We end this 'Communication' theme issue with another remembrance of a lost friend,
Ian Gunn, who died last November of cancer. Like Vincent Clarke, Ian was also a
frequent contributor to Mimosa, both in illustration and essay; his "Alien
Spaceport" cover for M18 is one of our favorite pieces of fan art. He had
half-completed a sequel to that cover that we had planned to feature on this very
issue, and we were looking forward to seeing him at the upcoming Aussiecon Three.
His presence was irrepressible; the void his passing leaves in fandom is
I was introduced to Ian Gunn first through his cartoons. As artist liaison for ConFrancisco, the 1993 World SF Convention, I wrote him, and a number of other fan artists, to contribute to the convention publications. At MagiCon, the 1992 World SF Convention in Orlando, I met Aussie Roger Weddall, whom I asked about Ian. Roger told me that Ian was a decent bloke, mid-30s, shaggy head of hair, full beard, medium height, heavy set, and very funny.
Roger revealed a reverent sense of wonder in his description of Ian's significant other, Karen Pender-Gunn. Compared to Ian, he told me, Karen was very quiet and reserved, stoically tolerant of Ian's antics. If she was loud at all, she showed it in the bright colors she liked to wear.
I had no idea when I might ever meet Ian and Karen in person. Then I met and married Diana and jokingly told her I'd take her to Intersection, the 1995 World Science Fiction Convention in Glasgow, Scotland, for our honeymoon. She took me seriously. Then Ian and Karen won GUFF, the fan fund that exchanges fans between Australia/New Zealand and Europe.
At the convention, Diana and I found Ian's name listed on a programming item in the fan lounge. We walked into the partitioned area in the middle of the cavernous convention center and instantly recognized Ian and Karen, he big and fuzzy at the podium, Karen glowing and purple several rows back in the audience. The two obviously recognized us, mostly likely because of my Texas cowboy hat; they smiled and waved back at us. The bad acoustics drowned out the speakers' voices with the rumble of the crowd scattered throughout the center so we sat close to Karen and chitchatted until the panel ended.
Ian and Karen took us over to the Australia-in-1999 Worldcon bid table in a corner of the convention center where Diana and I bought pre-supporting membership from them and they gave us black and white stickers of a space platypus for our badges. In return, we gave them fuzzy brown kangaroo stickers we were using to promote our intention to run for DUFF, the fan fund that exchanges fans between North America and Australia/New Zealand. The centerpiece of the bid table was a larger-than-life inflatable plastic platypus. Out of a large cloth travel bag Diana pulled the furry platypus hand puppet we'd brought all the way from Texas. Ian expressed mock jealousy that Texans had stuff with a more warm and fuzzy feeling for Australia than the Australians themselves.
We showed them the room in the ritzy Moat House attached to the convention center where we 'rich' Americans were staying (rich at least until we paid our hotel bill). We all took a cab to the more modest Central Hotel attached to the railway station in the center of Glasgow. We attended the bid parties thrown at the Central. Diana and I assisted at the Australia in 1999 party by handing out our kangaroo stickers and lending Ian the platypus hand puppet. Ian brought the beast to life, working its mouth with one hand and wagging its tail with the other. His distinctive Australian accent and laugh only added to the magic. Women and children were petting the puppet as if it were real.
Twice during the run of the convention we went out to eat together, the first time to a cozy restaurant called The Attic in a converted shop basement, accessible by outside stairs. Here Karen introduced Diana to the sinfully rich and very British desert icky sticky toffee pudding and made a friend for life. Richard and Nicki Lynch joined us at the second restaurant, the more upscale Papingo, which means 'parrot' in old Scottish, but which I for some reason thought was Portuguese, perhaps because the colorful decorations reminded me of Lisbon. The mirrors on the wall made our party of six seem even bigger.
At the table, the women discussed food, or something else of little immediate interest to us cartoonists. They commented on the haggis but no one had the nerve to order it. Ian and I shot puns and jokes back and forth at each other. We scored points virtually even until I remembered the perfect dinner conversation piece. I took from the table one of business cards advertising the restaurant and put two creases in the middle of it at right angles. I pulled on the edges and the card folded closed like wide mouth. The surprise and delight in his face told me that I had scored big points with the paper hand puppet. I gave him a note card and showed him how to create his own. We drew faces on the creations and distracted the women by trying to engage them in conversation with our 3D cartoons. Richard Lynch, ever conscious of recording fan history, pulled out a camera to take pictures.
