FULL STEAM BEHIND! COLUMN 17 REVISITED

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Figure 1 – Amazing Nov 1979, Cover by Elinor Mavor

Six years ago, after a 37-year hiatus, I started writing for Amazing Stories® again, only this time online instead of print. Figure 1 shows the first print issue of Amazing I was in. This year marks the six-year anniversary of my (more or less) weekly column for online Amazing Stories®, and the one-year anniversary of my film column for the new print Amazing Stories®! Of course, nobody beats Robert Silverberg, whom I think was writing for it before Hugo Gernsback called it Amazing Stories®. And it’s now forty (40!) years since my first column (Figure 1) appeared in print in Amazing Stories®. (Speaking of anniversaries, my editor back then, Elinor Mavor, who did the cover in Figure 1, just recently had a birthday! Let’s wish her well!)

This week has been hellish in my office due to heat (I don’t have air conditioning), and it’s been near impossible to write a new column this week, so I thought I’d give it a rest and treat (?) you to an oldie you may not have seen. This column was first published in November 1973, but VCON is still going strong (we’re at #43 this year!). Changes have occurred; Rose Wilson has passed on the mantle of Art Show director, and there’s no longer an Art Auction. Much of the rest remains the same; I’ll put in the occasional comment and set them apart with asterisks or something.
———————————–Begin Column 17———————————————

On to VCON; this year marks the 38th consecutive year VCON has occurred. **43 coming up!**Not a bad record, I think. I had great plans before the con to document as much of the convention as I could physically get to, and write a column all about how fan-run cons (as opposed to those big commercial things) are put on, but Nature—he said ominously—had Other Plans For Me. Since my wife is an artist—a professional SF/Fantasy artist (which means she can’t earn a living just doing SF/F art—ask just about any professional artist in our field) and was entered into the art show, we had to arrive on Thursday to set up. (She’s also second-in-command at the VCON Art Show/Gallery, so she has to help other people get set up.) So we were prepared for a long Thursday night, which indeed we got: it took from 8 p.m. (we were latecomers) until 11:30 until we could consider our work was done for the night. Rose Wilson, the Gallery head, was there most of the night, just as an example of how much work it takes to put on a con. I had a bit of a raspy throat on Thursday; no big deal.

Figure 2 – VCON Info Table

Friday morning we were supposed to arrive early, so we got there somewhere around 9 a.m. so Lynne could begin helping at the Art Show/Gallery. Lynne spent most of Friday, until I could tear her away for dinner, at the Art Show. I wandered around the con, meeting old friends and getting increasingly hoarse. I went to the Artists’ Alley and the Dealers’ Room, but I didn’t attend any programming, figuring I could do that on Saturday. Because of copyright restrictions, I can’t show much in the way of photos of the Art Show, but here’s one at teardown. We had a gigantic room with, I think, about 30 artists present. Artwork ranged from my wife’s “robots” made of “found” (**”upscaled”**) objects (she calls them ‘bots) to some gigantic and very luminous abstract computer artwork on aluminum by David Miller, to Art GOH Thyrza Segal’s weird and tiny aliens in dioramas. The artists’ ages ranged from about 12 years old to the mid-60s; media included watercolour, oils, various kinds of mixed media, to various forms of glass—Heike Kapp’s glass marbles seemed to hold entire worlds. William Lee did a series of space-related dioramas—all lit up with LEDs—to illustrate a story; several young people seemed captivated. The Artists’ Reception (complete with star- and spaceship-shaped sugar cookies) was held Friday Night.

Figure 3 – VCON Art Show (at teardown)

Saturday I felt a bit feverish and was pretty hoarse; I was worried because Tam Gordy and I were planning to do a Beatles sing-along Saturday night—which we’ve done at every con we’ve been together at for 30-plus years, aided by such luminaries as Spider Robinson and Judith Merril, plus our guitar wizard friend Randy Reichardt from Edmonton whenever possible, and whomever else would like to join in. I had brought both my 6-string and 12-string guitars for that purpose, plus a big bag full of Beatles music books, song sheets and percussion instruments. (We don’t just do Beatles; we’ve ranged from folk to rock to Tom Lehrer to filk—it can get pretty crazy when you throw a bunch of musicians into our mix. Ask Larry Niven—he seemed to have a great time a couple of years ago!). True story: at the WorldCon in Winnipeg (ConAdian) a number of years ago, we were singing in the hotel outside the auditorium where the Hugos were being awarded—there were Spider, Randy, Tam, me, Judy Merril, Rose Wilson and several other people—and they sent someone out to tell us to be quiet. (Judy, bless her heart, had a couple of interesting suggestions as to where they could go, but we eventually returned to full volume.) Anyway, because of my cold and fever, I didn’t go to any programming on Saturday, either—and ended up skipping the music entirely and going to bed early for the first time in 30 years on Saturday night at a con. Poor, poor pitiful me, as the song says.

