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25 April 2009 @ 04:07 pm
Nebula Awards Weekend: Saturday Morning and Afternoon  
I started the day at 10:00 a.m. at the WGA/SFWA mixer, which tossed the print writers and the visual writers in the bar together with fruit, cheese, and muffins in the hopes that we'd all just get along, instead of starting a rumble. We seemed to behave professionally. No drinks were tossed, and all of the silverware in the room was used for its intended purpose.

I did try to mingle, as the organizers of the event intended, so I tried to stay away from the usual suspects, though that was hard. Who would not want to discover, via a conversation with Michael Cassutt and Craig Miller, that they'd gone to grade school together? The longest conversation I had with any single person was the time I sat with D. C. Fontana (below), and probably bored her to tears reminiscing of the time I got her autograph at the first Star Trek convention back in 1972. She did her best to smile and tolerate me as we talked of the old days at the Statler-Hilton Hotel.



As the event died down, I took a shuttle bus over to the UCLA campus with Connie Willis, Cynthia Felice, Sheila Williams, John Moore and others so we could attend the Festival of the Book. Connie headed off to sign books at a bookstore's booth, but Sheila and I wandered the massive campus in search of the auditorium housing the Grand Masters panel on which Robert Silverberg, Harry Harrison, and Joe Haldeman would pontificate.



We made two celebrity sightings along the way. First, as we moved through the dense crowd, a man behind me shouted "Wheelchair coming through!", and I made a show of stepping out of the way and bowing so he could push through an elegantly dressed African-American woman. I thought nothing of it until a minute later when we passed the booth to which he'd wheeled her and saw her mobbed by fans. Next to her was a gigantic book cover with her picture on it, and I realized that it was actress Diahann Carroll, touting her autobiography.

Then, immediately in front of the building where the Grand Masters panel was to be, a man up on a stage was singing a familiar song—Tom Paxton's "The Marvelous Toy"—and I said to Sheila, "Oh, my god, that's Peter, Paul, and Mary." Of course, it wasn't, as there was but one guy up there, Peter Yarrow. I got a bit choked up as I heard the old familiar refrain:

It went "Zip" when it moved and "Pop" when it stopped,
"Whirrr" when it stood still
I never knew just what it was and I guess I never will.


I had to keep saying to myself, "Move, feet, move," because I wanted to see the panel that had brought us there, and yet I found that I'd gotten all misty-eyed, and it was hard to move ahead. But eventually we did. It turned out that a ticket was needed to get in to the event, so Sheila and I had to wait in the standby line, which wasn't really a standby line at all, since we sat. When asked what the panel was for, one of the volunteers explained that it was on science fiction, and then added, "You know—doo-doo-doo-doo doo-doo-doo-doo," singing the Twilight Zone theme. We were not amused.

But eventually we did get in, as you can see from the piucture of interviewer Scott Timberg with Silverberg, Harry, and Haldeman below. I'd estimate that they drew an audience of between 1,200 and 1,500.



When asked how they'd gotten into science fiction, Joe Haldeman explained that he'd found one SF book at age six and read it over and over again, figuring that's what one did with a book, just start over as soon as you finished it if you liked it. But a teacher introduced him to other books, and he read so many SF ones that she forced him to take out one non-SF book for each SF book.

"That didn't mean I had to read it though," said Joe.

Harry Harrison said that the reason he got into SF was because all of the other reading material was "gray and grim," and that when he opened the huge pulps of the day, with their Frank R. Paul covers, "light would pour out." Beside, he added, he was "too young to masturbate."

"There's no such thing," added Joe.

Bob said that he'd fallen in love with John Taine's Before the Dawn, and as a result, where other kids had imaginary friends, he had "imaginary galaxies."

Harry said that all science fiction writers are "professional liars," which caused Bob to say, "We're not professional liars. We make things up. Not everything that's made up is a lie. The Illiad is made up, but it's not a lie.

Asked by the moderator to name science fiction's greatest characters, the trio seemed at a loss, looking at each other blankly for the most part, though Bob may have said "Foyle," under his breath; that is, Gully Foyle from The Stars My Destination. Harry defended this inability by saying that "Mainstream fiction is character-dominated," while "most science fiction is situation dominated."

When the moderator asked about teaching science fiction at colleges and universities, Bob asked the crowd for a show of hands as to how many were enrolled in academic courses on SF at UCLA. About 10% raised their hands, which caused Bob to say, "I don't think there should be academic courses in science fiction. If you want to read science fiction, read science fiction. If you're taking an academic course, read Shakespeare," etc.

To which Joe replied, "On the other hand, I teach science fiction at MIT."

Later, discussing the reviews of Jim Blish and Damon Knight, Bob referenced a review of a book which included the line, "Not only should the story be burned, but the writer should be taken out and shot." Sadly, I've forgotten which critic was savaging which book, but I'll check and report back later.

Finally, in a discussion of critics, Bob said, "For decades, I had Blish perched on one shoulder and Knight perched on the other, and I eventually got to be a better writer than either of them—but with their help."

As the panel wrapped up, I heard my name called out, and turned to see Maria Alexander, aka ladyeuthanasia, a writer I'd first met back at the World Horror Convention in Salt Lake City, Utah, about a year ago. I was able to introduce her to the trio of titans, and then after walking as a group to where the three men would be signing books for hours, Sheila and I wandered to the food pavilion for lunch, where we discussed our magazines and families.

Then we met up with Joe and Gay again, and cabbed it back to the hotel, where I bought a tie in the gift shop, as I'd (sigh) forgotten to pack one again. (I'd done the same thing at the Denver Worldcon. And I'd forgotten the pants from my suit at the Stoker Awards banquet. Whatever will become of me?)

Now it's time to change for the main event. More later!

Meanwhile, you can find a few more photos here.
 
 
 
Melopoeia, Metoikosmelopoeia on April 27th, 2009 05:45 pm (UTC)
hopefully you won't forget any essential sartorial items at Anticipation, but at least if you do you may end up with something interesting ( :
rtbinc on April 29th, 2009 04:23 am (UTC)
Purple?
Why are you and D.C. Fontana wearing the same color shirt? With two flowers and a lamp between you? Hhhmmmm A message perhaps.
(Anonymous) on April 29th, 2009 02:20 pm (UTC)
Michael Cassutt says....
I missed the Harrison, Haldeman, Silverberg panel, so it was great to see your report.

The critic and story? It was Damon Knight writing about _Robert Silverberg_. Actually, Knight was complaining about a novel by Silverberg and his collaborator, Randall Garrett, and didn't suggest that they should be shot but rather "set fire to". Good enough.

Oh, it wasn't me that went to grade school with Craig Miller, it was Marc Scott Zicree. All of us were talking about it at the same time, so I can understand the mixup....

MC