By JJ:  After many years away from fandom, during which I was in a relationship with a mundane in which I pretty tragically lost myself and lost my way, I had made a new start and had found my way back to fandom. I knew exactly no one at the first Worldcon I attended – but came out of it with a few acquaintances with whom I kept touch via Facebook and/or e-mail, including one very famous author. The next time I went to Worldcon was better, but I was still on my own most of the time.

It was Saturday early evening. I was by myself. The few people with whom I was acquainted were all off presumably having dinner with their friends. So I went to the consuite, got a plate of food and a beverage, and sat down at an empty table to eat.

Presently a young woman appeared and asked if I was there for the Kaffeeklatsch. That’s right, they’d scheduled the poor author’s session for the Saturday dinner hour. Small surprise that no one had shown up. I was sitting at her designated table. I could see the bare hint of hope in her eyes, and I watched as it started to flicker out and die.

“Hi, I’m JJ,” I said, sticking out my hand. “Tell me about your book.”

She sat down and pulled out the bottle of wine she’d brought to share with her klatschers. So she and I sat there and drank the wine, and I learnt a fair bit about a subject with which I’d previously had only the barest acquaintance.

We’re still friends on Facebook, and it’s a connection I treasure, even though our fandom does not have a huge overlap.

It was a powerful reminder to me that, by being open to whatever comes along, you can stumble into some pretty amazing experiences.

Please use the comment section to share your own special memories of serendipity in fandom.

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11 thoughts on “Serendipity

  1. I love File 770, because it meant that not only did I know people at my first Worldcon, I knew a whole bunch of them. And sometimes, people who I’ve never seen commenting here seemed to know me(!).

    My brother had a great time at last Worldcon and at the filers meetups. He said it was like coming home. I hope to drag him to Dublin in 2019.

  2. Even though we didn’t know anyone there, Eric and I enjoyed our first WorldCon (Sasquan) because we had each other. But we observed that an introverted person would probably find it a lonely, miserable experience if he/she went there alone. There just aren’t many organized ways to meet new people there. We wondered if the real original of the Puppy mess was that Larry Correia went to WorldCon as a finalist and was still lonely and miserable–and then hated it forever.

    By the time we went to MidAmeriCon II, we’d discovered File770, and we were delighted at how warm and friendly the meetups were. Sometimes people get a little heated in the online comments, but at WorldCon, we’re all friends, and that’s how it should be.

  3. The first (and thus far only) Worldcon I attended (ConFrancisco) I knew some people who attended, but didn’t see most of them. The friends I did see were, unsurprisingly, book dealers I’d done business with and become friends with over a number of years. I didn’t see much of San Francisco, but I enjoyed the con.

    I bought a chapbook from Adam-Troy Castro there (I think it’s still floating around here somewhere in my collection) and met quite a few people there. An interesting experience.

  4. My first foray into fandom happened when I was a teenager drunk on Empire Strikes Back. Unfortunately, I encountered a lot of the people whose conduct necessitated all those conduct codes fashionable today. I wandered off into mundania and wrote for alternative news for a while, but I encountered more of the same kind of horseshit.

    So I burned my bridges and became a hermit, and didn’t write a damn thing outside of a few tiny subcultures, for several years, until I ultimately realized I can’t not write science fiction – so I did. Right when I got my first novel finished the Sad Puppy thing happened, making me wonder if fandom was now full of angry alt righties as well as creepy lechers.

    Nevertheless, I persisted, and in my attempts to educate myself I found File 770 (I recognized the name from back in the zine days). Where I encountered a whole bunch of people who also like to read spec fic books, and some of them even write. Emboldened, I went to Sasquan, and the next one in Kansas City, where I had lots of tiny serendipities that amounted to “whoa, we both read and enjoyed the same obscure book!” Those are what keep me going. Not the partying or the cosplay or the celebrities.

    I’ve been to two Filer meetups so far, and had a blast, plus I met a grownup professional writer at one and we later had dinner at Baycon where she encouraged me to go to Hawaiicon as an author as well as a guest. I’ll definitely be at the next Worldcon (with my cat), and look forward to hanging out with Filers some more.

  5. I went to the first Vul-Con back in 1973(?) in New Orleans. First con, didn’t know anyone, but had a blast none the less. Several months later, my sister sent me a couple copies of the Southern Fandom Confederation newsletter, one of which had a review of the convention. The zines were intended for Dany Frolich; he had lived in the house my sister was living in or maybe just used it as an address and Meade Frierson was sending him copies. Dany Frolich hadn’t picked them up, so my sister, knowing I had gone to the con, sent them on to me.

    I knew fandom was out there, but didn’t have any contacts until I got those zines. By 1980, I was subscribing to File 770, and attending my first WorldCon, where I met Mike Glyer. It’s been fun!

