Arisia Succeeds in Raising Funds to Pay Hotel Cancellation Penalty Settlement

Arisia, Inc. announced during their 2020 convention last weekend that they  hit the $40K fundraising target to pay the hotel cancellation penalty settlement. The penalties were incurred when Arisia 2019 was moved from two strike-affected hotels they were planning to use.

Under the terms of the settlement agreements, the hotels waived a total of approximately $150,000 in cancellation fees and anticipated attrition charges, provided that Arisia makes a residual $44,486.23 payment by March 15, 2020.

The goal was met with the help of $20,000 in matching funds from anonymous sources.

Fundraising continues —

Thanks to many donations, we have met the need for $40,000 to take care of Arisia’s recent settlement of our Westin and Aloft cancellation fees. We are continuing to raise money to cover previously incurred legal expenses and settlements and to return Arisia to a financially stable position.

[Thanks to Daniel Dern for the story.]

Arisia 2020 Con Report: As Always, Festive And Fun

By Daniel Dern: Arisia 2020 was back again at the Westin Boston Waterfront Hotel from Friday, January 17 through Monday, January 20 — and, in the day-and-change I was there, it looked like, as always, lots of people were having lots of fun. (Including me.)

The first Arisia had just over 800 attendees; Arisia 2017 had over 4,500 registered attendees! According to the con’s Monday morning January 20 Clear Ethernet newsletter, Arisia 2020 is reporting 3,052 registered attendees.

That’s a lot of people — but, when and where I was at the con, not so many as to create mosh-pit crowding or room over-filling (unlike at the Dublin 2019 Worldcon, for example).

Looking ahead, as of the Monday report, eighty-eight people have already pre-registered for Arisia 2021.

Guests of Honor (GoH) for Arisia 2020 were: Author GoH Cadwell Turnbull, Artist GoH Kristina Carroll, and Fan GoH Arthur Chu.

Before I actually talk about this year’s con — since I wasn’t there for much of it, and was busy doing or at sessions for at least one-third of the time I was there — here’s some general Arisia/con info, for any fan/con newcomers in the audience. Feel free to read or just skip over the next two subsections.

HOTEL BACK-STORY — SETTLEMENT COST FUNDRAISER A SUCCESS!  “Back again at the Westin,” because, as some may recall, at the near-last-minute, Arisia 2019 switched to the Boston Park Plaza (where it had been thirteen times previously). (Here’s backstory if you’re interested.

Good news! The fundraiser to cover settlement costs from this has reached its $40,000 goal as of Arisia 2020’s final afternoon, well in advance of the March 1 deadline to do so.

According to a tweet from the con, “We have raised $40.3k as of now. We are still taking donations and will be posting about stretch goals soon.”

WHAT’S ARISIA? (FOR THOSE WHO DON’T KNOW OR HAVE LOST TRACK).  The greater Boston Area is home to three major annual science fiction & fantasy conventions: Arisia, in January; Boskone, in March; and ReaderCon, in July.

First held in 1990, Arisia is, in the con’s own words, “New England’s Largest, Most Diverse Sci-Fi & Fantasy Convention… Arisia is a convention for fans of science fiction and fantasy, in all forms of media.”

FIRST ARISIA/FIRST CON? READ UP AND LEARN. Many Arisians have been attending since the con’s founding — but equally, there’s many for whom this is their first Arisia or even first sf con. (“My First Arisia” badge ribbons were available. (Probably also “My First Con” ones, but I didn’t notice any.) These can be helpful conversation starters.

If it’s your first Arisia — particularly if you haven’t attended any science fiction conventions before — do your homework/research — ideally, before you register and make any trip reservations. This can help you maximize your fun, perhaps save some money, and be aware of Code of Conduct do’s and don’ts.

  • Read the basic con description. Does it sound like something you’d enjoy? (And/or find relevant professionally/business-wise?)
  • Read the First Time Arisia Attendees Guide.
  • Read the Code of Conduct (CoC) . This covers how you can and shouldn’t interact with fellow attendees — and they with you. Among other reasons, registering for the con includes ticking the box that says you have read and agreed to the CoC.
  • Read or at least skim the Arisia Survival Guide and Packing List — this is a longish document, and not all will be relevant to you, but it can’t hurt to learn/be reminded rather than learn the hard way.Also, keep in mind that Boston in mid-January may be sunny and only mildly chilly — or it may be freezing cold, with rain or snow — and access to the “T” (MBTA, Boston’s public transit) is an unshielded block-ish walk over a highway. Bring suitably warm/waterproof outer garments and footwear.

ARISIA: A CON WITH LOTS OF CHOICES OF STUFF TO DO. This is true of most cons (possibly all, but I haven’t been to all cons).

Things to do at Arisia range from program tracks like interviews, panels, and readings, to gaming — board, card, LARP (live-action roleplaying) and video;, craft and costuming workshops, filking, concerts and dances, and anime and videos.

