Chattanooga Fandom

"Papa" Irvin Helps Chattacon Baby Walk

Nancy Tabor

According to my faulty memory, Nancy gafiated shortly after writing this article, divorced her husband David (chairman of Chattacon 6), and ended up with a new husband and a new career as a newspaper journalist in Knoxville. David, according to a Web search, is now the district superintendent for the United Methodist Church in Tazewell, Va. after serving as pastor for various Methodist churches in East Tennessee. If anyone has more current info, please send it along.--MLR

[Excerpted from the Chattacon 7 program book, 1982.]

In January 1976 Irvin Koch gave birth to his infant, Chattacon. (Tola Varnell began referring to Chattacon as Irvin's baby.) In 1971 Irvin ran a convention in Knoxville called Gnomoclave while he was attending UTK. He hoped to create a rotating event similar to DeepSouthCon. The UpperSouthClave lasted three years, but the third con grew into Kubla Khan, an annual Nashville organized con. [See also Concave.]

Pleased with his success in running Gnomoclave and beginning Kubla Khan, Irvin decided to begin a con in Chattanooga, his hometown. Irvin ran the first Chattacon while living in Owensboro, KY. This commuting between his job and Chattanooga started a precedent. Chattacon is in its seventh consecutive year, and for the seventh consecutive year Irvin has lived in another city.

Irvin assured, "There are no problems running a con out of town. I made arrangements through the mail and on weekends."

Chattacon I was what Irvin described as a relaxacon. With his black eyebrows Irvin underlined his words. "There was no programming. No nothing, just a bathtub, huckster room, art show, and films. The con suite was the 'big thing.'" The only real programming was the banquet in a roped-off section of the East Ridge Sheraton dining room. The fan guest of honor was Cliff Amos, a southern SF pusher. Irvin said, "Cliff said a couple of mumbley words for the banquet speech and that was that."

Chattacon I drew 81 guests and Irvin lost $365.00. "That's good because I had planned to lose $500.00. Losing money was all right because if it was a continuing thing, I would get it back."

Chattacon I had humble beginnings, but Chattacon II was a little inauspicious, too. "We had a problem getting a hotel, we were either too big or too small. We finally got the Admiral Benbow Inn. It was perfect except we had to go outside to go from room to room. We had 113 guests, more than we had planned. Because of a developing blizzard, we had few out-of-town guests. There were Trekkies running all over."

There were weather and hotel problems but Irvin grinned. "I made back $260.00. And I had a lot of fun."

In 1978 Chattacon had grown from a relaxacon to a big convention with an embryo of the concom [Per Irv, from the embryo of an unsuccessful DSC bid headed by the Lynchi--TKFW]. He said, "We were big enough to use the Sheraton Downtown. Our guest-of-honor was A.E. van Vogt, author of Slan. We thought II would double in size but it tripled in size." Irvin smiled so broadly that his black eyes narrowed to slits. "I made my original $365.00 back. With the rest I printed a fanzine, threw a con party, and turned back in $119.00 to the future Chattacon IV."

Before Chattacon III, Irvin's job had taken him to Atlanta. The time for single-handedly running a three-day con through the mail and commuting on weekends came to an end. Irvin shrugged. "It used to be fun. Still is, but I get hassled, too." On the last day of Chattacon III, Irvin called a meeting for anyone already working on the con and all those interested in continuing the work. From the nucleus of workers on Chattacon III, Irvin created The Chattacon Convention Committee for posterity. The 16 board members form the Chattanooga Science Fiction Convention Trust, Ltd. [The structure has since changed; see below..--TKFW]

A Tabular History of Chattacon

& Year  Location       Chairman         Guests                       Attendance
~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~
I--1976 Sheraton--     Irv Koch         FGoH Cliff Amos                80
        East Ridge                      TM Meade Frierson III

II--    Admiral        Irv Koch         "Everyone is FGoH"            113
1977    Benbow Inn

III--   Sheraton--     Irv Koch         TM Perry Chapdelaine          300
1978    Downtown                        GoH A.E. van Vogt

