CascadiaCon/2005 NASFiC Fan Guest of Honor Speech
By Kevin Standlee
Presented September 2, 2005 at CascadiaCon, the 8th North American Science Fiction Convention
If you have to turn forty years old, this is a heck of nice way to celebrate your birthday. (It was actually last Saturday.)
I know what some of you are thinking: There’s no way that old phart can be only forty years old. But it’s true: On August 27, 1965, as the President of the United States, Lyndon Johnson, was celebrating his birthday, my parents – Bill and Della – were celebrating mine.
Being born in 1965 makes me something of a demographic anomaly. I’m too young to be a Baby Boomer, but too old to be Generation X. And so, I’m in between. And this is a theme to which I shall attempt to return throughout this talk.
I’d like to thank CascadiaCon for inviting me to be Fan Guest of Honor. It’s a little daunting to realize that this weekend – this very panel right now – could be considered the high point of my career in fandom. It’s not like I expect to ever win a Hugo Award, after all. So thank you to the NASFiC for giving me this honor, and thank all of you here for coming today, even though you got the warning that CascadiaCon actually told Kevin he could talk about himself for an entire hour. You’re brave people.
In this talk today I’m going to talk about my life in science fiction fandom, the things I’ve done, and I hope give some insight into my character and express how I feel about fandom. I’ve got about forty-five minutes to cover twenty-one years of fandom, so I guess I’d better get started!
My home town is a little place in the Sierra Nevada foothills of California called Challenge, and I grew up on a series of US Forest Service bases, plus a long period living with my grandparents on their farm south of Yuba City, California. I was an avid reader, and my mother and grandmother both encouraged this. I read science fiction from an early age, and again, my mother encouraged this. I’ll always remember a copy of The Early Asimov she had that I read so many times I broke the book. But reading science fiction and knowing about fandom are different things, and the succession of isolated mountain outposts didn’t give me a lot of contact with other people who shared my interests. Indeed, I rarely had much in common with my fellow students; instead, I felt more intellectual kinship with my teachers. There I was, in between people my own physical age and my own intellectual age.
I was a smart kid – except I hadn’t yet learned that not everyone around you wants to know how smart you are – so to that extent I was pretty stupid.
In 1979, my father transferred to Bishop, California, and I started high school. The little town of Bishop, all 3000 people, was the largest place I’d ever lived, and the 800-student high school was four times the size of the largest school I’d ever attended. And there I met people who were certainly fannish, if not exactly hooked up to what we today call fandom.
I joined the Bishop Union High School Computer Club, Boogie Band, Investment Organization, and Youth Gang – it was a goal of the club to add things to the club title every year or two. This was a group of smart kids who hung around working on the school’s one computer – an IBM 5100, in case anyone remembers those. In a Revenge-of-the-Nerds way, one of the other unstated goals of the club was to extract from the pockets of the other 780 students as much money as we possibly could by showing how clever we were, in order to fund our summer picnic.
This story I’m about to tell actually took place the semester before I got there, but it’s too good to resist. The Club rented a copy of Bambi Meets Godzilla, which nobody else in the school had every heard of. For those of you unaware of it, this movie consists of about two minutes of credits, at the end of which a big reptilian foot comes down and crushes Bambi, followed by "The End." The club wrapped the film around one of those big old science films and promoted the heck out of the big film showing to be held on Friday at Noon in the auditorium for twenty-five cents a person. Come Friday, the auditorium was packed and the club had collected many quarters. The members started up the film and quietly made their way out the back door. This did oblige the club members to lie low for a while until the heat subsided, but it did achieve the goal. And besides, the club did warn anyone who knew what to look for with the official club logo, which included the suitably impressive Latin inscription of the club motto: caveat emptor.
So I spent two years at Bishop with a bunch of smart kids who did things with the computer, read science fiction, and played role-playing games during lunch. We were fans, but we didn’t know it.
After two years at Bishop, I moved back with my grandparents and went to Sutter High School, where there were three computers, but no social group surrounding them. I created one. But near the end of my high school days, something very significant happened to me. I’m going to make the perhaps odd-sounding pronouncement here that ElfQuest changed my life.
ElfQuest Changed my Life
I was in a B. Dalton bookstore in the Peach Tree Mall in Marysville when it happened. I was browsing the science fiction and fantasy section when I saw this big book that I would later know to call a "graphic novel." It was something called ElfQuest Book 2, and when I opened it, I found myself captivated by the artwork. I bought the book, and soon afterwards everything else ElfQuest related I could get my hands on. In between high school and college, a comic book store opened up in the mall, and I started hanging out there. (I eventually was hired to work there, and was later assistant manager.)
