By John Hertz: (mostly reprinted from No Direction Home 42) On Friday night at Loscon XLVI (local SF convention, sponsored by the L.A. Science Fantasy Society; see here) after Regency dancing (see Mimosa 29; or read Georgette Heyer‘s Regency romances – or both) I changed back to my conventional attire and went to wander the world of parties.
I’ve long felt an in it but not of it quality is elemental to fandom. More usually interest-groups seem tighter focused on, or entangled with, their topic. It makes us harder to explain. People ask me “Are you a writer?” and I have to answer with something like my father’s scrupulous reply when we played Guess What Daddy Had for Lunch, “Not within the normal meaning of that term.” My best formulation so far is A love of SF is the thread on which the beads of fan activity are strung. Anyway, it shows in our social life.
At our cons we have open (everybody welcome) and closed (invitation-only) parties. Some of them have a particular reason for existence. Some of them. See what I mean?
I dropped by the Baycon party. This is the San Francisco Bay area local con, held over the United States Memorial Day weekend; Baycon XXXVIII will be in 2020 (we’re not always careful terminologists: Westercon XIV – the West Coast Science Fantasy Conference on or near U.S. Independence Day, though not necessarily within the U.S.; Westercon LXXIII will be in 2020 – was “Baycon”, apparently the first SF con [in two senses of “SF”] so called: later the 26th World Science Fiction Convention, combined with Westercon XXI, and famous in song and story, was also “Baycon”).
A calendar conflict keeps me from Baycon, although I have friends there, and am an honorary officer of the Bay Area SF Association (Club motto, also Rule 0, “We do these things not because they are hard, but because we are weird”), which was convenient when the 66th Worldcon was at Yokohama Bay – in a Bay Area, and BASFA wanted a quorum. So I seek out Baycon parties.
To some extent a Baycon party is an attempt to sell Baycon memberships. (Among our better acts of terminology we insist we sell not tickets, but memberships: not admittance to a thing others have made, but participation in making it.) Why not? See, we can host a party: we can host a convention. But also it’s a contribution to the conviviality (good word to look up) of the time and place where it’s held. I’m in favor of that. Also similar parties thrown by other cons, and by bids to hold cons.
Some cons have themes. I’m not particularly in favor of that; I’d rather they had theremins (seems unfair to ask for the Island of Kalymnos dance Thymariotikos, although I’m fond of it).
The Baycon XXXVIII theme is “The future is now!”, elaborated as “This year’s theme celebrates science fiction’s influence on our present day”. I found that particularly regrettable. It seemed to draw in the notion that SF is in the business of predicting the future, one of the nastier poisons to afflict us. Also the current cant of influence too often operates as a nasty distraction from actually looking, substituting instead what other people think. So I had the nourishingly demanding task of managing conviviality with my friends, making new friends, and conferring about the health of our field.
Down the hall was Keith Kato’s, combined as happens at Loscon with Carol & Elst Weinstein’s, and Kenn Bates’.
At cons Kato has for years been hosting chili parties, some open, some closed. He cooks up a vat of hot (“To Everyone Except Bob Silverberg”) and a vat of mild (“To Everyone Except Marion Zimmer Bradley”), recently also a vat of vegetarian and, at Loscon, one of bison. He has not been hindered by his career as a physicist, his achieving a Black Belt in shõtõkan karate, nor his term as President of the Heinlein Society. In File 770 159 (PDF) p. 35, his own story to that date, I was in his Gang of Four. If he’s on the night of Regency dancing he knows I can’t show up soon; nor can I fairly ask him to save me a bowl of mild, I have to take my chances.
The Weinsteins at Loscon have hosted Herbangelist wine and cheese parties (on Herbie Popnecker, see Forbidden Worlds 73; he had his own title 1964-67; zeal lasts); Bates has hosted dessert parties, usually with a chocolate-fondue fountain; that they would co-host was inevitable, and they have.
Brad Lyau had been given the Moskowitz Archive Award at the 77th Worldcon (Dublin, 15-19 Aug 19). I congratulated him. The Award, named for Sam Moskowitz, is from First Fandom, for excellence in SF collecting; First Fandom is both a historical fact – those happy few active since at least the first Worldcon, 1939 – and an organization devoted to fanhistory.
Lyau had revealed in Scientifiction 61 (N.S., i.e. New Series) that he has Julie Schwartz’ copy of SaM’s 1954 Immortal Storm, inscribed to Julie by SaM – then when Lyau told them he’d gotten it, inscribed by each of them to him! Gosh! Forry Ackerman had helped with Lyau’s Ph.D. dissertation on 1950s French SF. Lyau has been at it a while.
I was fascinated to learn he’d studied with Hans Küng (1928- ). We spoke of epistemology (good word to look up); I repeated my jest that I’d long been an amateur epistemologist – I was a Philosophy major – and now I’m also a professional epistemologist, although we lawyers don’t like to think of ourselves as philosophers. We’re engineers, too.
Lyau talked of the “scholastic stranglehold” in the days of the Schoolmen, say 1100-1700. I said that wasn’t really fair to Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) for one. Lyau said it wasn’t Aristotle’s fault (lived fifteen centuries earlier) that Aristotle’s work became ossified. I said the poor Buddha (a century before Aristotle), if that expression could be used, told people not to make statues of him. Lyau said the Buddha was a messenger of universal truth. I had been with a Japanese Buddhist priest during the Bon Festival (rhymes with “hone”; short for a Sanskrit word referring to suffering by the dead in the Realm of Hungry Ghosts, which the Festival hopes to relieve) who said “We don’t worship our ancestors, we just venerate them.”
Saturday 11:30 a.m., “The Asimov Centenary”, Joe Siclari, Fan Guest of Honor Edie Stern, Matthew Tepper, and me, moderated by Alvaro Zinos-Amaro. Isaac Asimov didn’t know his birthday, no records. He celebrated January 2, 1920, but it could have been a day in 1919. Anyway, why not start now?
Siclari had chaired the 50th Worldcon (Orlando), has long been a student of SF particularly graphic art, also fanhistory; was the 2005 Down Under Fan Fund delegate; with Stern his wife received the 2016 Big Heart Award; heads (although he and Stern moved back to New York) the Florida Association for Nucleation And Conventions (yes, that spells FANAC, since at least the 1940s short for “fan activity”), sponsor of the 50th Worldcon and these days a fanhistorical Website.
Tepper, the con chair and in fact an Asimov scholar, had been the “Let’s kill him now” boy of Asimov’s anecdote in The Hugo Winners; to be fair, Asimov himself didn’t say that.
Zinos-Amaro has on his Website, along with Lao Tzû and Emily Dickinson, Asimov’s line from I. Asimov “The interplay of thought and imagination is far superior to that of muscle and sinew.”
To be continued.