are really two
conventions going on this weekend — two for the price of one!
Such a bargain. First we’ve got Stellarcon, the regional
convention for High Point and the Tri-Cities and surrounding
environs. It’s in its 32nd year — a great achievement. And along for the ride is the
Deep South Con, numbered 46, with its own traditions and good old
fashioned, good ol’ phart sensibility. And I say that with
fondness, as I am an old phart now, too!
there are really two different speeches I could give. For the most
part, people who are here for the DSC already know me. I started
going to conventions in 1980 — the first one was Midsouthcon
in Huntsville, Alabama. For those of you neos who are used to
Midsouthcon being only in Memphis, yes, it too, like the DSC, used
to move around a bit.
one in Huntsville was a great convention. Just a couple hundred
people in a motel built around a pool, all talking about SF,
singing, drinking, and generally having a wonderful time till all
hours of the night.
Pohl was GoH, Jack Chalker was Fan GoH and Bob Tucker was
Toastmaster — or vice versa — and Kelly Freas was artist
guest of honor. I met most of them there, and in my professional
career ended up working on at least one project with each of them.
In fact, Fred Pohl just turned in a nice introduction to the Edmond
Hamilton e-book package Baen will be releasing later this year.
attended at least 4 to 5 conventions a year since that first one. So
there are folks here who could give you my history from the time I
was 14 on. My early autograph collecting. My encounter with Harlan
Ellison. My introduction to the Bug Club, Bob Tucker and Beam’s
Choice Bourbon—all at once. Painting
Khen Moore's toenails black with UncleTimmy when Ken was asleep in
the consuite. The
Neverending Avocado of Doom at Chattacon. The Quest for Booze into
the wilds of Ooltewah, TN because Libertycon was being held in a dry
county of all things. How I earned my Rubble — thank you, SFPAns!
But they won’t, because they know I won’t send them free
books if they do.
for those you attending Stellarcon and who don’t know all the
nitty-gritty details of how I went from happy-go-lucky young femme
fan to grouchy old Publisher of Baen Books, I’ll give you the
highlights. In fact, I will give you the blueprint of how to go from
Young Fan to Filthy Pro in Ten Easy Steps so you can do it, too.
number 1: Got to
cons; have fun. Everyone hear already has that step down. But cons
are not the only wonderful thing about fandom. I participated in
fandom not just by going to conventions, drinking Beam’s
Choice and smoothing. Mostly that, but not exclusively. Which leads
us to —
number 2: Don’t
just party. I got my name in print by writing letters of comment and
book reviews for fanzines — these days I guess you’d
comment on blogs and list serves to achieve the same goal. And I
joined the nascent local Huntsville club — which is still
going after all these years, thanks to Mike Kennedy & crew. All
those publications looked good on a resume.
number 3: Waste your
college years – In college I joined the nascent SF club there
and helped produce fanzines all four years. I designed courses in SF
and even taught one. I brought in authors and editors as speakers.
And somewhere, about halfway through, I realized I was spending WAAY
more time on SF than on my ostensible major. So I switched majors to
anthropology, knowing that I was preparing myself for a career in
SF. [Comment: That
line got a laugh at the convention, and looking at it I can see why,
but it wasn’t written for one! — TKFWR]
lo, it came to pass that in my senior year I attended Balticon over
spring break, and at a Tor party with a Jacuzzi — I distinctly
remember the Jacuzzi, even though I never went in it –- I
handed my resume to then-Baen editor Betsy Mitchell. That’s step number four:
always attend parties with Jacuzzis. Baen needed an editorial
assistant. So I graduated college in Ohio on a Friday and went to
work in New York on Monday.
some point I had to go home to pick up my books, my furniture and my
dog. Algis Budrys gave me and the dog a ride back, for which I don’t
think he still has forgiven me. So the dog got a little car sick… Step Number Five: Have your dog throw up in a pro’s car.
maybe he has forgiven me, because he just turned in the
introductions to the two new Leigh Brackett e-book packages Baen
will be releasing, the first of which is this month.
this is not supposed to be a long commercial for Baen Books —
that comes later, at the slide show. Free books — y’all
the rest, as they say, is history. I worked my way up from editorial
assistant, to assistant editor, did a year doubling as production
assistant, became editor, then executive editor, and, upon Jim
Baen’s death in 2006, publisher. There’s no mystique
about the publishing industry. It’s a business like any other.
Which leads us to Steps
Number 6, 7, & 8: Work
your ass off.
nice thing about working for a relatively small — though
mighty — publisher like Baen is that there’s no time to
get bored. I’ve gotten to work across the spectrum of
publishing jobs, from marketing, to public relations—hello,
public! – working with artists and foreign publishers, doing
typesetting, and balancing budgets. And, last but not least, I get
to interact with the authors.
been doing it for over 20 years now, and it’s still a ball.
And, of course, the best perk is getting to read the books before
everybody else does. At least, that was the best perk until Jim Baen
invented “snippeting” on Baen’s Bar. Which I could
also spend all day talking about. But won’t. Essentially with
snippeting, authors drop little teasers of the novels they are
working on IN A PUBLIC PLACE, to tantalize those of us who are
hooked on Honor Harrington, or Miles Vorkosigan, or Prince Roger, or
even, dare I say it, Ringo’s Ghost?
not fair; I don’t get to gloat anymore! Step
number 9: Learn
humility if it kills you.
I won’t gloat. Instead I’ll say this is exactly as it
should be: SF is a grand invention by all of us, readers, artists,
writers, publishers – even gamers, Warren. The more we listen
to each other, the better science fiction is.
has always, from the beginnings with Hugo Gernsback’s
magazines, been an interactive genre. It’s only now that
technology is beginning to catch up to what we’ve been doing
all along. Fanzines to blogs – no big jump for us.
wonder about the success of Baen’s Bar and the Baen.com
website — not a secret. We’re just doing what SF people
have always done — talk to each other. We’re generous
with our ideas and visions and opinions. Barflies are not afraid to
make value judgments! Good science fiction thrives in such an
start to see imitators very soon. There’s no secret formula to
what Baen does. Heck, we’ve been doing it for more than ten
years; it’s about time somebody else caught up. But my guess
is that the imitators won’t quite have the same magic. And
that’s because they think it’s just a business venture,
when it’s really a grand, mystical quest to invent the future
that we all take part in.
really happy to have spent more than half my life in the company of
SF fans, and Southern SF fans in particular. Which leads me to Step
number 10: Marry a
wonderful man who loves science fiction as much as you do. I just
wish my husband Hank Reinhardt, could have been with us this
weekend. Somehow I feel his spirit probably is, looking over the
Hearts players’ shoulders, teasing Pat Gibbs about his card
play and flirting with the women.
he, Southern gentleman that he was, would have reminded me to thank
you all having me as a guest at DSC and Stellarcon, and wind this
up, so we could go play cards and hit the parties.