WORLDCON 77 – DUBLIN
By Chris M. Barkley:
- I now KNOW which flatmate is the culprit who has been reversing the direction of toilet paper in our flat. To preserve whatever goodwill we have built up between the visiting fans and the Republic of Ireland, this person shall remain unnamed. But the information has been forwarded to the local Garda. And Interpol.
- Speaking of which, I am very glad that none of the natives noticed that the pants I purchased at Costco that I’ve been wearing during our stay were manufactured by…English Laundry.
- I was also informed yesterday that hurling was NOT a sport involving professional vomiting. I was quite relieved to learn this.
- I like “Airplane Mode” setting on my phone SO MUCH I’m keeping it that way from now on! WooT!
- Juli persuaded me NOT to wear my Wakanda University t-shirt over my regular shirt today. Because technically, I’m on a diplomatic mission. SHHHHHH!
- It’s TRUE: Fan Writing is cheaper than therapy! Just Sayin’…
On our last day in Ireland, I woke up thinking about baseball. More specifically, baseball pitchers.
Of all the players who play baseball, it could be argued that the
pitcher is the single most important and the most vulnerable parts of the game.
Important because the game cannot function without them and vulnerable because
the human arm is not exactly designed to throw a baseball for any length of
The rule book on baseball pitch consists of only two words: Throw Strikes.There are countless volumes of scholarly studies and critiques have been written on how this might be accomplished.
Those pitchers who do manage to hang on for twenty years and remain effective at some level are an extraordinary group of athletes who deserved to be lauded and revered.
I am not exactly comparing myself to that elite group but I do note that 2019 marks my twentieth year of being involved with and pitching (see what I did there) my amendments, arguments and strategies to the World Science Fiction Convention’s Business Meeting.
In the last few months before Worldcon 77, I had been evaluating how I felt and what I should do next. And like a veteran pitcher at the end of their career, I ultimately came to the conclusion that my arsenal has been depleted and I have essentially lost my effectiveness to proceed any further in this capacity.
The past few years have not been easy for me; my mother and father have died, the years long struggle to get a Young Adult Book category going was draining on an emotional level, I had to abandon the attempt to attach Ursula K. Le Guin’s name to the YA Award due to my doubts about winning any support for it at the Business Meeting and my own impatience led to me offer an amendment for a test of a Best Translated Novel even though the Hugo Study Committee appointed by Business Meeting recommended it be discussed for another year.
I have been persistent, stubborn and tenacious in the past but after twenty years of cajoling, persuading, compromising and grinding away making legislative sausage, I was yearning for a new set of challenges and goals.
And after the way things went down after the first two sessions of the Dublin Business Meeting, it became quite evident that I had come to the right decision.
After the Business Meeting was officially adjourned on Saturday, I made a point of going up and bidding a formal farewell to some of the WSFS Business Meeting members I respect the most, Donald Eastlake III, Linda Derenoff, Kevin Standlee and Vince Docherty, telling each of them that I will not be offering any for proposals for future consideration nor would I likely to be very active (unless I’m just there to vote on an issue that I seriously support) at future sessions of the WSFS Business Meeting.
Here’s the thing: when I initially started getting involved with the Business Meeting twenty years ago, I was doing it an everyday fan who wanted to make sure that films, television shows and other forms of media were given a somewhat level playing field when competing in the awards process.
After that, I found that I quite haphazardly stumbled into being an advocate of change. My mission became seeking solutions the inequities in the Editing Category and fighting to see the creators of comics/graphic stories and young adult authors get the recognition they richly deserve from our community.
I did so not to become more influential, to become a fannish insider or be famous. I did this because I revere and honor the Hugo Award and I wanted to see them stay fair, equitable and most importantly, relevant to our times.
In order to achieve these lofty goals, I had to become more of a public face for these ideas. In doing so I acknowledge that I have, in some circles, I have been perceived as an ambitious social climber who stepped on people’s toes and rubbed them the wrong way.