The store manager, Edward Luena, had met the creators of the series, Wendy and Richard Pini, and when I wistfully noted that the twentieth and final issue of the series – the "End of the Quest" – was scheduled to be released with much hoopla at something called the "World Science Fiction Convention" in Anaheim that September, Edward said, "Why don’t you go?"
"But it’s at the other end of the state – it’s five hundred miles away!"
Edward said, "You should go: conventions are lots of fun. Here, I’ve got a piece of artwork I’d like to give the Pinis anyway. You could take it with you." And thus it was that I found myself on the biggest trip away from home I’d ever made by myself, riding a Greyhound bus from Marysville to Sacramento to Los Angeles to Anaheim to attend L.A.con II, the 1984 Worldcon.
1984: First Convention/First Worldcon – and first WSFS Business Meeting
L.A.con II was a goshwowboyoboy time for me. I was amazed at all of the exhibits, the art show, the dealers room, and vast number of panel discussions. And there were so many people. But to my astonishment, the person in line in front of me to buy a membership on the door was also a friend of Edward Luena’s. Over 8,000 people at the con, and the first person I talk to is within one person of me already.
I met my idols, the Pinis, melted down embarrassingly in front of them, gave them the piece of artwork Edward had given me to give to them, and I attended the huge End of the Quest party. There were hundreds of ElfQuest fans in a ballroom celebrating the conclusion of the series. I was wearing a shirt I had made from a standard ElfQuest shirt, across the back of which I’d lettered, "A PINI For Your Thoughts." This got predictable groans, but later a picture of me (albeit from the back) appeared in a follow-up twenty-first issue of the comic book.
Meanwhile, looking for other things to do at the convention, I examined the schedule, and found references to something called a "WSFS Business Meeting." Having been a member of the student council for one year in elementary school, and having some knowledge of Robert’s Rules of Order, this sounded interesting to me. I attended, and participated a little bit in the debate. My sole contribution to the official record was when I moved the adjournment of the preliminary business meeting. Eleven years later, I’d end up chairing it.
College—Chico—Rick Hallock & Erlinda Siller
I returned from Anaheim on the bus, and my grandmother picked me up at the Greyhound station in Marysville and took me straight over to Yuba Community College for my first day of college. Needless to say, I was a little out of it that first day, but nobody expects much of new freshmen anyway. My mind was still reeling from the experience of Worldcon, and I was fully planning to attend the following year’s Worldcon in Australia. I bought memberships to future Worldcons, but unfortunately finances made it impossible for me to attend again until 1989; however, once I started, I didn’t stop. I haven’t missed a Worldcon since then, and hope to keep attending for a long time.
Hanging around the comic book store kept me in the fannish influence of Edward Luena. For a while, I managed Edward’s professional art business, and for several years we traveled to a lot of mostly comic book related conventions, with Edward doing the artwork and me handling the logistics and the finances. It never made either of us a lot of money, but it kept us going to cons, which we enjoyed.
The comic book store also introduced me to Erlinda Siller, a nice girl who was also an artist and a comic book fan. One thing led to another, and she found herself working in the store part time, and she and I dated for a while as well. Later, as I’ll explain, I introduced her to Rick Hallock, and they ended up marrying each other – but there’s certainly no hard feelings: Rick was best man at my wedding, and Erlinda videotaped it. But more about that in a minute.
1985: MythAdventures Fan Club—Phil Foglio backgrounds in Comic—MythAdventures led to ConJose
Around this time, as a rabid ElfQuest fan, I started buying anything published by the same company, and that included the new MythAdventures comic book by Phil Foglio, adapting Robert Asprin’s novels. In the second issue of the comic, Phil put a humorous bit of background noise in the comic book, as he often does, that said, "MythAdventures Fan Club – Join now!" Immediately, people wrote in asking how to join the fan club. Publisher Richard Pini let this go for a while, then said, "We don’t have time to run another fan club." (There was already an ElfQuest Fan Club; I was chief of the Two Rivers Holt – local chapter – under the "elf name" of "Longtalker.") "If you fans want a club, you’re going to have to organize it yourselves."