IV--    Sheraton--     Irv Koch         GoH Alan Dean Foster          438
1979    Downtown                        MC Cliff Amos
                                        TM Wilson "Bob" Tucker
                                        SG Jack Chalker

V--1980 Sheraton--     Dick Lynch       GoH Joan Vinge                472
        Downtown                        MC Wilson "Bob" Tucker

VI--    Sheraton--     David Tabor      GoH Jack Chalker              500
1981    Downtown                        MC Forrest J Ackerman

VII--   Read House     Tim Bolgeo       GoH Larry Niven               620
1982                                    TM Wilson "Bob" Tucker
                                        SG Sharon Webb
                                        SG Robert Adams

VIII--  Read House     Tim Bolgeo       GoH Jerry Pournelle           700
1983                                    AGoH Doug Chaffee
                                        TM Wilson "Bob" Tucker
                                        SG John Steakley
                                        FGoH Jerry Page

IX--    Read House     Tim Bolgeo       GoH Robert Adams              814
1984                                    AGoH Linda Leach
                                        TM Wilson "Bob" Tucker
                                        SG Bob Asprin
                                        FGoH Jerry Page

X--1985 Read House     Tim Bolgeo       GoH C.J. Cherryh              937
                                        AGoH David Cherry
                                        TM Wilson "Bob" Tucker
                                        SG Timothy Zahn
                                        FGoH Irvin Koch
                                        GoHE Robert Adams

XI--    Read House     Tim Bolgeo       GoH James P. Hogan            977
1986                                    AGoH Michael Whelan
                                        TM Wilson "Bob" Tucker
                                        SG John Maddox Roberts
                                        FAGoH Danny Gill

XII--   Holiday        Robert Zielke    GoH Larry Niven              1027
1987    Inn/Trade                       GoH Christopher Stasheff
        Center                          AGoH David Cherry                      
                                        TM Wilson "Bob" Tucker                 
                                        SG Timothy Zahn                        
                                        FA GoH Beth Willinger                  
                                        FGoH Walt Baric                        

XIII--  Holiday        Robert Zielke    GoH Ron Goulart              1087      
1988    Inn/Trade                       GoH Jack Chalker                       
        Center                          AGoH Frank Kelly Freas                 
                                        TM Charles L. Grant                    
                                        SG John Steakley                       
                                        FAGoH Kevin Ward                       
                                        FGoH Maurine Dorris                    

XIV--   Marriott/Trade Leon Hendee      GoH Stephen Donaldson        1142      
1989    Center                          GoH Spider Robinson                    
                                        AGoH Real Musgrave                     
                                        TM Charles L. Grant                    
                                        FAGoH Bob Maurus                       
                                        FGoH Charlotte Proctor                 

XV--    Chattanooga    Leon Hendee      GoH Robert Vardeman          1192      
1990    Choo-Choo                       GoH Michael P. Kube-McDowell
                                        AGoH Danny Gill                        
                                        TM Wilson "Bob" Tucker                 
                                        SG David Cherry                        
                                        FAGoH Stan Bruns                       
                                        FGoH Dick & Nicki Lynch                

XVI--   Read House     Robert Zielke    GoH Harry Harrison           1207      
1991                                    AGoH Don Maitz                         
                                        TM Charles Sheffield                   
                                        SG The Webb Clan                       
                                        FAGoH Mark Maxwell                     
                                        FAGoH Debbie Hughes                    
                                        FGoH Khen Moore                        
                                        FGoH Saddam Hussein                    

XVII--  Read House     Lee Sessoms      GoH Leo Frankowski           1192      
1992                                    GoH Craig Shaw Gardner                 
                                        AGoH Barclay Shaw                      
                                        TM C.J. Cherryh                        
                                        SG Lawrence Watt-Evans                 
                                        SG Mercedes Lackey                     
                                        FGoH Samanda b Jeude                   

XVIII-- Read House     Lee Sessoms      GoH David Gerrold            1218      
1993                                    GoH Glen Cook                          
                                        AGoH Larry Elmore                      
                                        TM Brad Strickland                     
                                        SG Ben Bova                            
                                        RAGoH David & Lori Deitrick            
                                        FGoH Jim Arnold                        

