Some Thoughts on Who Was Really #1

By Rich Lynch: It was 80 years ago that an extraordinary event took place.

It happened on January 3, 1937, in the English city of Leeds.  It was there that a group of science fiction fans gathered for what has been described as the first-ever science fiction convention.

Walter Gillings, Arthur Clarke, and Ted Carnell
at the 1937 Leeds convention.

What records remain of the event indicate there were fourteen people in attendance, several of whom would go on to become luminaries of the science fiction literary genre: Ted Carnell, Walter Gillings, Eric Frank Russell, and Arthur C. Clarke.  It was a single-day conference, hosted by the Leeds branch of the newly-formed world-wide Science Fiction League of fan organizations.  The day featured speeches and testimonials on various topics related to science fiction and after that, group discussions on “ways and means of improving British science fiction” according to a one-off fanzine published soon afterwards which reported on the proceedings.  What resulted was the formation of the Science Fiction Association, a proto-British fan organization centered around the “four Hells” fan clubs in Leeds, Liverpool, London, and Leicester.  It only lasted about two years, due to the onset of the Second World War, but it did set the stage for a permanent organization, the British Science Fiction Association, which eventually came into existence in the 1950s.

That 1937 convention was truly a seminal event, and it helped pave the way toward the promulgation of science fiction fandom throughout the United Kingdom.  But was it really the first science fiction convention?

Maybe not.

Donald Wollheim, Milton Rothman, Fred Pohl, John Michel, and Will Sykora at the
1936 Philadelphia convention.

On October, 22, 1936, about half a dozen fans from New York City traveled by train to Philadelphia, where they convened for several hours at the home of one of the fans there.  In all, there were a similar number of fans brought together as for the Leeds convention.  What made it a convention, in the minds of its attendees, was that a business meeting was held with the host, Milton Rothman, being elected Chairman.  Fred Pohl, who had been designated the Secretary, took the minutes and then subsequently lost them.  But Pohl later stated that no recordable business had been brought up because the event had only been informal in nature, with fans talking to fans about things like which books they had recently read, which authors they liked, and what they hoped these authors would write next.  The most significant outcome was that everyone had such a good time that a follow-up event was held in New York in February 1937 with about 40 fans attending.  This created the momentum for an even bigger event, a bit more than two years later which was held in New York on July 4, 1939 – the first World Science Fiction Convention.

Those first two fan gatherings have been a source of continuing controversy ever since then.  Which one was really #1?  The Leeds convention was the better planned of the two, with groundwork laid for the event several months earlier – the Philadelphia convention was, according to accounts from several fans attended it, mostly spur-of-the-moment with little advance preparation.  There has been speculation that the only reason that the Philadelphia event occurred at all was because of one-upsmanship.  The idea for that gathering was originally put forth by New York fan Don Wollheim, who back then had gained the reputation for being quarrelsome, antagonistic, and more than a bit provocative.  It’s very possible, even likely, that he knew of the upcoming Leeds event, which had been talked up not only throughout Britain but also in some U.S. prozines.  So, supposing the underlying reason for the Philadelphia meet-up was really only to sabotage any Leeds stake to being the first science fiction convention, should that disqualify Philadelphia’s claim for that distinction?

No, that’s insufficient.  There have been other conventions that have been organized on little more than a moment’s notice and in any event, overall intent is irrelevant – you can hold a convention for any purpose you want.  A much better reason for possibly honoring Leeds as #1 is that the Philadelphia event was an invitational gathering not open to the general public, with only the New York and Philadelphia fan clubs involved.  But this, too, does not hold very much water as there have subsequently been other, in effect, invitation-only conventions, including the very first DeepSouthCon.  And one other criticism of the Philadelphia event’s claim for being #1 is that there was “no recordable business”, very little reportage after the fact, and indeed, not even a program.  But this is the weakest argument of all, and one only has to point toward the annual Midwestcon conventions, which also have none of these, as a refutation.