I read that announcement to Edward, who said, "Why don’t you do it?" After a bit of persuading, I agreed to put together a proposal to Richard Pini and WaRP Graphics. I would be Operations Director (later President), and Ben Adams – who had edited a fanzine I’d help publish called Sensawunda – would edit the clubzine. There was a bit of back-and-forth between us and WaRP – we were not the only fans who proposed something to them – but they picked us, as long as I understood that they were looking for at least a five year commitment. I agreed, and now found myself promoting the MythAdventures Fan Club. This led to a bunch more convention travel, as well my having to learn a bunch of organizational skills like membership database management, handling printers, dealing with bulk mail, etc., etc. – all of which would turn out to be useful later with other fan activities, and I have to believe that my ability to manage the club, which at its peak had around 1500 members worldwide, led to me eventually co-chairing the 2002 Worldcon. So Phil Foglio, by a joke in MythAdventures #2 (it’s in my fan history exhibit), started a chain of events that led to the 2002 Worldcon being in San Jose. (Take that, James Burke!)
First Westercon (Sacramento)
Meanwhile, there was a different convention to attend – Westercon. The 1985 Westercon was in Sacramento, not far from me, and I attended along with most of us hanging around the comic book store. This was my first Westercon, but not my last. Because I’m pressed for time in this speech, I’m going to have to give Westercon short shrift here, but I want to assure you that it’s been important in my fannish career. I suppose that if I’m ever Fan Guest of a Westercon, I’ll have to skip the Worldcon talk and discuss Westercon.
1986: The Zombie Legions—1987 World Tour—Hazards of film-making—Those Darn Daleks
After two years at Yuba College, I transferred to California State University, Chico, which had a good Computer Science education program (that was my major), but was much better known as Playboy magazine’s top-rated party school. Not that this attracted me that much – I don’t even like the taste of alcohol, and I got my fill of parties going to conventions.
Up in Chico, I hung around Dolly’s Comics a lot when I wasn’t in class. Thanks to the influence of Edward Luena again, I was in those days affecting a deerstalker cap that I’d bought when he (and his wife and me and Erlinda) were doing an artist appearance in Reno. I met Rick Hallock at Dolly’s comics, and he approached me with the idea of doing an amateur Doctor Who video, with me playing the Tom Baker version of the Doctor. Apparently with that hat I looked a bit like Baker did in "The Talons of Weng-Chiang." Also, I weighed a lot less then and had more and curlier hair. Rick and I talked Erlinda into playing one of the other leading characters – an alien named Gillic-Gillis. Brave girl: I don’t know if she would have done it if she knew what was coming.
So I spent much of the summer of 1986 in Red Bluff and Chico, California, shooting a three-part Doctor Who episode entitled "The Zombie Legions." Working in 100-plus degree heat was very uncomfortable for me dressed as Tom Baker’s Doctor – heavy coat, scarf, and so forth. So for Erlinda, who played a "rubber suit alien," it must have been sheer torture. But she gutted it out, and we eventually got the movie made. It may or may not be on the schedule here this weekend.
1987-8: Eclecticon—Sacramento in ’91 Westercon Bid—Cheeko 2001 Bid
Having made this movie, Rick and I launched the "Zombie Legions World Tour" -- six conventions in 1987 at which we’d be showing the movie. This included Eclecticon, a new convention starting in Sacramento; Westercon, and the NASFiC in Phoenix, CactusCon. We had t-shirts and everything. This worked out pretty well, although by now we were really busy, what with showing the movie, promoting the MythAdventures Fan Club at a table and by holding parties, and sometimes (if Edward was along) selling his artwork.
And somehow I got involved in a Westercon bid. Well, actually, I heard that there was an organizational meeting for a Sacramento in ’91 Westercon bid, and I drove down to attend it. After listening for a while, I asked if money was a big issue. They said, yes, we could use more money. I took out a fifty dollar bill – which was a lot of money to college-student Kevin – and put it down on the table. "Will this help?" They agreed that it would, and now on top of all the other stuff, I was also helping promote Sacramento’s Westercon bid. Despite a pretty hectic schedule of con appearances along the west coast in 1988-89, we lost a close race to Vancouver.