XIX--   Read House     Charlie Williams GoH Terry Pratchett          1292      
1994                                    GoH Dean Ing                           
                                        AGoH Darrell K. Sweet                  
                                        TM Wendy Webb                          
                                        SG S.N. Lewitt                         
                                        RAGoH Timothy Wilson                   
                                        FGoH Jennifer Pieve                    

XX--    Read House     Charlie Williams GoH Kim Stanley Robinson     1999      
1995                                    GoH Jane Yolen                         
                                        AGoH Jim Burns                         
                                        TM Charles L. Grant                    
                                        SG Matthew Costello                    
                                        RAGoH Alan Clark                       

XXI--   Read House                      GoH Walter Jon Williams                
1996                                    GoH Charles DeLint                     
                                        AGoH Keith Parkinson                   
                                        TM Charles L. Grant                    
                                        SG Steven Brust                        
                                        RAGoH Mark Poole                       

XXII--  Clarion Hotel                   GoH Harry Turtledove                   
1997                                    AGoH Tom Kidd                          
                                        TM Charles L. Grant                    
                                        SG Esther Friesner                     

[IMAGE: Chattacon 8 Program Book Cover]

Chattacon: A Brief But Irreverent History

Judy Thomas
Condensed by TKFW

In the beginning, there was Irv...


Irv Koch was chairman. Mike Rogers was treasurer at least part of the time [for Chattacons 4 and 5--MLR]. Irv, of course, controlled most everything and notes from these Dark Ages are blurry at best and non-existent at worst. [But see above for a few more details, and anyway Irvin still has all the notes, he sent them to me....--TKFW] During this period, other trustees of Chattacon probably included: Ronnie Shelton, Dick & Nicki Lynch (2-time Hugo Award winners and Rebel Award winners), Bill Hedrick, Rich Morehouse, David Tabor, Nancy Tabor, Julia Morgan Wilhoit, Janet Caruth, Tola Varnell, Tim Bolgeo, Norm Michal, Andre Barker-Bridget, and Ken Scott.


Jack Chalker, the GoH at VI, found the banquet food so horrible that he feasted in the bus station instead. New trustees probably included Bill Zielke, Ken Cobb, Andy Purcell, Rich Morehouse, and Linda Bolgeo.


Tim Bolgeo became chairman, a position he ably held for five years. Ken Cobb resigned and Andy Purcell, who had run the huxter room, also resigned. Elected to the board of trustees during the year were Stuart Lamb, David Martin, Bob Faircloth, and Bill Bridget.


New faces on the board included Bob Barger, Mike Hoyes, Sandy Paris-Barger, Robert Zielke, John Trieber and Lee Miller.


The Bridgets resigned this year, and Sandy (Parris) Barger resigned in December. Elected to the board were Robin Cuzzort, Ron Hogue, Jim Shepherd, Kirk Thompson and Becky Zielke. In December Eric Strotheide and James Tollett joined the organization. Tim, Robin, Jim and Kirk went everywhere promoting Chattacon and attendance jumped to 814.


With Tim still at the helm, the board prepared to hold the most successful Chattacon ever. C.J. Cherryh was GoH and much discussion ensued whether the board should accede to her request for funds to bring her brother along. This was how we met David Cherry. Tracy Kelly joined Linda at registration and later became a Zielke.


In the last year at the Read House for a while (they needed to renovate), Chattacon continued creeping towards 1000 attendees. The weapons policy was put in place in October 1985, and has undergone few changes since. In March, the number of trustees went up to 17, the number still in effect today. Lesley Hugens (Gill, Moore) joined the board as head of program book in February and Leon Hendee came on board as well. In April Ann Robards was elected to help Eric in the art show and Zanny Leach was elected as treasurer. Both have held these positions ever since. Ken Cobb, a former trustee and traveling man, was elected in August. Ken would later chair Chattacon's disastrous DeepSouthCon, which was probably the reason he left fandom.


