Friends and Family

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.


62 thoughts on “Friends and Family

  1. I remember way back when Libertycon was in some rather sleazy motel complexes on the south end of Chattanooga. Back then there was always a Barfly suite where the Baen hard corps had their own bar and room to kick back away from the main crowd. Drove up from home one time, checked in and registered with the con, then sought out the BF suite. Walked in and there in the corner was Mad Mike field stripping a handgun. I knew I was home.
    I skipped last year for personal reasons, but the year before I remember sitting for more than an hour with Timmy there in front of the Choo Choo meeting rooms swapping old man and civil servant stories. It shall remain one of my fondest memories of him and LC.

  2. I’ve been a fan since the fifties, never went to a con.
    A first couldn’t afford it, looking at today’s cons wouldn’t consider it.
    Liberty con, however, would be an exception.

    1. I went to the Salt Lake City con, twice – maybe three times – in the early 1990s. It was a blast, low-key, didn’t cost a bomb, and it was (above all!) fun! It was nice to know that there was a deep and abiding pool of Wierdness in Utah, which otherwise was so strait-laced and clean-cut it about made your teeth hurt. The con drew on all those eccentric non-conformists: the SCAdians, the Trekfans, the Whovians, and all the rest, in their costumed and role-playing glory. We had one acquaintance through the con, who always appeared in costume as a Klingon, in full get-up … until the last one we attended, where he appeared as an ordinary StarFleet officer, and we didn’t recognize him, until he spoke. (Marked Scots accent.)
      I went to Bubonicon in Albuquerque once, because it happened to coincide with a weekend when I was on a TDY for NCO Leadership Academy. Again – a lot of fun.
      When I came back to the states, I checked out the local con in San Antonio, and the cost for attending it was … let’s just say that admittance for the day was not doable.
      Ah well, fun while it lasted.

      1. Bubonicon is still a lot of fun, although the SJW mentality has definitely been on the increase. To date haven’t had problems politely expressing political disagreement. I hope it continues.

  3. I am sorry that I never got to meet the man, as he sounded like the sort of character that I think we wanted to find in Fandom.

    Best wishes to his loved ones and to everyone he knew.

  4. That’s how I like to imagine Heaven, honestly. One of the jokes / wistful imaginings that would go around at my father’s funeral was how my Dad and Larry Sipin (one of his best friends who was something of a rival in his early journalism days) were likely to go find ‘interesting personages and pester them for interviews and exclusives’ in the ‘strike up a conversation and grill with interviewer’s probing questions’ type. Also wondering, ‘will they start off with pestering God, or work their way up?’

    You get to do what you love and always enjoy it, with the people you love, in the places you love.

    1. I’ve given up any attempt to imagine His home, recognizing that I’ve not the brain for it, that whatever it is exceeds the grasp of a 3.5-D mind.

      As for entry requirements … this is not a place for theological debate, and all sects have their own ideas about the entry requirements. But of one thing I am certain: I am not qualified to determine who He admits to his presence. I like the Christian concept: that He gave us laws not that we might be holy and tolerable in his presence (our lives unarguably steeped in sin, even the best of us must reek like an unchanged diaper) but so that we would understand our need for Redemption and appreciate His sacrifice to wash us of corruption.

      I pray that I will find monsters in Heaven, for I believe that the monsters we know on Earth are made, not born, and bear the burden of sins inflicted on them. For such as Haman, Hitler, Stalin or Dahmer to stand in His presence would mean that they had repented — surely a pain greater than all the torments of the damned — and been forgiven … and surely their sins are not appreciably greater than mine for all their being more monstrous?

      As I lack the capacity to imagine Heaven, so also I am not capable of ruling which of His children are acceptable in our Father’s home, nor what price is required of the Prodigal to be welcomed Home.

      Your Faith may differ and I cannot say it is wrong. What I know is that, if there is a next world, it is beyond my ken and all reports of its nature are unverifiable until we arrive there (and I am inclined to mistrust my own witness until I have had opportunity to do a thorough survey, look in the corners, under the carpets and check the math.)

      I find the concept of karma too depressing to be borne.

