published in 1971

I didn't always agree with his stances, however, and not just when it came to Chunga's layout. When he refused the Rotsler Award in 2011, he blasted Rotsler for dashing off a lot of thoughtless, substandard work rather than putting his all into everything he did. This was similar to his take on fanzines as a whole. He felt fanzines were an art form and that if you didn't put your best work into it you were traducing the art form. He had no time for people who just do fanzines for fun or for the social and communal aspect of it. He was very painstaking in his own contributions to the field, and he seemed to have no respect for anyone who was less painstaking than himself. This is too harsh an approach, in my view, and I think he was completely wrong about Rotsler in particular. Rotsler represents a kind of open, fecund, spontaneous approach that I think was simply alien or antithetical to Don's mindset.

He told me a fair amount about his life in our conversations in Keighley and Skipton. I remember he said that his parents moved to Yorkshire when he was a baby, and since he hadn't been born there the locals considered him an outsider. The perfect fannish origin story, I thought: we're all outsiders of some stripe or another. He also told me that he came to science fiction fandom relatively late in life, and I'm guessing he meant convention and fanzine fandom, because from what I'm reading on Facebook (there's a public group called 'Don West Memorial - artist & fanzine cartoonist') he discovered the British Science Fiction Association sometime in the '60s. It appears he got into fanzine fandom around 1975, when he would have been 30 and where he immediately connected with Ratfandom and began writing his infamous KTF (Kill the Fuckers) fanzine reviews for Roy Kettle's True Rat. I actually only know those KTF reviews by reputation. For the most part the only things I've read by him are in the giant collection Deliverance (he gave me Mal Ashworth's old copy on my visit) and what I was able to read of the other giant collection, Fanzines in Theory and Practice, one afternoon sitting in Hazel's living room on my visit. By the time I got into fanzines in the late-'90s he wasn't really writing anymore, but he was still drawing and cartooning, just as brilliantly as ever.

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Cover for Attitude 12 from 1997

Because I was the one of the Chunga triumvirate who had met him, I was the one who communicated with him to solicit contributions. As with so much else, he was too old-fashioned to do email, so our correspondence was letters sent by post. He gave me little tidbits of his life with Hazel (they got together after Hazel's husband, Mal, died -- the three of them were long time friends) and the action movies he was watching, but he didn't get much into his personal life. I vaguely knew he had at least one child from his own past marriage, but I had no idea until this week that he had four children and six grandchildren, or indeed that his children were known to the fans who first met him in the '70s, and vice versa. A year or two ago I was looking at a book about Romantic painting that was focused on Casper David Friedrich and immediately wondered if Don been influenced by the Romantics. So I wrote to ask, and he seemed charmed by the question. He wrote an enormous letter about his artistic influences and the knotty question of influence in general. It was completely fascinating, and I asked if we could print it as an article in Chunga. He counter-proposed that he would write something fresh about art -- he wasn't quite sure what -- but only if we agreed that 1) we wouldn't run any of our linos (which he had always detested) on those pages, and 2) we would only illustrate it with his own artwork (he also detested unrelated artwork or cartoons being used in an article). At least he wasn't asking us to drop our layout entirely this time! We readily agreed, and that was what he wrote to me to say he was struggling with back in May. He said that writing had become difficult for him, and art was always easier. Would we like any more covers? He had done three pairs of back and front covers for us by then, all of them amongst the best covers we've published.

Now we will never get any more covers, or anything else. It's difficult to express the sense of loss I feel at his death. It isn't that we were personally close, although we were colleagues and friends of a sort. I always hoped to get the chance to see him again sometime, and I certainly do mourn the loss of that possibility. But above all it is the loss of his creativity and peculiar genius that leaves me feeling unexpectedly forlorn. He was one of the true giants of the fanzine field, to my mind. There are other fan artists that I admire as much as him, but there are none I admire more. When you add the quality and nature of what I've read of his fan-writing, well, he was simply unique and irreplaceable. He was a tall poppy in his own right, and I'm sure he was perfectly aware of the irony of his discomfort with other tall poppies. His own fanzine was called DAISNAID, after all. I always thought it was a Welsh word or something like that, but in fact it stood for Do As I Say Not As I Do. As his son Graham said on Facebook last week, "He was an angry young man, an angry middle-aged man, and a grumpy old man, but always with a twinkle in his eye."

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Cover for Lagoon 7, which would have been in the mid-'90s sometime
randy_byers: (cap)
During the Worldcon file770.com published a story called "Magic Sofas at Sasquan"by Leigh Strother-Vien. This is an ode to the comfortable sofas and chairs in the area "near Site Selection & Exhibits." That just happened to by the Lost World Fanzine Lounge, which was run by a gang of hardy fanzine fans with yours truly as bedraggled figurehead. Leigh was apparently completely unaware that the area had a name, despite the large banner that said Lost World Fanzine Lounge. Or maybe it was immaterial to her. That's the way fan/fanzine lounges are supposed to work, after all. They're a place to take a load off as you wander around exhibits.

So let me just praise Ulrika O'Brien for designing such a comfy fanzine lounge and pushing hard for lots of comfy chairs, ottomans (!), and carpet. It really made for a great space to collapse and yak with friends and strangers. Thanks also to Randy Smith, Sarah Goodman, and Chip Hitchcock for making Ulrika's ideas enter the real world.

