Wednesday, June 5, 2013

4: Sci Fi is Not for Sissies; Westercon 66: A Skeptic Comes Home

1968 Hugos: Philip Jose Farmer, Betty Farmer, Harlan Ellison and ?

By the time 1963 had come to an end, I was crazy for science fiction (and music, in equal measure, but that’s another story that incredibly intersects with this one at a Westercon two decades later).  As the sixties rolled on, I was obsessed with reading the genre’s “classics” and contemporary efforts.  I began exploring the world of fanzines and found out more and more about conventions, which sounded like crazy gatherings of bizarre, twisted fans and the authors and artists they adored; I couldn’t really imagine what a convention would be like, but longed to attend, which was not an easy thing in Sixties Sacramento.  I also began to meet a few like-minded folk who shared these interests.

One of these like-minded folk was Happy Jack, who I met in a 1968 summer photography class.  He was an even more voracious sci-fi/fantasy reader than me, and we tried to figure out how we could experience one of these conventions.  Incredibly, the 26th annual World Science Fiction Convention was happening the last weekend in August in Berkeley, only about 70 miles away, AND it was to be combined with that year’s Westercon!  This promised to be a sci-fi orgasm that could not be missed!  However, we faced a rather large problem: HJ and I were just a little over legal driving age, but neither one of us yet had a license, let alone a vehicle to get us there.  As the summer wore on, we couldn’t figure out how to get to the Con, so I finally swallowed my idiotic teenage pride and asked my parents if they would take us!  Incredibly, they agreed.  And so, on that first Saturday in September, the four of us set out for the Hotel Claremont in Berkeley.

A Back Burnered Book
I’m making good progress with Throne of the Crescent Moon, and it continues to keep my interest and fill me with enjoyment.  Unfortunately, I am missing the two books I was currently reading, having to put them on the “back burner” until I complete the five Hugo nominees (or July 4 comes around if I don’t complete them, whichever happens first).  I usually read two books at a time, one fiction, the other not, and the current fiction is absolutely amazing, and I already “miss” it.  I think my co-blogger gave it to me; it’s hard to remember as I got it over a year ago and it just sat on my bookshelf.  I wasn’t drawn to it at first, as it didn’t seem to have much of anything that would interest me: a 600 page Civil War “novel” with small print that was written over 90 years ago!  I mean, c’mon Spence, your tastes have always been a bit hoity-toity, but did you really think I would read this thing?

So once again I am exposed for the arrogant snob I actually am.  Because I gotta tell you: Evelyn Scott’s The Wave is MAGNIFICENT.  First of all, as far as I know there is no other “novel” quite like it.  It is composed of vignettes/short stories/profiles of a never ending and never repeating cast of characters that lived and/or died during the War.  It starts with a guy on a small row boat near Fort Sumter.  Then it progresses through the months and years, touching on individual people’s experiences, as the war rages on, minor and historical moments all through the prism of that particular character’s experience:  “Important” people, “little” people, black people, white people, slaves, soldiers, even some foreign (!) people.  The Gettysburg section is amazing.  I’m about two-thirds through it, and I normally never recommend a book unless I’ve finished it, but this one so far is SO well written, and SO imaginative, you might want to at least research and consider it.

And as for you, Spence, if it was in fact your recommendation, here's a bit of a challenge: I’d love to read your review of it on this blog!

To Be Continued

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