Happy Chatter from VOID / Gregory Benford / 1958
"Gee, and I was only 19 and so cynical."
Come on over, Tom said, we're having a party for Dallas. I thought about that for a minute. It does not do to say the obvious thing that pops immediately into your head when dealing with Dallas fans, for that is almost always the wrong thing to say. Are you sure you can get them all in? I replied. Oh, he said, I mean all the Dallas fans. Were going to have a little party for them.
And so it came to pass that I attended my only fannish party in Dallas. I asked Jim if he wanted to go, but he demurred, saying he wanted to do something constructive, like sleeping. Later he arranged a date, explaining that this was more constructive in the long run, so I was forced to go alone. I contemplated taking a date along, but I realized that taking a girl to a place full of science fiction fans would probably be frowned upon, if not by the girl at least by the fans.
The Dallas slan shack, where Reamy, Dale Hart and one or two others lived was a bit depressing as seen from the street, obscured as it was by a n overgrowth of shrubs and weeds. The interior was crowded with people, though, all talking at a furious pace and running back and forth to the kitchen for drinks. I immediately spotted Richard Koogle (who has no middle name) holding forth in the center of a group of fine minds, and insinuated myself into the outer regions of the circle. I stood there for a while, letting the words wash over me and ripple into the surrounding people, until Koogle noticed me. This certainly is a great party, isnt it, Greg? he burbled. We dont have these often, but when we do theyre good.
Yes, I said, standing here and listening to you talking and the hi-fi wafting music over our heads, its almost possible to believe Im among real people. He beamed at me and called over Reamy, who took me out to the kitchen to get a drink.
One of the members of the club had a pool in his back yard and he invited the club over every week to have a meeting and talk by the pool.
We went out on the back porch so Reamy could show me the surrounding undergrowth and get some fresh air. The porch was the starting line in a furious race for survival on the part of local weeddom, for the back yard was one great mass of greenish growth. I broached the subject of yard upkeep (which I loath) to Reamy. Have the neighbors gotten up a petition yet? I asked. In the conversation which ensued, Reamy mentioned that the Landlord didnt especially want the weeds rolled back because the remains of a stolen car of doubtful age were hidden somewhere in it.
Coming back in I noticed one woman there of largish proportions who was circulating around collecting signatures in favor of Dallas getting the worldcon. I signed. What the hell, I was getting free drinks. Actually, the only remarkable thing which occurred during the evening was my accidental discovery of a fan who had been fairly active in Dallas a few years back but had since dropped out of sight. I cant tell you his name because Rich Koogle was trying to sell him part of his fanzine collection (over 100 separate and distinct fanzines) and I couldnt hear over the general noise level. The old-time fan seemed like a normal, intelligent person, thought, unpolluted by his surroundings. He told me about meetings of the Dallas Futurian Society at which Mosher would go out on the street and pull in passers-by in hopes of enlarging the membership. At the time the meetings were being held in a cafe, and whenever the club had a guest speaker Mosher would round up a number of panhandlers, promising them a cup of coffee, in order to present a large membership to the speaker. Did he find many science fiction fans among the bums and loafers? I asked, but since Mosher was not there at the moment, I could not find out. Considering recent issues of HABAKKUK, perhaps the answer would have been a little surprising.
Shortly after this one character came wandering through the rooms moodily staring into peoples faces and mumbling a few greetings. I asked Reamy who he was. He was identified as Dale Hart, who was currently running the plans for the Southwestercon VI (the convention that killed southwestern fandom). Say, would you like to join the committee to work on publicity for the con? Reamy asked as Hart drew nearer. I looked over at Hart. I looked back at Reamy. I went out to get another drink.
"Did he find many science fiction fans among the bums and loafers?" I asked,
Im not worried about a war at all, one of the regular members said a few minutes later. Ive got my plan all worked out.
What? I said, taken aback. Well, he gestured, if we have a war theyll be sure to drop a bomb on downtown Dallas and then my troubles will be over. I thought he was probably right, but I wouldnt have been so foolhardy about it.
The draft board is right in the middle of town, and if they drop any bombs my records will be destroyed. Then if anyone comes around trying to get me in the Army Ill tell them Ive already done my time. The group around him fell silent.
Dont you think if we have a war theyll just draft everybody in sight and not worry about the records? someone asked. No, the planner said, Ill appeal to Congress and by the time that gets through the war will be over.
Well then, I said, well all do that and there wont be any more war and we wont have to fight. The fan who had his future all mapped out in his head thought a moment to himself. I dont think that would work. Somebody has got to defend the country in times of peril. At this time I was relatively new to Dallas Fandom so I ignored the opportunity to say something nasty and true. But my infinite patience and understanding for people has withered somewhat since then, which is why youre reading this article.
I was walking into the stf room of the slan shack when Reamy, who is a little on the heavy side, turned to me and said, What do you think of that?
I think youre wrong, I said automatically. Usually that works pretty well. Youre always talking about how science can give everybody a better way of doing something. Tell me how I can lose weight without dieting. He stood there waiting for my answer. Close your mouth, I said.
...Somebody has got to defend the country in times of peril.
Rich Koogle was there, looking through the Astounding collection. He was still enthusiastic about the party. Its just like last summer, he said, waving an ASF at me, when we had all our parties out at our swimming pool. I asked him what he meant. One of the members of the club had a pool in his back yard and he invited the club over every week to have a meeting and talk by the pool.
Why, thats fine, I said. Thats the best thing Ive ever heard about Dallas fandom. It sounds like quite a change from just sitting around and reading old fanzines during meetings. I can hardly imagine a Dallas fan club meeting where you could lie around in the sun and swim.
Oh, he said, we didnt do that. None of us could swim.
In a little while the resources of the club began to evaporate and someone had to go out and replenish the food and drink. The old-time fan whose name I never learned was driving, so I decided Id go with him; as we were going out the front door Reamy, fearing that someone was leaving the party early, came over and told us to stay for the later festivities. Its all right, I told him. I just wanted to go out for a while and see some real people.
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