By John Hertz:
Bright-spirited – fool? wise?
Bees from flowers and from weeds
Bring honey. Shall we?
Who walks in where fools fear to tread?
I can’t say Kate Hatcher was an angel; she was a human woman. Angels are something else.
That much was true of her. She was something else.
Maybe she’s an angel now.
Ben Hatcher, who had devotedly husbanded her, telephoned me early on Friday – March 6th. Kate would have wanted, he said, for me to hear it from him. I said I’d try to keep worthy of that.
I had known her since 2014 when she worked on the first Utah Westercon. Five years later she chaired the second – which was combined with the 13th NASFiC, another first.
Until 2014 the West Coast Science Fantasy Conference had never been in Utah. It had found its way out of Los Angeles by 1951 (Westercon IV, San Francisco), out of California by 1959 (Westercon XII, Seattle); out of the United States, 1977 (Westercon XXX, Vancouver); as far east as allowed, 1996 (Westercon XLIX, El Paso); off-continent, 2000 (Westercon LIII, Honolulu).
But someone must bid to host it, and win votes. Salt Lake City fans did that with Westercon LXVII. In 2019 it was in Utah again (Westercon LXXII, Layton).
That was not extraordinary enough. Since 1975 a North America Science Fiction Convention has been held when the Worldcon is overseas; in 2019, the Worldcon was in Dublin, so there was a NASFiC; Kate chaired the bid for the 2019 Westercon, also the bid to host the NASFiC conjointly, and chaired the two combined cons after both bids won in two separate votes; also, joined with them, a 1632 Minicon (fans of Eric Flynt’s 1632 series), and Manticon 2019 (fans of David Weber’s Honor Harrington series, with its Royal Manticoran Navy i.e. Space navy).
Some of our cons get names; this combination of four was called Spikecon, being 50 miles from where the Final Spike was driven to complete the Transcontinental Railroad 150 years earlier. Railroad engineer’s caps were part of the con. The Transcontinental Railroad is historic. So are wrongs in its accomplishment. Human history is part honey, part aloes.
Kate and Ben, reading and watching and gaming with SF, knew little of organized (if that word may be used) fandom when they came to LTUE half a dozen years ago. They found out – or were recruited – or something.
LTUE – Life, the Universe, and Everything – began as the Marion K. “Doc” Smith Symposium on Science Fiction and Fantasy at Brigham Young University. Three decades later it’s still held at Provo, Utah, in February, describing itself as both “a three-day academic symposium on all aspects of science fiction and fantasy” and “a gathering place for fans of our creative and innovative world to hang out and share their love of all things amazing, obscure, and even not-quite-real”.
That’s not the 1890-1965 “Doc” Smith who wrote Skylark and Lensman stories, it’s the 1932-2002 BYU professor. There’s a book People Named Smith.
Dave Doering, the Westercon LXVII chair, was glad Kate arrived among us. Three months before his con he found he had no program; I’ll omit details; anyway Kate in those circumstances was willing to give it a try: did remarkably well: was then recruited by Westercon LXX (Tempe) and LXXI (Denver), and the 76th Worldcon (San Jose).
She developed the art, science, or mystery of getting sponsorships. Here is another balancing act.
Our cons are non-profit. The fees we charge for membership (we insist we offer memberships, the privilege of participating, not tickets, the entitlement to watch what someone else makes) may prove insufficient to cover costs. Whatever commerce means, still unclear after centuries or millennia, we don’t want to be commercial; the road there isn’t our way.
With all this in mind can we – should we – get individual, or even (gasp) corporation sponsors? Healthfully? How? For what? Think about it.
We vote for Westercons two years in advance. By voting time at Westercon LXX the bid Kate chaired for LXXII remained unopposed. This amounts to a compliment, the community’s saying “We can’t do better; go ahead.” Westercon history shows that an unopposed bid might still not win our votes. I’ll omit details. Anyway, Kate’s bid won; then she was made, and served as, chair of the con – another thing which ain’t necessarily so.
We vote for Worldcons two years in advance; NASFiCs, one year. At the 2017 Worldcon we voted for Dublin in 2019 – so there would be a 2019 NASFiC. Where? Conducted by whom? This was decided at the 2018 Worldcon – a year after voting for the 2019 Westercon – and by members of the 2018 Worldcon, not necessarily the same voters.
Someone – Kate has been credited, or blamed – had the bright idea of combining the 2019 NASFiC and Westercon. She was made the chair of a bid.
If you took part in that discussion, you’ll remember it. If not, imagine it.
By NASFiC voting time the Utah bid remained unopposed – and won.
As the Beatles sang – remember them, or imagine them – “Only the beginning.”
Also in this story is SMOFcon. Our term SMOF, for “Secret Master of Fandom”, seems to have been coined in the early 1960s, maybe by Jack Chalker. Later Bruce Pelz called it a joke-nonjoke-joke. It came to be used, more or less good-humoredly, for people often involved with conducting our cons, clubs, and like that. By 1984 we had a SMOFcon, hoping to hand on, or off, expertise.
SMOFcon XXXVI was 30 Nov – 2 Dec 2018 at Santa Rosa, California (SMOFcon XXXVIII is scheduled for 4-6 Dec 20 at Montréal, Québec). Kate figured she’d better attend. How? Luckily she won a scholarship.
She went to study. Naturally she was asked to teach about sponsors. In principle that was jes’ fine, share and share alike. In practice – well, I’ll continue to omit details and only say that as the adventure went on, to and through Spikecon, SMOF was not always praise in her private conversation.
Of course some people were very helpful. It would be tragic to draw a false conclusion like expertise is bunk and condemn oneself not just to re-inventing the wheel but, as Dean Gahlon of Minneapolis says, re-inventing the square wheel. Perhaps in a free-form world like fandom both gaining and giving know-how may call for extra thought. And one has to look.
What struck me, over many hours by phone and in person with her during these few years, was a willingness to try things, to reach her own conclusions about what could or couldn’t be done, and perhaps as a product, an ability to find ways of making things work.
Other folks noted how she could get sought out and brought in. If she herself was left holding the bag, she made it a Bag of Holding.
In my own metaphor, which I think I can now tell you, I called her Pennzoil.
I can’t wholly omit her physical health. It was, to speak mildly, wretched. She wasn’t entirely wheelchair-bound.
Besides Ben, her family included – as she sometimes described her daughter – an autistic giggle factory named Ireland.
Kate did not push burdens to the fore. She had a bright spirit. Luckily she had an independent mind. With these gifts she achieved much.
Dave Doering said she always gave 110%. Even from him that was an understatement.
Kowtowing never, asking from allone
(As Heinlein said), she learned
To look, think, for herself and others,
Easy or hard, whether advice helped or burned.
My poem at the beginning is in unrhymed 5-7-5-syllable lines more or less like Japanese haiku; at the end, an acrostic (read down the first letters of each line) more or less like a quatrain in Chinese regulated verse: for the scansion, I try sentence-stress instead of the First Tone (Chinese has no sentence-stress), and disregard insubstantial words (omitted in literary Chinese); below, / marks the caesura, R the rhyme; “allone” alludes to Time for the Stars ch. 17 (1956), where our narrator is told, in System Speech, “Outdown go rightwards. Ask from allone.”
– – /
– x x
x x / x – – R
x x / – – x
– – / x x – R