Three of the most physically demanding experiences of my life
- Two-a-day football practice
- Basic Airborne course – “jump school”
- Confederation 44
Confederation 44 AKA the 1986 World Science Fiction convention was not the type event you’d usually associate with strenuous physical activity but as I was in the midst of the initial flare of ankylosing spondylitis it became an endurance test of sorts. The attendant severe pain along my spine and hips made getting both baggage and artwork from airport to hotel a definite challenge.
I would survive that Labor Day weekend on Motrin and Tylenol 3.
The Atlanta WORLDCON had not been on my schedule; not only did I have the physical discomfort to contend with – for the first time in my freelance career I was bringing in enough work for a decent income, so I didn’t see a need for making what would be a miserable trip. However at the last minute a New York book publisher told me in a phone conversation that meeting at WORLDCON was all that lay between me and more lucrative book cover assignments.
The happy ending would have me making my way to Atlanta, inking a multi-book deal and selling several paintings in the art show – all while enjoying a miraculous remission of my physical ailments. Unfortunately reality was more a matter of pain and disappointment: travel aggravated the spasms, I sold nothing in the art show and my meeting with the publisher was a bust as in “ I don’t know what I was thinking when I told you that”,
….but in the middle of it all was a definite “silver lining in dark cloud” moment,
I was standing in the art show next to my panel and feeling totally overwhelmed at having my work hung next to the stellar work of Steve Hickman when a total stranger walked up, shook my hand and said “Hi, I’m Ron Lindahn. Val and I have been looking at your work. It’s good and I just thought I’d introduce myself”.
I stood there for a moment then replied with something snappy like “Argle bargle urk”. At the time convention art shows were dominated by the book publishing industry and my entry from the role-playing game ghetto had been met with a cool response. Val and Ron Lindahn were definitely “names” in the business and I had difficulty processing what the h*ll they saw in me.
I’d seen their work and admired it from afar for a couple of years – there was a confidence in excellence that I’ve tried and failed to achieve in my own work. I’ve also liked they way they’d experiment and use non-traditional media – one of the most interesting conversations of the weekend revolved around unwinding and fraying coarse twine to use as stencil in rendering undersea plant life.
They are just as ‘excellent” in real-life as well; I spent the rest of the Atlanta WORLDCON in their company and despite the elevated level of pain I was dealing with I had a marvelous time, if nothing than for the fact that it was the first large S/F convention where I didn’t feel like a little kid with my nose pressed on the window glass, on the outside looking in.
It’s been a few years since I’ve seen them – the A/S is in full force and I don’t get out much, but I will always remember their kindness.