This includes lots of fun stuff for kids of all ages.

Sunday evening, there’s the Masquerade, where you can see a wide range of costume and performance skills. (If you like looking at costumes and cosplay, even if you can’t make it to the Masquerade, you’ll see lots of amazing costumes simply strolling around the con — particularly in the hotel lobby.)

The Arisia Dealers Room always offers a mix of books, art, garb, gear, games, and accessories, along with teas, spices, chocolates and other sundries.

Arisia has an Art Show — with nearly a hundred artists this year. And while many of the displayed items are expensive or not-for-sale, there are always lots of originals and prints available in the $15-$30 range, which make great souvenirs and gifts!

You can also join the volunteer team — volunteer — it’s also a great way to meet people and make new friends). According to the con, “Arisia is a volunteer-run convention, from the bottom all the way up to the top. With a staff of over 200 people working pre-con and an at-con volunteer corps of over 500.”

You can donate blood, through the Blood Drive run by the Heinlein Society. This year’s resulted in at least 73 blood units donated to Mass General Hospital, and 37 to Children’s Hospital.

And you can simply hang out, to schmooze. Some fans go to little or no programming, instead chatting with old friends (or meeting new ones).

Like many — but not all — cons, Arisia includes focused areas and tracks for 19-and-unders, including a teen-run Teen Lounge space for ages 13-19, plus childcare tracks for various age groups.

If any of these apply to or include you, or pre-adults you are responsible for, be sure to read Arisia’s Family Friendly Guide.

DERN@ARISIA (FINALLY!)  Since I was only planning to be at Arisia on Saturday — and had sessions to do at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m., with one panel I wanted to go to in between — I went in Friday afternoon to pick up my badge and my Press ribbon, including reading and signing the Photographers Contract. (There’s a separate contract for commercial photographers, but that doesn’t apply to what I’m doing.) The Participant Packets (schedule, “Program Participant” ribbon, “name tent,” helpful info, etc.) weren’t ready yet, but confirming the location of Program Ops for pickup is the important piece of this process.

It turns out my Friday badge run was a good idea; on Saturday, between getting a late-ish start from home, and sundry T hiccups, I got to the con an hour later than I’d planned… although still with enough time to zoom through the Dealers Room and the Art Show. And have brief chats with friends.

And I began taking pictures, using a mix of my phone and DSLR camera:

Daniel Dern

A Few Free Books: There was (only) a short pile on the table just outside the Dealers Room (on Friday, before the room opened), but I found one to adopt: The Warrior’s Apprentice, Lois McMaster Bujold’s third book in her Vorkosigan Saga. While I’ve read some MILSF over the years (here’s a rec for Marko Kloos’ latest, Aftershocks), and was very aware of Bujold and the Miles V books (hard to miss if you’re looking at the NESFA table at Boskone, for example), I had for no clear or good reason avoided them. Convenience and price — it was there.

Having finished the book before the weekend was out (it’s short, and I had three T trips of reading time, but there was a con to be busy at), I’ve library-reserved books one, two, and four, for a start. (I’ll interleave them with Adam Halls’ very non-sf Quiller Cold War spy novels.) Question for fellow Filers: do books that are on our To-Be-Read list, but, whether as library transients or as e-books (or both), count in Mount To-Be-Read? Either way, is there a categorical way to refer to these? Discuss.

My “Program Participant” ribbon was for doing two sessions in FastTrack: my magic show (with a mixed bag of age-appropriate tricks, props and jokes), and reading some of my Dern Grim Bedtime Tales (Few Of Which End Well), which are flash-length. We all had fun, and I got to use some new magic paraphernalia, including a different type of Chameleon bag, and “jumbo” versions of the Rising Card deck and Zig-Zag Card. I always have fun.

As you can probably guess from the photos that Mike posted, two of my favorite to-do’s at Arisia are strolling the Dealers Room — I bought a dinosaur tie — I’ve already got one, but this has slightly larger-sized dinos — and admiring hall costumes — and taking pictures of both. It’s also a chance to bring along my larger cameras and accessories (flash, and bounce card)… and to practice and improve my skills.

I only had time to get to one program event; unsurprisingly, I went to “Photographing Respectively,” a panel of five photo pro’s discussing the various concerns, challenges, and advice for photographing people out-of-studio — at events and in public. Instructive!

If it hadn’t been on Sunday, I would have gone to the “Fighting with Swords!” workshop given by Cambridge Historical European Martial Arts Studies Group. (I did the broadswords one a few years back, either at an Arisia or Boskone.)

And that was my Arisia 2020 — shorter than I’d preferred, but I did everything I needed to (filing this report to OGH is my final deliverable), so now, I’m looking forward to Boskone, where I’m doing a reading, a panel, a DragonsLair magic show, and a LEARN MAGIC intro talk (which I first did at SmofCon, when they created it as a program item, as I learned on arrival). And no doubt taking more pictures.

