Welcome to FAANS

Welcome to FAANS! – A Fannish Mystery (1983). Cory Doctorow posted this this morning. Why this never won the Hugo will always bother me. Written by Larry Tucker and fanartist Randy Bathurst, this partly improvised video was an incredibly difficult challenge back in 1983. It also tells you important cross-section of science fiction fandom.
I am sure that I’ve misidentified some of the fans and unidentified others. I will amend this as needed based on rewatching it and your comments. However, this represents pages of my notes. I really want you to correct me so this can be a source material for the video.
First, let’s start with why I am writing this. I was the organiser of the Ann Arbor-based Stilyagi Air Corps (https://www.facebook.com/groups/2320831973/?ref=bookmarks) and was chair of the first three conventions we ran: the A^2 RelaxIcon for one year in 1974, renamed ConFusion for every year afterwards (1975 – today). See: http://fancyclopedia.org/confusion-ann-arbor or https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ConFusion_(convention)
Additionally, Larry Tucker and I worked together on a number of fannish videos together: “Big Bird Eats Moon, based on a party I had in my backyard celebratin an eclipse. We took video from that and made it the first video funded by the fictitious Gargonzola State University. We also made “The Thing That Ate Gorgonnzola State University” that was based on imrovised interviews I had with random UofM students. I would ask them if they had heard about the black hole that had plunged to Earth. We compiled the funniest bits into a semicoherent film. This was back when you only had black and white cameras and reel-to-reel videotape and the ‘portable’ gear that Larry had to carry/drag along weighed perhaps 60 pounds. We spent days together editing this and other films.
Let’s begin with the writers: Larry Tucker attended the first ConFusion and instantly became active in the Ann Arbor, Michigan Stilyagi Air Corps and their conventions, ConFusion. He published fanzines, had, I think, the first cassette-based fanzine and published this as the first video fanzine. He worked on ConFusions, was a Fan Guest of Honor, was a Toastmaster and attended every Confusion until his untimely death two years ago.
Randy Bathurst also attended the first ConFusion and, likewise, was active in the Stilyagi Air Corps and ConFusions. He was world renown for his artwork that appeared in probably every major fanzine in America. He was generous with his time and talent. His first pro work was his “Other Places, Other Times” coloring book that Bill Bowers (of Outworld’s fame) and myself. He was, literally, a huge man with a huge heart. Sadly, he he died entirely too early in January, 2009.
The music in this film was done by the incredible Andy Boller and Mike Gould. Mike was a very active in the Stilyagi Air Corps. He was one of the first members of the Stilyagi Air Corps and performed at our very first convention, the A^2 RelaxIcon with his Martian Entropy Band. He was also a founder of the Illuminatus Light Show which not only performed at ConFusion but at several worldcons and still tours today.
Okay, let me try to do this by timecode. Again, there are, no doubt, mistakes and missions. Please let me know where I screwed up!
0:44 The hotel room number is “770” – an obvious reference to Mike Glyer’s Hugo-winng (and winning and …) fanzine File 770. see: http://file770.com
1:16 The passage of years and the failure of my memory. I don’t know who’s in the lime jello. I initially thought it was Denise Leigh but I now think I was wrong. Help!
The lime jello bathtub refers to a story involving Joe Haldeman. He was asked at a con to name his favourite sexual fantasy (as fans are wont to ask). He responded: “I want to have sex with two woman in a bathtub of lime jello.”This became a ‘thing’ (now we’d call it a meme) in fandom. Eventually two women did fill a bathtub with lime jello and then jumped in. I am sure Joe was a gentleman when he saw them.
3:07: That is Big-Hearted Howard DeVore, a member of First Fandom and a renown huckster. His garage was a mecca for fans. It was floor-ceiling isles of fanzines, old Amazing\s and other rare magazines and this large collection of books, some of which he’d take to conventions to sell. Being invited to the garage was a rite of passage for many fans in Michigan and elsewhere. He was a great adviser to me when I was setting up the RelaxIcon and then the Confusions that followed. I owe him a huge debt I can not repay. He passed away in 2009. http://fancyclopedia.org/howard-devore
3:37 Roger Sims appears as “Mundane”, the hotel manager. Roger entered fandom in 1939 and has been active ever since. He was co-chair on the 17th Worldcon, Detention, in Detroit. At Nolacon, he was one of the people living in Room 770 at Nolacon. He is a member of Second Fandom. He is a wonderful friend. (see: http://fancyclopedia.org/roger-sims)
Larry Tucker as “Uncle Albert”. Uncle Albert was this brilliant character that Larry created, stealing my engineers cap (I was in the School of Engineering at UofM) and my Groucho glasses, tearing off the mustache in the process.
6:17: That’s the music that came from all of our Gorgonazola State University videos. Does anyone know what the title of it is?