The night of the Hugo Awards, to my complete surprise, I ended up with a rocket after the ceremonies to carry around to the parties. At the Baltimore-in-1998 bid party we found hundreds of hard plastic party favors in the shapes of crabs, lobsters, sea horses, tuna scattered across one of the tables. Ian proceeded to entertain us by showing us how to play tiddlywinks with the red, blue, green and yellow toys, shooting them into his drink cup. When he filled his cup to overflowing and the room became overcrowded and stuffy, we decided to retire to the breezy hallway outside. On the way out I stopped at the LoneStarCon2 party, the next table over from Baltimore in the same room. There Texas fan Karen Meschke, desperate for a taste of home, traded me a fifth of Captain Morgan's Rum for a can of Dr. Pepper I'd brought with me across the Atlantic.
In the hall, we sat on the floor, I with my Hugo rocket in one hand, the bottle of Captain Morgan's in the other. Diana and Karen offered rum to everyone who passed by to keep me from getting totally wasted drinking it all myself. Several fan editors surrounded us, including Henry and Letha Welch and Benoit Girard. Feeling unqualified to draw at the moment, I suggested that Ian sketch them something. He pulled out a sketchpad and pen and imme-diately started inking. A caricature of Benoit produced an exclamation of delight and amazement from the recipient. Henry suggested that Ian draw a portrait of me. The whimsical picture of a gangly Texan under a cowboy hat looked just like me.
After the convention, Diana and I decided to sightsee in Edinburgh. Ian and Karen went to the train station to see us off. They had plans to travel to Edinburgh, too, to visit with fans there, only later. First they wanted to see what they were told was the last working police box in the United Kingdom, a look-alike for Doctor Who's Tardis. Ian and Karen stood on the platform waving goodbye to us, and we sat at the window inside the train waving back. Diana mentioned regret that the travel plans of Ian and Karen did not correspond more closely to our own and I agreed. She and I briefly discussed delaying our departure to spend more time with them but because of Diana's interest in old buildings and our limited time in Britain, Edinburgh Castle won out over the Tardis. As if unwilling to prolong the goodbyes, the Aussies looked away. Exchanging a few words, they suddenly took off toward the front of the train and out of sight. We wondered what caused them to run off before the train even started to leave. A moment later they plopped themselves down in the seats beside us.
They explained that they spontaneously decided that spending the day with their American friends appealed to them more than seeing a police box. Being Doctor Who fans ourselves, we understood the difficulty of the decision. We asked them about their luggage. They jumped on the train with nothing while we ourselves had numerous bulky cases. The Edinburgh fans were taking theirs ahead for them. Now they would actually beat their luggage there.
Diana and I remember little of the scenery between Glasgow and Edinburgh, catching only glimpses of it. We spent the trip conversing with our friends, away from the activities and demands of the convention. Ian told us outrageous stories and jokes while Karen groaned and pleaded with us gullible Americans not to believe a word of what he said. Having a new audience for his humor only encouraged Ian. I reciprocated by feeding Karen equally outrageous lines that she fell for and Diana told her she should know better than to believe everything a cartoonist said.
At the Edinburgh railway station, we momentarily parted ways, Diana and I to find our bed and breakfast and stow our luggage, Ian and Karen to inform their Scottish host that they had changed their plans slightly. We met again at the gates to Edinburgh Castle. Ian was dressed in conservative navy blue, Karen in immaculate white. Ian and I immediately ran ahead, eager to see what was around the next turn in the walls, behind the next door, around the next battlement. I told Ian we had nothing like the centuries-old castle back in Texas. He told me they had nothing like it back in Australia either. Over a metal plate covering a hole in the cobblestone castle walkway, Ian pointed out a sign with an exclamation point on it, saying that it was called a bang, indicating the use of explosives. I told him to stand beside it. He struck one of his many silly poses and I took a photo of a Gunn with a bang.
