Well, it's finally the new millennium, but in many ways it sure seems a lot like the old one to us. The Washington traffic has been as bad as ever, most of the tourists this summer still seemed pretty clueless with no sense of direction, and we had the same crappy February weather, with all the mist and rain, as last year. The one thing we didn't have was all the hoopla and fireworks celebrations at the end of last year, like there was at the end of 1999. The beginning of the actual first year of the new millennium, like Rodney Dangerfield, "just don't get no respect."
One other thing that's unfortunately the same in this world-of-the-future is that it's no less dangerous a place to live than it was in the previous millennium. If anything, we've learned that it's even more so...
September 11th was a bright, clear day in Washington. I was at my desk at work that morning, doing web site development and listening to the local classical music station, when the hourly news had a report that an airplane had crashed into one of the World Trade Center buildings up in New York City.
I was able to get to the CNN web site before it was overwhelmed by the number of people trying to do the same thing; it had a photo showing much worse damage than I had expected to see; clearly this hadn't been just a terrible error by a pilot of a small plane. The radio station soon carried another breaking news story that the other World Trade Center tower had been hit by an other airplane, and then from down the hall there were people saying the Pentagon, just two miles away from us, had been attacked. I went to the office across the hall (my office looks only onto an interior courtyard), and I could see huge billows of dark black smoke coming from across the river.
We were told to evacuate the building and go home soon after that; there were reports of explosions up on Capitol Hill, at the State Department, and at the Old Executive Office Building. All hoaxes or runaway rumors, luckily. There was also a report that the subway was not running, again false -- if it had shut down, I'm not sure how I would have gotten home. The next few days after that had a feeling of unreality about them, as if I had been stuck in the middle of a Tom Clancy novel, hoping to quickly reach the end and return to the real world. Some of the images from the attacks were terrible to see. I think the most disturbing ones were the shots of people jumping from the upper floors of one of the World Trade Center towers -- there was a couple who held hands just before they jumped, and another of somebody who had transformed his death leap into almost an art form, head first with legs crossed as he fell. And there was a photograph of the upper floors of one of the towers, of people at the windows desperately looking out for the help that would never arrive; the photo was taken just before the tower came down.
Nicki and I were relieved to find out that nobody we knew was harmed on September 11th, either in New York or here in the Washington area. The same cannot be said for my sister, though, who used to work at the Pentagon, in the same part of the building where the attack occurred, in fact -- she was moved offsite when that section of the building was scheduled for renovation. Sixteen people she knew, including two fairly close friends, didn't make it.
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Just a bit more than one week prior to that terrible day when the world changed, we had been in Philadelphia attending the 2001 Worldcon. This was the first time a worldcon had been held in the City of Brotherly Love in nearly 50 years and it was only the third Philadelphia worldcon ever, but because of the year it was held, the organizers did away with numbering and instead officially titled it 'The Millennium Philcon' (with no apologies to George Lucas).
MilPhil officially began on Thursday afternoon, August 30th, but for practical purposes it actually began the previous evening. It only takes about three hours to drive to Philadelphia from where we live in Maryland, and we made it to the hotel by late Wednesday afternoon, in time for the Boston and Charlotte bid parties that evening. There were some problems getting there. Even though Philadelphia isn't that far from us, we don't often go there, and we don't know the city nearly as well as perhaps we should. So we relied on the driving instructions that were in MilPhil's final progress report. That was a mistake. It turned out that Pennsylvania had recently renumbered the Interstate exits; when we left I-95 at the recommended place, none of the directions made sense after that. Luckily, the exit we'd taken was Broad Street, which leads directly to the city center, so it actually didn't cause too much of a delay; when you make a wrong turn in Philadelphia, you usually end up across the river in New Jersey!
Our hotel, the Clarion Suites, was in the heart, literally, of Philadelphia's Chinatown. We'd chosen it partly because of its (marginally) lower cost than the other hotels in convention's room blockings, partly on the (mistaken) belief that the entrance to the convention center was just half a block away (only to discover that for most of the convention, the only way into the convention center was a door at the opposite end of the building, three blocks farther on), and partly because we'd very much enjoyed a stay at another hotel in that chain when we stopped in Cleveland last year on the way to the Chicago worldcon. However, this hotel wasn't nearly as nice as the one in Cleveland -- it had the smallest elevators we've ever seen outside of Europe, each floor seemed to be designed pretty much as a narrow-corridor rabbit warren, and the view from the our room looked into somebody's small kitchen window (where a big pot of soup was simmering for the entire weekend). One thing the hotel did have, though, was character -- the building the hotel occupied had formerly been a mill that had produced bent-wood rocking chairs, and there were huge wooden structural beams in many of the rooms, including ours.
