My Life in Fandom

Although I have been an avid reader of science fiction and fantasy since grade school, I remained largely isolated from organized fandom for most of my youth, largely due to lack of opportunity in a small town where no one else was interested in science fiction. My first association with fandom was with the former U of I fan club, ChUSFA (Champaign-Urbana Science Fiction Association). Although I was a regular user of their private library and attended meetings, I was not particularly active beyond the local circle. I believed (wrongly, but quite sincerely) that I simply could not afford to attend science fiction conventions or otherwise become active in the larger fandom arena. The situation was pretty much the same with my involvement in Time Travelers Anonymous, the local Dr. Who fan club that has also since become defunct. I would attend meetings regularly, but otherwise did very little.

During that period, I wrote to the address inside one of the Darkover books to become involved in Darkover fandom, since I'd heard that Marion Zimmer Bradley was friendly to beginning writers. I soon became involved in an Amateur Press Association known as The Eighth Domain, which allowed me to correspond with a large number of other Darkover fans in a 'zine format. Unfortunately all that changed in 1992 with an unpleasant incident that led MZB to discontinue the Friends of Darkover anthology series and generally made Darkover fandom an iffy proposition. The Eighth Domain first went to a non-fiction-only format and finally abandoned its Darkover connections entirely, becoming a general natterzine known as Obloids.

I also got my introduction to Sime~Gen fandom as a result of writing to the address listed in one of the Sime~Gen novels. However, because I could not afford to buy the fanzines, I never really became a member of the community. I'd receive the irregular newsletter on pink paper by which Jacqueline Lichtenberg kept her fans appraised of her upcoming publications, but I never really corresponded with anyone.

That situation began to change in the 1990's as I got my first computer and modem and was able to get on GEnie's Science Fiction Round Table. For the first time I was able to have almost-realtime interactions with other people who enjoyed science fiction. However, it was still all via text, and while I would read about people's trips to conventions, I still was firmly convinced there was no way I could afford to attend one.

That changed almost by accident in 1995. A fellow member of a by-mail writers' workshop needed a second person to assist with a panel on writing and workshops that she was doing at Capricon that year. Although I was initially hesitant, she assured me that membership and crash space would be covered and I'd need only provide my own transportation to Chicago. So I decided to go ahead and take the risk of driving from Bloomington-Normal in an old and less than reliable car, and off I went.I ended up having such a great time that I wanted to go to more conventions. I also discovered that fandom is like a sort of giant family, and that the roof can often serve as one's introduction to all kinds of people. Acquaintances could quickly become fast friends, sufficiently close to be willing to share room expenses. I even ended up meeting the man I would end up marrying, and becoming involved in his bookselling business.

In subsequent years my level of participation in conventions has varied. During 2007 and 2008 it hit a low as a result of financial problems, including high fuel costs and poor sales at our dealers' tables. As a result, we had to stop going to a number of cons I'd previously attended, which left me feeling rather shut out. This was compounded by some interpersonal difficulties in our local science fiction community which resulted in my feeling more and more like an outsider.

However, in 2009 a new anime convention came to Indianapolis, and my husband and I took significant responsibilities in its operation. Because we were dealers at regular science fiction conventions, we could bring our experience in logistics of running a dealers' room to the anime convention. In fact, the dealers there were soon complimenting us on how well the dealers' room was run, from load-in to load-out.

More recently we've begun to shift our business model on our convention sales, moving away from our previous emphasis on books and dealing more in t-shirts. The success we've had as a result has meant that we attend more cons, but it also means we tend to be so busy that we hardly get away from our dealers' tables. However, I have made a commitment to getting back to doing more art and having fresh art on the art shows again, so we'll see what happens on that front.

Last updated October 21, 2012.