So as willingly as I have accepted the allocates of what I have done, I also unflinchingly take the criticism. Let the literary critics, historians and anthropologists hash out what happened because it doesn’t matter to me right now and certainly won’t after I am dead and gone.
On August 25th, I will be turning sixty-three years old. This past June, I celebrated my forty-third anniversary in fandom. Having spent the first twenty plus years amassing friends and the latter twenty becoming inadvertently well-known, I now take my leave.
To the members of the Business meeting and the SMOFs
mailing list I say this: I thank you for your advice and patience. Your
vigilance in protection of the Constitution and the Hugo Awards has been long
and admirable. But your seeming officiousness, proof of worthiness, over
reliance on years and years of committee studies are your weakness. These
things scare and alienate fans from engaging in the process. I implore you all
to be more intuitive and take more risks and chances, especially with those who
come before you for the first time.
I find it simply astounding (pun definitely intended) that the people who champion a branch of literature that is dedicated to exploring and expounding on scientific, psychological and emotional change, act in such a hidebound, conservative manner and are seemingly determined to see that some fannish things remain the same.
To you, the members of this community who contemplating going to the Business Meeting or are loath to spend any amount of your precious Worldcon time attending these long, laborious meeting; if you do not approve of what is happening at the World Science Fiction Convention or with the WSFS Constitution and the Hugo Awards, there is no substitution for GETTING INVOLVED!. There are a lot of things I regret; not learning how to become a switch hitter in softball, learning to play a musical instrument or becoming bilingual. But all of the time I spent in the Business Meeting was well spent. So go down to your independent/used bookstore or online and get a Roberts Rules of Order and jump into the action. If you don’t, you haven’t any damned right to bitch about what is going on.
As for myself, I walk away proud of what I have accomplished. I have left it all on the field as they say in the sports world. In the last year or so, my activities in the Business Meeting have become too much of a distraction to some of the more important things going on in my life right now.
But don’t think that you won’t be hearing from me any more, you’re not getting off that easily. I am going to be writing my File 770 column for the foreseeable future and on my Facebook page and my Twitter account as well.And there are other long gestating writing projects outside of fandom that will occupy a great deal of my time as well..
But the MOST important thing in my life is caring for my three-and-a-half-year old granddaughter, Lillyann Virginia. She loves me as the day is long and give her mine. Her wants and needs are more important right now than anything I have ever done at the WSFS Business Meeting. Lillyann is my future and she is yours as well.
The future is happening right now.
It always has been.
The day began in splendid fashion; the sun was shining with a few fleecy clouds in the sky. Good flying weather. Juli and I wished we had more time to see this wonderful country we have come to love these past eight days but our time was up. We had packed our humongous suitcase the night before so we were all set to depart.
Our flight was scheduled for 12:55 p.m. and United Airlines told us before we left that while US Immigration and Customs had a station inside the airport to aid passengers headed for America, we were advised to get to there AT LEAST three hours before departure time.
Well, unless we are traveling to or from a major hub domestically back in the US, Juli and I usually take this piece of advice with a gigantic, choking grain of salt. Little did we know…
We said our goodbyes to our flatmates Peter and Anna around 9:30 a.m. We walked around the corner to the transit station and purchased two bus tickets to the airport. Our first mistake was not heading to the main drag we knew very well to find the 747 bus route stop, but to wander further into downtown Dublin to find another one.
As we walked along I spotted a bookstore. I stopped to stare and then picked up my pace.
“What’s the matter?”, Juli asked.
“Just keep walking,” I said. I had to concentrate on getting home, not shopping. Hard choices.
After asking directions (a few times, because, accents, theirs and ours) we finally found the bus station. While we were there we came across a few European fans headed to the airport as well. One woman had a very interesting patch on her jacket that I really liked, so I asked her permission to take a photo of it.
We were also approached by a tall panhandler with a foreign (not Irish) accent came up asking for spare change. We kindly rebuffed him because we had no Euros left (and he looked rather sketchy to boot).
After he wandered away, a well-dressed woman came over and said, “It’s good that ye didn’t give ‘em anything.”
