Years ago, when Eric Flint asked me to come down to Liberty con to meet him, in order to discuss a book, I told him I didn’t like cons (true) and that it was a strain (also true.) He told me it was a very small con and billed itself as the world’s largest Southern family reunion.
I went. And I met Uncle Timmy, the organizer and founder of Liberty con.
You can tell someone’s personality by what they build. It amuses me to visit old palaces in Portugal and see that they’re increasingly more ornate and labyrinthine, like madness set in stone, tile and paint.
Liberty con was neither ornate or labyrinthine. It felt like coming home. And Uncle Timmy was at the center of it.
I think he became family the first time I met him. I could talk to him about my worries for the boys, or the screwed up mess my career was (and continues to be) and not feel any of the fears I felt when talking to anyone else — even fans — in the field. He was sensible, he was kind, and above all he was trustworthy.
The next year, I brought Dan and the boys, and they felt the same way I did, and every year we looked forward to going back to our extended family at Liberty con. When uncle Timmy retired from running the con and handed it to his daughter, the spirit remained the same, and I always looked forward to getting hugs from him at the con, and to claiming a corner and a few minutes of his time to catch him up on how the boys were doing and what my hopes and worries were. He was always a warm and reassuring “elder relative.”
This year, after a series of re-sets, I was invited to be guest of honor at Liberty Con, and part of what made that special for me is that he would be the fan guest of honor. I figured we’d have time to hang out and talk. Yes, I know, he wasn’t doing well, and even last year there was some doubt he’d live till the con. But I had hopes. Just one more time.
It didn’t work that way. Worse, he died while I was away from home, almost unable to access the net. And since then I’ve not been awake enough to write about it.
So, now I am.
The last time I saw Jerry Pournelle, at Liberty con, we were standing outside the ChooChoo building and Jerry told me about the first Liberty con (at least I think it was the first) at which he was guest of honor and how uncle Timmy had made a go of it, even though the building had been a mess and the whole thing — like most beginning cons — of doubtful wisdom. He told me that most importantly he’d had fun that first Liberty con. And he figured the fans did too. Which is why he — and they — kept coming back: to have fun and share our enthusiasm for the genre we all loved.
This simple truth might seem obvious. Why have cons — or why write in — a genre you don’t love. But as we all know, the Missionaries of Prescribed Meaning have invaded our fun places and tried to make us wear pants and behave like good widgets. I will never cease regretting that they managed to inflict pain on Uncle Timmy over made up nonsense and despicable, unproven accusations.
Yes, they do it to all of us. But some people should be respected by the entire field. And a man who gave a considerable portion of his life to fandom and to making fandom fun and healthy is one of those.
It doesn’t matter, though. All those troubles and nonsense will pass, as they all do. The old “The dogs bark, but the caravan passes” applies. These dogs are toothless and worn out, and their yapping is more patently meaningless every year.
I try, at least in my own way, to memorialize those of our people whom I knew and who pass. Because we weirdos who like our strange little genre are tribe at a deep, ineradicable level. And who should remember our own but us?
Uncle Timmy will be remembered in our tribe, his memory not dimming but shining clearer and sharper with the years, as someone who built, who created, and who gave refuge and shelter to lostlings like us, in a world that often relishes in kicking our teeth in. He was father, uncle, friend, counselor, to many of us when we could find no other.
I have in recent years, as I lost more and more friends, revised all my ideas of heaven. They used to be fairly conventional: a vast space where the deserving are happy in G-d’s presence forever.
As for deserving, I’m sure Himself understands that people are people and loves us. Mostly because if I can love most people, then He certainly can. No, I’m not one of those people who thinks every monster goes to heaven. But then most of us aren’t monsters. I’ve come to believe though that Himself doesn’t keep a tally: so many Sundays without worship and ate a rasher of bacon at the wrong time. I could be wrong, of course. My mind can’t compass the eternal and ineffable. BUT I have trouble believing in the G-d of tallies, and I do believe in an Eternal and Wise Creator.
As for Heaven, I’ve no idea. It is, I suspect, like asking a two year old to imagine being sixty. Even if I had the vocabulary, I’d lack the concepts. Even if I had a vision, I’d lack the details.
So I have to make do with imaginings.
In my imagining, Uncle Timmy and Jerry are standing in front of a celestial version of the Choo Choo, back when it was dilapidated and desperate for any business and going “What about it? Do you think we can do it.”
I know my imaginings are inadequate. But I’m sure good men don’t simply get destroyed. I’m sure I’ll see Uncle Timmy again.
And perhaps in an infinite universe there’s a space for an infinite Liberty Con, for our people. A home and a family to go back to.
I figure by the time I get there, the convention will be in full swing.