In my blogpost about the 2018 July Short Story Challenge, I wrote that every year that challenge generates one or two stories that are not something I can publish either in e-book form or send to a magazine. Often, these are short satirical pieces that are too tied to a specific moment in time to have much in the way of staying power.
Another inspiration was this tweet by Camestros Felapton, in which he suggests that certain sad puppies would be glad to put the Heinlein on every panel in perpetuity, if they could only figure out how to reanimate him first.
7. Both Brad & Larry have been vocal in wanting SF cons to be traditional & to keep programming the old guard. I suspect if SHoyt could reanimate the corpse of RAHeinlein, that’s who would be on every panel in perpetuity. SP was about being against the *NEW* & different.
— Camestros Felapton (@CamestrosF) July 25, 2018
That tweet made me wonder what if it were possible to reanimate the great science fiction and fantasy authors of bygone days and put them on panels at a modern con. And why stop at Heinlein? I ran with that thought and this is the result.
By the way, the various con volunteers are not based on any specific people. If there are any volunteers of those names at WorldCon 76 or any other con, that’s entirely coincidental.
Convention Programming in the Age of Necromancy
At the daily program operations meeting of a science fiction convention that shall remain unnamed, the debate got rather heated.
“We absolutely need to hold the ‘Future of Military Science Fiction’ panel in Auditorium 3,” the head of programming, whom we’ll call Matt, said.
“And why?” his fellow volunteer, who shall henceforth be known as Lucy, asked, “Is military SF so important, that it needs one of the bigger rooms, while we shove the ‘Own Voices’ panel into a tiny cupboard?”
“No,” Matt said, “But Auditorium 3 has air conditioning.”
Lucy tapped her foot. “And? Are old white dude military SF fans more deserving of coolness and air than own voices creators and fans?”
Matt sighed. “No, but Heinlein’s reanimated corpse is coming to the panel. And trust me, he smells abominably. Oh yes, and he’s declared that he wants to attend the ‘Alternative Sexualities in Science Fiction’ panel, so we’d better put that in a room with AC, too.”
“Can anybody explain to me why Robert A. Heinlein of all people is an authority on the future of military SF anyway?” program volunteer three, who shall henceforth be known as Derek, asked, “After all, the guy died in 1988.”
Matt rolled his eyes. “I know. But in spite of being dead, he is the biggest name and the biggest draw on the panel. The entire Heinlein Society will be there.”
A devilish gleam appeared in Lucy’s eye. “Did you put John Ringo on the military SF panel as well?”
Matt grinned. “Sure. After all, he considers himself the greatest living authority on the genre, so it’s only fair that he be paired with the greatest undead authority.”
Lucy clapped her hands. “I’d love to watch that. Do you think they’ll come to blows?”
“If they do, I pity the cleaning staff,” Matt said, “Cause Heinlein’s corpse… well, let’s just say he drips.”
Lucy made a face.
At this moment, the door opened and a program volunteer named Sunita burst in.
“Guys, we have a problem. The reanimated corpse of Isaac Asimov just pinched a female fan’s butt after the ‘Future of AI’ panel, which is totally against the code of conduct. And when I tried to explain the problem to him, he not just refused to listen, he pinched my butt as well.”
“And that…” Lucy said, “…is why we should only have reanimated female authors. Cause those white male dinosaurs don’t really get that it’s not the 1950s anymore.”
“Talking of which, how is Leigh Brackett’s corpse doing?” Matt wanted to know.
Lucy sighed. “Still watching her way through the entire Star Wars series.”
“Sure, that’s a huge binge, but it shouldn’t take that long,” Derek pointed out.
Lucy sighed once more. “I know. But whenever I leave the room for half an hour, Ms. Brackett stops the Star Wars films and starts watching something else. Last time I caught her binging Jessica Jones.”
At this moment, yet another program volunteer named Chris burst through the door, almost bumping into Sunita.
“Sorry,” Chris said, “But we have a problem with the Robert E. Howard sword fighting demonstration in the courtyard. It fell apart.”
