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Birth of the Centennial 
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Post Birth of the Centennial
In this thread I shall attempt to lay down for posterity the origins of the Centennial from my perspective. Since I was the instigator of the event, the initial part of the story will be a first hand account.

In 2002 David Silver made a July 7 posting in alt.fandom.heinlein wishing Heinlein a Happy Birthday. I had been a member of the society for several years without doing more than attending the occasional con panel. I had also been subscribing to the Journal for roughly the same period.

I may be a bit slow on the uptake, so it took the posting to finally awaken elementary arithmetic skills within me and I made the computation that a very significant date was 5 years away. And immediately I decided that something should be done on that date, because it represented a literally once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to leverage a common numerology fetish (I refer to the 100 years, rather than the 7/7/7 repetition) into a renewed celebration of all things Heinlein.

I envisaged a convention - and July 7 2007 was a Saturday to boot, how much more auspicious could you get - with fans gathered in His name, and, selfishly, this convention would be chock full of the kinds of event that I most wanted to attend and only rarely found at other conventions. (This was later to be born out when members of the THC executive committee were repeatedly fretting about program content after I had assured them this was No Problem, so I proved it to them by coming up with fifty panel descriptions in an hour, at least 80% of which ended up more or less verbatim on the program.) But I reasoned that this would be an event for Heinlein fans, i.e., people like me, i.e., people who would find these events as appealing as I did. (Also born out through accounts of attendees.)

I anticipated creating a worldwide buzz; from the start I saw this as an international convention and expected people from around the globe to attend. I envisaged concurrent events that would put Heinlein's name in the public eye, such as spacecraft named after him, a Heinlein stamp issued, television documentaries and the like. (When my vision plane takes off, it reaches a high altitude fairly rapidly.) I always saw it as inevitable that such an event would attract a few thousand people (my naivete can be breathtaking).

I turned to the Heinlein Society and said, five years is not too soon to start something of this magnitude; what do you say? And they said, fine: you are now our Centennial chair; go forth and do Centennialesque things.

And for over a year, I did. I wrote articles for the society newsletter exhorting the membership to action; I promoted the Centennial through various online fora; I attended worldcons to meet with society brass and promote the cause of the centennial; and I attended the monthly online society board and chair meetings.

[To be continued...]


Tue Jun 02, 2009 10:48 am
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Post Re: Birth of the Centennial
Peter Scott wrote:
I anticipated creating a worldwide buzz; from the start I saw this as an international convention and expected people from around the globe to attend. I envisaged concurrent events that would put Heinlein's name in the public eye, such as spacecraft named after him, a Heinlein stamp issued, television documentaries and the like. (When my vision plane takes off, it reaches a high altitude fairly rapidly.) I always saw it as inevitable that such an event would attract a few thousand people (my naivete can be breathtaking).

Not so far off. I remember having a conversation with David Silver at a LosCon when it was still by the Burbank Airport about that time when he was pressing me to put numbers to what was at that time just a "wonderifthiswouldwork" kinda thing.

Now I've got a fair amount of experience with a lot of different kinds of conventions, and so was able to come up with a projection that is a little better (not much) than a WAG, and that was the market we knew about would easily support 1800-2000 people, and it could typically be done for a break even of 700-900.

And it would have worked out at about 2000-2200 I'm still convinced, if David hadn't done such a bang up job of poisoning the well in May and June 2005


Tue Jun 02, 2009 5:39 pm
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Post Re: Birth of the Centennial
[...Continued...]

Outreach was mostly limited to articles in the THS newsletter. I hoped to set up an organization based on a cell structure like that in TMIAHM (see http://heinleinsociety.org/newsletters/ ... Page11.pdf) in order to be able to delegate tasks effectively;and I drafted some high-level role descriptions which can still be seen at http://www.psdt.com/heinlein/ . That site was advertised in a mass email to THS members, but as you can see, never advanced beyond the initial communiqué. I wanted to contact the membership again but the THS secretary refused.