Figure 4 – Lynne Taylor Fahnestalk demos ‘bot building

On Saturday, however, the Art Show and Gallery was going full blast; I hung around there a lot and watched my wife, the Lovely and Talented Lynne Taylor Fahnestalk, do a demo on how to build a ‘bot. Melissa Mary Duncan, who will be the AGOH (Art Guest of Honour) at next year’s VCON, which will also be the Canadian National Convention, or Canvention, did a demonstration on how to do a painting from scratch. I did get a shot of the finished ‘bot, which was auctioned at a silent charity auction, but never saw the finished piece by Melissa—whenever I came back, she was a little more finished, but oh, well. The ‘bot demo was done with audience participation; I’m glad the Art Show was more interactive than before, and the audience seemed to enjoy it. Another artist, Gunilla, did an oil painting on Saturday as well.

Saturday afternoon, I was asked—as has happened several times before—to be one of the judges for the Art Show; I’m pretty knowledgeable about SF/Fantasy art, having been an enthusiast since the 1950s—and I know a good number of artists in the field, both professional and amateur—but my wife has always recused herself from the judging because of my being a judge. This year, she didn’t, so I determined to abstain from any vote that might involve awarding her a ribbon so as to avoid any appearance of favouritism. The other judges were AGOHs John Kovalic and Thyrza Segal. We awarded such ribbons as “Best Use of Colour,” “Best Black & White,” “Most Humerous” (yes, that’s deliberate, as in “funny bone”) and so on. The two artists on their own hook decided to award Lynne the “Best 3D” ribbon while I abstained from voting on that one. Nancie Green, who has done some stunning giclée on canvas digital prints, got the “Best Body of Work” ribbon. Also, a co-worker of Lynne’s wrote an article on her ‘bots and Heike Kapp’s marbles for the local Russian-language newspaper Vancouver Express, though they transliterated her name with only two syllables, and our last name has three!

Figure 5 – Melissa Mary Duncan demonstrates painting

Sunday, I was up and around at about 9 a.m., though I felt like staying in bed; by this time my cold was in full flush; I was coughing and croaking like a frog. I have been the art auctioneer at VCON for a number of years, and was afraid that I might have to pass on this year, but by the time the auction rolled around I was able—since the auction was in a very small program room—to talk for the entire two or two and a half hours it took to auction the art, assisted by first-time art runner Tony Hoffman, who has been a buyer in years past but seemed to relish this new role! Although the convention was down in number of attendees as far as I understand, we seemed to be able to sell a fair amount of art both at the show and at the auction. I managed to have a good time at VCON, despite the cold—which is with me even as I write, though thankfully the worst of the coughing and sneezing appears to be over! Next year, with Canvention, our Art Show promises to be bigger and better than ever.

————————————–end of column 17——————————————–

Figure 6 – Finished ‘bot by Lynne Taylor Fahnestalk

It will be interesting to see how Rebecca Tsang, the new Art Show Director, deals with the fact that the art flats VCON’s been using for numerous years, were accidentally disposed of after last year’s VCON. Here’s a quick promo: this year’s theme is SUPERPOWERED!: Superheroes & Supervillains, Super-geniuses & Supercomputers (even superconductors & superglue!). It will take place October 11-13 at the Vancouver Airport Sheraton. The GOHs are: Author Guest of Honour Marion G. Harmon; Artist Guest of Honour Kasia Słupecka; Pop Culture Guest of Honour Hope Nicholson; Author Guest of Honour James Alan Gardner, with Special Guests: Writing Special Guest Maxwell Alexander Drake, and Special Science/Cosplay Guest Ethan Siegel. Are you pumped? I hope not to have a cold this year, by the way. (By the way, these are all the original illustrations for column #17, which is why they’re all so small. These days I try to have full-sized illos.)
And I would be remiss (putting it nicely) if I didn’t mention that my wife, the Lovely and Talented Lynne Taylor Fahnestalk and I celebrated thirty (30!) years of wedded bliss and mutual fandom—mutual fandom as well as SF/F fandom—four days ago. “Fans talk” indeed, Ted!

Comments on my column are welcome. You can register comment here, or on Facebook page, or in any Facebook page I link to. All your comments, good or bad, positive or negative, are welcome! (Just keep it polite, okay?) My opinion is, as always, my own, and doesn’t necessarily reflect the views of Amazing Stories® or its owner, editor, publisher or other columnists. See you next time!

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