“Why is that?” Juli asked.
“Because most of them come over here and they receive more benefits here than they do where they came from.’ she explained in a patient but slightly irritated voice. “Most ’em are either drug addicts or criminals.”
As the woman walked away Juli and I exchanged a look; this was the first person we had come across since we arrived that had shown any sort of negativity towards anyone who wasn’t Irish. I can only hope that she was among the minority here.
The double decker 747 bus finally arrived around 10:30 and it was packed to the gills with travelers. We were among the last in line. Juli was becoming worried. “I’m beginning to think we should have taken a taxi,” Juli said. I tried to remain optimistic; we were still two-and-a-half hours from our flight time. Still…
When it was our turn, the driver looked at our tickets and said, “Sorry mum, these aren’t the right tickets.” Juli explained that we had gotten them from the station and they were clearly marked for transport to the airport.
“But mum,” he said with the resignation of a man who probably dealt with tourists everyday. “these tickets are from a different company altogether. I can’t take ‘em.”
NOW, I began to worry.
“But sir, we already paid fifteen Euros for these tickets.”
“Can we exchange them for the right tickets inside the station?“ I asked.
By this time, there were grumbling comments from some of the passengers and the five people still waiting didn’t look all that happy, either.
“All right,” the driver said, taking the tickets and giving a small jerk of his head. I dragged our suitcase aboard and stood in the main aisle with Juli. Somehow, all of the other passengers squeezed on board behind me and the bus lurched out of the station. We were packed and there was no stopping between there and the airport.
The bus arrived at Terminal Two around 10:45. Still plenty of time, I thought. We made a beeline to the United check-in counters, which were sandwiched in between the Emirates and American Airlines. Luckily, there were only two people ahead of us and no one behind us.
About a minute later, several hundred people arriving off of fleet of shuttle buses DID line up behind us. Timing is everything. Sometimes it’s the ONLY thing.
We stepped up to the station and placed out bag on the scale as the attendant checked our passports and printed out our boarding passes. Our suitcase weighed in at 24.9 kilograms and even though I was lousy at converting that weight to pounds (54.8951 pounds to be exact), I got a sinking feeling we were over the weight limit.
“I’m sorry but your bag is too heavy,” she said in a kindly, but reproachful tone. “You will have to take something out.”
Juli looked at me expectantly. Since I packed it, I knew exactly what to pull out. I took the suitcase, unzippered the main flap, reached inside and pulled out exactly what we needed to lighten the load; our two Worldcon souvenir and pocket program books. I hoisted it back on the scale and presto, 22.9 kg.
From there we took an escalator one level up to the Irish security area. These was a line here, too; a serpentine one that consisted of 13 long rows of stanchions and cloth tape that led to four separate doors with guards motioning people through to another area.
Staying together, we were shepherd into the next room where there were four more lines where bags and people were being scanned. As we were inching through our line, I saw a familiar looking hat out of the corner of my eye. I turned around and exclaimed, “Jo Walton?”
An lo and behold it was indeed my acquaintance, the Hugo and Nebula Award winning author, in the company of fellow author Ada Palmer (winner of the 2017 John W. Campbell Award and the victim of the horrible closed captioning nightmare at the Hugo Awards Ceremony) and her partner, Lauren Schiller.
After everyone was introduced to one another, Jo exclaimed, “We’re off to Edinburgh!” Upon learning I was doing a con report for File 770, Ms.Palmer pressed leaflet outlining her latest project, Worlds of Welcome, an international effort to raise money for refugees in conjunction with the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES).
In an explanation on her website (http://www.exurbe.com), Ms Palmer writes that RAICES main goal is, “… to help those in the camps on the US side of the US-Mexico Border, by organizing online auction of items donated by the F&SF community: signed books, craft items, fanworks & merchandise, custom fiction, editors willing to give query critiques, or members of underrepresented groups willing to give sensitivity reads to in-progress fiction. We hope the auction will run in October. We are currently soliciting donations of items for the auction, and a few more people to help organize it. If interested, please email us at: [email protected].”
