It's time to end this issue, but not before one more moment in time with Joe Mayhew. This article, originally published in The WSFA Journal, is vintage Joe at his most exuberant. It was written after the 1990 Worldcon, ConFiction in The Netherlands, and was a celebration of Joe's very first nomination for a Hugo Award. Most fans know Joe as a cartoonist and artist, but he was also a very good writer. He had many skills. He was a good friend, and we miss him.
'ConFact Stranger than ConFiction' by Joe Mayhew; 
  title illo by Teddy Harvia
I was a Hugo Nominee! I could hardly believe it, but Rick Katze was on my phone, asking whether I consented to be on the ballot in the Fan Artist category. Up until that very moment I really hadn't planned to attend ConFiction, Holland being thousands of expensive miles away from my humble proletarian rowhouse in Eleanor Roosevelt's Commie Pinko Paradise, Greenbelt, Maryland. But a little voice (my ego) told me now I really needed to attend. So, the very next day, I asked my supervisors at the Library of Congress for leave so I could attend the Con.

They asked why I wanted to go to Holland and I sez, "Because I'm a finalist nominee for an International Award." Damn, that sounded impressive. Did I stress that it was for my fan artwork?

Word buzzed around the corridors of power and then my Division Chief asked me whether I would like to be the Library of Congress' Recommending Officer for Science Fiction and to attend ConFiction in duty status as their representative. I was flattered and immediately accepted. The job as Recommending Officer would not be telling people what's good to read, but rather to develop better understanding of science fiction, its place in American Letters and to get our national library's collection of SF into shape.

As I said, I was all puffed up like Tenniel's toad with the invitation at the honor of becoming LC's first ombudsman for SF. True, there would be no additional pay despite the additional duties, and while the Collections Policy folks said I should feel free to spend all the time I needed to get the SF stuff going, my immediate supervisor had not been consulted in my appointment and resented my spending any time at all away from the duties he supervised (I was at the time Acquisitions Specialist for the Caribbean). There was just one more loose end: why had the Library of Congress suddenly decided it needed a Recommending Officer for Science Fiction? Subsequently I found out that a memo from my friend and co-worker, Eric A. Johnson, was to blame.

Eric is a Philip K. Dick fan. He had gone through the LC catalog and collection to find out exactly what of PhD's works were actually available, and found that LC had very few of Dick's books indeed. So he wrote up a very thorough report and sent it to the Collections Development folks who routed it to the reference people, who routed it to this one and to that one, but there was no place for the memo to land. No one either had, or wanted responsibility for "that sci-fi trash." The memo wandered like the little rain cloud in Ursula K. LeGuin's Earthsea books, driven off from place to place by hostile wizards so it was unable to rain anywhere. Anyway, they created a place for Eric's memo to land, and I was it.

Thus it was that I would be attending ConFiction as an official representative of the United States Congress. It was also about this time that the producers of the cable TV show Fast Forward asked me to review SF books for them, whereupon I actually had the job of telling people what science fiction books I think they ought to read. By way of escalation, doing book chat for Fast Forward helped give me the opportunity to review SF for the Washington Post's Book World. All of which seems to have grown out of my Fan Artist Hugo nomination. Gilbert and Sullivan could have done something with that.

The 48th World Science Fiction Convention was held in the Netherlands at Scheveningen, The Hague's port city, in the Congresgebouw, a convention center which looked like a parking garage disguised as a museum built by a committee of hippies and civic boosters. I arrived at the Congresgebouw in search of glory -- after all was I not a Hugo Nominee, Program Participant, Artist and Auctioneer, and yea, moreover, strangely believe it, the Official Representative of the Library of Congress to the World of Science Fiction? The Dutch, who live next door to the Germans, across the street from the English, and just a hop away from the French, are used to all sorts of pretentious nonsense and pomposities. So, when I explained who I was to the registration folks, they just smiled good-naturedly and gave me my little Hugo nominee rocket lapel pin and all sorts of ribbons.

And there were an amazing assortment of ribbons! I got one for being an artist, Hugo nominee and program participant, and felt a bit grand until I saw some kid walk by with so many ribbons he looked like a regimental flagstaff. Then I noticed that most of the SMOFs looked like traveling maypoles for all the ribbons fluttering from their chests. My three were nothing! One of my cartoons that ConFiction reprinted in their Souvenir Book showed a highly-decorated U.S. Army general glaring enviously at a Noreascon Three fan with a wide bevy of ribbons. I knew that the NESFAns were again the guilty party, as one of them had done the ribbons for ConFiction. Since Noreascon Three there has been a general ribbon escalation. The next logical step might be merit badges.

Despite my Program Participant ribbon, I was only on the program as auctioneer. That was fine with me as I was primarily interested in meeting the European Fans and in smofing and schmoozing. However, I did make it to one panel. I was in the Green Room chatting someone up when Joe Haldeman came over and said, "Hey, Joe, what are you doing right now?"

I said something clever like, "I dunno."

Joe buddy-smiled and said, "Come on, I've got a panel right now." So I got up and followed him. Actually, his wife Gay had me by the elbow. She is probably the most charming person I know; if she had suggested we walk out of the third story window, I probably would have said, "Well, sure, OK."

So we went down the hall to a program room. I started to join Gay in the audience and Joe called me up to the table; it seemed that he had drafted me to join him on a panel. Until we sat down at the speaker's table, neither Joe nor I knew what the panel was to be about. It was titled "Homo Pacem" and turned out to be about whether man will ever outgrow war. Poor Joe, they always stick him on things like that. It worked, we got the audience involved, and with the Iraq crisis and the British Falklands experience, there was a good buzz. Good Panels usually include a lot of audience participation.

C. Howard Wilkins, U.S. Ambassador to The Netherlands, spoke before the Hugos were given out. It turns out he is actually a SF reader and either was carefully briefed or is somewhat a fan. After the ceremony was over, I went over to greet the Ambassador and to tell him that the dear old Library of Congress is also becoming an SF fan, which caused a small security panic among the Con security, but not with the Embassy Staff. I explained to some officious Brits who tried to hustle me off or chew me out or whatever, that I was also an official representative of the United States, and while the U.S. Legislature was not always fond of the Executive Branch, that neither the Ambassador nor I were likely to engage in fisticuffs.

For years I had heard that the Hugo Loser's party was one of the best events at the Con. I had looked forward to attending it, certain that while I had gotten nominated, I really felt reasonably sure one of the better known artists, Teddy Harvia, Merle Insinga or Stu Shiffman, would win. (And one did: Stu Shiffman, after eleven nominations, finally got his laurel.) The Loser's Party was sponsored by the 1991 Chicago Worldcon; they gave me an embroidered drink caddie with a Hugo on it as a consolation prize. Had I chosen to cry into my beer, I would not have left a table ring. The party was rather quiet, as most of losers were attending the winner's party. Oh, well, sometimes you can't win for losing.

More recently, I have begun to sell my SF writing, and given my extraordinary good fortune in being nominated for a Hugo in the Fan Artist category, perhaps I might get nominated for a Hugo for something I wrote. Considering the results of my previous nomination, perhaps the next time I get nominated for a Hugo, it will set off a chain of events which makes me Pope.

If I got that job, who knows where it would lead?

Title illustration by Teddy Harvia

back to previous article forward to next article go to contents page