October 13th, 2001

October 13, 2001

Posted at 6:52 PM by Jack Chalker

Well, I’ve been in Gandhi mode trying to write write write and I still am at the moment, but I thought I’d make a few comments here to let you know that I’m still alive and relatively well and that things are proceeding, honest. The 9/11 events I’ve commented on in a separate freeform essay here—click here for Jack L. Chalker on the events of September 11, 2001—to go and read that if you haven’t already. One update on it: one American Moslem cleric, the only Moslem chaplain currently in the U.S. Army, got the same idea and put in a request for justification and holy war against Bin Laden and Al Qaeda on pretty much the grounds I proposed to a Sunni board of senior clerics in Saudi Arabia and in a form where they had to rule. Yesterday they ruled—that, indeed, Bin Laden’s interpretations of the Koran are blasphemous and his actions in its name have placed Islam into unwarranted disrepute and, for that reason, he was to be unsidered under a fatwah. In this case, it’s the duty of a good Sunni Moslem to bring the man to Mecca for judgment. Fine with me. Want to bet?

     Some thoughts that might have been made in September had it not been so otherwise preoccupying with real life events:

     Millenium Philcon: There are two ways to look at a Worldcon, or World Science Fiction Convention, after going to 36 of the past 39. One is objectively, in which we judge a con by how well it’s run. On that score, I would not rate this past one very well. Although I was on a lot of program items, not a one of them featured anything related to my writing or professional writing in general, and some others with backgrounds in both fan and pro areas of SF had the same experience. The only thing left was the reading, and that was a disaster. I will never, never again do a reading in a half hour time block. Trouble was, I didn’t know it was a half hour when I checked the little box on the form saying I’d do a reading. I had added that if it wasn’t an hour, don’t bother. I assumed it was. It wasn’t. Still, it went well until, about five minutes from the end of the story and with me already cutting a huge amount out, we hit the time wall and the next person came in for their reading. This is normal—happens all the time. But whoever it was (and I really don’t remember who) had either a husband or a fanatical fan who decided that I was through and kept interrupting and demanding that I get the hell out. It was not the writer, I do remember that. And it was loud and nasty enough that there was no way I could finish the story that a lot of nice folks had sat there listening to. So, that’s it. I have always observed courtesy when someone else ran over, and the first time in 25 years that I run over I have to have an asshole advocate for the next speaker who doesn’t know the rules. The story didn’t get finished—the guy wouldn’t even let me wrap gracefully. So, the next time you and I are at a con and you see a half hour block where I’m reading, know that I will show up and we’ll have a nice half hour one on one chat but that I will not read. I simply have nothing that can go in a half hour and I now know that the common courtesies expected of me are not to be extended to me or my readers. It does, however, show some of the problems of the con operationally. I and many others were put on consecutive panels when we’d asked not to be; we were put on panels earlier or later than we said we could do them, and I know a half dozen writers and one artist who were put on things on days when they’d told the committee they wouldn’t be there! Events programming was also a pain, and the place was simply too large for the crowd by two thirds. It was not, operationally, one of the better cons, but I can say that the location, in the midst of a ton of excellent restaurants, the Reading Market, and such was a savior, and that the Philadelphia Marriott did the impossible in that, while full up, nobody, it seems, waited more than a couple of minutes for an elevator at any time, even the most rushed, and no elevators broke down or required official management on and off. They proved it can be done.

     The second criterion for a Worldcon is the subjective, and on that score the con came off very well indeed. But, then, after all this time, I have trouble remembering a Worldcon where I didn’t have fun. Some came close to being problems, particularly ones I worked on or co-ran, but I can’t think of a one I wished I’d skipped. One of these days I’m going to write up all those experiences and then you’ll see how weird these things can be. But, overall, Philadelphia met the primary rules for a subjectively good convention: lots of good food easily reached, all the right people showed up, and there were plenty of good parties every night. The next few years, in fact, should have fewer parties, I fear, since the next couple of Worldcon choices are uncontested, but I have hopes. In this case, Boston with its all you can eat shrimp and Charlotte with its all you can eat fresh cooked barbecue and some parties (like the latter) running into the wee hours provided a great deal of fun. San Jose, California (next year’s site) will by definition not have the same kind of ambience. It will be in multiple hotels stretched out for a mile or two and will make socializing a lot harder. Still, I’ll be there if I’m able to be. 2003 is Toronto, Ontario, 2004 is Boston, and 2005 looks like a sure thing to be a return to Glasgow, Scotland. I would like to make that one in particular. At the last Glasgow worldcon in 1995 I was on a “keynote panel,” or so they said, which was the first at the con and had its theme of fans who became big name pros. John Brunner died the morning of the panel (we left an empty chair). Bob Shaw died the following February. James White died last year. Guess who was the fourth? Now you see why I want to go back, but, hint: don’t volunteer to be on my first panel there!

     Okay, okay. Back to work…. jlc

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