John Hertz: Loscon XXXVI Report
November 27-29, 2009

By John Hertz, from Vanamonde 863-865: About 1,100 attended Loscon XXXVI, our local convention, currently at the L.A. Int’l Airport Marriott Hotel; Author Guests of Honor Steven Barnes & Tananarive Due, Artist GoH Tim Rickard, Fan GoH Christian McGuire; Art Show sales $6,800 by 47 artists.

In the Art Show, building the Rotsler Award exhibit of the 2009 winner Dan Steffan, I had the help of Jan Bender & Gary Echternacht, Robert Jansen, and Wolfcat. I found Rickard finishing his exhibit and brought him over. Drawing Brewster Rockit since 2004 he knew not our community. “That’s professional,” he said; “you mean this guy is an amateur?” Chris Garcia’s Fanzine Lounge was full of fanzines, fanart displays, and fanziners; España Sheriff and Leigh Ann Hildebrand hosted the Fanzine Lounge by Night on the party floor. I finally brought something Hildebrand would drink.

On Friday afternoon I moderated “Women in S-F,” D.M. Atkins, Due, Shauna Roberts, Sharan Volin. Roberts said publishers think boys won’t read about girls but girls will read about boys. Atkins said her 13-year-old son was very particular. Due said she had a 17-year-old protagonist who was indecisive, like other 17-year-olds. Volin said some games let one pick a female or a male character. A woman in the audience said she missed femmes fatales. Then a book talk on The Man in the High Castle. Bruce Briant in the audience said “Where’s the science?”; in ch. 7 Betty & Paul Kasoura take up that very point. We noted the wealth of falsities: even Mr. Tagomi has an empty briefcase.

After Regency Dancing, I took Sheriff who was off duty awhile to the party Paul Turner threw in memory of Bill Rotsler, though we missed Jerry Pournelle and Tim Powers. Then Keith Kato’s chili. Then the Seattle for Westercon LXV bid party. Two a.m. in Operations, Chinese-style Mah Jongg going strong. Someone said “I’m sorry I didn’t say goodbye to you, I was talking to the police.”

Saturday morning at 10, to moderate “Blurring the Lines,” Atkins, Laura Frankos, Val Ontell. Atkins said different genres have different expectations. I noted how Frankos’ husband de-Anglicized his name to Turteltaub for a different book. Computers, she said, look at an author’s name, and order according to how many the last book over that name sold. Ontell noted how the 2001 book Seabiscuit drew interest outside the horse genre.

Toni Weisskopf took my tour of the Art Show. I was glad to see a set of woodwork spaceships by Johnna Klukas. One, dark as the void, gleamed with stars. Guessing right I used my magic tour-leader power to open the ships: they were boxes. “For the rest of you,” I said, “try this only at home.” Then a talk on From the Earth to the Moon. We liked the pace and wit. It detailed conceiving the project, building, and firing, then ended. I loved Michel Ardan’s superb four words “I won’t come back.”

At 2:30 to moderate “There’s a Bimbo on the Cover of My Book,” Laura Brodian, Amy Casil. Brodian, widow of Kelly Freas, said he read all he illustrated, often several times; yet authors might not grasp illustration, and he used to crack “I prefer my authors dead.” Casil with a lapsize computer showed 200 color images of book and magazine covers suitable to the topic. Then Lisa & Harold Harrigan’s 32nd-anniversary party, where pleasant signs explained 32 = 24 + 42 and 11 + 22 + 33. Then España Sheriff’s Art Show tour. Then shopping with co-hosts Becky Thomson and Tom Veal for the Prime Time Party at which, every Loscon from 1 a.m. Sunday till dawn, we try for good food, drink, talk.

Ten a.m. Sunday, to moderate “World Domination,” Brad Lyau, V.J. Waks, she saying everyone had an internal ape that made us dominate, he full of overseas experiences which, like Lao Tzu, said maybe not. Then a talk on Brain Wave. We praised its poetry, in both the small sense of its choice of words, and the large sense of its choice of incident. We discussed whether its vignettes, which carried breadth, left loose ends. This was a book of pain and hope. Then cleaning, the Dead Dog party and another in the Fanzine Lounge by Night, and eventually home.

