Con Review: Noreascon 4

Noreascon4by Catherine E. Twohill


Noreascon 4: The 62nd
World Science Fiction Convention
September 2-6, 2004
Boston, Massachusetts

Labor Day weekend in Beantown! The Unions are on overtime! Dock Workers unite! Oh, wait… that would matter if we actually were Dock Workers. While some of those who attended Boston’s Noreascon 4—the 62nd World Science Fiction Convention—may have been members of a collective bargaining unit, collectively, that’s not why roughly 6,000 bodies filled the Hynes Convention Center. Why? How about a chance to chat with Terry Pratchett (GOH)? Hand a pen to William Tenn (GOH)? Peer at Jack Speer (Fan GOH)? Or simply celebrate, as science fiction Fandom does annually, that which makes the community unique.

The Noreascon 4 team, comprised of Massachusetts Convention Fandom, Inc.-ers, have much to be proud of. They were organized, efficient, smart and, above all, helpful. We arrived on Thursday, September 2nd and wound our way to the Hynes loading dock to off-load our stuff (we had a Dealer’s Table). Even though we were officially late (the gleefully over-paid dockworkers were gleeful), Elaine Brennan met us with a smile and set the tone for the remainder of our Noreascon experience. The folks in Press Relations went above and beyond the call of duty to ensure we had our credentials and then we were off to the Marriott to complete the check-in routine. A top-notch experience all the way around. Mind you, this detail is provided as a stark contrast to our experience just twelve months prior in Toronto. While I shan’t bore you with the horrific T.O. details, suffice it to say, we may bury our zines for safe-keeping if we smell a Customs Agent within fifty miles.

Anyway, back to the good stuff. There’s almost too much—it’s difficult to focus! The weekend was kicked off by a First Night event (mirroring Boston’s famed New Year’s Eve celebration) at which teams of people devised games and audience participation festivities. Clever and just plain fun. The Convention’s programming was rock-solid—but when has it not been for a Worldcon? (oh, wait… Toronto…) The Art Show was one of the best we’ve seen with an excellent variety of styles and media. The Masquerade was enjoyable with Susan de Guardiola doing an excellent job of MC-ing, however, (and here’s where the T.O. event gets its only nod) none of the entries were of the caliber of last year’s award-winning Amber series-clad group. With Boston’s reputation for abundant creativity, that was a slight disappointment.

And, finally, to our favorite event—the Hugo Awards. Let’s face it—it’s the Oscars for the geek-literati. Neil Gaiman was tapped to host and didn’t disappoint. With his wry wit and quick delivery, he kept the event moving along and the audience “in” on the joke. In the end, Lois McMaster Bujold grabbed the top honor (Best Novel) for Paladin of Souls. The event’s illustrious host won his own gleaming phallus… I mean rocket… for Best Short Story, “A Study in Emerald.” Our friend and contributor, Frank Wu, was nominated for Fan Artist and was up against some pretty tough competition. Wu prevailed and took home his first Hugo. The after-Hugo Award parties with a first-time winner—not to mention an all-around bon vivant—are an experience everyone should have. The stories we could tell… Speaking of the after-Hugo Award parties, we must acknowledge SFWA for hosting a lovely, ethereal (dare we say celestial?) event. White floating balloons tied to white Mardi Gras masks, alabaster-draped furniture and literary projections on the walls created such a fantastic atmosphere. We almost forgot that the event is traditionally called “The Losers Party”. Not a loser in the room, to be sure.

2005’s WorldCon is off to Glasgow, Scotland (eek… Customs Agents!) from August 4th – 8th. For more info:


Faces of Fandom: Alexis Gilliland

Alexis Gillilandby Catherine E. Twohill


Alexis Gilliland has been active in Fandom for nearly forty years. Nth Degree sat down with Alexis following a recent Washington Science Fiction Association (WSFA) meeting hosted at his home in Arlington, VA.

ND: As this is “Faces of Fandom,” show me your face. How did you become involved in Fandom?

AG: Well, I came to Washington when I was in the military service—to Fort McNair—and I got involved with the DC Chess League. I played chess and, early on, I found out about the WSFA and I went to one meeting but they met on Fridays. That was the same day that the chess league had their meeting so there was a conflict. So… I played chess and didn’t think too much more about WSFA. Then, I got married and started a family.

In 1963—two weeks after the birth of our first son—WSFA was involved with Discon 1—the first Washington Worldcon. I was working at the Bureau of Standards and my colleague Bill Evans (who was the treasurer of the con) said, “You’re a science fiction fan. There’s a World Science Fiction meeting this weekend here in Washington within walking distance. You should go.” So, I bought a membership and my wife and I and traded off pass for the weekend. It was a huge convention—800 people—and I didn’t know anyone. I wandered around and thought, “Oh, that’s very interesting.” A couple of years later, by which time we had another son, we got The WSFA Journal #1. They started doing those in Spring, 1965. By this time, with two kids, taking them to chess matches wasn’t really feasible and I was looking for something else. So I thought, “Alright, here was WSFA and it was a lot more infant-friendly than a chess match.”

