This Just In: I Enjoyed Loscon

Sometimes it takes reading a good conreport to convince a fan that he had a terrific time at the con after all. Chris Garcia’s Loscon report in SF/SF 78 has done that for me. Thank goodness I held my opinion til Chris worked his magic on this experience of ours:

I walked over to my second panel of the day, What Makes a Good Fanzine, and there were two total audience members: Robert Kennedy and another fellow whose name I forget. It was very much like the Fanzine panel we’d had earlier, and we had the exact same panel again: me, Hertz, Glyer and Milt. It’s something that got to me again. I’ve been to well-attended Fanzine panels, but none of the ones at LocCon got much attention. It happens.

The participants enjoyed themselves, which justifies running the program item, right? Just like that Roman chef who toned down the bill of fare one night when there were no guests and was criticized, “Don’t you realize? Tonight, Lucullus dines alone!”

LosCon fanzine panels always draw an audience of two. When they used to be scheduled on Sunday morning at 10 a.m., Marty Cantor and I would blame the timeslot, when everyone was still asleep after a night of partying. The explanation when the panel is placed in prime time on Saturday afternoon, as it was this year, is well, ah… I’ll have to get back to you about that.

The SF/SF staff has loaded the rest of issue 78 with equally compelling reading, not the least of it this note about SMOFcon:

Kevin [Standlee] reviewed SMOFcon in Columbus, Ohio as having about 100 attendees and a lack of new programming and that next year’s SMOFcon will be in Austin, TX.

Journey Planet Starts Second Orbit

Chris Garcia alerts the media that a new issue of Journey Planet has appeared, his collaborative effort with James Bacon and Claire Brialey.

I’ve been looking forward to the issue because Diana contributed an article. But they certainly didn’t do her any favor in the way they presented her material. Diana’s article was dropped in between long series of questionnaires answered by femmefans. Several other contributions suffered the same fate. The effect is to make the authors of the articles look like they didn’t get the memo.

Nice Distinctions #17

Arthur Hlavaty carries on Nice Distinctions #17 in the witty, intelligent tone that you go to fannish parties hoping to find. But parties are hit-and-miss affairs, while Hlavaty never disappoints.

Hlavaty is a skilled practitioner of “idea-tripping,” Tom Digby’s term for applying rigorous Campbellian logic to twist an idea in a fannishly amusing direction. Short examples are often the best, like this one in issue #17:

That would be a weird job: texting copy-editor. “Spell out ‘you’ again and u r fired.”

Always interesting are Hlavaty’s verbal snapshots of the annual International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts. He communicates contagious enjoyment of everything from scholarly insights to new juxtapositions of quirky ideas. He even shares my fascination with Philip K. Dick’s posthumous literary ascent. (Though he’s unlikely to share my feeling that this is the mundane world’s revenge on sf writers who took an optimistic view of the future.)

Hlavaty also makes many brief comments or entertaining connections from the political news of the day. I haven’t found it necessary to dwell in Hlavaty’s end of the political spectrum to enjoy his mind-stretching wordplay: I expect those who do will find it all the more delicious.

To read Nice Distinctions #17, click on the link and open the PDF file on

Challenger #28 Online

Guy H. Lillian III has posted a new issue of Challenger, his Hugo-nominated fanzine. It’s a tremendous zine, with outstanding articles by Resnick, Benford, Toni Weisskopf, James Bacon, and Joseph Green.

My contribution is “Flashman at Klendathu.” Guy invited me to pay tribute to George Macdonald Fraser, author of the popular series of Flashman historical novels, who had recently passed away. As a fan’s imagination is prone to do, mine wandered from the stack of books Fraser had actually written to the novels we now would never see – such as the oft-hinted adventure that would explain how Flashman ended up fighting on both sides of the American Civil War. I knew I’d miss Fraser’s sharp wit and his gift for deflating pretensions about the glory of war. The free association set in motion by those thoughts at last made me wonder what Starship Troopers would have taught about military life if it had been Flashman telling the story instead of Johnny Rico. “Flashman at Klendathu” fills in that blank. (And the Charlie Williams illo is perfect!)

A final word: The Challenger website has announced a contest for the best-designed favicon, the little image that appears next to the URL address line in your web browser (if the site has one loaded.) Entries should be sent to by the deadline, which somewhat arbitrarily is before “The next issue of Challzine — or December 31, 2008 — whichever comes first.” Entries will be displayed in the next issue and voted upon by the readers.