For those looking for more than a magic sofa, we also had some great exhibits of fan art and fanzines, and I was very pleased to see many people coming by to look at the exhibits. The work of putting art on foam core (and foam core on pegboard) was done by Ulrika, Andy Hooper, Carrie Root, carl juarez, Scott Kreidermacher, Jerry Kaufman, Suzle Tompkins, and Tom Becker. They did an absolutely fantastic job, and it was great to see folks stopping by to slowly work their way from panel to panel. We had covers from nine of Art Widner's fanzines of the '40s, we had dinosaur posters by Brad Foster, Stu Shiffman, Steve Stiles, Espana Sheriff, and Marc Schirmeister, we had a massive display of Stu's artwork, we had smaller displays of artwork by Sue Mason, Steve Stiles, and Ulrika, and we had every cover for Chunga, with artwork by at least fifteen different artists, including most of those mentioned above.

One small gratification, in what was a complex array of gratifications and disappointments, came when John Hertz stopped by on the last day of the convention to say that we had bailed him out, in a way. John always puts together a display of artwork by the Rotsler Award winning artists, but this year he couldn't find the file of artwork he created for the purpose. He was able print out a few lo-res pieces from the internet to display, but he was also able to point people to our exhibit. I had been a little concerned that we would step on his toes with our display, but in the event we actually filled a gap.

I'll no doubt have more to say about Sasquan in the coming weeks, although I'm not sure how much will get posted here. I'm planning to write about it for the next issue of Chunga. Short version: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. But thanks to the great work of many good friends, the Lost World Fanzine Lounge pretty much totally rocked. And it had magic sofas too.
randy_byers: (shiffman)
Without going into detail, I should mention that I've continued to have some trouble with my health this past week. While I'm going to Spokane tomorrow, I'm not sure how interactive with the Worldcon I'll actually be. For all I know I'll be recuperating by the pool for most or all of the convention. Fortunately the fanzine lounge will be in the capable telepathic tentacles of many excellent fans. I believe everything I've promised to do will be done, but any last minute requests should be directed elsewhere. Hope to see some of you at Sasquan, even if it's only at the poolside.


Jul. 13th, 2015 09:44 am
randy_byers: (shiffman)
Plans are proceeding apace for two conventions in August: Prolog(ue): A Pre-Worldcon Relaxacon, which is being held in the Seattle area August 14-16, and Sasquan: A Post-Relaxacon Worldcon, which is being held in Spokane August 19-23. I am area head for the fan/fanzine lounge at Sasquan, and I'm more or less just a useful idiot for Prolog(ue), which is being chaired by Ulrika O'Brien.

We're just a month away from the beginning of these festivities, and so this would be what they call crunchtime. I fell like I'm working almost non-stop on various organizing efforts, although probably the reality is that I'm mostly thinking about it non-stop. I've got a lot on my mind. Still, it's not all mental activity. On Saturday, for instance, I wrangled two large pieces of artwork to two different shops in an attempt to get them scanned. I'm still not sure that the scans I managed to have made at my second stop will be sufficient for the purpose, which is to have those pieces of artwork (and three others that I already had digital files for) printed as posters to decorate the Lost World Fanzine Lounge. All of the artwork is dinosaur related, because the Lost World Fanzine Lounge is where the dinosaurs of fanzine production still roam.

Also on Saturday I joined Ulrika, Scott, and carl at Gallaghers' Where-U-Brew in Edmonds to bottle the beer we had previously brewed two weeks ago. This beer is an imperial stout that we'll be serving at both Proglog(ue) and Sasquan. My contribution to the effort on Saturday was to put caps on bottles. It's a nice beer, too, although not weak!

These two activities were on top of lots of email correspondence, as well as other non-convention work I had on my agenda, including picking the last of my raspberries and writing a couple of blog posts. But it wasn't all work on Saturday. I also went to Julie McGuff's 50th birthday party at Andy and Carrie's, which was great fun, even though I pooped out around 8:00 and crawled home to unload the cases of beer from my car and into the basement.

On Sunday, more correspondence in the morning, and then in the afternoon I headed up to Andi Shechter's place to consult about the exhibition of Stu Shiffman's art that we'll be doing in the fanzine lounge. Andi has been going through boxes and boxes of fanzines and old notebooks looking for Stu's artwork and having a friend scan it all. These scans will feed into various projects Andi has in mind, and we're taking advantage of it for Sasquan. There will also be a memorial for Stu at Sasquan, but Andi still hasn't made up her mind whether she wants to face the potential emotional turmoil of attending the convention.

After that I was too wiped to see straight, so I went home and did a little bit more program wrangling for Sasquan before plopping myself in front of the TV to watch a movie. The To Do List seems hardly dented, and I'm sure the next few weekends will be just as busy, even if most of the business is in my brain. I'm getting to the point where I'm telling myself that it's okay if I don't get everything on the To Do List done. Everything's going to be fine, even if all the plans and ideas don't come to fruition. Whew!
randy_byers: (cap)
Last weekend was the All Hands meeting for Sasquan, which is the World Science Fiction Convention being held in Spokane in August. Ulrika O'Brien and I went as part of the fanzine lounge team (I'm the area head), and we were joined at the last minute by Suzle, who had been asked if she could help wrangle the function space in various hotels.

On the way to Spokane on Friday we took U.S. Route 2, which meanders through a beautiful section of the Cascades where you also find little mountain towns like Gold Bar and the Bavarian-kitsch village of Leavenworth. I had never taken this drive, and it was just as picturesque as advertised. It takes longer than just bombing out to Spokane on Interstate 90, but it's worth the time, if you have it. However, you might give the Wallace Falls Cafe in Gold Bar a miss.


