We begin this FIAWOL-themed issue of Mimosa with a tale along the road to
FIAWOL. In this case, it's a real road, as one of the writer's favorite forms of
fanac is traveling to conventions. For many of us, ourselves included, it's probably
true to state that fandom found us as much as we found fandom. But as the following
article demonstrates, it's a gradual process.
I was at a family function a few weeks back when a distant cousin-by-marriage asked me if I still had "that hobby." I bristled, thinking he referred to my romance writing, but he went on, "...you know, that science fiction thing."
"Oh, do you mean science fiction fandom?"
"Yeah, where you take all those trips."
I told him that yes, I still had "that hobby," and in fact was heading off to Canada this summer.
He shook his head in admiration.
"I think that is so neat, that you still do this. What a great way to travel!"
Later I thought it was interesting that after not seeing me for over 10 years, what Hank remembered about me was "that hobby," my involvement with fandom that takes me traveling. And when I think of my favorite things about fandom being a way of life, travel is near the top of my list.
My first cons were regional affairs, Asficon in Atlanta, Kubla in Nashville, Tallycon in Tallahassee. While I enjoyed the con experience, part of what I liked most about it was being able to travel someplace I'd never been before. Kubla Khan in Nashville was my first visit to that city. I didn't see much of it, and my impression of leaving Nashville is having gone over 24 hours without sleep and trying to navigate through the mountain roads while Janice Gelb talked non-stop to keep me awake, but I also recall thinking, "Gee, these are neat mountains." It was nice to see something different from what I knew.
So that's how it starts. Little trips, not far from home, and you feel fairly safe and comfortable doing it. Then someone says, "Are you going to Noreascon Two up in Boston?" and suddenly you're thinking, "I can do that. If we stay eight to a room, and don't eat, I could go to Boston."
I'd never been to Boston. So I saved my pennies, took a tape recorder to get interviews and make it a business trip, and flew up north.
And in Boston I not only experienced my first Worldcon (and a splendid one it was, too) but ate sushi for the first time when a bunch of us decided on one extravagant meal at Legal Seafood, saw some of the city sights, met fans from around the world and vaguely recall sleeping in a bathtub the last night when we ran out of beds.
When I got home I was asked about my trip. Non-fans were fascinated by the idea that I would travel hundreds of miles for a science fiction convention. They wanted to know if Mr. Spock was there.
It was easier after that, planning my schedule around Labor Day, sometimes missing Worldcon for pesky things like giving birth, or family weddings (those darn mundane relatives! I keep telling them not to schedule events around Labor Day but do they listen?) but other times managing to wing my way to such exotic locales as Chicago, Atlanta, New Orleans, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San José, Boston, Baltimore and Philadelphia.
When people ask me what I get out of these trips I'm almost afraid to tell them the truth. See, I'm somewhat of an intellectual snob. I'm not brilliant, but I enjoy hanging out with people who are smart and let's face it, in most large gatherings you're not going to find wit and brains in abundance.
You find it in fandom. Oh, not every time, and not everywhere, and you can be cornered by someone who hasn't bathed during the entire convention, needs serious meds, and wants to tell you all about why his button collection ought to be archived at the local university, but fortunately these are the exception, not the rule. Either that or my radar's gotten better at avoiding these types. Anyway, what I do get out of fandom, what feeds my intellectual snobbishness, is a feeling that I'm in an environment where the jokes and one liners are flying fast and furious and you have to be bright to keep up. I love the challenge of it.
I love the travel so much that after a while you find yourself doing things you never would have expected when you first became involved with this as a way of life.
Intersection wins the Worldcon bid. I'm at a celebration party with men in skirts and lots of fine single malts. Janice turns to me and says, "We're going to Scotland in 1995."
"Ha, ha, that's funny, Janice. Like I'm going to leave my husband and children and jet off halfway around the world for a science fiction convention!"
We had a splendid time, thank you very much. I got to see Scotland because of fandom. I wouldn't have gone if not for Worldcon, any more than I would have gone to Australia a few years later. But it was fandom that gave me the excuse, and the encouragement to travel to places I'd read about, places I'd always thought about visiting, but the time was never right, and let's face it, I didn't have a good reason to go.
Fandom is the reason. When I got to Scotland, and Australia, I not only met fen from foreign lands who don't make it to U.S. conventions, an exciting experience in itself, but I met up with people I knew well so there was always a sense of "you're not alone here" that added a comfort level to the experience.
Sometimes it worked the other way. Fandom came to me, instead of me going to fandom.
Many years ago I got a phone call, and when I hung up I looked at my husband and said, "We're going to have guests for lunch. Two people from that little science fiction thing I write for, Myriad, they're in town and want to stop by to see us."
"Have you met them before?"
"Noooo...but I'm sure they're lovely people. They're quite witty in their writing."
"But you've never met them? The Marquis de Sade was witty, but you might not want him over for lunch! How do you know these people aren't axe murderers?"
Howard was in law school at the time and if it wasn't litigation on his mind, it was mayhem.
"Don't be silly. I'm sure Dick and Nicki Lynch are perfectly normal human beings."
I told a friend going to Worldcon reminds me a little bit of Same Time, Next Year, where two old friends and lovers meet once a year and catch up on what's been going on in their lives, share new experiences, and renew their relationships. That's how it is when you travel in fandom. If I learned one thing from fandom over the last 20 years it's this -- don't judge the person by the outer packaging -- a lesson I've tried to carry over into all aspects of my life. I've also learned to be open to new experiences and new tastes and new ideas, so that even when fandom is just a little hobby, it can still be a way of life.
All illustrations by Charlie Williams