At WorldCon 2004

Heinlein Society

At WorldCon 2004


Day Two —

The Heinlein Society’s Second Day, Friday, September 3, 2004, at World Con (Noreascon Four) was busier than a payday’s night at the hookshop Lazarus Long ran on Mars, where blind Rhysling spent months while bumming around the System with his squeeze box.

Our blooddrive was held by two Massachusetts General bloodmobiles parked on the north side of the Hynes Convention Center, on Boyleston from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The first thing you need to know about this year’s Robert and Virginia Memorial Blood Drive is it had to be held off-premises, because, once again, organizers of a World SF Convention refused to allow a blood drive to take place on premises they controlled.

It’s a peculiar thing we encountered once before, when many of the same people were involved, our first year of sponsoring blood drives, at MilPhilCon (the World SF Convention held in 2001 in Philadelphia). Ginny Heinlein went ballistic and wanted to take them on directly, publicly, and pull no punches in so doing then; but a consensus reasoned that, perhaps, one time only, a piano approached, soft, then hard, might be productive our first year. So that year, at some substantial expense, we rented a church nearby to the Philadelphia Convention Center, and advertised heavily — and, due to Ginny’s strong efforts to assist by asking SF writers she knew to participate by holding readings, giving autographs, and even copies of their works, we had a successful result. That year, two blocks from the Con, the Red Cross collected 55 pints of blood, that only a week later, on 9/11, was shipped to NYC to help out in that terrible attack on the Twin Towers. IOW, that drive potentially saved 165 lives (on the 3:1 ratio of units used by donor agencies to estimate life-saving effect of donations).

[Fred Pohl, Betty Hull, Bob Silverberg, Karen Haber, Yoji and Ursula Kondo, Greg Benford, the late Charles Sheffield, and Gay and Joe Haldeman responded to Ginny’s entreaties, and all helped tremendously. Gay and Joe and Yoji and Ursula spent the entire day at the Church holding readings, talking to donors in small discussion groups — and the Haldemans and Dr. Kondo cancelled their attendance on panels at the convention on that day to do so.]

After MilPhilCon, we stayed out of a private dispute raised by one Heinlein fan on Locus On-Line over how poorly organized MilPhilCon had been in which the lack of support for the blood drive by MilPhilCon was cited as an example, by refusing to provide absolutely clear proof we had on one side of that dispute that would have discredited a defense the organizers of MilPhilCon offered to the readers of Locus On-Line. Again, we continued our piano approach, still soft… and patient, biting our tongues to do so.

Therefore, we were very surprised to find this year that some of the same people who we had declined to publicly embarrass were determined to prevent an on premises drive this at Noreascon Four, particularly after the very much greater successes we had at ConJose and TorCon.

The position taken by the Con chairman was that, in essence, she wouldn’t allow a blood drive because she intended to protect SF fans from their ownselves, e.g., “Our concern was and is that Worldcon is a time when attendees often do not regularly sleep, eat, rest, or take care of themselves — the worst possible time to ask them to give blood. We want to encourage healthy, sensible blood donations on an ongoing basis.” — Deb Geisler, Chair, Noreascon4, to THS member John Hodges, February 14, 2004.

Yes, well, it’s a fair opinion that aside from expressing a transparently insincere lip-service on the desirability of blood drives to the contrary, she reveals utter lack of knowledge of how strictly screened donors are, and both a deplorable vice of “nannyism,” and a patronizing viewpoint of SF fans. One wonders what else she thinks SF fans do when outside her sight, and how she manages to conceal that low opinion of them otherwise.

So efforts to overcome this stupidity were necessary.

First thing in the morning, John Hodges, who has been working with the Massachusetts General people since Arisia, a convention held early this year, along with newly-weds Mike and Sharon Sheffield (Mike is our Blood Drives Committee Chair), and Pamela Somers and Bob Preisenger, a married couple from Baltimore, who helped a great deal with our recently successful blood drive there at Balticon, had our fan table set up and working to encourage donations.

Throughout the day, John, Mike and Sharon, Pam and Bob, and others, including Bill Patterson, Jane Silver, with a very little help from myself and some others who dropped by, encouraged donations. We were pretty successful, but again, only about half the expected donations were made for a convention of this size. We got about fifty pints or so, out of about sixty donors who presented themselves. Certainly Massachusetts General will make good use of this gift of life; but again, an on-premises drive usually easily exceeds 100 donations accepted. That was our experience in San Jose, in Toronto, and has been the experience of our blood drives chairman, Michael Sheffield, on World SF Cons he has helped out in the recent past.

The effect that con organizers can have on blood drive successes can be salutary or deplorable. Many will bend over backwards to support a worthy activity. Some don’t.

I think it’s time to let “them” (those who don’t support worthy activities of this Society in general for whatever specious reasons they dredge up) know that we’re moving away from the “soft” piano approach. Frankly, if they don’t know that one of the detriments of making a decision contrary to our interests in maintaining and preserving the charitable efforts Robert and Virginia devoted so much effort, money, and time to, means they will read our criticism of their ill-founded acts. Ginny’s first reaction way back in summer 2001, when the attitude of some of these people became apparent to her, was to place an open letter in such magazines as Analog, Asimov’s, SF & F, Locus, etc. Let’s just say, we’re thinking on it.

