1975Copyright 1995 by Patrick Nielsen Hayden.
I don't know exactly where I first heard of "science fiction fandom," but I became gradually aware of its existence throughout the 1970s. I read Tolkien in 1970, at eleven, and quickly discovered (from Lin Carter's book, and other sources) that somewhere, out there, there were entire magazines for Tolkien nuts like myself. Not long afterward my godparents gifted me with subscriptions to The Tolkien Journal and a much more hermetic and puzzling publication, Locus.
Which was mimeographed in those days, and ran fanzine reviews. Intermittently over the next couple of years I sent coins taped to index cards -- the "sticky quarters" of fannish lore -- to various fanzine editors, mostly searching out material about Tolkien and comics but often winding up with something richer and odder, like an issue of Energumen. Clearly this stuff had heady byways I didn't entirely grasp. Just as clearly, it had something to do with this stuff about "Worldcons" in Isaac Asimov's story intros in The Hugo Winners, and something else to do with a lot of the hip in-jokes scattered throughout Harlan Ellison's work.
I was never a Star Trek fan. But I read David Gerrold's The World of Star Trek, riveted not by backstage gossip about Shatner or Nichols, but by tales of exotic beasts like "the LASFS" and "Bjo Trimble."
But it was all knowledge in fragments. Like being a hippie or a rock-and-roll pro, it sounded great, but I didn't personally know anyone with a map. In 1971, I actually managed to find a Phoenix chapter of the Tolkien Society, and attended one of their meetings, where, being twelve, I was mostly ignored by all, save for a large fellow named Bill Patterson who talked to me almost as if I were human. I went away with a copy of the second issue of Twibbet, a local fanzine. (Edward Gorey: "The Twibbit, on occasion, knows / Some difficulty with his toes.") When I showed up for the next meeting, I found they'd changed the location and not bothered to tell me. Well, I was twelve.
In 1972, when I entered high school, I hooked up with a crowd of older kids who were involved in the local SCA, and for a brief moment I thought maybe these people had the map. But more of them proved to be interested in hitting one another with sticks than in anything I much enjoyed. Another blind alley. But I felt I'd got closer this time.
Life went on. I read tons of science fiction, but got involved in other things.
Then one day, skiffy-reading high-school crony Mark Sordahl and I spotted a notice in the public-announcements section of the New Times, Phoenix's "alternative" newspaper. "The Phoenix Cosmic Circle meets every Friday to discuss fantasy and science fiction. Call [ ] for directions."
I called. Mark drove. The Phoenix Cosmic Circle was a low-key party in central Phoenix, largely attended by shaggy guys of college age or slightly older. "Discuss fantasy and science fiction?" These people barely looked up from their Diplomacy boards. Another blind alley, I nearly thought.
Then the door banged open, Tim Kyger walked in and emitted a storm of Firesign Theater jokes, I responded with several more, Tim opened his backpack and began handing me fanzines and convention flyers, and by the time the meeting was over I had agreed to (1) come to the meeting of the other, more organized Phoenix club, OSFFA, the following Sunday ("They're very sercon," Tim confided; "they have dues and publish book reviews"); (2) go to DesertCon in Tucson in four weeks' time; (3) join the staff of LepreCon 1, Phoenix's first-ever SF convention, to be held two months hence, and (4) take over, from Tim, the editorship of the Phoenix Cosmic Circle's official club fanzine Twibbet. For which the editorial matter on hand consisted of, er um.
That was Tim in those days: a tireless promoter of a higher-energy sort of fan activity than sleepy Phoenix fandom had previously seen. "A fannish used-car salesman," someone had called him. He was. Good at it, too.
And that evening was twenty years ago as I type these words: January 24, 1975.
In the following days and weeks I did in fact attend OSFFA, and many other meetings of both Phoenix clubs. I did indeed go to DesertCon, where I set eyes on awesome SF gods like Poul Anderson and George Pal, and--at a raucous house party in University of Arizona student housing--interviewed Leigh Brackett and Edmond Hamilton. I did indeed publish Twibbet, including the Hamilton-and-Brackett interview and a scruffy hodgepodge of other reviews and dreadful jokes. And I did indeed attend deliberations of the Leprecon "concom," august discussions among experienced old hands (some of whom had been attending cons outside of Arizona for as many as three years) of deep political matters such as "Westercons" and "blocs" and "bids." And I served as general dogsbody at the con itself. Feeling terribly important, and immensely pleased to have finally found the map.
And another thing happened, and another, and another.
And twenty years went by.
And at 5:30 this evening, I dialed the phone on my desk at Tor Books, and caught Tim Kyger at his job in Washington, DC, where he works as a staffer for the Senate Subcommittee on Space Science.
"Teresa says I should send you flowers at your office," I explained, "with a note reading 'In memory of that unforgettable evening twenty years ago.' And sign it 'Patrick' -- just to see how your co-workers reacted."
"I like it," Tim said.
"I just wanted to call and say, thanks for being a disruptive, pushy fannish used-car salesman."
"Hey, any time."
Then we went on to talk as longtime fans do. Which means we gossiped about you.