More Photos of Arisia 2020

Photos by Daniel Dern:

Costumes: Three with Shield

(L) Skyevean. (M)? (R) Zornhau

Costumes: At Ease

(L) Capt. Hentchel, (R) Captain Ironborn

Costumes: Sad Flower Hatters

Jana Beagley, Twistpeach, Nightmare Vermont

Costumes: Hats with Horns

More Costumes

Dealers

Service Dog — Neelix

Fan Tables

Daniel Dern — Your Photographer

Arisia 2020: Friday

Photos by Daniel Dern: Taken at Arisia 2020 in Boston, MA on January 17.

Arisia Setup

Convention Publications

Clear Aether Newzine Logos and Drop-boxes

Hall Costumes

Villianamous, Fairieprincen
Villianamous, Glassarow Cosplay, Fairieprincen

C.A.P.E. – Cosplay and Photography Expo

Dragon and Rider

Kylie Selkirk

Pooch

Klingon Assault Group fan table

Arisia Launches Fundraising Campaign to Pay Hotel Cancellation Penalty Settlement

Arisia Inc. today signed agreements with the Westin Boston Waterfront and Aloft Boston Seaport District hotels to settle the charges from the cancellation of their hotel contracts for Arisia 2019, held this past January 18-21.

The announcement distributed by Arisia President (Nicholas “phi” Shectman says:

“Under the terms of these agreements, the hotels have waived a total of approximately $150,000 in cancellation fees and anticipated attrition charges, provided that Arisia makes a residual $44,486.23 payment by March 15, 2020. Arisia and the Westin Boston Waterfront also signed contracts for the 2022 and 2023 events. The terms of these contracts are broadly similar to the terms in place for the 2020 and 2021 contracts (and don’t contain attrition clauses) and we are confident that it will be possible to run great events under these contracts.

“This settlement does not get us out of the woods. We have already paid tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees and we don’t have the cash on hand to cover the $44,000 payment. We have launched a fundraising campaign at https://corp.arisia.org/Donations to cover this amount.  A small group of anonymous donors will be matching donations to this campaign.  We are hopeful that with your help we will be able to hold great conventions and continue our charitable purpose. Thank you particularly to everyone who has offered their support already.

“We still have other issues to address, at least as serious as this one. We have much more work to do on our incident response process, our volunteer experience, and generally on fostering the affirmative culture we would like to see at Arisia. We thank you for your support here as well.

“Arisia is looking forward to returning to the Westin and Aloft this coming January and for years to come, and we hope you will join us.”

Arisia 2020, their 31st convention, will be held January 17-20, 2020 at the Westin Boston Waterfront Hotel, with the Aloft Boston Seaport District providing overflow guest rooms.

My Life at Loscon – Part 1

By John Hertz: (mostly reprinted from No Direction Home 41)  Loscon is my local SF convention, sponsored by the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society; Loscon XLVI was 29 Nov – 1 Dec 2019 at the L.A. Int’l Airport Marriott Hotel; Author Guest of Honor Howard Waldrop, Fan GoH Edie Stern, Editor GoH Moshe Feder; attendance about 730; Art Show sales about $5,500.

Radiant thanks to Elizabeth Klein-Lebbink for her computer-aided-graphics help with Rotsler Award displays.  The Award is for long-time wonder-working in amateur publications of the science fiction community, the fame of its eponym Bill Rotsler, to honor whom it was begun in 1998; it’s sponsored by the Southern California Institute for Fan Interests (yes, that spells SCIFI, pronounced “skiffy”), and announced at Loscon.  The judges are Mike Glyer, Sue Mason (since 2015), and me (since 2003).

For years I made Worldcon displays showing work of the winners to date, and Loscon displays showing work of the year’s winner, with photocopies and colored construction paper.  At Denvention III the 66th World Science Fiction Convention they were mounted on handsome black signboard contributed by Spike; otherwise on pegboard with hooks and clips.

Recently Klein-Lebbink with her expertise and equipment has labored with me to do both displays on computer-printed banners, which have looked swell, saved hours of at-con effort, and eased reaching overseas Worldcons I’ve usually been unable to attend. 

The 2019 Worldcon (the 77th) was at Dublin; we also made a display celebrating the 500th year after the death of Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), who touched on SF with his designs for things not yet possible to available technology, and was generally amazing astounding planetary thrilling wondrous.  We mounted it at Loscon XLVI too.  Thanks to Jan Bender for getting it and the Rotsler-winners-to-date display to and from Dublin.

This year’s Rotsler winner is Alison Scott.  Thanks to Mason for helping wrangle Scott images (I mustn’t call them Scottish, she’s English) in time for Loscon.  You can see a note by me, with samples, here.

Photographs of the Loscon XLVI displays have been promised and no doubt will arrive Real Soon Now.  Meanwhile you can see the Dublin winners-to-date display here.