ND: Capclave is coming up and your wife, Lee, is the Con Chair. Are you involved?

AG: I’m helping with registration and to the extent that I can. It’s always nice to have a reliable ‘second’ around. I ran conventions—six Disclaves (not the infamous year, however) from 1974 to 1978 and then I came back for one more in 1981. I had Asimov as Guest of Honor. We had 1500 people and one of the biggest Disclave’s ever.

ND: How else would you define your involvement in Fandom?

AG: Being involved with fandom takes many forms. WSFA has been meeting in my house since 1967 and the deal was that when I started coming to WSFA, they met in Miss Elizabeth Cullen’s house on Rock Creek Park. It was not as big or as exuberant as the current lot. We’d been meeting there twice a month and the group usually consisted of 10-15 people. Then, we went off to the New York World Convention and, while we were there, her little dog died. Her nephew put her in the Roosevelt Hotel, which was an old-age home. When we came back from the World Convention, we didn’t have a place to meet. So, they started passing around the meetings to different members. Sometime that Fall, we got our first meeting and we’ve been meeting on a regular basis in my house ever since—usually once a month. Once in a while, emergencies come up and we’ll either skip a month here or host two meetings in a month.

Overall, Fandom means you deal with people—you’ll meet people you like and people you don’t like. Some can be real pains in the butt. Some can be exasperating. Basically, however, it’s a social group. It’s people to hang out with, socialize with, schmooze with. There are usually two parties a month and sometimes if there’s a Fifth Friday, someone will volunteer to host a party without a WSFA meeting. I enjoy this group very much.

ND: So, let’s talk about you. From where do you hail?

AG: Oh, around. I was born in Bangor, Maine. In 1940, my dad was a professor of Chemistry at the University of Maine. He got his commission activated so that he went into the Army. Christmas of 1940 was spent in a Baltimore hotel room while he was looking to get settled. It was a really miserable Christmas. We’d moved, didn’t know anybody and the cat died. We lived in Baltimore for a while then moved to Texas, Los Angeles and Lafayette, Indiana. My dad got out of the Army and became a chemistry professor at Perdue University. I went to Perdue and got a Bachelor of Chemistry degree and was going on to Grad School when I got drafted. So, in 1954, I had to call it quits with my education.

ND: Did you serve overseas?

AG: No, that’s how I got to Washington, DC. I had applied for OCS, which took me out of the pipeline. Half of my company went to Korea and half went to Germany. Those of us who remained—those in Sick Bay and those like me who had gotten out of the pipeline—were just sitting around waiting for special assignments. I wound up going to Fort Benning. From there, I was sent to Fort McNair. Fort McNair sent an order around—they wanted one man from each company. My First Sergeant said, “Who do we have who’s more decorated than useful?” So, I went.

ND: From there, you moved on to being a family man.

AG: I was married to my first wife, Dolly (E. Dorthea Gilliland) for 32 years. We had two sons, Michael and Charles. Dolly passed away in 1991. Lee (Uba) and I got together and I married her on Halloween of 1993.

ND: Tell me about your art.

AG: The stuff I’m doing is pretty much calligraphic. The art is basically “in the hand”. The drawing is in the service of the joke. The drawing is very minimal but basically the drawing is the hook to hang the joke on. I started by trying to make witty drawings and wasn’t getting anywhere until I started making them talk and doing lettering. So, I was writing but it had to be very concise, very lapidary. You’re on a 3×5 piece of paper and you can’t fill it up with text. You’ve got to have the minimum text to get the joke across. Sometimes you have a drawing and you look at it for a while and there’s no caption. A week or two later, you look at it and say, “Oh! That’s what I was thinking. Who knew?”

ND: Who are your influences?

AG: Oh, a number of people. Bill Rotsler, Heinrich Klay—he’s a German artist. (Saul) Steinberg—I have a number of his books. He does wonderful things with line. It looks very simple until you try to do it. I was drawing before I could write. As soon as I could hold a pencil I was trying to draw with it. I found some of my cartoons that I did when I was in college recently. And I don’t think that I am any funnier now. But with all the practice it comes much more easily. I remember that I really worked on those. It took a long time to get where I was going using India ink and a crow quill pen. I now carry three pens (pulling them from his pocket)—the flair tip is for the heavy outline, the ballpoint is for shading, the Pilot pen is for the lettering. What you get is… (begins drawing while Lee’s noisy turtle creates a diversion) …here’s your basic sketch…Caption?

…here’s a little hair… a gray suit.

ND: Is there a joke?

AG: Oh, of course (draws a bubble and, um… joke).

ND: Can I have this?

AG: Oh sure, it’s a demonstration just for you.

