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I Knew Yang
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I knew Yang. He wasn’t very nauseating. Actually, Bob Asprin was, from what I knew of him, a little bit and a long time ago, a hell of a guy. I mourn his passing.

Robert Asprin died just shy of the age of 62 last Thursday and he’s going to be missed by a lot of people; readers who loved the “Myth Adventure” humorous fantasy novels along with folks who remember him as part of fandom and who know him/new him as “Yang The Nauseating” and as a member of the Dorsai Irregulars and the Klingon Diplomatic Corps. It is in this latter persona that I knew Bob. I liked him for his sense of fun and his professionalism.

I entered sf fandom through the gate of Star Trek. There are lots of us out here and I’m grateful for the way in. I attended a couple of New York Star Trek conventions then went to work on them, first as a gofer and working up until I co-chaired a couple in the San Francisco Bay area. I learned amazing amounts of things working on Trek cons, including what not to do and I made sme great friendships, had some amazing times, met my very first authors. Asimov and some guy named Ellison, as I recall, were two of the guests at the first Trek Con I ever attended. Somewhere in the archives of my life I have a membership card for the “Hole in the Deck Gang” a crew of Trek con gofers. Somewhere else is my copy of “The Capture”. I learned about crowd control, and damage control from a group of volunteer learn-as-you-go convention organizers and I’ve never had better training. It took me into working convention security from Westercons to Worldcons and came in handy working on everything from safety at the San Francisco Pride Parade one year to handling myself at political demonstrations.

I don’t know about the early years in sf fandom and conventions. I doubt very much there was a concerted effort to do security as it was probably not needed. But with the influx of fans from Trek, conventions got much bigger and it was no longer the case that you recognized everyone. Apparently according to the history on the the Dorsai Irregulars website, the theft of a piece of Kelly Freas artwork planted the idea for our own security force. With permission from Gordy Dickson, the Dorsai Irregulars wwas born. When it came to providing Trek-specific security, some of the DI dressed as Klingons – full make-up, etc. – and helped run things as the “Klingon diplomatic Corps”. They were good. They were FANS. They got it. They knew how different we were from the usual convention attendees. They were the same age as the fans at the convention, and often they were our friends. So when they told us we couldn’t go there, we listened. They were us.

I was at “Disastercon” aka “Riotcon” the 1975 NY convention run by a wretched greedhead who oversold the memberships when the convention hotel was out of space and hid in her hotel room, refusing to deal with the chaos, and still allowing people to go to any ticket outlet and pay to get in. The hotel was freaked. The attendees were freaked. The guests of honor were kind enough to hang out and do a second stage appearance to appease the angry folks who’d paid lots of money and didn’t want to hear “sorry, it’s over”. (I was also doing front of house security when that guy hit Shatner with a cream pie, but that’s another story….) I was there. And yes, humor saved the day. I admit I can no longer remember if I actually was in the room, but I was gofering and I know how bad things were. And I believe it happened (that is, that when the crowd was getting really pissed off, the story goes, that one of the KDC climbed up on a table, or maybe just reached down and yanked off his costume boot and held up his leg to the would-be lynch mob asking, plaintively something that went, “Aw, come on. You gotta trust me. How can you not trust a Klingon wearing toe socks?" It worked. He disarmed the crowd. And we all got out alive. I learned to do shtick, to get the hostile, or angry, or simply thosefolks on my side, get them to understand why we were asking them to move back. It helped. It worked. It’s why for years I was able to act as a security-type person when I’m not the expected face of security at a con.

I remember hanging out as a bunch of KDC sat on the hotel floor, filking away, singing ol’ Dorsai songs, while Gordy held up the microphone on his portable tape player to get the songs recorded. This was 1974 or 1975; my gods, that’s a while back.

I remember talking with Bob about THE COLD CASH WAR, his first novel, a serious novel concerning mercenaries. It’s probably the only conversation I ever had with the guy, and he showed some blatant ambition, hoping/expecting/aiming at winning the Nebula, the Hugo and god knows what with the book. I was taken a bit aback by the blatant ambition of it all. It wasn’t that good a book, but hey, he had a healthy ego. I never read the later books – not my cup of espresso. But it was the DI/KDC, his brainchild, helped along by a bunch of really fine people, that I especially honor him for. This was a professional organization that had fun, worked crowd control, security, bag checks and ops and door guarding. I learned a lot from those folks and made some friends among them.

It’s a shock to read of Bob’s death and annoyingly ironic that this weekend, he was going to be a convention guest of honor. Apparently he was found dead by someone coming to pick him up to head off to the convention. His obit on the SFWA page reports “His body was discovered lying on his sofa with a science fiction book in hand. “ The Wikipedia entry states that he had a heart attack.

His SCA name was “Yang the Nauseating”. It carried over to fandom. It was typical of the great flip fun that the Dorsai and KDC had within our community and I liked them for that. It's a hell of a legacy.

What can I say? I liked the guy.



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