Karen and Diana, exhausted from the climb up the steep hill atop which the castle sat, protested our pace, but in vain. We peered back at them with goofy grins through gun slits in the walls. The women momentarily slowed us by insisting on lunch in the castle's public cafeteria. Later we all took turns taking photos of each other beside one of the huge black cannons with the roofs of Edinburgh in the hazy background. We mused at the soldiers' pets' graveyard on a ledge outside the walls. On the way out, I chuckled at a sign that had the words "WAY OUT" and said, "Way out!" Ian, more familiar with the sign, was more amused by me.
Outside the castle we walked down the Royal Mile toward the main bus route. Along the way, we popped into the famous Camera Obscura. I took a photo of Ian and Karen from the rooftop with the Firth of Forth in the background, laughing at the alliterative place name and again amusing Ian. Farther down the street, Karen spotted a picture of a kangaroo in an ad outside a clothing shop. She insisted that we take her photo in front of it, explaining that she and Ian were making a record of all the Australian references they found on their trip that had nothing to do with Australia. Ian and I agreed to let the women enter at least one clothing shop to satisfy their lust for shopping, unfulfilled by the castle gift shop.
We reached the main bus route a little sad, knowing that our week together was finally coming to an end. We found a bus stop and checked the schedule. There was only a few minutes to say our goodbyes. Ian's and Karen's bus came and its door opened. We hugged each other, taking a moment too long. The doors closed without Ian and Karen inside and the bus took off. We enjoyed our additional twenty minutes together before the next bus came, and after quicker goodbyes, Diana and I watched our Australian friends disappear into the Edinburgh traffic.
# # # #
I later contributed a cartoon to an Australian fannish calendar that Ian Gunn and Kerri Valkova published. Finishing it shortly before noon one Saturday, I immediately called Ian to tell him was on its way, miscalculating the time difference between Texas and Australia. A sleepy Ian answered the phone and informed me that it was three o'clock in the morning in Melbourne.
The next spring David Bratman, the Hugo administrator for L.A.con 3, called me and asked if I had Ian Gunn's telephone number. I gave him the number but warned him to take into account the time difference when he called. I waited 24 hours to give David time to call and then, unable to contain my excitement, dialed Australia. I again miscalculated the time difference and again woke Ian at three o'clock in the morning. "Congratulations," I told him.
"For what?" he asked.
"Hasn't anyone called you?" I responded, slightly dismayed that I'd jumped the gun, "You've been nominated for the Best Fan Artist Hugo!"
"Bloody Hell!" he exclaimed, sounding suddenly wide awake.
"When David Bratman does call you," I said, "act surprised."
We exchanged numerous packages with our friends, Ian and Karen sending Australian toys, postcards, maps, and trinkets to the U.S., Diana and I sending Texas memorabilia and science fiction kitsch Down Under. My favorites were the Yowies, assemble-yourself plastic models of Australian wildlife, that came in packages of chocolate candy. The amazing toy wombats, frilled lizards, fairy penguins, and bilbies more than compensated for our disappointment that Ian and Karen kept the candy for themselves.
Ian and Karen never woke us with a phone call in the middle of the night, but they did call. Once, Ian told me that he had someone he wanted me to hear. A tinny voice came on the line and uttered a single sentence in an unintelligible drawl. "Who was that?" I asked Ian.
"Woody from Toy Story," Ian explained. "He sounds just like you." He rang me all the way from Australia to pull the string on a doll for me. I was speechless. One New Year's Eve, they called to wish us a happy new year. It was shortly before noon in Texas on December 31 but already three o'clock in the morning of the next year in Australia.
Ian Gunn drew wonderful critters, including armadillos. Diana, as a co-editor of the LoneStarCon2 progress reports, published several of his cartoons. Ian, when he became editor of the Melbourne SF Clubzine Ethel the Aardvark, reciprocated by asking me for filler art. Seeing his seemingly endless supply of creatures in print encouraged and inspired me to draw. In two of his densely populated fanzine covers, I discovered where he had hidden several of my own cartoon characters.
My frequent tendency to forget the time difference between us may have come from my feeling that we were closer than the 10,000 miles that separated us. It seemed that Ian and Karen ought to live right next door to us. Thinking back on Scotland, we were lucky to say goodbye to them three times. We never wanted to say goodbye at all.
All illustrations by Joe Mayhew