Scattershot from a Fallen Anarchist

A zine for Minneapa 344

from Lydia Nickerson <>

3721 Blaisdell Avenue South

Minneapolis, Minnesota 55409


First: The Rant

The process of changing leadership for Minicon has been far more arduous than I expected. The concom meeting on September 14th was the first concom meeting which discussed the drastic changes that I and a number of other fen wanted to make to Minicon. It was a brutal, exhausting meeting, with shouting and tears, far worse than I had expected. I walked away from it shell-shocked and angry. This is what I wrote in the aftermath:

This is a tirade. It is not intended to spark thoughtful discussion; it is not intended to heal old wounds; it is not intended to accurately describe a soluble problem. This is a tirade.

At the Minicon Concom meeting on September 14th, I was told by one of the concom members that the fact that I do not feeling safe at Minicon anymore was my problem. She said that it was not her responsibility to make me feel safe.

This is true, in the real world. In the real world, where the cops are not reliable, your neighbors don't know you, and community is little more than a "niche market", this is true. But I didn't ask to live in the real world, nor was I given a choice. I cope with it as best I can. I make complex trade-offs, sometimes putting my body at risk rather than letting fear limit my choices, sometimes putting my mind at risk by making choices based on a siege mentality. Sometimes, I retreat to my safe home and family: fandom. However, you can never go home again. And that is what I was told by the Minicon Concom.

There was a great deal of ancient rage on the topic of the exclusionary nature of fandom. It took me by surprise. I understood another woman to say that the shoe was on the other foot, that I am being treated as mediafen have been treated. ďYou don't like it much, do you?Ē The truth is, I don't know. I wasn't there.

What I know is this. I first came across the idea of fandom in David Gerrold's Trouble with Tribbles. I found SCA, joined, and drifted away. I found the Science Fiction League of Iowa Students (SFLIS, pronounced syphilis) and found my home. There were lots of in-jokes. There were entire conversations that I simply couldn't follow. There were endless stories of people and places I had never met nor seen. Dead people and destroyed hotels danced through conversations like friendly ghosts. There were days when I was so frustrated I cried. But every time I asked, somebody told me what they were talking about. Finally, almost out of the blue, I understood that what they were talking about was not how wonderful and important they were. Rather, they were describing and detailing my history. They were passing on to me the soul of my culture.

I know this, too. I am being kicked out of the house I helped build, told I am irrelevant and unimportant by people who have never met me, and don't know anything about me. My friends and my enemies, my taste in books and movies and lifestyles is decided for me, all because I said that I wanted Minicon to focus on written sf and fantasy and the fandom to which it gave birth.

I know who my tribe is. Sharon Kahn, arguing on the other side of the "Whither Minicon" debate, told me. She said, ďSpecifically, what we're looking for is: extraordinarily high intelligence, high creativity, independence of thought, a true love of ideas, and an intense love for language and the ability to use it well. You can call these people Fans if you want: I've always thought of them (us) as Space Aliens." The only thing I would add is that those persons also have to have enjoyed reading science fiction at some point in their lives, and must continue to be readers. They don't have to still read science fiction. But they must still have that particular mind-set which causes a person to stay up until four in the morning because they couldnít put the book down, or be the type of person who goes to the library for a good, technical work on a topic mentioned in conversation. I only know of a single person involved in a life of ideas who doesn't read. Every rule has an exception.

I have been told that there is no place at Minicon for me. Yes, I know. Nobody really said that. I know. But if Minicon isn't about Space Aliens, what is it about? And why should I care?

Since this tirade has been written, there has been a lot of work, discussion, and finally a decision from the Board of Mnstf. Minicon 34 and 35 will be run by the people (myself included) who put forward the High Resolution Proposal. Which makes the rant a bit outdated. The problems of divergent understandings of what fandom is and what it is for still remain, however. The gap between myself and the woman who doesnít think that Minicon needs to provide a safe environment is still vast and frightening. But now, I am one of the people ďin powerĒ and she one of the people who feels disenfranchised. Which makes the gap even more frightening, from my point of view. It has become my job to bridge that gap, solve that problem, heal that wound. Funny how life changes in a short month.

