I am still supposed to be writing the next Debarkle chapter but in the process I have got lost down a rabbit hole of reading 1970’s fanzines. So today’s post sort of feels like a standard post I’ve written here before (I read something at File 770 and then add my own 2-cents) but this time we are all wearing flared trousers and garish shirts. The thing is, if I had known about this one I’d have worked it into Part 1 of Debarkle somewhere because it feels like it touches on lots of points.
The starting point was File 770 issue number 5 (June 1978) and a column by Dan Goodman about Harlan Ellison and his issues with being Guest of Honour at Iguancon.
“Could he have known?https://www.fanac.org/fanzines/File770/File77005.pdf
A Statement of Ethical Position by the Worldcon Guest of Honor has been widely published. In it, Harlan Ellison says (among other things) that when he accepted as Iguanacon’s Guest of ‘Honor.” he had no foreknowledge that Arizona’s non-ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment would become an issue. Perhaps He didn’t foresee. it. But he could have……All he needed to do was to read and think.”
The column goes on to explain itself but assumes people are familiar with the background — which decades later and half a world away, I wasn’t. In fact, the background exposed a massive hole in my general knowledge of US politics because I was wholly unfamiliar with the Equal Rights Amendment, never mind how the politics of ratifying it had its own Worldcon mini-drama. I’m sure American readers here know the story but for the rest of us here is Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equal_Rights_Amendment I feel like I should know all Harlan Ellison related stories but also that there may be far too many of them.
The Worldcon part was that Ellison was scheduled as the Guest of Honour at the con which was to be held in Arizona but then Arizona refused to ratify the amendment.
I can’t find the text of Ellison’s statement online anywhere, although I believe it was published in multiple places including Locus #207. The fanzine Karass #36 had a longish piece with quotes from Ellison:
‘Iguanacon: The 1978 Worldcon to be held in Phoenix now seems to be in for its share of problems. Professional GoH Harlan Ellison has announced that he will use his position as the GoH to support the ERA (Equal Rights_Amendment). Since “Arizona has not ratified the ERA”; he will use his position to make the convention “a platform for heightening the awareness of fans and Arizona as a whole…I will do this because I feel I must, but in a way that will minimize any crippling of the convention.” However, he also says “I suggest fans coming to the convention, figure out ways to withhold money from the state as much as possible. The Convention Committee should assemble a list of acceptable campsites for those fans who prefer to stay elsewhere than in the convention hotel. I will be one of those people; You are invited to stop by my tent, wherever it might be. But more: bring your own food. Set up feeding arrangements with local fans. Don’t shop in the stores. Spend your money with the out-of-state dealers in the huckster rooms but stay away from the tourist facilities.”https://fanac.org/fanzines/Karass/Karass36-001.html (text retrieved using OCR with some clean-up)
Anyway, I don’t know if Ellison did stay in a tent and I also apologise to any blogs that I read who have probably discussed this incident in-depth at times when I probably should have read about it earlier!
This has been an episode of Camestros learns things he should already know by reading stuff.
ETA: Thanks to Mike Glyer who provided a link to Ellison’s statement https://fanac.org/conpubs/Worldcon/IguanaCon%20II/Iggy%20PR%203.pdf#view=Fit
The statement itself is a bit of a mixed bag, Harlan’s plan is not well thought through. However, I do quite like the grandiose ending even it is a bit mean to sitcoms:
“Can we continue to deal with sf as merely escapist fiction, pointless, mindless entertainment, no nobler than trash novels or tv sitcoms, when we howl in outrage at reviewers and critics who accuse the genre of being no more than that? Can we permit the gap between what we say we are, and what we really are, to exist? Or is this, perhaps, a moment when we can make a brave statement with our fiction, our literary love, our bodies, and our annual World gathering? Arizona, the WorldCon and I offer you this opportunity”Harlan Ellison