“I Don’t Expect to Die on This Planet”

37 MinutesBalticon 45 was a terrific four-day family reunion for readers and writers of science fiction in all its forms. For Channel 37, not only was it our official debut, it was also a chance for us to make many new friends and meet people with whom we had corresponded via Twitter, Facebook, and e-mail.

Balticon is also a remarkably fuel-efficient serendipity engine. You never know who you’re going to meet, or where a chance conversation is going to steer your imagination or your inspiration. I had several such chats over four days, but throughout the whole event I kept up a running conversation with “Scratch” Bacharach, who describes himself as a lifelong fan and who has attended every Balticon since the early 1970s.

Now, Scratch has a lot to recommend him. First of all, he has great taste in hats, judging from the selection I saw. But he also has been around fandom for about as long as I have been alive, and he has seen a lot of changes — some of which he likes, and some of which he doesn’t. Scratch is one of those people who has his strong opinions about things, but unlike many of us his opinions are based on a lot of experience and observation. So that makes him worth listening to, even if you might disagree with some of his conclusions. But the other thing that’s cool about Scratch is that he’s open to a good discussion and willing to listen to different opinions, just like a true fan should.

One of the things I liked immediately about Scratch is that he is an inveterate optimist. Like me, his philosophy of fandom is steeped in a sense of mission and responsibility. He started out in fandom during the heady days of Star Trek and 2001; I came of age in the days of the L-5 Society and the Space Colony movement. Common to both eras was a sense of destiny, of purpose; fans were more than just appreciators, they were drivers. Fueled with the heady excitement of the promise of living and traveling in space, they worked in their own lives to help bring that future closer to reality, each in their own great or small way. At the Space panel that Scratch chaired on the last day of Balticon, he set the tone right off by asking, “What should the role of fandom be in helping lead the return to manned space exploration?” Over the next hour, he roused the rabble into what felt like an old-school revival meeting. It was a great note on which to end the convention.

On Sunday I had a chance to sit down with Scratch and ask him about the past, present, and future of fandom, manned space exploration, and science fiction conventions. I think you’ll enjoy it!

“Into pessimism, I go not.” — SB

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