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[GUEST POST] Christopher J. Garcia’s Conversations at the Bottom of the Escalator

Christopher J. Garcia is a writer, historian, fanzine editor (editor of The Drink Tank and co-editor (with James Bacon) of Journey Planet), and filmmaker from Santa Clara, California. He’s lost 16 Hugos in three categories, but managed to win Best Fanzine in 2011. He’s a Curator at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, CA. He is also working on a fannish documentary series called 5 Cons.

Conversations at the Bottom of the Escalator
An Open Letter to John DeNardo

Dear John,

First off, congrats! You’ve got your second Hugo which can now be used as bookends! That’s the best thing about getting your second, so I’ve been told, and as long as one of the books between them is All Our Yesterdays by Harry Warner, I’ll never complain about comin’ in second to ya on both of ’em!

WorldCon was, as always, exhausting. So much so that as soon as I was away from the Convention and on the shuttle to the airport, I found myself with a migraine. Five days running on adrenaline and caffeine’ll do that to ya. There were many great things happening, especially getting to hang with so many friends and meeting new folks. Comin’ in second and third for Best Fanzine was a nice touch. One of the best things was actually a defeat: Milt Stevens had raised the idea of eliminating the Fan Hugos, and at the preliminary Business Meeting, it was squashed without any debate. I’d have rather it gone down in flames following thoughtful debate than as a knee-jerk reaction to the proposal. Don’t get me wrong, I wanted it to fail, but debate is better than mere objection. There aren’t a lot of folks who love the Fan Hugos as much as I do. They’re something I love and am glad we can continue to celebrate in the future.

That said, I really don’t think the Fan Hugos have kept up with the Pro Hugo categories. I always consider the Oscars to be special in almost every way, but especially in number of awards: just about 20 for a giant arena of endeavor. We’re not there yet, and I believe that would be the exact right number of hugos, and that 1/3 of them should celebrate fans and fandom. That’s 6 or 7 categories. We’ve not kept up with the Pro categories. We had 3 Fan Hugos from 1967 to 2012, and in 2013 we increased that to 4. I really believe a Best Fan Blog Hugo, and perhaps a Best Fannish Presentation (or something like that) would be a good idea. These things take time and consideration (and lobbying, compromise, and bribery…), but I think that would make a positive change for the Hugos and for Fandom.

We had a lovely chat about the gulf that has formed between Old Time and New Fangled Fandoms when we bumped into each other at the bottom of the escalator at WorldCon. There are the people who believe that the explosion in blogs and their popularity means that they should be the focus of the fan awards (the “You fossils are standing in the way of progress!” crowd) and those that want to see fanzines as a focus in fandom (the “You Punks have no respect for 70 years of tradition!” crowd). Of course, both are 100% correct in their opinions, which means we basically have to live with what we’ve got and wait for one side to die out (and I think we are aware which it will be) and then we’ll see the change be permanent. While we all share a love of genre, there are those who believe that even more important than that is the love of Fandom itself. I know, I know…to those who want fandom to be about the books, movies, comics, etc, it’s masturbatory to want fandom to be about the fans who inhabit it, but at the same time, there are those that see Fandom as something with a rich history that they want to see celebrated. I fall on both sides of the fence, though I tend to see it more as a demilitarized zone, with mines of topics that can easily explode. There are quite a few of us in this zone, though not as many as those who are deeply entrenched on one side or another. Sad, but true.

One can argue the relative merits of both blogs (immediacy and wide-availability) and fanzines (the issue form, the use and celebration of Fanart), but you can’t argue that when we get together, we tend to have a good time. Getting to meet y’all, and Steve Diamond, and Mark Oshiro, and other bloggers, podcasters, and such, has been great! Y’all are fun folks, and while we may have different focus, we all have the same idea – Have Fun! Even if we don’t do it the same way. I love that WorldCon is becoming a place where we can all hang out, chat, drink, play cards, and argue the obvious inferiority of everything that doesn’t follow what we believe is awesome! Even those arguments, which can become quite heated, are something that is important, though you’ll never change anyone’s mind.

I’ll close this letter with a story of why I love the Fan Hugos, and the Hugos in general. A friend of mine, the wonderful Hillary Pearlman, and the Lovely & Talented Linda and I were hanging out all weekend, playing with the dolphin puppet I brought, making inappropriate comments on the nocturnal activities of said puppet and the like. After the Hugos, we were scanning the final tallies of nominations — Hey, Journey Planet and The Drink Tank were 2nd and 3rd in nominations! — and were looking over the nominations for Best Fan Artist. After triple-checking the names, I noticed that Hillary was on the long-list at 11 nominations, tied with Gingerhaze and one below Randall Munroe. She was shocked, and excited, and blabbering, and happy and on and on and on. It was awesome to see someone so happy to be on a list. I remember the first time I showed up on a long-list, 2006 in LA, and I had many of the same emotions. That’s what I love about the Hugos: they can bring the kind of joy that so few other things manage to do.

Hey, it was awesome to see ya, and I’ll write again soon.

Your pal,
John DeNardo’s Reply

Hi Chris,

Thanks for helping making WorldCon 2013 such a fantastic experience! Not just because of the great conversation we had at the bottom of the escalator, but also because of the heartfelt affection you continue to express during the Hugo ceremony. From henceforth, I dub thee a serial hugger! 🙂

I must admit that I am a bit perplexed on the gulf between Old School fandom and New School fandom. I just don’t understand why it exists. It seems to me that the fun of being a fan is sharing that love with other fans…at conventions, through mail and mailing lists, through forums, through paper fanzines, online blogs and other venues. Any fan who contributes to that gulf seems to me to be motivated not by fannish concerns, but by something else entirely. I’m not what that motivation could be, which is why I don’t understand why someone chooses to be exclusive instead of inclusive in our love of fandom.

I will defer to you in these matters as you are more connected with them, but I don’t think the matter is as black and white as “Old School vs. New School”. I have to believe there are shades of gray in between. You even say that you yourself fall on both sides of the fence. I’m right there with you. I’m happy to share my love of genre with anyone who’ll listen, regardless of who they are. People who have been fans longer than I have — and there are many — have great stories to tell, just as I have stories to tell people who are newer to fandom.

I can see where you’re coming from with the assessment of the Hugo categories. I’ve heard arguments on both sides of the fence regarding Hugo categories, particularly the fan ones. Perhaps more categories are indeed an answer to ending whatever feuds are occurring between Old School and New School, with each side being confined into their own category. It would certainly please those who see traditional fanzines and new media fanzines as different things entirely. There are separate Hugo categories for print, tv and video fiction…why not for different fanzine media as well? On the other hand, that seems like an exclusionary tactic. Why separate fans just because of how they express their fannishness?

I don’t have any answers here. The only thing I know is that feuding bothers me, whether it comes from longtime fans spreading negativity about newer fan outlets, or from new fans who dismiss Old School as a dying breed. Both are guilty of widening that gap. I’d just as soon see it bridged. Like you said. when we get together, we have fun, so what it all this fuss really about?

It’s cliché, but: can’t we just all get along?

John DeNardo

1 Comment on [GUEST POST] Christopher J. Garcia’s Conversations at the Bottom of the Escalator

  1. A response from Mike Glyer of File 770: Don’t Forget To Drop Dead.

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