The deadline for donations is September 30th and auctions will be held from October 1st through the 15th.
As our lines moved apart we all wished each other luck in making our respective flights.
After passing through the Irish security area, we strolled into a brightly mall of duty-free shops, filled with stuff we could not possibly get into any of our carry on bags. Following a series of American flags with arrows, we arrived at the entrance to the US Preclearance – Customs and Border Patrol (USCBP)…and found yet another, long and crowded passengers waiting in line to have their carry on bags inspected. AGAIN!
It was now 12:15 p.m. We were close but I it was getting close to the time to board our plane.
The lines were
so backed up that some of the immigration agents were paging over the
loudspeakers or shouting out cities and flight numbers, scrambling to go
through the lines to pull out passengers for flights imminently leaving for
Chicago, San Francisco and Philadelphia.
It was in this line that we saw Philadelphia area fans Joni and Todd Dashoff and a new friend, Abie Eke, whom I first met at the descendants from African Meetup.
Todd and I passed each other so many times that when we finally made it through the inspection and were respectively putting our shoes, I turned to him and said, “I’m tired at looking at you, too!”
“I got tired of
looking at you when I first saw you here,” he retorted with a laugh.
“I’m beginning to think that the convention was just one big practice session to wait in line at the airport,” Juli groused when I caught up with her.
When we finally were called to a station to be questioned, our inquisitor was a dead ringer for Nick Nolte with exceptionally beady eyes.
He asked the usual litany of questions; did we have anything to declare, did we have any food or vegetables in our luggage or carry on bags, did we do any work while in Ireland? We answered no to all of these questions.
“Nick” then took our boarding passes and passports and had us step onto a set of footprints a few feet in front of his station and asked us to stare into a scanner as he compared our faces to the images on the passports.
After a few moments of staring at our innocent American faces, “Nick” gave a slight, laconic nod of his head said, “Thank you. Enjoy the flight home.” And with that, we walked swiftly towards the United departure gates.
On the way through the terminal, Juli said, “Look, a dead people walker.”
It was indeed, several dozen yards of non-moving walkway. “Yeah, that one is for zombies only!”
Juli just rolled her eyes and said, “Yeah, so funny.”
When we got to our gate it was just about 12:45 p.m. but they had not started the boarding process. Apparently, when our boarding passes were printed, and the delays in the lines were noted, our departure time was adjusted as well, thank goodness.
Waiting in line were a virtual galaxy of fannish stars; Jim and Laurie Mann of Pittsburgh, former Worldcon Chair Deb Geisler from Boston, editor Scott Edelman from West Virginia and the Hugo Award winning fanzine editors, Nikki and Richard Lynch from Maryland. Jim Mann told me that there were probably between twenty and thirty fans from Worldcon headed home on this flight.
We settled into our assigned seats in the aisle and across from each other. Juli sat next to a young couple, I sat next to two older gentlemen.
We took off only twenty minutes late with a flight time of 7 hours and forty-five minutes. Everyone around me pulled their shades, once again denying me a view of the Atlantic Ocean.
After a while, I was pondering when I might try to sleep in order to take the edge off some of the inevitable and dreaded bout of jet lag.
When we reached cruising altitude, the deployment of the beverage cart soon followed. I had a regular Coke since both Juli and I had skipped breakfast during our various adventures earlier in the day.
After drinking it, the older gentleman spilled water on his tray table, narrowing missing the paperback book he was reading. As I helped him clean up the spill with my napkin, I got a good look at the book was reading; a paperback copy of an Adam-Troy Castro novel, The Third Claw of God.
“Hey,” I exclaimed, “I know that writer!” The reader, Sylvan Oppenheimer of Baltimore, was startled that I knew the author. And yes, both he and his older brother Izzy sitting next to him attended the Worldcon and had a wonderful time. Izzy also has good taste in writers; he was reading one of James H. Schmitz’s Telzey Amberdon collections reissued by Baen Books. Both men had gone to Worldcons before but this was their first time going overseas to attend one. They both reported that they had a splendid time.