One thing I ought to point out: when Ginny got mad and wanted to go to open letters, etc., against what she felt was disrespect towards something her husband and she had worked so hard to establish, the worthy charitable tradition, now nearly forty years old, of blood giving at SF conventions, I was one of the few who urged patience and forbearance. Why get into an unnecessary fight? It wastes everyone’s time. I’m slowly coming around to Ginny’s view that people of some sorts view forbearance as weakness. Please, anyone reading this, don’t make that mistake about The Heinlein Society. The folk on the board of directors of this charity are not well-known for weakness.

More later, today.

But an early notice: Bill Patterson will give a reading beginning about 8 PM, EDT, tonight, Saturday, September 4, in The Heinlein Society’s Suite, Room 2401, at the Hilton Back Bay, 40 Dalton Street, Boston. This is directly across the street (south) from the Hynes Center, and the Sheraton, the main Con hotel, but not on Con premises, so if you don’t have a Convention membership, you still may attend, without hindrance.

The reading will be from the nearly completed biography of Robert Heinlein, _The Man Who Learned Better: Robert A. Heinlein in Dialog with His Century_ (vol I), or _Future Ink: A Dual Biography of Robert and Virginia Heinlein (vol II).

Stop by if you’re free and in the area.

David M. Silver

President and Chairman of the Board


Day Two, parts 2 & 3 —

The Heinlein Society did have a few other things taking place on Friday, September 3, in addition to the Twenty-ninth Annual, consecutive Robert and Virginia Heinlein Memorial Blood Drive.

At 3 PM, Friday, September 3, we held our Third annual corporate meeting scheduled as a “S.I.G.” (special interest group) event on the program, in room “Liberty A,” at the Sheraton hotel. Present were five of six board members: Charles N. Brown (publisher-editor of Locus); Dr. Yoji Kondo (by power of attorney to the Chairman); Alan Milner, Bill Patterson, and David Silver; two board officers, the president, who presided, and the secretary-treasurer pro tempore, Jane Silver; and fifty-two members, and three guests.

Dr. Kondo, who filed his power of attorney, timely expressed his regrets in not being able to attend because of job and family-related matters. Joe Haldeman, who was scheduled by convention programming for a Convention panel at the same time as the corporate meeting, also timely expressed his regrets at not being physically present.

The usual order of business was followed: reading and approval of the minutes of the last annual corporate meeting (held at Torcon), financial reports, and president and chairman’s report to the membership.

In addition, Dr. Yoji Kondo (who had been elected by the board in 2002 to fill two years of a term vacated by resignation) and Joe Haldeman (who had been elected by the board in 2003 to fill one year of a term vacated by death) each having expressed a willingness to continue to serve as members of the board of directors for a full three-year term, were unanimously reelected by the membership to fill full three-year terms as directors.

There was no other business on the agenda; and after the board’s members and officers replied to all questions of the membership, the president and chairman, upon a proper motion, adjourned the meeting at 3:37 PM, EDT, no further business appearing.

The usual, more detailed minutes will be available from the Secretary, upon request, and will be presented for approval at the next annual meeting.

Third Part — Dinner and Annual Heinlein Award

At 6 PM, the Society’s Fourth Annual Robert A. Heinlein Memorial Dinner was held at the Belvidere Ballroom, 2d Floor, Hilton Boston Back Bay Hotel, 40 Dalton Street, Boston, commencing with a reception and cocktail hour. At 7 PM, a well-prepared dinner commenced. At 8:15 PM, an audio and visual connection by the Internet was established with Sir Arthur C. Clarke, at his home in Colombo, Sri Lanka (where it was 6:15 AM, the following day, Saturday, September 5). The mode of audio visual presentation was via a Macintosh iBook using iSight hardware and iChat software. Some rather extraordinary efforts were necessary to establish this linkage, and were resolved only by the diligent, efficient, and truly extraordinary efforts of the general manager and staff of BT Options, a Macintosh reseller (authorized dealer), in Columbo, Sri Lanka. A letter of grateful thanks and commendation is being sent not only to the manager and staff of BT Options, but also to Apple’s Asia subsidiary and to Mr. Jobs at Cupertino, himself. The problem of establishing a good audio visual line was basically one, I understand, of packet drops aggravated by the distance and uncertainty of connection to Sri Lanka.

The Society’s President then began the presentation of the 2004 Heinlein Award, by introducing Mr. Tedson Meyers.