Next: The Introduction

So, who am I, and why am I ranting?

Good question. When I find out the answer, Iíll let you know.

All right, then, why am I here?

Another good question. Itís Don Baileyís fault At the same Minicon concom meeting which led to my rant, he talked about the fine, fannish tradition of Minneapa. I had known that Minneapa was moribund, but the invitation to get involved caught at my heart. Don is not an eloquent orator of great power and skill. He speaks well enough, but heíd never make lunch money as an evangelist (sorry, Don). There was something, though, about the way he talked about community and fandom that made me want to try this. And thatís part of why Iím here. Then, Nate Bucklin asked me, ďIs it true youíre joining Minneapa?Ē When I told him I was, he said, ďGood.Ē When I failed to get my Ďzine to the last collation, he called me up and nagged. Which is what good friends are for. Thanks, Don. Thanks, Nate.

Tell me a fannish story, Lydy.

Escaping from Under the Staircase

I first found fandom when I was too crazy to take full advantage of it. I was eighteen, flunking out of college, getting disowned by my parents, and suffering from undiagnosed depression. This will get in the way of doing much of anything. It was 1980, and the only thing I was quite clear on was that I hated the entire state of Iowa. Unfortunately, I was living in Iowa City. Fortunately, the Science Fiction League of Iowa Students was there.

My first convention was Icon V. I spent most of it under a staircase arguing with my fiancť and weeping. He was jealous, though all Iíd done was enjoy myself. Fans! Fans everywhere! I was so busy making friends and talking and laughing and talking that I didnít have enough time for him. Hence, the stairwell.

I still have the t-shirt I bought in the Hucksters Room that says ďLord of the Rings,Ē though it doesnít fit anymore. I donít remember much about the convention, though I can still vividly picture that damn stairwell. I adored it all utterly, even though I saw far less of it than I wanted to, that weekend. Iíd go out, start to have a good time, get into a fascinating conversation with a stranger, and then a wan, trembling fiancť would drag me off for a private conference. Under the staircase. To explain how I was neglecting and hurting him. It was quite an emotional roller coaster and emblematic of the way my life would be for years to come.

The six years that followed were odd and fractured. Since my family had disowned me, fandom was the most important thing in all the world, excepting only this man I eventually married. I did a stint as president of SFLIS, a nominal position. I may have been elected to the post because I wasnít there to object, that being the usual way we acquired our presidents. I ended up as concom twice. (Concom in Icon lingo is similar to a combination of Exec and department head for Minicon.) I struggled with jealousy, monogamy, polyamory, poverty, and fannish politics. I drank too much.

I learned an important life lesson: Never stand in the middle of your living room floor and scream at the top of your lungs, ďGoddamn it, either marry me or leave me, but do one of the two!Ē He married me. This was worse than the stairwell.

A few years after that, he left me. I learned another important life lesson: Love canít fix everything. No matter how much I loved him, it was broken beyond repair. Endless conversations about how he felt rejected, conversations held in under staircases and in bed and at the top of our lungs and on car trips, none of them helped. He was jealous, not so much of my other lovers, as of fandom itself. I wouldnít live entirely under the stairs, and he didnít want me to ever leave.

So I moved to Minneapolis in 1986, moved in with one of my lovers, and settled down. Unfortunately, my sweetie had taken against fandom in general and Mnstf in particular because of a bad break up, and my contact with fandom was greatly reduced. Remember that stairwell? Having just escaped one, I was living in another.

We got two cats, Lilith and Ember. We bought a house in the suburbs. Ember died of feline leukemia. Losing Em was the catalyst. She died slowly, and I found myself paralyzed and ineffective in the face of complex decisions involving medication and treatment options. I turned to my partner, and found that he was unable to provide help or support. I woke up, at the age of thirty, and realized that, ďThis is not my beautiful house. This is not my beautiful wife.Ē I had gotten tired of living under the stairs, hiding.

