Just an Innocent Question

David Klaus was inspired by the passage of Arizona’s new immigration law to ask, “Does this mean it’s time for another Phoenix worldcon bid? Innocently yours…”

Opponents of the new law are already at work organizing boycotts of Arizona businesses, beginning with Major League Baseball’s Arizona Diamondbacks. And these news stories are obviously reminding David — in all innocence — of the time a Phoenix Worldcon appeared in the crosshairs of an earlier Arizona boycott.

In 1978 Worldcon GoH Harlan Ellison refused to stay in the con hotel, parking a rented RV at the curb, and spent no money while in the state because Arizona legislators hadn’t voted to approve the Equal Rights Amendment.

Ellison’s historic gesture is remembered in Helen Merrick and Tess Williams Women of Other Worlds: Excursions Through Science Fiction and Feminism:

Debate about the issue surfaced in [the fanzine] Janus with the publication of ‘A Statement of Ethical Position by the Worldcon Guest of Honour’, Harlan Ellison (1977). Ellison was torn between his position as GoH (accepted before the NOW campaigns began) and support for the ERA, which he felt meant he should boycott the con. Boycotts were not new to fandom; Ellison, along with others such as Marion Zimmer Bradley had boycotted the Miami Worldcon to protest against the activities of Anita Bryant. After consulting with writers and fans such as Le Guin, Russ, McIntyre, Bradley and Susan Wood, Ellison decided to attend the con, but ‘in the spirit of making the convention a platform for heightening the awareness of fans’, and promised to coordinate with NOW and other pro-ERA elements to publicize the situation….

The only fan I ever heard say out loud that Harlan’s activities changed his mind about ERA was…me. Of course, the fans who already agreed with him didn’t need their minds changed, so it’s hard to say how many fish there were in that pond for him to catch.

Update 05/01/2010: Changed to “rented RV” based on the comments of fans whose memories I trust.

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7 thoughts on “Just an Innocent Question

  1. I never thought I’d be in the same tag line with Harlan Ellison (he said with more innocence than anyone with a life like mine has a right to say).

    This is probably the closest thing I’ll ever get to a Hugo or Nebula Award, so I cannot thank you enough!

  2. Mike,

    it wasn’t a pickup with a camper shell. It was a rented RV that was parked at the curb.

    (And Ellison opined that he could do anything he wanted to in Phoenix as long as he spent no money there – so showers in a borrowed hotel suite were ok, as was complimentary morning coffee, but no buying danish at the restaurant.)

  3. The line I wrote on Facebook last Wednesday was “Gary Farber is glad he doesn’t have friends who are running a Worldcon in Arizona.”

    “…parking a borrowed pickup truck with camper shell at the curb….”

    This is slightly inaccurate; it wasn’t a pickup truck, and therefore didn’t have a camper shell; it was a full-on, quite sizable, Recreational Vehicle, capable of holding several people comfortably between Los Angeles and Phoenix, as it did.

    Also, not as a correction, but as a bit of trivia, while the borrowed RV absolutely was parked at a curb outside the Hyatt, the main annoyance this caused the con for a while was that we had to keep sending a gopher out with a handful of quarters every — oh, I forget, but some absurdly frequent period of time, which certainly wasn’t more than every two hours — to keep the meter fed, from the day Harlan and company arrived (my memory fails at this moment if that was Wednesday or Thursday) until (I think it was) Saturday, when I finally was able to get the City to bag the meter.

    The reason it took that many days was that I had to go as high as a Deputy Mayor of Phoenix to pull that string.

  4. Dear Mike,

    Confession time: it was Gary’s Facebook line quoted above which gave me the idea to write my little note to you, Mike. So Gary deserves some credit for the joke.

    Abashedly yours,


  5. @David: I think it turned out quite well, since we got the bonus of reading Gary’s story about Harlan’s parking meter.

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