ND: (Still contemplating joke) Let’s talk about your real writing…

AG: All told, I’ve published seven novels. I began by publishing two books in 1981. Those two novels were the beginning of a science fiction trilogy that we called the Rosinante series (Long Shot for Rosinante, Revolution from Rosinante and The Pirates of Rosinante). Following the first two books’ release, I won the John W. Campbell Award for best new writer. My next three books were the fantasy trilogy, Wizenbeak. If I had known I was writing a trilogy when I started out, they would have been Wizenbeak, General Wizenbeak and Wizenbeak Rex. Instead, Wizenbeak was followed by a more flowery title: The Shadow of Shaia. Lord of the Troll-Bats was the third in the series. My seventh book was a stand-alone book entitled The End of the Empire. And I’ve had some short stuff published. But the market for short stuff isn’t what it used to be.

ND: Are you still writing?

AG: I have a novel in submission and I have a short novella in submission. The novella’s kind of strange and it’s been turned down by a couple of people but it’s still out there.

ND: What other honors have been bestowed upon you?

AG: I have four Hugo Awards for Best Fan Artist (1980, 1983-85) and three FAAn (Fanzine Activity Achievement) Awards. I still have at least one of those statues around here somewhere. Randy Bathurst made a little sculpture of a stylized mimeograph with a can of beer on top of it looking shocked.

ND: Over the years, I’m sure you’ve seen many changes in Fandom. What changes stand out for you the most?

AG: It used to be that there was a little group of people and they did Fanzines. In order to do a Fanzine, you need a mixture of creativity and a certain engineering savvy and a doggedness to do grunt work like typing up your stencils. In those days, to do a Fanzine, you’d typed a stencil on a mimeograph and then you used correction fluid to correct your mistakes. Then you typed them over and then you took the stencil and put it on the drum and then hand-crank the drum to produce copies of one-side of one page. Times change. Today, you go down to Kinko’s and you hand them your pages and you ask for 50 or however many copies printed on both sides. There will be 12 pages and you want them stapled and the machine goes chunkachunkachunk and it comes out stapled. The machine does it all—when it works—and all you have to do is pay some money. The writing and composition is all done on computers. I did my first four novels in long-hand for the first draft. Then I got around to typing up the second draft. Going to computer from that was very liberating as it lets you re-order your paragraphs and pages so that you can put your ideas down—not the way you thought them out but the way they should be. So my first four novels—science fiction—were written in long-hand while my fantasy trilogy was typed on a computer. Go figure. Also, the Internet has been a big change. I hear there are five pages on the Web about me but I haven’t looked at them.

ND: So, you’re a scientist, artist, writer—quite the Renaissance man. What else do you do?

AG: I make very good deviled eggs.


Con Review: SheVaCon 12

ShevaCon12by Catherine E. Twohill


SheVaCon 12
February 27-29, 2004
Roanoke, Virginia

AKA Big Lick. Seriously. Nicknamed for the salt licks that attracted wildlife (and those who hunted them), the Capital of the Blue Ridge is a city that still thinks it’s a little town. In my opinion, it’s the perfect location for SheVaCon. The Holiday Inn Tanglewood is nestled on a hillside with quick access to dining, shopping, and a cinema. The hotel has a decent restaurant as well as a bar that serves more than just beige water on tap. However, it’s clear that SheVaCon is about to burst the seams on the joint. The registration area was abundantly buzzing with people, the gaming area hadn’t an empty seat to be found and every session I attended was practically SRO. SheVaCon organizers were proud to say that they saw a 30% increase in attendance over last year but stopped short of saying “now where do we go?”. How did they master such an increase—when every other regional Con saw a drop in their numbers? Solid guests (Charles Keegan was Artist GOH; Rikk Jacobs, Master of Ceremonies; Jim Butcher, the Writer GOH; and a massive turnout of Baen authors) and good programming; there were over forty unique events in less than sixteen hours of event schedule. The program guide, while slight on program descriptions, became an item to cherish for its thoughtful, touching series of tributes to Hal Clement, a writer, artist and gracious friend of fandom who passed away in late 2003. So, Robert Roberts and crew will have their work cut out for them in 2005 as they’re keeping the same location and, as always, looking to bring even more Fen together. We’re certain they’ll remain creative with their content. But, as in real estate, it’s all about location. SheVaCon 13 will be held the weekend of February 25-27, 2005. For more info, check out their website:


Con Review: Stellarcon 28

Stellarcon12by Catherine E. Twohill


Stellarcon 28
March 19-21, 2004
High Point, North Carolina

Ah, Stellarcon. It will always be dear to me as, two years ago, Stellarcon 26 was my very first con. And what a way to be indoctrinated! Surrounded by a Garrison of mysterious men in stormtrooper gear. Hubba, hubba. Well, the 501st was back in even greater force this year. Along with others dressed in Star Wars attire, they collectively honored guest Timothy Zahn for his work in keeping the Star Wars stories going. Stellarcon’s Guests of Honor included Fred Saberhagen (Writer), Rowena (Artist), and Steven S. Long (Gaming). Rowena’s work gracing the cover of the program guide was really impressive.


The cast of Disney’s next summer blockbuster or the entrants in StellarCon’s Masquerade? You decide.

