Thursday, January 29, 2009

Warren Buff, Raleigh, NC


Greetings, Guy!

Let's start with the Sheryl Birkhead cover. I've been enjoying her little critter drawings in a number of zines for a while now, and this full-sized piece is the same quality she's been producing, just bigger. And in glorious full color. There are several pieces in here I first read in SFPA, which I appreciate – I love that some of the members are getting out into genzines, and hope that a little bit of that effort flows back. Anyone interested, just ask Guy for the contact info for Dave Schlosser, the current OE.

Speaking of SFPA, I see that there's a glorious tribute to the 100th disty, from 1981, way back before I was even born (two years later). Your reminiscences about the condition of the South back in the early 60s, when SFPA was born, remind me of Randy Newman's wonderful "Rednecks", which is one of the few truly epigrammatic songs I know (the other prominent one being "He Stopped Loving Her Today"). And with your references to early Southern fandom, let's not forget that Charlotte had a burgeoning scene in the mid-50s, centered around the recently arrived (and soon to depart) Bob Madle, who wrote up a lot of those days in Mimosa, a fact I only discovered a few months after I called him to ask about the Charlotte days. They'd connected with Atlanta to run a couple of cons, SECON I & II, which were sort of precursors to DSC. Overall, I'm delighted to hear about the glory days of SFPA, and hope we can attain such heights (or even approach them) for SFPA 300 in a few years. I'm still trying to win over young fans.

I'm also glad to see Toni's DSC GoH speech in print, as I'd been ordered by the conchair to take a nap, and had to miss it. She mocked me for not showing up when she name-checked me, and rightly so – I'd been scheduled to be there for the speeches, and when I didn't show up to introduce folks, no one rightly knew what to do. Such are the perils of three hours of sleep.

Of the longer pieces, I was rather thoroughly enlightened to the world of dog shows by Mike Resnick's piece, but what really caught my eye was your retrospective on your time in NC – "Birth of a Notion." The Klan-Nazi trial has been a source of shame for North Carolinians since the verdict came down, but thankfully, it's not the sort of shame that sits in the dark and broods.

I suppose the best way to illustrate this is a story about my roommate's Uncle. See, Uncle B. was a klansman. He was also half-Cherokee, and married a black woman, which interferes with the popular image of the Klan as a purely racist organization. That wasn't quite it. In its second incarnation (the one following the War Between the States), the Klan started out with the intention of preventing poor people from voting, which led to the eventual retaking of the South by the Democratic party. The crazy bastards conducted their meetings in Greek, and it was generally a case of the local elites fighting the national elites to see who could better control the local plebes. The local elites won. As time went on, the Klan definitely picked up a racist tone, but not quite the one it uses today. After all, they took Uncle B. He was even given a leadership position, and when the local sheriff thought that somebody had escaped justice, Uncle B. would get the word, ambush the guy, drag him to death behind his truck, and feed the body to a brood of lynxes which he had captured and raised himself. Not exactly a gentle, loveable fellow, but something a little different from the Klan's modern image.

In those days, the Klan was a social order beyond the law, reminiscent of the Mafia's role in the Son of Sam case (they essentially asked the local law to get out of a section of town, and at the end of the night, told them they wouldn't have to worry about the serial killer any more – it's likely that the guy who went to trial was a copycat). In that regard, the Klan-Nazi trial broke their power. Sure, they still had enough to get out of any convictions, but they no longer had the clout they'd needed to operate as the order beyond the law. It turns out that killing unarmed doctors in the street, on camera, tends to turn public opinion rather decidedly against you. It was no longer an organization with which elites could be associated.

They may have won the trial for their freedom, but lost in the court of public opinion. I can report that when the Klan and Nazis last assembled at the NC State Capital Building, not a single North Carolinian was among them. One person I knew to be a Nazi was skulking down Fayetteville Street, watching the proceedings from a safe distance, but the composition of the day was approximately a dozen fuggheads on the Capital lawn with a little amplifier and microphones, one hundred police forming a barricade, complete with mounted officers, snipers on the roof, and riot gear, and six hundred counter-protesters, who at various times could have been riled up into a lynch mob against the Klan (and the bitter irony remains that North Carolina has not yet stricken its lynch laws from the books).

An old hippie lady recognized my powerful set of lungs, and handed me a sheet of chants to lead. I didn't mind that one bit, as it allowed me to control the message of about a hundred of us as we drowned out the amplifiers with the sheer power of our lungs. My build (heavy), attire (heavy sport coat, tie, and fedora), and enthusiasm made me a favorite place for the rooftop snipers to aim. There were a few small squabbles as protesters tried to leave the designated area set aside for us (we weren't allowed to surround them, after all), and some high school anarchist set off a smoke bomb, but overall, it was an orderly, firm denunciation of the Klan and their message. I hope that's enough anecdotes to redeem my state's honor.

No need – North Carolina's charming and decent people long ago redeemed it of the reek of the Klan, and its vote for Obama in the election helped redeem the whole nation. It's a new state in a new country in a new world.

When I let Glug read the ish, his first comment was on the juxtaposition of the piece on the Klan with the piece on the Matt Harding novel – "This issue is all about Guy's formative experiences – how he became a public defender, and how he became a dirty old man."

Well, I wasn't old at the time.

On a final note, I'd like to reply here to a comment you made in SFPA – you'd said that when a supporter consoled you on your Hugo loss with, "Don't worry Guy, we'll get you one sooner or later," you'd felt that this wasn't quite the right sentiment – that you wanted to earn one. How about this, then? I feel the same way about your desert of a Hugo, but when I say it, I'll mean this: I will continue to submit the sort of articles that I feel are worthy of a Hugo-nominated fanzine, and encourage my friends to read Challenger.

Sounds good to me!

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