Unusual Blood Types
by Victor M. Gonzalez
Perhaps the greatest death spiral in any fan's thinking is wondering which is more important: the written feedback of fanzines or the personal feedback of conventions.
Fanzine feedback is more permanent in a way -- one can look back upon it years later and enjoy the resonance of the past. But memory is more visceral than the printed page, and a con like Potlatch reminds me strongly that it is the inhabitants of fandom -- and little else -- who make fanac fun and interesting.
So meeting Tommy Ferguson and Sheila Lightsey made Potlatch a great convention for me. Tommy's fresh writing voice caught my attention through an essay about alcoholism in his e-zine Tommyworld. I've been going through my own adjustment -- read "struggle" -- with drinking, but I found it hard to believe I could be as honest as Tommy was if I wrote about it. Also, I'd just received Design For Life #1, wherein Tommy details some of the factors that led to him leaving his native Ireland for Ontario.
And, since I recently got a new computer, and I've been spending plenty of time playing around with Photoshop, I exclaimed "Photoshop! I'd bet a week's salary on it!'' when I first looked at the intentionally (and deceptively) low-resolution distortion of skulls and a bottle on the cover of his zine. "Going Straight, Choosing Life." I've gotta say there's something to that.
So when Jerry Kaufman introduced us I knew I had something to talk about with Tommy, and it was better than I expected. We sat at a table at the side of the dance, conversing above the music being played by DJ Ronkmonster Apak Shakur. We talked about James Joyce, Flann O'Brien, Ireland in general, and fannish criticism. I'm looking forward to an article he said he's thinking about that would discuss the place and value of fanzine reviews. I can't wait. I, for one, am happy to welcome Tommy to North America.
Sheila is much prettier than Tommy, and I enjoyed my opportunities to dance and have dinner with her. A long-time helper with Readercon in her hometown of Cambridge, she has stumbled over the precipice onto the slippery slope leading down to fanzine fandom, thanks largely to Christina Lake. Sheila accompanied Christina on her trip to Mexico, the one written up in Never Quite Arriving 5.
What with the vast interconnection between fanzine fandom and the pro crowd that comes to Readercon, we had no difficulty finding mutual aquaintances to gossip about as we ate Indian food Sunday night. We also talked about my injured back, her problem knees, and how physical therapy and massage can combine to help heal.
But it was something of a surprise that we ate at all; Sheila wanted to try the place, and we walked through the brisk Seattle windy drizzle and walked in, to find the restaurant's owner stumbling about and mumbling incomprehensibly. I was oblivious, but Sheila was concerned, and scouted out the kitchen to make sure the cooks weren't in the same condition.
Then she came back, and told me that the owner was "fried." We decided to stick it out, and despite the fear I felt as the man's wobbly, uncertain hand tried to put a lamb curry down on the table, and the fact that we had to ask for our mango lassis at least three times, the food turned out well. It was clear from the inexperience of the waitress -- it was her first day, and she was still more efficient than the waiter -- that he had trouble keeping workers.
The owner eventually settled down to a conversation about opening up another restaurant with two customers he didn't know, and I corralled the waitress and paid the bill. We walked back to the hotel happy that he hadn't tried talking to us.
If every convention was like this, if at every convention I met two people I might someday consider fast friends, then the foibles of fandom would pale in comparison. I welcome new blood because it gives me the energy to continue.
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Next article: Attitude: The Convention, by Pam Wells.