Most of the year was spent bickering about this and that. In April, the Read House floored Chattacon by shutting us out of our contract. Everybody had an opinion about the direction Chattacon was going. Many trips were made to various hotels and convention facilities. Atlanta was gearing up for their Worldcon actually in 1986--MLR. Finally, the board decided on the Holiday Inn/Trade Center, where it was felt Chattacon had room to grow. True enough! Over 1000 fans attended that year, Larry Niven put a camcorder to sleep during his GoH speech, and security apprehended many young fans for spitting off the elevators. Tim carried the chairmanship through the Atlanta Worldcon, resigning in October. Previous to this year, when one was elected to the board, it was for life. Among the many stressful things that Chattacon did was bring its constitution in line with Tennessee law. This meant term limits of three years for every director. As the dust settled on that hot, fractious summer, Stuart Lamb, who had joined the Navy yet still retained his directorship, was allowed to resign. This left open positions on the board with only a few months until the convention. In October, Bill Zielke was elected to the board along with Mike Dillson, Helen Pieve, and Judy Bishop (Thomas). Kirk Thompson handled programming duties in a short amount of time and Chattacon adjusted to the new facilities along with the sticker shock on the prices charged by the government-owned Trade Center.


In his second year as chairman, Robert Zielke steered Chattacon towards calmer waters. Having survived 1000 attendees with minimal breakdown, Chattacon prepared to forge on towards even more success. So delighted with Jack Chalker's temper at the Chattacon VI banquet, we invited him back to be GoH. He proceeded to delight us once more. Dick and Nicki Lynch ran a live fanzine of their Hugo Award-winning Mimosa, as they ably helped Bill Zielke with programming. In June of 1987, Darrell Zielke was elected to run gaming, bringing the number of Zielkes on the board of directors to 4 actual Zielkes, 13 Zielke associates, and Becky. The convention attracted nearly 1300 people. Security successfully decided to augment their staff with people who had been security problems in the past, and Kelly Freas drew everybody's picture at the dead dog party.


The unfinished business of an open position was taken care of by the election of Charlie Williams [aka "The Third Charlie Williams"] to the board. New directors Danny Gill and Courtland Smythe joined the board and Leon Hendee was elected chairman. Consuite was divided into three separate departments--first, second and third shifts--a short-lived arrangement.


A big year. The Choo-Choo wooed Chattacon with big promises. One promise that didn't work was lovely weather. As chilly January winds whipped through the courtyard, people amused themselves by burning patterns in the carpeting of the hotel with cigarettes. Fan vandalism reached its peak this year, as all the money saved in function space went to offset the damages to the hotel. But, Chattacon would survive. After all, we had a DeepSouthCon coming up later in the year. Needless to say, after all the damage to the Choo-Choo (they also did not look too kindly on the skinny-dipping drunks in the outdoor Jacuzzis and fountains), Chattacon was, once again, without facilities. Surely something would turn up. With Lee Sessoms fielding hotel negotiations, Chattacon made contact with many hotels. But, there's no place like home, to use an oft-quoted Kansan expression, so Chattacon decided to return to the Read House.


Robert was not only reelected to the board, he was also elected chairman. Filling Bill Zielke's vacated position, Dee Holtsclaw was elected to the board. One of our long-time directors, Bill Hedrick, was late to the election meeting and was not able to run because of constitutional rules. Also elected were Andrew Denson, a fixture of Chattacon for many years, and Danny Shannon, one of our former troublemakers, who became head of security. And Chattacon dared anyone to stand up to Danny. People evidently approved of the return to the Read House because over 1200 people packed into the hotel. Mark Maxwell boldly kept the bombs at bay on CNN by refusing to go to the bathroom. Khen Moore started the convention on Thursday night by passing out on the bed in operations, waking from the dead only to speak to Harry Harrison. Saddam Hussein was straw-poll voted unofficial FGoH as anxious eyes watched TV screens all weekend.


Lee Sessoms was reelected and became chairman. Ambitiously, Chattacon invited Mercedes Lackey and Leo Frankowski and scheduled their autograph sessions concurrently. The rest of the convention seemed deserted as thousands waited in line for signatures. Rabid fans! Leo Frankowski graciously offered his suite as crash space for anyone and Mercedes Lackey mentioned that Chattacon would make great fodder for MST3K (is this a compliment?). Craig Shaw Gardner delighted everyone, while Barclay Shaw made huge sales outside the art show. Once again, the Read House was packed to the brim.