Friday night was a Division Heads meeting in which we got progress reports from various divisions. Saturday morning and afternoon were walk-throughs of the convention center, the Doubletree hotel, and the Davenport hotel. I'd been through all of them before in February, but I went through the convention center and Davenport (which is the party hotel where we hope to have a suite for the evening fanzine lounge) again just to let it sink in a bit more. It was particularly helpful to go through the convention center again, and I started getting images in my head of what it was going to be like when it was full of, well, the Worldcon and all that goes on there. I could begin to envision the 11-ring circus that is to come.

Suzle needed to go through the Doubletree, because some of her responsibilities will be there (function space in the Doubletree includes the consuite, gaming, and filking), but Ulrika and I hove off to eat lunch at the Post Street Ale House and then to revisit the NoLi Brewery when it turned out that nearby Ramblin' Road Brewery (which we hadn't made it to in February) wasn't actually open at their advertised opening hour. Still, the NoLi beer was mighty fine, and we had a good time arguing about who was the better Dogberry, Michael Keaton (sez Ulrika) or Nathan Fillion (sez me).

I drink beer while Ulrika hits Google to prove me wrong. Again.

After the Davenport walk-through, the three of us had dinner with Sean McCoy at Italia Trattoria, which is a marvelous restaurant in a funky little mostly-residential neighborhood. Sean is Facilities Division Head and an old friend of Ulrika's, and he was one of the people heavily recruiting Suzle. While they talked business, I medicated myself with a lovely cocktail called a negroni, which blended campari, gin, vermouth, and a garnish of lemon peel. The lamb chops were also superb.

Medication was necessary, because after dinner was two hours of discussion of the budget led ably by Ben Yalow. Thanks to the great influx of supporting memberships, Sasquan is actually in fine shape financially, but there's still a lot of work to do on the final budget. I need to work over the numbers for the fanzine lounge by next Saturday, for example. Oh joy!

Sunday morning was a continuation of the Division Head meeting, including a progress report from our Division Head, Randy Smith. (Which is to say that the fanzine lounge is under Exhibits this year.) Fortunately I wasn't asked to say much, although I did manage to mumble out a joke about why we were calling ourselves the Lost World Fanzine Lounge. ("Because it's where the dinosaurs of fanzine publication still roam.") Then we spent two hours working on the timeline. By the lunch break we had gotten a skeleton of Monday through Wednesday done. (The convention starts on Wednesday, not the usual Thursday, this year.) The three of us headed home after that, although we had lunch at the Post Street Ale House first and ran into Ruth Sachter and John Lorentz there.

Division Head meeting

As I've said before, this is the first Worldcon that I've ever worked on in an official capacity, and thus it's the first time I've seen behind the curtain, as it were. I am receiving an eye-opening education in the elaborate organizational structure and sheer amount of work that goes into running a modern Worldcon. There's still a lot of work to do in the next couple of months, but everything seems to be coming together nicely. We haven't finalized everything for the fanzine lounge, but we at least know where the daytime fanzine lounge is going to be and got a look at the space in the convention center. We'll be right next to the bar, which is called Guinan's. I was also very pleased to learn that Randy Smith has arranged for the bar to serve some of the excellent beer and cider brewed in Spokane.

As for what we'll be doing in the fanzine lounge, well, that's starting to come together too. We'll have posters, exhibits, and displays (Tom Whitmore has offered to lend us some prime fanzines from the '40s, and Guest of Honor Leslie Turek will be lending us all her zines as well), we'll have a reception for TAFF delegate Nina Horvath, we'll have memorials for Art Widner, Stu Shiffman, and Peggy Rae Sapienza, we'll have a discussion of Susan Wood that Tom Becker is organizing, we'll have the WOOF collation led by Andy Hooper, and there's been some discussion of using the fanzine lounge as a stop in a fannish scavenger hunt. No doubt there will be more as we develop our ideas. Feel free me to send me yours, and if you come to Sasquan please stop by the Lost World Fanzine Lounge. We'll have ourselves a time.

And that's not even mentioning the potential pleasures of this year's Hugo Ceremony and WSFS Business Meeting!

Spotted outside the auditorium where the Hugos will be presented
randy_byers: (cap)
I probably met Art Widner sometime in the '80s. I'm not sure exactly when. It quickly came to seem he'd always been there, but if he retired from teaching at 65, that would have been in 1982, so my best guess is that it would've been sometime after that, although it appears that he started getting active in fandom again (after 30 years away) in 1979, which is when I went to my first convention, so maybe he really was always there. I don't think I ever asked him why he came to so many Pacific Northwest conventions, but I saw him at Norwescons (when I still went to those), Orycons, Westercons, Potlatches, Corflus, and I don't know what else up here. Maybe V-Con too, although I myself only went to a couple of those. He was always around, always ready to chat over a cigarette and a drink. I'm pretty sure that when I first met him I wasn't aware that he'd been a Big Name Fan in the '40s, and for example had been at the very first Worldcon in 1939. I wasn't much interested in fanhistory in those days, so Art's fannish past was not something that came up a lot with me. I liked hanging out with him because he was fun to talk to and because he enjoyed having a good time.

1986 nwcon hallparty.jpg
Photo by Lucy Huntzinger, who thinks it might be from the 1986 Norwescon:

Art, me, John D. Berry, Katherine Howes, Tamara Vining

So what I remember from the earliest days of hanging out with Art at conventions was drinking and smoking with him. One of my favorite moments came at what I think was an Orycon in the '90s sometime, although it honestly could have been any of the larger conventions I saw him at, when he sneaked out the side door of the hotel to have a cigarette with me and Tami. His doctor had advised him to stop smoking, and I believe he'd quit smoking in his day-to-day life but still liked to have one or two when he was drinking at a convention. So he bummed a cigarette off one of us, and we were smoking and yakking away when suddenly the door flew open. There stood Art's girlfriend of the time, whose name I think was Sheila. When she saw what he was doing, she put her hands on her hips and glared at him. "Busted!" Tami and I cried, as Art looked chagrined. Then Sheila busted out laughing, and so did Art. How can you be mad at a naughty boy who's 80 years old?