The lack of response was disheartening. The next year involved talk and not much else. I donated the domains heinlein100.(com,net,org) to THS, one of which still redirects to their web site. Some people did get involved: Mike Sheffield drafted his notion of the mother of all blood drives; Sam Kramer originated the idea of Heinlein on a stamp (which, sadly, never materialized); the Rules designed a logo.

The primary response, though, was from Alan Koslow, who suggested Kansas City as a location for the convention, based upon his knowledge of the fans there and its natural relevance to Heinlein.

[... to be continued...]


Wed Jun 03, 2009 5:19 am
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Post Re: Birth of the Centennial
[...Continued...]

Shortly after I started the Centennial effort, Alan Milner became active in the society's executive and assumed a fundraising duty. Alan was very good at standing in front of a room of people who had paid to attend the society's worldcon dinner and asking them for money - lots of it. (I would then announce that I had plans to spend it. No money was ever allocated to the Centennial effort explicitly, aside from paying some of my Worldcon expenses, though.)

Alan understandably liked events that attracted high-rollers. As I continued to flesh out a vision of a convention, now suggesting Kansas City as a location, some tension arose between this vision and a competing vision in the executive of the Centennial being a black tie evening attended by a relatively few wealthy individuals who would contribute enough to bankroll the society for a long time. I did not see the two as being mutually exclusive but the influential directors began throwing up objections to solidifying convention plans. With under four years to go, I felt that we needed to book the location soon in order to lock down venue expenses and begin attracting aspects that depended on location, but the response was that the location could be decided much later, maybe a year away.

There were also objections to Kansas City. Alan Koslow had established a relationship with the fan group there (KACSFFS) and arranged at Torcon 3 for a Kansas City tourism representative (who was there promoting KC for Worldcon 2006, a bid they lost) to come talk to THS. The rep was given the cold shoulder, though, and the best I could do was arrange a meeting with Art Dula of the Heinlein Prize Trust. The rep provided videos and expensive information packets and was eager to answer questions but there seemed to be very little interest in the site.

I continued to press the issue, saying that we needed to pick a site and I was fine with an alternative if someone would suggest one and provide reasons, because my research had yielded nothing better. There was mention of Seattle - apparently there was some hope of courting millionaire Paul Allen and the Science Fiction Hall of Fame, although I never heard of any results - but there was no suggestion made that I could do anything with. This was immensely frustrating to me because I had brought Alan Koslow into meetings since he was the only other person demonstrating much enthusiasm for the Centennial and I had to keep telling him that we could not proceed. (A few people had responded along vague lines of being willing to do such-and-such, do please stay in touch, etc, but Alan was the only one being proactive and self-motivating.)

Finally, in fall 2003, with work pressures mounting and seeing no way to make progress on the Centennial, I resigned from the chair. Alan Koslow took over the role but I made no attempt to stay informed and I heard nothing from the society. I assumed that either Alan would break through the resistance to Kansas City, or the executive would implement their idea of a black tie dinner. The next society newsletter contained no mention of the Centennial.

[...To be continued...]


Thu Jun 04, 2009 5:08 am
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Post Re: Birth of the Centennial
Like Bill, I don't want to impose myself on this outstanding narrative, in which Peter is detailing for public consumption many things that have previously been known only to a few insiders. I'd like to add a footnote, though.

Peter Scott wrote:
...some tension arose between this vision and a competing vision in the executive of the Centennial being a black tie evening attended by a relatively few wealthy individuals who would contribute enough to bankroll the society for a long time. [...] There was mention of Seattle - apparently there was some hope of courting millionaire Paul Allen and the Science Fiction Hall of Fame[.]

This stance in 2004-5 or so was by no means new. At Philcon 2000, those involved with the initial development of THS, myself included, had several informal meetings over the shape and direction the new organization was to take. I still remember a genial argument, as we sight-saw through the streets of Philthy, over the organizational focus of the group to come. The assumption - at least, my assumption and what I knew of Bill's - was that it would be an inclusive group for all Heinlein admirers; not necessarily a "fan group" (none of which have ever accomplished much in the history of fandom) but one open to and welcoming the lowest "reader" in the spectrum.