Organized by the SF3 (Science Fiction Fantasy Federation from UNC-Greensboro) and held once again at the downtown High Point Radisson, Stellarcon’s overall program was just top-notch. Lots of well-crafted concurrent sessions, writer’s workshops, movies, a solid gaming track organized by the ubiquitous Ron McClung, and even an entire kids’ track all day Saturday. The Masquerade, while well-attended, was fairly average with most contestants literally running on and off the stage. And if one was looking for a quick break from the Con’s content, one could drop in to the hotel restaurant or bar and find writer John Ringo telling stories and holding court. Bill Mann, Jr., Stellarcon’s Chair, shared that plans for Stellarcon 29 are still a bit up in the air. As of this printing, their website ( tentatively reports it will be held March 11-13, 2005, in Greensboro, NC. As a University-affiliated group, there are a number of rules they must follow to secure (hotel) contracts. They can only hope that the local businesses (hotels) support them in that process. We wish Bill and his great team the best of luck in getting next year confirmed and well-attended.

The after-hours social events at Stellarcon are always just as much fun as the daytime hours. As the date was fairly close to St. Patrick’s Day, the Nth Degree team couldn’t resist hosting a very green—and glowing!—shindig. Be sure to check out our next Con party to get your glow on. And I can’t end this review without givin’ the props to Bobba Fett. If swooning over a cold, somewhat sinister costume—and the stranger within—is wrong, I don’t ever wanna be right. And to think, two years ago, I was a Con virgin.


Faces of Fandom: Robert Quill

Robert Quillby Catherine E. Twohill


Nth Degree recently sat down with con artist, er, freelance artist Robert Quill for a quick chat.

ND: How would you define yourself in the world of Fandom?

RQ: Well, I’m a published artist, but more than that I specialize in providing custom illustration directly to the members of Fandom… the fans themselves.

ND: Custom illustrations. How long have you been doing that?

RQ: Off and on since the late ’80s. I was always doing character sketches for my role-playing game pals. One day I decided to get a table at a local convention. I brought a portfolio and a sign that said, “Please Disturb the Artist.” It was a greater success than I’d expected, and I’ve been attending conventions to one degree or another ever since.

ND: A published artist—tell me more about the types of publications and the work.

RQ: I worked in the comic industry for about a year, on a very nice comic called Raven. I have contributed illustrations to many role-playing and card games, as well as magazines and graphic design in and out of fandom. It can be a tricky profession, because it’s so very, very fun and cool.

ND: How do you balance the “contract work” with the “ego work”? And I mean ego in a good way.

RQ: Well, good or bad, I certainly have one… just ask my wife (costumer Rae Bradbury) and family. But to answer your question—to me, it’s been a priority to make my way in the world with my art. It’s what I’ve always wanted to do. Lots of artists supplement their income with “day jobs” non-related to the art field. For me, that’s never worked. The good side of that is that I do what I love and make a fairly handsome living doing it. The bad side is that I don’t have the time, or maybe opportunity is a better word, to explore “ego art” as you call it.

ND: Tell me more about your day job.

RQ: Well, it varies. I do software interface work, Flash work, advanced web design. It varies with my clientele and their needs. That type of commercial or graphic design work constitutes about two-thirds of my income, while pure illustration makes up the remaining third. I expect the ratio to reverse over the next year or two so that the pure illustration work comprises the larger two-thirds.

ND: And that’s the work you find at conventions?

RQ: Yes. Some for individual fans/gamers/models, some for publishing interests, like we discussed before, some… well… in the adult industry.

ND: Gotcha. Moving on with our G-rated discussion… Let’s talk about cons. How many have you attended over the years?

RQ: Whoa… Anywhere from five to twenty a year over an approximately fifteen year period… So over 180 or so. Wow, that’s quite a lot, isn’t it?

ND: Yes, it is! Any cons that are absolute staples for you?

RQ: Arisia is a great, great con. Very consistent, well run, good location. Dragon*Con in Atlanta is wonderful because it’s so enormous, and the attendees are SO into what they’re doing. There’s a fantastic level of costuming and enthusiasm there. Beyond that, in my view, the quality of a given con will vary tremendously from year to year.

ND: What’s your most memorable con experience?

RQ: Well, for a G-rated interview I could tell how I met my wife: I was living in Virginia and I traveled about as far north as I ever traveled back then to attend Shore Leave at the Hunt Valley Inn in Baltimore. Rae was living near Boston at the time, and had traveled as far south as she had ever gone to attend the same event. She walked by my table in a fairly alluring and mighty tight outfit. I didn’t leave her alone all con until I got to know her and, more importantly, got her address and phone number. We were living 600 miles apart, both in relationships—each with varying levels of commitment—and we had managed to share a grand total of six hours together at the event. Obviously, it was fate.

ND: Beautiful… it’s an inspiration to other con-goers.

RQ: Indeed, cons aren’t for fandom, they’re for true love!

ND: How about your worst con experience?

RQ: One time I drove to Atlanta for Dragon*Con and I pulled into town without enough money to get me home. I had to count on a successful event—or I’d have to move there.