Art was always a great story teller, and as I say he didn't talk to me much about his early days in fandom. What I remember were stories about his trip to Russia with a group that included the science fiction writer Joe Haldeman (although I've always remembered it as Roger Zelazny, for some reason), and I especially remember him telling me that the Russians could drink you under the table if you didn't watch out, so when they got into a heavy drinking session he'd dump his vodka into the nearest planter when no one was looking. He also talked about his trips to Australia, where I believe he'd traveled even before he won the Down Under Fan Fund in 1991. I'm pretty sure he'd gone to the 1985 Worldcon in Australia. There were other travel tales too, because he loved to travel. This was long before I learned that he had been known as a travelin' jiant in his younger years, when he used to hitch hike to visit far off fans or when he drove the Skylark of WooWoo (a 1928 Dodge) to the Chicago Worldcon in 1940 and the FooFoo Special to Denver in 1941.

2000 With Tami and Art at the Potlatch.jpg
At the 2000 Potlatch with Tamara Vining, Art, and myself (Unknown photographer)

Eventually I got sucked into fanzine fandom myself, and thereby received more education in fanhistory, including Art's history. He and I shared a room at the 2006 Worldcon in LA, and every night when we came back to the room in the wee hours, Art would pour us both a shot of Aberlour and tell me stories about the old days. What I particularly remember from those chats was his stories about F. Towner Laney, who was a pugnacious Insurgent fan writer in the '40s and more than a bit of a homophobe. Art told me that Laney was insecure in his own sexuality, which did not come as any surprise at all, considering the strong link between homophobia and sexual insecurity. I can't remember now whether it was in those sessions or a later one when Art came up for one of his many visits to the Art Car Blowout at the Fremont Street Fair that he told me about a period in the '40s after he and his family had moved to LA when he was still trying to hang out with Burbee, Laney, Perdue and the other LA Insurgents. As I recall, Art said he'd go over to Burbee's house to play poker, but it didn't sit well with his wife. Did he tell me that he was essentially sneaking out behind her back? Perhaps Art was a naughty boy even then.

If he told me much about his wife, I don't remember it. Another powerful memory I have of Art was at the Potlatch in Eugene when he told a table of us about one of his sons who had disappeared from his life years ago. If I recall correctly, he had two sons, and one of them had already died by that time. Art cried as he told us about the missing son. Eventually he learned that that son had died as well, but I don't remember if there was any contact between them before then. Did he have a daughter too? Maybe so, but he outlived all his kids. I met two of his grand daughters, both of whom lived in this area for a while, although one eventually moved to Sydney with her husband. Art visited them there fairly frequently, and for all his sadness about his children, he at least had the two loving grand children and the great grand children they bore.

I remember at that 2006 Worldcon Art would sleep in our room almost all day long, and I worried a little bit that he would die in his sleep. He would've been 89 at that point, and he lived another eight years. He was still driving up until at least a couple of years ago, when I last saw him at the Portland Corflu in 2013. Typical of the way Corflus work, I didn't really get a chance to talk to him at that one. The last long conversation I had with him was probably at the 2011 Corflu in Sunnyvale, where I helped Kim Huett distribute the collection of Art's old travel fanwriting that Kim had put together. Art was terribly pleased by that collection, and he had some ideas about other collections of his writing, although I confess I suggested Kim was a better man for the projection than I. We sat at the little bar in the Sunnyvale hotel drinking Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, and Art told me story after story about the past.

He was a man of many stories who was always surprising me with new ones, such as the fact that he had invented the first science fiction board game, which was called Interplanetary. (Mike Glyer, in his fine obituary at file770.com, says that LASFS still has a giant Interplanetary board.) It may have been at the 2006 Worldcon (or the 1996 one, also in LA) where Art chewed my ear off about his love of the Frankenstein story in all its incarnations. I believe he was thinking about writing a book about it or something. He also loved to tell tales of his experiences during World War II, when he was a guinea pig at the Climatic Research Lab, where they tested various equipment in conditions of extreme heat or extreme cold. Art thought it was pretty funny that his wartime experience consisted of freezing his ass off in a laboratory.

Well, my memories of Art are pretty much endless. There was the time at the Thai restaurant in Portland when he rubbed his eye after touching a red pepper. There was the time at a sushi restaurant in Anaheim (this was the 1996 Worldcon) when I stayed behind after the rest of our group had left because Art wanted to try the green tea ice cream. There was the time he pitched for his team at the Corflu softball game in 2000, when he would have been 82 years old. He could still run the bases, although, okay, he couldn't run very fast. He was always around, always ready with a friendly smile and a silly old joke. He always had that Santa Claus twinkle in his eye. Or was it a devilish twinkle? There was a little bit of the devil in Art, especially after he'd had a wee bit o' the creature. He was an amazing human being. He lived a good, long life and was active up until almost the end. I feel grateful to have known him and to have shared some time with him on this lonely planet of ours. He has always been the very model of who I want to be when I grow up.