To my absolute and lasting shock, Alan Milner, with David Silver's fully expressed agreement and support, made it clear that their goal was to rope in a few giant donors - contributing on the order of millions - and that was to be the focus and purpose of "the Heinlein Society." When I spluttered and objected, Alan literally patted me on the shoulder and said, "Oh, don't worry, we'll do something for the little folks, too." As David smiled and beamed and assured me.

Alan Milner, whose career seemed to be professional board member and for-hire fundraiser, is long gone. I may have misunderstood the comments, but I heard that he left seriously ill and both discouraged and a little ashamed. However, the notions he brought to the table - or were they his? - remained until they essentially destroyed the Society's last chances of mounting a proper celebration, one their position and "official" standing charged them with undertaking.

I've told this to a few individuals over the years, but this is my first fully public recounting of this pivotal set of meetings, long ago, and may serve as a partial explanation of why THS and I parted ways early on, even though I was very much the pre-eminent working Heinlein scholar at the time. (I was, after all, in Philthy because RAH:ARC was up for a Hugo award.)

That said, my apologies to all black-tie donors who might be offended by this revelation.

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In the end, I found Heinlein is finite. Thus, finite analysis is needed.


Thu Jun 04, 2009 10:02 am
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Post Re: Birth of the Centennial
[...Continued...]

The newsletter following that (July 2004) referred to a "Centennial Celebration" without further details, so I assumed that something was being planned. Whatever was actually going on during this period will have to be related by someone else, because I heard nothing. I hoped that the event would be one I would like to attend, but that was the extent of my thinking on the matter.

Fast forward to January, 2005. (My memory of dates is not always accurate; it may have been a month earlier.) I received a phone call from Alan Koslow. I asked him how the centennial planning was going; he said there was none. He had been unable to get the society to move on his proposal, but furthermore - they had done nothing on an alternative. He was frustrated and wanted to move ahead anyway. I opined that it was too late to do anything now, given hotel lead times, but he said he had a good deal on a facility (the one we ended up using), and then said that Bill Patterson was interested in making this happen.

That changed my mind about getting involved again. I said, "If Bill's part of this, then I'd like to play. Let's talk." So the three of us talked about this effort and very shortly, Bill announced that he was pulling in Jim Gifford, whom I knew by reputation but had never conversed with. Jim's first message to me was along the lines of "Who are you and what are you doing here?" and once I explained in my characteristically grandiose language, we recognized each other as kindred writers of the overblown prose school and hit it off immediately.

From this point on, other people can contribute a lot more of the juicy details from first-hand experience - in particular, I myself had no direct contact with the Heinlein Society beyond talking with some of their chairpeople who were sympathetic to our cause but could not openly support us for fear of the wrath of their boss. I will keep this thread going and prompt others to join in at the appropriate times.

We debated the venue - but not for long. Kansas City had so much going for it: It was adjacent to Heinlein's birthplace, was an old stomping ground of Heinlein's, and featured in several of his stories; it was geographically central to the continental USA; it was a second-tier convention city, meaning it was less expensive than first-tier cities like San Francisco and New York but still had adequate facilities and was served by many major airlines; and most critically, we had secured the support of KACSFFS, soon to be represented for us principally by Tina Black. Without local help we would have no hope, so the decision was not difficult. Alan Koslow visited the site to liaise with facility staff.
The downside of KC was that it would be a barbecue in July; but that also meant that facility rates would still be reasonable, and we didn't plan on spending time outside anyway.

Meanwhile, we worked out a tentative pecking order with Bill, me, and Jim being 'Cell A' in the executive, with Jim and Bill assuming financial responsibility which I declined to share in on grounds of marital diplomacy. Jim set up the non-profit org to "own" the event. I started a wiki to organize our information.

There was then one dramatic weekend that deserves recounting in minute detail by Bill and Jim, for that was the weekend that Bill revealed our plans to David Silver and Jim signed the hotel contract. Please step in here, gentlemen; you have riveting tales to tell.

[...To be continued...]


