Posts Tagged nycon 1
Sunday, August 21 began with a combination of the usual con-haze of “I’ve just spent two days straight running, writing, and talking” combined with a new feeling of “wow, I drank a lot last night.”
My first panel was for me probably the most important panel of the con — First Fandom: Awards, and a Look Back at the Very First Worldcons. The panelists were all attendees of the very first Worldcon, true ancients of the fandom world: David Kyle (who I’ve mentioned several times), Art Widner, and Erle Korshak (the chairman of the second Worldcon, Chicon 1). The panel began with information about each of the panelists, starting with Erle, who apparently chaired the second Worldcon by accident. He talked about hitchiking through Philly to get to the first Worldcon, since he was sixteen years old and it was the Depression. There was some talk about other methods of getting to Worldcon, and a lot of note about how many fans would help other fans out of kindness and a desire to see them.
And then… Erle mentioned the Exclusion Act. There was an audible sigh from David, though he was kind enough to explain it to the audience, there was still this clear “not THIS again.” It’s really kind of a shame that the thing David Kyle is remembered most for is accidentally causing his friends to be banned from the first Worldcon.
This segued into a lot of talk on all parts about how they were all young and stupid back then — something which I think holds true of many modern fandoms. We’re all young and stupid. There was also a lot of talk about how divided fandom was — many states had at most one fan, but they stayed connected to the larger world through letters and magazines.
The most interesting thing that came out of the panel was when Erle mentioned that the ticket cost of Worldcon in 1940 was $1 — so, where did the money come from to run it? It came from advertising revenue and from exhibitors in the form of pulp publishers. I was thrilled to hear this: earlier, I’d countered someone’s observation that I was awfully young to be at a Worldcon with a retort that perhaps more people my age would arrive if the admission price wasn’t so ridiculous, which was in turn countered with “Well, Worldcon is all volunteer run, and unlike those big cons like the anime cons and comic book cons, we didn’t sell out to advertisers.” But according to Erle, Worldcon had “sold out” in the 40s! It’s all well and good to be noble, but if you’re going to complain about falling attendance numbers and a lack of representation by the under 30 crowd, then don’t act high and mighty about the fact that you don’t use outside sources of revenue. This in turn has led me to wonder — when did Worldcon get this hipster-esque “But we don’t use filthy advertisers or sponsors or corporate exhibitors!” come from? When did that start?
The other anecdotes are a bit of a blurr — Art shared a story about staying on a rich Southern plantation while hitchiking to another convention and having the best meal he’d ever had, while it came out that David Kyle won the first ever costume contest with his 1940 Ming the Merciless.
Due to a scheduling problem, the panel ended a bit early, so I wandered into another panel, namely the end of The Changing Short Fiction Market, with panelists Lou Anders, Neil Clarke, Stephen H. Segal, Rick Wilber, and Sheila Williams. I was only in the tail end of this panel, so mostly what I got out of it was that short fiction is more accessible to a younger audience, and that we’re seeing a renaissance of the novella thanks to e-publishing and the internet. Originally, novellas were difficult to publish due to paper costs, but favored by authors for giving a little more freedom than a short story but less commitment than a novel. The internet solves this problem because paper costs are a non-issue.
I didn’t get to stay in this panel long since, as I said, I was only catching the tail end. After that it was onto the Chicon 7 panel, with panelists Jane Frank, Dave McCarty, Helen Montgomery, Peggy Rae Sapienza, John Scalzi, and Steven H. Silver. This was a panel about the next Worldcon in 2012 (obviously), and the panelists answered questions about their approach to the con. All in all it sounded like a really good time — they asked the crowd to give suggestions for panels, then mentioned that some panels would be simulcast to Dragoncon (so attendees at both cons could see them) which seemed pretty cool. I highly suggest going to the Chicon website and giving suggestions (and I’ll see you guys there!)
The last panel of the day was Issues in RolePlaying Game Design, with panelists Jennifer Brozek, Colin Fisk, Steve Jackson (yes, THAT Steve Jackson), Tom Lehmann, and Allison Lonsdale. Unfortunately my notes on this panel indicate that my exhaustion had finally caught up with me, as they read: “late. Not giong to say much, i’ts a really interesting panel but I’m very tired?” There was discussion on GM-less gaming, but I’ll get to THAT in a minute!
After that it was time for the Closing Ceremony, which… to be frank, was completely boring. It was mostly a speech, followed by a symbolic passing of the torch to the Chicon committee. The highlight was when the con chair, Patty Wells, realized that she hadn’t ever officially opened Renovation, and so she declared the con open… then immediately closed. This followed on the heels of the Chicon staff accidentally saying that their con would run from August 30 to September 30 (instead of August 30 to September 3), and thus a joke that the world’s shortest Worldcon would be followed by the longest.
While at the closing ceremony, I met up with a guy named Mike with whom I had a great conversation about medieval weaponry, and also my friend Joy Crelin. After that, we headed out to the Dead Dog party, where we hung out, ate snacks, and generally decompressed from the convention. Later, Mike left, and Kevin once again joined us.
The last highlight of the con began with a man walking about asking loudly if anyone wanted to play an RPG with him; I spoke up and said sure, why not. The man’s name was Jason Wodicka, and the game was called Microscope.
