ONCE A FAN...
by Mike Resnick
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
Many science fiction authors came up through the ranks of science fiction fandom and many authors proudly claim to still be fans. One of the authors who clearly puts his pen (or phosphors) where his words are is Mike Resnick. Over the years, Resnick has often taken up the fannish gauntlet and turned his attention to writing essays, articles, and memoirs for the pure coin of the fannish realm...egoboo. Some of the results of this benevolence are collected in Once a Fan....
The article sin Once a Fan… cover a wide gamut of topics, from a series of biographies of various well-known fans, such as Mark Aronson, Dick and Leah Smith, and Martha Beck, which originally appeared in a variety of program books, to memoirs of worldcons attended. Speeches and book introductions are included, as are a variety of articles commissioned for a variety of fanzines. By way of disclosure, two of the pieces in the book, “Worldcon Programming—Then and Now” and “The Best African Movies” were commissioned by me. The book ends with Resnick’s version of the venerable Book of Lists, providing sometimes lengthy lists drawn from both the articles and other locations.
The included articles are written with many humorous, although reading them all together reveals how frequently Resnick re-uses some of his jokes. Despite those repetitions, the articles are not the same and a reader reading through the twenty biographies will learn things about Resnick’s subjects, not just Resnick’s sense of humor.
Resnick’s descriptions of Worldcons, whether those from personal experience contained in five “Memories of Worldcon” articles or from historical research and talking to fans, such as “Worldcon Programming—Then and Now” are informative and give a good sense not only of how worldcons have changed over the decades, but also how Resnick’s perception of them has changed, first as a fan, and later as a professional (free meals and Hugos play a big part of the latter changes).One of the strengths of a collection of essays is that it is easy for a reader to dip into the book at random and read just a selection or two. Once a Fan… is a perfect way to get a bit of fannish history, opinion, biography, or argument, for despite Resnick’s apparently good-natured notes that his word is the be-all and end-all, it is easy for readers and fans to argue with his ex cathedra proclamations (in fact, it is easy for a fan to argue with his own ex cathedra proclamations). At the same time, Resnick has avoided any of the truly contentious topics. You won’t find his opinions of politics or religion in Once a Fan…, which is probably for the best.
Once a Fan... is a fun book which shows a different side of Mike Resnick. His fans who only know him through his novels will discover the human, and the fan, behind works such as Santiago, The Dark Lady, and Purgatory. The realization that pro and fan are not mutually exclusive categories may come as a surprise to some people, but it should come as a welcome surprise as Once a Fan... tears down the virtual wall between those who write science fiction and those who enjoy it.
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