Wednesday, June 19, 2013

12: SciFi is Not for Sissies; Westercon 66: A Skeptic Comes Home

Cover by John Hastings II

“As he dodged diners and servers in the hall, the repeated miniscule navigational challenges reminded him of Proust’s comparison of a restaurant in action with the whirling planets of the solar system, which had struck him as fanciful…until he had seen it himself in restaurant after restaurant…[H]e was in fact hooked: he was very, very interested in whatever she might say or do.  He was even willing to consider stupidities like birdflight in the clouds of Saturn.  How could it be?  To a woman not even his type – ah, Marcel, if only you knew – this Swan was worse even than Odette.”  2312

“Many years have passed since that night. The wall of the staircase…was long ago demolished. And in myself, too, many things have perished which I imagined would last for ever, and new ones have arisen, giving birth to new sorrows and new joys which in those days I could not have foreseen, just as now the old are hard to understand.”  Marcel Proust, Swann’s Way

“Summer is halfway over, I’ve been fired from my job, booze nor dope nor money have I none, so to fool myself into thinking I’m doing something useful I am sitting in front of this typewriter watching the words flow onto a piece of blue celluloid and trying to make this fanzine a living entity.”  John Hastings II, True!Lust!Romances!, The Journal of Outlaw Fandom, Premier Issue, September 1972

Remembrance of Cons Past, Swan’s Way, and the Infidelity of Memory

Sacramento fandom was heating up in 1972, and in preparation for the Worldcon, HJ and I gathered together some “prominent names” and started a zine called True!Lust!Romances!  In addition to our contributions, it had articles by Larry Inchausti (“The Day I Met Mike Douglas”), James Kimball (“Trash Box”), and Steven Kendrick (“Emil the Bazoo”), and terrific art by Jim McLeod.  HJ and I brought copies to Worldcon, and decided that we would like Harlan Ellison to write for us.  Realizing the chances of this were minimal, we figured the only way to possibly get this to happen was to make sure our pitch to him was memorable.  So we decided to go meta: we would approach him like fans who had overdosed on their own nerdiness.  Immediately after one of his panel appearances, we rushed him, waving T!L!R! in his face and whining, over and over, “Haaaaaarlan, Haaaaarlan, would you please write for our fanzine?!”  Of course, if you know anything about Harlan Ellison, you know we got a blistering earful of curses and invective.  But he did take a copy as he turned his back on us and stormed away.

It has been brought to my attention that the Transvestite Ball, discussed in my last post, did not in fact happen at this Worldcon, but at a Witchcraft and Sorcery convention.  This blogging series has certainly tested the memory cells, and I must confess that many of my con recollections from this era are merging into one another.  I am thankful that HJ and SK are greatly assisting in attempts to keep these posts as factual as possible.  In any case, the events described in the Transvestite Ball narrative did happen, but at a different convention.  Evidently, I sought solace afterwards not in the arms of The Turd, but rather some other costumed fan.   

I continue through Kim Stanley Robinson's amazing 2312.  Not only am I getting an incredibly engrossing saga, enthralling characters, and a beautifully realized future, but I am also getting an “experimental novel” par excellence: sections called “Extracts” and “Lists” that are hugely pertinent to the story but big “detours” from the linear flow mixed with occasional, almost Joycean segments.  In my embrace of “mainstream” fiction, I had forgotten that experimental narrative fiction has a long and impressive history in sci-fi.  I loved Alfred Bester’s The Stars My Destination, and remember it as having some very twisted and amazing textual format “deviations”.  And speaking of Harlan Ellison, I remember many authors in Dangerous Visions attempting new approaches and styles.  (Of course, here we go with memory again!)  There must be more in the many years since I "left" the genre?  Perhaps this would be a worthwhile future series: the history of “experimental” sci-fi?

To Be Continued       

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