In 1997 I was rooming with Cathy Peppers, and we met Andy Duncan at the opening reception. He told us his first story, “Beluthahatchie,” had just been published in Asimov’s. By coincidence, I had brought that issue with me and read the story aloud to Cathy that night. I found myself slowing down and imitating Andy’s drawl, at least to some extent. The story made a great “read-aloud.” The next day I told Andy what we had done and enjoyed watching his mixture of embarrassment and pleasure. So I think I gave Andy his first “fan” encounter at ICFA. Reconnecting with him and Sydney is one of the joys of ICFA and I especially like to attend his readings. He does better than I did!
I have to admit I’ve been a “fan” other times at ICFA. I tell my colleagues one of the advantages of teaching science fiction is that I get to meet some of the authors that I teach and write about. In 2000 I went beyond just attending readings. I had told my students that Neil Gaiman was going to be at the conference, and one of my female students came very close to swooning. So when I found myself at the crab restaurant with him and several tables of people and someone taking pictures, I couldn’t resist. I asked Neil for a photograph of me standing next to him so I could give it to my student. I’m sure he and the others thought I was just using her as an excuse, but I really did give the photograph to my student (more swooning). I figure she cut me out and put just him up on her wall. I also remember the chuckles that year when Neil was followed around by the Neil Gaiman look-alikes of Asimov’s story winners.
Every time the menu is read before the lunch and banquets, I think of Peter Hunt’s talk about The Wind in the Willows in 1995. The audience went from giggles to audible gasps as he convinced us that the food in that children’s book was a sexual orgy. It’s hard to see lists of food in quite the same way after having heard that talk. I won’t even try to psychoanalyze the bread-throwing incident at one of the other banquets.