2007 Himself at ArtCon (by Luke McGuff).jpg
Art at Artcon in 2007 on his 90th birthday (Photo by Luke McGuff)


Apr. 13th, 2015 11:00 am
randy_byers: (2009-05-10)
My brother and his wife visited this weekend. They drove up on Saturday, and we visited our Yapese friend, Theo, who is in the area because his granddaughter just had a liver transplant at Children's Hospital. We got the low-down on the transplant, which sounded very scary but apparently went very well. We also got a lot of stories about what's going on out on Yap right now, including Theo's take on the Chinese proposal to build resorts on the island. Theo is against it, but his brother, Tony, who is currently the governor, is for it. As my brother said later, the previous governor was for it, too, and no doubt they look at it from the perspective of, "How do we create a cash economy on this isolated island?" I'm dubious that it would actually be beneficial to the Yapese, but I have no idea what else they can do. As we also discussed, it seems like the answer the Yapese themselves are finding is to move to the US, often serving in the military so they can become citizens. Theo said that at this point in his life (he's three years older than me), his only goal is to help his children and grandchildren have a better life. He has no ambitions for himself any more. He was also more voluble about his Christian faith than he has been in the past, although he wasn't evangelical about it. The stories and wry laughs still flowed, and it was so heart-warming to see him again. He again told us we had to come back to Yap so that he could discuss some things with us family-to-family. I'm not sure what that means exactly, but in the past he has offered Lonnie a chance to build a house out there. I doubt that will happen, but the offer represents a sense of strong connection. Nonetheless, he more or less shooed us away after a couple of hours of chat. He had been receiving texts the whole time from family and friends asking about his granddaughter, so he needed to get back to that.

The three of us spent the rest of the day chewing the fat. I took them up to the 5 Spot for dinner, and then to the Hilltop Ale House for a beer. The next morning, after breakfast at the Blue Star (we'd had breakfast at Roxy's on Saturday), they headed home. There's talk of a family trip to Maui in June. Their oldest son is working at a dive shop out there. I hope I can join them, but I still need to work out the details with my boss, who has been out with pneumonia for over two weeks now.

I also went to the fannish pubmeet on Sunday, where there was much talk of Puppies, Prologue, and the Sasquan fanzine lounge. What's Prologue, you ask? It's a relaxicon that Ulrika O'Brien is chairing and which will be held in the Seattle area the weekend before Sasquan. You should come, whether or not you're going to Sasquan. It should be a damn fine time.
randy_byers: (cap)
I like to think of the idea of voting No Award above any of the Hugo nominees from the Sad Puppies or Rabid Puppies slates as the "Hush, Puppies" Strategy.

Potlatch 24

Feb. 9th, 2015 11:18 am
randy_byers: (cap)
I had intended to spend Friday evening at Potlatch, but I was so emotionally drained by a personnel crisis at work that exploded on Wednesday that I decided to bag it. Then I got an email from Spike asking if I wanted to meet her and Tom Becker for beer and dinner, and that sounded good. We met at the Big Time, and it turned out that Scott Kreidermacher, Ulrika O'Brien, and Jack William Bell (GeekWire's Geek of the Week) joined us as well. After a couple of beers we headed to the Shalimar for some curry. It was a welcome break from the work drama, but I was still feeling so wiped out that I went home afterward.

The next day I felt refreshed enough to face the horde, and I made it to the Deca Hotel, where the convention was held, just in time to join Tom, Glenn Glazer, Julie McGalliard, Janna Silverstein, a friend of hers whose name I lost, and Jerry & Suzle for lunch at a new restaurant called Seoul Tofu House & Korean BBQ. My spicy squid was good, and the conversation was a blast, ranging from an anthropological analysis of puns (including Julie's take that puns in fandom are a kind of mating display) to a discussion of military SF as written by women and whether, for example, the increasing role of American women in combat will change the kinds of military SF stories American women write. On the way back to the hotel Janna told me what an excellent, intelligent science fiction movie Dawn of the Planet of the Apes was up until the bog standard action finale that destroyed character continuity and derailed the whole thing for her.

Back at the convention I went to three panels. The first was the second half of "Living in a Fantasy World: The 21st Century Appeal of Fantasy Fiction," with Tom Whitmore moderating (as if!) Ellen Klages, David Bratman, and Nisi Shawl. The main focus of the panel was the evolution of fantasy as a publishing category, although the discussion frequently got into the roots of the genre as well. I believe one of the contentions hovering over the panel was that genre fantasy (perhaps roughly defined as fiction about magic) has overtaken science fiction in popularity, both in terms of what's on the shelves and what's winning awards. Perhaps lurking behind that contention is the idea that this is caused by the increasing number of women who both read and write fantastic fiction.

Next up was "Women Destroy Science Fiction: Not Again!", which was about the book of honor. Panelists were Kate Schaefer, Eileen Gunn, and Debbie Notkin. Debbie wondered whether it still made sense to be putting out women-only anthologies, or whether that was becoming a form of ghettoization. Eileen argued that she is marginalized by articles like her entry in The SF Encyclopedia that portray her as not really a science fiction writer. (" Much of Gunn's work, which is not copious, could not be described as sf.") Kate talked about how Gordon Van Gelder, who has been the editor and publisher at The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction for a number of years, was publishing only 20% stories written by women. She also compared the Lightspeed anthology to Pamela Sargent's 1974 anthology, Women of Wonder, and commented that the tone of the stories in the Sargent was angrier and those in Lightspeed more celebratory. In one of those moments that make Potlatch and SF conventions so wonderful, Vonda McIntyre spoke up from the crowd to tell the story of how Women of Wonder in part resulted from an angry letter she wrote to the publisher of a Best SF anthology that only included stories by three women out of a total of something like forty stories. When the publisher wrote back to ask Vonda if she'd like to put together an anthology of women writers, she connected them with Sargent, who she knew was shopping Women of Wonder.