ND: Financial issues are common to many Con-goers. How do you deal with it?

RQ: I went through a period where I was focused entirely on the financial side of what I was doing. Every aspect of my approach to custom illustration was focused on profitability and it can be an insidious trap for artists. It may sound corny, but if an artist doesn’t care, I mean really care, about what they’re doing, their talent will atrophy, and that will show in their work, believe me.

ND: Let’s talk about your illustration work. Do you have a style that you’re naturally inclined toward?

RQ: Well, the subject matter of what I do is dictated by the wishes of my clients, not my personal preferences. That is, incidentally, why so few artists do what I do, it requires that your subordinate your artistic preferences for your clients. I have developed a sort of “default” drawing style that I drop into in the absence of other direction. Certain facial and body types I tend to gravitate towards.

ND: What kind of demand does the personal illustration work put on your time?

RQ: A tremendous demand. I’m the chief bread-winner for my family. Every hour I spend working on something “off the clock” hurts the household cash flow. It’s a question of building a buffer of time, so I can invest that time into more of what I want to do, in order to give that a chance to take off, and thus become all that I do. Did that make any sense whatsoever?

ND: No, but who’s really reading this, anyway?

RQ: Good point.

ND: You mentioned that your wife Rae is a costumer. As a supportive husband, how does her work affect your time at home and at cons?

RQ: I once was asked to participate in a panel aimed at those who are married to or dating a costumer. It was actually quite an informative panel and surprisingly well attended. What came out of that panel really sums up the issues involved with having a costumer as a significant other: 1) At least one room of your home will be consumed and ever-after exclusively devoted to their costuming habit. 2) You will be involved in the creative process, whether you like it or not, and finally, 3) You WILL be on stage, probably within the year. Resign yourself to it. It’s much more fun that it sounds.

ND: You tend to “garb up” at Cons. Would you say that you wear a “costume” or are putting on a “personae”?

RQ: Well, that’s easily your most insightful question. It’s a complicated issue. I wear different garb at different events. I’ve found that wearing garb, or some sort of distinctive attire, is good business. But, while I don’t feel my personality changes in the slightest, in or out of garb, it is true that when I’m wearing garb I look very different than I do in regular, daily life… and that difference does have an impact on the way some people interact with me. Cons are an accepting environment, where a person is assured that 90% of the people around them have interests and hobbies just as strange as their own.

ND: Finally, how can people learn more about what you do?

RQ: Check me out online.


Con Review: Torcon 3

TorCon by Catherine E. Twohill & Michael D. Pederson


Torcon 3
August 28 – September 1, 2003
Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Toronto, eh? It was the 61st annual World Science Fiction Convention—Torcon 3—and all we can say is “Toronto, eh?” Well, in deference to our friends up north, that’s all they could say, as well. To be honest, the sense of “world” was missing from this year’s Worldcon. So much of the convention schedule was filled with sessions on Canada—Canadian history, Canadian anime, Canadian costuming—that we went looking for some Canadian Club hoping everyone would just move on.

The location was excellent though (Toronto’s Convention Center) and close to hotels, restaurants, and general touristy things like the CN Tower. The accommodations were lovely; we stayed at the beautiful Royal York Hotel, and we found several fantastic restaurants within a block or two of the hotel and Convention Center.

Operationally, the convention could have been tighter. The pocket program wouldn’t have fit in a pool table pocket and, unfortunately, the printers printed an outdated file, rendering the entire book pretty much useless. Updated schedules were available every morning (if you were quick enough to get them before they ran out) but, sadly, these too turned out to be wrong a good percentage of the time. Pre-con information books were well-labored over yet were either never received or sent very late. We wished that the last update—which arrived the day we got on the plane—had arrived a week earlier; it contained important information about clearing customs. Without that info we spent eight hours on the phone with Canadian customs and had to literally bribe local shippers to get our ’zines into the city. In the end we had to chalk it up as a lesson learned.


GoHs Mike Glyer, George R.R. Martin, and Spider Robinson at the Opening Ceremonies.

Content-wise Torcon 3 was strong and with GoHs George R.R. Martin (Pro) and Mike Glyer (Fan) and Toastmaster Spider Robinson, the general sessions were entertaining and purposeful. Unfortunately, Frank Kelly Freas (Artist GoH) was ill and unable to attend. However, even death didn’t stop Robert Bloch (GoHst of Honour) from making an “appearance.” Be sure to visit the con’s website to get the complete rundown on Hugo Award and Masquerade winners ( but in brief: Robert Sawyer took home a well-deserved Best Novel Hugo for Hominids and an amazing Trumps of Amber presentation won Best in Class Masters Division and Best in Show at the Masquerade.