Drawing by Tim Kirk

At cons I’ve been leading Classics of SF discussions, one story (mostly book-length) each.  Once I did two books together – same author, same year.  I’ve been on but don’t recommend “What are the classics?” panels; I find they tend, instead of discussing, to become favorite-fights.

Sometimes a con puts me on, or has me moderate, a panel to discuss a story.  Most often it’s just I and the so-called audience – “so-called” because, from my point of view anyway, the blood of the SF community is participation.  I tell people “You needn’t speak up, but I hope you will.”  Also I believe the price of having strong opinions is recognizing that others can have strong opinions.

Do cons keep naming me alone because I’m so wonderful?  Maybe.  Maybe it’s easier for Programming than juggling the schedules of five people.

Loscon this year asked me to do two classics; I proposed, and when they were accepted I led discussions on, Asimov’s Second Foundation (1953), Friday afternoon at half-past one, and Lewis’ Perelandra (1943), Sunday afternoon at half-past two.

Perelandra had reached the Retrospective Hugo ballot.  It’s one of few books in our field to engage with mainstream religion.  Second Foundation happened to be the first Asimov I ever read.  It’s the third in a trilogy (Foundation 1951, Foundation and Empire 1952; decades later Asimov and others added prequels and sequels); Perelandra is the second (Out of the Silent Planet 1938, That Hideous Strength 1945).

Re-reading each before proposing them to the con I felt each could stand by itself.  Also I elected taking Second Foundation as a single novel, though composed of two shorter works “Now You See It –” (1948), “– And Now You Don’t” (1950; reached the Retro-Hugo ballot).

I try for stories interesting in different ways.  I think Second Foundation and Perelandra are.

Once a con asked me to do only one of these discussions; at another I did five.  Three seems to be about right, thinking of the con as an artform, its rhythm, its balance.  Some years ago when a Programming chief asked me what size rooms I’d need, I said “These discussions usually draw a dozen or two”; she said “That’s about what I thought.  Not huge crowds; but they’re a kind of thing we should be doing.”  I said “That’s what I think too.”

What’s a classic?  I’m still with A classic is a work that survives its time; after the currents which might have sustained it have changed, it remains, and is seen to be worthwhile for itself.

I don’t think we’re very classics-conscious in fandom.  Not just SF classics; any.

Compare Shakespeare (1564-1616): we know his plays drew crowds; we know all kinds of folk went to see them; they’re full of references to Greek and Roman literature of the previous millennium; indeed if you could read and write in his day you could read and write Latin.

Compare Perelandra, which was written for the general reading public, and is full of references to the Bible, The Divine Comedy (1320), Goethe (1749-1832), Greek mythology, Milton (1608-1674), Pope (1688-1744), Renaissance painting and poetry, Roman history, Shakespeare, H.G. Wells – and Lewis Carroll.  A current that’s changed.

On Friday afternoon, no one wishing to amend my proposed definition, we proceeded to Is “Second Foundation” a classic?

David H. Levine (i.e. not David D., whom I don’t expect to see at Loscon) said it towered above other SF.  Many said its characters were distinct – which is largely achieved by dialogue.  We’re given little of how they look; what they wear; their music; their landscapes; but – speaking of Lewis Carroll – if this is a book without pictures, it certainly has conversations (Alice in Wonderland ch. 1, 1865).

It’s complicated; but it presents its complications with clarity.  It has a sense of event.  It has a sense of the telling detail.  It’s neat; indeed, spare.  It’s vivid.  And if, as Asimov later said, he heard from somebody in the late 1940s that no one could write an SF detective story, he didn’t disprove it in 1953 with The Caves of Steel – he already had.

Then Regency dancing.  This fad in fandom – England having had few regencies, we mean the one of 1811-1820, and the years before and after, since a historical period seldom starts of a sudden – is of course very much my fault, but it came about because of Georgette Heyer.

Her historical fiction set then, thirty superb books published until her death in 1972 and much reprinted – yes, they’re romances, yes I a heterosexual man was so dull I had to be introduced to them by a woman – spark with wit appealing to the fannish mind.  I took up the challenge of teaching the dances.  Fuzzy Pink Niven doesn’t make that eggnog anymore.

So on Friday evening I changed clothes to host.  Sometimes a dozen or two come by, in costume or not; at the 42nd Worldcon there were three hundred.  Neola Caveny, whom Greg Benford had found and who the next night would moderate the Paul Turner memorial panel, had come from Hawaii and had made a Regency gown.

To be continued

Smofcon 37 Fannish Inquisition Videos

Videos from the “Fannish Inquisition” held at SMOFCon 37 in Albuquerque NM on December 7 have been posted. They capture the questions and answers posed to representatives of seated WSFS conventions (Worldcon and NASFiC), and bids for future Worldcons and NASFiCs.

