The previous Mimosa, you may recall,
included Lon Atkins's article on the great fannish card game of Hearts. While we were in
Cincinnati at Corflu 4, we ran across Dave Locke, who was the object of some of the humor
of that article. Far from being offended, he thought it was actually quite funny. Anyway, in
the interests of fair play, we're happy to present the following article in response.
- - - - - - - -I Remember Lemuria, and Lon Atkins, Vaguely...
by Dave Locke
I should never go to conventions. I always come home remembering that I've promised to write articles for about three fan editors. Usually the memory dims and it gradually escapes me as to who it was these articles were promised to. The unfortunate thing is that I use this as an excuse to not write anything. What I should do is write the material anyway, then take it to the next convention I go to and pass it out to whoever asks me for articles. "Yes, thanks, Dave. However, an article about your experiences during the oil shortage of 1974 isn't exactly what I had in mind." "I know, but if I write about Lon Atkins it will be even less marketable to whoever approaches me for material at my next convention."
Being a fan editor myself, I understand all the problems. Obviously Dick Lynch does, too. When I got home from the April 1987 Corflu, I emptied my pockets and found the following note from him:
Article for Mimosa #3
Reprint from apazine?
Story about Atkins?
Would like by about May 1, if possible.
For publication this summer (if all goes well).
Just my luck to run into an organized faneditor. After I promise, he puts it in writing and shoves it into my pocket. I'll bet he has a carbon of it pinned to the wall above his desk at home.
I've looked at this note many times since Corflu 4, including on May 1st and more frequently on the days that followed. It's not that I don't want to write something because, after all, Mimosa is a good fanzine and Dick and Nicki are good people. It's not that I don't want to write an article about Lon Atkins.
Dick and I were talking in the hallway outside the Corflu consuite. We had been talking about fan X who was threatening legal action against fan Y, shaking our heads over the hate and discontent of it all, and Dick opened his fanzine to the article by Lon Atkins (( "The Great Hearts Shootout" in Mimosa #2 )). He tapped his finger on the page a few times, then asked if I'd read it and if so what my reaction was. Immediately I leapt to my feet, threatened to sue his shorts off without ever removing his trousers, and made the offhand remark that "I didn't have to receive your fanzine to be insulted; I could have stayed married." I then sat down and lit another cigarette, told him that Lon was a great fellow and a good friend, and that I was as amused by his reprint of the article as I was the first time I read it. He then asked if what Lon had written about me in was accurate, and I told him it was all a pack of lies or at least no more than 85% true at best, or maybe 90%. All right, maybe even 95%.
Lon's article, you'll recall, was about how a hotshot SoCal Hearts player named Dave Locke got shot down in flames in two successive Hearts matches. Lon, who had almost always won any Hearts match at which I didn't sit in, rubbed his hands in glee after my second successive loss and proceeded to lock himself away in his fan den for twelve hours to compose, edit, type final copy, and chortle over this one-shot article/publication which he would run through any apa he was a member of and any apa which would let him frank it through. He called it Icepick #6. He sent my copy on April 7th, 1980 with the following cover letter:
"Enjoyed the Hearts party, although I was saddened to see those terrible cards so consistently in your hand. (They would have gone much better with Glyer... )
"Nevertheless, thanks for hosting. After I return from my trip we simply must lure Mr. Glyer down again. He deserves a rematch."
But, of course, I moved out of the LArea in May of 1980, and the rematch never happened... A letter from Lon dated 5/27/80 and starting off, "Glad to hear of the safe completion of your journey", with a logo reading 'Office of THE JACK OF DIAMONDS', contained the lines: "Sharpen up your Hearts game, Locke. We'll no doubt lock horns again. ... It's always a pleasure to play against a man who understands the game and never lets mere ethical or moral considerations stand in the way of razor-keen Hearts practice. A man like me..."
In August of 1980, Lon sent me a copy of his fanzine A Hearts Primer. His cover letter says "This is a zine I've been working on awhile (on and off). It's a humorous approach to the magic game; thought you might enjoy."