Despite the confusing program updates we still found several great panels to attend… There were some good panels on small press publishing, an unusual Photoshop panel (most people on the panel preferred to talk about how they could do special effects without Photoshop), and a LOT of Doctor Who programming that kept us busy. We also attended a few readings and lectures by Spider Robinson, Cory Doctorow, and Nalo Hopkinson. There was a great Children’s Programming track as well (pipe cleaner dragons, yay!). We wanted to go to a few of the KaffeeKlatches but the sign-up lists filled up WAY to quickly. And, unfortunately, none of the video programs that we attended had the necessary projectors—that really hurt the Chuck Jones tribute that we had been looking forward to.

Don’t get the impression that the convention was a total bust though. SF fans LOVE to complain and Torcon really came through for us. We spent half the con laughing and bonding with total strangers over the mounting problems each day. Therein lies the beauty of a Worldcon… There are no true strangers at a Worldcon, just strange people you haven’t met yet.

Next year’s Worldcon, Noreascon 4, will be held in Boston, September 2-6. For you early planners, check out Terry Pratchett and William Tenn are the scheduled Pro GoHs. See you there!


Torcon’s Best in Show Masquerade winners, The Trumps of Amber.

And here are some more of our photos from Torcon…


Faces of Fandom: Rich & Nicki Lynch

Rich&Nicki2by Catherine E. Twohill


ND: Why Mimosa?

RL: Well it goes back to when we were living in Tennessee. We started Chat—the club ’zine for the Chattanooga SF Association. We did that for 40 months—before computers! We had to print it out and paste it up by hand.

NL: That got us noticed but we quit after 40 issues as the club had started to disintegrate and we really couldn’t do much more with the format we were under. Plus, it was tough doing it on a monthly basis with just the two of us working on it.

RL: While friends would help collate and provide articles and artwork, printing monthly was non-stop work. We tried to print eight or fewer pages but, toward the end, we had 24 pages. Chat was made up of author interviews, commentary, and continuing comic strips. All of that eventually led to burnout. We wanted to try something else that was a little less structured. We wanted to publish articles rather than be a focal point for news. So we decided to do more of a genzine and we started Mimosa. “Why Mimosa?” you said—back to the question! Well, we were still living in Tennessee and we wanted a one-word name.

NL: Something that was indicative of the south but not necessarily from the south—just like us.

RL: Kudzu was already taken and Julep just wouldn’t do, so we decided on Mimosa. It’s a tree, it’s a drink and, after Issue #25 while at the ’99 Worldcon in Australia, we found out it’s also the second greatest star in the Southern Cross, thus bringing the name back to the science fiction aspect.

ND: Okay, so… Why Mimosa?

RL: We were doing it for preservation reasons. There were many, many stories that were fragilely preserved in the memories of the older fans—many of whom have since passed away. There was a real need for preservation for some of these stories. That was one of the reasons we started Mimosa.

ND: How many years were you publishing Mimosa?

RL: January ’82 was our first issue so this would be our 21st year but there was a five-year gap between Issue #s 1 and 2. We published thirty issues in total. Once we got going again with Issue #2, we were averaging about two issues a year.

ND: How do you pay for it? There’s no advertising!

RL: Nope, no advertising. We paid for it out of our own pockets. We did charge per issue but near the end the price we were asking was less than the cost to publish each issue.

ND: Why no advertising?

NL: It’s a fanzine! You never have advertising in a fanzine!

RL: Well, some fanzine’s do, of course, to cover costs. But we wanted to be in control. We definitely did not want to make it a commercial enterprise with compromises. Plus, if you have advertisers, you need to stick to a timely print production schedule.

ND: Tell me about it…

NL: The same reason we didn’t take subscriptions, either! We never knew when we were going to stop it. If we took subscriptions, we’d be beholden to fulfill them.

RL: So, we never took money for more than two issues in advance.

ND: How many copies did you print for each issue?

RL: At the last part of the run, we were printing 500 copies and we’ve never done more than that. Early on, we printed about 200-300 copies each.

NL: Because we mimeo-ed them all ourselves!

RL: Up through Issue #16, they were stapled by us, too. After that, we farmed it out to a commercial printer.

ND: How have you recruited writers and artists?

RL: It’s hard at first, that’s very difficult to do. You have to start with the people you know.

NL: Yep, you lean on them heavily!

RL: You have to be a pest in a nice way. But nobody’s going to contribute if the product doesn’t look attractive and if it doesn’t contain decent writing. The longer you go the easier it gets as your reputation starts getting around. Networking at conventions is key.

NL: Every now and then, out of the blue, someone will say, “Hey, I’ve got an article for you.” Sometimes they actually fulfill on that promise!

RL: We were usually planning for 20% more content than we could print as often, work failed to arrive. We’re not paying people for their work so there’s only so much we could do.

ND: Without a formal print schedule, how did you set your deadlines?

RL: We’d let people know about three months in advance. Before email, lots of snail mail went around.

NL: We have people who don’t have email still! One fan in particular refuses to get email—and he’s a lawyer! Also, lots of our contributors are older.

RL: But that’s a nice thing about an open-ended schedule. We used to say we’d publish as soon as we had about 36 pages of usable material. After about Issue #12 or 13, the page count went up and up so that rule went out the window. Our last issue was 68 pages and one of our “Best of” issues had 108 pages.