Despite our letdown about the hotel, staying in the middle of Chinatown was actually pretty fascinating. Unlike the rest of the city, it never seemed to shut down, even in the middle of the night or on Labor Day. There were almost always shops and markets open, and people out on the street. And there were many, many restaurants.
Chinatown proved to be a good place for food, and many of our dinner expeditions with friends went there. The most interesting of the restaurants we went to was the Kosher Chinese Vegetarian restaurant (complete with a letter of certification by a local Rabbi), where there were dishes with faux meats made from seasonings, tofu, and other vegetables of various kinds. Eve Ackerman, who was there with us, or dered one of the ersatz pork dishes; afterwards she had some fun telling people that she'd found a way to eat pork without violating Kosher.
We had some good meals in Philly, but I didn't manage to get a Philly cheesesteak at all. The closest I came was at the Reading Market, a huge indoor marketplace next door to the convention center that was subdivided into dozens of little produce and meat markets, and also many ethnic and specialty restaurants. The place that sold the cheesesteaks had a very long line so we opted instead for a Greek place. (I love Greek food!) Given our hotel's location, we also had Chinese food during the convention, but not as often as you might think. One of the places we did go was an Asian Fusion place not far from the convention center, as word had gotten around that it was not only very good, but also a bit different. And they were right -- where else could you get a lunch of a grilled salmon Peking duck taco? And in addition to that Kosher Chinese Vegetarian restaurant, we also went to what would have been a more typical Chinese place, except for the tank of live frogs in the entryway. It was kind of unnerving seeing them hop and climb all over themselves. If anyone had ordered frog, I would have been out of there!
We never tried to fill ourselves during the dinner expeditions because there were usually a dozen or more parties to go to in the evening. For more than a year, Boston and Charlotte had been staging an increasingly tense and unfriendly campaign for the rights to host the 2004 Worldcon (which Boston won, after all the votes were counted on Saturday night). They got started early, on Wednesday evening; the Charlotte crew had a suite up on the 21st floor of the Marriott and were doing their usual hot barbecue-for-the-masses, while the Boston people had all kinds of things to eat and drink, and were staging their event down on the 6th floor of the Marriott, where they had arranged five rooms in a row in an attempt to lower the population density. Besides those, the Japanese fans gave out samurai headbands and saki as they hosted two nights of parties to promote their 2007 Worldcon bid, the Los Angeles bid party for the 2006 Worldcon made us 'Space Cadets', and the Brits were once again pouring single malt Scotch for their Scotland-in-2005 bid. And there were more yet! Some of the parties were somewhat indescribable in theme -- there was even one whose theme appeared to be 'worship of sugar' and had a table piled high with all kinds of sugary treats. If you were looking for anything other than pixie sticks, gummies, hard candy, and other sugary delights, you had to go some where else.
The parties were mostly in the Marriott Hotel, which attached itself to the Philadelphia Convention Center by an elevated walkway that ended in a large atrium just before merging into the Center. The atrium was an amazing place in its own right, complete with representations of constellations on the ceiling and a long, winding metal tubular lattice sculpture that possibly was intended to be a 'wormhole' to get to those far-off places. Perhaps the sculptor was a science fiction fan?
The Convention Center was where just about all the programming took place. The evening before the convention began, we had looked over the schedule and marked what we each wanted to see and what we each were committed to attend as participants. There was a lot of good-sounding discussion panels and we made most of them, even though it often meant dash ing from the Convention Center to the Marriott and back again. There were also some interesting films and Anime scheduled, but they were either shown at a bad time (such as three o'clock in the morning) or else in conflict with some other programming event we wanted or needed to be at. The descriptions of the Anime were fun to read, though.
