The Clubhouse: ConFusion at 40, Part 3

confusion

Immortal ConFusion was rather a bittersweet experience. I hadn’t been to the convention in years, although I attended annually from A² Relax Icon in 1974, up through my college years in Ann Arbor, when I also helped run the con. About the time I was graduating, though, All Ann Arbor Fandom Was Plunged Into War, and I wound up on the capitulating side of a lawsuit. Since the other principals had no heart for the fight, and I was moving away, I said good-bye after Genuine ConFusion in 1984 and didn’t go back for a decade.

By ConFusion XX in 1994, however, there had been another coup or something and they invited me to be fan guest of honor. We went back the next year and, intermittently over the next few years, but then Real Life intervened and we cut way back on congoing. So this was a kind of homecoming for me, except you can’t go home again.

Reading the convention program book’s more than two full pages of rules, which included warnings that costumes must be “tasteful and cover appropriate areas of the body” made me laugh, considering the costumes worn at some ConFusions in the past and the annual skinny dipping. (Sometimes I feel like the Regency generation must have when the Victorian era came along.) On the other hand, I could wish the weapons policy, which bans anything that can shoot and requires everything else to be peace-bonded, were national law. In my day, the brief rules included a justifiably instituted ban on chocolate mousse in the jacuzzi and advice to be discreet about one’s smoking substances.

From its earliest years, ConFusion has had a nice tradition where the previous years’ fan guests of honor introduce the current year’s, all in a line, and if somebody isn’t there, the others fill in for him. It worked well in the beginning but now that the con is 40 years old and so many of the former gohs have died, it’s a bit sad, as well as lengthy, and in these days when fandom has so little regard for itself, rather lightly attended. The con allocated a rather small room for the event and gave it little hoopla, so the room was not full and most of the people who were there were either former gohs or their close associates. I hope they continue the tradition, but it could be orchestrated better.

Neil Rest, the oldest present surviving goh, possibly to his own surprise became the de facto master of ceremonies, and while those of us who were there in the old days enjoyed reminiscing with him, it was likely of less interest to the younger people. I did not acquit myself so well either; I was prepared to talk about the goh immediately after myself, the late Bob Tucker, but it had not occurred to me that I would also have to talk about the missing guests succeeding him, and as they all came during the Interregnum, I didn’t know much about several of them.

Had I realized, I’d have studied up; as it is, I apologize to the audience and to Melody Asplund-Faith, Joey Shoji and Mary Ellen Wessels. Next in line was the late Nancy Tucker Shaw, where I was on firm ground, but apologies are due again to Dennis Tabaczewski, who was there.

Running through us all left little time to celebrate the current year’s goh, James Davis Nicoll, which was a shame. So I hope that in future someone comes up with a way to fit everybody in but make it a little livelier, to put somewhat more focus on the current goh and to create a little buzz about the fan gohs so that more of the con decides to attend.

I enjoyed seeing a lot of Michigan fans and others with whom I hadn’t intersected a very long time, and I spent much of my time wondering around and exclaiming over who looks just the same and who has changed dramatically. To drop a few names: Former Amazing Stories book critic Cy Chauvin, who was one of the first fans I ever met, and who helped to introduce me to fanzines, and other Wayne Third Foundation members including Gregg Trend, looking astonishingly unchanged, and gaming guru Rich Tuchulka; artists Kurt Erichsen, Rick Leider and John Benson; Phantasia Press Publisher Sid Altus, who gave me my first afterschool job as well as innumerable rides to conventions, and who is amazingly upbeat considering he’s in dialysis three days a week, waiting for a new kidney; Stilyagi Air Corps members, including Illuminatus Laser Light Show founder Wayne Gillis, wearing one of the original “Up I hope” t-shirts issued for ConFusion 13, and Zita Gillis, now blue-haired (but not in the tradition meaning of that phrase); and others my feeble memory can’t summon up just now. Plus folks who came into Michigan fandom after I left, such as Jeff Beeler, Chad Childers and Anne K. Gray. I saw though didn’t actually meet Dave Klecha, who ran the program (but thanks for fitting me in, Dave!).

It was fun to talk with Scott Edelman, the editor guest of honor, whom I had never met before, although we have been in many of the same places and know many people in common. He turns out to be a serious foodie, so we had a lot to talk about.

Tammy Coxen was there, running the consuite and promoting the Detroit in 2014 NASFiC bid, which I hope everybody votes for, with a fine party, and there was a group from Kansas City, throwing a party for their unopposed 2016 Worldcon bid, with excellent home-smoked barbecue. And Bill Higgins, fandom’s answer to Mr. Science, from Chicago; raygun maker Tullio Proni from Kalamazoo and others of the General Technics crowd. Other traveling jiants in attendance included Hania Wojtowicz and Murray and Mary Ellen Moore from Toronto; Cincinnati Fantasy Group Dictator Bill Cavin, and his wife, Cokie; and Joel Zakem from Louisville.

ConFusion has shifted from the fannish con it was in my day. By that I mean little of the program focused on fandom, and those panels that seemed at first to be about fandom were, at least in the eyes of most participants, about something different than what that term means to me. Despite my best intentions not to get sucked into defining what fandom means beyond “what I point at when I say the word,” I guess I do need to discuss it. Next time.

To be continued..

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Before launching her career as an award-winning journalist, Leah A. Zeldes first learned the craft of writing in the pages of twiltone fanzines. Today a freelance writer and professional blogger, she is for hire for writing and editing projects of all types.

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