Thu Jun 04, 2009 1:41 pm
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Post Re: Birth of the Centennial
Peter Scott wrote:
That changed my mind about getting involved again. I said, "If Bill's part of this, then I'd like to play. Let's talk." So the three of us talked about this effort and very shortly, Bill announced that he was pulling in Jim Gifford, whom I knew by reputation but had never conversed with. Jim's first message to me was along the lines of "Who are you and what are you doing here?" and once I explained in my characteristically grandiose language, we recognized each other as kindred writers of the overblown prose school and hit it off immediately.

From this point on, other people can contribute a lot more of the juicy details from first-hand experience - in particular, I myself had no direct contact with the Heinlein Society beyond talking with some of their chairpeople who were sympathetic to our cause but could not openly support us for fear of the wrath of their boss. I will keep this thread going and prompt others to join in at the appropriate times.
<snip>
There was then one dramatic weekend that deserves recounting in minute detail by Bill and Jim, for that was the weekend that Bill revealed our plans to David Silver and Jim signed the hotel contract. Please step in here, gentlemen; you have riveting tales to tell.

[...To be continued...]

I assume you mean "rivet" as in "pain in the neck."

I find I'm really not ready to talk about that confusing, disheartening weekend right now, so maybe Jim can step up with that one and I'll flog myself into contributing comments as we go along.

I did want to fill in one gap in your narrative. What was going on in the Heinlein Society with the Centennial is that David had set up a self-emptying wastebasket. At least two times that I can recall, an area chair was designated for the centennial project. Any inquiries were directed to the area chair, and there they sat. In a while, the area chair resigned or wandered off and there would be another hiatus of several months before a new area chair was appointed -- with no backlist of volunteers, etc., to work with.

I do recall a very long phone call with Alan Koslow in late December 2004 or early January 2005, after we had played phone tag for some time. What I don't recall is what specifically brought this project back to my mind at this time -- I have a vague recollection that Koslow may have contacted me first. I had just moved back to San Francisco from Santa Rosa, interrupting the writing of the biography at 110,000 words of the first volume, and I was trying to pick up the writing again, so I had Other Things On My Mind. I believe Alan had already been in touch with Peter.

However, Jim Gifford and I had been talking about this quite independently back in the summer of 2004. Even before that, I had kept Jim apprised of the various conversations I'd had over the years with, e.g., David Silver, about the convention concept, and we had very recently had a general conversation about activism and Doing*Something, which is why I knew Jim was approachable on this subject, and of course, was The Right Person.


Thu Jun 04, 2009 6:26 pm
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Post Re: Birth of the Centennial
Peter Scott wrote:
That changed my mind about getting involved again. I said, "If Bill's part of this, then I'd like to play. Let's talk." So the three of us talked about this effort and very shortly, Bill announced that he was pulling in Jim Gifford, whom I knew by reputation but had never conversed with. Jim's first message to me was along the lines of "Who are you and what are you doing here?" and once I explained in my characteristically grandiose language, we recognized each other as kindred writers of the overblown prose school and hit it off immediately.

From this point on, other people can contribute a lot more of the juicy details from first-hand experience - in particular, I myself had no direct contact with the Heinlein Society beyond talking with some of their chairpeople who were sympathetic to our cause but could not openly support us for fear of the wrath of their boss. I will keep this thread going and prompt others to join in at the appropriate times.
<snip>
There was then one dramatic weekend that deserves recounting in minute detail by Bill and Jim, for that was the weekend that Bill revealed our plans to David Silver and Jim signed the hotel contract. Please step in here, gentlemen; you have riveting tales to tell.

[...To be continued...]

I assume you mean "rivet" as in "pain in the neck."

I find I'm really not ready to talk about that confusing, disheartening weekend right now, so maybe Jim can step up with that one and I'll flog myself into contributing comments as we go along.

I did want to fill in one gap in your narrative. What was going on in the Heinlein Society with the Centennial is that David had set up a self-emptying wastebasket. At least two times that I can recall, an area chair was designated for the centennial project. Any inquiries were directed to the area chair, and there they sat. In a while, the area chair resigned or wandered off and there would be another hiatus of several months before a new area chair was appointed -- with no backlist of volunteers, etc., to work with.