I was on five panels, one of which I had suggested (and as a result, was appointed moderator). The programming was very well done and both Rich and I found so many panels to attend that a couple days we only met up at dinner time. My first panel was titled "Camera Obscura: SF and Fantasy Films You Haven't Heard Of." This was the second time I've been on a panel of this title and I still don't really have much of an idea on what to say (I brought a few notes on a movie I'd seen recently, Six String Samurai, that seemed to qualify). Still, the panel had people who did know movies and there was a lively discussion of the difference between 'unknown' and 'obscure'; one of the other panelists even came prepared with a list of his favorite obscure films and why they were noteworthy.
I was on only one fanzine-related panel, "The Well Read Fan: What Current Fanzines Should All Well-Read Fans Be Reading?" Again, an organized fan -- two of them, in fact -- were on the panel; Brad Foster had a list of all the fanzines he had received, so could talk to the health of the activity, while Leah Smith had a list of the 'good stuff' and some opinion as to why she thought so. We also talked a bit about fanzine production, so next year I think I'll ask for a panel on starting/sustaining a fanzine -- a "Pub Your Ish" panel, perhaps. At a different fanzine panel, a person in the audience announced about having published her first zine right there at MilPhil, and was given
on-the-spot advice on how to distribute it at the convention. It was a clear indication that people are still interested in publishing, whether online or on paper.
The panel that I moderated, "Xena: Warrior Princess Farewell," was one of the last ones of the convention. I wasn't really expecting a large crowd, but it turned out there were more than enough followers of the Warrior Princess to have a good panel. But, while I had hoped to have a panel that praised the show, it turned into a gripe session about what went wrong in the final episode and in the series in general. At least we did end on it on a positive note by having the crowd give the Xena battle yell!
Last year, at Chicon 2000, I hadn't been on any programming at all, but there really hadn't been much that I would have been interested or able to contribute to, anyway. This year was different -- I was able to find so many interesting panels that I was having trouble finding free time to do other things. I moderated two panels, one on the Heidelberg Worldcon of 1970 (I had some good panelists in Tony Lewis, Waldemar Kumming, and Robert Silverberg), and another on present and future means of energy production (with Jordin Kare, Vicki Warren, and Greg Benford). The latter had more than 200 attendees, which made it the most well-attended presentation I've ever directly participated in, as or career professional. Except, of course, for the Hugo Awards.
For the 11th year in a row, we had been nominated for a Hugo Award for Mimosa. And for the second year in a row, we finished second behind Mike Glyer and his excellent newszine, File 770. Dave Langford won two Hugos this year, one (as usual) for Fan Writer, and the other for his Short Story, "Different Kinds of Darkness." Another winner was Jack Williamson, who at 90+ years old, is now the oldest person (while still alive) to ever win a Hugo Award.
We were allowed to bring two guests to the Hugo Nominees reception prior to the Awards Ceremony and to the Nominees Party afterwards, so we asked Cathy Green and Sheri Bell, two of the newer members of our local sf club WSFA, to be our guests. But we also had another person to be on the lookout for -- our friend Sheryl Birkhead, who was a first-time nominee for the Fan Artist Hugo. Sheryl originally had not planned to come to MilPhil, but a few weeks before the convention decided she'd take the train to Philadelphia on Sunday and be at the convention for about a day to attend the Hugo Ceremony and see what she could of the rest of the convention.
Earlier, I had intervened on Sheryl's behalf for space in the Art Show for her; she had found out about two weeks before the convention that the Fan Artist Hugo nominees had been allotted free space in the Show, but she hadn't been previously informed because she wasn't on the Art Show list. (I guess the assumption is that any fan artist who is nominated will already be in the Art Show.) I was able to help clear things up, and we brought Sheryl's hastily collected artwork to Philly for display. Later, the Hugo Ceremony organizers didn't have a picture of Sheryl to show at the Hugo ceremony when the nominations were read, so they decided to show one of her cartoon illustrations instead. But the Art Show refused to let them photograph any since they didn't have Sheryl's permission. (Life is just so complicated!)
At any rate, Sheryl showed up at the Hugo Awards Ceremony with only moments to spare and vanished from the post-Hugo party almost as soon as she got there, not to be seen by us again.
Our friend and fellow fanzine publisher Guy Lillian had also been nominated for a Hugo award, for his fanzine Challenger; we think he's going to win one eventually, though Mike Glyer will need to end his hot streak first (and Mike will be tough to beat next year, out in San José). Meanwhile, let's repeat the mantra: "It really is an honor just to be nominated!" Believe it.