      1. I don’t think I can imagine what heaven will be like for everyone, but I can try imagine for my Dad and sons, and maybe a little of what would be heaven for me.

        I’ve seen karma hit people; but it’s not ‘carries into next lifetime’ type karma, but ‘in this lifetime’ sort.

        1. “Carries into the next lifetime” karma always seemed like unfair play by the Gods. It wasn’t something you did, and you don’t even know about it. But the Gods are going to kick your ass for it anyway because Thems The Rules, boi.

          Seems stupid. Maybe that’s just because I’m a Xtian, as the Kool Kids say these days.

      2. We know there will be one monster in Heaven- Saul the Persecutor, Least of the Apostles.

    2. Yes. Ever since I read the ending of “The Number of The Beast” – that is how I imagine the Heaven that I want to go to. The Con of All Cons, where I can meet all of the people I ever wanted to meet and spend time with. Those who have passed, those still with us, those still to be born – those who are real (for values of “real”) and those who are fictional (for values of “fictional”).

      1. Sundays always seem like appropriate days for Christians to contemplate God. Eternity, infinity, concepts that don’t fit in limited minds. I’m not sure we even understand the concept of “now”; since every now instantly recedes into the past, like copper wire being drawn through a sizing die.

        “As it was in the Beginning, is Now, and Ever Shall Be, Now and Forever.” Such a small sentence. Such a vast, overwhelming meaning.

    3. “When Earth’s last picture is painted and the tubes are twisted and dried,
      When the oldest colours have faded, and the youngest critic has died,
      We shall rest, and, faith, we shall need it — lie down for an aeon or two,
      Till the Master of All Good Workmen shall put us to work anew.
      And those that were good shall be happy; they shall sit in a golden chair;
      They shall splash at a ten-league canvas with brushes of comets’ hair.
      They shall find real saints to draw from — Magdalene, Peter, and Paul;
      They shall work for an age at a sitting and never be tired at all!

      And only The Master shall praise us, and only The Master shall blame;
      And no one shall work for money, and no one shall work for fame,
      But each for the joy of the working, and each, in his separate star,
      Shall draw the Thing as he sees It for the God of Things as They are!

  5. some people should be respected by the entire field.

    Make no mistake, those are the ones they tear down most avidly. They are not builders, they are occupiers, cuckoos moving into nests others have built. They tear down the histories of how those institutions came to be, and declare they are “improving” them, that what preceded was terrible, run-down and built on flawed foundation.

    But it is all lies. They are orcs who must tear things down in order to themselves seem great. Those who build, who give the world a corner where joy and love and kindness prosper cannot be tolerated.

    Here’s to absent friends, may their memories glow brightly and the tears of the friends and companions who miss them be as brief as they are heartfelt.

    1. And the latest cuckoo occupier running for President is Peter Buttigieg. Apparently he wants to erase Thomas Jefferson to ease his angst and appease the barbarian hordes. And I’m ashamed to say the man was a military officer. Hell, half the junior enlisted folks are smarter than he is, and more qualified to lead.

  6. You can tell a man by his creations. LibertyCon tells you everything you need to know about Uncle Timmy. There’s a reason this year’s con sold out in a few hours.

    For a while, it looked like I was going to be changing jobs in a way that would have made it difficult to come to this year’s. Sadly, that didn’t happen, but if it had, I’d have found a way to be there.

    I used to consider Penguicon my home. No longer. Now, it’s LibertyCon, even though it’s farther away physically.

  7. I only barely met Uncle Timmy, but even that ever so minor encounter was enough to convince me that everything positive said of him rings true.

    And LibertyCon felt “home” even when I had thought somewhere else was. And as for a Heavenly version of LC… well, maybe room for one (friendly, generally easygoing) ‘monster’? }:o)

      1. I misread the label on the ice cream bucket as “Mummified Chocolate”… monsters need goodies too…

  8. I never met Uncle Timmy, sadly. That said, I also cannot actually remember a time when I didn’t know OF him. I’m morally certain there was a time, but since I can’t recall where I first heard of him, I don’t know when that was.