I do recall a very long phone call with Alan Koslow in late December 2004 or early January 2005, after we had played phone tag for some time. What I don't recall is what specifically brought this project back to my mind at this time -- I have a vague recollection that Koslow may have contacted me first. I had just moved back to San Francisco from Santa Rosa, interrupting the writing of the biography at 110,000 words of the first volume, and I was trying to pick up the writing again, so I had Other Things On My Mind. I believe Alan had already been in touch with Peter.

However, Jim Gifford and I had been talking about this quite independently back in the summer of 2004. Even before that, I had kept Jim apprised of the various conversations I'd had over the years with, e.g., David Silver, about the convention concept, and we had very recently had a general conversation about activism and Doing*Something, which is why I knew Jim was approachable on this subject, and of course, was The Right Person.


Thu Jun 04, 2009 6:27 pm
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Post Re: Birth of the Centennial
[Edited to fix egregious error flip-flopping the two hotels!]

The week we went public - one of the ugliest parts of the story. Sigh - here goes.

The basic idea to take on the Centennial project coalesced with the four of us - Bill, Peter, Alan Koslow and myself - sometime in February 2005. By May 2005, we were almost ready. Alan had done much legwork with the hotels, two different sets of them in KC, and we had decided on the Hyatt/Westin combo (over whatever replaced the old Muehlebach, site of the 1976 Worldcon that was Heinlein's last GoH appearance). We were waiting for the nonprofit corporation papers to be approved... and the day the state handed them back I signed the event contract with the hotels, faxed it off, and sometime later that day came the public announcement of the event.

We had expected that THS would be unhappy about our plans, but our collective assessment was that they (meaning David Silver) would stomp and shout a bit and then be done with it. We also had made some field surveys and believed, with good reason, that our attendance was likely to be around 2,000. So the venue and support was scaled to that level.

I won't detail David Silver's response. It's a matter of public record and others have filled in the less-public temper tantrums, threats, machinations and other behavior. (There is more to tell on that as well; we'll see how much makes it into this account.)

Our reaction boiled down to a serious case of *OH* *SHIT*. We had not planned for a battle with THS nor did we have the reserves (financial or otherwise) for a protracted fight. It was clear, though, within a few days, that THS was not only going to fail to support the effort but actively work against it. My first move was an attempt to withdraw the venue contract; the hotels merely laughed and asked for their $10,000 cancellation fee (for a contract that hadn't made it out of the fax machine hopper.)

So we got some legal advice while Bill and others worked on the higher powers - the Heinlein Trust representatives and others - and within the week we had decided to continue. THS's bluster was just that (they had no grounds to obstruct us or prevent the event from occuring). In the end we had no good choice but to continue and see if the path would clear.

The path never did clear, entirely. From that moment on, we battled the active counterpropaganda of THS, which divided the community, put important resources beyond our reach, alienated important potential big-name supporters and guests, and made every day of the next two years a sweating nightmare. We worked with too few people and too few resources as the days ticked down, straining to increase the attendance and reduce the hotels' expectations to meet somewhere in the middle. Never did we have the luxury of an assured thing - we were on the knife-edge of throwing in the towel and cancelling the event all the way up to June of 2007.

The event would have been a monumental task in any case, but having THS throw itself in our way, kicking and screaming and calling names, and refusing to even discuss cooperation until around January 2007 - that cooperation grudging and limited and only because bigger men than David Silver were twisting his arms - that pointless, divisive opposition almost kept the event from happening, and at least doubled the workload of the primary organizers for two full years, and acted to greatly undercut the scale and guest list of the thing.

I should point out, as I don't believe Peter has, that from the very first announcement we offered full participation to THS in the event planning and operation. We repeatedly sent offers to David Silver to manage a large part of the event (programming, if I recall correctly) on a shared-power basis. Other than that we built our foundation quietly and after establishing that THS had no plans for Centennial observations on their own, we never tried to exclude THS from the work, the planning, the management or the credit. The invitation was on the table from our first announcement and repeated in public and private many times. It was not withdrawn until the last months, when THS no longer had anything to contribute.

