Challenger Logo by Alan White   A Science Fiction Fanzine   Spring - Summer 2008

Rosy and I missed DeepSouthCon this year but we can bring you this masterful part of it!

From Fan to Filthy Pro, in 10 Easy Steps:

GoH Speech for DSC 2008

T.K.F. Weisskopf Reinhardt

Illo by Randy Cleary

There 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!

So 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.

The 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.

Fred 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.

I’ve 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.

So 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.

This is a caricature of Toni as a Fan and now a Pro

Step 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 —

Step 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.

Step 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]

And, 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.

At 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.

Well, 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.

But this is not supposed to be a long commercial for Baen Books — that comes later, at the slide show. Free books — y’all come!

And 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.

The 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.

I’ve 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?

It’s not fair; I don’t get to gloat anymore! Step number 9: Learn humility if it kills you.

So 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.

SF 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.

People 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 environment.

You’ll 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.

I’m 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.

And 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.

 

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