THIS GAME IS AWESOME. All caps and italics awesome. Seriously. This is one of the aforementioned wave of GM-less games, in this case a collaborative storytelling game that is also diceless. We ended up with a story about a great 21st century war against dragons which ended with a renegade AI killing all dragons and almost all of humanity.
Halfway through the game though I stepped out to finally meet Christopher Garcia about being Emerson students, fandom, and writing. I also gave him a hug, and then I got to hold his Hugo. We had a great conversation that ended up all over the map, and in the middle of it a lady gave me an LED on a piece of velcro (it came from her costume…? Random?) which I promptly stuck in my hair (it now lives in my hat). I then went back to playing Microscope.
Alas, we all had early flights the next day, so it was time to trade contact information and head off to bed.
UP NEXT: My swag pile, and a reflection post.
Hello, everyone; I’m not dead, just caught in the throes of a lazy summertime.
I recently finished the book The Immortal Storm by Sam Moskowitz. This book is a chronicle of the history of science fiction fandom in the 1930s. It happens to be the most thorough resource I’ve found thus far on the beginnings of fandom, far easier to track down than ancient fan magazines. Furthermore, while it is biased, it’s biased in a different direction than most resources of its type: most of the memoirs of early fandom (Pohl and Asimov, for instance) are firmly in the Futurian camp. Moskowitz, of course, was one of the leaders of New Fandom, the counter-resistance group to the Futurians, thus this book isn’t precisely kind to the latter. That said, my cross-referencing with other works, including primary source documents and a confession by one of the Futurians, suggests that while they weren’t the demons Moskowitz sometimes makes them out to be, they certainly were rather arrogant and entitled towards fandom as a whole.
Sadly, the book is about as dull as a sack of hammers. There’s very little about what the clubs were like in their day to day meetings, almost no physical description or even notes about the personalities of those involved. Nearly the entire first half of the work is little more than a list of fan magazines.
That said, it still remains the most comprehensive account of early fandom I’ve found thus far, and there are some real gems in it. Moskowitz’ account of the first World Science Fiction Convention is fantastic, as are his accounts of the various indignities he suffered at the hands of Donald Wollhiem – not because they’re shining unbiased accounts, but because they’re a glorious account of the infighting and backbiting that went on in fandom in those days. I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again: fandom has never changed, people have always spelled things badly, fought over irrelevant things, and gone on giant ego trips.
I think the most interesting thing I’ve discovered thus far was that Moskowitz was only 19 years old when he ran the first Worldcon. Given that, I hardly find the fact that he banned the Futurians from entering, I mean, I would have too if I was nineteen years old and had been repeatedly trolled!
I’ll be trying to take more detailed notes before I have to send this book back through Interlibrary Loan. I wish I owned a copy, but the only available ones are $50 (!) and I just don’t have that kind of cash, especially for a book I’m likely to cover with notes and highlighter. If only there was a way to make a digital annotated copy… ah well.
When you write creative nonfiction, citing your sources isn’t generally something you do. It does happen, certainly, but those citations tend to be in the backs of the books or in footnotes, sort of tangential. At least, so I’ve discovered thus far. I could be wrong, and some nice commenter could show up and slap me in the face to inform me of how wrong I am, but in the books I’ve read – yes, even the ostensible histories – most of the time you don’t have some long bibiliography done in perfect MLA or APA format.
Let me tell you, it’s liberating.
But at the same time I still feel like something’s lacking. I certainly don’t miss having to attribute every line to someone (as I had to in high school and undergrad) but then again I find fascinating stuff in my sources. There’s something about the character of these primary source documents that really changes how you look at them, quirky little asides and so on that alter perception.
This is especially true when some of my primary sources are so much fun. For example, the last section I submitted for class was on the 1939 WorldCon and the conventions leading up to it. Let me tell you, these were exciting times. These conventions were the birth of cons, and they really show both how the more things change, the more things remain the same.
The First Five were more like glorified club meetings than actual conventions. The only difference was that they involved people from out of state and a professional presence. Other than that, they seemed to involve a lot of rule-making and passing of motions (SF clubs back in the 30s were big on Passing of Motions and Seeming Important.)
And a lot of infighting.
I’m not going to go into too much detail here, but I will give some links to the primary sources I’m using to reconstruct these events, so you can peruse them on your own.
First, has a lot of great short articles, namely a list of conventions. These entries are pretty incomplete. I got a lot more of my information from these fanzines covering the first Worldcon, Nycon 1. The second link on that page has a more detailed summary of the first conventions in it.
For a little more information on Third Eastern, it’s best to look at it from the perspective of
Michelism, since that’s really what defined that particular con. The speech Wollhiem gave for Michel is available here. It is delightfully bombastic and wonderfully serious, with a real sense of dire emergency and an air of urgency surrounding it. Fandom was serious business, ladies and gentlemen.
Now, for the first Worldcon, the very best source is the aforementioned fanzine index, but also this official souvenir booklet. The earlier Fandom Wank link to the bit about the Exclusion act (This one!) is honestly the best source for information on that debacle.
Hopefully I’ll be able to make a more substantial entry on the early cons once I get more research done! It’s a long hard road.
In other news! I’m hoping to have more time to devote to this blog soon – right now I don’t due to classes. This summer though, I should be able to go 100%! You can expect more fun entries soon.