And so the controversy has lingered for all this time.  The 1936 Philadelphia event was first chronologically, but was it a convention or just a meeting?  In the end there probably will never be a consensus – after eight decades this is still perhaps the most polarizing topic in all of science fiction fandom, at least from a historical perspective, and people will believe what they want to believe.  But there have at least been attempts at finding some middle ground.  Noted fan historian Mark Olson, in Fancyclopedia 3, has suggested that: “Perhaps it would be fairest to say that the first thing that could be called a convention was held in Philadelphia in 1936, while the first thing that must be called a convention was held in Leeds in 1937.”  And he’s right.

But as for me, I think we are asking the wrong question.  What we instead should be inquiring is: “Who first came up with the idea for staging a science fiction convention?”  That’s really the more important aspect, and the Leeds group was first.  There’s serendipity that they held their event at the Leeds Theosophical Society – the word ‘theosophy’ parses to ‘divine wisdom’, which is an apt description of the concept for the science fiction convention.  And of that, at least, we can be absolutely certain!

Jon Del Arroz Off BayCon 2017 Program, Claims Decision Is Politically Motivated

Jon Del Arroz

San Francisco-area writer Jon Del Arroz has spent the past few Memorial Day Weekends speaking at BayCon, but he wasn’t asked back in 2017. He says it’s because he’s a Trump supporter. Del Arroz’ version has been discussed or reblogged today by Vox Day, Nick Cole, Declan Finn, Superversive, Brian Niemeier, and Marina Fontaine, who characterize him as a martyr of science fiction’s culture wars.

The BayCon committee, however, says he had just been rotated off programming for this year. They had already pre-invited him to return in 2018.

Del Arroz, in “Bringing Home The Baycon (Or What I Learned From Being Blackballed)”, accused BayCon of trying to destroy his career, of bigotry — and of simple bad manners.

A couple of weeks ago,  I found out that I had been blackballed from speaking at my own home convention, a place I’ve loved and cherished for almost a decade. This was a wanton act of discrimination, and perhaps more importantly, a show of utter disinterest in promoting prominent local science fiction authors. With a supposed emphasis on diversity, this act done to a Hispanic author casts an even darker shadow. It’s about as disturbing as it gets to see folk that you considered friends for years treat you with that level of disregard, while in the same stripe ignoring attendees who deliver me death threats.

Most shockingly, the event organizers (of whom I know very well and very personally) in question did not respond personally, but delivered a form letter to explain the ostracization. It’s disingenuous and displays a dismissal and dehumanization of which I could hardly conceive….

The reason I was disinvited was because it is well known that I support the President of the United States, duly elected and all, and that I’m happy about the way the country is being run. You know, like most normal people are. That’s the only thing that’s changed between then and now. It’s the same dangerous rhetoric out there that many of these folk who run the convention post on such a consistent basis that has turned Facebook from a “fun catching up with friends” website to a hellhole of fear, anger and hate (which as Master Yoda taught us, leads to suffering!). It’s impossible to communicate anymore, and as such, there is a small but vocal power structure of people in the convention scene and publishing that can’t tolerate the concept of seeing my pretty face. I am a minority that’s been discriminated against, not because of my race, but because of my ideas. In Science Fiction, ideas are everything, and it’s frightening to think about those being shut down as a consequence. These people want my career to fail, and they believe they can accomplish that by silencing me and giving me the cold shoulder.

BayCon chair Chris Castro answers that politics never entered into the decision, it was the result of an overall change in policy designed to freshen the program, Castro wrote on Facebook:

This was shared before, but I want to make sure everyone has had a chance to read how our process for implementing programming this year has changed.

http://baycon.org/bcwp/programming-2/

There never has, nor ever will be any decisions made to invite or not invite guests based on their political beliefs or personal philosophies. Every decision we make in regards to who participates in our con as a guest always takes into consideration our theme and focus for the year. Each decision is made professionally, communicated professionally, and always comes down to a group decision by executive and programming staff.

BayCon always seeks to make each convention weekend a fun, engaging and safe place for fans to connect with each other, geek out, and enjoy themselves without harassment. Our decisions are always made with this goal in mind.