Marking Torcon’s 60th Anniversary

Torcon, the first Worldcon held in Canada, took place in 1948 in Toronto. R. Graeme Cameron celebrates the 60th anniversary in WCSFAzine #11. The gem of this carefully-researched issue is Leslie Croutch’s conreport, annotated by Cameron with brief bios of all the fans he mentions, few of whom are remembered today.  There follows an array of contemporary conreports and artwork.  A lesser item is the Toronto Star’s pathetic article about the convention referencing guest of honor “Robert Block.”

Get on Board Journey Planet

Chris Garcia, James Bacon and a roomful of enthusiastic fanwriters produced Journey Planet in an hour at Orbital, the 2008 Eastercon.

“It went well,” says James, “but an hour was not enough and despite terrific help and efforts… It’s rough and ready and it’s available now as a PDF (5.2 meg) to download on”

James declares there are some amazing contributions, including:

  • An interview with Hugo nominee John Scalzi about Fanzines and Blogs.
  • Sketches that Neil Gaiman originally drew in 1990 that appeared in the fanzine Gerald.
  • An article by Dave Langford about his involvement with an Eastercon.
  • A discussion about Alice in Sunderland between Niall Harrison and Bryan Talbot from Torque Control.
  • An personal perspective on the release of the Sandman comic.
  • A selection of blog posts by tubewhore about the stations which get mentioned in Neverwhere.

“Also in the hour we had contributions of art, photos and writing from Peter Sullivan, Christina Lake and Lillian Edwards, Mike Scott, Linda Wenzelburger, James Shields, Yvonne Rowse, Ian Sorenson, Jim De Liscard, John Coxan, Anna Raferty, Ang, Flick and Max.”

James expects Chris will fine-tune it all into issue one, version 2 when he gets home from his TAFF trip, “And finds time to sort out the errors or rushedness that is a fanzine produced at the hasty ‘at con’ speed.”

James and Chris thank Orbital, Bill Burns on and all contributors. They hope you check it out. “And we accept no responsibility for the dalek slash.” Well, who would?

The Barmy Cats Adventures

It turns out to have been a mystery only to me, that nagging question I’ve been pondering for several weeks: Why did C*****s D*****s pen “A Corflu Carol” (The Drink Tank #158), lampooning Cheryl Morgan with such rich humor I was embarrassed to admit how hard I’d laughed? Mainly because I didn’t know who really threw this barb, or whether Cheryl would find it funny (it might remind her of blunt comments made by trufen in past years). Now that I’ve learned the full context, I expect she had no problem with it at all, if it turns out she didn’t write it herself (I haven’t stumbled across that answer yet).

“A Corflu Carol” soars from its opening lines:

Fanzine fandom was dead, to begin with. There is no doubt whatsoever about that. The register of its burial was signed by the costumers, the filkers, the conrunners, and the furries. Emcit Eljay signed it, and Emcit Eljay’s name was good for a fan Hugo. Fanzine fandom was as dead as a doornail.

Had I not (evidently) slept through January 3, I’d have already known this was either the answering salvo to, or perhaps a tangential development of, Cheryl’s comical new series of “Barmy Cats Adventures,” launched by the appearance of “The Clubhouse Affair” in The Drink Tank #157.

My encounter with “The Clubhouse Affair” waited ’til today when I caught up reading Cheryl’s personal blog. She explained the whole project on January 20, giving verbal snapshots of all the characters. Cheryl concluded, after reading the recent debates about Core Fandom, that it would be “quite funny to imagine a world in which the brave freedom fighters of Core Fandom really were engaged in a bitter struggle against the greedy capitalists of WSFS.” And in her hands, it is funny.

The Answer is SF/SF 42

Jean Martin and Chris Garcia’s latest issue of Science Fiction/San Francisco covers fan news the way it should be done. There’s all kinds of excellent story angles I plan to steal from admire in SF/SF #42.

The most valuable revelation in the issue is Chris Garcia’s “Confessions of a Serial Fanzinista,” the diary that explains how he manages to produce his sensational output and still hold a job, as well as his less successful but quite humorous attempts to interest his youngster Evelyn in fanzines and China Mieville.

Another regular treat in each issue are the BASFA meeting minutes. Here’s where you learn that the president of the club, Trey Haddad, “reviewed ‘300’ as the font of all manliness and those seeking historical accuracy need not apply [and there was much talk of rouged nipples] – but there were some neat scenes and worth – well, it’s a rental.”

You’ll find every issue on eFanzines. Go. Go now!