ND: Let’s talk about your cover art. I’ve noticed that the two of you have been woven into the fabric, so to speak. What’s that all about?

RL: I don’t know how this trend started but, with the last four or five issues, all the artists decided they were going to put us into the cover.

ND: So, Mimosa’s taken that long ride into the publishing sunset. What’s next?

RL: Nothing.

NL: <laughing gleefully>

RL: Wait for the economy to improve, I think.

NL: Yeah, I was laid off in December. I was a software tester.

RL: We don’t necessarily have quite the disposable income we had before. My job with the Department of Energy is stable so we’ll be ok.

ND: If you didn’t have SF Fandom to define you, how would you define yourself?

NL: A quilter!

RL: That’s an excellent question and, to be honest, I really don’t know. When you’ve been doing it for as long as I have, it’s tough to say. Maybe astronomy?

ND: How many cons do you attend a year?

RL: When we lived in Tennessee, we’d attend about ten a year. Nowadays we attend the Worldcon, Midwestcon, the local conventions and that’s it. It takes time and energy. But we haven’t missed a Worldcon since 1988.

ND: How many Hugos line your shelves at home?

RL: This year was our sixth win. However we were nominated and didn’t win many, many times. Theoretically, we’re eligible for next year’s ballot but it’s probably not going to happen. In order to be nominated, you have to have something out by the end of the year and we ceased publication as of August.

ND: How long have you been married?

RL: This is our 30th year.

ND: Do you share your home with other 2 or 4-legged creatures?

NL: Yes, we have a cat named, of course…

ALL: Mimosa!


Faces of Fandom: Filthy Pierre

FilthyPierreby Catherine E. Twohill


You may be asking yourself “What’s a Filthy Pierre?” Is it a new drink? An unwashed nether region? A new wrestling move? If one was so inclined to have one’s own Filthy Pierre, how might one go about making it? Well, here’s a start: begin with a very bright, well-educated American, mix in some early exposure to SciFi, an interest in physics, a Parisian college experience, and a homemade musical instrument. And voila! You have Erwin S. Strauss.

Spiffy recipe aside, Erwin Strauss is still a long way from Filthy Pierre. Unless you’re a French college student in 1961 and meeting a “feelthy Aymereekahn” around the same time as the cartoon and movie Lucky Pierre made the scene. Ahh, you say, now it all makes sense. Sort of. OK, let’s move on… I had the chance to sit down with Erwin during Balticon 37. I’ll let him fill you in on the rest in his own words.

ND: So, give me some stats!

FP: Well, I live in Newark, New Jersey—downtown, across from City Hall. I’m 60 years old and single, no children.

ND: How’s the career?

FP: I’m retired. I retired at 55, well, really ten days before my 55th birthday as I had to one-up my sister who retired at 55 herself. I had really been planning to retire 18 months later and attend the WorldCon in Australia in ’99. However, my employer had other ideas about moving the project I was working on to Alabama. I decided that I’d prefer to not go to Alabama. Plus, at the time, the market was hot. I took vacation, crunched numbers and determined I could leave for good. So, off I went.

ND: So, clearly you had a career! What did you do?

FP: I was a computer consultant focusing on Business Process Analysis for both GE and Computer Sciences. I would talk to customers about why and how they did stuff and how they could do things better.

ND: Sort of a “know-it-all”?

FP: Sure.

ND: How did you get into SF and conventions?

FP: I really need to credit my mother who was an avid SF reader. She had me reading SF when I was nine. I attended my first convention in 1965—Philcon in Philadelphia. My interest in Fandom really started when I arrived at MIT to do my undergraduate work in Physics. By then I had the Filthy Pierre nickname so I kept it for Fannish purposes ever since.

ND: Did your interest in Fandom help in your career?

FP: Not really. I was not a career-oriented person. If I really wanted to be in Physics, I’d need my PhD and it’s all really competitive. It’s all about being one-up on the next guy and I’m not that competitive. I think it’s very difficult to be a practicing physicist—there are very few jobs out there.

ND: How many conventions do you squeeze in per year?

FP: Oh, about 12-20. Twenty was my max at one point. I don’t commit to going as I may not feel up to it. I tend to focus on the big cons like WorldCon, of course, and Boskone, Arisia, Lunacon, Philcon and [waving emphatically] Balticon! The con organizers know I’ll generally show up with my racks and ready to play my music.

ND: Your racks? Expliquer, s’il vous plait

FP: I’ve designed the racks that many cons use to display the abundance of free materials people wish to distribute. I’ve sold about twelve rack designs/plans to different groups around the country. I don’t know if they’ve actually built them. I’ll bring 4-5 to an average-sized con. I’ve got as many as twenty racks on hand to handle as much as a WorldCon can offer. Each rack breaks down so much that a couple of them can fit into a suitcase for easy travel.

ND: And your music? Is that an instrument or scuba gear?

