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.

 

The Editor’s Rant: Issue #8

by Michael D. Pederson

 

The truth is out. I’m a fraud. A sham, fake, and poseur. No, I did not just get a new thesaurus. I’ve just came from a convention where I was scheduled for an open autograph session with all of the other guests. There I was sitting between Darrell Schweitzer and Bud Sparhawk, feeling quite overwhelmed. Also at the table were William Tenn, Alexis Gilliland, John G. Hemry, David Hartwell, and Nancy Jane Moore. All major talents. All very nice people. I could tell that they were nice because not one of them spit in my direction and asked, “Hey, who’s the hack with the ’zine?” Bless them. And thanks to all the fans that stopped to talk while they waited in line for William Tenn’s autograph. The hour wasn’t a total loss though. I did sign a magazine or two and I learned that Darrell Schweitzer has a talent for forging celebrity autographs (his Asimov is fantastic). By the end of the hour he had nearly added mine to his repertoire.

The convention is over now; my dignity is still intact and the hangover has faded. It’s time to move on to other business…

Looking at the calendar I notice two things: 1) I’m WAY behind schedule getting this issue out and 2) Today is almost exactly two years to the day since I started putting this ’zine together. The first item is the result of a rather time-consuming wedding and honeymoon (note that there is a new Pederson in the masthead now) so please forgive my tardiness. The second item is cause for celebration (Cate would argue that the first is also). Two years! It feels like it’s only been 24 months.

What’s changed in two years? We’ve doubled our page count, increased our fandom coverage, and cleaned up our cover design. But I think that the biggest change has been in how we’re greeted at conventions. Last year the first question people would ask was, “So, what’s Nth Degree?” Now it’s, “When’s the next issue coming out?” Name recognition has picked up wonderfully in the last six months or so—the magazines’, not mine. (I’ve added extra facial hair in the last two years to help protect my anonymity. Oops, shouldn’t have said that, now I have to shave.) I suspect that’s the result of our getting to more conventions than I had thought humanly possible.

What hasn’t changed in two years? The fall issue is still late (last year’s was slowed down by the purchase of a new house). People outside of fandom still mistake our title for North Degree or sometimes Ninth Degree. George Lucas is still making really bad movies. And I still have a hard time coming up with good topics for my Rant.

What’s in store for the future? Plans are afoot to expand to 48 pages. When that happens we’ll be bringing in guest columnists and adding a letters page. I’m also planning a major illness for fall 2004 just to keep up the trend of late fall issues. I haven’t decided on the ailment yet though… Perhaps a nice bout of malaria or maybe a good old fashioned case of consumption. Until then… Stay away from me, I may be contagious.

 

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!

 

The Editor’s Rant: Issue #7

by Michael D. Pederson

 

When I first conceived of Nth Degree I wanted to create a fanzine that would serve as a place for up-and-coming writers and artists to get their first publication. My biggest concern at the time was that I would have to look at a lot of marginal material and end up publishing second-rate authors that would never grace the pages of the big-name magazines. People still ask me at conventions just how many stories I have to reject before I see a quality piece. The answer is: Surprisingly few.

I’m as shocked as you are. I was actually looking forward to having a slush pile of real stinkers. When it comes to finding the discipline to sit down and work on a short story, I’m hopeless. It would have been a nice boost to my ego to be able to sit back and laugh at the lame attempts that these so-called disciplined writers churn out. But, alas, it was not to be. I’ve been receiving quality stories. Now, let’s not get carried away and assume that I mean to say that every story has been a work of art and would win a Hugo if it could only be nominated. But, in my opinion, many of our contributors do have the potential to go on to become major names in the field.

I was prompted to write this rant because at a recent convention a reader said to me, “It’s a great looking magazine, but you should get rid of the fiction.” His complaint was that he didn’t think the fiction was as good as what you can find in the major genre magazines. And he was right. But does that mean that these stories should never be published anywhere? I don’t expect to publish the next Hugo-winning novella but I do expect that one day a Hugo winner will stand before the podium and thank Nth Degree for helping to start their career. At least that’s what I hope for.

Right now, there are a handful of major magazines publishing fiction by recognizable names in the industry. There are also some very good smaller magazines that pride themselves on being able to get fiction from some of the big names in our field. And who can blame them? A recognizable name on your cover sells magazines. Perhaps, if a name appears on our cover often enough it will be considered recognizable enough to be picked up by a major publisher.

I think that we have already published some great new writers and artists that are well on their way to a solid career in the field. I find it unbelievably exciting that I could already be working with the next Vernor Vinge or Lois McMaster Bujold. It thrills me that the next Michael Whelan may donate a piece of cover art to this humble little ’zine in exchange for a small amount of publicity.

The final arbiter on quality though, is you the reader. We will soon be expanding to a greater number of pages and will finally be able to include a Letters column. So, please, write in and let us know what you think. The contributors are used to hearing me say that their work is great—they expect me to say that so that they’ll keep sending me stuff—but I think they deserve to hear it from the readers as well.

 

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>

FreebieRack

 

The Editor’s Rant: Issue #6

by Michael D. Pederson

 

Amazingly, some would even say miraculously, we are now well into our second year of publishing. “You’re giving it away?! What are you, crazy?” We just might be, but we’re having a great time. From the first appearance of our four-page promotional flyer to the release of Issue #5 at this year’s I-Con, we managed to get the ’zine distributed at an astounding forty-three conventions—with staff members putting in personal appearances at twenty-eight of those cons. Yes, it was hectic. Yes, it was tiring. It was also a lot of fun.

It’s been an educational experience as well. We have attended straight-up science fiction conventions, media-oriented SF cons, anime cons, gaming cons, relaxa-cons, party cons, comic cons, and one Worldcon. Some of these cons we attended as programming guests, others we merely attended as registered con-goers. We have thrown parties, hobnobbed with celebrities, schmoozed with dealers, and helped with staff functions. Most importantly, we’ve been able to spend plenty of time with other attendees—the people that make it possible for this crazy world of fandom to exist.

What have we learned? Mostly, that organizing a convention is an unbelievably difficult task that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. Con chairs and their support staff are a very under-appreciated group. Take a minute at your next con to pass on a word or two of appreciation to the staff. If you’re really appreciative, volunteer to help out; cons are always looking for people to help with the registration table, to work security, or to hand out sodas in the con suite.

Possibly the most critical part in running a successful convention is the hotel. I’ve seen too many conventions crumble because of difficulties with the hotel. The biggest difficulty, of course, being other bookings. Face it, most mundanes don’t understand our wacky little conventions. Larger conventions can get around this by reserving sizable chunks of hotel real estate (if not the entire hotel), but many smaller cons are often forced to share their space with little Suzie’s wedding party or a high school field trip to the big city. This is why you paradoxically tend to see a greater security presence at smaller cons than at larger ones. What can we as con-goers do to help with this? Face it, we’re at a convention to have a good time—telling people to be on their “best behavior” is pointless at best. Just remember not to cross the line from loud and silly to downright irresponsible. And always wear your con badge.

Some quick suggestions to convention organizers: My previous point works in reverse—loud and silly is not the same as irresponsible, allow some leeway for fun. A well-stocked con suite is always a mark in the plus column for any convention. Don’t end your programming at midnight, if there’s something to do people will stay interested and keep out of trouble. Double-check your schedule for conflicts—don’t put the writing seminar opposite the Writer GOH’s keynote speech. Encourage room parties prior to the convention (on your website and in your flyers)—fans enjoy them and with advance notice they can be grouped in an area of the hotel where they won’t disturb other guests. If you want more suggestions, drop by my next room party and I’ll be happy to share them with you.