But in losing, we also started something else. We’d planned to hold a party the night after the results were announced: if we’d won, it would be a victory party; if we lost, we’d announce a new bid for Chico in 2001 – yes, eleven years later. We called it "A Velveeta Odyssey," because Chico had been described by a influential San Francisco Chronicle columnist as "a place where they put Velveeta in the gourmet food section." Well, since Sacramento lost, we started the Cheeko bid, and over the next ten years I handed out a lot of bid stickers. As I said, I don’t have time for good Westercon stories here, but Chico was a lot of fun. It’s probably just as well we lost in 1999 in Spokane, although one of our alternatives – holding the Westercon in both Chico and Portland, with a train trip in between, might have been a lot of fun.
1989: in ’93 Worldcon bid—Noreascon 3—SFSFC
After Sacramento lost the Westercon bid, several of us who had worked on it, including bid Chairman Jeff Canfield and I, got recruited to join the San Francisco in ’93 Worldcon bid committee. This led to me eventually being elected a member of the board of directors of San Francisco Science Fiction Conventions, Inc. in 1990, and I’m now the longest-serving director of SFSFC, but more about that later.
I took the MythAdventures Fan Club show on the road to the 1989 Worldcon in Boston, with only limited involvement with the San Francisco bid promotions such as the "24-hour bid party" that ran from 5 PM one afternoon to 5 PM the following day. I haven’t missed a Worldcon since 1989.
1990: Westercon Portland—Lisa Hayes—ConFiction
The 1990 Westercon in Portland was the last chance to promote the San Francisco bid before the election was held in August at the Worldcon in The Hague, Netherlands. As part of setting up the party, I was walking around the Red Lion Jantzen Beach putting up party flyers when I heard a woman’s voice drift through an open door: "What do I have to do? Put a sign around my neck saying, ‘I’m trying to pick up a guy!’" I noticed the woman – a tall, blonde, long-legged girl wearing a skin-tight body-suit and a utility belt – and called through the door, "Hey, I’m available!" and moved on.
The blonde girl’s friend came out and grabbed me. "Are you serious?" She asked, dragging me back so I was in between her and the blonde.
Somewhat taken aback – I thought it was a joke – I said, "Well, I’m not currently involved with anyone…"
"Great!" the woman said to me, and looked at my name badge. "Kevin, meet Lisa. Lisa, this is Kevin. Now why don’t you two go get to know each other." And pushed us out the door. And that is how I met Lisa Hayes. In 1996, I married her.
But before we got that far, it was (for me) on to The Hague for a frantic four-way Worldcon site selection between San Francisco, Phoenix, Zagreb, and a late write-in bid for Hawaii, which had been launched by influential fans worried that none of the bids on the ballot were viable. And given the way we’d all behaved up until then, I’m not surprised, although at the time, I really did not appreciate Hawaii’s bid one little bit.
It took three rounds of ballot counting, but San Francisco won, with Hawaii placing second, then Zagreb, then Phoenix. It was Phoenix’s second-place votes that won us the election. The next time you fill out a preferential ballot, consider your second and later choices very carefully – they could be what make the final choice in the election.
1991: Westercon Vancouver—Chicon V—The 14-hour Ballot Count
Although I’d started attending Worldcons and had a handful of Westercons under my belt, I was at that time not considered more than a crackpot by a lot of more experienced fans. A "West Coast Robert Sacks," some people called me, referring to a notorious WSFS Business Meeting gadfly. I longed to be taken seriously, and that’s why I was very grateful when Ross Pavlac of Chicago invited me to be the Timekeeper of the 1991 Worldcon Business Meeting at Chicon V. When I approached him about the task at BayCon that year, Ross asked, "What piece of equipment must the Timekeeper bring to the meeting."
Hoping it wasn’t a trick question, I said, cautiously, "A stopwatch."
Ross looked pleased. "You’re hired," he said.
That was my first appearance on the head table, but definitely not the last. Since then, the years when I’m not one of the head-table positions at WSFS have been the exception.
But my debut, where I think I showed people that I was more than a just a troublemaker in a loud Hawaiian shirt, was overshadowed by the Fourteen Hour Ballot Count. There’s not enough time to tell this story fully, but the short version is the Chicon V committee member responsible for organizing the 1994 Worldcon site selection badly misunderstood how to do it. His basic mistake was to not check voter eligibility as people voted, figuring it could be done after the polls closed. There were 2,107 ballots cast, and it was a very close race. We had to check every voter’s eligibility. It took all night. Actually counting the ballots only took two hours, but eligibility checks took twelve. Winnipeg defeated Louisville by a handful of votes.