The linked text includes this explanation —

“But I’m always on the program!” Going forward there is no such thing as a guest who is guaranteed to be on the program every year. The overwhelming feedback we’ve gotten has been that our attendees have their favorites, but they want new voices and new ideas mixed in with the classic program items and long-time guests. In order to make room for those new voices we will be asking some of our long-standing guests to step back and take a year off now and then. Not receiving an invitation one year does not mean you are off the list, just that this year was a better fit for other participants. At the discretion of the board, the chair and the programming staff, some guests who have been accustomed to an annual invite will be finding themselves with a year off. We encourage those people to come to BayCon as attendees both to enjoy the convention and to support their fellow panelists until they are asked back themselves. “Not this year” is absolutely not code for, “never again!”

Susie Rodriguez, of BayCon’s programming staff, answered File 770’s question about Jon Del Arroz specifically.

Jon has absolutely been a valued member of our program and our community in the past. This year he was not issued an invitation. When he contacted me to ask if he’d been accidentally overlooked, I sent him the following:

“Dear Jon,

Thank you for your interest in BayCon 2017. We have made some changes to the programming which are discussed in detail here: http://baycon.org/bcwp/programming-2/

At this time we are not issuing you an invitation for this year’s convention. You are definitely on our guest list for 2018 and we hope very much to see you there.

Sincerely,

BayCon Programming”

It is not a form letter. It is a personalized letter that was created for him and only him. As you can see, it even included a pre-invitation to participate next year, a thing that is not part of our standard rejection letter.

We are sorry he feels the need to conduct himself in this manner and that he has decided that being off the program for a single year constitutes a blackball. We are choosing to respect his decision not to participate in BayCon in the future and letting it go at that. Other guests have been rotated out in the past and while there are sometimes hurt feelings, this reaction has been unique.

I will reiterate Chris’s words above. Political beliefs and personal philosophies are not a litmus for choosing guests. Who a guest voted for is simply not an issue.

There’s only so many places to use people on convention panels. BayCon’s effort to make room on program for new voices by cycling off some of the regulars addresses a similar problem our local LosCon has also faced. I am reminded that when a friend of mine was left off LosCon program after decades of participation he took it very personally and made the rounds complaining to everyone he knew, exerting all the emotional pressure he could to regain something he felt entitled to have. (It worked, in his case.)

But no, this can’t just be a case of hurt feelings. It must be the tragic fate befalling someone who is a lonely dot of red in California’s sea of blue.

What’s Five Thousand Miles?

By John Hertz: My antennae tingled. It turned out Inoue Hiroaki was in town. He was Guest of Honor at Animé L.A. XIII, 27-29 Jan 17 at the Ontario Convention Center. Over 9,000 attended.

Chaz Baden started ALA, chaired it for years, and is now Chair Emeritus. With help from him and a host of others, a few hours’ driving time, and a few dollars at Registration, I arranged to meet Inoue-san on Sunday afternoon at 3.

To animé folk he’s the producer of Tenchi Muyou! (which I suppose we may call a franchise, an ongoing stream of animé, novels, manga, video games, soundtrack records – isn’t a Compact Disc a record? – radio, role-playing-game books, and whatnot).

Tenchi Muyo! means “Right side up with care” or “No need for Tenchi” – if you think you’re a punster, you ain’t seen nothin’ – and has been running over 25 years.

Also he teaches animé in Japanese university courses. He addressed the Massachusetts Institute of Technology fifteen years ago. I might say something about a list of achievements as long as your arm, but we’re talking about animé, who knows how long that might be?

To me he’d been the chair of Nippon 2007, the 65th World Science Fiction Convention, the first in Asia, the first in Japan. Fame, like obviousness, is relative – obviously.

I’d had a fair lot to do with that bid and that con, and was sent there (and brought back) by a one-time traveling-fan fund HANA (Hertz Across to Nippon Alliance; hana in Japanese is “flower” or “blossom”, a word much used in poetry) started by Murray Moore; you can see my report here (first half) and here (second half).

In earlier days of ALA I had myself been a feature on Sunday afternoons. But that’s another story.

“Where,” I’d asked Chaz, “is this meeting?” He said “I’ll work on that.” When I arrived, a Chaz-gram awaited me. A staffer said “You’re John Hertz! This is for you” and another said “I’ll take you there.”

Inoue-san and I rejoiced. I bowed, so he shook my hand.

