There was a World Con in Brighton. I went there by myself, which seemed adventurous and was expensive for me at the time.
I remember two things about it, mostly.
The first was that I almost got in a physical fight with a young fan who arrived at the closed door to the convention hall about the time I did. I am incurably early for things. The reason he was so angry at me was my name tag, which said my name was R.A. MacAvoy. This young fellows knew that could not be true because R.A. MacAvoy was one of his favorite writers and he knew for a fact – for a fact – that he was male and much older than I. Someone who wouldn’t be leaning against an awning upright with a backpack at her feet, waiting for the door to open.
Although it had never occurred to me there could be a necessity to prove I am who I am to anyone except customs, I did have the name tag and couldn’t simply deny owning it. The boy’s two ideas were that I had either stolen the thing or that it belonged to my father. I couldn’t think of any way to prove my identity except for my passport and driver’s license, both of which were hidden in a belt under my clothes. He was about to lay hands upon me, which would have been ugly as at the time I might have had to hurt him badly, (or he might have had to hurt me badly, especially when one considers how he felt he had God on His Side in the silly matter,) when the people inside the door opened it and let us both in, heard both our stories and told the fellow to sit in a corner and compose himself.
That was my first bit of unreality in Brighton.
The second bit was the constant running theme I heard up and down the halls and in the panel rooms, which was that the Yanks had stolen the convention. As a Yank who had squeezed out a large number of pennies to get there I felt ill-used by that accusation. More so when I discovered that the Brighton World Con had been largely insolvent until the influx of funds from American attendees. Yet with others of my own flattened pronunciation, I went through the days uttering constant apologies every time someone bumped into me.
The other side of this experience was that the Brighton hosts did not seem to care any more for the people from other countries, who had also spent their pennies, rubles or kruggerands to get there. So I found myself as part of a lovely group of people of all accent, some of whom had phrase-books to assist them. Dutch, Swedish, Jugoslav, Japanese and a few Sub-Saharan Africans: we all clung together and made our way through the Brighton convention like unwelcome but interested visitors from another planet. In the evenings we went out in Brighton and met some very nice Brits. Drank some very nice beer.
There is an advantage in visiting a place alone, or as a part of a pair. One can immerse one’s self, keep one’s mouth shut, and witness.
I came home from the trip with one phrase stuck in my mind. It was that North Americans did not write Science Fiction at all. What we wrote was something called ‘Red Indians in Outer Space’.
When I stop to think how many groups of people that short phrase offended at once, it is really daunting. It surely offended me. But it gave me an idea.
I wrote a novel, which was strictly SF, and which was strictly ‘Red Indians in Outer Space’. I even made my Indians actually red, by applied genetics, and added an actual descendent of the people of India to make it all correct.
I had great fun writing The Third Eagle. The narrative voice that was using me at the time was that of my contemporary martial arts teacher, Dio Santiago. His lessons were filled with dry wit and sound self-defense. For advice in things of a Native American nature I turned to my old friend Tirsea MacNeal, who is of the Sahaptini Nation, as was Sacajawea. I tried to make whatever could be factual as actually factual as a ‘Red Indians in Outer Space’ novel could be, so that the suspension bridge of disbelief did not spill the reader over the side.
It allowed me to take the Brighton trip off my taxes. And it made a penny or two itself. In fact, because it hurt no one – not even the angry young fellow who wished to break my nose in order to defend R.A. MacAvoy – it was the perfect revenge.