This was written in August, 1991. It was intended to serve a speech at Rivercon, where I had been invited as the Fan Guest of Honor. But as it turned out, I didn't have to give a speech; I was interviewed instead. At the time, I was relieved, because I was nervous about the idea of speaking to a big crowd. I did manage to do a bit of the "Trouble in River City" bit as part of the interview, but most of the speech was never given.
First, I'd like to thank the committee for inviting me here to Rivercon. I've been having a great time.
My talk today has two parts, both pretty short. The first part is about my personal relationship with Louisville; it's called How Louisville Changed My Life. The scond part is directed at you; it's called Trouble in River City.
How Louisville Changed My Life
I've been to Louisville three times before this weekend, and every time I've been here it's marked some type of turning point in my life.
The first time I was here was before I got involved in science fiction fandom. I had been at college for a year, at Radcliffe in Boston, and my parents moved to Louisville because my father had accepted a job as a customs inspector here. It seemed surprising to me at the time that a city a thousand miles from the ocean should need a customs inspector, but I soon learned that a lot of cargo is brought in "in bond" up the Mississippi River and doesn't go through customs until it reaches its final destination.
In any case, here I was spending a summer in a town where I didn't know a soul. I was depressed because I had been having academic trouble at college, it seemed amazingly hot and humid (I'd previously lived in Connecticut, Minnesota, and Massachusetts), and on top of that I had trouble finding a summer job. I hope you can understand that I wasn't too crazy about the place at first.
In finally did find a job: as a carhop and waitress at a "Jerry's Big Boy" out on the Shelbyville Pike. It was my first work experience, and it had a big impact on me. You see, before I came to Louisville I'd been having so much trouble at school, both academically and socially, that I became convinced that I just wasn't college material and maybe I shouldn't go back. But there's nothing like spending a summer as a carhop to convince a person that maybe a college education is a good idea after all. I did go back, which turns out to be a good thing, because it was at college that I discovered science fiction fandom.
So that's the first time that Louisville changed my life.
The next time I came to Louisville was for the NASFiC in 1979. I had been chosen as chair of the 1980 Worldcon, which was the following year. Now you have to understand that I hadn't become chair because of some deep burning fannish desire to run a Worldcon, or because I was such a great organizer (at least at the start), or that I had charismatic leadership abilities. No, the main reason I was selected was that I was the person on the committee who was feuding with the fewest other people. At the time, I was fairly shy, not very assertive, and was uncomfortable meeting new people. A lot of the things that con chairs have to do seemed very scary to me: things like negotiating with hotel reps and running meetings.
So I came to the NASFiC, a year before the Worldcon, my first major contact with outside fandom since we had won the bid. And here were all these Big Name Fans who wanted to talk to me, and ask me favors, and give me advice. And after a little bit of time, I realized that having Power can be Fun!
Let me tell you, when you're chairing a Worldcon, you're never at a loss for small talk. "Hi. What are you doing lately?" "Well, I'm chairing this Worldcon..." opens endless possibilities for conversation. Even in the mundane world, it gave me a certain stature, if only as a bit of a weirdo. "Here's Leslie - she's running this big sci-fi conference..." "Wow! Do you know any science fiction writers?" "Well, as a matter of fact, I do..."
Discovering this new-found ease and confidence with social interactions was the second turning point in my life that happened in Louisville.
Up until Noreascon 2, I'd been a fannish worksaholic. I couldn't enjoy myself at a convention unless I was working on about six different things and running non-stop all the time. I never got to see the program. But running a Worldcon really cured me. After Noreascon 2, I learned what fun it could be just to attend a convention. I was so burned out that it wasn't until about four years later that I could actually bring myself to even gopher for a few hours.
Although it wasn't exactly a turning point, attending Rivercon a few years after Noreascon epitomizes for me this change of attitude. The memory I have of that Rivercon involves the Galt House pool, overlooking the river, and a large shiny black floating object brought to the con by Ken Moore. It was what I gather is Ken's famous inner tube, and on it I found bliss. It was big enough for two, and my friend Ellen Franklin and I spent hours just floating in the pool talking about life, the universe, and everything.
After that I stopped working so hard on fandom and spent some time smelling the flowers (literally - I really got into gardening). I also got into the sport of orienteering (which involves running through the woods with a map and a compass trying to find preset control points). And just generally trying to find time in my life to enjoy things.
(We'll not talk about editing The Mad 3 Party - that was just an abberation in this general theme of mellowness. And actually, you've got to keep in mind, once you've run a Worldcon, editing a 22-page publication every 6 weeks does feel pretty mellow by comparison!)
So that's the story of me and Louisville. As to whether my visit here this weekend will change my life, only time will tell. Thanks for inviting me here to find out.
But enough about me -- let's talk about you.
Trouble in River City
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