I tried to get in a few hours of sleep as we headed westward, five hours into the past. It took me a day or so to recover coming over and I had no doubt that my body’s circadian rhythm was going to take a beating coming back. I picked up United’s in-flight magazine, Hemispheres, and saw that the cover story was titled, “Three Perfect Days in Hong Kong.” I thought about what was happening there at the moment; the citizens who were being harassed and beaten on a daily basis for demanding their rights and freedoms that were supposed to be guaranteed by law. I put the magazine back, unread.
As I have grown older, I have come to dislike watching movies or television shows up in the air. My usual routine is to sleep, write or shifting my brain into iPod mode, recalling my favorite songs just from memory.
On the other hand, Juli plunged right in and watched two movies back to back; The Best of Enemies with Taraji P. Henson and Sam Rockwell followed by The Hummingbird Project, a financial thriller starring Salma Hayek, Jesse Eisenberg and Alexander Skarsgård.
When I woke up, I got a look outside of Izzy’s window; we were over land again, somewhere along the east coast. As we made our final approach, I noted the overcast skies and some ominous flashes on the western horizon.
We landed at Dulles twenty minutes late at around 5:45 p.m. and just in time; there were several lightning strikes near the tarmac as we pulled into the gate.
All of our luminaries had departed by the time we emerged into the terminal. When we arrived at our gate a short distance away, the skies opened up a massive thunderstorm was in progress. More lightning strikes closed down all of the ramps. I checked the radar at weather.gov and saw that the current storm was going to pass through quickly but there was another storm front fifty miles to the west and headed directly towards us.
While we were waiting, Juli pointed out that the designation of a nearby gate, C-4, was problematic. Maybe they should ban that gate number permanently, just as the 13th floor is conveniently omitted from most hotels. Just sayin’…
As our flight was about to be called, I reached over to my right to retrieve my fedora from the seat next to me, only to suddenly stop when I realized I had almost picked up a orthodox rabbi’s wide brimmed black borsalino. Fortunately for me, the rabbi was facing the other way and never noticed the move. My hat was on top of my shoulder bag in front of me. Crisis averted!
As the storm moved out, there was a rush to get as many flights into the air as possible before the next storm front arrived. Our flight was called and we were given the rare treat of actually walking out on the tarmac to our plane, which had an old fashioned airstairs leading up to the cabin.
Just as we had gotten strapped into our seats, the next storm front arrived with additional lightning strikes, once again closing the gates before our luggage had been fully loaded onto the plane.
During the hour-and-a-half delay, we were served repeated rounds of soft drinks, water and cookies. I checked my email and Facebook accounts and was pleased to see that Jeannette Ng’s Campbell speech was getting a lot of coverage in fannish circles and in the mainstream media as well.
We finally took off after the storm front passed and we were finally on the last leg of our trip. When I remarked that this had been one remarkable Monday so far, she corrected me; it was actually Tuesday! Did I mention earlier that time travel was hard? It is very hard. On your brain.
Thankfully, the one-hour trip was unremarkable. The landing in Dayton was a little rough but Juli and I exchanged a happy look as we taxied to the terminal.
Our lone suitcase came down the luggage carousel almost immediately. As we exited the building to flag down the shuttle, the song playing over the speakers was Duran Duran’s 1983 pop hit, “Union of the Snake.”
“Well now, situation normal,” I remarked dryly. Juli gave me a ‘whatever’ eye roll.
The shuttle dropped us off at our car and we were soon on our way down I-75. Darkness had fallen and the skies were clear. I turned on the radio and the Reds were in the late innings of game with the San Diego Padres, leading 3-1. The Reds ended up winning 3-2.
And when the final out was recorded, Marty Brennaman, the Hall of Fame announcer of the Cincinnati Reds sealed the victory with his most famous catch phrase, “And This One Belongs To The Reds!”
At that moment, we knew we were truly home again.
(These reports are dedicated to the memory of my late parents, Alice and Erbil Barkley and also to the recent passing of our dear and loving neighbor, Lillian Feld.)