Last month I had the pleasure of attending ICON 38, Iowa’s long-running science fiction convention. After closing ceremonies, I sat down with SFWA Grand Master and ICON co-founder Joe Haldeman, and his wife Gay, and asked him some questions.
[Alvaro Zinos-Amaro] How has ICON changed over the last 38 years? Has it changed?
[Joe Haldeman] It has. Oddly enough, not the people. The people are the same. But it’s much bigger. And fandom has changed around it. To my mind, there’s less conventional fandom and more new kinds of stuff which holds less interest for me. And I guess our basic thing is, we come here to see all of our old buddies, which is true of most regional conventions, I think, for us. It’s always wonderful to get back to Iowa because the years we spent here were among our best.
[AZA] From when to when were you in Iowa?
[JH] It was ’73 to ’77. Basically, that covered the period when The Forever War came out, and I went from being an unknown writer to a well-known writer. Iowa City is such a literary town. The University of Iowa, the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, traditionally does not like science fiction. In fact, for most of the time it has existed, it has hated science fiction. Right now, it’s not so bad. But when I was here it was a great embarrassment to the workshop that I was a famous science fiction writer. It was ironic. The head of the department at the time wondered how I was earning larger advances than he was. I mean, he was literary, and I was just a guy who wrote that rocket ship stuff.
[AZA] What would you say is the best memory you have from this or any con?
[JH] You know, most of the best memories I have are writer memories rather than convention memories. We went to cons from 1963 on, but that’s only a couple of years before I became a writer. I have interesting memories from our immature period as mere fans. Like one time, after just returning from Vietnam, I was sitting in a room party, and someone bumped against a table and a full bottle of liquor almost fell on Robert Silverberg’s head. But I snatched it out of the air, because I had my combat reflexes. I saved Bob Silverberg from a nasty cut, and I don’t think he ever knew that.
[AZA] Well, he will now. Do you remember where that was?
[JH] Washington D.C., Disclave ’74.
[AZA] Is there anyone in science fiction you wished you would have met but never got around to meeting? And if so, why that person?
[JH] I met Edmond Hamilton once or twice, and he was a giant. I wished I would have known him better. Of the old guard, the one who affected me most as a writer was Olaf Stapledon. The first science fiction book I read after I knew I was going to be a writer that really blew me away was Last and First Men. I thought, “What a huge, monumental book.” A great book, and a long one. So I guess Olaf Stapledon would be one of the people I wished I’d met. Another would be Philip Wylie. But I think more than that, there were people who I did meet who I’d like to have spent more time with. I’d love to have been a friend of Heinlein back in the 60s. I could have met him then. I was around. I didn’t meet him until 1975. By that time he was getting pretty old.
for the rest go here: