Remembering Roger Weddall

By Rich Lynch: It’s been 30 years since the passing of my friend Roger Weddall.  I doubt very many of you reading this had ever met him and I wouldn’t be surprised, actually, if most of you haven’t even heard of him.  Thirty years is a long time and the demographics of fandom has changed a lot.  So let me tell you a little bit about him.

To begin with, Roger was very much an actifan during the 1980s and very early 1990s.  He was a member of the Melbourne Science Fiction Club but his fan activities extended far beyond the borders of Australia.  Back then the Internet was not the prime means, as it is today, for fans separated by large distances to interact with each other.  Instead, we communicated with each other mostly by letters and through fanzines which were distributed the old-school way: by surface mail.  And that’s how I met him.

Back then, my wife Nicki and I were publishing a general interest fanzine, Mimosa, and had been sending it out as trade for other fanzines we’d receive in the mail.  One of them was the MSFC fanzine Thyme, of which Roger was co-editor.  And it was a very pleasant surprise for us to receive a long letter from him, in the first part of 1987, that commented favorably on our second issue.  A lot of back-and-forth correspondence followed and a burgeoning friendship developed.

It wasn’t until 1992 that Nicki and I finally got to meet him in person.  That year Roger had been elected the 1992 representative of the Down Under Fan Fund (DUFF) and came to the United States for the Worldcon, Magicon, which was held in Orlando, Florida.  But the weekend before that he attended a small fan get-together, the Jophan Family Reunion, in Birmingham, Alabama.  And it was there that we learned that he was seriously ill with lymphoma.  He’d intended to include a stop in Maryland to stay with us as part of his DUFF trip but the disease had caused him to change his plans so that he could return to Australia immediately after the Worldcon to continue his chemotherapy treatments.

Roger had assured us that the disease was controllable – had been controlled, in fact – and that he fully intended to return to North America in 1993 to continue his DUFF excursion.  But that turned out to be far too optimistic.  When we said good-bye to each other at the conclusion of Magicon, Nicki and I had been hopeful that we’d see him again but fearful that we wouldn’t.  And a very few months later, on the night of December 3rd, we received the long-distance telephone call we were dreading would happen, the news of Roger’s death.

Nicki and I were fortunate that in the relatively short time we knew Roger we managed to accumulate many memories of and about him that we’ve continued to treasure: Roger had an unpredictable side where he would do memorable things from out of the blue from time to time, like his ‘telephone call from the future’ to us one New Year’s Eve (he was on the other side of the International Date Line, where the new year had already arrived).  We also knew Roger as someone who would gladly go out of his way to do something for you that he knew you wanted; several times we’d received letters from him where the envelope had been almost completely covered with different postage stamps – all because he knew that Nicki (at that time) collected Australian postage stamps.

One other thing about Roger was his hyperactiveness during the Jophan Family Reunion and at Magicon the following week.  From what I observed, hardly anybody had the stamina to keep up with him.  And that’s the way I remember him most – full of life and enthusiasm.  Roger was that special kind of person who could brighten up your day whenever he wrote or called and the world has been a less friendly place without him.  To say that I’ve been missing him these past three decades is a huge understatement.

I’ll end this remembrance by describing something that happened during the Jophan Family Reunion, a little anecdote that really shows off Roger’s personality.  Roger had been hosted by our mutual friend Charlotte Proctor during his stay in Birmingham and on the final evening of the convention Nicki and me, Roger, and Charlotte went out to dinner at a shopping mall restaurant.  Afterwards, just as we were all back in her car and ready to leave, Charlotte suddenly remembered that she’d meant to bring the baked potato from her meal back home for her husband Jerry to eat later.  She’d been ready to just forget the whole thing, but Roger said, “Wait!  I’ll get it for you!”  Charlotte drove to the restaurant entrance and, as the three of us hummed the theme music from Mission: Impossible, Roger raced into the side entrance of the restaurant then, a moment later, came running back out again triumphantly holding up the foil-wrapped potato.  He threw himself into the car and we sped off.  It was all done so slickly that the restaurant staff didn’t even realize that they had been victimized by The Great Potato Caper.  It was truly a moment that fan historians of the future will marvel at.

I’m sorry that most of you reading this never got a chance to meet Roger Weddall.  I know you would have liked him.

Best Fannish Cat

Let us return now to those thrilling days of yesteryear when Australian fans were called upon to vote for the “Best Fannish Cat” in the Ditmar Awards.

The earliest of these two forgotten episodes in SJW credential history occurred in 1991. The nominees were:

1991: Suncon, Brisbane

Best Fannish Cat

  • Apple Blossom, humans: Elaine Cochrane & Bruce Gillespie
  • Constantinople, human: Phil Wlodarczyk
  • Emma Peel, human: Terry Frost
  • Godzilla, humans: Ian Gunn & Karen Pender-Gunn
  • Honey, humans: Gerald [Smith] & Womble
  • Satan, human: Phil Wlodarczyk
  • Truffle, humans: Mark Loney & Michelle Muijsert
  • Typo, human: Roger Weddall

Typo won the award.