I did, very much. As did anyone I know who enjoys "the magic game". In my next letter back to Lon I told him:
"I might somehow find a segue in my apazine to prompt recollection of the Hearts game where, in three successive passes from you, I shot the moon three times. Any true Hearts fan who reads A Hearts Primer would naturally be interested in background stories about how you came to possess the Hearts skills that you now enjoy. Certainly my recollection must be of the game where you first began to pick up on the idea of passing a low heart to known runners..."
On March 24th of 1982, Lon sent me a short note which included the following lines concerning the Petards (the 'other' group in Los Angeles). It almost made me cry.
"We tried for a Hearts game at Petards, but couldn't find four players. Alas, the decline of Western civilization."
The foregoing was from my letter files. I also reviewed my fanzines for FLAP, which started in January of 1980 -- still going strong -- wherein Lon and I are charter members. I didn't find anything worthy of being made into an article by itself, but I did find a few quotable bits which I had addressed to Lon on the subject of Hearts. The first one refers to the article which you read, in its reprinted state, in the last issue of Mimosa.
You're right: I did lose my ass at Hearts that Saturday night. And then a couple of days later I had to read a fourteen-page fanzine you wrote all about it. Son, we Old Hands don't cause a lot of ruckus when we win a big game. Makes things more embarrassing when we occasionally lose... You must learn this lesson if you are to be ready for the Big League...
For a guy who couldn't beat me at Othello, you've got a lot of balls to propose a ranking system of "Atkins: Master; Novice: Locke."
I read in a fanzine about your third Hearts tourney win (( at the DeepSouthCon )). Congratulations again. I'm sorry I wasn't there to give you a run for your money (by the way, are there any stakes involved, or just the title?), but then again I haven't played Hearts since the last time I played you (remember, you published a 214-page fanzine all about it to
I suppose I could make up some additional stuff, but my heart isn't into doing a good job of it. I mean, I was in Southern Califunny from 1968 to 1980, and when I first met Lon he was a very respectable Hearts player. In the twelve years we resided in the same general area, Lon managed to greatly improve his game and frequently came in second-place at those matches which I attended. He learned to pass low hearts to known runners. He learned to take less than 45 seconds to decide what card to play or I would kick him in the kneecap. He learned not to do obvious Table Talk or I would pour his drink on his head. Over the course of twelve years Lon managed to learn many things about the magic game by paying attention to the way that I played it. That he lost his head at the end and published a 774 page article about my losing twice in succession, well... everyone goes bonzo once in a while and it would be a mistake for me to throw out the baby with the bath water. Lon is a good fellow, and it would be wrong to castigate him for displaying excessive pride in being delighted at the stumbling of one of his elders. Had I stayed in Suthren Califunny, Lon would have better learned the lesson of humility and would never, in 1986, have subnitted Icepick #6 for reprinting in Mimosa #2.
And though I haven't played Hearts since 1980, neither has Lon played Hearts with me since 1980, which has resulted in the hampering of his natural development in the game. Considering the time which has passed, he probably thought it safe to have this intemperate article reprinted.
What this amounts to, I suppose, is that since 1980 Lon has played a few Hearts matches with reasonable but uninspiring competition. Merely surviving, unchallenged by any real competition, he has become emboldened in the last seven years and has lost sight of what happened in the twelve years prior to those two lucky matches. I hear that, since I left L.A., Lon has not even played a match with any reasonable peer-level competition. Instead, he has been busy playing against second-level competition and involving himself with computer-simulated Hearts where he programs deliberate weaknesses into computer-simulacrums of Master Hearts Players whom he has consistently lost to in the past. A sad affair.
Lon is a good friend and one of the best Hearts players I have ever had the opportunity to share a table with. He has produced A Hearts Primer, the best publication on Hearts to appear in either the fan or pro press. His personality has been unique at the Hearts table. His wins, in competitions which have held a minimum of top-ranked players, have been impressive. Lon is definitely a Legend in the game, a public relations giant in the mold of Harlan Ellison, though Lon is much taller.
One of this days Lon and I will get together again. Considering everything, we should start off the first match real slow, just so we break-in easy.
Say, $10 a point.
All illustrations by Alan Hutchinson