LASFS at 75

The Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society threw its 75th anniversary bash at the Castaways in Burbank on October 23. Perched high on a hillside our banquet hall had a vast scenic window opening onto a magnificent view of twinkling city lights. It was the perfect place for us, halfway to the stars.

Master of ceremonies John Hertz had not dressed like Beau Brummell (though he sometimes does) which he emphasized by pointing out “This is one of the rare occasions when Len Moffatt is better dressed that I.” John did wear his beanie, however, when he introduced our first speaker, Roy Test.

Roy at last got the attention he’s always deserved as one of the club’s founding members. The late Forry Ackerman was also present at the club’s creation in 1934 and was such an influential part of LASFS history as well as its most polished raconteur that he was able to fully satisfy people’s curiosity about the past. (I snapped a photo of Ackerman waving for the camera at the club’s 70th anniversary, only later discovering Roy Test was there and by luck I had captured Roy walking past in the background of the same picture.) However, Roy’s story is quite interesting in its own right.

After Hertz helped him up to the dais Roy joked, “I was a little more agile when I first started reading sf stories.” He remembered a preliminary club meeting at a movie theater one afternoon. And most of his memories are of meetings at Clifton’s Cafeteria when he was 13 or 14 years old. He remembered the green drink circulating in Clifton’s fountain. He said his mother, Wanda Test, volunteered to be club secretary as a way to come to the meetings “and see what kind of oddballs I was associating with. Maybe it didn’t occur to her I was the oddest one there.”

(According to Forry Ackerman in Mimosa: “That very first meeting of all was attended by nine people. There was a young fan named Roy Test; he was interested in Esperanto, so we called him ‘Esperan-Test’. His mother, Wanda Test, was our first secretary. In those days of the 1930s, Thrilling Wonder Stories was on our minds, so her minutes became known as ‘Thrilling Wanda Stories’.”)

Roy remembered discovering a used bookstore with a trove of very early sf pulps selling for 15 cents each. He worked at a gas station for 10 cents an hour, so every hour-and-a-half he could buy another copy from the magazine’s first year of publication.

Within a few years World War II started, and Test went into the Army Air Corps and piloted B-17 bombers. He is, in fact, still an active flyer in the Commemorative Air Force (see photos of him in uniform here and here.) Roy said he occasionally flies a Russian paratroop plane, the largest single-engine biplane in the world. By coincidence, my family had toured the Planes of Fame museum in Chino a year or so ago and I saw some items donated by Roy on exhibit — the first time I knew that part of his story.

Roy was followed by Len and June Moffatt. It was great to see them together – they’ve been part of LASFS for around 60 years. Other speakers included John DeChancie, Karl Lembke (Chair of the LASFS board of directors), Mel Gilden, Laura Brodian Freas, Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle.

Larry Niven said in 1963 he decided he was going to be a writer and took the Famous Writers School correspondence course. He was then 25 years old. Having met Ray Bradbury years before (when they had the same doctor) he wrote for advice, was referred to Forry Ackerman and ended up attending LASFS meetings at the Silver Lake Playground. That opened the way to all kinds of adventures, and to meeting his future wife at the 1967 Worldcon. Larry said that Fallen Angels(written with Pournelle and Flynn) embodied what he felt about fandom.

Jerry Pournelle quoted Heinlein to the effect that authors who read their own works in public probably have other nasty habits, but he agreed with Niven’s sentiments about Fallen Angels. He too had joined LASFS in the Silver Lake days, when Paul Turner was promoting the idea that we’d someday own our own clubhouse. Jerry said he grew up with a future – “I knew in the 40s I would live to see the first man on the moon. I didn’t know I’d live to see the last one.” Although the future isn’t what it used to be, “I think it’s still there… One of these days we’ll find people who do believe it and we will get our future back.”

Fannish entertainers provided a change of pace between the speakers. Lynn Maudlin sang “Gotta Kill My Clone” and “High Frontier” (her response to the space shuttle tragedies). Storyteller Nick Smith spoke. Charles Lee Jackson II reminisced about Forry Ackerman. And throughout the evening letters were read from our absent friends: Ray Bradbury, Ray Harryhausen, Paul Turner.

I shared a table with Milt Stevens, Marc Schirmeister and Joe Zeff, and also enoyed seeing a lot of other long-time friends.

Thanks to Christian McGuire and Arlene Satin for their excellent work organizing the event. And also for publishing the incredible 75th Anniversary Memory Book. What a treasure that is!