 

The Editor’s Rant: Issue #5

by Michael D. Pederson

 

I spend a lot of time at conventions. But that’s to be expected when you publish a magazine that is targeted specifically at con-goers. Travelling from one convention to another every other weekend it’s easy to become jaded and lose your sense of wonder and amazement at the things you get to see over and over again at science fiction conventions. Hordes of stormtroopers parading through the halls, girls in chainmail bikinis, big-name celebrities, toddlers in Starfleet uniforms, Goths, Klingons, and Wookies. Oh my.

Not long ago, a young anime fan cornered me at a convention and asked me why I wanted to publish a con-oriented magazine. I answered him, “How could I not?” It gives me the best possible excuse for spending every other weekend surrounded by fellow SF enthusiasts—gamers, writers, artists, and costumers; friends and peers; intellectual compatriots.

I clearly remember my first con experience, back in the mid-eighties. Sci-Con, Virginia Beach, Virginia. I had been trying to get to a convention for the past few years but I could never find a local one that was being held when I had a free weekend. Finally though, a couple of friends from college insisted that we drive down to the beach for a fun weekend of sci-fi and gaming. So there I was, swathed in brown cloth, trying my best to look like a Jedi warrior. I can still see myself hanging out in the con suite, chatting (and having a drink or two) with Larry Niven (quite the thrill for a teenage fan). And then leaving the con suite and bumping into an old high school friend that I hadn’t seen in three years. He was there trying to sell a comic book that he was developing and showing off his new wife. I met several people that weekend that are still close friends; many of those people help out with this magazine. It was pretty easy to see that I had found the perfect community that weekend.

Other convention thrills: An exclusive viewing of The Crow, hosted by James O’Barr, before it was released to the public. Dragon*Con’s Betty Page look-alike contest (unfortunately they’ve stopped doing that one). Winning Best in Class, Master’s Division, at the Millennium Philcon’s Masquerade. Meeting Roger Zelazny two months before he left us. Having Jack Haldeman show up regularly to several of our room parties in the early nineties. A quiet evening sitting around talking with David A. Kyle and Yoji Kondo in the hospitality suite at I-Con. Wheeling kegs into hotels on skateboards, covered with blankets, and telling everyone that they were R2-D2 models. And so many other great memories.

So, if you’re reading this while you’re at a convention, chances are pretty good that we’re there as well. Stop by our room party and try our Nth Tea. Tell us about your favorite con experience. Meeting new people is one of the biggest reasons we do what we do. I hope to see you all at the next con!

 

The Editor’s Rant: Issue #4

by Michael D. Pederson

 

Wow. There’s so much to cover this month. Since our last issue we have been to Con José (the 60th World Science Fiction Convention) and Dragon*Con, moved our offices, and redesigned our cover. For starters, I want to apologize for the slight delay in getting this issue out. I blame the move. Whoever you talk to, wherever you go, the only opinion that everyone everywhere seems to agree on is this: Moving sucks. I’d like to think that one day in the far future this will be different but I know better. The clones you generate to help you move will still track mud all over the house and demand more beer and pizza. All the good anti-grav units will be rented out and you’ll be stuck with one that tips to the left no matter how many times you kick it. And your matter-transporter will strip the labels off of every one of your boxes, forcing you to guess at which box has that file that really needs to be shipped off two days after you move. Yep, moving sucks.

Amidst all the confusion, however, I still found time to travel out to California for Con José. This was my second World Con—I made it to last year’s convention in Philadelphia but was too busy preparing for the Masquerade to really enjoy the con. (Best in Class – Masters Division if you’re curious.) This year I made sure to get in as much elbow-rubbing as possible (see our con coverage on page 4) which included a panel with fellow ’zine publishers. We sat around for an hour and gratuitously complemented each other on the fine publications we were all putting out. There were also some very amusing discussions on how everyone got started, what their goals were, and how they came up with their names. I thought the subject interesting enough to dig through my archives and present the list of names that were considered before we settled on Nth Degree. If you’re looking to start your own ’zine soon, help yourself…

We started with the misapprehension that we should work the word “zine” in to the title somehow: CognoZine, SceneZine, Zeenic, Zeenix, Zined, and ZineOphobe were the original suggestions that we batted around. Then came a round of reasonable science fiction sounding ideas: Stand By…, Chrome Magnon, Prose and Cons, and Probed were all considered briefly. After that we took a detour into attention-grabbing unusual names: Mike’s Magazine, Anything But Goth, The Hotel Lobby Hot Dog Report, 9 NonGoths, and Meatspace all generated some interest as well.

