Challenger Logo by Alan White   A Science Fiction Fanzine   Summer 2004

 The Challenger Tribute


"When I marry her, I'll adopt you!"

That's the short version. The "I" in that sentence was Harlan Ellison. The "you" was me. The "her" was Chelsea Quinn Yarbro. Harlan didn't know it, but on that night in 1968 he created a friendship that has illuminated a lifetime.

What happened was that in the midst of an acrimonious panel discussion, hosted by Berkeley's Little Men, on the merits of Dangerous Visions, during which the editor and moderator of the book and the panel, respectively, Mr. Ellison, had approached the borders of apoplexy, Quinn had asked an intelligent question and I had asked Harlan if he'd been thinking of Ulysses when he came up with the idea for the collection. Gimme a break; I was 18.

Ellison immediately calmed down. He said two things which have resonated with me ever since. One I'll save for another time. The second is the line quoted above.

Quinn was like me a member of the Little Men, and true to the title and responsibility left-handedly bestowed upon her by Ellison, she became my "fannish mama" - guiding me through the labyrinths of our ridiculous and wonderful hobby. Appointing me - and Ton Whitmore - "Feet" for the press office at St. Louiscon, in 1969, she tried to make sure I didn't annoy the pros too much. Over the next two years, as you see from "Photoing the Nubble Bubble" in pages to come, she gave me the job as official SFWA photographer for the west coast Nebula banquet - and had my pictures posted in the SFWA Bulletin. (When she came to my co-op dorm, the infamous Barrington Hall, to pick up the photos, my girlfriend asked, "Are all your friends so neat?")

That was early on. In the years since, she has always been around.

She was at Iggy in Phoenix in 1978 and read my palm. (Three careers? I could stand one.) She was at DeepSouthCon in 1983 when I was Fan Guest of Honor, and this guy she's charming below (Stephen ... Queen? Jack?

Joker? Some card or another) was Pro GoH. She returned to Knoxville in 1992 when I was barreling through Tennessee on a case - and I got to show up and surprise her. And just this year, her plane paused in New Orleans en route to Florida, and the International Conference of the Fantastic, and we met her at the airport, and she got to meet Rosy. The 36 years since Harlan had brought us together had brought her fame, if not enough fortune, as the chronicler of Count St. Germain, Charlie Moon and the mysterious Michael. But they had never taken us far from each other's ken.

And wait till you hear the story of the college girl from Georgia ...

Quinn, you are a treasure. Whenever you read this, happy Mother's Day!


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