I moved out, got a therapist, started Prozac. Did you know that one of the known side effects of Prozac is a social life? I acquired one. It didnít work out, things got awful, and finally the entire social circle exploded. I fired my therapist, hired another. I got tired of that damn stairwell. I didnít even want to visit it, anymore. I wanted out. I had had enough of crying under the stairs, trying to justify my choices, trying to allay the jealous suspicions of someone else while all around me there was a life to be lived. A fannish life, no less.

These days, I am the Domestic Pyromancer and Chair of Polypsychotics for Blaisdell Polytechnic. Translation: I live my beloved, David Dyer-Bennet; his wife, Pamela Dean Dyer-Bennet; and her sweetie, Raphael Carter. And seven cats. Between us we comprise three couples and two feline nations. Peace negotiations are ongoing (between the catsóthe humans get on just fine). Lilith, now almost 12 years old, is Queen of the downstairs, and sleeps with me most nights. I get to light the fire in the fireplace (hence Domestic Pyromancer) and try to remember to take my Prozac daily (hence my qualification as Chair for Polypsychotics). Raphael is our Misanthropologist and our Xenolinguist, David our Uncivil Engineer and Professor of Anathematics, while Pamela is the Dean as well as holding down a chair in Egyptology (donít ask).

I think Iíve escaped that stairwell. Iíve been President of Mnstf. Iím currently secretary for the Minicon 33 exec. I have a documentation project for Minicon which is languishing amongst several other fan-related projects. I have been involved in a bid to make drastic changes to Minicon, and as a result am now on the Executive Council for Minicon 34. And now, Iím attempting a go at an APA. Maybe Iím a fan, after all. And none of my sweeties mind a bit. Did you know, itís very odd to finally have achieved your heartís desire?

ST. PAUL (AP) -- Jean Brust, an internationally known Socialist activist, has died of an apparent stroke at Regions Hospital. She was 76.

Brust once called herself a ''Marxist, Leninist, Trotskyist'' revolutionary and was one of the founding members of the Socialist Workers Party in the 930s. She left it ''when it abandoned internationalism and turned toward reformism,'' she once told a reporter. She died Monday.

In 1976, Brust was a Workers Party candidate for a congressional seat and two years later she ran for the U.S. Senate. Brust was married to William Brust, a one-time gubernatorial candidate, whom she met during the 1946 packing house strike in South St. Paul, family members said. She was once arrested for beating a man for crossing a picket line, her son said. William Brust died in 1991.

Jean Brust earned a master's degree in anthropology from the University of Minnesota and taught at St. Olaf College in Northfield. She also was active in the civil rights movement.

She is survived by a son, a daughter, three brothers and a sister.

Iíve just come from Jean Brustís memorial party at Stevenís. Iím a little sad, and a lot confused.

When I heard that Jean had died, I was remarkably unaffected. Ross Pavlacís death saddened me more, upon first hearing of it, though I knew Ross even less well. Perhaps it was because I have had a very few conversations with Ross, but all of those were high-intensity, full-volume disagreements about abortion. There was a significant amount of emotional energy expended in our few interchanges. Energy, negative or positive, creates ties. I hadnít often spoken to Jean. What few conversations weíd had were entirely, utterly pleasant. I was impressed by her and afraid of her. All the lost opportunities were my fault, not hers. She was open and inviting.

The memorial was a party that Jean would have liked. There was a huge quantity of food: kosher, vegan, and carnivorous; turkey, ham, dolmades, olives, pita, hummus, babaganouj, wild rice casserole, wedding cake, salmon, and several other lovely sweet things. There was good whiskey, good wine, and good beer, as well as a quite nice port. There was good company. How many people were there? More than fifty, certainly. More than a hundred? I donít know. Comrades, friends, children, grandchildren, brothers, niecphews, friends of all of those, house mates, and more friends.