It was good to see Guy again, and especially nice to see his wife Rose. We had felt bad about missing their wedding, back in June, but we did manage to spend a bit of time with them, taking them to lunch one day at the Asian Fusion restaurant and taking a photo of them (for a wedding quilt Nicki will make for them) in front of one of Philadelphia's more famous sculptures. The subject of the sculpture seemed entirely appropriate.
There were quite a few memorable moments at MilPhil. Rich got to meet a fanzine editor from the early 1950s, Joel Nydahl, who became famous back then not only for the spectacular two-volume 'annish' of his fanzine Vega, but also in the rather abrupt gafiation he made soon afterwards, attributed to burnout (though he now claims there were other reasons, as well). We also got to meet a Russian fan, Dr. Yuri Mironets, who had been brought to the convention by a special fund administered by Philadelphia writer/fan Catherine Mintz; Yuri has been a recipient of Mimosa for several years but we never thought our paths would cross, as we're not likely to ever go to Vladivostok. And even though we we didn't win a Hugo, we still shared in the thrill of the moment; fan artist Teddy Harvia (a.k.a David Thayer) did, and his 16-year-old daughter, Matilda, was present to see it -- MilPhil was her first convention!
The most memorable moment of all for me came early Saturday evening. For the past three years, the Bucconeer people have been using leftover resources from the 1998 Worldcon to fund an annual student science fiction essay, story, and artwork contest. There have been dozens of entrants each year, and the awards presentation is held at the worldcon. I sat through about half of this year's presentation (I was one of the readers for the essays) and then I left to go talk to Bruce Pelz, who was sitting near the entrance to the main concourse of the convention center. Not long afterward, there appeared a man and his wife and their little girl; they had driven from Maryland to Philadelphia so the young lady could accept her award and recognition as one of the finalists.
It seemed to me that neither the man nor his wife were SF fans; I don't think they had convention memberships and they were late because the woman had to work that day. They didn't know where in the convention center the ceremony was being held so I hurriedly brought them there, and it turned out that the ceremony was still going on and the young lady was able to go on stage, shake hands with Hal Clement, and receive her certificate after all. Afterwards, before they left to go home, the man took a photo of his wife and their daughter beneath the 'World Science Fiction Society' banner in the convention center, and you could see how happy the young lady was. They spotted me, came over and thanked me, saying I had "gone the extra mile" to get them to the ceremony on time. It was just a little thing, but it made my weekend. Losing a Hugo wasn't such a big deal after that.
There are other memories of Philadelphia we've brought back with us. The city itself was well worth a day's sightseeing, and there are two pretty good bus tours available to do so (though one of them is disguised as a trolley). The historic part of the city has the Liberty Bell (in its own pavilion) and Independence Hall, of course, but there's more in Philadelphia than just that. The Rodin Museum has one of the few castings of 'The Thinker', right out there at the streetside entrance. The U.S. Mint is there, too, and we took a tour, with some other fan friends, on Tuesday morning just before we left to drive back home. And, up on a hill at the far end of a long, wide boulevard is the Philadelphia Museum of Art, made famous in the movie Rocky when Sylvester Stallone charged up the stone stairs in front of the museum and threw his arms in the air in triumph, a pose that many visitors to the museum have no doubt emulated. Philadelphia is a good city, and MilPhil was a good convention.
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Not quite two weeks after the September 11th attacks there was more sad news, of the death of Meade Frierson. Back in the 1970s, Meade was the President of the Southern Fandom Confederation, a loose collection of fans and fan clubs across the southeast USA that did a very good job bringing new people into science fiction fandom and, in general, bringing needed visibility to fan activities there. His fanac was of many kinds -- Official Editor of the apa SAPS and member of the apa SFPA for many years, one of the first fans in VCR fandom when home video became affordable for most of us back then, and, back before Internet access became widely available, a user and evaluator of computer bulletin boards (some of his reviews and recommendations were published in one of the personal computing magazines).