The makers put them up with this caveat: “This is raw video for the future SMOFCons and seated WSFS conventions taken from the camera without editing. Because the camera records files of a maximum length, then starts a new file, segments may begin or end in mid-word.”

  • SMOFCon 37 Fannish Inquisition – SMOFCons/Seated WSFS Conventions – Part 1 of 7
  • SMOFCon 37 Fannish Inquisition – SMOFCons/Seated WSFS Conventions – Part 2 of 7
  • SMOFCon 37 Fannish Inquisition – SMOFCons/Seated WSFS Conventions – Part 3 of 7
  • SMOFCon 37 Fannish Inquisition – SMOFCons/Seated WSFS Conventions – Part 4 of 7
  • SMOFCon 37 Fannish Inquisition – SMOFCons/Seated WSFS Conventions – Part 5 of 7
  • SMOFCon 37 Fannish Inquisition – SMOFCons/Seated WSFS Conventions – Part 6 of 7
  • SMOFCon 37 Fannish Inquisition – SMOFCons/Seated WSFS Conventions – Part 7 of 7
  • SMOFCon 37 Fannish Inquisition – Worldcon Bids

The “Fannish Inquisition” held at SMOFCon 37 in Albuquerque NM on the evening of Saturday, This is the final segment of the Fannish Inquisition, consisting of presentations from and questions to bids for future World Science Fiction Conventions.

  • Kevin Standlee also has posted videos of the Westercon Fannish Inquisitions.

[Thanks to JJ for the story.]

Smofcon 37 Posts Worldcon, Westercon and Smofcon Bidder Questionnaires

Smofcon 37, the convention for conrunners, taking place December 6-8 in Albuquerque, NM, asked Worldcon, and Smofcon bidders, and seated Worldcon and Westercon committees to answer a questionnaire. The responses have been posted at Smofcon’s website under Fannish Inquisition.

There will also be a Q&A session at the con on December 7 – publishing these questionnaires in advance helps keep that time from being taken up with basic information. If you want to submit a question, see the information at the end of this post.

The following FAQs have been received from Bids and seated conventions:

SMOFCon Bids

Seated Worldcons

Seated NASFiC

Worldcon Bids

Seated Westercons

Seven Worldcon committees and bidders (all except Nice in 2023) cosigned a statement (which many inserted at the beginning of their questionnaires) criticizing the Smofcon 37 committee for the short response deadline, the dramatic increase in number of questions asked from last year’s form, and use of Google Docs to communicate, which cannot be accessed in China. Smofcon 37’s chair Ron Oakes responded with a lengthy justification of what happened, while the FAQ coordinator apologized.

SMOFCon 37 Response

Submitting Questions to the Fannish Inquisition: Here are the committee’s instructions:

This event is our traditional time for bids for future SMOFCon, Worldcons and NASFiCs.  Our usual highlight event, and will mostly be run as it has been in the recent past with written questions through our able moderators.  Those wishing to submit questions in advance may do so by sending email to fi_questions@smofcon37-abq.org, up to 6:30pm MST December 7, 2019 to ensure that we receive it prior to the convention.

[Update 12/07/2019: After this post was drafted last night, several more questionnaires were added to the website. The new links have been added here.]

World Fantasy Convention 2021 in Montreal

World Fantasy Convention 2021, to be held in Montreal, Canada, has named its Guests of Honor: Author GoH: Nisi Shawl; Artist GoH: John Picacio; Editor GoH: André-François Ruaud; and Special Guests: Owl Goingback, and Yves Meynard, The Toastmaster is Christine Taylor-Butler.

The con, chaired by Diane Lacey, will be held November 4–7, 2021 at the Hotel Montreal Bonaventure.

The convention theme will be “Fantasy, Imagination, and the Dreams of Youth.”

Attending memberships are currently $150 USD/$200 Cdn. Rates will be going up December 1st to $200 in US dollars and $270 in Canadian dollars.

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions #46

2019 Windycon Fan Guest of Honor Speech: An Apocryphal Story, 43 Things I Learned Being In Fandom and Mean Comments From File 770 Readers

By Chris M. Barkley: Good Morning. I’m Chris Barkley.

A word of warning: At one point during this speech, I will be making a partisan political reference that may offend some of you. The rest of you can laugh. Don’t worry, you’ll know it when you hear it. Viewer discretion is advised…

I am very honored to be Windycon’s Fan Guest of Honor this year. Ever since I was asked to be Windycon’s Fan Guest of Honor nearly a year and a half ago, I felt like I was asking to host Saturday Night Live. Because when you think about it, conventions are very much like live television. There’s a lot of spontaneous action and unpredictable stuff going on, sometimes all at once. Well, ok, here the sketches are also longer and it would help if they were better written.

And as a “reward” I am obligated to regale you with some musings and philosophical insights I have gained in my many years in fandom.