Another ambitious lineup of guests and the unveiling of the first Surprised FGoH awaited Chattacon this year. Glen Cook was a GoH and a dealer and has returned every year since. There was no war this year, but a near disaster occurred just prior to the convention when toastmaster Bard Strickland had a car wreck. Brad Linaweaver graciously offered to step in and was given co-toastmaster duties when Brad Strickland was able to make the convention after all. Larry Elmore was such a popular AGoH that he was not able to go out to dinner with Ann. David Gerrold was this year's rabid fan guest and everyone demanded the sequel. No one was more surprised than Chattacon at opening ceremonies with the Surprised FGoH not there. Jim Arnold was tracked down at his home where he was asleep about 10:30 P.M. Friday night. When told of the honor bestowed upon him, he stated that he had to work and wasn't sure that he would even make it until Saturday evening. When told that he must give a speech and do other stuff, he said he would be there as soon as possible, but would we please give his room to a needy fan. What a guy! Jim Arnold performed his duties admirably and the Surprised FGoH was declared a resounding success. Lori and David Deitrick were pleasantly surprised to find cases of left-over Little DebbiesTM at convention end and took several off our hands. Chattacon also tipped hotel staff members with cases of Little DebbiesTM Christmas Wreaths and rumor has it that there are several cases still downstairs holding up a cabinet in the employee service area.


Chattacon came of age as the first woman became chairman. Charlie Williams handled the job masterfully as Chattacon packed the Read House yet again. Eric Love took over as head of security. Oh my God, we've done it again! Rabid fan alert, Terry Pratchett is GoH. Dean Ing and family moved into the Read House indefinitely prior to the convention. S.N. Lewitt was totally blown away by everything, and Chattacon was blown away by her belly dancing. Wendy Webb had a hard time juggling all the toast orders she received. Jennifer Pieve was yet another wonderful Surprised FGoH. But, of course, the real excitement started Sunday morning as temperatures plummeted and the water pipes burst. The third floor flooded and in the art show, the remaining art was taken down and moved as water seeped through the ceiling. No problem, a fan was prepared as he navigated in the halls in scuba gear (don't ask why he brought scuba gear to an inland hotel in January, we don't know). While most of the fans took off before the snow (snow? snow? in the balmy southeast? Naaaww) hit, the weather was not kind to Chattacon's guests who usually stay over until Monday. But this year... First off, everyone made a fool of themselves at the dead dog party, where directors, guests, and staff wiped out the entire convention's liquor supply, and one director floated down the hallway. Someone nobody knew flashed the entire party and, not getting an adequate response, proceeded to throw up on as many people as possible before retiring to the couch. Terry Pratchett sang all the Jim Steinmann songs there are while at the same time playing DOOMTM on the operations computer. He wondered, in vain, when the convention would be over, because he desired to "get off." Ah, Terry, worse things await. Most of the guests awoke to a world of whiteness outside Monday morning and decided to settle in since the highways and airports were closed. But Terry had to go home now or else he might not get another flight to Europe for days. After several aborted attempts at sending off via Chattanooga, the intrepid and hung-over Andy Hendee volunteered to take Terry to Atlanta, cross-country if need be, to get him to his connecting flight on Monday. Ask Andy! The burst pipes, meanwhile, had caused a lake to form outside the consuite which froze as it went down the ramp to the street. Of course the beer truck was stuck there until spring thaw. And the hotel still loves us.

Which brings us full circle as we honor our founder, Irv Koch, without whom none of this would be possible. Thanks for the memories, Irv....

The Avocado Incident

Julie Wall

[David Hartwell, in his book Age of Wonders, discusses the close connection between SF and religion. Amazing how quickly these little rituals will spring to life.]

The Avocado Incident is shrouded in the mists of time by now, but I'll do my best to tell the tale. As Linda Zielke says, it just happened. It was Chattacon a couple of years ago, and being the middle of January, it was my birthday. I believe I was rooming with Penny Frierson and we decided to have a birthday party. I had actually planned this in advance and gone to the grocery store on Tuesday, because I wanted to make some guacamole. As you may or may not know, it's very difficult to find ripe avocados in the grocery store at any time--much less the middle of winter--at least in Alabama. You usually have to buy them under ripe, and rock solid, then let them sit for a few days to soften up. So, I bought two large, hard green specimens early in the week and put them in a paper bag, as I had read somewhere that this helps them ripen.