Meade was always the Voice of Reason in Southern Fandom -- someone who was universally respected and above all feuds. He was also a visionary -- he and his wife Penny were two of the strongest proponents of bringing a worldcon to the South (which finally happened in 1986 with ConFederation). We had been friends with Meade and Penny since our earliest days in fandom back in the 1970s; Meade was very much an actifan, and we saw him at almost every convention we attended back then and there were a lot of them -- 10 to 12 a year, none of them very large, and all within a reasonably easy drive from where we lived. When we moved north from Tennessee to Maryland in 1988, we mostly fell out of touch, crossing paths with him only every few years and hearing disturbing reports every so often on how his overall health was beginning to deteriorate.
Meade leaves behind a legacy as one of Southern Fandom's great organizers. The Southern Fandom Confederation, which has continued to have support and interest from fan groups across the South, is a living memorial to his memory.
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If there was any happy news in September, it was that seventeen days after the September 11th calamity, the local sf club, WSFA, held its first convention in more than four years -- its previous convention, Disclave, had been a victim of a different kind of calamity, one involving water instead of fire (but that's another story). The new convention, CapClave, was a relatively small and lightly programmed event with only about 300 people attending, but it was the first chance we had to talk with some of our friends from the New York area since the day of the attacks. The overall mood of those who attended seemed to be almost that of an extended family, and the convention almost seemed like one huge room party with a little bit of programming going on over at the far end.
And about two weeks after that, it was on to Bloomington, Illinois, for this year's Ditto fanzine fans' convention, which also doubled this year as a FanHistoricon. Bloomington is the home city for one of science fiction fandom's most illustrious personalities, Bob Tucker. Bob has been our friend for more than 25 years; back when we lived in Tennessee, he would spend a night or two at our house just before and after the Chattacons each year. Bob doesn't go to conventions any more, so the convention came to him instead. It was the first time we'd been on an airplane since September 11th, and while the flights themselves were to tally uneventful, the increased security and long lines at the airports as well as the subliminal sense of anxiety in the departure lounges were more indications that the world was now a different place than it was just a bit more than a month earlier to that.
The convention itself was an absolute delight; it was a pleasant, relaxing weekend, and we're happy we made the trip. Tucker was there, of course, as were several other members of First Fandom: Art Widner, Jack Speer, and Forry Ackerman. As you might expect, there was a heavy emphasis on What Has Gone Before in fandom, and there was a reason able amount of fanhistorical-related programming -- Art Widner had a slide show from conventions in the 1940s, there were interviews of Speer, Ackerman, and Tucker, and a panel with the four of them remembered other famous and infamous fans of decades past. All the panels and interviews were audiotaped by Dick and Leah Smith, who also organized the convention.
For the fanzine part of the convention, Dick and Leah had produced a superb issue of their Hugo-worthy fanzine, Spirits of Things Past, subtitled titled Contact! It was a collection of vignettes and longer tales of how 72 fans found science fiction fandom, from Forry Ackerman in 1929 to Lisa Freitag in 1984. The stories were fascinating and add to the preservation of the history of sf fandom. It's the best single issue of a fanzine we've seen in a long time.
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And speaking of fanzines, this seems a good place to talk about the future of this fanzine. We mentioned as far back as Mimosa 24 that it was unlikely we'd publish beyond issue 30, and that decision is now final. There will be three more issues after this, but only one more issue (#30) that will feature original material. The next two issues, #28 and #29, will be a two-volume 'Best of Mimosa' fanthology, and both will be published in 2002. The final issue, #30, will be a 'FIAWOL' theme issue, and will be published in the first half of 2003. Also, we probably will not include a letters column in any of the last three issues, as we'll likely need that space for other material. (But please send us a letter of comment on this issue anyway; we'll forward your comments on the contents of the issue to the respective writers and artists.)
As for this issue, we're featuring articles and essays on a variety of things -- the dream of future travel to the planets and bad dreams while traveling home from a worldcon of the past; an homage to a noted futurist and remembrances of some storied past fan activities; of the future of publishing and a famous movie star of the past; of the beginning of gaming fandom and a night in a structure designed to survive the end of the world. In short, we hope you will like this issue; we think we've filled it with entertaining things to read, and we hope you think so, too.
All illustrations by Sheryl Birkhead
Photo of Yuri, Rich & Nicki by Craig Miller
Photo of Rich by Nicki Lynch
All other photos by Rich Lynch