    All I do know for sure was that I knew enough of him to be pissed in my own right with the attacks against him. I also know that despite being frankly terrified of the size of LC at my first trip last year (and I’ve been to GenCon! With people I’d only ever met on the internet, no less!) at the beginning, by the end I not only felt at home, but downright sad that I’d wasted time being timid the first day and a half.

    Then at Closing Ceremonies, I found out that it was Uncle Timmy who was both Brandy’s father and the man who had created LibertyCon, and I was dumbfounded – I don’t know why, really, except that he was “One Of Us”, and everybody knew that, and he created all of THIS?!

    It’s like finding out a friend of a friend that you’ve sort-of known for years, that you know likes to tinker with cars, is in actuality Enzo Ferrari.

    Uncle Timmy was a rare breed in my unlearned opinion. He took everyone as they were, made everyone feel at home, and that’s what made him great. I was hoping to get to meet him this year, but it was not to be.

    I also tend to agree that by his works ye shall know him. Uncle Timmy had two that stand out in Fandom – his convention, and his daughter who runs it. Brandy’s a miracle worker, because she almost got ME, who hates dealing with people, to actually volunteer. Looking back, I probably would’ve been better off if I had, too. 🙂

  9. Ave atque vale, Uncle Tim! Hadn’t known about him until I started reading this blog, nor about cons. Too far for me to go.

  10. I also never had a chance to meet Uncle Timmy, but he sounds like someone I would have liked to know.

    In terms of heaven, a couple thoughts. I believe the doors of heaven are wider than some people believe and narrower than others do. And God is the only one who knows how wide.

    Second, the best description of heaven I’ve found is C.S. Lewis from the end of The Last Battle. “The dream has ended. It is morning. The term is over, the holidays have begun.”

  11. One of the things that seems to have faded in a lot of the Christian denominations that I’m familiar with is the idea of G-d as being so immense that he is beyond our ken, that we cannot know what He plans/intends/perceives, and that that’s perfectly fine and as it should be. The power and mystery of the Divine seem to have shrunk to “buddy Jesus and Daddy G-d,” the cool parent who lets you hang out whenever you want to and who doesn’t enforce curfew or call your parents when you stop by to sober up after that party you weren’t supposed to be at. Likewise Heaven. If “the doors of H-ll are locked from inside,” which sounds pretty right to me, then Heaven… must be wonderful, in ways our mortal minds can’t quite fathom and really shouldn’t spend too much time worrying about.

    Even John Calvin himself didn’t spend as much time on predestination as some of his later followers did (and do). Neither did John Witherspoon, Increase and Cotton Mather, and others. Likewise why fret about who gets into The Good Place? Not our job, although we can hope. *shrug* My $0.02, before inflation.

    1. Hope. The one thing that keeps us going. Jesus brought hope. And paid for it in blood. The real shame is all the evil that’s been done in his name over the past 2000 years; but that’s on them, not on Him.

    2. I figure God’s ways are beyond our comprehension the same way adults are incomprehensible to children…we lack the required maturity and experience. I once observed of a certain six-year-old, “He’s awfully sure of himself, for someone who doesn’t know anything yet”.

  12. Uncle Timmy and his daughter have been fine people to work for, when I have the time. Honest. Dependable. Hard working. I tried not to bother them too much.

    Seemed to fit the name quite well. He’s family to a certain sort, and so are we and they. To say he will be missed is to say that water is wet, or that politicians are prone to lies.

    Uncle Timmy’s legacy is not just LC. It is all the lives he touched by his humble example. We are all the poorer for his loss, but the greater for have known him in whatever small way.

  13. So Eric did one good thing in his life, intentionally or otherwise.
    Just goes to show there are very few completely evil critters in the world, though he does comes close based on my experience and observation.

      1. The Germans were not going to conquer Finland, not in six lifetimes. The Russians were. Finland made a calculated choice between two Monstrosities. And -we- really didn’t know just how monstrous each was, until the downfall of each.

        Plenty of folks here in the 40s were quite amenable to both monsters.

        1. Finland could have helped the Nazis much more. The Finns just retook the land the Soviets had taken in the Winter War, then stopped. If they had fully supported Germany, Leningrad would have fallen, and the supplies from Murmansk would have been cut off.