Come Friday night of the con, I was preparing for the party. I opened the paper bag. One of the avocados was nice and soft. The other was still very hard. So I made guacamole out of the one and put the other on the night stand as a decoration. Soon there were throngs of semi-intoxicated fans streaming through the room. Linda and Bill and Becky Zielke [themselves responsible, with Holly Hina, and the rest of Zielke & Assoc., for black olive daiquiris...--TKFW] were sitting on the bed at one point and noticed the bedside table decor. It was commented upon, rather lewdly, as I recall. I had to explain, and soon the whole room was agog at the big green thing that would not get soft. As the night wore on, in our rapidly advancing drunkenness, the Avocado somehow became an object of reverence.

I think it was Penny who discovered that a honeymooning couple a few doors down had discarded a beautiful basket, that had no doubt held champagne and other delicacies. It was festooned with ribbons and filled with silver Easter grass. She brought it back to the room and the Avocado was soon nestled in the center.

Eventually, the booze ran out, and those of us remaining (I'm sorry, I can't remember them all, but I know Toni was there) decided to go in search of other parties. But we couldn't leave the Avocado. Thus the Avocado Processional was born. The Avocado, in its basket, was held aloft at the front of the line. I believe Toni took up one of the metal serving trays and a wooden spoon and brought up the rear. Ten or twelve of us, with more joining as we progressed, marched through the Read House, chanting:

A-VA-CA-DO (Bong),
A-VA-CA-DO (Bong),
A-VA-CA-DO (Bong)

The Avocado never did get soft. I took it home with me, and weeks later threw it away, because it smelled bad--but it was still hard.

The Night Before Chattacon

The Cleveland Contingent

[Reprinted from Chattacon's 1997 program book.]

'Twas the night before Chattacon
When all through the hotel
Every director was screaming,
"It's all gone to hell."
David and K.C. held their mugs with care
In hopes that Carter Bheer soon would be there.
Yeager was nestled all snug in his bed
While vision of dealers danced in his head.
And Zanny in her office and Lani in her wake,
Had just settled down for a long coffee break.
When over in consuite there arose such a clatter,
Staff sprang to their feet to see what was the matter.
Away to the door they flew in a flash,
Tore down the ramps and out in a dash.
The moon on the breast of the new fallen snow
Gave a luster of midday to trucks down below,
When what to our wondering eyes should appear,
But a refrigerated truck with eighty kegs of bheer,
With an armload of taps, so quick and handy,
We knew in a moment it must be our Andy.
More rapid than dragons the directors they came.
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:
"Now, Mark! Now, Jeff! Now Leon and Lee!
On, Ann! On, Wayne! On David and K.C.!
To the top of the ramp, to the end of the hall!
Now, drink away! Drink away! Drink away all!"
As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane soar,
When they meet with an obstacle, fall to the floor,
So up to the bar the staff they flew,
With arms full of mugs, and pitchers, too.
And then in a twinkling, I heard over a headset
"Operations wants to know if pizza's been ordered yet."
As pegboard went up with a grunt and a groan,
Charles connected cables and lights came on.
Down from Operations Ann came with a bound,
She surveyed their progress without uttering a sound.
When the last screws were in and the bulbs were lit,
She grabbed a radio and OK'ed the pizza trip.
Dealers chased after Bryan who running in fear
Said over his shoulder, "It's not me this year!"
Cindy assigned radios for each team member to use,
"Now cut the chatter--remember the rules."
Charlie showed up with badges for some,
Guests, directors and staff without one.
Security teams planned how to comb the college,
Hotel stairs, hallways, and especially room parties.
Program Book done and now "at large,"
Dee hid in the fear of Cindy in charge.
The hub connected and power applied,
Mike's laptops were up but the server had died.
He cussed it and kicked it and dropped it too,
But it really worked--he had pulled the cord with his shoe.
Holly introduced the guests that arrived,
Harry and Esther and Charlie who sighed.
Frozen drinks were passed out quick,
In fear the machine would make it too thick.
Robert sat quietly with a knowing grin,
Watching other directors nervous and grim.
Once the pizza was gone and the machine was dry,
They left Operations for beds on the fly.
As one mass, they staggered out in the hall,
Towards their rooms bouncing wall to wall,
But they exclaimed before the elevator closed,
"We're ready, we think--let them come on in droves."


