beamjockey (beamjockey) wrote,

Higgins's Lives of the Fans #0: On the Convention Program-Book Biography

During my years of participation in science fiction fandom, I have occasionally been asked to write a biography for a convention's Guest of Honor.

Each SF con has one or more Guests of Honor, typically inviting a notably active fan to be Fan GoH and also inviting a professional writer, artist or editor as Pro GoH. Guests participate in programming: panel discussions, speeches, autograph sessions, et cetera. Published in the con's program book, which is provided to every attendee, is an essay about each guest.

Sometimes, I write these.

The convention-program-book biography has its own challenges. It must inform, to acquaint the congoer with the Guest of Honor, but it should also pique curiosity, persuading the congoer to seek out the GoH's program events. And it should make a case for the concom's decision to invite this particular person this particular weekend.

Plus, in the back of your mind, you know the GoH will read it herself, but you must not allow this thought to intimidate you.

I strive to achieve an essay that will be entertaining even to a reader unfamiliar with the Guest of Honor.

I find I have accumulated quite a few program-book bios. I propose to reprint them here. Stay tuned.

Edited to Add: Links to the series:
Introduction. Alice Bentley. Phil Foglio. Steve Collins. Mary Lynn Skirvin Johnson. Jo Walton. Tullio Proni. Steven Silver. Hugh Daniel.
Tags: higgins's lives of the fans
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Any con in particular that you're writing this for?
They were written for a bunch of different cons, usually, but not always, in the Chicago area, over the past 25 years. I will note the con as I reprint them.
It pains me mightily to bring this up, but were any of the concoms sticklers for copyright? I certainly would hope that authors retain the reprint rights to material written for program books, but someone, somewhere out there in fandom might be a jerk about it. Not like that ever happens.
I have never, to my recollection, agreed to give up my right in the words I've written for a program book.
Not, IMO, for the one you did for MuseCon. IIRC I put a copyright notice in the book, but my intent was not that MuseCon glommed up all rights to content, but to say "Somebody does have IP rights to everything here, and we expect it to be respected." I need to remember to include an "authors/artists retain rights to their works statement" in future program books, like I had in Windycon's.
When I write program book bios, I often wind up publishing them under a pseudonym.

A few years ago over drinks, one of the Guests commented how much he enjoyed reading his bio, but he didn't know the person who wrote it, although it was clear that the author knew him well.

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Thank you. You're in the queue!
Are these open to Google? I went looking for fan con photos the other day and there is a lot of stuff out there, but a lot of it isn't well indexed. Perhaps you should complile them somewhere. (If you haven't already.)
I thought putting the articles on my blog would be a step in that direction. Entries on Livejournal are indexed by Google, if they're not friends-locked.

(In fact, "beamjockey" is a rare string, so "beamjockey"+"other string" turns out to be a handy way to search for stuff I have written about.)