I say "we" here because I was one of the eight people recruited to help with that ballot count, and I wrote the official report. I don’t know if I’d want to repeat that exercise; I hope that the mistake made there remains sufficiently notorious that nobody else forgets that it happened and that it’s easy to prevent.
1992: MagiCon Orlando—1995 NASFiC Site Selection
In 1992 at Orlando, I found myself running NASFiC Site Selection, which was between Atlanta (DragonCon) and New York City, plus a strong effort behind None of the Above. And then there was I-95 in ’95. The full version of this story would take too long here, although it’s lots of fun. Suffice it to say that there were many write-in votes for "RoadKillCon," and that they managed to file a just barely legal bid at literally the last second that they could have done so. Atlanta ended up winning, with the RoadKillCon bid second, followed by None of the Above. Pity the poor New York bid – it takes a lot of work to finish fourth in a field of two.
And so we come to 1993 and ConFrancisco, where I foolishly ended up with nine separate jobs on the committee. Just call me "The Boy Who Can’t Say No." I was, among other things, Committee Secretary, responsible for making "gizmos" – the horizontal things that some conventions use to show the area in which you’re working – and the pile of nine gizmos hanging off my badge somehow prompted me to start collecting every convention ribbon I could legitimately claim. The resultant badge was pretty big, especially because I didn’t "tile" the ribbons, but displayed them all full size.
So during Closing Ceremonies, I was surprised to get called up onto the stage, where they presented me with a huge version of my own name badge – one more suitable for Godzilla – and I collapsed under its weight and the stagehands had to drag me away. That giant badge is now in the Worldcon History Exhibit, albeit a little the worse for wear after a long time in storage and transit hither and yon.
ConFrancisco was okay, but it had some serious issues – long queues being one of the worst. It became a standing joke to discuss things that had gone wrong but which couldn’t be fixed now as, "something we’ll do right next time." At the Executive Committee meeting on the day after the con, I came to the room wearing a shirt from the bid that had said "SF in ‘93", but I’d doctored it to read "SF in ’02." The committee threw things at me, but we’d hear more about this in a few years.
I had been recruited to run the WSFS division – that’s the official business of the convention, including Business Meeting, Site Selection, and the Hugo Awards administration – for ConAdian, the 1994 Worldcon, while I was doing the same job for ConFrancisco. This means I’m one of only a small number of people – I think there are only two others – who have been simultaneously running the same division of a Worldcon in two consecutive years. This is a lot of work, but it certainly made coordination between Worldcons easier.
ConAdian was possibly the best Worldcon I’ve ever attended, and I’m grateful to John Mansfield for recruiting me for it. I made many friends there, and count myself a real booster of things Canadian – in fact, I’m currently on the board of directors of the Canada West Science Fiction Association, parent of this year’s Westercon in Calgary.
ConAdian wasn’t the largest Worldcon I’ve attended (indeed, only one other was smaller), but on the last day of the convention, when I normally say "That was fun, but I’ll be happy to go home now and get some rest," I found myself in Winnipeg saying, "I could do this for another day or two." Northwest Airlines must have felt the same, as they offered me a "bump" on my last scheduled day, and the voucher they gave me allowed me to attend Boskone that year, and the mileage earned from the voucher ticket gave me enough to be able to afford to attend the 1995 Worldcon in Glasgow. Funny how these things tie together.
1995: Intersection Glasgow—Realizing a Fannish Dream
As I mentioned, I’d been doing a variety of jobs for the WSFS Business Meeting, and proving to people that I knew what I was doing. I had made my desire to Chair the meeting clear to people who cared. Right after the 1994 Business Meeting ended, Paul Dormer, Intersection’s WSFS division manager, came up and told me that based on how I’d handled being Parliamentarian, I could have the job of Business Meeting Chairman for Intersection.
This probably sounds strange to anyone who isn’t into meeting procedure, but chairing the Business Meeting is my absolute favorite job on the entire Worldcon. I really enjoy it, and I think I do it reasonably well. Others must think so, too, as when I chair the meeting next year in Anaheim, it will be my fourth time in the hot seat.
And I was faced with a parliamentary conundrum at Intersection. At the 1987 Worldcon in Brighton, the Business Meeting chairman had offended a lot of people by wearing an SS uniform to preside over the meeting. I thought I’d go for a lot more class, and wore my best business suit. Robert Sacks – remember me mentioning him earlier? – put me in a touchy situation by introducing a motion, "To commend the Chairman for not wearing a Nazi uniform."
