San Jose Worldcon Panels

(From Facebook post, 20 August)

Among the highlights of this year’s Worldcon, sadly, were tributes to Gardner Dozois and Harlan Ellison. I posted comments about the Dozois tribute on Friday. Back home now, I’m catching up on notes about the convention, and for now will post this about the Ellison tribute. I’ll have more notes about the convention, and other interesting panels, tomorrow.

I didn’t take notes on the Ellison memorial panel, so I’m writing completely from memory. By Saturday the convention became characterized by overcrowded rooms. I got into this event by going early, by some 20 minutes, and sitting through the end of the previous panel (about Philip K. Dick-ian metaphors, a not uninteresting subject itself). The Ellison panel consisted of Tom Whitmore, moderating, Robert Silverberg, David Gerrold, Chris M. Barkley, photographer and lawyer Christine Valada (whose black & white gallery of photographs of SF authors, though some 30 years old by now I think, is displayed annually at the Worldcon), and Nat Segaloff (author of the Hugo-nominated book A Lit Fuse: The Provocative Life of Harlan Ellison).

The panel was a perfect, balanced, blend of tributes on various levels. Whitmore, understanding that any one of the panelists could fill hours with stories about Harlan, advised them to limit their stories to events they personally were involved in or witnessed. So Silverberg talked about how he and Harlan met in New York City in the early ‘50s and roomed nearby; Gerrold about his personal crisis in the early ‘70s and how Harlan saved his life; and so on. Later Whitmore shifted the theme to Harlan’s work, his stories. Silverberg told of his and Harlan’s very different ideas about fiction, how he dismissed the manuscript of “The Deathbird” – written at Silverberg’s house (but did not throw it into his pool, as rumor has it), yet later wrote a letter to Harlan about how he admired several of his stories as great works of science fiction, including 1974’s “Adrift Just Off the Islets of Langerhans…” Christine told stories about how Harlan had to be held down in his chair to finish a story by deadline.

There was much more. David Gerrold posted on Facebook “The Harlan Ellison Memorial Panel was the best panel I have ever been on at any convention.” And he provided an audio-only link:

Edit: I have to add Silverberg’s perfect final line, as Whitmore said that we would not see anyone like Ellison again in our time. Silverberg said: “One was enough, Tom.” And the audience cracked up.

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