I was saddened to read in this month’s Ansible that longtime fan Ned Brooks had died from injuries sustained from a fall. He was 77.
Ned was one of the first to welcome me when I got into fandom way back in my fanzine days of the early 1990s. He and I shared an obsession with collecting books, with him beating me handily by several thousand volumes. I often joked with my wife that if she didn’t stop complaining about my ever-expanding library, she should visit Ned’s house and see what a real collection looks like.
I knew him primarily through his fanzine, It Goes on the Shelf, a review zine started in 1985 in which he wrote about all the strange books he picked out of used bookstores, estate sales, and thrift stores. He had an eye for the unusual, the quirky, the forgotten. More than once I’ve gone to my local university library clutching a copy of IGOTS in order to look up some intriguing title.
IGOTS came around Christmas time every year, and my wife I always looked forward to opening up that familiar manila envelope and reading through the colored pages of Ned’s witty reviews of all the books he’d gathered in the previous 12 months. While I fell out of the fanzine world several years ago, Ned’s zine was one of the only I still received. I wasn’t about to give that one up!
Last weekend I had the good fortune to attend Dysprosium, the 66th Eastercon, in London. It was only my second big convention and I was impressed by the number of people, dealers, panels, and events. Big cons are definitely my thing!
The convention was held at The Park Inn at Heathrow Airport, which is appropriately decorated with images of aviation and space pioneers. The elevators have glowing plastic panels that change colors and made me feel like I was in an Italian science fiction movie from the 1960s. The con was stretched out. Two large common rooms were connected by a long corridor. This meant that there was no main dealers room. Instead, each dealer had their own room and they took advantage of this by hosting their own events. Elsewhen Press gets my vote for friendliest dealer for offering plenty of friendly chatter, UFO-shaped candies, and several readings. Another dealer hosted a fascinating talk on Malaysian folklore. This worked out well for the guests but I heard more than one dealer complain they felt isolated from other dealers.
Like last year’s Worldcon, which I reported on here, diversity and inclusion was a central theme. Several of the panels reflected this, such as one on Fencing for Writers, in which two women demonstrated various ways to slash and skewer your opponent. They gave several anecdotes about female swashbucklers in the Renaissance. One French lesbian fought numerous duels with men over women and even saved her lover from a nunnery by burning the place down! That’s just begging to be made into a novel. The presenters made the telling point that, “Historians have dismissed these women as exceptions, but when you look at the sources, there are an awful lots of exceptions.”