This motion is annoying in many ways. To adopt it implicitly censured the 1987 Worldcon, which nobody wanted to do. To reject it might appear to criticize the current Chairman, which would have also been bad. So there we were, stuck in between a parliamentary rock and a hard place. Other members fumbled around with this, and finally, after Mark Olson explained the problem, I said, "The Chair thinks he just heard Mr. Olson say he moved to postpone the pending motion indefinitely."
Mark said, "Yes, that’s what I said." So the meeting with some relief voted that motion, which allowed them to kill the embarrassing proposal without actually taking a direct vote on it. I’m pleased with that solution. (The next day, they passed a motion complimenting me "on my natty attire.")
I also ran Worldcon Site Selection at Intersection, which led to me having to give a report to the Business Meeting in a different hat, both figuratively and literally: I took off my suit jacket and donned a beanie propeller. Site Selection also led to a chance meeting with a woman named Cheryl Morgan, who was getting back into fandom after a long absence. She had questions about how site selection worked that I was able to answer. In later years, we’d end up doing a lot of projects together, and among other things, I ended up being one of the proofreaders for her fanzine, Emerald City.
Also in 1995, SFSFC/ConFrancisco filed its final report with WSFS. So the Bay Area was finally finished with running Worldcons. Well, sort of.
1996: Launching SF in 2002
The following summer, people started thinking about another Bay Worldcon. Under the rules that existed then, the Bay Area could only run every third year, so our next "launch window" was 2002. With the election for 2002 taking place in 1999, politically speaking, if we wanted a chance at 2002, we’d have to declare that year in Anaheim at L.A.con III. After a lot of discussion, SFSFC voted to create a bid committee, and they appointed me as Chairman.
We officially launched the San Francisco in 2002 Worldcon bid at L.A.con III, facing our competition from Seattle. We made considerable waves by announcing a $20.02 pre-supporting rate, which was considered a huge jump on historical rates. This became an issue in the campaign, as (for example), Seattle charged $10.01. While it was a negative goodwill hit at the time, other people privately thanked us for having the courage to charge a more realistic rate.
October 1996: Marriage – and a Different Hobby
In October 1996, Lisa and I got married, and we did so in a way that indulged one of our other hobbies: trains and trolleys. We chartered one of the Portland Vintage Trolleys and were married while under way, somewhere along Burnside Street on Portland’s light rail system. After the wedding proper, our chartered trolley did a complete loop of the system. I’ll never forget standing on the motorman’s platform in my white tuxedo with Lisa in her wedding dress, as we waved to people going through Portland Saturday Market.
I don’t have time to talk more about it here, but trains are another interest of mine. If I hadn’t gotten involved with science fiction fandom, I almost certainly would have become part of some railroad museum or preservation group somewhere. As it is, Lisa and I have a family membership in the Oregon Electric Railway Museum in Salem, Oregon. But throughout my life, I have found myself in between interests, and sometimes fandom doesn’t win, and I’ll go off and ride trains instead of going to a convention. But not that often.
1996-99: LoneStarCon 2, Bucconeer—Seattle Drops Out—Roswell Drops In—Bay Area Bid Moves to San Jose
But back to the Worldcon bid. For the next three years, I attended even more conventions than usual, spending many hours sitting behind bid tables promoting the San Francisco bid. Many people came to our table and asked variations of the question, "Why should I vote against Seattle?" As I hate that sort of negative campaigning, I answered those questions, "I can tell you why you should vote for us; I won’t bad-mouth the other bids in the race." And to their credit, Seattle’s bid, chaired by Pat Porter, ran a similarly positive campaign. I’m astonished at how many people tried to goad us into throwing mud at each other; I guess "let’s you and him fight" is perceived as a fun thing to say.
At Bucconner, the 1998 Worldcon, the good relationship between our two bids was demonstrated concretely, when the two bids decided to swap tables during a slow part of the afternoon. After all, we’d been sitting across from each other for two years; we each knew the others’ spiels as well as we knew our own! So fans coming by the bid table area that afternoon found the San Francisco bid sitting behind Seattle’s table, promoting Seattle, and vice versa. This tended to boggle people a little bit, but I’m glad we all did it. I wish more bids could be conducted in such a friendly way.
The race for 2002, however, was a bumpy one for other reasons. The Seattle bid was obliged to drop out due to facility difficulties. Thanks to the friendly relationship we’d had with them, we offered all of Seattle’s pre-supporters the option of "cross-grading" to a San Francisco membership by paying only the $10.01 difference, and many people did so.
