L. Neil Smith's
Number 189, September 9, 2002


A Note of Thanks
by L. Neil Smith

Special to TLE

Bubonicon is a small but very well put together science fiction convention held every year in August, in Albuquerque, New Mexico. My wife Cathy, my daughter Rylla, and I returned a few days ago from their 34th conclave. This is the first chance I've had to write about it.

I suppose I should explain, for the benefit of Californians and anyone who lives east of the Webb Line, that many New Mexicans are perversely proud of the fact that the Black Death still thrives in certain quarters of their state -- mostly in the vast warrens built and lived in by prairie dogs. (There are plenty in Colorado, where we live, too; Ryllie calls them "plague bunnies".) On a previous voyage New Mexico way, one of our Libertarian Party friends gave us colorful T-shirts proclaiming it the "Land of the Flea and the Home of the Plague".

The three of us had never been in Albuquerque before, except to execute that right turn Bugs Bunny always laments, on our way to Phoenix by way of the Barringer Crater near Winslow, Arizona, along I-40. Albuquerque is about eight hours' drive "straight" down I-25 from Fort Collins. I put "straight" in quotation marks because our new car (new to us, anyway) has a compass from which I was amazed to learn that the route often had us going northwest or northeast before we got there.

We usually stay overnight, try to have dinner with or at least a visit with our good friend science fiction author Victor Milan, and stop in the morning at the Breakfast Club on the west rim of the city, where I first tasted posole and learned that green chili in New Mexico is a very different thing from green chili in Colorado (I like ours better).

This time, we turned left onto I-40 and left again at Eubank, which brought us easily to the convention motel and a good night's sleep. The next morning we signed in and began to enjoy the annual shindig, initially by lazing around the well-landscaped pool doing nothing.

No, this isn't going to be a blow-by-blow account of Bubonicon 34. "Mundanes" (people outside the science fiction subculture) would only get bored. So, more than likely, would you and I. Certain highlights I plan to write separate columns about. I was happy to encounter more than one colleague whom I've wanted to meet for a long time. I sort of compelled another writer, a famous one who's deliberately and crudely snubbed me for more than two decades (I haven't the foggiest idea why), to communicate with me almost as politely as if we were total strangers.

Bubonicon guests I knew or knew about included George R.R. Martin, John Maddox Roberts (of SPQR fame), Spider and Jeanne Robinson, Fred Saberhagen (who informs me he's only distantly related to the famous ballplayer), Melinda Snodgrass (who singlehandedly saved "Star Trek: The Next Generation" from becoming another "Space 1999"), S.M. (Steve) Stirling, and Robert E. Vardeman. Inhabiting a ghetto within a ghetto, as I do -- that of libertarian science fiction -- there were a good many others present, apparently famous authors and artists, whose names I fear I didn't recognize. Also, the world of science fiction conventions is a rather different thing from the world of science fiction.

One of the personal highlights of the convention -- a moment that lasted no longer than a heartbeat -- was an opportunity I had to shake the living hand of Jack Williamson, now 94 years old, and thank him for making my career possible. Williamson more or less invented the concept of alternative realities in his pioneering work, The Legion of Time, all so that a beautiful princess could be rescued before her universe became so unlikely that it disappeared, taking her along with it.

Nice meeting you, Jack. Glad you rescued the princess.

The most enjoyable aspect was a chance for long visits with Vic, with my friend and partner Scott Bieser, and with Mike Blessing, an individual I appreciate more every time I see him. It was Mike who set this up after somebody calling himself Joe Knight, ostensibly of the New Mexico Libertarian Party, decided I adhere too strictly to the Non-Aggression Principle for his comfort and did everything he could to prevent me from being invited to the NMLP annual convention. It worked. His infantile behavior opened the way for me to meet and talk to about ten times as many individuals as I would have at his little clambake.

Thanks, Joe!

On the other hand, I have no way to thank Mike adequately, nor Tom Knapp, nor any of those who contributed to our being at Bubonicon 34. (They're receiving blind copies of this to protect their privacy.) But I'll try to thank them anyway. Their great kindness and generosity still overwhelm me as I write this. My wife and daughter and I have never been better treated by anyone. We'll remember it as long as we live. Happily, we had a chance to actually meet, talk, and share the water of life (Jameson's, thanks to Mike) with a few of these kindly folks.

There was a negative moment or two. Despite political and economic lessons more clearly written today than at any other time in history, science fiction remains overwhelmingly leftist, characterized, in the wake of socialism's abject worldwide failure, by a bitter and petulant nihilism, and resentment of anyone who still believes in anything, as if what history has discredited isn't merely collectivism, but all of philosophy.

Some of this became evident on a couple of panels I sat in on. I plan to write at least two articles about what was said and done. I also have a story to tell about a little uniformed cupcake the hotel management sent in -- during a public reading I was doing from our forthcoming Texas ueber Alles -- demanding to see a permit for a gun one of my listeners was carrying openly, in compliance with New Mexico Law.

I'll have something to say to the hotel management about that.

All in all, however, we had a wonderful trip down to Albuquerque. We had the best time we've ever had at any science fiction convention. (Ryllie lived in the game and anime rooms, accompanied by Scott's son Zeke.) And we deeply regretted having to leave -- so much so that we wandered around the city a little after we left the hotel, following Tramway up to the facility it's named after, then to Sandia Heights, and then checking out the Outpost ice skating rink in the same general neighborhood.

Now let's see ... exactly how many bestsellers will I have to write so that Cathy and Ryllie can walk to that rink and skate every day?

Three-time Prometheus Award-winner L. Neil Smith is the author of 23 books, including The American Zone, Forge of the Elders, Pallas, The Probability Broach, Hope (with Aaron Zelman), and his collection of articles and speeches, Lever Action, all of which may be purchased through his website "The Webley Page" at lneilsmith.org. Autographed copies may be had from the author at lneil@lneilsmith.org.

L. Neil Smith writes regular columns for The Libertarian Enterprise, Sierra Times RoadHouse, and for Rational Review.


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