Half the places I have been to, never were

By John Hertz: (reprinted in part from No Direction Home 19) Over the weekend Columbus, Ohio, won its bid to hold the 2020 NASFiC. Sit enim sit bonum omen (Latin; “Let it be a good omen”). This is the 125th birth-anniversary year of Columbus boy James Thurber (1894-1961; December 8th). His name still is on many lips. Try The Seal in the Bedroom (1932); The Thurber Carnival (1945; Broadway revue, 1960).

The NASFiC (North America Science Fiction Convention) is held – since 1975 – when the World Science Fiction Convention is outside North America (Section 4.8, Constitution of the World Science Fiction Society).

The 2019 Worldcon will be August 15-19 at Dublin, Republic of Ireland; the 77th Worldcon. The 2019 NASFiC was July 4-7 at Layton, Utah; the 13th NASFiC.

Layton first won its bid to hold Westercon LXXII (annual West Coast – but it can be anywhere in North America west of the 104th West Meridian [or in the State of Hawaii], Section 3.1, Westercon Bylaws – Science Fantasy Conference); then won a bid to hold the NASFiC concurrently.

These two general-interest SF cons were then joined by two special-interest cons, the annual 1632 Minicon (fans of Eric Flint’s 1632 series) and the annual Manticon (fans of David Weber’s Honor Harrington series, with its Royal Manticoran Navy — i.e. Space Navy).

The four-con combination was called Spikecon, for the Final Spike completing the Transcontinental Railroad, driven 150 years ago (10 May 1869) at Promontory, Utah, 50 miles (80 km) northwest of the con site.

The 26th Worldcon was combined with Westercon XXI. We’d never combined a Westercon and a NASFiC before. Recall Ben Yalow’s apothegm (there’s reason to spell it apophthegm, but this is complicated enough) “Running a Worldcon is impossible. Running a NASFiC is harder.”

The 2020 Worldcon will be at Wellington, New Zealand. So Spikecon administered voting for the 2020 NASFiC.

Minneapolis in ’73 and Peggy Rae’s House each got 1 write-in vote, which I’ll tell you all about some other time.

I’d started reading Thurber long before I got around to The Thurb Revolution (A. Panshin, 1968; note that Kevin Roche, who chaired the 76th Worldcon, won an award as Torve the Trog in the Masquerade at Costume-Con III, 1985). I’m not aware that Thurber wrote science fiction. He did write fantasy. I recommend The 13 Clocks (1950). Marc Simont did the illustrations.

Once upon a time, in a gloomy castle on a lonely hill, where there were thirteen clocks that wouldn’t go, there lived a cold, aggressive Duke…. His hands were as cold as his smile and almost as cold as his heart…. His nights were spent in evil dreams, and his days were given to wicked schemes …. impossible feats for the suitors of Saralinda to perform…. to cut a slice of moon, or to change the ocean into wine…. finding things that never were, and building things that could not be….

….a prince, disguised as a minstrel, came singing to the town that lay below the castle…. weary of rich attire and banquets and tournaments … to find in a far land the maiden of his dreams….

“The Duke….” a tosspot gurgled…. “breaks up minstrels in his soup, like crackers.”

The minstrel began to sing again. A soft finger touched his shoulder and he turned to see a little man smiling in the moonlight. He wore an indescribable hat, his eyes were wide and astonished, as if everything were happening for the first time…. “I am the Golux,” said the Golux, proudly, “the only Golux in the world, and not a mere Device…. I resemble only half the things I say I don’t…. The other half resemble me…. Half the places I have been to, never were. I make things up. Half the things I say are there cannot be found….

“The Duke prepares to feed you to his geese…. We must invent a tale to stay his hand…. to make the Duke believe that slaying you would light a light in someone else’s heart. He hates a light in people’s hearts….”

The iron guards of the Duke closed in…. There was a clang and clanking.

“Do not arrest my friend,” the youth implored.

“What friend?” the captain growled.

The minstrel looked around him and about, but there was no one…. A guard guffawed and said, “Maybe he’s seen the Golux.”

“There isn’t any Golux. I have been to school, and know,” the captain said.

Neil Gaiman said “This book is probably the best book in the world. And if it’s not the best book, then it’s still very much like nothing anyone has ever seen before.” But what does he know?

5 thoughts on “Half the places I have been to, never were

  1. I’ve been meaning to ask: What is “No Direction Home”? Does John publish it? It is a re-naming or replacement of “Vandemonde” or something new? I don’t find it at eFanzines.com, so if I want mine own copy, how do I get it?

  2. This is an absolutely brilliant book; Thurber plays with words and with tropes effectively, even lovingly, but never blindly. I forget whether it was a Filer or somebody on Making Light who pointed me to The White Deer, published 5 years before; that’s good, but it reads like a rough draft of the ideas that are polished in Clocks.

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  4. John Hertz replies by carrier pigeon:

    I’ve written to Brother Kaufman, who’s known me for years.

    My real-mail address is public, and has been posted here: 236 S. Coronado St., No. 409, Los Angeles, CA 90057, U.S.A.

  5. Thanks, Mike. I’ll keep checking our pigeon coop for the missile, I mean, missive, from Brother John.

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