  6. Sheila, is Frolich the same fanartist Dany Frolich who did TRIVIAL ANNOYANCES comix? (It’s been decades, but I think that’s the title.) I really enjoyed the issue of that that I happened upon.

  7. JJ, nice story! It’s good to remember that fandom is largely about enthusiasm for SFF. Here’s an anecdote: a fan acquaintance from my college science fiction club (CUSFS) bumped in to me on Broadway in New York in January 1979. He was a native of UK and had just flown back from London after his Winter vacation.
    “Have you got a cassette tape player!” he asked, with a tone of dire emergency.
    “Actually, I do, an old Bell and Howell tape recorder, back in my dorm room.”
    “Let’s go!” he said, and rushed me back to fetch the recorder.
    Only when he saw that I had the working device, did he unlatch his briefcase and take out a stack of cassettes. He popped the first one in, and proceeded to play me a marathon session of the entire original “Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” BBC Radio Series. Apparently, he had feverishly searched for the recordings while in London, and managed to get a complete bootleg copy from fellow fans. In his crazed enthusiam, he grabbed the first fan he laid eyes on in the USA (lucky me!) and listened with wild-eyed appreciation to the whole five+ hours. And of course, I was just crazy enough to go along with it. Meaning that I had the great good fortune to know all about Zaphod Beeblebrox and Arthur Dent about two years before the show aired on NPR in the US.
    Sometimes a crazy fan is just what you need.

  8. I’m a shy introvert and had a serendipitous fan moment at a Worldcon con suite in, I’m not sure, maybe Renovation? I went to the con suite for a little snack; of course, I knew no one there. I forget if we started chatting in line getting snacks, or I went to an empty table and this woman (and her husband?) happened to join me, or what. Either way, she and I chatted a bit and IIRC, we both liked games and liked things a little quieter than the con suite. She said she had a straightforward two-player game and asked what I thought of going to the hall and using one of the plush benches to sit and play on. We did, had a fun time playing and chatting, then went to get drive-through dinner with her husband when he returned, and parted ways.

    I suck! I’m not sure if we just didn’t get around to exchanging info or one or both of us lost it, but we didn’t stay in touch. I think they were generally into games, which me & my spouse are as well, so even if we lived far apart, it would’ve nice to have another board/card gaming “Worldcon friend.”

    Anyway, I bought that fun game we played and whenever we play it – and when I read this post – and when something comes up about being shy at cons or whatever – I remember the experience and smile. 🙂 So thanks, great-woman-whose-name-I-forget and husband-who-was-also-great. I had a few hours of low-key, relaxing fun with strangers, and that’s tough for me to do. And I still like that game, Jambo! 😉

    (Note: My memory bites, so some of the details me be slightly wrong, but you get the picture.)

    [ETA: And I meant to say, great post, @JJ; what a lovely idea, for people to share stories like this in a thread.]

  9. I’m 1) quite shy IRL, and used to travelling solo, and 2) hoping that Dublin will be my first Worldcon. So it’s lovely to have stories from people who have had similar experiences, like JJ and Kendall (as well as the promise of File meetups) to make that seem less daunting. Thanks so much for sharing!

    I’m not sure if they count as serendipity, but I’ve had a couple of recent “oh that’s great!” moments rediscovering people whose work I came across in fandom or blogs who are now published authors. One is Vivian Shaw, who wrote Strange Practice, and was a regular fixture on my Tumblr wall when I used to lurk on that platform. The other is Sarah Rees Brennan’s In Other Lands, which I came across years ago when she was self publishing it on her blog (as The Turn of the Story). I remember finding and really enjoying the first few chapters years ago, then forgetting to bookmark it and drifting away – it’s hard to read a full length novel in blog posts, after all. Then this year I participated in Secret Santa over on librarything, and had a wonderful Santa who not only sent me some really interesting books, but left me a bunch of recommendations as well – including In Other Lands, whose synopsis and history I immediately recognised. It’s currently staring at me from near the top of Mount eTBR and I’m really excited to finally find out how Elliott’s magic school experiences panned out!

  10. I have a serious “I-don’t-really-belong” issue, exacerbated or caused by hearing loss and depression, which means I take less comfort in groups like this than I’d like. It can take me decades to really feel on solid ground. That’s one of the reasons I volunteer a lot at cons – it gives me a place to be, a schedule, and a solid reason to interact with people, as well as approval points from others, and satisfaction for helping. In general that really works for me. Sometimes I do too much, though, and then don’t have time for friends I already have, which is sad. I kind of did that in Helsinki, so I need to watch it.

    My first Worldcon was in 1980, so this is not a short-term problem.

  11. Kip W. on Dany Frolich: not sure, but probably; he did a lot of fan art back in the day and it’s an uncommon enough name that the two are likely the same.

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