Frederik Pohl has died.
Ann Crispin has died.
There’s been a lot written lately about the “greying” of Worldcon. Ursula Vernon has a particularly wonderful post up about how she’s felt very welcomed by older people who share her hobbies of birdwatching and gardening, and wishes she saw that sort of welcoming attitude at speculative fiction conventions. Separately, Alisa Krasnostein blogged about her first time at the Romance Writers of Australia conference, and how different it felt from SF/F cons. “This, I discovered, is what it’s like to go to an actually friendly convention,” she wrote.
Going by the many reminiscences being shared, Crispin and Pohl could have given workshops on how to make speculative fiction conventions more friendly. “[Pohl] kissed my hand at my first Worldcon,” recalls Farah Mendlesohn. Kij Johnson writes, “I met Fred Pohl in the summer of 1994, when I received the Sturgeon Award at the Campbell Conference. My vividest memory of the event was him shaking my hand and telling me I had written a fine story. I still feel proud and warm every time I remember this.” Natalie Luhrs remembers Crispin inviting her to join a dinner group at a convention after the briefest of introductions.
Both Crispin and Pohl were devoted to the notion of SF/F as a community. Pohl was beyond delighted to win a Best Fan Writer Hugo Award in 2010; he thanked “the whole world of science-fiction fandom, which I have inhabited since before I quite reached my teens, and to which I will stop giving my allegiance when I stop breathing, but not before.” (I’m blinking back tears rereading that now.) Crispin was widely and rightly lauded for co-founding and chairing SFWA’s Committee on Writing Scams and Writer Beware, an outreach program dedicated to protecting writers from fraud and other misconduct by agents, publishers, and scammers. Her collaboration with Victoria Strauss on Writer Beware has undoubtedly saved thousands of writers a great deal of money and heartache. Her Star Trek and Star Wars tie-ins and her own Starbridge series of science fiction novels also inspired countless women to write SF.
Commenter “Neil in Chicago” on Pohl’s blog sums it up: “We know we have lost the last of the dawn age giants, but what’s striking to me is the broad, implicit reverberation of how *accessible* Fred was. Huge numbers of people are explicit about large personal debts, as readers or as pros, but no one sounds afraid to have approached him.” And at io9, Charlie Jane Anders writes, “You couldn’t really be an aspiring writer of science fiction or fantasy and not be aware of the amazing work Ann Crispin was doing on your behalf.”
The best memorial we could give these two fine people is to learn from their example. Convention attendees, let’s shift away from gatekeeping and toward welcoming people who don’t fit the current demographics of convention fandom (a phrase I use to distinguish between the fans who attend SF/F conventions and the many, many other fans and fandoms out there). Convention organizers, let’s create programming that’s friendly to teens, people of color, queer folks, women, and others who haven’t traditionally felt very welcome at cons—and invite those people to be panelists, too. (And when they tell you there are problems with a panel description or push you to have gender-balanced panels, listen to them.) Men, treat women with respect instead of challenging them to present “geek” or “nerd” credentials. Established authors and industry pros, encourage and educate new and aspiring authors in Crispin’s honor; take an extra moment to chat with a fan, sign an autograph, or make a career-changing introduction in Pohl’s honor.
Annalee Newitz’s obituary for Pohl at io9 rightly says, “His career is a reminder that sometimes the greatest contributions to the genre came from collaboration and community-building, as well as the solitary work that’s done at the keyboard.” No one can replace Fred Pohl or Ann Crispin in our community. But we can do them proud.