© 2004 by Spider Robinson; all rights reserved.
Iguanacon (Phoenix, AZ, September 1978) was a memorable con for me in a number of ways--even for a World Science Fiction Convention. Jeanne and I won the Hugo Award for Best Novella, for one thing. It was my second Hugo, but the first I was present to receive.
And I met Jack Gaughan.
Jack (1930-1985) was one of the sweetest guys who ever drew breath, and one of the very finest illustrators in the history of science fiction--ask anybody. He won four Hugos in his lifetime, and a fifth after his death. The iconic original DUNE cover was his work, ripped off for most of the sequels. I'd admired his work for years, and the year before the New England SF Association had given him their coveted Skylark Award.
He also happened to have done the stunning cover painting for my very first Analog cover story, "By Any Other Name" (November 1976), an event which had thrilled me more than I can possibly convey. (So much I ended up expanding that novella into my first novel, TELEMPATH.) As a matter of fact, "By Any Other Name" had won the Hugo for Best Novella the previous year (in a tie with James Tiptree, Jr.)--and who's to say just how much of its success had been due to Jack Gaughan's extraordinary cover and interior illos?
So when I met Jack I was effusive in my praise for that cover. He invited Jeanne and me back to his room, and opened a bottle of Bushmills, and Lord Jazus, the saints add preservatives to us, there was a monstrous wonderful conversation had in that room. I've no idea how long it lasted, but it was long enough to make Jack my blood brother and Dutch uncle, long enough for him to teach me what Art is for, and what I could expect from it, and why that was alright, and a few other things.
I remember him gesturing with the near-empty bottle at the hallway outside. "Those goddam kids out there, Spider," he said, grinning like a pirate, "they all think we're fuckin' heros! Fans think we're rich, that all pros are rich! They think we all live in mansions and have our grapes peeled for us." He roared with laughter. "I'm fuckin' broke--aren't you broke?" I admitted I was, and we laughed like drunken Irishmen together. Privately I was shocked that even the gods, even superstars like Jack Gaughan, could after a lifetime of exceptional service to the field end up dead broke. It helped prepare me for what my own financial future would be like… "Ah, but what we've got," he went on, "no money can ever replace: the freedom to dream, and make others happy we do."
Anyway, it was one of the Great Conversations, for me.
At some point Jack opened one of his cases and hauled out one of the many many paintings he'd brought to hang for sale in the con's Huckster Room. It was a small one: the original concept-sketch he'd submitted to Analog's Editor and Art Director for his "By Any Other Name" cover, which they had approved. (I forget why he wasn't also hanging the final cover painting itself--perhaps he'd already sold it.) I was captivated by it, thought it was just as good as the final version only smaller, and said so. He told me the minimum bid price he planned to put on it, and I whistled appreciatively. "Jesus," I said, "fans really have that kind of money, huh?" He smiled wryly, shrugged, and said, "If I'm lucky." I wished him luck.
The last day of the convention, Jeanne and I stumbled happily back to our room after an extremely full day and night. We'd won the Hugo that evening, you'll recall. So I probably believed, as I put my key in the door, that I was as exhilarated as I could be.
Wrong. There on the bed, propped up against a pillow--don't ask me how it got there--was…
Well, here: take a look.