I had known that she was a remarkable woman. I had known that she was a Trotskyist and politically active all her adult life. I hadnít known that she was involved in the general strike in Minneapolis in the Ď30s. That impressed me. As it turns out, I donít know too much about the strike, and Iím ashamed of my ignorance. There are silhouettes drawn the sidewalk on Nicollet Mall, in brass, I think. At some point years ago, I learned that they were associated with a violent response to a worker protest in the Ď30s. My knowledge ends there. Appalling, really, to think that I know so little about it.

You should understand that my favorite historical figure, the person I would most nearly describe as my hero, is Emma Goldman. My political affiliation is anarchist. I have a strong fondness for the communist and socialist movements. I consider myself to be strongly pro-labor, though compared with Jean Brust I am lukewarm water in which a Lipton tea bag has been dipped next to a really strong Lapsang Souchong. If there was a living person I knew who was more like Emma than Jean Brust, Iíd be surprised. Itís a selfish sentiment, but I am bitterly disappointed that I deprived myself of the opportunity to get to know Jean better, to listen to her, and probably learn from her. Several of her comrades spoke, and one read at length from letters from the Socialist Equality Party (?) from around the world. I learned to admire Jean Brust, something which I should not have had to wait for her death to learn to do.

Why did I wait so long? Unfortunately, I know the answer. It was because she was Stevenís mother. I hope this sounds silly to your ear; I hope you havenít a foggy clue what Iím talking about.

I have just realized, tonight, how subtle the damage of a dysfunctional family can be. I donít want to turn this into a wail and rant about my own family. I can do that later. I am amazed, though, at this unexpected cost, this surprising realization. I had expected to look into a darkened mirror, and have suddenly been confronted with sunlit reality. It hurts my eyes. Oh, so that's what unconditional love looks like. So that's how adults who have principals behave. Who knew?

I was uncomfortable around Jean, unable to take her at face value, afraid of her, based not on who she was or how she dealt with me, but because of old ghosts, all unconsidered and unremarked. My ancient distrust of familial ties blinded me to the remarkable worth and intelligence of one someone who might have been a friend, or at least, a congenial acquaintance. How many other opportunities have I missed? How many other prejudices lurk behind childhood traumas, all unexamined? And my own death lurks just around the corner, will cut short all my attempts to break free of my past. Itís bitterly unfair.

I observed to Martin Schaefer that I was quite certain that the next release, Human 1.1, would have fixed death and menstruation; both are clearly design flaws. Martin agreed, but pointed out that the patch might well cause additional bugs. ďInstall the patch, power down the system, and then it wonít come up again.Ē I agreed that that would be bad, one might have to do laundry. Then I had to explain my joke. Itís from Bette Midlerís days in bathhouses. Others have told it too, Iím sure. Sadie and Rachel are talking. Rachel say, ďSadie, how do you always know when to hang out the laundry? You only ever do it on days that shine, never on days that rain.Ē Sadie responds, ďWell, Rachel, first thing in the morning, I look at Irving. If itís on the left, itíll shine all day, and I hang out the laundry. if itís on the right, itíll rain, so I donít do laundry on that day.Ē ďBut Sadie,Ē Rachel asks, ďwhat if itís straight up?Ē ďHoney,Ē responds Sadie, ďon days like that, who wants to do laundry?Ē

There were lovely pictures. There were copies of books, one by Trotsky (Revolution Betrayed?), one about Bill Brustís political legacy. There were letters and condolences. There were statements and reminisces from comrades, friends, and family. Steven later remarked that Jean would have said that it was too personal, not political enough. Iím sure he was right. She would have liked the music, though. When I left, they were doing another Union song.

