Southern Fandom Confederation Web Site

Tom Feller: Like a Rock

It’s a fact of life. If you are not a major extrovert or have some kind of memorable schtick, most people won’t know you were in the group. It’s a shame, because if people would look around they could meet some interesting folks. Like Tom Feller.

As an officer of the Southern Fandom Confederation, Tom has a biography and picture on the officers’ page. You can check that for the basic information. This interview will concentrate more on the details than the big picture.

During the interview, Tom freely admitted to being an introvert. He answered the ad for the Chimneyville group in Jackson, Miss. because he was having trouble finding interesting friends in that part of the world. Don’t take that as a specific indictment of Jackson. The Editor can tell you that Chattanooga, Tenn. can be the same way, and it’s a bigger city than Jackson. Some folks can make friends without trying. Others, despite their sterling qualities, have to scratch and peck and claw for every new friend.

It’s a shame, because the quiet types are often just as interesting as the loud, showy people. And the quiet ones often do the work to keep everything running normally. Look at Tom. His official job in the Southern Fandom Confederation is Secretary. That job has a single duty: to record and publish minutes of the Confederation’s annual business meeting at Deep South Con. Maybe a day’s work per year. But Tom does a lot more than that for SFC. He writes con reports and fanzine listings for the Bulletin. He also uses his bulk mail permit to mail the Bulletin at a reduced rate, making possible its wide print distribution.

Tom stays busy with fandom outside SFC. He writes apazines for SFPA and FAPA, works with his wife Anita to handle registration at Kubla Khan in Nashville, and attends around 10 conventions a year with Anita. They also go to numerous club meetings, SCA events, and meetings of Sherlock Holmes fandom.

Tom says his first convention was difficult to handle (he finds writing easier). Like any good neofan, he attended all of the panels. But now he usually knows at least a few people at most of the cons he attends, and he only attends conventions he can drive to except for Worldcon.

Tom developed a strategy for dealing with conventions. Tom found that he and Anita can stay in the con suite and let the convention come to them. You can normally find them quietly talking to people about a wide range of subjects in the con suite, at a room party, or in the audience at a panel.

Tom still reads a lot, but like many middle-aged fans, his tastes have changed over the years. He does not read as much science fiction and fantasy as he did earlier in life. He now reads more biographies and history. But he tries to stay somewhat current by reading all of the Hugo Award nominees for Best Novel.

When asked if science fiction is now in the mainstream of American culture, Tom said that media SF is in but not the written literature. In fact, he doubts that written SF will ever make it into the mainstream. The better science fiction is too difficult for the average reader to appreciate. He quoted Samuel R. Delany’s observation that even a smart person has to learn how to read science fiction. It requires new skills than the ones used to understand other forms of writing.

If you’re at a Southern convention during the next year, chances are Tom and Anita will be there. They won’t be flashy or loud, but look for them anyway. It will be worth your time to meet the kind of guy who keeps the world going. As the title says, like a rock.