There are too many fannish funerals these days. Way too many!
This morning I attended the funeral of my old friend Elley Michaelson, married name Hamlyn-Harris, who passed away last week of cancer. I admit I hadn't seen her in years, and her sons had grown from little boys in primary school to young men since I saw them last. But that's life for you. Once she was married and moving around I only saw her at the occasional party.
Still, I felt that I ought to go, because I had enjoyed her hospitality many times in my early years of fandom, including birthday celebrations, mine and others'. Her home in Port Melbourne was our clubhouse, when I was in Austrek. I went there often in Friday nights, long before Friday became my family's gathering night. We watched Star Trek and some episodes of Dr Who. I tended to doze off after a long day at work. I missed most of the first episode of Blake's 7, of which we all later became great fans, but what I did see was in Elley's living-room.
I remember how everyone used to dance the Time Warp around her tiny living room and have to work to make sure they didn't step on each other's toes. I remember going out for fish and chips to curl up on the couch with.
And I remember Elley, large and jolly and hospitable. She will be much missed.
I took the day off work and went to St Peter and Paul's Catholic Church in South Melbourne, a large, beautiful old church surrounded by gardens, where Elley had her confirmation many years ago. There, I met my friends who had known her. I only knew about it because someone had sent me a text message; I believe it was on Facebook, but I don't have an account and refuse to get one as long as I'm a teacher and have three blogs and a Twitter account; it's more than enough. But fandom is a great tree; when one knows, it's passed on and in a short time everyone knows. That's how I knew to go to some other fannish farewells. Once it was by email. When I mentioned it to some students sitting near me in the computer room, they were shocked that I'd heard by email instead of by phone. But it was the best way for that event; it meant that the emailer could contact a lot of people at once and we could contact anyone she might have forgotten.
Fandom is still around, but we're an older generation. There was no Internet in those days and if you wanted to make a phone call it was landline. No mobiles! Fanzines? Printed, not online. I remember going to Star Trek marathons, where they were laid out on tables for sale. Then we'd all curl up at home or at our "clubhouse" and share them, along with the catalogues from Lincoln Enterprises, which sold posters, badges, photos and knock-knacks connected with Star Trek, and send in joint orders. And then distribute the goodies when they arrived...
Now? You just go online, whip out your credit card and order what you want from a website that sells it. Fan fiction is freely available online, in whichever universe you like, and artists can upload their work for everyone to admire. Mind you, when we were getting printed fanzines, there was a filter via the editor, meaning a better chance of reading decent quality fiction; online you just have to take your chances.
There are fan-made films on YouTube, some of them with members of the original cast joining in the fun. And we can not only communicate by smart phone, we can do it the way they did in Star Trek, seeing each other's faces! Wonderful!
Elley certainly thought so. Among the pictures shown at her funeral were some of her on her laptop, merrily going on the WWW. I think we all get more out of the Internet than the "digital natives" who have never known what it was like before. We appreciate it more, instead of taking it for granted.
Speaking of the younger generation, most of the faces I saw today were my own age, but some brought their children, young men and women now, including my friend Greg, who brought his children Sean and Mary, whose births I remember. Now Sean is about to start life as a student counsellor and Mary, always the artist, is at uni, studying games creation. They knew Elley, though. Their parents never lost contact, unlike me.
Elley's son Freddy told me, after the service, over tea and cake, that his mother had inspired him to have his friends over regularly, though he always asks them to bring a plate! He also mentioned tat when they were looking for photos to use, he found the picture of her with Star Trek actor George Takei, so that now he can believe she actually met him.
"Oh, yes," I assured him, "she met him all right! I was there." It was at a con in Sydney, where we all shared a room, because fans did that in those days. We had very little money. I'm sure the hotel staff were suspicious, but they didn't check on us - and we were a lot quieter and better-behaved than, say, businessmen there for a conference. But, as I told Freddy, it was a case of whoever got there in time to use the bed. The rest of us slept in sleeping-bags on the floor. One of us - not Elley, but someone among the fifteen - persuaded George to come along to a room party, where he asked us to sing "Waltzing Matilda" but we had to keep stopping to explain, because the song sounds like another language if you don't know Australian English. A very nice man, by the way.
I could go on for thousands more words with the memories, but enough. To her family, I say, "Long life!" as we do after Jewish funerals. And "Peace and long life", as the Vulcans do.
Another part of my life has fallen away, alas! But the memories will stay.