Starting from Scratch logo by Taral i. a brief history of the campaign that failed

Some while back, I was approached about standing for TAFF.

“But…but…I’m not worthy! What have I accomplished, after all, in my brief time in fandom?”

“But, Richard,” they said, “you ran a memorable Corflu.”

“Well, yeah,” I said. “But I was put up to it.”

“And you revived the Fanthology!”

“Yeah,” I replied, “but that was Andy Hooper’s idea.”

“And you pub your ish!” they added.

“Not lately.”

But, TAFF candidates apparently being thin on the ground, I acceded. My eventual adversary, Jeanne Bowman, later confided that she was aiming for a tie, but, due to what some thought excessive zeal among her partisans, she overshot her mark by six votes

“We were late,” one of my friends apologized. “But we saw you and Jeanne got the same number of late ballots, so it really didn’t make a difference.”

“Well,” I answered, “it might have, if you bastards had been on time.”

Jeanne thought we should call it a tie. “Then,” she enthused, “we could both take the trip, and you could write the report and administer the fund!”

“Thanks,” I replied. “But it wouldn’t be The Cowboy Way.”

In years subsequent, whenever talk of TAFF came up, all I had to say was:

“This would never have happened on my watch.”

ii. does not discount the possibility

At a subsequent Corflu, Jeanne introduced me to her husband with the words, “I’d like you to meet the man I slept with to win TAFF.”

“Well,” I said, “if you really think it would help…”

iii. what happened was

The initial premise was all but irresistible. Only El Paso, Texas, of all the places in the known universe, was capable of hosting both a Westercon and a DeepSouthCon in the same spot.

I knew the puny, malformed El Paso club could never pull off such a mammoth (ha) event on its own, however, so we enlisted the help of the Austin bunch.

The Westercon idea was a sure thing; L.A. was holding the Westercon that year and would be glad to have it out of their hair. Art by Teddy Harvia

Unfortunately, two of the Austin fans went to a DeepSouthCon and decided they didn’t care for it. That and other issues led to us dropping the whole DeepSouthCon angle. I don’t know how much it had to do with the name I eventually came up with for the event: Con Diablo.

The premise was that we, the El Paso group, would promote the con up and down the west coast and other places west of the Pecos; the Austin folks would promote the idea in the Midwest and perhaps in places as exotic as the Far East. (You know, like, Boston.)

Art by Brad Foster Only, the El Paso fans (largely Michelle and I) flew to 13 cons that year, while pulling teeth failed to procure a single Austin fan to promote ConDiablo at a Midwest con that year. Additionally, at the San Francisco worldcon…a West Coast worldcon, and the last before our Westercon…the Austin fans did not set aside a single night in their suite to promote the Westercon they were co-sponsoring. (They did let Michelle and I host their suite Sunday night, while everyone else decamped to attend the Hugo ceremony.)

As we traveled throughout the West, we discovered a disconcerting fact: Most of the folks who were saving up for the L.A. Worldcon weren’t going to throw in an additional trip east to El Paso for the Westercon. It eventually dawned on me that we had targeted two audiences for our convention: (1) People who don’t go to El Paso, and (2) People who don’t go to Westercon.

So, whereas the self-appointed experts told us we should expect at least 1,000 people, because it was, after all, a Westercon, and so we would need to not only use downtown hotels but rent the entire El Paso Convention Center for the weekend, in fact we had an attendance of…355.

355? I’d run bigger conventions than that at the Rodeway Inn. Hell, if you’d just told me all I needed to do was plan for 355 people, I could have run this one in my sleep.

Among a box of old fanzines someone brought to the con, I happened to find an issue of the daily newszine for the 1965 Westercon. It had a bigger attendance than my Westercon did.

I took to waving this around and declaiming:

“Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!”

iv. right into the canal

In any event, ConDiablo was just a dry run for the following year’s Worldcon in San Antonio. Michelle and I agreed to run the Fanzine Lounge, which went swimmingly (except for the insistence of my friends that there had to be some way to do a real fanzine lounge back at the hotel, instead of the days-only convention center room we’d been given, and my passive-aggressive response that, damn it, you make me try and I’ll show you why we can’t do it). As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I also got to play God for the weekend.

Then there was the Tackett book. The committee had decided it would be a good idea to pick as Fan Guest-of-Honor one of the senior Albuquerque fans, Jack Speer or Roy Tackett. My gut instinct was that Speer was the obvious choice, for fanhistorical reasons, but after consulting with some of the Albuquerque fans, they went with Tackett. And there were certainly compelling reasons for Roy to be a Worldcon Guest-of-Honor, not least of which his role in establishing links between Japanese and U.S. fandom. (Plus he went on a TAFF trip, which is more than I can say.)

Art by Brad Foster It was, as things worked out, Roy’s time: he suffered a stroke before the con but recovered well enough to make a game and genial presence, whereas Speer (thank Ghu) got his due at a subsequent Worldcon.

Somewhere in the mists of the San Antonio Worldcon’s history (which had a startling resemblance to that of a certain recent Westercon), the head of publications asked me to put together a tribute book to Tackett. I borrowed Roy’s complete run of 100+ issues of Dynatron and set to work.

Unfortunately, several heads of publications later, no one could remember having asked me to undertake such a task, and in any event the committee decided they couldn’t spare the funds to publish the book. NESFA, similarly, had their hands full.

So I decided to publish the Tackett book myself. It just happened that at this same time my truck was in the shop for badly needed repairs, which would cost me $800…just about the same amount it would cost me to print the Tackett book, and also, just about all the money I had left after buying plane tickets for San Antonio. (It would cost $800, that is, at the only print shop within walking distance, my truck being in the shop. They could also only saddle-staple together a maximum of 96 pages, so I had to trim the book down to fit.)

I was fortunate in that the book made its costs back, seeing as how I had to sell enough copies each day to pay for that night’s room at the Menger.

v. where is michelle in all this, you ask?

Good question. Michelle took off for Las Vegas, on the theory that time apart would make me anxious for us to get back together. I’m sorry to say, she did not wait long enough. No one there’s heard from her in years.

vi. full circle, full stop

My company moved to Colorado Springs. They said they’d pay me $83,000 to quit working and sit on my ass back in Texas, so naturally I asked what else they had to offer. They said if I moved to the Springs and didn’t like it I could leave after a year and not pay back the generous moving and cost-of-living adjustment bonus. Gee, I thought, my retirement fund earned $100,000 in the previous year. And they’re offering worthless stock options, too! What could possibly go wrong?

Anyway, here I am in the Springs, finally glad to be shed of all that convention-running hoopla. Jack Heneghan and Elaine Normandy discover I’ve moved here, invite me to dinner, and tell me there’s a club that meets on the first Friday of each month. I show up for my first meeting, and they announce they’ve decided to start putting on a local convention.

Son of a bitch.

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