“It’s a long story,” recalls Bruce Gillespie. “The person who was Chair of the convention in Brisbane stuffed up many aspects of the convention. She was also part of a non-Melbourne group who believed that every aspect of the Ditmars was a cruel plot by Melbourne fans to keep all the Ditmars for themselves. So she allowed members of the convention to vote for the categories as well as the items in the categories. Irresistible bait to Melbourne fans in general — who ganged up to include Best Fannish Cat in the categories.”

Bruce Gillespie holding his cane toad Ditmars. Photo by Janice Gelb.

Marc Ortlieb says that wasn’t the only mischief fans got up to at Suncon. “That was the year that things got really silly. The NatCon was in Brisbane and, as a joke, Mark Loney created stuffed cane toads to present at the ceremony, with the real Ditmars to be presented at the closing ceremony. The cane toads were presented, but the real Ditmars weren’t ready.” The real ones would be distributed later at a Nova Mob club meeting.

Even though the award was a put-on, “Best Fannish Cat” made such an indelible impression on Australian fanhistory that the category would be revived in a future round of Ditmars.

As Gillespie sees it, “The list of nominees was regarded as so exemplary that the category was repeated (once) in a later set of the Ditmars. Apple Blossom was our nominee in 1991, and Flicker was our nominee in the much later Ditmars. Neither won, but the winners were very popular cats who had been met by many Melbourne fans. The general effect was to confirm the suspicion of Perth fans that Melbourne fans ‘did not take the Ditmars seriously’.”

Roger Weddall, owner of the winning cat, Typo, was elected the DUFF delegate in 1992. Unfortunately, he was diagnosed with lymphoma shortly before leaving for North America, and ended up cutting short his trip after attending Magicon. He died a few months later. Thus it really was with affection that in 1993 someone drafted “A Modest Proposal for the [Swancon 18] Business Meeting” urging the creation of the “Roger Weddall Memorial Ditmar Controversy” and crediting him with some of these shenanigans:

It happens without warning, under no man’s control. None can predict where it will strike or how often. Yes it’s the Ditmar Controversy! It is time to take the guesswork out and have a permanent, official Ditmar Controversy each year and every year. Let us not leave it to chance and ConCom whim to arrange a proper and fitting controversy but instead let us make a firm and binding commitment for now and forever to have

Roger Weddall
Memorial Ditmar

In honour of Fandom’s best Ditmar Controversers, the man who brought you the best Fannish Cat, Cane Toads and other Ditmar atrocities,

Vote Yes!

At the 1993 Natcon Business meeting

However, there are Aussie fans for whom these memories of the ’91 Ditmars are not bathed in a golden glow. A 2005 Swancon XXX progress report solicited nominations for the Tin Duck Award (a genuine, annual award) with the warning – “Please do not invent new categories. (e.g. No Best Fannish Cat. We’ve heard it before, and it wasn’t funny the first time.)”

But with the passage of time nostalgia kicked in. Dudcon 3, the 2010 Australian National Science Fiction Convention revived Best Fannish Cat as a special committee award. The less facetious eligibility rules included requirements that nominees be “natural members of the species Felis Catus,” and be alive and resident in Australia at the time of the nomination.


Thoraiya Dyer unsuccessfully advanced her cat, Aerin, as a candidate by forcing it to be photographed in a Darth Vader costume.

Instead, these cats made the finals:

Tabby Allen

He is a big, lazy, neutered Tom, who just hangs around the house and sleeps on Genevieve’s bed. Sometimes he lays on the couch with us while we watch Doctor Who, but I cannot claim any other great fannish activity.

– James Allen

Felix Blackford

His real breeding name is Mystical Prince Felix, but he answers to Fifi. If fannish credentials other than his owning us are required, I will point out that the last line of the bio that Damien Broderick wrote for my story in the current Cosmos is: “She devotes her life to Mystical Prince Felix, a truly enormous Ragdoll cat.”
– Jenny Blackford

Peri Peri Canavan

Named for being orange with attitude, just like the sauce.
Is a firm believer in First Breakfast, Second Breakfast, Elevensies, Luncheon, Afternoon Tea, Dinner and Supper.
Knows that a library chair is a great place to nap.
Enjoys a good SF TV show/film/book because it means an available lap.
Can time travel, if the time involved is dinner time.
Stomach is larger on the inside than the outside.
– Trudi Canavan

Flicker Gillespie

Origin: derelict building in Collingwood.
Official description: black domestic shorthair.
Fannish credentials: How many fannish cats know their fathers? Flicker is father of Harry and Sampson Gillespie, as well as Miss Smith Endacott and Rascal Taylor. Now that his fathering days have been cut short, Flicker will sit on any visiting fannish lap that stays still for more than a few seconds.
– Elaine Cochrane

Pazuzu Sparks

Named for the Exorcist’s demon,
He meows ’cause he’s endlessly dreamin’
Of food and the flap
Which he knows is a trap
Set up by that bad Nemo”s schemin’

His nemesis one day will pay
But meanwhile he spends all the day
Knowing instead
That fridge, pantry and bed
Are all his, and that that way they’ll stay.

So he’ll crash at a run through the door,
Spread litter all over the floor,
Scrounge every crumb,
Bite my elbow and thumb
then curl up with Foyle and his war.
– Robert Hood

(The verse is by Robert Hood the Australian writer – not our Rev. Bob.)

Voters chose Peri Peri Canavan as the Best Fannish Cat of 2010.

Peri Peri Canacan, the Best Fannish Cat of 2010