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If there is a better way to spend five days than as toastmaster at a ConAdian Worldcon, I cannot think of what it might be.  From the invitation to be toastmaster rendered by Con Chair John Mansfield all the way through to the round of applause Regina and I received from our fellow passengers as we boarded our flight back home, it was entertaining, fulfilling, funny, moving, important, silly, esteem building, and but one moment of worth crushing horror.



First, The Horror

Toward the end of the opening ceremony, which went exceedingly well, came the moment when I was to introduce the major cheeses who, after running a successful bid, were putting on ConAdian 1994. After the opening ceremony ended on a successful note—I thought—the con chair, John Mansfield, approached and informed me that I had neglected to introduce one of the rather central members of the con staff: Namely himself.


In panic I looked at my script, his name was in there. Somehow caught up in the moment I must have skipped that line. Certain apologies fall short next to the events that bring the need for apologies into being. Failing to introduce the fellow who busted his butt to bring a Worldcon into being in the City of Winnipeg at that self same Worldcon was just such an event, and that was only the first day of the con.  I immediately projected that this was going to a horrible, five-day, gut-grinding guilt pageant with me the principal non-Canadian object of scorn. It turned out to be anything but.



The Interview

The next item on my agenda that day was to be interviewed in front of a live audience, and apparently the person scheduled to interview me was a no-show. John Mansfield filled in for the missing interviewer, he graciously avoided covering my error in his questioning, and between us and the questions from the audience we had a lot of laughs.


The big question from the audience, of course, was why wasn't a Canadian serving as toastmaster at ConAdian? The fellow who asked the question gave the impression that the con committee had somehow let down Canadian fandom by allowing a non-Canadian to serve in such a prominent position. It wasn't my question to answer, which was good because "I'm a really nice guy" didn't seem sufficient.


John explained that I had been an early supporter of Winnipeg's Worldcon bid, he knew me, I knew a good many of the names and faces in fandom and among writers and artists, and I had served as GOH at the con he had organized years before in New Brunswick. I suppose the most important thing that came out of that interview was that world-wide sf & fantasy fandom is very much a family of round pegs in a world of square and super-square holes. Slinging about nationalistic and other divisive labels did not seem a promising benefit to a community whose only requirement for membership was an interest in or love of the literature, art, and music of the fantastic. I was a member and Regina and I were made very much at home in Winnipeg and at ConAdian.



Hugo Awards

Working with the staff responsible for the Hugo Award Ceremony, in both design and production, was such a pleasure. I proposed modeling the ceremony after the 1980 ceremony at Noreascon II, presided over by Toastmaster Robert Silverberg, in which I received a Hugo for Best Novella ("Enemy Mine") and the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. It was a wonderful experience.


During rehearsal, I skipped over my pre-ceremony warm up. It was something of a comedy event and I hate letting the cat out of the bag before it has its kittens. The staff took direction well, and it was easy for me to modify what I was going to do according to the needs of the staff and video taping crew.


In the warm up I covered a much neglected literary area of science fiction and fantasy, the editorial rejection. It was an omission I intended to correct through the presentation of the No Award for the best editorial rejection slip or letter. Using that as a means, I yanked on quite a few editorial chains.  Each laugh was a treasure, and after the ceremony, as a reward, author Joe Haldeman gave me a very big hug. It was a special treat for me that one of the award presenters at the ceremony was Robert Silverberg.




So many great moments, meeting and hanging out with old friends, getting to discuss a few of my works with fans in the con suite, seeing fans costumed as clowns and circus performers from my Momus stories at the special event for guests of honor, meeting writer GOH Anne McCaffrey, finally getting to meet one of my favorite illustrators, artist GOH George Barr. The panels I was on were terrific, and the City of Winnipeg was beautiful. The two restaurants at which Regina and I ate were superb.


Most important to me were the fans I met who shared their thoughts, dreams, and special costume treats with me. One woman showed me a coat the outside of which was covered with pieces of CDs creating a multi-colored reflective lightshow wherever she went. Another was collecting autographs on her coat that she would later embroider in bright colors. She collected mine, as well. Long talks – late talks with new writers, fans, a lot of not-so-new writers, and dropping into bed late at night wishing I had youth and energy sufficient to keep at it all night and every night.


As I mentioned at the top of this piece, after the con when Regina and I boarded the plane for our flight home, as soon as we entered the passenger cabin, all the passengers gave us a big round of applause. Except for the glitch at the beginning, we had done well. I remember saying to Regina, "I don't think we can ever equal the time we had here unless they have another ConAdian." It felt very good, but that was not the most touching moment for me at ConAdian 1994.


Early one morning, while Regina was back in our room getting dressed, I went down to the convention center cafeteria to get some coffee for us. My head was filled with greetings and scribbling a few autographs on the way to the cafeteria, in addition to the things I was supposed to do that day. As I got into line to pay for the coffee, a young man came up behind me, took the two big cups of coffee from me, and said, "Here, let me pay for these." I looked at him in surprise. I'd never seen him before.