At LASFS, They Mean It

LASFS’ unofficial membership policy is, “Death will not release you – even if you die.” And yes, they’re serious.

Someone suggested the late Forry Ackerman’s name ought to be removed from the list of advisors to the LASFS Board of Directors because he is, er, late. Another director was shocked at the idea. According to the minutes of the March 2009 board meeting:

Christian McGuire brought a motion that Forry Ackerman should not be removed as an advisor to the board: though he is dead death shall not release him, he just won’t be coming to coming to the BOD meetings and the Board can’t communicate to him but still he should remain an advisor.  Motion passed 8-2-0

Believe me, if they get any advice from him at this point they ought to listen!

The Drink Tank’s Bicentennial Issue

The double-century issue of The Drink Tank (#200), its fourth annish, is more than historic — it’s a hoot-and-a-half. Chris Garcia and a whole slate of interesting fans have packed it with laughs.

When Chris invited Cheryl Morgan to contribute, the word annish seems to have been garbled in transmission. But who could have done a better job than Cheryl of envisioning traditional Amish fanac?

A fanzine produced by science fictional Amish, therefore, would be composed on an Apple Mac, or a Dell running Windows XP (which, incidentally, is still on sale in the future because Microsoft still haven’t got the bugs out of Vista, or whatever they are calling the latest release).

Cheryl shows that being a fine writer can take you far. Beth Zuckerman proves that fine writing combined with advance preparation goes even farther toward ensuring your convention experiences will yield great fanzine material. No conreport of mine can ever hope to achieve anything like her account of Arisia 2009:

I did have to seek out a t-shirt vendor, because while my 51-lb suitcase was fully equipped with rocketship pajamas, the ostentatiously unnecessary coin bra, an entire No. 6 costume with eyebrow makeup, a veritable mountain of lingerie, and a generous supply of little rubber things, somehow I entirely failed to bring anything to wear during the day before the parties started.

Pro wrestling is one of Chris Garcia’s passions. In this issue, his friend Bobby Toland has a lot to say about professional wrestler Kurt Angle’s need to learn humility, and how those lessons might be imparted. One of the hallmarks of good fanwriting is its ability to make fascinating a subject that ordinarily would be of little interest, which is my default response to pro wrestling. Toland held my attention from start to finish.

I also admired the trivia quiz “Fantastic Fours” by Frank Wu and Brianna Spacekat Wu. I answered more than half of them wrong, but everyone reading this review should be able to name the foursome composed of Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello, and Michelangelo.

Christian McGuire spends most of his time as one of the leading conrunners of the age, but thanks to Chris Garcia he hasn’t been completely lost to the world of fanwriting. Plenty of people will want to read all about McGuire’s adventures at Further Confusion 2009 once I mention that one of the lines in the report is: “A prurient Pink Panther holding up the tail of the Tiger before him offered Andy the choice to play jump rope with the tail. All I can say is that Andy can Double-Dutch with me any day.”

Leigh Ann Hildebrand is yet another friend of Chris’s with a great sense of humor. This is not even the funniest line in her list of “Five Things I’m No Longer Allowed To Do in the Fanzine Lounge”:

4. Not allowed to offer impromptu origami classes using materials at hand, even with the justification that it’s a form of performance art expressing my thoughtful critique of the phrase “core fandom.”

Every issue of The Drink Tank is highlighted by a combination of original art and assorted graphics liberated from the internet. An example of the latter, my favorite in issue #200, is the wry parody of RIAA’s anti-piracy ads showing a woman in a pre-WWI hairdo manipulating two Edison phonographs under the caption “Home Cylinder Duplication Is Killing the Music Industry.”

It doesn’t seem that long ago Chris was gushing poetically about what it might be like to produce his hundredth ish, at the time something only a select few active faneds like Arnie Katz, Knarley Welch and Mike Glyer could claim. Within five seconds after mentioning this in File 770, I immediately heard from myriads of offended fans who’d been left off the list, the most impressive being Mark and Evelyn Leeper who wondered what was the big deal, since their MT Void has published fifteen “one-hundredth” issues.

But the point is that it’s my turn to live vicariously through Chris’s experience. At the rate I’m producing issues there’s a good chance I will have to wait until 2028 or so to have a 200th issue experience of my very own. Great work Chris!