On The Occasion of Your Anniversary

Commemorative covers with Iguanacon cancellations sold at the 1978 Worldcon.

By Steve Davidson: Where was I in 1978, the year that File 770 (the fanzine, not the room) was born?

I was in college in northern New Jersey.  Which made it very easy for me to continue my engagement with fandom, as I could hop onto the Erie-Lackawanna Railroad at College Station after a short walk from campus, could usually avoid paying the fare by figuring out which car the conductor was in and walking ahead of him down the length of the train (or get off and back on at a later station so as to circle back around behind the conductor. Hey, you go to college for a well-rounded education, right?), switch to the PATH in Hoboken and then switch to one of several different subway lines depending upon destination…usually either the somewhat Slan shack occupied by Mesrs. Farber, Shiffman, I think a guy named Patrick (for a while), and Suzle & Jerry and a host of other transients, or off to the HQ of Algol/Starship and a meeting of the Futurians or Lunarians or Fanoclasts or some other fannish name that escapes me right now, and engage in an afternoon and evening basking in the warm glow that was Fannish Society;  discussing the latest works, catching a movie premiere (and being interviewed by WBAI), eating Chinese food at the legendary Wo Hops(?), talking stenciling techniques, the latest fannish gossip, plans for new fanzines, helping move people in and out of temporary domiciles, planning trips to conventions.

I’d just come off a very heady two-year odyssey.  In early 1976 I’d learned that the 1977 Worldcon was being chaired and managed in my home town (from a classified ad in Amazing Stories) and had gone from playing the role of girl Friday at the chairman’s house to managing the 1977 Hugo Awards Banquet.  Along the way I’d worked on other conventions (mostly gophering, occasionally working registration and security), but this was different.  By the time Suncon rolled around, I’d become enough of an insider to be given an orange felt hat for the “Meet the Pros (and staff)” party (that was how you told the Pros (and staff) apart from the other attendees), had met and become friends with numerous professionals, was receiving encouragement and advice from some of the best fanzine writers and editors in the business and had already been asked to work on other Worldcons, notably Iguanacon the following year and the Seattle in ’81 bid (a fact I’d forgotten until re-reading the first issue of File 770 which you can read here – (http://fanac.org/fanzines/File770/File77001-02.html), as well as heading security for Balticon ’78.

My fanzine efforts were also bearing fruit. In early ’77 I’d applied to my university for what they called a “Leadership Grant” in order to continue publishing Contact: SF A Journal of Speculative Literature with Joseph Zitt, my fannish buddy, and we decided to use the funds to “go pro”. Or semi-professional actually. With the offer of pay came access and we were able to round up a good set of contributors Laurence Jannifer, Ginjer Buchanan, Robert Foster, some wonderful artwork and land interviews with leading authors in the field.

We were to present the issue at Iguanacon, with the intention of planting our feet firmly in the sercon pool of fanzines (“serious and constructive”).

Since we were basically living among fans (the last great generation of paper fanzine fans), our efforts did not go unnoticed.  It wasn’t usual for a “fanzine” to land serious grant money.  That alone was newsworthy.

This was a time of The Alien Critic (SF Review), Locus (seemingly the perpetual Best Fanzine winner), Algol, Fanthology ’76, Granfalloon, Drift

It was also the occasion of a new newszine out of California, something called File 770.

Of course, everyone at the time knew that Locus was the king of newszines and that it had two erstwhile contenders nipping at its heels – Andrew Porter’s Algol and Richard Geis’s SF Review.  At the time, it was considered that this was a crowded and sometimes contentious field (sometimes?) and, if I remember correctly, it was also considered near folly to try and break into those ranks.

But File 770 had, enough so that I heard about it from other local fans and someone made a strong suggestion that I ought to send information about Contact to File 770 during the run up to Iguanacon.  It was also suggested to me that I hook up with Mike Glyer at Iggy, the both of us somewhat representing a new wave in fanzine publishing.

Iggy arrived in Phoenix and so did I.  Contact: SF did not.  The entire run of the magazine (less a few copies thank goodness) had been lost by American Airlines.  But I did have copies of the cover.

I don’t remember who arranged the introductions, though vague memories suggest it might have been Jerry Kaufman and Suzle Tompkins (of Spanish Inquisition fame).  If I remember correctly though it has been 40 years, I was introduced to Mike Glyer and File 770 in the lobby of the main hotel, somewhere between the front desk and the restaurant.  I’m sure we both made noises about having heard of the other and appreciating each other’s efforts and then Mike offered me the latest copy of his zine in exchange for a copy of my zine (one of the expressions of “available for the usual”) and all I could show him was what the cover of mine looked like.

I’m sure we talked about a few other things, but since I was working security at the con, I soon had to dash off to take care of business – collecting a six-gun at the entrance to the hotel, protecting both Gahan Wilson and Harlan Ellison from rabid fan attention,  corralling fruit bats in the restaurant, caravaning to the local supermarkets to purchase every last package of Lime Jello and walking my feet bloody in the process.