Irvin Koch

[From the Weaponscon I program book, 1987.]

The program book department head insisted I, as Chair, do one of these "welcome bits." Finally I decided I could tell my standard weapons' story at this point.

Two Novembers ago I was wandering around Xanadu with nothing to do but talk about neat ideas for SF cons. I had about five, but the one that people actually wanted to do was reactionary. Other cons' committees started behaving like the dullest of mundanes; they'd taken to banning this and stopping that and generally forgetting what fandom was. Banning was and is merely the focal point of such.

Obviously we HAD to do a con where everyone "must wear a weapon at all times." (And I checked, there were negligible facilities in Kennesaw, GA.) The set-up was made and then people started telling what their weapon would be if they came.

Rolled up newspapers or boots dangling from belts. Ninja toes. Numerous hands were claimed as deadly karate weapons. Innumerable mouths (which may outnumber the paper daggers dispensed by the con and are certainly more deadly). Entire brigades of fen claimed their pens, mightier than the sword, would be weapons. A few proved their journalistic typing fingers were weapons--I hope they stay on our side.

And of course there were various cutlery fen who understood the peacebonding rule before I explained it. There was interest in everything from ancient oriental blades to futuristic Special Forces guns. Likewise the real firearms fen strongly agreed with the "no real class three" rule (paperwork not worth it except for a specialized show) and had real permits to go with what needed them.

One of my apartment mates on the other hand saturates me with an Uzi watergun one night as I walked in. Thus the common gun-show rule, "no ammo on the body at the same time as a projectile weapon," was changed to include liquid, gas, and energy ammo. This indirectly saved having several other rules. The only other argument--fen are MADE to argue--I got on that was one guy thought plasma was a separate case from energy and should be listed too.

One svelte lady dangled her body in front of me and asked if I would consider it a weapon; I wasn't going to argue.

Finally one lady suggested something I could not accept as a weapon!!

Yes, I said, the four-year-old child who has been going to cons since she was two weeks old gets a free membership for being under six, and can claim herself as a weapon. But, you can't claim her as your weapon. You can't wear a four-year-old child at all times....

At that point I thought the story was ended and the point made: don't worry about what's a weapon, just enjoy the con--be it somewhat specialized, just as there are specialized filk, fanzine, costume, and other specialized but surely SF FANDOM cons.

WRONG. Robert Silverberg had an editorial in the issue of Amazing which was on the stands a little over a month before this con (he was wrong about when people would see the editorial, too). He was talking about another reactionary specialized new con, Sercon, and why he liked it, even if in some ways it seemed sterile. And then he went on to explain why he wouldn't be at WeaponsCon as it wasn't his sort of thing.

He also mentioned a lot about "fandom cons" as they were when he was younger and both were just starting. That's when I decided we'd better find someone to "adopt" any fen under 18 who showed up at the door with no one to sign the agreement we have here for them. Please!

Those fen and the children of the four year old will be "Science Fiction Fandom" when Silverberg is dead and not even a memory in the minds of attendees, not members, of things called cons run by those who may well be mundanes, just to see how large numbers they can draw. And the smaller cons like and unlike those of his earlier days will likely die with those fen now over 35.

They can have cons for adults only. They can't perpetuate themselves and must leave the name of fandom to "events" or "shows" like any mass advertised money and prestige generating mundane affair. Those kids, if we take them in, will be what we call fandom.

And enjoy the con.

[IMAGE: LibertyCon 3 Program Book Cover]


Special thanks go to Samuel A. Smith, who digitized the SFC Handbook 2nd edition and gave gracious permission to use his existing work in the preparation of the 3rd edition. The main text of this page came from Sam's hard work.--MLR


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