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Deborah P Kolodji
20 May 2008 @ 06:54 am
Saturday was a totally fantastic day, despite the record heat. On a day that I could have been relaxing by the beach, I found myself in Riverside. The Science Fiction Poetry Association was to officially hand over its archives to The Eaton Collection of Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, and Utopian Literature at UC Riverside.

The handover ceremony and poetry reading was part of the Eaton Conference, an academic conference on Science Fiction. I purchased a one-day membership and found myself in a room surrounded by scholars and famous science fiction writers. samhenderson and I first met up with Rich Gombert, the SFPA publication archivist, who was responsible for making the whole thing possible. We were all staying at the same hotel and carpooled over together. We ran into Larry Niven in the elevator, who told a joke about con elevator poker games. Shortly thereafter we were joined by lingster1 just in time for the first sessions. By lunch time, we had met up with Geoff Landis, maryturzillo, Jim Benford, and Denise Dumars and after some fruitless searching for campus food sources, we went off campus for lunch at Raxx Barbeque Grill, near the Mission Inn.

We had to hurry to make it back before 2:00, when they were going to secure the building for Ray Bradbury's arrival. The Ray Bradbury speech was open to the public, so while we sat in a panel listening to Kim Stanley Robinson talk about terraforming Mars, the conference staff was busy filling the room behind the partition behind us. After the panel ended, they opened the partition, and suddenly the room had several hundred more people in it. Many of them, seeing empty seats further ahead, suddenly got up and started flooding into the front part of the room.

While we were waiting, I managed to talk to National Endowment for the Arts chairman, Dana Gioia, who was there to introduce Bradbury.

Gioia also showed a six minute clip from a documentary film about Bradbury which was produced by the NEA as part of the Great Read. Director Larry Bridges was also there. Afterwards, Gioia gave me and other SFPA members free DVD's of several of Larry Bridges documentary NEA films.

Bradbury's speech was shorter than others I've heard him give, but full of his typical wit and exhuberance for writing science fiction. His answers to the question and answer session were brilliant at times, managing to weave one of his stock personal anectotes into the answer, yet still answering the question. Afterwards, there was an autograph session, which they unfortunately had to cut short. Fortunately, Rich Gombert managed to get his book autographed. I didn't try since I figured I could always go to his May 30th appearance in Torrance.

After most of the non-conference-attendees left, Bradbury took part in a Science Fiction Heritage Panel with Frederick Pohl, after which I was able to take this photo of the two of them clowning around with a globe of Mars.

This was followed by a general autographing session and then it was time for the SFPA event. We had a total of 19 readers and an audience of about 35 people. Because Dr. Conway had to help assist in getting some elderly wheelchair bound guests into cars, we started the reading and did the archive transfer session in the middle.

Mary Turzillo started us off by reading a poem by Ray Bradbury. I read some short Mars poems and then a poem I co-wrote with W. Gregory Stewart with Greg. Greg read some more poems, followed by Geoffrey Landis and Mary Turzillo.

Then, we had some collaborative poems all involving that very prolific Kendall Evans. First, Samantha Henderson read a long poem she co-authored with Kendall. Then, Kendall read some of his own poems and then read some poems with Denise Dumars. After Denise finished off with some of her own poems read solo, Dr. Melissa Conway was back and ready for the ceremony.

So, Rich, Samantha and I got up on stage with Dr. Conway. Rich handed Dr. Conway one of the boxes with the SFPA archival material and gave a nice little speech.

Afterwards, we continued with the reading. Next up was Howard Hendrix, followed by g.o. clark, Chrystine Julian, Stephen M. Wilson, Jeff Green, and Dana Stamps II. Then, Dan Wu came up and performed a poem he had just written with his cell phone doubling as a talking robot. Dan was followed by Rachel Neff and then Gwido Zlatkes and Ann Frenkel, Polish translators working for UCR, came up together. Gwido read a poem in Polish and Ann read its English translation. I asked if there were any more closet poets in the audience and Scott Denning came up and recited two poems. I wrapped it all up with a final Mars poem.

Top: Gwido Zlatkes, Dana Stamps II, Deborah P Kolodji, Stephen M. Wilson, Geoffrey A. Landis, Denise Dumars, W. Gregory Stewart, g.o. clark, Jeff Green, Ann Frenkel
Bottom: Chrystine Julian, Samantha Henderson, Richard Gombert, Kendall Evans, Mary Turzillo, Howard Hendrix

Afterwards, a group of happy poets went to dinner at Tios Tacos at Gwido's suggestion. Tios Tacos has amazing outdoor eating areas totally filled with unique folk art made of found objects - sea shells, bottle caps, barbie dolls....we've decided we're going to have a Southland Poets of the Fantastic speculative poetry workshop there sometime (when the weather is cooler).

It was a totally fantastic day. I wish you all could have been there.