But those are stories for another time.

Congratulations Mike!

Four Things That Belong Under A Trufan’s Tree

iguanacon stamps on ebay

Enevelopes postmarked at the 1978 Worldcon.

It’s not too late to spend gobs of money on that special fannish someone.

Today on eBay you can get a 3-piece set of items postmarked at the 1978 Worldcon bearing the Viking mission to Mars stamp for a mere $1,000.

Are they really worth all that? Perhaps it’s the fact that the cancellation reads “Iguanacon 1” whereas the name of the event was “IguanaCon II,” though I doubt it can be claimed the mistake makes them more valuable (like that upside-down airplane stamp) — there wouldn’t have been any cancellations with the correct name.

451 asbestos editionBesides, those collectible postmarks look like a bargain compared with the asking price for an autographed first edition of Fahrenheit 451 with the rare asbestos binding – yours for only $16,000.

More frugal fans can still delight their friends with other affordable goodies.

frankensteins-monster-root-1495qxi2753_1470_1Hallmark is offering a Frankenstein’s Monster Christmas Ornament for $14.95:

Remember the chills and thrills of the first time Frankenstein’s Monster came to life every time you hang it from your tree.

I’m sure I will…
Planet Robot COMPOr Restoration Hardware is advertising a more conventional gift, Planet Robot, for $29.95.

Nostalgic for the whiz-bang, wind-up charm of vintage tin toys, we found these spot-on reproductions, meant to call forth the child within every adult. Reminiscent of a 1950s sci-fi movie robot, this emissary from Planet Robot is at your command. Wind him up and he’ll walk gamely forward, with sparks flying behind his transparent face shield.

Walking gamely forward while sparks fly — say, don’t these sound like ready-made convention volunteers?

[Thanks to Michael J. Walsh and John King Tarpinian for the story.]

Klaus: Doctor Who and Iguanacon

By David Klaus: The novelization of Doctor Who: Day of the Daleks, given away at IguanaCon (1978 Worldcon) by the publisher as a promotion, was the first full-length story of The Doctor I ever knew of, as the program wasn’t available in St. Louis at the time.  I was so new to the Whoniverse that I had only seen a couple of clips with Tom Baker and that was it, not even knowing of Jon Pertwee yet.  When I read it, I saw Mr. Baker in my mind as I read, not the late Mr. Pertwee.

Harlan Ellison, as I recall, later described the IguanaCon presentation as having fans out for his blood and ready to riot because he was contemptuous from the podium of other s.f. heroes as empty shells or something similar, particularly Luke Skywalker (as this was the year after the first movie premiered and the convention at which it won the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation, back when it was just Star Wars, not Star Wars: A New Hope), in favor of “My hero, Doctor Who!”

I’m glad he liked the program and portrayal (and wonder what he thinks about the post-Baker Doctors or the revival since 2005), but it’s funny how I don’t remember that happening.  No riot precursors, no bloodthirsty attempted assaults.  But I wasn’t everywhere or saw everything, so what do I know, right?

Just an Innocent Question

David Klaus was inspired by the passage of Arizona’s new immigration law to ask, “Does this mean it’s time for another Phoenix worldcon bid? Innocently yours…”

Opponents of the new law are already at work organizing boycotts of Arizona businesses, beginning with Major League Baseball’s Arizona Diamondbacks. And these news stories are obviously reminding David — in all innocence — of the time a Phoenix Worldcon appeared in the crosshairs of an earlier Arizona boycott.

In 1978 Worldcon GoH Harlan Ellison refused to stay in the con hotel, parking a rented RV at the curb, and spent no money while in the state because Arizona legislators hadn’t voted to approve the Equal Rights Amendment.

Ellison’s historic gesture is remembered in Helen Merrick and Tess Williams Women of Other Worlds: Excursions Through Science Fiction and Feminism:

Debate about the issue surfaced in [the fanzine] Janus with the publication of ‘A Statement of Ethical Position by the Worldcon Guest of Honour’, Harlan Ellison (1977). Ellison was torn between his position as GoH (accepted before the NOW campaigns began) and support for the ERA, which he felt meant he should boycott the con. Boycotts were not new to fandom; Ellison, along with others such as Marion Zimmer Bradley had boycotted the Miami Worldcon to protest against the activities of Anita Bryant. After consulting with writers and fans such as Le Guin, Russ, McIntyre, Bradley and Susan Wood, Ellison decided to attend the con, but ‘in the spirit of making the convention a platform for heightening the awareness of fans’, and promised to coordinate with NOW and other pro-ERA elements to publicize the situation….

The only fan I ever heard say out loud that Harlan’s activities changed his mind about ERA was…me. Of course, the fans who already agreed with him didn’t need their minds changed, so it’s hard to say how many fish there were in that pond for him to catch.

Update 05/01/2010: Changed to “rented RV” based on the comments of fans whose memories I trust.