I donít know how to deal with irredeemable loss. I hate death; thereís no second act, no way to fix it. Itís as total and complete as anything can be. Over. Done. Nevermore. I know how to ignore it, how to go on. Acceptance, coming to terms with, assimilating, metabolizing, I donít know how to do that. Every day, every day, so much is lost. Even if I had the gift for living life to its fullest, there would be so much Iíd never do, never experience. It seems so impossible that Jean is dead. And yet, itís just one more in a long line of foolish impossible tragedies which Iíve lived through, and less poignant than most. I remember screaming at the walls, ďI wish I didnít have a fucking familyĒ when I heard that my grandfather had died. Why form ties, love, fight, lose, die? I donít know.

Itís trite to say that Jean Brust knew the answer to that question. The problem is, I think it might be true. This may well be the idealism, or hero worship, or any other ignoble thing. But Jean believed in something, worked for it, fought for it, and still found time for family, music, gardening. An admirable life, neither lonely nor pointless.

On my way out the door, I heard Steven say that when he was a kid, someone painted "Commie Dupe" on their sidewalk. When Jean saw this, she said, "Must have been done by someone who doesn't know me. I've never been anyone's dupe."


Comments on Minneapa 343

Dean Gahlon: Iíll boldly step into an ongoing discussion that I havenít been following, the one about the ďgenius of the English language.Ē This strikes me the same way as someone talking about the ďwisdom of evolutionĒ or ďthe choices evolution made.Ē Evolution is a wonderful, amazing thing, but is not volitional. The gorgeous outcomes based on a complex interactions and random chance is one of the more beautiful things in all the world, but it is no more conscious than a stone. In the same way, English has some remarkable precision and flexibility due to its positional grammar and other structures. However, it is not volitional, and therefore I donít think that the genius lies within the language itself. At a guess, changes resulting from slovenly thought and changes resulting from clever usage of the language gain or lose currency partly based on chance and partly based on perceived need for that new term or phrase, and the exact genesis of the neologism does not correlate with itís long term usefulness or acceptance.

Don Bailey: Iíd like to say that, in regards to the big argument you referenced currently raging between Dean Gahlon and Dean Gahlon, I am completely and totally on Deanís side, and I think that Dean is a @#$!! and a bore to disagree with himself. I canít believe that you, YOU, Don, a person Iíve always thought of as MILD MANNERED and GENTLE, would stoop to pouring oil on the flames of what must, surely be a very painful argument for Dean. I am disappointed in you!!!

I envy your computer extremely. I am laboring on a Powerbook 520C with a PPC upgrade. I love it extremely, but itís age is showing and its hard drive is minuscule. David says I get a Windows box this weekend. Talk about mixed blessings!

Iím amused that GURPS is still so popular. I was living with a gamer (the finance mentioned in my zine) when it came out, and his delight when it was first published was positively sinful. I gather that it is still a vibrant part of the RPG world. Oh, and in answer to question number 9: ďMe,

just nowĒ and ďSo Iíd be able to correctly answer the second half of this question.Ē

Marty Helgesen: A friendly nod in your general direction. Having only just been exposed to Amanda, in Minneapa 342, I was disappointed not to have her inflicted upon me in Minneapa 343. My first encounter with Amanda was during the road trip to Icon. I was terribly taken aback, unable to parse it and terribly afraid that you had actually strung those words into sentence-like groupings yourself. Pamela Dyer-Bennet rescued me before I could succumb to this misunderstanding.

Nate Bucklin: Iím here, Iím here, Iím here. I really enjoyed your Ďzine. I donít know what to say about childhood war stories. For me, it feels like regretting the past is like regretting myself. Bad stuff happened, and good stuff happened, and Iím here now. Scar tissue is every bit as much a part of oneís skin as the other bits, and while you might have preferred to avoid the wound, you sure wouldnít want to be without the scar (dirt, infection, blood lossóitís a real nuisance). The whole experience gets metabolized in odd ways. I do want to hear more about being a foreign service brat. It sounds fascinating. Iíll trade, Iíll tell you what I can about being a PK, if you like.