Mr. Tedson Meyers, Chairman of the Arthur C. Clarke Foundation was present to physically on Sir Arthur’s behalf accept the awards to convey them to Sri Lanka, noted that he would likely be present in Sri Lanka to complete his hand-over by discussing them with Sir Arthur himself within a month or six weeks. Mr. Meyers is a noted lawyer in the telecommunications field, recently retired by active practice, and has other significant accomplishments ranging from command of a company in the 1st Marine Division in Korea in 1953 to being past president of the Cosmos Club in Washington, DC. He was accompanied by his step-son, and expressed his great regrets that Mr. Arthur Dula, the Heinlein Prize trustee, could not be present at the dinner as he looked forward to seeing Mr. Dula again as he and Mr. Dula have served jointly on space law panels presented by the American Bar Association and other organizations in past years. Mr. Dula injured his ankle so seriously, the day before the dinner, that while no surgery will be required he has been ordered by his doctor to avoid walking to allow it to heal properly. Mr. Dula also expressed, before the dinner, his regrets through the Society’s president, to the audience that he could not be present.

Mr. Meyers gave a brief address on the aims and accomplishments of the Clarke Foundation. While he was doing so, the connection with Sri Lanka was projected on a large screen behind the podium, and Sir Arthur C. Clarke appeared in person upon that screen visible to all the audience.

Our presentation program of the actual Award to Sir Arthur began with his introduction to the audience attending the dinner by Mr. Charles N. Brown, the senior incorporating member of the Society’s board of directors, who has known Sir Arthur since 1953. The award was then presented by the four members present of the independent judges’ panel for the award, Larry Niven, C. Herbert Gilliland, Captain, USNR, Ret’d, and Professor of English, USNA (Annapolis), Joe Haldeman, and Michael Flynn, last year’s Heinlein Award recipient and the newest member of the independent judges’ panel. Messrs. Niven, Haldeman and Flynn, we all know, are noted SF authors (but Capt. Gilliland himself is also a published author, and his latest published work is reviewed on the Heinlein Society website).

The entire event was recorded, audio and visually, and a CD rom will shortly be edited as a clear historical record of the event. Audio and visual was satisfactory throughout for those attending in the Ballroom in Boston; however, audio was a bit unsatisfactory to Sir Arthur on the Sri Lanka side for part of the program. A clear recording of what he could not hear for a time during the presentation will be provided, of course, to Sir Arthur, first.

Briefly characterizing the presentation comments made, Mr. Niven noted in his leadoff during his and Captain Gilliland’s presentation of the wall plaque for the award to Sir Arthur that is was obvious to all that, if the Heinlein Award is to be made to living persons for excellence in SF and scientific writings advancing humanity’s exploration of space, there is no living person who stands before and deserves the award more than Sir Arthur C. Clarke, for his lifetime of achievements. After additional comments and Captain Gilliland’s further comments, Joe Haldeman and Michael Flynn awarded Sir Arthur the silver medallion with the sculptured portrait of Robert A. Heinlein signifying the award. The Baltimore SF Society, it should be noted, which participated in the artist’s commissioning, design, and creation of that work of art, the medallion, as well as the plaque, and had contributed financially to its production, and also offered its regrets in not having an official representative present at the dinner.

Sir Arthur, by means of the invention of which he is the acknowledged “godfather,” ComSat, then addressed the audience briefly. The Society’s chairman then thanked Sir Arthur for accepting the award by participating in real time by an audio and visual connection; and regretfully then terminated the connection with Sri Lanka.

We next went to a presentation of the 1969 interview in which Arthur Clarke and Robert Heinlein discussed Apollo 11 with Walter Cronkite on the day of man’s first moon landing.

Slightly more than mid-way through the 29 minute interview, an urgent telephone call was received from Sri Lanka. Technicians had significantly improved the audio feed on Sir Arthur’s end, and he graciously requested that the connection be restored as he wished to address the evening’s audience further, it now being a somewhat more civilized time in Sri Lanka as well.

There is one thing, short of failure of electricity or fire, that would cause the undersigned to stop the 1969 interview without completion. Sir Arthur’s request was it.

Sir Arthur then reappeared on screen and delighted the audience by his remarks and answers to their questions for an additional fifteen or so minutes. He introduced us to “Dainty” a small chihuahua dog he has recently adopted. Dainty, he observed, possibly comes from a planet where the aliens have large ears.

Then, finally and regretfully, after all questions were answered, Sir Arthur was thanked again by the Society’s President for his gracious and valuable participation in the night’s affairs, and the connection to Sri Lanka was again regretfully closed.

There followed a dance, after all were thanked for their attendance. My dear wife Andrea actually let old two left feet lead her onto the dance floor to begin the dancing portion of the evening.

Later, there was the usual post event affair on into the wee hours in the Society’s suite. Further, deponent sayeth naught.

More details later.

Early warning; This being Sunday, September 5, there will be a second reading this evening at 8 PM. in the Heinlein Society suite, Rm. 2401, Boston Back Bay Hilton, 40 Dalton St., by Bill Patterson of a further chapter of the two-volume Heinlein biography. Any persons interested are invited to attend the reading. Light refreshments. [Latest update: my wife has talked me out of the two exit procedure for the reading I’d proposed. E.g., Exit One: For Heinlein Society Members Only. Exit Two: The Critics’ Lounge.] 😉

A report on Saturday, later, possibly after I get a second cup of tea into me.

Hope we see you all soon.

David M. Silver

President and Chairman of the Board

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