Some were thrown out because they were already taken, some were just too darned silly. In the end though, we’re happy with our choice. Now sit back, pour yourself a drink, and enjoy the latest issue of The Hotel Lobby Hot Dog Report!

 

The Editor’s Rant: Issue #3

by Michael D. Pederson

 

Here we are, already at our third issue. If this was a Marvel comic, it would be time for a gratuitous Spider-Man cameo. Instead, you get me. I just love a captive audience. Hey! Don’t walk away from me when I’m ranting at you, come back here! Ok, I apologize and will try to keep the ranting to a minimum. Now, read on Macduff…

If you’ve read one of our earlier issues, or met us at conventions, then you already know how thick we are. Boy, that sure came out wrong. The point I’m trying to make is… Starting with this issue, we are doubling our page count! This will give us enough space to add plenty of new features—including an expanded selection of poetry and fiction, more comics, new columnists, more artwork, and there’s even room for me to ramble on about whatever tedium should spring to mind.

Some less secure editors would worry about suddenly having twice as much space to fill. Not me. [Sweat, sweat, sweat.] I’m sure that our readers would love to have thirty-two pages of my ranting if I should come up short on material. Right folks? Hello… Anyone there?
Actually there are a few reasons that we are able to double our size. The first being the incredible reception we’ve been getting at conventions. It’s because of this strong fan-base that businesses are willing to take a chance on advertising with us. So, a hearty thanks to our readers for taking the time to seek us out at their local SF/Fantasy conventions!

And, as long as I’m handing out thanks, I can’t forget to mention the fantastically creative group of friends that have volunteered their time and talent to this project. The names in the black bar to the right are more than just a staff, collectively they represent 145 years of friendship. As is usually the case though, the new kid on the block is always the first one to get screwed over. Andy World, who just joined us a few months ago, is an amazing artist whose credits got left out of the previous issue. If anyone was curious as to who did the three illustrations that accompanied “Hector the H20” in Issue #2, it was Andy. We’re all grateful to have him on the staff.

I would also like to mention, in great detail, the contributions of the rest of the staff but space grows short here. Instead, I will use my remaining space to get in some quick promotions… Visit our website (www.nthzine.com); send us your letters, stories, poems, filks, comics, etc.; look for us at your local genre-related conventions; eat all your vegetables; and, most importantly, buy everything that our advertisers are selling. See you next issue!

 

The Editor’s Rant: Issue #1

by Michael D. Pederson

 

Hi there.

Welcome to the premiere issue of Nth Degree. You’re probably all wondering what to expect from us. We’ll have fiction from some of the genre’s hotest new writers (just as soon as we find them), hysterical new comics, and artwork from award-winning artists, plus filks, reviews, and constant convention coverage.

In addition to publishing a hot new ’zine, we’ll have one of those new-fangled web thingies at www.nthzine.com. I’ve heard they’re all the rage these days.

And don’t forget the con parties! Nth Degree will be distributed, free-of-charge, at major conventions nationwide. Stop in to your favorite con and join us for the fun!

And let’s not forget the staff. I’m very excited to have so many of my former collaborators working on this magazine with me. Maybe even a few recognizable names… Craig Enslin, my partner-in-crime from Renaissance Comic’s Raven. Brandon and Susan Blackmoor, creators of Black Gate Publishing’s Legacy: War of Ages, gaming system. Phill Ash, formerly of Doctors in the House and Luna-C. Lloyd Montgomery, writer for Escape Venture’s Gatewar gaming system. Plus, lots of new talent that will soon be recognizable names in the world of Fandom.

I hope everyone enjoys our new magazine, and we’ll see you all at the next con!

P.S.—I still like pie.