The third panel I went to was "The Culture, Remembered," with Andy Hooper, Jane Hawkins, Chip Morningstar, and John D. Berry talking about Iain Banks' Culture novels. Jane probably put her finger on the core concern of the series when she said she doubted that an artificial intelligence (which in the Culture are called Minds) would have any motivation or reason to do anything. She also talked about how technology in the Culture has allowed everybody to be sane (unless they choose to be not-sane), and she tied that to her own struggles with depression and (getting back to her point about the Minds) the attendant inability to motivate herself. There was also a discussion of how Banks' stand-alone space operas, Against a Dark Background and The Algebraist, might take place in the same universe as the Culture without anyone knowing. Andy said he hopes to set up another panel about the Culture for Sasquan in August.

After that I headed up to the consuite to sample some of the beer that I had helped to acquire earlier in the week. Various dinner parties formed, but I wasn't feeling very hungry, so I hung out talking to Misha Williams and others who wandered in and out. Unusually for me (and no doubt only because Misha was there and isn't as introverted as I am) I ended up talking to a few people I didn't know, and that was good fun. Early on a woman whose name was something like Jessie joined us for a discussion about Sondheim's Into the Woods. When she mentioned that she'd stage managed a production of it, she and Misha bonded over how stage managing can ruin a beloved play for you. But eventually friends returned from dinner and I mostly went back to talking to people I knew. Then again, it was room full of people I knew, some of whom I don't see very often, so I talked to a lot of people! There was much talk of beer, and also a fair amount of talk about the revolution at Wiscon. Chris Wrdnrd invited me to sample some sake, and I joined a circle with her boy Andy, Luke and Julie McGuff, and Rich McAllister. Eventually, Scott, carl, and I headed down to Jack's room to sample single malts, and before I knew it I was staring at 1:30 in the AM and a long, drunken walk home.

Well, it was all a lot of fun, by grab. I chatted with Paul Wrigley and Debbie Cross in the dealer's room (mostly about beer), but the only book I bought (and not from them) was The Stone Boatmen by Sarah Tolmie, which was urgently recommended by Tom Becker. On the exhibit side I was deeply moved by the display of Stu Shiffman's artwork that Jerry and Suzle put together as a memorial. I hope we can do something similar at Sasquan. I got a lot of egoboo for the beer, other than one minor complaint about the relative paucity of stout. The book of honor provided a great framework for the weekend, and Ulrika O'Brien did a great job of building a program around it. Potlatch can sometimes leave me feeling a little alienated, maybe because I'm envious of all the writers and wannabe writers involved, and it's true that even this time I didn't spend a whole lot of time there. But in the time I did spend there what I saw was the gathered tribes voicing their enthusiasms and grievances in smart, engaged, thoughtful, feeling, funny, scathing ways, and it seemed to me that I was part of something that's still growing and evolving into strange and compelling forms. If women are destroying science fiction, it's only to create it anew.
randy_byers: (cap)

Loncon 3 was my eighth World Science Fiction Convention, and by this time they are beginning to seem a bit familiar. A bit been-there-done-that. Of course this could have something to do with the fact that in my first 25 years of going to conventions, I made it to only three Worldcons, while in the past nine years I've been to five. Maybe I need to go less frequently if I want to maintain the thrill. Familiarity breeds contempt, absence makes the heart grow fonder, and 3/25ths is clearly greater than 5/9ths. Then again, my two absolute favorite Worldcons were 2005 and 2009, which were both part of the recent burst, but the fun of those two was the result of purely personal factors that really had little to do with the conventions themselves.

I guess part of what I'm trying to say up front here is that I anticipated that a London Worldcon would be something pretty special, because of the location in one of the world's great cities, and while from an objective or empirical viewpoint it *was* something pretty special (c.f. over ten thousand total members, which is the most ever for a Worldcon), my personal experience of it was comparable to, say, the Reno Worldcon in 2011, which was the last Worldcon I'd been to. I had a good time, but I really didn't have anything resembling desperate fun. Well, maybe I came pretty close to desperate fun a time or two. Let's see how the story unfolds.

Desperately seeking fun ... )
randy_byers: (2009-05-10)
Future PerfectIn the interests of full disclosure I should mention that I've met both authors socially, and indeed we have published something by one of them in Chunga. Both men are long-time members of science fiction fandom, and while Evans has published other novels under his own byline and Kettle has collaborated on four novels with John Brosnan, Kettle is perhaps best known, at least in the circles I run in, as a founding member of British Ratfandom in the '70s and as a publisher of such influential fanzines as Fouler and True Rat. I've met them at science fiction conventions, including most recently at the Worldcon in London, where I bought this novel and had them sign it. All this by way of also establishing that they are well qualified to write a novel that takes place in and around fandom and reaches its climax at a Worldcon. In short, I think a lot of SF fans would find this novel very entertaining and fannish as hell, even though it's written from the perspective of a protagonist who isn't a fan.

Protagonist Nick Randall is in fact a London-based independent movie producer who is looking for a science fiction story to adapt in the hopes of making a quick buck. When he's pointed in the direction of an obscure writer named Leo Parrish who published a number of stories in genre magazines in the '50s before being murdered, he discovers an odd assortment of interested factions who appear to be trying to suppress Parrish's fiction for initially mysterious reasons. Meanwhile, his business partner is investigating a black site in Britain that may or may not be a test lab for germ warfare aimed at the rogue state of Khanistan, which is sparring with the USA and its right wing Dominionist Christian Secretary of Defense. When a Scientology-like cult called the Ascendants also gets involved, paranoid conspiracy theories are the only thing that seem to make sense. Needless to say, Nick Randall finds himself neck deep in trouble, and that's before he gets shanghaied onto a panel at the World Science Fiction Convention.