7:30: The stair sequence is an obvious homage to M.C. Escher.
8:27: “Boogie, Boogie!” is taken from the Marx Brothers’ “A Night at the Opera”. This is what I would say to Larry whenever he was confused by an idea I had.
8:40: That’s Stephen Leigh and Iperforming at ConFusion (I think) as “Cosmos & Chaos, accordingly. We performed our improved shows at two Worldcons and several other cons. We also are “Tuckerized” in George R.R. Martin’s first “Wild Cards” book. George tried to buy our script when we performed at Discon. He didn’t believe it when we showed him Frank Johnson”s cue sheet which simply had :If we say this, play this tape. That really was our entire script for the show.
9:24: That’s Bill Bowers of multi-Hugo-wining fame for his fanzine, Outworlds – one of the first fanzines to be printed offset. Bill was tall, rail thin, and constantly smoked. He was hilarious: other very shy, his speech at Iguanacon, the Worldcon in 1978 brought the house down. His flat was completely filled with racks and racks of books and fanzines. Sitting on his couch, you had the feeling that at any moment, a domino-effect would bring all the books crashing down on you. He and Mike Glicksohn were the “Mutt and Jeff” of fandom and they constantly made humourous references to it. Sadly, Bill’s last years were horrible. He died in 2005.
11:13 We hear about Hugo-winning and a SFWA Grand Master and a member of the cience Fiction Hall of Fame Joe Haldeman. See the lime jello story above. He is one of the most articulate and thoughtful writers I know. (see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joe_Haldeman) Later, we hear about Gay Haldeman, his wondrous wife.
12:05: This is one of at least three times that Uncle Albert breaks the ‘fourth wall’.
12:17: I can identify Seth Breitbart in the yellow t-shirt and we see Mike Glicksohn in the Aussie hat and all that facial hair. Mike won the Best Fanzine Hugo a number of times. He was definitely a “ladies’ man” hence the different women seen with him as the film progresses. He was a casual poker player at cons but then started having poker games in private rooms. Later, we hear about the code-word for such poker games, the tongue-in-cheek “Joe Haldeman Seminar on the Redistribution of Wealth Through the Use of Statistics and Psychology”. Mike was generous in his praise. He once told Stephen Leigh and myself that each of us were “one of the two best writers in fandom”. Steve and I were so chuffed that we had t-shirts made up that said this. Mike was one of the inventors of the “Spayed Gerbil” that we later see Ben Zuhl give Mike a glass of it. From fancyclopedia: “Mike said of it that it was the only drink in fandom that you could put down on a table at a room party, go off to the john, and come back to find untouched.” (see http://fancyclopedia.org/mike-glicksohn)
12:51: At the bottom right, we see the back of Rusty Hevelin’s head as he says “You’ll never make it”. More below. I don’t know who the other players are and I’m not sure who is flirting with Mike … is that you, Hania Wojtowicz? 🙂
14:45 “There’s ice in this ice machine! How unfannish!” At sf cons back in the day, those running the con suite and room parties would often take all of the ice in the ice machines to put in their bathtubs to keep the beer warm and to put in drinks. Hearing that an ice machine wasn’t empty would cause a rush to it and emptying it.
15:30: Hugo Gernsback was a magazine publisher including the first science fiction magazine, Amazing Stories. It is after him that the Hugos are named, the science fiction awards given out at the SF Worldcon every year. Hugos are certainly the single most coveted awards in the field. (see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hugo_Gernsback)
18:55: We see Larry Tucker as himself for the first time. That’s Jon Stopa as a bartender. He and his wife, Joni, ran Wiscon, a convention held in the summer at their ski resort.
20:02: “Let Mikey try it!” and the other dialgue comes from a TV ad for, I believe, Life cereal.
20:02: We see Bob Tucker wearing a propeller beanie. It is impossible to catalog all of the important work that Wilson “Bob” Tucker did as both a fan and as a professional writer. A member of First Fandom, he was infamous at cons where, at any party that had a bottle of Beam’s Choice, he would take a sip and hold his hand up. He then handed it to the fan on his right and everyone wishing to would take a sip until the bottle came back to Bob where he would lead everyone in ‘swooshing’ there hands down and everyone saying “Smooooooth”. For many fans, this felt like their first acceptance as a ‘real’ fan. He was also famous for “Tuckerization”, the act of using a person’s name in an original story as an in-joke. (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wilson_Tucker)
21:19: Bob Tucker and Howard DeVore used to pass out cards that Howard had printed up in his garage. We see Bob handing them out to a table of female fans. The cards were risqué/funny in a 40’s or 50’s way. One, for example, said something like “Make an appointment for a natural insemination”. I know some women did not like the cards at the time but Bob aabd Howard always handed them out in a joking way. I found them harmless.
22:20: “Egoboo” is fanspeak at the time for “Ego Boost”.
