'One of the most accepted manners of beginning a talk at a banquet seems to be to open
with An Anecdote, or A Quotation, which should either be about or by a famous person,
and which should preferably be funny. If it isn't, no matter -- the only function of this
opener is to catch the attention of the members of the audience, who have until this point
been having a good time listening to the talented speaker before you or, more enjoyable
still, talking among themselves, which is what people come to speech-sessions for anyway.
(That's what I came for, at any rate, and I was having a fine time until I had to interrupt
myself by coming up here and booming over the microphone like a mathematics lecturer with
a cold who'd misplaced his decibels.)
'Well, I'd love to start off with An Anecdote or A Quotation involving a famous person,
but the trouble is that whenever I try something like that I either get the story wrong
or I misquote the famous person or I forget who the story was about or the quotation by
in the first place. It happened to me earlier this afternoon, as a matter of fact, when I
was telling a story and I came to the punchline and it just flew away from me, completely
forgotten. It's a rather dread disease which I call aphasiastic flu.
'There is one quotation I suppose I could give you accurately, however. The story goes that
Louella Parsons once waxed lyrical in on of her columns, and wrote, "Oh to be in England,
now that it's May." I can quote this line because of course it's a misquotation in itself,
so I'm in tune with it.
'Oh to be in England, now that it's May ... or even August, the time of the world convention.
Worldcons are a marvelous institution, combining as they do the most prominent features of a
circus, a Roman orgy, a meeting of the National Society for Antiquarian Beekeepers (keepers
of antiquarian bees, I suppose), a debate in the House of Lords, and dinner in an automat.
'Over the years they've developed a number of traditional features: the costume ball, for
instance, and of course the banquet and the talk on What's Wrong with Science Fiction This
Year (it's Ted White this year -- I mean he's the one who's giving the talk); and the
Introduction of Notables, a sort of name-dropping session in reverse -- in this case the
Names are asked to rise, and some of them, depending on what they were doing the night before,
are even able to; the Ceremony of and ancient and mystical order of the Knights of St.
Fantony (Not a Religious Organization); and, of course, the Business Session, where fans
from all over the world gather to discuss in democratic fashion the matter of who can raise
the greatest number of points-of-order.
'Oh to be in England, now that it's worldcon time ...
'And you see the most mad assortment of people at world conventions: the hurried, harried
committeemen, constantly looking at their watches as though they were rushing off to a meeting
with the Red Queen; the sharp-nosed editors, sniffing for new talent, and the vodka-gimlet-eyed
authors in the bar; Old Guard fans sitting in corners and grumbling that science fiction hasn't
been the same since G. Peyton Wertenbaker, or Polton Cross, or Kendell Foster Crossen, or Joan
the Wad, depending on just how Old Guard they are; the newer fans -- the New Wave or Second
Deluge or something like that -- violently agreeing with each other, like Ayn Rand acolytes
discussing objectivism, full of sound and fury, simplifying everything; hucksters hawking,
panelists talking, neofans gawking. And there are, somewhere around here no doubt, the
inevitable Gentlemen from the Press, who want to find out where we think the flying saucers
come from now that Mars has been ruled out; writers, editors and fans who have been nominated
for Hugos and who wish to God I'd get this talk over with so we could get on to the
presentations -- some of these nominees, in fact, may have made the trip to the convention
only because they are on the ballot: tough most of the attendees have interests that are more
catholic, these nominees might be called Hugonauts.
'And, I'm afraid, we have among us the inevitable TAFF representative, who in this case is me.
'Most of you know that TAFF is the Transatlantic Fan Fund, a sort of science fictional cultural
exchange program that sends fans across the ocean alternately to conventions in the United
States and those in England. It's a system by which fans can get to know in person other fans
widely separated from them geographically -- and, to some extent, culturally. Fans from this
side of the Atlantic have made such discoveries in the United States as the fact that it's big
over there; that there are several other kinds of Americans besides cowboys, Chicago gangsters
and Dave Kyle; that science fiction fandom over there is bewilderingly varied but uniformly
hospitable to visitors; and that despite all, it's good to see Britain when they come home
again. Similarly, Stateside fans have discovered in England that places are so handily close
around here -- I could get to Scotland in the time it's sometimes taken me to drive across
Los Angeles -- that the British aren't all Beatles, butlers or Bennett; that fandom over
there is bewilderingly varied but uniformly hospitable to visitors; and that despite all,
it's good to see the United States when they get home.
'This year I'm the one who got the nod to make the TAFF trip. I've been having a wonderful
time, and I want to thank each and every one of you.
'And speaking of TAFF elections, we're going to have another one in the next few months ...'
.... Terry Carr (c) 1983.