To the best of my knowledge, David Silver never even acknowledged the invitation. He certainly did not accept it. It was apparently more important to him to undercut our efforts - meaning there would be no Centennial event of any kind - than to join forces or even be passive about it. This sheer mean-spirited, small-minded attitude would have been shocking from any significant figure in the Heinlein community. From the president of THS, charged with furthering and enhancing Robert Heinlein's legacy, especially on that day... it was, and still is, beyond belief.

(His opposition didn't stop him from showing up, and it didn't stop THS goons from trying to hang THS banners all over the venue - which ended up in the trash or equivalent. I understand they had a very nice room party, for which they can keep all the credit.)

Because we failed to meet the contract minimums (about 50% more attendees and booked rooms than we achieved), we had to renegotiate the contract at a very late hour and under very unfavorable terms. Only by forcing the hotels to choose between a scaled-down event or complete cancellation with little recourse to a bankrupt nonprofit did we get acceptable terms. This, of course, meant we came into the weekend very much on the hotels's shit list, and favors and concessions were few and far between. We had NO credit at all and had to put cash on the barrelhead before they would so much as give us our personally-booked room keys. This was almost the breaking point for us, because we had counted on hotel credit for about one-third of the event, revenues to be acquired from at-the-door registrations and such. Without that credit, we had to hand over cashier's checks practically before we could enter the lobby. Many aspects of the hotel interaction became difficult and fractious because of their (not unjustified) distrust of us.

The interesting thing was that in all the advance negotiations, the [Hyatt] had been very accommodating and friendly, while the [Westin] was cold and demanding to the point of being nasty. We had attempted to limit the final venue to one hotel or the other, but neither was willing to let go of their piece of the action. So we came in having to hand over those cashier's check to each hotel, which we were able to do... just barely. It came down to an event angel writing a $25,000 check to cover the remainder of up-front expenses we had expected to get on credit. But we did it, all very much "just in time."

When we handed over the checks... we were treated like welcome guests and more by the [Westin], who had been downright hardass until that point. They in fact tossed in the Presidential Suite, where I and my family stayed and where most of the after-hours socializing and executive planning took place - I don't know how we would have managed without it. The [Hyatt], on the other hand, went from being friendly to being completely indifferent and impossible, leading to one angry confrontation after another. (Over such things as the $5,000 in AV costs they'd "forgotten" to include in the up-front billing... and we had to pay more cash up front to get them to finish outfitting the meeting rooms.)

So, that first weekend with all its outright terror and uncertainty ended up being the model for the two years that led to the event. But we all survived it, more or less, and the Centennial came off magnificently despite THS's best efforts - against everything including their own charter - to make it fail.


Sat Jun 06, 2009 6:52 pm
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Post Re: Birth of the Centennial
[...Continued...]

Jim's covered a lot of territory there; I'm going to go back to the weekend I prompted him to discuss because I'm trying to lay down as complete a timeline here as I can, for posterity.

[If I leave stuff out, it's either because I forgot it or because I'm so focussed on what I had first-hand knowledge of that I don't want to steal someone else's thunder by being a secondary source.]

The hotel arrangements were made as late as possible; just over two years before a major event like that is really pushing it. The society's idea that such an event could be booked a year in advance seems ludicrous.

The reader might be wondering why we did not tell THS about our plans before this point, especially given that Bill was on its board at the time. The answer is simple: the society had had two and a half years to formulate a plan for a centennial event, and had not only not done so, but obstructed efforts to implement a plan. When Bill and Jim formed THC Inc., within a couple of months we had made concrete plans and were ready to book a venue. We were concerned that the society would bring the same stonewalling tactic to bear on our plans unless the plans had reached an unstoppable stage, i.e., the hotels were booked. So Bill announced the plans to David Silver literally simultaneously with the contract being signed.