I also note that in some circles, I have what is quaintly known as a “bad reputation”. Well, I can tell you that Joan Jett was speaking directly to me when she sang:

(singing BADLY)  

And I don’t give a damn ’bout my bad reputation

Oh no (No no no no no no)

Not me (Me me me me me me)

I was born in August of 1956. Dwight David Eisenhower was the President of the United States. Some weasel from California was the Vice-President. (And NO, this isn’t the political comment you’re waiting for. Patience.)

My mother became an elementary school teacher who specializes in reading. My father was a mechanical engineer for General Electric’s jet engine division. So, it stands to reason that their oldest son is an avid fan of science fiction (and under certain conditions, fantasy).

Comic books were one thin dime apiece. Penny candy actually cost a penny. There were only three broadcast television networks. Rock and Roll, the bastard child of rhythm and blues and jazz was poised to take over the world.

And, aside from the racism, marginalization of minorities, lynchings, rampant, sexism, homophobia, the Cold War, governmental malfeasance and the imminent threat of nuclear war, it was a great time to be alive in the most prosperous nation on the planet.

Not that I’m complaining.

Much.

Chris Barkley

From my perspective as a 63-year-old African American, with forty-three years and five months plus in fandom, I have seen a lot, done a lot and survived all of the cultural and political forces that were lined up against me since my mother, the late Alice Barkley and my father, the late Erbil Augustus Barkley, gave birth to me on a sweltering August summer evening at Jewish Hospital. (PS: I’d like to take a moment to thank them for the free circumcision. A very cool gesture for that era.)

Nineteen years and ten months after my birth, my best friend, Michaele Jordan (no, not THAT Michael Jordan, Michaele Jordan the fantasy novelist my other official, big sister) and I discovered fandom on the back page of the July 1976 issue of Analog, which ran, for the only time in its history, an announcement of a science fiction convention just a few miles away from where we resided. It was held at a run of the mill hotel called the Quality Inn in Norwood, Ohio. The convention was called Midwestcon 27.

“We should go to this convention,” I recall saying to her, most emphatically.

“Are you kidding?”, she replied. “It’s probably just for professional writers. They would just throw us out.”

“Well,” I said, “you can sit at home if you want, I’m going to go there and find out.”

And so we went. It changed the course of our lives forever. Going to Midwestcon 27 introduced us to an entirely new world of people, opportunities and social interactions that resonate to this very day.

The end. Thanks for coming, you’ve been a great audience, Chicago…

NO! WAIT! Just kidding!

Among conventions, Windycon hold a very special place in my heart; I’ve been attending a semi-regular basis since the early 1980’s. I have also attended the four worldcons that Chicago has hosted since I got into fandom and happily served on the staff of three of them.

My slight digression is an Apocryphal Story about Chicago that happened at Chicon 2000, which was held in downtown Chicago.

BUT, in order to do that, I need to digress further and tell you another story about the late Harlan Ellison.

(Oh, so you knew him, too?)

I first met Harlan in 1978 at Kubla Khan 5 in Nashville, Tennessee. Like countless other people, I found him to be a brilliant writer of fiction and essays, a dynamic personality and above nearly all of his other talents, an amazing and brilliant raconteur.

One story he shared with the audience at that convention was been burned into my synapses forever was an incident he had experienced at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport. Harlan had just finished doing his ‘business” in a washroom when he noticed out of the corner of his eye that a middle-aged patron was leaving without washing his hands.

Now THIS greatly offended Harlan since, if anything, he was a real stickler for health and cleanliness.

“Hey! You”, he said in his loud, nasally, faux-Brooklyn accent. “You forgot to wash your hands!”

The man in question turned and said something incredibly rude about Harlan’s parentage and proceeded to walk out into the terminal.

Enraged at this person’s intransigence, Harlan burst out of the restroom and trailed behind the man screaming at the top of his lungs, “UNCLEAN, UNCLEAN! DON’T TOUCH HIM! HE DIDN’T WASH HIS HANDS!”

And he did this. All the way to this person’s departure gate.

Now, I told you that story to tell you this one: For Chicon 2000, I was promoted from my regular duties in the Worldcon Press Office to serve on Chairman Tom Veal’s staff AND as the Fairmont Hotel liaison. It was a very important position, which I shared with my ex-wife, in that both the Masquerade and the Hugo Award Ceremony were being held there.

One afternoon, I was finishing my “business” in the restroom, when I noticed out of the corner of my eye, a middle-aged fan was leaving without washing his hands.

My mind immediately flashed back to Harlan’s story. My first thought was, I am NOT Harlan Ellison. And then my second thought was, “What would Harlan do?”

So, within a few seconds, I screwed up my moral courage and, in my even tempered, faux-midwestern black accent, I spoke up and said, “Excuse me, but you forgot to wash your hands.”

The fan whirled around and shouted, “YOU’RE NOT MY DAD!”