He told me that he had seen the panel I had been on the day before. In the process of answering a question (I forget what the panel's subject was) I gather I illustrated my point by revealing that I was a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. I don't often remember specific questions nor my responses in any sort of forum. Among my issues, I am severely ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder), which means I never have to watch reruns; Every movie is a new release. Although I didn't remember exactly what I said, the man told me that his wife was a writer and she had been one of my fellow panelists. She was also a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, and this had been a secret that had been crushing her for years and during their entire marriage. Nevertheless, from my bit of sharing she understood, finally, that she was not alone with this problem. She had plenty of company, it wasn't her fault, and it was possible to get to the other side. Although such abuse leaves scars, one can recover sufficiently to live a life of creativity and joy. After paying for the coffee, the young man gave me a hug, handed me the two cups of coffee, and that was the last I ever saw of him.


I was rather stunned by this. Childhood sexual abuse, incest, and rape leave terrible mental scars on children that, unless treated, lurk forever sucking much of the joy out of life. It is hard for the survivor. I believe it is even harder for those who love the survivor. It is terrible to stand by helplessly as a loved one goes through this nightmarish pain. The young man had seen some hope in his wife's eyes after that panel. She told him why, and for the first time in months he heard her laugh. He thanked me, and, yeah, I had to go find a quiet corner away from everyone and have a rather solid weepy moment of my own as I got together with my past and my new relationship with a Higher Power and sent a prayer off for this young man and his wife in their struggles.


In interviews and online I am sometimes asked what my favorite convention was. I am asked this most often by those who believe they know the answer. Such folks assume my favorite con was Noreascon II in Boston at which I won those awards. They are sometimes puzzled when I tell them they are dead wrong. Now, pardon me while I gush: I have been going to cons and worldcons since 1978, and although there have been many cons I have enjoyed, ConAdian 1994 stands far above the others in my memory for sheer joy, interest, ideas, importance, fellowship, friendship, love, and inspiration.


I borrowed the title "Best Job I Ever Had" from the war movie, Fury. In that movie, the soldiers often use that expression cynically. For me, it is a term of precision. I use it to describe the best job I ever had. I hope I live long enough to see and possibly attend ConAdian II.


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It doesn't have so much to do with writing. The previous post to the Webmansion Writers Blog has to do with being a writer. It also has to do with being a performer, artist, student, teacher, lecturer, or anyone else who holds social, political, or economic views different from those in control of that person's means of advancing or making a living. During the campaigns, I caught someone on camera attempting to steal my Trump sign that I had cleverly cemented into the ground. I put the pictures up on Facebook because I thought all of my "pals" would get a kick out of it.

The reactions were predictable, although I didn't see them coming. You see, most of the writers, publishers, artists, producers, college teachers, and book publishers I know consider themselves either "liberal" or "progressive," to use the more current term. Ask them about being open and affirming, advocating diversity, and freedom of thought, speech, and press, and they are all for them. Then it became known that I had a Trump sign on my property. The issue wasn't the thief who attempted to abrogate my freedom of speech, or the more amusing likelihood he dislocated his shoulder in attempting to do so as the vehicle in which he was riding took off. The overwhelming issue was, "What was a Trump sign doing on Barry's property?" That was fine, as far as it went. As I responded, "To catch the big ones you need to use great bait."

Then began a rash of comments linking Trump to racism, misogynism (I'm making that a word), Islamophobia, the Nazi party(!), disregard and destruction of the environment, an enemy of educating America's youth, and the end to life as we know it. By association, I was linked to these things, as well. Well, exercising a flaw I share with former President Obama, I attempted to state the facts and the conclusions I had drawn from them. Obviously my mistake had been an error in messaging. I posted what I thought was a reasonable take-a-breath and calm-down message.

Suddenly men and women I have known for years, and in some cases decades, are running around in the sandbox, waving their tiny plastic shovels, and screaming with their hair on fire. The sentiments were often insulting, hurtful, usually senseless, and they keep coming. Some of those comments were coming from fans of mine as well as former writing students of mine, so I patched up my Obama flaw again and posted "A Few Notes On Voting Trump" in this blog on writing.

Okay, all of the above is free speech, and freedom to react to speech with more speech. But writers, artists, actors, news writers and deliverers, screenwriters, college instructors, students all across America who hold either conservative or libertarian views have been held back and often frozen out of their occupations by those same persons who laud attitudes of openness, diversity, and freedom of expression. I won't burden you with all the examples I know of. Just a taste: How many conservative speakers have you seen on the news who have been turned away by either college faculties or thuggish student demonstrations at publically funded institutions where freedom of expression, and protecting that right, is law? If you are an actor in Hollywood and have conservative or libertarian leanings, you keep your mouth shut or parrot the party line, or you simply don't work. Conservative college instructors who got tenure? Hello. Your meeting is in the off-campus phone booth near the meat packing plant. Conservative students who insist on being vocal about it getting scholarships or accepted at certain institutions, or maintaining their positions on student publications? Lots of luck.

In my own little case, I have had manuscripts turned down for libertarian political content. I have had editors post with me or with my agent "Don't bother sending Longyear's shit here" notices, due to political differences with some of my tales. I haven't sold a novel manuscript to a recognized major publisher since 1998. If my agent didn't have other clients he'd be on food stamps.

