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.

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14 thoughts on “Lost: My Mind

  1. Just last month, Baen Books published Myth-Interpretation, a collection of stories by Robert Lynn Asprin. And, included between pages 205 and 211 is “The Capture,” including illustrations.

  2. And the illustrations and transcribed narration were published by a fan publisher at the time, in saddle-staple format, as “The Capture Coloring Book.” I have a copy … somewhere …

  3. Ask me sometime about running Facilities, and several other hats, on the 1976 Lunacon (at age 17) when “The Capture” was performed at that con.

    I ran the tech and introed the show, along with arranging all the setup and take-down, and everthing else to supervise, and let the show go on.

    Aside from having to repeatedly grab the microphone away from Anna Vargo’s enthusiastic ten-year-old brother who kept trying to be helpful with his own announcments as the audience was filtering in, the major drama came with
    the pepper gas bombing of the performance.

    Not many program items end with the audience literally running screaming, gasping, and choking, in a panic, out of the room.

    But did we have drama with comedy! YES! FTW!

    Same con where El Shorter and I ran down and tackled Rex Weiner of Pie-Kill after he’d semi-pied Ted White during the GOH proceedings, after Charles Platt had paid him off, after the incident of the program book ad in puzzle form that actually spelled out…, and where….

    It was an extremely memorable convention, providing anecdotes which last to this day. I suppose I could even write an actual article.

    I should ask Phil his version of memories of Lunacon 76, and the gas bomb, sometime. If he remembers me.

  4. Or someone could ask Phil, at Loscon, if he recalls the pepper gas bombing; I have no idea if he remembers it, would have anything funny to say or not about it, beyond perhaps, “oh, yeah, that was memorable.” Or “I don’t even remember that.”

  5. Oh, there are copies out there. Some are in the hands of the original performers (no, I’m not one). If Phil agreed, I’m sure a new production could be done.

  6. How well I remember “The Capture”! Now to dig out my “Gremlins do not exist!” button . . .

  7. I’ve read the book! I had no idea of its origin as a slide show. The name “The Capture” didn’t ring any bells just now, but when I read about the catchphrase “no such thing as…” my brain immediately filled in the missing word and it all came rushing back.

    Everyone’s memory gets jogged differently, I guess.

  8. “The Capture Coloring Book” is the entire text and illustrations, uncolored. My copy just surfaced actually, I’ll bring it to LosCon and maybe we can re-enact it!

  9. Okay, fan historians, who were the original performers?

    Mike remembers Bob Asprin. I presume Mr. Foglio was involved. Dr. Pournelle recalls Kelly Freas. Who else?

    I’ve performed in a re-enactment of “The Capture,” but I wasn’t there at the beginning. The slide set was a sacred artifact revered by Chicago fandom.

    Google tells me that Lunacon (when Gary worked tech) was 9 to 11 April 1976, so that performance preceded the Midamericon show in the summer. Was that the first performance ever? Was Foglio still a New Yorker, or had he moved to Chicago by then?

    The Capture Coloring Book was published by Kalamazoo’s wonderful Paula Smith– best known these days for coining the important critical term “Mary Sue.”

  10. The version done at Lunacon was not the first, so far as my quite unreliable — absent something to remind me — memory says; I’m reasonably sure they performed it closer to home, in Midwestern fandom, and probably more than once; but you’re best off asking Phil.

    And, absolutely he was from Chicago. They were the out-of-towners. 🙂

    I don’t recall much detail of the performance, frankly, since my attention had to be focused on making sure that it was running smoothly, although it was absolutely very funny, and, er, captivating, and I did more or less see it; it just was my tertiary priority.

    It was a two-man show at Lunacon.

    But I vaguely recall they both performed in different capacities. It may have been that Bob narrated, and Phil did voices, but it’s as likely that I have that all wrong. They were certainly both performing it, though, for whatever that’s worth.

    It’s entirely possible Freas was part of the performances at the other cons where Phil and, as he was still largely or often known as then, “Yang The Nauseating,” and Freas were all in attendance.

    And it’s possible that my memory is wrong, and that Lunacon was the first performance. But at the moment, that’s not how I’m remembering it.

    It actually should be trivial to ask a few people with better memories than me, such as Ben Yalow and Seth Briedbart, who were at the con, and hardly hard to get hold of. Also I can ask Elliot Shorter via Facebook what he may recall, as he was also a major committee member.

    I heard Don Lundry was at the NASFiC in Raleigh I attended, but I never ran into him, alas.

    Anyway, there are plenty of people left around who were at or in some cases worked on, Lunacon 76, and I’m in touch with several on FB and otherwise, so give me a day or two, and I’ll see if anyone else can be more reliable and detailed in reporting, which is immensely likely given how unhelpful I’ve been here.

  11. Elliot is having difficulties with his online access, but communicated this brief note of relevance, meanwhile.

    Elliot K. Shorter

    Bob (Yang) and Phil opened their campaign for the Hugo at Lunacon ’76. Bob met Lynn Abbey there Bod dressed as Dorsai Irregular in Jim’s album. There’s more.

    I’m sure that Elliott would love to hear from more of his old friends; he’s not overwhelmed with friendly company or visitors, or too much communication from friends, in general, so far as I know.

    His Facebook page (there are two, be warned, and I don’t *think* El is paying attention to the other at this time, but amn’t entirely sure; this is the one he’s currently active on: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000975649729.

    His mobile phone number is listed there, but as I don’t know his privacy settings, I won’t repeat that here. You can look for yourself, or if it’s important, email me, and I’ll get back to you, sooner or later.

    Elliot’is email address is: el2knives at yahoo dot com

    Be patient in expecting any responses, but I’m sure Elliot would be very happy to hear from folks, particularly friends, so long as they’re patient with his struggles with online access.

    He’d probably be delighted to have more visitors, if anyone finds themselves able.

    If I’ve misinterpreted anything I’ve written here, or garbled anything, or gotten it wrong entirely, the fault is entirely mine.

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