Needless to say, I was taken aback. But fortunately, my skills as a radio talk show host and a standup comedian kicked into high:

“You see this?” I pointed to the bright blue COMMITTEE ribbon hanging on my convention badge and stated with absolute authority:

“While you’re here at this convention, this ribbon says I AM YOUR DAD!!”

The fan sighed, turned and washed his hands.


I’ve learned a LOT of things in my time in fandom. I would now like to pass along some of the more profound life revelations that have occurred to me over time, one for each year that I have been in fandom:

  1. Smiling and being polite costs you nothing and may gain you new friends.
  2. Reading is the best gateway to other worlds and other points of view.
  3. I am convinced all fascists and Nazi sympathizers were once involved in Home Owner Associations. It’s the only possible explanation for their actions.
  4. Cultural appropriation is like porn, I KNOW it when I see it.
  5. You must challenge the past in order the forge the future.
  6. When you are making policy or changes in your life only three factors matter; Is it true, is it necessary and most importantly, is it vital?
  7. Try and learn at least one other language in your lifetime. For example, Welsh, Irish, Scottish or Australian.
  8. Never forget that taxes pay for civilization. And that those who don’t pay their fair share are welchers and cheats.
  9.  Buy a copy of the Constitution of the United States. In this day and age you never know when you may have to invoke it, especially to people who haven’t read it.
  10.  Public radio has saved my life and sanity for decades. And it can do the same for you!
  11. BUT, if you love your NPR station and donate your car to help out, would that be considered autoeroticsm? Asking for a friend…
  12.  Occasionally, you may be asked to take a stand and make your voice heard. And yes, you will be afraid to do it. But the alternative, of silence and token assent, is much, much worse.
  13.  Congratulations, you’re working on a convention. Here’s a big piece of advice for you con-runners. To preserve our sanity at Chicon 2000, my friend Bridget came up with a simple working mantra we repeated every morning: There will be a convention. There will be rooms at the convention. Some will be right. Some will be wrong. And then IT WILL BE OVER!
  14. Nothing keeps you more grounded and humble than owning a pet. Pro Owner Tip: If you own a cat (or vice versa), consider emptying an entire bag of cat food into their litter box. That way, you just skip the middle process altogether and get on with your day.
  15. By the way, cat dandruff is a first world problem.
  16.  Never, ever, annoy writers. Especially the good ones. Not only will they say nastily adroit things at you, you may become a victim of embarrassing situation, imprisoned or murdered in a book, play or screenplay with the name of said person so barely disguised, EVERYONE will KNOW it’s YOU!
  17. Speaking of writing, NEVER give in to censorship, either in your works or in the defense of others. Free speech does not mean being free from consequences. But either everyone has the opportunity to express themselves or no one does.
  18.  Unless you are the author or editor, DON’T WRITE, HIGHLIGHT, ANNOTATE OR SCRIBBLE YOUR NAMES IN BOOKS! Well, at least in the books that I want to buy. It’s so damn annoying!
  19. When you write, write for yourself. You should welcome criticism of your writing. But do not make the fatal mistake of pandering to appeal the masses. If you can satisfy your own standards of what you like to read, others will see it as well.
  20.  Also, KEEP WRITING. You’ll get better at it.
  21.  Also: READ! As much as possible; fantasy and sf for sure but try to be as diverse as possible. Don’t confine yourself to literary bubbles and for god’s sake, don’t denigrate anyone else who reads, even if they’re reading something you don’t like. If they read and comprehend and understand what they are reading, there’s a chance, a hope really, that they can understand what is truthful from what is fantasy or propaganda.
  22. You have never known true fear until you see a full-grown Great Dane take a baby chick in its mouth and start running around the yard like a seven-year-old on a playground with their mouth full of Halloween candy. And unfortunately for you, are are trying to catch a three-year-old Great Dane who can run twice as fast as any NFL or Premier League defender. (PS: Yes, I eventually caught the dog and safely freed the chick. But she has yet to lay a single egg. I don’t blame her.)
  23.  Do you know where your water come from? Do you know where the wastewater goes?    Find out. And then pledge yourself to not wasting a drop of it again in your lifetime.
  24.  Music is my friend. Music is my life. No matter what you listen to, enjoy it and let it massage your brain and imagination. And if you actually make music, I envy you because that is one of the greatest gifts of all.
  25. Whether you’re at a convention or not (especially not) if you see something is amiss, if a person is being bullied or harassed, do something or say something. Render assistance in any way you can. Is anyone here familiar with the lyrics to the alternative rock anthem “How Soon Is Now” by The Smiths? One part of the main chorus has always touched by heart every time I hear it:

         I am human and I need to be loved

         Just like everybody else does

               Because that should be the core of our values in fandom and in life.

