Flash Sheridan’s MidAmeriCon Reminiscence

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MidAmeriCon Reminiscence (Sheridan)
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1976 — MidAmeriCon, Kansas City

Not Disenchanted[edit]

I don’t recall the problems with hotels and food in Fred Pohl's MidAmeriCon Reminiscence, and I’m delighted to have been an exception to “Bob Heinlein was the GoH, though most attendees didn't see much of him. The con committee considered him both fragile and a national resource, and they kept him protected from the unruly mob of the rest of us.” (Patterson’s biography says something similar.)

“The committee’s efforts to discourage attendance worked too well: Instead of the seven thousand that had been projected, on-site attendance was closer to two thousand, and a good many of them were disenchanted with the committee.”

Excerpt From Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue with His Century, William H. Patterson, Jr.

I was not disenchanted with the committee; I’m more inclined to agree with George R.R. Martin (though retaining a soft spot for my first, Discon II) “MidAmericon -- still ranks as the best worldcon of all time, in my not so humble opinion. Even if I did lose two Hugos there.”

On the train from New Jersey, Charles L. Grant (whom I hadn’t read, but whose name I recognized) saw my books, and started a conversation. At the convention itself, in addition to my close encounters with Robert Heinlein and key Star Wars personnel, below, Joe Haldeman was quite kind to an adolescent fan. He autographed my copy of Mindbridge as “the very first autographed copy of this book,” and later explained that the ecdysiast dancing in front of Mr Heinlein during the masquerade deliberations was not allowed to complete her routine, under Missouri law, only because she was getting paid.

Heinleins and Blood Donors[edit]

The Heinleins had widely publicized (including a full page ad on page ten of the program) that blood donors would get to meet them, in either a social reception or an autograph session. (I chose, not without effort, the reception over autographs.) Mr Heinlein began the reception by pointing out that this was not the autograph reception. Later he asked to recognize those under 18, who were not legally allowed to donate blood, but were invited to the reception if they provided evidence of being denied. I (an attention-grabbing adolescent) asked how those of us who were underage but had managed to donate anyway should be classified. Mr Heinlein graciously launched an anecdote about underage volunteers in World War I.

Busy Signing Books[edit]

“The truth of the matter is,” Ginny wrote after it was over, “aside from the official events, Robert and I saw very little of the convention. Whenever Robert was in public he was busy signing books until his hand could practically no longer write.”

Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue with His Century,

Guilty as charged. While working on a task as a volunteer gopher, I came across Mr Heinlein seated in a comfortable chair with a small circle of fans, which I shamelessly abandoned my duty to join. A fan had asked about a character renaming (Mary Rhysling to Sperling IIRC, in Methuselah’s Children), and Mr Heinlein was slow to respond. Someone (perhaps me) gave an explanation. I also got autographs for the paperbacks of Have Spacesuit: Will Travel and Citizen of the Galaxy which I had carried everywhere.

I came away thinking the Mr Heinlein was still suffering from what I then thought of as his I Will Fear No Evil brain blood clot. Given his GoH speech, in which he mentioned his stammer, and Patterson’s biography, I realize it was more complicated than that.

Star Wars[edit]

There was a Star Wars display in room 364 (program p. 25), where I had a chance to chat alone with Mark Hamill for quite a while, and to get his autograph on a poster. (Unlike Marx007100, I have not sold my poster for $1500, though I haven’t found it yet either.) The novelization had been circulated to what we would now call influencers; the late Baird Searles (co-founder of The Science Fiction Shop, to whom I am grateful for many things) had lent me his copy, knowing my interest in Doc Smith. So I was excited about the release of the film the following year, unlike the less fortunate fen who had not yet attended:

The StarWars Session[edit]

There’s a lot of information in both the video of the session with “producer Gary Kurtz, star Mark Hamill and marketing director Charles Lippincott,” and its comments section. I’ll add that I hereby claim to be the obnoxious teenager who responds “It’s space opera!” at 1:57, and perhaps the one who asked about the explanation of faster-than-light travel at 7:14. Mr Kurtz gave an excellent answer: “We don’t explain it.” He mentions Doc Smith at 13:17, along with Flash Gordon and John Carter.

Fanhistory 1976
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