Then, shortly before the filing deadline for the 2002 election, San Francisco’s anchor hotel raised the financial requirements to deal with them beyond any reasonable level. Upon discussing it with them, we concluded that it was not a bargaining tool; they simply would rather have been empty than full of our business, although if we paid them a million dollars – more than the entire convention budget for 2002, as it happens – they might consider actually dealing with us. The San Jose Convention Bureau, and the hotels in downtown San Jose, however, were very happy to have our business, and made us an attractive offer. So with just over six months to go, the San Francisco bid relocated to San Jose and renamed itself Bay Area in 2002.
Meanwhile, a bid for Roswell, New Mexico appeared, and even filed with the administrators and was on the ballot. In a massive break with tradition, they announced that should they win, their Fan Guest of Honor would be – me!
1999: Aussiecon 3: San Jose Wins
So I flew to Melbourne, Australia for Aussiecon Three, where the election would be held, wondering which would I rather have happen: win the election into which I’d pumped three years of my life (and a lot of money), or be Fan Guest of Honor of a Worldcon. I concluded that either one was good enough for me.
None of the members of the Roswell bid committee actually made the trip to Australia, but they deputized James Briggs to represent them. Our Bay Area bid gave Jim part of bid table, and gave him a seat in a corner of the function room where we held our bid party. We picked the corner where the overhead light had burnt out and called it "Area 51."
But alas for my Worldcon Guest of Honorship, San Jose received 666 votes to Roswell’s 120, and so ConJose, the 60th Worldcon, was born. By a previously-announced arrangement, the bid committee chaired by me handed over management to the convention committee chaired by Tom Whitmore. Three years of bidding were done; three years of planning lie ahead.
1999-2002: Planning ConJose
I cut back on some of my convention travel for the next couple of years – all that bidding left me deeply in debt. Don’t let anyone tell you that conrunners do this for the big perks and money. Fandom can be an expensive hobby, and I have substantial credit card bills – in excess of $50,000 – on which I’m still paying to prove it. I had to skip the 2000 Westercon in Hawaii even though SFSFC, on whose board of directors I sat, was holding it. But I did not miss the next two Worldcons: Chicon 2000 and the Millennium Philcon.
2002: Co-Chairing ConJose co-chair–The Personal Price
A combination of factors, not all of them that pleasant or things of which I’m terribly proud, let to me being asked to join Tom Whitmore as co-Chair of ConJose in early 2002. Now is not the time to discuss that affair, although I’m willing to talk about it in other contexts; if you’re curious, ask me about it sometime.
Despite the controversy that surrounded my appointment as co-Chair, ConJose went reasonably well. It wasn’t as good as I would have liked, but it was much better than I had feared it would be. But the personal price I paid was pretty high. I was caught in between a lot of personal rivalries and managed to antagonize people who I’d counted as my friends. I wish I could have done better.
By the way, we understand that the San Francisco Marriott that had priced us out of their building, saying they didn’t want our business, was virtually empty on Labor Day Weekend 2002.
2003: Torcon 3—Cascadiacon Elected, Announces Me as Fan Goh
2003 was, all in all, a much easier year for me than 2002 was. Instead of chairing a Worldcon, I was just chairing the WSFS Business Meeting again. That is, except for the point in the meeting where I recused myself during the announcement of the site selection results: Seattle had won, and announced among its guests me as Fan Guest of Honor. Not a bad year at all.
2004: Noreascon 4—Never a Dull Moment
At Noreascon 4 in 2004, I had no at-con job at the Worldcon, for the first time in many years, as I was working on the ratification of the reduction of Worldcon lead time from three years to two; however, pre-con, I was the "Death of E-Mails." I was subscribed to nearly every e-mail list that the 2004 Worldcon committee used. Talk about being in between – in this case, I was buried in e-mail messages, with the job of trying to publish a periodical summary of the traffic. This job actually overwhelmed me during the last few weeks before the convention. There was just too much to read, and I’m a fast reader and a fast typist.
At N4 itself, I got to bask in reflected glory, as Emerald City, for which I still act as a proofreader, won the Hugo Award for Best Fanzine. I’ve been a Hugo Awards administrator several times; I got to keep one of the two spare trophies left over after ConJose – and that’s a very expensive way to get a Hugo trophy, let me tell you – but holding one for work in which you had a hand, even a minor one, is something completely different.
