[APAK logo] Issue #77, April 18th, 1997

Dr. Fandom.com
by Ted White

Just when I thought we'd finally gotten the question of fwa Past Presidents settled, a poctsarcd from Bill Bodden upsets my complacency:

"Just spoke with Jeanne Gomoll, who is certain she'd never been elected Past President of fwa. Alas, it appears as though the list will return to being incomplete . . . unless perhaps we elected Chuch Harris, which would have been apropos considering the special publication that year -- the Chuch Harris Appreciation Society Anthology.

"Anyway, I hope this helps in the Search for The Truth."

*Sigh* . . . .

After Andy and I had wracked our remaining brain cells to complete The List, there was one Past President we could not identify: the one chosen in Minneapolis in 1989 at Corflu 6. We debated whether it could have been Chuch, and decided, for reasons which made perfect sense to us at the time, that it was not. At the Sunday banquet I asked the Assembled Multitude if anyone could remember back that far, and someone spoke. That person stated that we'd elected Jeanne. That made sense to me; Jeanne is a notable fanwriter and she was and is highly qualified (a point worth remembering, come future fwa elections) for a Past Presidency. So I'm disappointed.

But we still need to fill in the missing name of the Past President of fwa for 1988. Surely someone -- maybe even the Past President him/herself -- remembers. Please let us know!

I had barely gotten home from Corflu before the net was crackling with ill-informed speculation over next year's Corflu.

You remember next year's Corflu: the one in England, the one there was all that fuss about just a couple of months ago. Yeah, that one. Doomed to controversy, it would appear.

This time Allison Scott, a Brit whom I've not met, but who maintains an active presence on the net, announced, no kidding, a "flame war" over some gossip she'd picked up from Lucy Huntzinger to the effect that Brits would be excluded from that Corflu if and when their numbers exceeded that of the Americans, in order to maintain some sort of 50-50 parity.


Within a day or two, Ian Sorensen had posted a reply debunking this notion. "No one will be excluded," he stated. Various others, like Geri Sullivan, attempted to inject a little sanity into the discussion, and the last time I checked, Patrick Nielsen Hayden had weighed in with His Opinion on the subject, one remarkable for its irrelevancy. Gary Farber offered his own advice on the topic, much of it sensible, but marred by the notion that there were few if any Brits who had attended more than a couple Corflus. (Rob Hansen -- who has attended more Corflus than Gary, gave the lie to that one.)

All too soon the original topic (and, I'm glad to say, the notion of a new flame war) had evaporated, leaving only quibbles over the role of the net in either throwing gasoline on a fire, or hastening its demise. Ah, the speed of the net!

I feel like a bystander when it comes to The Net.

Sometimes I wonder if this is truly a product of my circumstances, or whether it springs from my personality.

My personality was forged long ago. I was a single child, growing up in the forties. There was a war going on. When the sirens sounded we pulled down our blackout shades, and block wardens walked up and down the street looking for the stray chinks of light that might betray us to Axis bombers. They printed airplane silhouettes on the backs of cereal boxes -- both enemy and friendly planes -- and we kids knew all of them.

The Pacific war ended with a bang: two atomic bombs. I knew the day the news came out (I was seven) that the world had changed in a big, important way. I had not yet read any science fiction. I read my first sf book a year later.

I read a lot. I learned to read in first grade; I was not precocious. I had already "written" stories -- random squiggles on scratchpaper, intended to resemble cursive script -- but I had no idea what was in them, since I couldn't read them. (This attitude carried over to my days as an author of sf: I found I wanted to read the story as I wrote it, as if it already existed somewhere else and was waiting for me to "read" it while I was writing it.) My mother, fearing that a diet of Dick & Jane wouldn't whet my reading appetite, gave me a copy of a book called Jack the Giant Killer, and insisted I read at least two pages a day. Once I started, I was hooked. I finished the whole book (large type, relatively few pages -- but at least a dozen chapters!) in two days. That launched my reading career. I was voracious. I read everything I could get my hands on (that was available, in school, city and church libraries, for children), often many times. I read during school. I read when I should have been doing chores at home. I read all the time. And started wearing glasses -- which I hated -- before I started third grade.

Our house was, at first, one of only two houses on our street. The other belonged to my grandparents. Behind us stretched woods. Before us were fields. Farmland, with grazing cows (I learned to climb trees to avoid them, and to watch where I put my feet when I was on the ground) and free-range chickens (whose eggs might be found under my grandparents' porch). There was a back-step pump with a long handle waiting to pump up cold clean water on a hot summer's day.

Just before the war started, Whitehaven was built in the fields, and the cows went away. Whitehaven -- a couple square blocks of modest houses that sold at the time for around $4,000 apiece -- supplied us with neighbors, but few of them had children my age. I spent a lot of time alone, growing up. When I wasn't reading, I was prowling secret paths in the woods, smoking an occasional cigarette. My fantasy as a teenager was that I'd get rich and buy up all the land my grandparents had sold off (taxes were killing them), demolish the many houses that had been built on it, erect a huge wall around the perimeter, and live on an estate that had been allowed to return to nature. That fantasy nourished me for the years in which my beloved woods dwindled, roads carved through them and houses lining every street. I hated the houses.

So I was a loner. A typical incipient fan of that era: an only child, read a lot, shy, not well socialized, a loner. I was in many subtle ways alienated from my culture albeit still a part of it. I stood outside, The Observer. A very science-fictional stance.

Now I stand at the edge of The Net. My connections are limited, for now, to my job -- which means that if my access is no longer limited technically, it is still limited by the time I can give it. I cannot spend hours surfing the net. Indeed, I begrudge even minutes while a favorite website downloads. My major means of access is via e-mail (coming and going), which I can print out and read at my leisure, responding only when necessary (if then -- some days my work schedule is incredibly tight). To a surprising extent I am dependent upon the kindness of others -- who forward me stuff they think I should see. It all leaves me feeling peripheral to events On The Net -- with the sense that this is all somewhat after-the-fact by the time I encounter it (although this is not always true).

I should thank one person in particular for forwarding me much of what I see: Gary Farber. I've sniped on occasion at Gary -- as he has at me from time to time (I'm thinking in particular of a long letter in Idea a couple of issues back) -- but we've been friends for many years, and I've always assumed our friendship would survive any tiffs of the moment, which indeed it has.

One of these days Lynda and I will buy a home PC. We've talked about it, and we're agreed on that point. It's just a matter of when . . . which boils down to a matter of how much we want to spend, and when. Other needs intrude. But probably in less than a year we'll be Online at home. At that point I will face new decisions, like what I'll give up in order to provide the time to make use of the net. Like, stop watching television? I already tape everything for time-shifting purposes, fast-forwarding through the commercials and boring parts -- and the tapes are piling up, unwatched. Stop reading books? I read them now only in waiting rooms and on airplanes. Stop reading magazines?I've let a lot of subscriptions lapse already. Stop reading fanzines? Unthinkable -- but incoming fanzines already languish on To Be Read piles far too long already.

Maybe I'll have to stop working. Yeah, retirement. That would give me the free time. Right. Let's talk about this again in, oh, maybe eight or ten years.

Worse than dog-ass flavor?

[APAK logo] Issue #77, April 18th, 1997

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