FP: Oh, it’s my Hohner Melodica! I know some call it the Annoyatron or the Sonic Disruptor. It’s sort of a harmonica with a keyboard. Inside is very much like a harmonica or an accordion as it’s got brass reeds. Back in the day, Hohner made two different Melodica models. A piano player by training, I glued the 2 & 3-octave models together as I wanted as much range as possible. Over the years, I’ve added the cover and a hose and a little rig so I can put it over my shoulder and march down the street with it. Oh, and I’ve also added a bagpipe’s mouthpiece to the end of the hose. The hose blows the air through the reeds inside so I sit around hotel lobbies with my organ in my mouth.

ND: <blink>

FP: <smile>

ND: Got any good con stories?

FP: The funniest story had to be the ’74 WorldCon in Washington. We were rounding up a piano for a filk sing and it was at a multi-level hotel on a very steep hill where the lobby of one level led to the 9th floor on the other level. We wound up in the sub-basement of one building while trying to get to an upper level in another building. Hilarious. The saddest story was probably the 1983 WorldCon in Baltimore. They rented a DiamondVision projection screen for $25,000 and the convention went bankrupt. It took years to pay it off. The convention organizers all had their own ideas of what to do to make the con a success and, in the end, they were just twelve Cardinals in search of a Pope.

ND: How about a brush with greatness?

FP: Oh, one rubs elbows with all of the authors at these conventions. In 1966 I ran my first convention—Boskone 3—with Co-Guests of Honor John W. Campbell and Isaac Asimov. It was totally impromptu and was great fun! Campbell was coming up to speak at MIT and Asimov was teaching at BU. It was sort of a “Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland” moment when it was suggested that “hey, we can put on a con right now!” It was considered sort of an in-between con as we had been holding cons every six months but after Boskone 2, we planned to wait a year. The availability of Campbell and Asimov was just too great to pass up so we had an instant convention with 75 people in attendance. Another great “brush” was in 1976 in Kansas City. I grew up on Robert Heinlein and he was the GOH. He and Sally Rand (his own childhood idol) were judges for the Masquerade. I played my Melodica as a trainee bandsman from Starship Troopers and received a Judge’s Choice Award. I’d like to believe that it was from “Master Bob.”

ND: Hey, you’re published in Asimov’s! You’re a celeb!

FP: Oh, no. Not really. Years ago, I started publishing an “Upcoming Conlist” that [still] has its own mailing list distribution. George Scithers took note of it about 22 years ago and started including it in the magazine. It gets printed 11 times per year. I think I’ve been on Asimov’s masthead more than anyone else—save for Mr. A. himself.

ND: Well, on that humble note… thanks for your time today!

FP: You’re quite welcome. Would you like a picture of me with my organ?

ND: <blink>



Con Review: Stellarcon 27

StellarCon27by Catherine E. Twohill


Stellarcon 27
March 14-16, 2003
High Point, North Carolina

High Point, NC proved to be a high point in Nth Degree’s 2003 Con Tour. While the year is barely half over, Stellarcon 27 gained such a laudable status by attracting hundreds of attendees, a garrison of Stormtroopers, Darth Vader, an Ewok, an over seven-foot tall Nazgul costume donned by a five-foot tall woman, and a kick-butt Nth Degree room party on Saturday night. (Special thanks to our neighbors across the hall for opening up their swanky suite to our guests. Those guys rocked!)

Organized by the Science Fiction Fantasy Federation (SF3), a UNC Greensboro Student Government Organization, Stellarcon 27 was held the weekend of March 14-16 at the Radisson Hotel in the heart of Furniture Country, USA. You couldn’t toss a droid without hitting a furniture store or a gamer. Lots of card, board, and battle gaming took up quite a bit of the available convention space. With four programming tracks and some incredible guests—including Jennifer Roberson, Catherine Asaro, Bill Fawcett, Eric Flint, William Fortschen, Jody Lynn Nye, John Ringo, and Daniel Trout—there was always something fun going on.

Stellarcon 28 will return to High Point, the weekend of March 19-21, 2004. The guest list already includes Aaron Allston, Timothy Zahn, and James Roberts. We can’t wait!


Con Review: SheVaCon 11

SheVaCon11by Catherine E. Twohill


SheVaCon 11
February 21-23, 2003
Roanoke, Virginia

The 11th occasion of the Shenandoah Valley Convention in Roanoke, Virginia was lush with programming, attendees, and games beyond measure. While SheVaCon is not promoted as a pure Gaming Con, at any time of the day or night you could find a game of Munchkin, Fluxx, or your favorite LARP running and the players clearly enjoying themselves. SheVaCon’s Writer GOH was also the Grand Master, Hal Clement. Mr. Clement was joined by Artist GOH, Daniel Trout, and Master of Ceremonies, Rikk Jacobs. In addition to this illustrious roster, over thirty other guests supported a programming schedule of nearly forty different sessions within three different tracks. It was amazingly rich; the organizers of SheVaCon have much to be proud of. Keep up with plans for SheVaCon 12 (February 27-29, 2004) by bookmarking