This is a potboiler thriller that gets its hooks in right away and doesn't let go. I don't actually read enough of this kind of thing to know how it compares to other examples, but the authors promised me a page turner and that's what I got. There's a very large cast of well-drawn characters, lots of plot complications and recomplications, plenty of mystery and even a dose of action and tension. It works as a great big puzzle that you can get lost in, and if you're familiar with the world of fandom, you'll find plenty of loving detail and characters you'll feel you know personally. This should hold exotic interest even to non-fans, and there's also plenty of material about film-making, running a small company, religious cults, geopolitical intrigue, and personal relationships (with the sex cheekily kept off stage) for all to enjoy. There's a nice sense of humor holding it all together. Good, clean fun for the whole nuclear family.
randy_byers: (cap)
I've been asked to write a bio for [livejournal.com profile] gerisullivan for the Fencon program book. (She's Fan GoH at Fencon this year.) They'd like it to be in a humorous vein, so I'm looking for humorous stories about Fandom's Den Mother. Got one?
randy_byers: (cap)
Spokane-Clock Tower
View from the convention center

I spent the weekend in Spokane with [livejournal.com profile] akirlu attending a facilities walk-through and planning meetings for Sasquan, the 2015 World Science Fiction Convention, and also just poking around the city, which I had never visited before. [livejournal.com profile] akirlu and I (as well as other of the usual suspects amongst Seattle fanzine fandom) are running the fanzine lounge in 2015, and she thought it would be a good idea for us to meet the committee and especially to talk to Randy Smith, who is head of the Exhibits division, which is handling the fanzine lounge. Indeed, of the roughly twenty people who came for the weekend, I had met only five before, so it was probably good to make ourselves known to more of them.

These were the first Worldcon planning meetings that I've ever observed, and it confirmed my feeling that it's not something I'd want to do very much of, while at the same time being fascinating and educational in a variety of ways, from people to process to politics. There were a lot of jokes about Worldcon sausage being made, and the jokes seemed appropriate. It was great to spend some time with Randy Smith (one of four Randys I encountered over the weekend), who is very interested in the fanzine lounge even though it's only one small corner of what he's dealing with. It was also a pleasure to meet and start to get acquainted with various other folks, including the Chair, Sally Woehrle. A lot of folks were from out of state, but there were also a number of us from the Seattle area and a contingent of locals. The politics of outreach to the locals, and the different convention-running cultures on each side of the mountains, was one of the more interesting topics of the weekend. All in all, I was impressed with the people running the show.

Alongside all that was the exploration of Spokane itself, and I came away impressed with that as well. First off, there's something like seven micro-breweries, which is a good way to win my heart. We visited two of them, NoLi Brewhouse and 12 Strings Brewing Company, and I liked them both. The NoLi also has a pretty good food menu that included poutine. (I had the steak salad.) A group of us had lunch at the Saranac Public House, which has a good selection of beers from around the West Coast and a nice food menu as well. That's just the tip of the beer iceberg. [livejournal.com profile] akirlu and I also had dinner at Wild Sage Bistro, which was a little spendy but utterly fantastic. The flash fried calamari, which had been soaked in buttermilk over night and was served on a bed of shredded home made kimchee and pepperocinis, was to die for. We twice ate breakfast at Frank's Diner, which has great food and is located in an ornate old railway car. In general I got a strong impression that there's a good foodie thing going on in Spokane.

The downtown area is pretty interesting, with some cool old office buildings and a couple of architecturally impressive churches. The Davenport Hotel, which will be the party hotel, is just as spectacular and elegant as advertised. Some of the ballrooms, which the convention may or may not be able to use (they are still negotiating), are truly astonishing. The convention center is set right on the river across from a lovely city park. There seem to be a lot of restaurants and bars in the area, as well as some interesting looking shops.

Well, as I say, I was impressed. I know that there's been a fair amount of skepticism about this convention, but I hope folks will give it another look. Aside from everything else going on, we are going to do our best to make the fanzine lounge a happening place for birds of our feather and any and all folks looking for a port in the Worldcon storm. I honestly think we could have a total blast out there in Spokane, which was the earliest European settlement in Washington State (circa 1810, so not long after the Lewis and Clark Expedition) and feels like a place with real, live history. There's gold in them thar hills, I do believe.

Spokane-Davenport Ballroom
Viewing the Marie Antoinette Ballroom in the Davenport Hotel


Mar. 1st, 2014 02:38 pm
randy_byers: (2009-05-10)
Over the past few years I've sort of lost interest in Potlatch -- the small, literary science fiction convention founded to, amongst other things, support Clarion West. For that matter, even at times when I was more interested I only went to one of them in California. (Potlatch has traditionally alternated years between Seattle and the Bay Area, with two or three stops in Oregon as well. I went to the one in Eugene.) In recent years it has seemed that the convention was on its last legs, but so far someone has always stepped up at the last moment to keep it going. This year, for the 23rd in the series, it was Tom Becker and a band of hearty, hard-bitten Bay Area veterans. I wasn't going to go, but then Spike told me that the Fishlifters would be there. Well, shit. I couldn't pass up a chance to see the Fishlifters! So a week ago Thursday I flew to San Jose, and I'm so glad I did. In fact, this was as much fun as I've had at a Potlatch since I can't remember when.