Fortunately, we live in technologically enlightened times. Just as social media and cable news outlets have made it possible for modern celebrities and politicians to get around the censorship, slant, and choke points of traditional news venues, modern book publishing technology has made it possible for the individual writer to get around traditional publishing prejudices and reach the reading marketplace. The many dozens of my readers in my tasteful and highly select audience can get my more current works through Enchanteds, our own publishing imprint made possible by Amazon's Kindle and CreateSpace publishing platforms, and the Authors Guild Backinprint program. I do not reach the millions of readers available though big publishing marketing, but the economics of small publishing these days is such that my brilliant, discriminating platoon of readers are sufficient to keep coffee in my pot, pork chops on the table, and me writing and publishing more stories.

My current work, The War Whisperer, is something I have been working on, in fits and starts, since 1963. Through the eyes of an abandoned boy who was literally born into government service, we see through his trials and adventures what the world is, what's wrong, and the implementation of a way to harness human dreams and potential toward achieving those things that today have almost become meaningless as words: freedom, achievement, prosperity, fulfillment. It is a blatantly libertarian science-fiction epic. This work is currently under construction as seven books. The way I write, I need to have the last one written and all of the others subsequently rewritten before I can allow any of them out of the shop. It is a great story, an important story, and it is being written by me. Those who like my stuff will like how this is written. Those who don't like my stuff, put in an Amazon search for someone whose writing you do like. The point is, unless there are some major shifts in attitudes, personnel, or ownership of major publishing houses in the next few months, you are never going to see The War Whisperer coming from any of the big traditional publishers.

I am not the only author the publishing establishment chose to repress. I'd love to list a few names of conservatives writing with words dressed in progressive verbiage, but the guys currently doing it need to make a living. Today it is much like during the days of the House Un-American Activities Committee back in the Nineteen Fifties when actors and writers who were Communist Party members, or who just attended a meeting or lecture, were frozen out of Hollywood, publishing, and performing. You don't have to be very old to remember history and the Nazis firing university professors who were Jewish or otherwise did not follow the party line. The same thing in Soviet Russia after the revolution. If you weren't Red, you were economically dead.

And just as sure as eggs is eggs, those same anti-Trump, anti-conservative, anti-libertarian folks condemning me and the American electorate will see no parallels between the "spontaneous" demonstrations against Trump, and most recently against his pick for the Supreme Court, and the "spontaneous" Sturmabteilung (Storm Detachment, aka "brown shirt") demonstrations in the Nineteen Twenties and Thirties designed to disrupt Adolph Hitler's opponents and repress intellectuals, Jews, Gypsies, unionists, etc., etc. Well, yeah, many of the current crop of protestors are paid to burn buildings, attack people, riot to cut off free expression, slander, vandalize, and inconvenience everyone, but they don't march in step and don't wear brown shirts—most of them. And when you think about it, Trump voters deserve it, don't they? Just like back in Berlin with those dirty commies and Jews . . . Uh, who were supposed to be the Nazis again?

So, it all has to do with being writers and that pesky old First Amendment. If you write, and if what is important to you is what you write about, then the First Amendment is your protection against the brown shirts, the paisley shirts, and the paid agitators, but only if it is enforced. Whoever gets shouted down or frozen out is important, no matter who is choking off the words nor who is getting choked. It was the anti-communists choking off the lefties back in the 'Fifties, and the lefties choking off the conservatives and libertarians up until recently. Doesn't matter whether you think someone deserves to be unheard, confined, punished, and unpaid, the loss of that person's freedom to use words is everyone's loss.

Interesting dilemma coming up in New England, 6:30 PM, February 5th, on Fox, however. Except for a stretch in Northern Maine (where I live), New England is Hillary country. Boo, Trump! It is also the Red Sox nation, and you can be denied medical help if you are rooting for any team other than the Patriots in this year's Super Bowl. However, Patriot's quarterback Tom Brady voted for Donald Trump and has yet to repent. This means that Brady supports Nazi, misogynist, racist, Islamophobic, baby-seal beating, puppy-shooting Donald Trump, which makes, by association, Tom Brady a Nazi, misogynist, etc., etc., etc. What will the Pat's fans do? I'm not sure, but if you hear Patriots fans singing the "Horst Wessel" song instead of the National Anthem, don't be entirely surprised.
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What About This Blog?

For writers & readers. For writers, this is stuff I've learned, am in the process of discovering, and stuff that is imparted to me by other writers. For readers, I believe the more one knows about what goes into the writing of a story, and into the life of being a writer, the more one appreciates an author's writings.

This is a two-way blog. Your comments on the blogs are welcome, as are your questions. Comments on blogs can be made directly on each blog entry. For questions and comments not related to specific blogs, use the eMail link below.

Barry B. Longyear is the first writer to win the Hugo, Nebula, and John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer all in the same year. In addition to his acclaimed Enemy Mine Series, his works include the Circus World and Infinity Hold series, Sea of Glass, other SF & fantasy novels, recovery and writing instruction works, and numerous short stories.