I 'm udderly thrilled to be here with you as Fan GoH at Odyssey con!
It is my pleasure to have drawn the convention's crazy cow logos and T-shirt designs for 9 years. The first was in 2001, when the con was just a tender little green shoot poking through the snow. The shirt showed the moment where the cows meet the Arthur C. Clark black monolith and have a sudden wild epiphany of fandom.
This year has the august "Cowager Empress" to honor the Year of the Ox, - and the convention has grown into a sturdy plant, with years of good times to its credit.
I have been involved in fandom for quite a while, so I call this address "This Old Fan".
There's an age at which many children fantasize about not truly belonging to their families. Secretly they know they were switched at birth, and their REAL parents, -who are rich, or royal, or famous, or magical, - will come for them one day and recognize them.
They KNOW it isn't true, of course, but they really wish it were, because it would make for a far more exciting and promising future! And somehow, make them feel more comfortable in their own skin.
When I was that age, My fantasy was a little different. (Later , I would recognize it as crypto-proto-fannish.) I wanted to be descended from sentient dinosaurs.
I figured it would explain so much! Like: why I found normal Homo Sapien behavior so utterly baffling and occasionally repugnant; why I always seemed to get the rare side effects of medication, that only the tiniest percentage of human beings were expected to suffer; why I had dry, scaly, freckley skin and little claw hands at the tender age of 10:
And it might explain my reliable talent, among gatherings of nice humans, for saying the thing that went "clunk."
The other kids didn't think I was human. I mean: I didn't even have a favorite Beatle!! I could never figure out which boys were the cute boys: we ALL, boys and girls, looked like unpromising works in progress to me. I already knew I was a creature who didn't mate outside her own species, and I was beginning to bet humanity wasn't it. I found myself conducting cautious field studies of my fellow students, like Jane Goodall did of the Gombi chimps, - only with out the affection.
I cared far more about the past and the future than the present. I never fit in.
Sentient dinosaur gave me an interim secret identity with a certain cachet.
But time moved on.
One day, grown up and living in Madison as a baker and cake decorator, I saw an ad for illustrators for a new local magazine of feminist science fiction called Janus. I loved to draw, so I showed up at a meeting with some examples of my work, fell under the hypnotic spell of Jeanne Gomoll, and when the pastel fog had cleared and the strange music went quiet, I found myself doing illos, layout and paste-up for Janus and Aurora AND the WisCon program book as well, AND volunteering to work on the con, with a post hypnotic suggestion of "Con Committee" floating at the back of my reptilian brain.
It was my equivalent of doing drugs in the 70's, but without the allergic reaction!
I found friends as weird as I was. The Madison SF group would have welcomed a velociraptor if one had volunteered to work the con. In fact, I came to suspect, during several fraught and stormy con com meeting "disagreements", that I was probably not the ONLY velociraptor present, - but I'm not naming names.
The people I met by helping out introduced me to others of a similar sympathetic bent, in widening circles and in different places. And these were not some sulking "salon de refusees" outcasts who saw themselves as failures in a mundane society, but a highly charged bunch of wonderfully odd, original individuals full of ideas and plans for things that had never yet been tried.
Their motto was "Try it. If it's fun, do it again. Repeat as often as possible." It was magic of a sort to me.
There were all sorts of things to be involved with in fandom: gaming, writing, publishing, panels, parties, meetings, parties that compulsively turned into meetings, amateur theatricals, subverting the dominant paradigm, filking, costuming, and hanging out doing weird stuff and messing with peoples' minds.
I also met Greg Rihn, the marvelous man I married, through fandom, and for that I owe it many thanks. When my parents met him for the first time, he was dressed as a Ring Wraith for a Hallowen Cable channel 4 gaming session, black fabric whwere face should be, glowing red eyes and all. They knew at once that this was "the one" for me.
And it all has been fun and it is still fun! And I am continuing to repeat it as often as possible!
And, you know, looking back, through the opportunity kindly given to me by OddCon, it occurs to me that, after all, my childhood fantasy has come true.
I am still sentient, and I pretty much find myself to be a dinosaur these days!
Most of the fannish things I do looked a lot different when I began than they do today, and looking back gives me a weird Doppler sensation of time.
My first con was WisCon 3! They are up to 33 now! (That was back in the Silurian age, when primitive life forms scuttled on shallow sea floors.)
I was recently interviewed by a young graduate student doing thesis work on long ago feminist publications, and in the end I had to tell her, "If I'd realized the project was going to be History, I'd have paid more attention."
I have friends who learned to program on room-sized computers and worked on the Hubble telescope in it's infancy.
I typed on one of the last mimeo stencils going and printed on twilltone. I laid out a published magazine with scissors, presstype and a hot wax roller. Even today, when I cut-and-paste a printout, I often find it as fast to ... CUT AND PASTE. Literally!
But then, my illustrations come to me through pen and ink. Even in fandom, this has all been supplanted by Printshop and Photoshop and online art sources, and it all looks splendidly professional. But my art flows up from actual paper through a real pen or pencil to my dinosaur claw and brain, and that's how it stays fun for me.
I have been in at least one APA for 24 years, which means I was typing LOL and ROTFL before many people now doing it and feeling contemporary about it were EVEN BORN. We had master LoCs (abbreviation for Letters of Comment) like Harry Warner Jr. who made a monumental international reputation out of writing letters to fanzines. In a way it was like blogging, only conducted at glacial speed compared to, say, LiveJournal, and at the speed of interstellar astrophysics, compared to twittering. As a shameless dinosaur, I find I like it that way.
A conversation conducted at the speed of Tolkien's ents!
My year as a judge for the Tiptree Award was made interesting by two young co-judges who conducted intense late-nightly e-mail (firefights) debates over the book nominees. I'd read their comments the next day, - when I had time, - think it all over, and at the end of the week, sum up the arguments, - ponderously pondering, apatasaurus-style - and give my opinion. It drove them wild! At first I was embarrassed by this slow fogeydom, but in the end I came to enjoy it. THEY expended all the angst and energy, I came in at kill.
But - back to the Jurassic. I'm so antique, I was once a provider of stale bakery goods to Rev. Ted's charity. Yes, those iconic stale croissants are on my conscience! (I deny all knowledge of the chicken.)
I have Smoothed in a circle at WorldCon with Tucker!
When I started gaming, all of AD&D was contained in 3 books with way too many dice, and I had to draw character portraits for the players. Contrast that with sumptuous avatars and games like World of Warcraft!
And now I am here as Fan Guest of Honor, a fannish apotheosis after decades devoted to warping reality and encouraging the play of ideas and fun.
Or ... since there's a Dark Side to everything, is it actually the chickens coming home to roost? Back in school, my peers would have gladly voted me as Most Likely to Be Crowned Queen Nerd For A Day.
But I don't think of it that way.
I think that, over the years, my real Family of Fandom came for me.
And for that, thank you all, and thank you OddCon!