The Nippon 2007 bid had formally begun in 2000. But you could say it began in 1957 – or 1927, the year Shibano Takumi was born.

I told Inoue-san on Sunday, “Nippon 2007 was only possible because of three giants: Shibano-sensei [“teacher”], Peggy Rae Sapienza, and you.” None was available for the Shizuoka bid. For 2017 my Helsinki friends beat my District of Columbia, Montréal, and Shizuoka friends. But another Japanese Worldcon may come.

Mason Beninger interpreted for us. We may have overloaded him. This had happened before.

At the 8th NASFiC (North America Science Fiction Convention, held when the Worldcon is overseas) Inoue-san, who was Animé GoH, joined Marie Cooley and me judging the Masquerade. He was very perceptive, but only because of the extraordinary interpreter Karahashi Takayuki could we manage any speed.

I’ll spare you other stories, like the time an interpreter from the Yokohama Tourist Bureau – oops.

Inoue-san asked how Peggy Rae’s widower John was doing. I said “Well; but his heart hurts.” Of course that’s true for all of us.

All around were animé folk, many in costume; signs, dealers’ tables; lines and clumps. It was the Exhibit Hall.

We marveled at this flourishing of one part of the Imagi-Nation while, in the United States anyway, there wasn’t much cross-fertilizing. I’d been one of the Masquerade judges who gave Best in Show to an entry based on Trinity Blood at the 64th Worldcon. But mostly They don’t come to our village and we don’t go to theirs.

Diversity takes a lot of work.

Still,

What’s five thousand miles
And two languages between
Fans who seek the stars?

Eastercon 2017 Rates Rise

Innominate, Eastercon 2017, will take place April 14-17 in Birmingham, UK. Pat Cadigan, Judith Clute, and Colin Harris are the Guests of Honour,

Innominate has just introduced its final advance membership rates of £80 Adult, £55 Y.A. & Concession, £20 Child,  and £1 Infant.

At the same time advance adult day rates were also made available at £20 Friday, £30 Saturday & Sunday, and £10 Monday.

In addition, the convention’s membership page has the at-the-door rates, including day rates for non-adult categories. [Thanks to Steve Cooper for the story.]

Patten Chronicles Furry Fandom Conventions Worldwide

Furry Fandom Con coverFred Patten’s fanhistory Furry Fandom Conventions, 1989-2015 is now on sale from McFarland & Company, Publishers.

Patten says, “This is the first study of furry fandom published by a publisher outside of the furry specialty press itself. It indicates that furry fandom is becoming an accepted subject for academic study.”

Furry fandom—an adult social group interested in anthropomorphic animals in art, literature and culture—has grown since the 1980s to include an estimated 50,000 “furries.” Their largest annual convention drew more than 6,000 attendees in 2015, including 1,000 dressed in “fur suits” or mascot-type animal costumes. Conventions typically include awards, organizations, art, literature and movies, encompassing a wide range of creative pursuits beyond animal costuming.

This study of the furry subculture presents a history of the oft-misunderstood group and lists all conventions around the world from 1989 through 2015, including organizers, guests of honor and donations to charity.

Furry Fandom Conventions, 1989-2015 is 242 pages, illustrated with more than 50 furry convention posters, program book covers, website banners, T-shirts, and other artwork; including 8 pages in full color.

“Marvelous Nerd Year’s Eve” Joins Ranks of Failed Media Conventions

marvelous-nerd-years-eve-banner

Perhaps the accursed year 2016’s last victim, Marvelous Nerd Years Eve in Dallas is the latest media con to underperform and leave behind a cloud of shortchanged celebrities.

Marquis guest Stan Lee, who received half of his $200,000 appearance fee in advance, is still owed $50,000 reports Heidi McDonald at ComicMix.

The con advertised 40 other celebrities would be on hand, including Ming Na Wen, Michael Rooker, Kevin Sorbo, Jasen Mewes, and Nichelle Nichols.

Matthew Egan, a con volunteer, wrote in a public Facebook post that “many celebrities were not paid, many agents were not paid, all employees at the show have been laid off.” He also claimed to have overheard attendance estimated at 4,000, half of what was needed to make the con a success.