Hither and not far from yon )
randy_byers: (cap)
2013-09-05 Cake and McKenna at the Elysian
Invaders from Perth

A mini-swarm of Aussies descended on Seattle in the past few days. On Thursday David Cake and Karen McKenna popped up for a day in the wake of their Burning Man trip. We went to the Elysian for dinner and drinks. I hadn't seen Karen since I met her in Glasgow after the Worldcon in 2005. It was wonderful to spend a few hours with them discussing Burning Man, the impending (and unfortunate) change in the Australian national government, life in Perth, various global travels, and where the hell Karen had been when I met Dave the first time at the pre-Worldcon pubmeet in London in 2005. (Answer: somewhere in the pub relishing a bowl of strawberries.) If all goes according to plan, I'll be seeing them again in London next summer. One of these days I've *got* to get to Perth, too.

On Saturday I went to Vanguard at [livejournal.com profile] kate_schaefer's house to meet DUFF delegate Bill Wright. I found him in the backyard talking to Vonda McIntyre, and I sat down and got acquainted. I had been following his progress via photos that friends posted on Facebook as he traveled around the country. Bill regaled us with recommendations of Australian fiction to read and exhorted us to read his fanzines as well. He explained the Norma K. Hemming Award for excellence in the exploration of themes of race, gender, sexuality, class and disability -- an award that he administers. Vonda talked about her visit to Australia, where she had taught at a workshop at Monash University in Melbourne in 1977. Bill talked about the anthology The Altered I that was published by Norstrilia Press in 1976 and which he says is now worth quite a bit of money.

Bill also asked me if I'd be willing to take him to the Space Need and the Science Fiction Museum on Sunday, so around 2pm I picked him up at John and Eileen's house, where he was staying. It was a beautiful, sunny day for viewing the city from the observation deck of the Space Needle. Bill also bought a bunch of souvenirs to take back to Australia as gifts. We had gotten passes to the Science Fiction Museum from Suzle, and the museum was actually slightly more elaborate than the last time I'd been there. It was more like a mini-version of the old museum, with displays that combined props from movies or TV shows and books or magazine stories that related thematically. Alas, still missing were the wonderful paintings they used to display in the early years. Bill was particularly fascinated by the Science Fiction Hall of Fame, and outed himself as a fellow fan of AE van Vogt. I guess I should send him a copy of Promethean Wakes.

After this expedition I delivered Bill to Harry's Bar, where we had the monthly fannish pubmeet. [livejournal.com profile] daveon was there briefly, but quickly escaped to a birthday dinner for his aging self when Bill tried to recruit him to run for DUFF. Otherwise we slowly assembled a small crew for a wide-ranging conversation (and mockery of the new Yahoo! logo) before John whisked Bill off to dinner at his house. If I recall the itinerary correctly, Bill heads to the Twin Cities today, then ends his trip in the Boston area. Happy trails, Bill!

With Bill Wright at Harry's
With Bill at Harry's (photo by [livejournal.com profile] daveon)

TAFF wrap

Aug. 19th, 2013 09:10 am
randy_byers: (shiffman)
Fan Fund Winners in 2013
Fan fund winners attending the TAFF party on Saturday: In the rear row are John D. Berry, Suzle, Victor Gonzalez, and myself. In the front are Ulrika O'Brien, Jerry Kaufman, Velma deSelby-Bowen, and Jim Mowatt. Local fan fund winners unable to attend: Wally Weber, Janice Murray, and Stu Shiffman.

Seattle did a pretty good job of keeping TAFF delegate Jim Mowatt hopping on his visit. On Thursday we had a pubmeet at the Burgundian in the Tangletown neighborhood. This was partly an exploratory expedition to see if the Burgundian would be a good place for our regular monthly pubmeet, and the answer turns out to be probably not. It's far too loud, although probably quieter on a Sunday. But on Thursday it was surprisingly busy, with one other large party other than our own, which I think topped out at thirteen people. Because of the noise you couldn't hear anybody except the person right next to you, so I mostly talked with Jerry and Ulrika, which was a perfectly fine way to spend my time. Jim got tips on his upcoming visit to New Orleans from Paul Carpentier, and before the pubmeet he told me tales of how he actually became a dodgy media fan after he got into general fandom, rather than the other way around.

On Friday Ulrika and Mary Kay Kare took Jim to a fair on Whidbey Island, where he got to see various prize farm animals. That evening I tried to take him to the Elysian, but we couldn't find any parking, not even in a paid lot. So we diverted to the Big Time (which was going to be the second stop anyway) and then to the Hilltop Ale House. It was great to get a further chance to talk to Jim solo, and amongst other things I learned that he has a son from a previous marriage, which I'd never heard about.

On Saturday Ulrika and Hal took Jim to various sights in Seattle and then handed him off to Jerry and Suzle, who took him out to Snoqualmie Falls in the foothills of the mountains. Even out there they couldn't see Mt Rainier, so Jim never did see it, alas. In the evening it was the party at our house, and I was happy to see quite a few people who hadn't met Jim yet. There was plenty of great beer brought by the assembled horde, and the usual yatter was amply provided as well. We did the traditional fan fund winner photo op, which is always fun. Jerry and Suzle wondered if they were the only TAFF-DUFF couple, and now I can't remember if we thought of any others. Around 2am it was down to five people, and I broke out the bottle of Black Tokyo Horizon -- a collaboration between BrewDog, Mikkeler, and Nogne -- that the Fishlifters gave to me a couple or so years back and that I'd been waiting for the proper moment to open. It was divine. Then it was time to catch a few hours sleep before I drove Jim to the airport at 6am.

It was great to spend time with Jim again a decade after I met him on my own TAFF trip in 2003. What goes around comes around, as they say. I learned quite a bit more about him this time around, and I promise not to repeat some of it. I do hope somebody will take him up on his desire to run the newszine at Eastercon sometime. The boy has some great ideas!

Happy trails, Jim. I look forward to reading your trip report.


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