Monday, April 17, 2006

A Fannish Funeral - vale Diane Marchant!

I remember my early days in fandom, when I had just started to make friends. I was a member of Austrek, which at the time was the only Trek club in Melbourne (and maybe it is again, now that the others have died off!). I was invited to come along to one of the Friday evenings at Diane Marchant's home in Mordialloc. At the time, she was living therewith her mother, Jessie, but Jessie was always in bed when we arrived, so I rarely saw her. Diane was delighted to have visitors and always made us welcome. We would sit in her living room talking Star Trek, then we were invited into her special room, where she kept her collection of Star Trek memorabilia - signed photos, books, jewellery, toys, cards - and that massive collection of fanzines. Diane was only too willing to lend them out to us and that gave me the chance to read fannish Trek fiction. Afterwards, we would retire to her kitchen for supper. My favourites were the cheese and pickled onion sandwiches (I still make them, and think of her when I do). I remember, later, when she and Helene Shaw, my friend who passed away almost exactly thirteen years before Diane (about two days difference), used to play a game called ENCHANTED FOREST and argue good-naturedly abvout who was winning. Eventually, the Friday nights no longer happened. For personal reasons, Diane withdrew, even from the Star Trek Welcommittee, which she had helped found, and although she never quite lost touch - I used to get a Christmas card each year - she made most of her friendships in her local church.

Her funeral, on Monday April 10th, was in that church. We did get the fannish tree going, and most of her friends and acquaintances found out. Only about a dozen fans actually made it to the funeral, though I'm sure everyone who could get there did, but the church had quite a lot of people there, because she also had plenty of friends in the congregation.

There were some of her most cherished items on the coffin, including her signed photo of a very young Leonard Nimoy, who was one of her friends in the old days, and probably knows by now.

The actual service took about an hour, then there was a morning tea and Geoff Allshorn did a very good eulogy - the official one was during the service, but this was the fannish one. Helena Binns, our indefatigable photographer, was there taking group shots of everyone. She had taken a picture of Diane in bed, looking very much herself and waving cheerily, made copies and kindly distributed them to all of us.

We went on to the Springvale cemetery, which is surprisingly beautiful, looking more like a park than an old-fashioned cemetery, where Diane was laid to rest in her family plot, and we threw rose petals on the coffin. After that, we all went off to the cemetery cafeteria, would you believe, and had a belated lunch. It was nice having company to cheer each other up. Fandom just won't be the same without her.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

The SCBWI Conference

A few weeks back, I went to a conference in Sydney, where I got to meet a whole lot of other children's writers. Some I already knew, some I knew by name, but hadn't met, others I didn't know at all. I managed to talk Edwina Harvey into coming for at least the second day and very pleased she was she'd done it too. Two days of hearing publishers tell you what they were - and weren't - after, of writers who were actually making a living out of this telling you how you, too, might sell more, a fascinating talk by the GoH, Susan Sherman, an art director from a US publisher, on how a picture book is put together and finally published. Mind you, when the lady showed us two potential covers and asked for opinions, she seemed shocked when I suggested that perhaps she might like to ask some kids. My own book cover was chosen by kids only recently - in fact, it turned out to be the one the publishers had in mind, though they added a bit of the other cover to make sure boys liked it too (it worked). So everyone was happy. Oh, well. :-)

It was supposed to be an international conference, but, like the Worldcons we've had in the past, doesn't seem to have drawn too many overseas attendees (I suspect the GoH was the only one). Comes of being on the wrong side of the world.

I'd intended to stay at the YHA, either in the CBD or Bondi, but when I was offered half price for a small room at the con hotel, I thought what-the-heck, why not? and I don't regret my decision, which saved me some taxis. Breakfast was included, after all, and the con membership included lunch, morning and afternoon tea and dinner. I took a cab to the hotel on the Friday night, and it was not too far. It was a graceful-looking "boutique" hotel in the expensive area of Woollahra.

Now, I was expecting my room to be small, but I hadn't quite expected the bed to be a bunk or the view from the window to be the hotel laundry, which was literally about two metres away! Still, I was only going to sleep there and the bathroom was across the hall. I chose the bottom bunk, although you had to be very careful sitting up! They had supplied me with the usual hotel tea, coffee, etc., even some after-dinner mints (melted in the heat, alas - I put those in the fridge). There was a cerling fan, but no air conditioning and the room was very warm, even with the fan going.

Still, I thought, I'd have a nice shower and sit up in bed with a cuppa, biscuits and watch Star Wars on the TV, then switch off the bed lamp and sleep... Um, no. There was no kettle. The kindly manager got me one on request, but I had to boil it on the floor because there was no extension cord (he gave me one next day) and no free power points. And there was a bed lamp, but you couldn't plug it in because the pin was bent. The TV remote control didn't have an on/off switch, so I got up to switch off TV and light at the same time. Still - I got my cuppa, biscuits and movie and that night, at least, it was quiet.

Saturday night, however, I think it was forgotten I was there, because after midnight there was a rumble of washing machines from the laundry. I got up, dressed and went into the kitchens next door to ask if the machines could please be turned off. They did.

All that said, I had a good time, the food was fine and the staff were nice. I just think perhaps they might consider turning that room into a storeroom or some such. Everyone else was writing in Pass It On about what great rooms they'd had. Well, they paid full price, but you have to wonder if that particular room is normally the very expensive regular price they paid...?

It was nice to see Edwina, who accompanied me to the airport and kept her patience even when I suddenly reaslised I'd left my bag at the hotel and we had to get offthe bus and go back!

I took some photos, which I'll post as soon as they're developed and scanned. It was a fun weekend, even the room!