Westercon 64 Runneth Over

Westercon 64, coming this Fourth of July weekend to San Jose, has announced more special events to draw the fans.

There will be a performance of a radio-style play written by artist guests of honor Phil and Kaja Foglio, a themed Saturday afternoon tea with writer guest of honor Patricia McKillip, and a focus event on the guests moderated by Terry Bisson from the SF in SF reading series.

But wait, there’s more! The full press release follows the jump.

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Lost: My Mind

Kaja and Phil Foglio

Phil Foglio is a Loscon 37 Guest of Honor. Now famed for his Girl Genius online comic, he came to early prominence as the artist who partnered with Robert Asprin in 1976 to create “The Capture”, a very funny graphic story presented at cons in slide show form that became the first faannish production ever nominated for the Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo.  

Even though it’s Phil’s pro work that Loscon is focusing on, this was the reason I remembered “The Capture” today. Or tried to.

I don’t know if I’ve seen it again since 1976 when I sat in a darkened ballroom at MidAmeriCon while the images flashed by and Robert Asprin narrated. Or so I almost remember.

And that afternoon the hilarity and excitement built as the audience repeatedly and ever more loudly filled in the comic line that drives the story, which is….  Which is…

I thought I was losing my mind. How could I remember sitting in that ballroom and not remember the joke?

I thought — Man, I’m embarrassing myself here. What if fans found out this happened to me?

Just thank goodness that we have the internet. I knew Google would save me because it can always find the answer even when my question is wrong.

Except not today.

You know the joke about trying to look something up in the dictionary that you don’t know how to spell? It’s like that. If you misremember the catchphrase as being “no such thing as ____” there isn’t a search engine in the world that can help you.

Originally I expected Google or Bing to return the answer if I merely searched Foglio and “The Capture”, but that was too general for them to work with. That search returned a lot of websites that know a coloring book was made from the show art, or that Robert Asprin shared credit, but provide very little detail about “The Capture” itself, not even the iconic tagline. Nor is there a Wikipedia article about “The Capture”, only a reference to it on a disambiguation page, and another in the article about Foglio himself, “The Capture” formatted as one of those pathetic red-colored links Wikipedia uses when it wishes somebody would write an article about the thing, except nobody does because they’re annoyed that the last entry they did had 17 warning labels slapped on it by the Wiki guardians for bad formatting, lack of citations and halitosis.     

So I recommend that if you ever find yourself in a situation where Google and Bing have failed – and with the onset of increasing age who won’t? – you should do what I did.

Ask Craig Miller.

He’ll know.

Once Craig reminded me about gremlins I could get any search engine to fill in the rest, just like a bank that’s always ready to lend money to people who don’t need it. “Gremlins do not exist!” is everywhere on the internet. Armed with the correct catchphrase it is no trouble at all to find thousands of references, including the concise description I will use as a closing quote, written by Jerry Pournelle as part of a reminiscence about the late Kelly Freas:  

Kelly was the “star” of a famous science fiction skit called “The Capture”, based on the premise that a World Science Fiction Convention was held on a cruise ship in the Bermuda Triangle, and the inevitable happened: all the passengers were taken aboard an alien spaceship. The skit was done as a series of reports by the alien expedition commander. Most of the reports received advice from headquarters that “Gremlins do not exist,” although it was clear from what was going on with the detainees that perhaps there was a gremlin among them. It would be no favor to Robert Asprin and Phil Foglio who created this remarkable presentation to try to summarize it, and I don’t suppose it was recorded, which is all our loss.

Life Found on Denver

Worldcon coverage on the Internet – Eureka!

Fast Forward: Contemporary Science Fiction has posted a several-minutes-long video blog about Denvention Day 1. It’s rather good, too, mixing brief interviews with various fans (among them, Michael Walsh and Phil Foglio), shots of a Registration line already made notorious by Cheryl Morgan, and excerpts from Opening Ceremonies and a Rick Sternbach program item. The small-format video came through with jewel-like clarity on my computer. Highly recommended.

The League of Extraordinarily Selfless Fan Artists

Frank Wu has preemptively announced that he will decline if nominated for Best Fan Artist in 2008.

“This essay is incredibly hard to write. I don’t want to be misunderstood, to come across as churlish, arrogant, calculating or ungrateful…. Having won three Hugo Awards for Best Fan Artist, in three of the last four years, I have decided that – should I be nominated – I will decline the nomination [in 2008],” wrote Frank in an editorial published in Abyss and Apex issue 24, dated the fourth quarter or 2007.

I learned about Frank’s decision when his editorial popped up in response to a Google search about another fan artist. Such news must have been reported and discussed long since (though not anywhere Google could show me). Such a remarkable example of selflessness is worth retelling, in any case.

Frank thoughtfully explains that his decision has been made for the sake of the vitality of the Best Fan Artist Hugo category. He wants to “break the logjam” for other fan artists like Alan F. Beck, Taral Wayne, Dan Steffan, Marc Schirmeister, Alexis Gilliland, and Stu Shiffman. (Though Frank surely must know Gilliland and Shiffman have won before.)

To help show that withdrawing is not an ungrateful response to his popularity, Frank lists many other people who withdrew from past Hugo races. He might have added the two most important examples from the Best Fan Artist category itself. There’s not another category where serial winners have been so conscientious about sharing the limelight.

Phil Foglio won the Best Fan Artist Hugo in 1977 and 1978. During his last acceptance speech, Foglio withdrew from future fanartist Hugo consideration saying, “I know how hard it is to get on the list, and once you do it’s even harder to get off.” Victoria Poyser won the category in 1981 and 1982, then announced she would not accept future nominations. Foglio and Poyser both went on to professional success.

Frank does tell how Teddy Harvia and Brad Foster declined their nominations in 1997. He speculates, “Apparently they were trying to clear the path for fellow nominee Bill Rotsler, who would pick up his Hugo and then pass away a month later.” Well, no. Just the previous year (1996) Rotsler had won the Best Fan Artist Hugo, a Retro Hugo, and a Special Committee Award. He’d already cleared his own path.  The reason Harvia and Foster gave in 1997 is that they had a self-perceived conflict of interest created by their close involvement with the San Antonio Worldcon. Foster had drawn the covers for all the Progress Reports, and Harvia contributed other art. They made a highly-principled decision. A past progress report artist had been criticized for having an unfair advantage over competitors for the Hugo — that’s fandom for you, where someone demands that our top talents forego Hugo nominations as a condition of being allowed to provide art for free!