    1. Eric Flint is a good guy. Yeah, he’s a card-carrying Communist, but he will at least carry on an honest debate and doesn’t try to shut down others who disagree with him – or put up with those who do.

      Anyone who’s friendly with Mad Mike and John Ringo can’t be all bad.

      1. I’m afraid that my experience is apparently somewhat different from yours.
        I’ve been in live discussion groups where Mr. Flint savaged anyone who disagreed with him, not through debate, but by disparaging and belittling those who had a different opinion than his.
        I also do not believe one should get star billing on a co-authored book where your only contribution is your name on the cover and a back door hookup with the publisher.

  14. The one time I got to go to LC, I spent most of it wandering around the Choo-Choo, thinking “Somewhere around here is where Generals Thomas, and Granger, got to show up that incompetent jackass Grant, and his bottom-bitch Sherman….”

  15. One bright spot in the flaming dumpster-fire that was Sasquan was meeting up with Uncle Timmy (again!) at one of the sponsored parties. I made sure to introduce myself as a Libertycon-goer so he would know he had allies there deep behind the enemy lines.

    Is there any thought of a festscrift in his honor, collecting any and all jokes and cartoons? Bonus if we can get a chick in bubble helmet with ray-gun for the cover art!

  16. I know of two literary representations of Heaven that I hope have some reality;

    ‘On the Gate; A Tale of ‘16’ by Rudyard Kipling and CAPTAIN STORMFIELD’S VISIT TO HEAVEN by Mark Twain.

    And then there’s the joke about Heaven that my late Father passed on to me from his (late) Father, who was a Methodist Minister:

    A new arrival is being show around Heaven. There are MANY heavens, each suited to a different group. And toward the end of the tour, the guide says “Shhhh” and they tip-toe past a closed enclave. When they are past it, the New Arrival ask what that was about:

    “That’s where the Baptists go. They think they’re the only ones here.”

    1. I’ve heard the same joke, but with ‘Catholics’ for ‘Baptists’ – and I suspect there is a version of said joke for every denomination, if not every religion.

  17. Side note: one of my notions about what heaven is like is that we get to actually explore the whole universe ourselves.

    It’s a mighty big place, after all, with all kinds of cool stuff, and I don’t think God made all of it just so’s we could sit and look at it from Earth.

  18. 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.
    I like those words. My vision is meeting with my loved ones and some of those ancestors who are hiding so well.
    I went to a funeral a couple of months ago when the pastor quoted the many times in the Bible, old and new testaments, where the person died and is gathered to his people. That’s all I’m asking for.

    1. Of course, it might be how one defines “people” too… but yeah. While I fully appreciate the Small is Good philosophy (there IS such a thing as Excess.. alas) limits are, of course, limiting.

  19. Joke about Heaven.

    A Baptist minister got to Heaven and was given a nice car.

    Then he saw a Catholic Priest who was given a much better car and he asked his Angel guide about why the Priest got the better car.

    He was told that was because the Priest gave up sex (and marriage) in his service to G*d.

    Then the Minister saw a Jewish Rabbi who had an even better car than him or the Priest.

    He complained that the Rabbi could get married & have children so why should he get that fancy of car.

    The Angel said “quiet, he’s related to the Boss”. 😈

  20. “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.”

    It’s hard to beat that as a description of Heaven.

    1. When I get to heaven the first thing I will ask for after greeting my family and pets, (cats do go to heaven, rabbits also) is to watch the “movie” of the movements of the continents sped up 1 million times.

      A year every two minutes. A great earthquake every hour. The Himalayan Mountains shooting up into the sky as the finale, after watching the creation of the moon, the oceans, the first continents poking up into the sun. Ice sheets shining in the sun. It will only take 4400 years to complete, a tiny fraction of eternity.

      Yet the greatest encounter of heaven will be to encounter infinite Joy, infinite Love and infinite Peace. Here on earth we are not capable to such an encounter, any more than we could visit the intense heat of the sun. God shelters us here, in this tiny fragment, of a dangerous universe He creates. Jesus promised/promises He goes/went to prepare a place for us, a place of Love, Joy and Peace.

Comments are closed.