Meanwhile, just before N4, Vince Docherty, chairman of Interaction, the Glasgow Worldcon, came to me and asked me to run the Events Division – which included the Hugo Awards and the Masquerade – and I agreed to do so. Yes, a major division for a Worldcon in Glasgow was being run from Fremont, California. But that’s okay: convention programming was run by Ian Stockdale from Palo Alto, just a few miles from me. Worldcons are truly an international operation.
Oh, and I also agreed to run the Westercon Business division of Due North, the 2005 Calgary Westercon, which led to me becoming the secretary of the board of directors of the Canada West Science Fiction Association. Along with becoming a director of UK2005, Ltd., Interaction’s parent corporation, I found myself sitting on board of directors of corporations in California, Alberta, and Great Britain.
Well, it looks good on the resume, at least.
2005: Interaction—WSFS Armadillo—Running Events—The Uniform
I reckon there was never a dull moment in 2005. What with planning for Calgary’s Westercon, managing Interaction’s major events from halfway across the world, and let us not forget, planning for CascadiaCon, where I’d agreed to put together an exhibit of my twenty years’ of memorabilia and costumes… well, let’s just say that I didn’t get a whole lot of sleep these past twelve months. And these past twelve weeks have just been frantic.
Interaction’s theme was "Spaceport Glasgow," with the Convention Centre being the spaceport and the adjacent Clyde Auditorium, which looks a bit like the Sydney Opera House, being styled as a new luxury space cruiser commissioned by the White Star Federated Spacelines – if you wonder about the name, remember that Worldcon is the meeting of the World Science Fiction Society and compare initials. The ship’s name was the WSFS Armadillo. Because most of the things happening "on board" the Armadillo were my responsibility under Events (plus the WSFS Business Meeting), I was declared to be "Captain" of the Armadillo, and the people working in my division were "crew" as opposed to the "staff" working on the "groundside" operations of the Spaceport.
So I put together a captain’s uniform for my role at the convention. A proper cruise ship captain’s uniform. You’ll get to see it if you come to the party on Saturday night hosted by SFSFC, which is a Board of Inquiry about my actions at Glasgow. You see, just before all of the members of Interaction were to board the Armadillo after the convention’s Closing Ceremony for our trip to Alpha Centauri and beyond, Space Pirates stormed this ship and switched on the hyperdrive at ground level, which ruined the drive and welded the ship to the ground. Which is why I’m here instead of somewhere around Pluto.
In my defense, I’d like to say that all of Interaction’s major events ran very smoothly, thanks to a great team of people stretching from San Francisco to Sydney – the long way around! – and that everything started on time and ran to schedule, and that all of the events appeared to be entertaining to most of the people who attended them. I know I’m proud of what we accomplished there, as we proved that it is possible to run a Worldcon’s major events on time and within schedule. But it was a lot of work, and I was caught in between a lot of difficult situations many times.
And so that brings us up to date. This whole history I’ve described here is pretty much summarized in words and pictures (and buttons, and costumes, and fanzines) in the Exhibit Room in Emerald A. I really hope you will all go have a look at it sometime this weekend.
A rather odd experience I’ve had throughout my twenty-one years in fandom is that I really do feel caught in between groups quite a bit. When discussing the traditions of Worldcons, NASFiCs, Westercons, etc. to younger fans, I often get dismissed by them as being a futzy old phart, hopelessly trapped in the past. When I discuss these same subjects with people with more experience with these conventions than me, I’m dismissed as a wild-eyed radical, whose mad ideas will Destroy Us All.
I’ll not deny that I’m willing to consider new ideas, sometimes unsettling ones for people who have grown very comfortable within a certain niche in fandom. I’m always interested in seeing new people come into this community and keeping it vibrant. I have a theory, for instance, that anime fandom these days is somewhat analogous to the Star Trek "invasion" in the late 60s/early 70s. Those fans back then really shook up fandom of that time, and there were cries Fandom As We Know It is Doomed. In any case, if what we’re trying to achieve with conventions is an unchanging, static society, then Fandom is doomed. We need to keep looking forward and embracing change without forgetting the traditions of our past.
I deeply respect the traditions of our community, without, I hope, being trapped by them. I’ve never forgotten the sense of wonder I had when I attended my first convention twenty-one years ago this weekend. In some respects, my entire life in fandom has been a constant case of "paying it forward," because, well, you see…
Fandom is my way of life.
Thank you all very much.