22:39: BNF: Big Name Fans.
22:46: Closed parties are held at nearly every convention. Some are small, private parties. Others are huge, especially at Worldcons. Admission to, say, the Hugo Losers’ Party is highly prised. I have attended several! 😛
22:50 Big Fandom was a joking alternative to being a BNF. The only requirement for membership required that you be over 6′ tall or weigh over 200 pounds. Back then, I was a member due to my height. Today, I qualify on both counts. 🙁 The “Secret Handgrip of Fandom” was having your boobs squeezed. Uncle Alber also mentions the “Secret Fangrip of Handom” which was a reference to my “Secret Handgrip of Fandom” story, a true (and hopefully humorous) retelling of a series of events that happened at Pghlange in 1974. First published in Outworlds, you can now read it in Leah A. Zeldes’ fanzine, “Spirit of Things Past” starting on page six at http://www.zeldes.com/fan/ditto/ditto14_programbook.pdf .
This was also my first paid performance as I was bet a considerable sum of, I think, $50 by Jim Martin with others adding to the pot were I to give a professor writing about fandom from a different University who was roundly despised by Ann Arbor fandom. Instead of just going up and doing it, I recounted the take and gave him a (gentle) handgrip at the end where everyone, including the professor, laughed. I have been asked to retell the story at several conventions over the years.
The Fancyclopedia offers some great advice to people who might want . to try it today: (see http://fancyclopedia.org/secret-handgrip-of-fandom)
24:22 The women in the chorus singing and dancing are Jean Barnard (who ran SFOHA for a while and also made the black and white juggling balls for “Cosmos & Chaos” which I also used through my solo career) and Nancy Tucker, Larry’s mother and active Stilyagi Air Corps fan and Fan Guest of Honor. She was the one who ran the video production facilities at the UofM School of Education and would Larry and I work in there at night – usually ALL night. She was married to the author, Bob Shaw. Sadly, she, Larry and Bob have all passed away.
26:18 “Real Soon Now” This is a fannish term for “later and maybe never”. I was rather famous for RSN’ing fanzine editors as I would wait until past the deadlines to send in articles. The bastards figured this out and gave me deadlines a week or two before the real deadline!
26:21 That’s Bill Cowan. A longtime fan who has been involved and has run MidWestcons ever since, I believe, Lou Tabakow’s death.
26:51 Hall Party. It’s what the name implies. This can happen outside an overcrowded party or consuite or just “this is where we met and sat down to talk”. They’re a definite violation of the fire code today but back then they let us do it (sometimes). Smart con chairpeople bribe both the day and night manager generously (back in the 70’s a $20 worked, today, I assume much more is required) to not to patrol the hallways or to simply go blind temporarily as they walked by.
27:02 That’s me in my male drag and the scene is pretty much a verbatum retelling of the first ConFusion which we held in the Ann Arbor Hilton. Apparently, after months of getting the manager to understand and accept what the con would be like, on the Friday of that con there was a German night manager who had just arrived at the hotel. He knew nothing about what we were doing in the consuite and went into a Teutonic fury at me – even to the point of calling the police. With Larry Ward and Jim Martin by my side, he went into a fury telling the police that we shouldn’t be doing this. He ended with, “This is a room registered for two people to sleep here!” In perhaps one of my greatest moments of improvisation and acting, I politely told the night manager and police that “I wll close this party as soon as to people sleep in here.” The police then told the night manager that that had been a great concession from me and that he shouldn’t call them again that night. Oddly enough, no one fell aslep in the room and the consuite was open all weekend. Of course, we never held the convention there again.
27:30 That’s Mike Glyer, second from left.
28:35 Is that Alex Krislov as the last swimmer?
29:40 that’s Ben Zuhl with his wife, Lori Taylor.
29:50 “Claude Degler was one of the most influential, ghod help us, fans who ever marched across the Microcosm, and his career deserves to be chronicled at some length.” You truly won’t believe his life in fandom and in general. (see http://fancyclopedia.org/claude-degler)
30:00 That’s Tom Barber, a Dorsai Irregular and chairman, I believe of several conventions in Ypsilanti. He’s also been Fan Guest of Honor at the number of conventons.
31:00 Uncle Albert mentions a “Dead Dog” party which is traditionally held on Sunday night after most of the fans have gone back home. The energy is often quite low as everyone is dead tired after a fun-filled weekend. He then mentions “TANSTAFFL” – “There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch!” It’s a term used by Robert A. Heinlein in “The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress” which is the novel from which the “Stlyagi Air Corps” got its name.
OK, that’s it. I simply can’t write anymore tonight. In fact, I haven’t even read what I’ve written. I started on this at 6PM and it’s almost 11pm now. Please be kind in your comments and corrections. Let’s try to get all the names and histories right! This is a first draft, obviously.
*whew*

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