The discussion between the three of us on hearing of David's reaction was very depressing. The hotels refused to let us cancel a contract without penalty, as Jim said - even though the contract was faxed to them on something like a Friday night and our attempt to rescind it sent around Sunday, i.e., both within the same time period when their office staff wasn't at work. If they hadn't been so bloody-minded, there would have been no Centennial. As it was, we decided that if we were facing a $10k cancellation clause, we would damn well wait until the last minute to exercise it (something like a year away; the cancellation penalties followed a staircase function). In the meantime, there was nothing to lose - so our weary rationalization went - from trying to make it work.

Many of the people who would reasonably be expected to be playing major parts in our effort were, understandably, holding chairs in the society, but didn't want to risk the certain loss of their position that would arise from openly supporting us. So they could only support us behind the scenes (there was one time when we were meeting with one of them on AIM at the same time he was also participating in a THS board meeting; it felt quite cloak-and-dagger). Kudos to Mike Sheffield for openly setting up the blood drive for us about a year out from the event. Furthermore, we could not contact the 600 or so society members who would be the most likely core attendees and volunteers. (When relations with David thawed later on, we got one notice to the society members in the mail a few months before the event.) The depth of our loneliness was abyssal.

And in the midst of this despondency, we had to get the job done. I got our first honored guest commitment (see the topic on Brian Binnie elsewhere in this forum). However, the first year was
marked mainly by interminable discussions about the basic vision of the event. I had to keep insisting that we return to that issue since we kept getting in trouble for not resolving it. There was tension surrounding the degree of fannishness of the event. We all recognized that Heinlein was an s-f author who transcended that niche (think Saturday Evening Post, for example) and that he had many admirers who were (a) not s-f fans, and (b) would be repelled by many fannish activities. We wanted them all to come, and for the mainstream, if you will, RAHfans to not feel like this was an s-f con.

That was pretty much agreed upon; what wasn't agreed on was the manifestation of it. The question of whether or not to have a masquerade came up over and over - nothing would scare off a rocket scientist faster than a bunch of women in body paint offering to share water, this was our nightmare scenario - and in the end we left it out completely mainly because it simply did not fit in the schedule. And you know, no one missed it. (By the way, we knew we would get rocket scientists because it was well known that Heinlein was revered in the private space business burgeoning in the Mojave desert and other places, where The Man Who Sold the Moon is literally required reading, just as Starship Troopers is in some military circles.)

And then there was the structure of the event. We originally envisaged a complex system of four tracks: Academic, Literary, Space, and Media. The Academic track would be what I thought of as Bill's nirvana and require referees for papers to be presented. The Literary track would basically be the "fan" track where everything not in the other tracks would go, all the sfnal discussions and sessions on Heinlein's life. The Space track would consist of sessions that might not even mention Heinlein but would be on topic because they would be about the blossoming of commercial space ventures - a field Heinlein all but jumpstarted single-handedly - and/or cutting edge or speculative space exploration.

The astute reader who attended the event will note that this more or less happened - I mean, you saw all those types of event there, right? But in the early days of planning, we were battling byzantine delusions of grandeur. We had endless debates about pitching these tracks as separate conferences that happened to take place conterminously and simultaneously. We agonized over how to structure the fees for each track so that people could sign up for one, two, or more. Jim came up with a badge scheme that exercised so many colors that door monitors would have needed spectrophotometers to decide who to admit. In retrospect the KISS approach we ended up taking seems so obvious but believe me, it was not arrived at quickly or easily.

The astute reader will also realize I left out the Media track. This is because it ended up getting killed. (The film room does not count; it was never intended to be part of the Media track.) The model for this track was DragonCon. The best description I can give is that it was to be everything Heinleinesque that was not the written word. If that seems a bit vague, well, that was the failing of that track; no one ever came up with a concrete enough description to make it sound worth keeping. After a year I announced that unless someone spoke up immediately and eloquently in its favor, I would consider it removed from the venue. And it was gone.

[... To be continued...]


Last edited by PeterScott on Sun Jun 07, 2009 8:59 am, edited 1 time in total.



Sat Jun 06, 2009 8:27 pm
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