Media Fandom Oral History Project Interview with Alan Koslow

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Interviews by Fans
Title: Media Fandom Oral History Project Interview with Alan Koslow
Interviewer: Clare McBride
Interviewee: Alan Koslow
Date(s): January 15, 2013
External Links: Media Fandom Oral History Project Interview with Alan Koslow
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In 2013, Alan Koslow was interviewed via Skype as part of the Media Fandom Oral History Project.

For more information about the origins of this interview, where it is housed, contact information, suggestions regarding future interviewee candidates, and how to become volunteer interviewer, see the Media Fandom Oral History Project page.

Some Tidbits and Topics Covered

  • being fourteen and drinking champagne with Anne McCaffrey at the release party at NYCon (Statler Hilton) for the first Dragonflight book; he and Anne McCaffrey later would go out to dinner together at Dragon*Con for many years starting in 1995
  • description of being stuck in an elevator with Harlan Ellison for three hours while Ellison smoked a pipe the whole time: "It was terrible. It was that atrocious. He was like a petulant baby during it."
  • description of him and the members of "the Star Trek club" in New York getting half a million signatures to send to Gene Roddenberry to bring back Star Trek for the third season
  • the differences between "fans" and "fanatics," "literary cons" and "media cons" and the joys of Dragon*Con
  • sharing fannish experiences with his three grown children
  • his experiences reading fanfic (science fiction/media and Harry Potter)
  • his experiences starting and running the blood drive at Dragon*Con
  • listening to podcasts


Interviewer: Well, the information I got... about you is that you have a lot of stories dating back from the late sixties, specifically a story about being locked in an elevator with Isaac Asimov
Alan: No, Harlan — Harlan Ellison.
I: Oh!
A: I knew Isaac Asimov as well, but I was locked in an elevator with Harlan Ellison, which is worse!
Alan: ... My first experience at NYCon was that Friday night, they… Friday, Saturday night, and this was the thing that ended up becoming what’s now called “Con Suite” or “Con”, you know, parties and other things, they used to—the conventions back in the sixties, prior to the Star Trek conventions, were professional conventions. Almost everybody who went to the conventions in those days had something to do [as an active fan]. I was one of the rare ones that didn’t. You had something to do with science fiction, in either a fan way or a professional way, they were either had a fanzine, or were fanwriters, you know, wrote for fanzines, or they were fanartists, or they were professional artists, professional writers, or publishers. A typical science fiction convention in those days, again prior to the first Star Trek conventions, would be about forty to fifty percent professionals and so it was really a different type of convention.
Alan: … Isaac Asimov was on the panel and all of a sudden, whatever he’s been talking about, and all of a sudden, Harlan Ellison walks in the back of the room, and he yells out, “You’re full of shit!”.
I: [laughs]
Alan: And they… I gotta believe this was staged. And they get into this hilarious yelling contest between the two of them about whatever the topic was, and I don’t even remember what the topic was, but it was just the two of them, they’re best friends, but they always did this at conventions, it was part of the show, part of the shtick that they did. It was just having these arguments with each other. That was really a fun time. Now, immediately following, either immediately following or one panel later after it, they had the auction. One of the things that they auctioned off was they auctioned off the Guest of Honor, which was Harlan Ellison… well, he wasn’t a Guest of Honor, but he was a guest. They auctioned off Harlan Ellison for an hour. And this absolutely gorgeous Australian woman paid, like, fifteen hundred dollars for him for an hour. The idea being is that Harlan Ellison, one of his typical short stories in those days would make about two to three thousand dollars, so the deal was that if you had him for the hour, write a short story, and it sold, he would split the profits
Alan: If you want to see what a science fiction convention was before 1972, what they were like, you should go to one of those, because those are still pro cons, where half the people there are professionals, that are at those conventions. But anyway, so they basically destroyed pro cons and made them—you can look, kind of, the attendance of Worldcon just absolutely took off after that, because it brought all the fans in. So it was a democratizing event, starting with Star Trek conventions, but it changed the feel of the convention, because professionals only came if they were invited, where prior to that, they went to them because that was where they socialized with their friends and that was where they talked to publishers and they found artists, collaborators, and the people who ran the fanzines, which were really big in the sixties. Really tremendous in the sixties. There were literally hundreds of them. It made it harder for the fanzines because there were… they couldn’t go to these pro cons and have such close contact with people. And it also made, you know, since the publishers weren’t having publishers parties at conventions, you either had to not have a con suite or fund a con suite themselves, which a lot of the conventions, including Dragon*Con do, but that’s where that tradition came from, publishers’ suites that they would have.
Alan: I went to that first Star Trek—not the first one, but I think it was the second Star Trek convention. It was just… it wasn’t the science fiction fandom that I grew up in. It wasn’t the literary… back in… prior to 1973, the science fiction conventions—and the straight science fiction conventions versus the Star Trek conventions—but virtually almost the people that were there were there because they were readers.
[Interviewer: What would you say to someone getting into fandom for the first time today?]: Alan: ...fandom is not monolithic, not one thing. And explore all the different aspects of fandom, look at… that’s where Dragon*Con is great about. You could sample really fifteen, twenty, thirty different subgenres of fandom, and if you’re interested in one, there’s a very good chance you’re going to be interested in some other aspect of fandom and so, if you like vampire stories, don’t limit yourself just to that. Sample all the other stuff that fandom has to offer.