As a result, the con did not meet its room guarantee. According to McDonald, “When not enough rooms were booked, the amount owed skyrocketed as rooms were then billed at a higher rate. When the guarantee wasn’t met the hotel threatened to kick people out of their rooms on Sunday unless organizers paid the difference.”

Things were settled with the hotel, but many others are still looking to get paid. Among them is David Gerrold, who detailed his experience in a Facebook post that he encouraged people to share.

I was an invited guest at the “Marvelous Nerd Year’s Eve” Comic-Con held in Dallas over New Year’s weekend.

Apparently, it was a disaster of biblical proportions. Not just dogs and cats living together, but suing each other for palimony and custody of the kittens.

The convention organizers over-promised, under-budgeted, over-extended, under-performed, and committed what I consider acts of “criminal incompetence.”

Why do I use the adjective “criminal?”

Because people were hurt. Not just by the incompetence, but by the deliberate incompetence.

Many of the guests — not necessarily the A-listers — depend on the sales of autographs and photographs as part of their income between gigs. They are not all millionaires. Many actors and celebrities, especially those from TV shows of yore, have some income from royalties and residuals, but often depend on convention appearances to give them a little bit of a cushion — or even cover the mortgage.

So when a convention signs a contract, makes a commitment — such as, “We guarantee that you will make $5000 in autograph and photo sales, or we will make up the difference” and then fails to provide enough attendees to make those sales and then fails to cover the guarantee as well — that’s criminal incompetence.

Even worse, the company formed to put on the convention is dissolving itself, so there will be no one to sue.

Most of the other guests had their air fare covered and meals covered by a per diem. So at least their basic travel expenses were covered.

I drove.

After four days of promises, I had nothing but four days of promises. My travel expenses were never covered.

Based on their promises, I had expected $2500 and travel expenses as the bare minimum, and I budgeted for that.

Instead, I’m out my travel expenses. Nearly $800.

Did I sell enough books and tribbles and scripts to make it worthwhile? No.

Because first, they didn’t have a dealer’s table for me, and the woman who was supposed to arrange it was more interested in talking about how busy she was than in actually making arrangements for the table. Not a bad person, but not really focused on the job.

When I finally did get a sales table, it wasn’t in the dealer’s room, it was in a second room that was carefully hidden from most of the convention membership. I did not sell enough to cover my expenses.

I am particularly angry at the CFO of the convention who lied to my face, three times — that he had a check for me for my travel expenses (I’d already turned in my receipts) — when he already knew damn well that the convention was so far in the hole that the hotel was about to lock all of the guests out of their rooms because the convention couldn’t cover the lodging bills.

Any other convention, I would have made enough to justify the effort. Instead, I have a hole in my budget that is going to create a problem for the next month or two. I had planned to spend the money on paying for the kids’ wedding pictures. Now I have to generate that cash somewhere else. (January book sale starts momentarily.)

So yes, “criminal incompetence.” People were hurt. Not just me — but every celebrity guest (over 40 of them) and every vendor (at least as many) who invested his or her weekend on the promises of this criminally incompetent group of people.

I’ve had nearly a half century of convention experience. Most of the cons I’ve attended, whether professional or fan run, have been managed well enough that fans and guests were taken care of. I have never been caught up in a disaster as big as this one. (Which is why I didn’t recognize my personal alarm bells when they went off.)

I would hope that the individuals responsible for this particular train wreck have enough class and courage to issue a public apology — but more than that, I hope they get out of the convention business, because, based on the evidence, they are a danger to the well-being of everyone who trusts them.

The event was produced by Geek Expos, and Bleeding Cool’s article about the debacle says the company is going under:

Added to a poor performance in their recent Oklahoma show, and the word was that Geek Expos is in the process of being dissolved, with firings across the company including the CEO, and future announced shows, in Dallas and Tulsa, being cancelled.

Edge-Lit 6 Will Host 2017 David Gemmell Awards

The 2017 David Gemmell Awards ceremony will take place as part of Edge-Lit 6 in Derby (UK) on July 15.

Edge-Lit 6 will be held at QUAD, Derby’s independent cinema and art space.

With a growing reputation for quality and an audience of 200+ each year, the event offers an array of panels, workshops and book launches as well as popular yearly features such as the live Edge-Lit raffle.

