This one still bugs me to this day. A little bit of background info is needed for those of you who weren’t from this area, however.
Throughout the 1990s, friends and family of a terminally ill little girl rallied the community around her cause, frantically working to defray the family’s stratospheric medical expenses. When I got a phone call at home one night – how this person got my number, I never quite worked out – from a man named Rick Brown to tell me about “RoxCon”, a sci-fi convention being planned to benefit the family – there was no doubt in my mind that things were on the level. I had attended some of the previous benefit events myself and so I had no qualms about suddenly making radical changes to the issue to devote a lot of space to the news of what would’ve been the first sci-fi convention in the Fort Smith area.
A lot of material originally intended for issue 8 would wind up being pushed back to issue 9, but this wasn’t a back-breaker – it would make the next issue’s assembly that much easier, and the wealth of information provided to me in the course of the lengthy phone call made for a large article that practically wrote itself.
Looking back at it, for 1995, this would’ve been an impressive convention line-up for Tulsa or St. Louis or Kansas City. For Fort Smith, which had never had such an event? It was almost too good to be true.
Two issues later, there was a front-page announcement that RoxCon had been cancelled and refunds were being issued – which was surely a staggering blow to the family. The conclusion of this story resulted from an article in the local newspaper announcing the cancellation (the cancellation story was almost copied word-for-word from this), and from another mystery phone call to me, from a party who wished to remain unidentified, indicating that Mr. Brown’s ties to the charity were tenuous at best, and that he had been misrepresenting the degree to which he was connected to said charity. Additionally, I was told that virtually none of the celebrities name-checked in the original article had been locked down; some apparently hadn’t even been contacted.
If there was anything non-money-related that seriously knocked the wind out of my sails as far as my enthusiasm for theLogBook ‘Zine went, the RoxCon debacle was it. Granted, with the ‘zine no longer on a handed-out-for-free-around-town basis, the “damage” such as it was probably amounted to very, very little. (This raises the further question of how the other party who contacted me even knew that the ‘zine was still in existence, much less that I had printed an article promoting Roxcon, and I’ve never solved that mystery.) But I had fallen for the okeydoke. My original college major was journalism – researching facts, triangulating the truth, and presenting it to the reader in an unbiased manner. I took that as a sacred trust. I still do, despite the fact that the prevailing winds have changed since my college years, to the point that incendiary, uninformed, opinionated, innuendo-spewing morons at both extremes of the political spectrum (emphasis on extreme) can get airtime on venues proclaiming themselves to be news outlets. But I’ve always taken it very seriously, and so my view at the time was that theLogBook ‘Zine – and my name, as its publisher, editor and chief writer – was seriously tainted.
It’s ironic that this issue also played host to an unabashed, but sneaky, April Fools’ gag dreamed up by Rob Heyman and myself, detailing a series of upcoming Star Trek TV movies that were never even remotely real. Compared to what was yet to come from the franchise, however, some of these story ideas look pretty good in retrospect!
On the upside: more Rob Heyman TNG and Voyager reviews, Robert Parson opinion pieces on TekWar: The Series and Sliders, and my personal passion project, a lengthy essay on the BBC series Blake’s 7, reframing it as a forerunner of Babylon 5. It was my intention to start a regular column to re-evaluate older series in light of what was currently on the air – I seem to remember having Battlestar Galactica (because that was never going to come back, remember?) and V:The Series pencilled in as possible future topics. In the hilariously-less-than-prescient department, Rob took the makers of Aliens 4 to task for hiring, as their screenwriter, a then-unknown hack named Joss Whedon, who would surely never amount to anything.
Maybe this was the issue where we didn’t get a lot right.