“The sword fighting demonstration?” Matt asked.
“No, Robert E. Howard’s skeleton. He tried swinging a broadsword just like Conan. It clearly was too heavy for him and the entire skeleton just broke apart. We’re trying to put him together again, but…” Chris shrugged. “…let’s just say Humpty Dumpty is more accurate than you’d imagine.”
“Does Howard still have a panel scheduled?” Lucy asked Matt.
Matt checked his schedule. “Nope, the sword fighting demo was the last one.”
“Then why don’t we just leave him like that and put him back together after the con is over?” Lucy asked.
“Because he’s a guest of honour,” Matt said.
“”Ghost of honour,” Sunita corrected.
“He’s a skeleton,” Lucy countered, “It’s not as if he’ll notice. And anyway, it’s still got to be better than rotting away in a grave in Cross Plains, Texas.”
Before the argument could continue, the door burst open for the third time and a program volunteer named Kayla burst in.
“Folks, the ‘New Takes on the Cthulhu Myth’ panel just imploded. Or rather H.P. Lovecraft did.”
“So what went wrong with this one?” Derek sighed, “After all, we all agreed that Lovecraft and several young authors of Lovecraftian horror would be perfect for the Cthulhu panel.”
“Yes, but the other panellists…” Kayla was close to hyperventilating. “Well, two are women, one is trans and three are people of colour…”
“I thought there were only four people on the panel,” Sunita pointed out, “Well, five if we include Lovecraft.”
“Exactly. Lovecraft took one look at his fellow panellists and… well, it was just too much for him. He started crying and screamed incoherently and…”
Lucy put up her hand. “Sorry, but how can Lovecraft cry? He’s a corpse.”
“I don’t know,” Kayla said, close to tears herself, “But somehow, he managed to cry and then he panicked and ran away and locked himself in the bathroom. It’s the gender neutral bathroom, too, so he freaks out even more whenever anybody comes in. These last ten minutes, he’s been mumbling something that sounds like an incantation to summon Cthulhu. We’ve been trying to get him to come out, but he won’t. So I tried to fetch Robert E. Howard to coax out Lovecraft, but…”
“Howard is a pile of bones in the courtyard,” Chris said, “Yes, we know.”
“Anyway, what shall we do about Lovecraft? Someone will have to get him out of that bathroom and he won’t listen to me, cause I’m a woman.”
The program volunteers looked at each other.
“I can’t go,” Derek finally said, “I’m black and we all know how much Lovecraft hates African Americans.”
“I can’t go either,” Sunita said, “I’m Asian and Lovecraft hates us, too.”
“Me neither,” Lucy said, “Like Kayla said, Lovecraft won’t listen to women.”
“And I’m genderqueer,” Chris added, “That’s sure to confuse him. It even confused Heinlein and he is more open-minded than most of that bunch.” Chris shook their head. “I can’t believe I’m saying that.”
Matt threw up his hands in frustration. “All right, all right, I’ll go. Though I still think that Lovecraft is overrated.”
He hadn’t even reached the door, when a security staff member named Enrique burst in. “Folks, we have a fight in the lobby. The corpse of Heinlein just denounced the Sad Puppies and let’s just say, it didn’t go down well. So far, Heinlein is holding his own, but he’s dripping.”
“I’ll go,” Derek said.
But before he could, the door burst open once again or would have, if anybody had bothered to close it.
“Folks,” security staffer Alex exclaimed, “The skull of Robert E. Howard just denounced the Pulp Revolution and declared that he only wrote the Conan stories for the money anyway and… well, it’s not pretty. And Leigh Brackett’s corpse got into a discussion on screenwriting with Joss Whedon and George R.R. Martin…”
“Are they about to kill each other?” Derek asked.
“No, but they’re all supposed to be on different panels right now,” Alex replied, “Oh yes, and Dr. Asimov has pinched someone’s butt again.”
Lucy shot an acrid look at Matt. “Whose idea was it again to reanimate the biggest names of our genre, so we could learn from them?”