Alex Davis, Literature Officer for QUAD, said: ‘Over the last decade the Gemmell Awards have become a high point in the genre calendar, and have been presented at some of the biggest conventions and fantasy events in the UK. I’m delighted to be working with them to bring the ceremony to Edge-Lit, which makes the 2017 running even more exciting!’

Stan Nicholls, Chair of the David Gemmell Awards For Fantasy, said: ‘Edge-Lit has established itself as one of the highlight events of the genre year, and the Gemmell Awards are thrilled to be part of 2017’s line-up. Devoted as they both are to championing the best of speculative fiction, the Gemmells and Edge-Lit are a perfect match. Roll on next July!’

Tickets for Edge-Lit 6 on sale at http://www.derbyquad.co.uk/film/edge-lit-6.aspx and cost £30, including access to all sessions on the day and an event goodie bag.

Corflu 34 Rates Rise January 1

Corflu, the convention for fanzine fans, will be held at the Warner Center Marriott in Woodland Hills (a Los Angeles neighborhood in the San Fernando Valley), California, on April 28-30, 2017.

The rate for Attending Membership in Corflu 34 goes up on January 1. The news release doesn’t say what it will rise to, you’re supposed to take the hint and join today so you never need to hear that stunning number.

The current rate for an Attending membership is $95(US) and £65(UK).

The new rate for an Attending membership will be $115(US) and £90(UK). Supporting memberships will remain the same, $25(US)and £15(UK).

The Conversion rate before January 1 for those currently holding Supporting memberships is $70(US) and £50(UK). The Conversion rate will be higher after January 1.

The Room Rate is $135.00 plus tax and Parking is $15 (with in and out privileges). For Hotel Reservations go to: http://uhb.pt.sl.pt (Institute for Specialized Literature: Corflu 34).

Further information can be found at the Corflu website. Progress Report Zero and Progress Report One can be found there.

Membership checks should be made payable to ISL in North America and Rob Jackson in Britain.

U.S. Postal address for memberships: Corflu 34, Elayne Pelz, 15931 Kalisher Street, Granada Hills, CA 91244 USA. Membership inquiries: elaynepelz AT Verizon DOT com (please format appropriately).

UK Agent Postal address for memberships: Rob Jackson, Chinthay, Nightingale Lane, Hambrook, Chichester, West Sussex PO18 8UH, UK.

PayPal may also be used for memberships; please select the “Friends or Family” option to ensure that the full amount transfers to Corflu. North America PayPal: ISL@maileater.net. UK PayPal: jacksonhambrook@uwclub.net (Please add “for Corflu 34”)

[Thanks to Marty Cantor for the story.]

2017 LA Vintage Paperback Show

The next Los Angeles Vintage Paperback Collectors Show will be March 19, 2017 at the Glendale Civic Auditorium. Over 50 authors and artists are already lined up to attend and do signings. Admission is only $5!

2017-vintage-paperback-show

Guest List

Karen Anderson
Peter Atkins
Ann Bannon
Steven Barnes
Greg Benford
Paul Bishop
James Blaylock
Jason V Brock
Mary Burgess
Tracy L. Carbone
Kim Cooper
John DeChancie
L. J. Dopp
Kelly Dunn
Joel Eisenberg
Dennis Etchison
Christa Faust
Laura Freas
Ray Garton
Gary Gianni
Mel Gilden
Tony Gleeson
Donald Glut
Cody Goodfellow
Scott Tracy Griffin
Barbara Hambly
Denise Hamilton
Odie Hawkins
Gar Anthony Haywood
Stephen Jared
Bruce Kimmel
Tim Kirk
Michael Kurland
Barry Lancet
Terrill Lee Lankford
Joe R. Lansdale
Richard Lupoff
Michael Mallory
R. C. Matheson
Daniel Keys Moran
Lisa Morton
Larry Niven
William F. Nolan
Charles Neutzel
Gary Phillips
Felice Picano
Richard & Wendy Pini
David Pollock
Jerry Pournelle
Tim Powers
David J. Schow
Art Scott
John Shirley
John Skipp
Harry Turtledove
Stephen Woodworth