  1. Fan writing is much cheaper than therapy.
  2.  Han Solo’s Rules for Life: Get In. Sit Down. Buckle Up. Hang On.
  3.  Chris Barkley’s Rules for Hitchhikers: See the Han Solo Rules for Life.
  4.  Leading into: If you don’t use your car’s turn signals, YOU GET WHAT YOU DESERVE!
  5.  I think everyone should take a CPR and Emergency Aid course whether it’s offered by the Red Cross or any other agency in your community. I was once employed to be a caretaker for a disadvantaged person and I took an exhaustive, seven-hour course covering nearly everything and anything that might happen to you. Let me tell you something, it was a real eye opener to find out how many things could go wrong with the human body on a daily basis with the introduction of an infection, virus or pathogen. At this very moment in Los Angeles, the partner of a friend of mine named Genny is fighting off an extremely debilitating disease called Guillain-Barré Syndrome, which struck her suddenly and without warning. The treatment is long and extensive but there is no cure. You should do it because the life you save may very well be a family member, a friend or your own.
  6.  If you want to be loved, start by loving yourself first.
  7.  This past Monday was Veteran’s Day. I would be remiss if I did not remind everyone that at this moment, there are thousands of men, women, members of the LGBTQ, transgendered, non-binary communities and otherwise, are out here serving in our armed forces. And sooner or later, they too, will be veterans. It has been estimated that more than 20 percent of the service personnel who served in Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. And thousands of others are suffering from debilitating injuries while serving. And don’t forget that there are still living veterans of World War Two, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Lebanon deployment, Desert Storm and Shield and the invasion and occupation of Iraq. As they protected us, we need to do everything we can to help them. Find out what your local, state and federal representatives are doing for veterans. If you find out they aren’t, then vote their asses out of office and vote for candidate who will.
  8. Failure is part of life. Don’t be afraid to fail. Success is fine but unless you fail, you don’t learn anything and you never progress as a person. And more importantly, you mustn’t be afraid to fail. In a book that was just published last week, You Are AWESOME, How To Navigate Change, Wrestle With Failure and Live an Intentional Life, author Neil Pasricha points out that one of the main things that hold people back from their full potential is the inability to tell the difference between truth and the narrative lies we keep telling ourselves such as, “ I’ll never learn this”, ”I’m going to be stuck in this job forever” and the always deadly, “Other people are better off than I am”. Your life does not have to be a runaway, non-stop train of doom and gloom. I know because I’ve been there myself and I got off that merry-go-round, with the help of my good friends and beloved partner. You can do it, too. My advice is to stop, take a deep, metaphorical breath and try and find out what you are capable of doing or achieving. Then go for it. If you can do that, you have just taken your first steps to self-discovery.
  9. Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood should be mandatory viewing. For the current ‘president of the United States. As part of his sentencing conditions. If he objects, the ONLY alternative should be Paw Patrol. (CHASE! MARSHALL! SKYE! ZUMA! TRACKER! ROCKY! RUBBLE!) Just Sayin’. Period. Full Stop.
  10. Be woke, aware and informed. Try and understand why people come to different conclusions than you. As actor-philosopher Edward James Olmos once said, “There is only ONE race; the human race.”
  11.  On the other hand, don’t take yourself TOO seriously. Don’t be a drag in the consuite.
  12.  If someone likes something you loath, don’t rain on their parade. Let them enjoy it. Don’t post that comment on Facebook or Instagram. Just walk away. Knowing that you haven’t ruined someone’s day.
  13.  I attended a lecture in 1995 at the University of Kentucky in which Stephen King imparted some very pertinent advice to young people: “If an adult tells you NOT to read something, make it your business to go out, find it, read it for yourselves and make up your own mind about it. Don’t ever depend on some ‘well meaning’’ adult with an agenda to tell you what to read, make up your mind for you or dictate how you should lead your life.” Best. Advice. EVER!
  14. Always try to meet your heroes. It’s better to find out that they are just as human and fallible as you are. And maybe even more so if they truly believe they belong on the pedestal people have placed them on.
  15. Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. once wrote in his novel Mother Night: “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.” He also said, “There is love enough in this world for everybody, if people will just look.”
  16. Three more things: I know that we’re all here to have a good time and celebrate with our friends and guests of honor. But remember, as bad as things are here in America, our problems don’t begin and end with our country. Hong Kong. Brexit. Bolivia. Chile. The immigration crisis in Central America and Africa. South Sudan. Spain and Catalonia. The Philippines. Myanmar. Iran, Iraq and Syria. Hell, in comparison to those places we are living in paradise. When you leave here this weekend, don’t forget that.
  17. Whenever possible, Be Kind. And always carry a towel.
  18.  And finally, let me leave you with these wise words, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead.

    Thank You.   

And lastly, I want to dedicate this speech to the memory of the late Frank Johnson, a fellow member of the Cincinnati Fantasy Group who died earlier this year. His very last convention was last year’s Windycon. I’d like to think he would have enjoyed this speech.

Thank you for attending and listening to me ramble or a while. Be good to each other and have a great convention.

Frank Johnson