When I took on the task of organising the Masquerade, Masked Ball and other events for Worldcon I thought I was prepared for all the myriad problems that I might face. I had reckoned without the "Nutty Neo"! Now I've met some irritating and exasperating fans before (for example, the editor of this 'ere fanzine!), but here was a prince among prats. I was forcibly introduced to his existence by the intrusion into my life of Missive Number One, hand inscribed in mid January, viz:
Can't we obtain science fiction costumes ready made? Do we have to make our costumes?
A suggestion : how about building a cardboard maze for the masqueraders to explore in individually, where each person may or may not fire toy, non-projectile weapons at each other?
I look forward to your reply,
P.S. What are gophers?"
Ho, hum, I thought, and as the Masquerade forms were still at the printers I put the letter with other requests for forms and went to the kitchen for a strong cup of Irn Bru!
Just over three weeks later, when the forms were printed and awaiting collation and mailing, Missive Number Two arrived with a dull thud on the mat. I put the dull thud aside to read later, and opened "Nutty Neo's" new note. It began thusly, in type,:
That figures, I thought! The rest of the letter was much the same as the first, but he now also wanted to know if toy laser pistols were allowed. He was still looking forward to my reply! I collated a set of Masquerade forms and sent them to him. That should do the trick, I thought, all the information he could ever need on weapons policy, making your costumes etc. is there before his very eyes.
I reckoned without our hero - he had more aces up his sleeves. Missive Number Three attacked the hall carpet exactly one week later. I cautiously investigated the contents with a sinking heart and the merest suspicion of a nervous twitch. Having obviously decided his typing was a major force in his favour he began,
I will be grateful if you could please answer all my questions as I have never been to a science fiction convention before, so I don't know what goes on in these things; particularly masquerades.
I wondered if I had accidently sent him blank forms by mistake. I wondered if cardboard mazes were some secret sexual fetish I had not discovered yet (and if not, why not!) I answered it all sensibly and carefully - well, he can't help being a neo, and we must be kind to neos, mustn't we? Privately I envisaged answering SOME questions very differently viz:
d) see answer to a)
e) see answer to a) and d)
f) see answer to a),d),and e)
g) of course you may have a small cardboard maze - at the end of the pier!
h) the B.B.C. spend all their time doing contract work of this nature, ring up and ask for the Director General - he's already helped forty entrants with their sound tapes to date.
i) I do wish you'd stop badgering me about this!
k) What does M.C. stand for? Just about everything, sunshine, including people writing innumerable letters full of interminable questions!
m) and n) May I be so bold as to tell you exactly what to do with your microphone?
I sent off the polite answers only, with a delicate hint that as a newcomer to such things he might find it easier to watch the Masquerade rather than enter, and went into the kitchen to find the two litre bottle of Irn Bru. After the second litre the carbon dioxide had restored my sanity. I hoped I had heard the last of our hero, but this guy was made of sterner stuff.
Missive Number Four left the carpet alone, but attempted to eat the cats. I put on oven gloves and opened it. My face resumed its nervous contortions.
If you could spare the time however, could you please answer just a few more questions, as I am considering to go to the Masked Ball.
I do hope that you will be able to find time to answer most of my questions, particularly the latter four. Just in case you didn't get the message, please could you reserve a ticket for me, for the Masked Ball?
I look forward to your reply.
He was still looking forward to my reply! Well, I wasn't!
My reply was rather brief and answered some necessary points, but suggested he might like to do the same as the several thousand other attendees, and use his free time to seek out and gather his own costume together. What I would LIKE to have said would have gone as follows (you will have to imagine the steam rising in a red cloud from my typewriter as you read this)
2) For Ghod's sake, read your PR properly. It's all there in simple words.
3) If you utter one more word about bloody battery operated toy pistols, I shall find you at the convention and personally stuff one of the aforesaid pistols down your throat! So there, frog-face! And I don't see why I should have to explain every rule to a half-wit who can't read properly!
4) I do not believe this....this person with enough time to write all these letters, who lives about thirty miles from London, wants me, in Glasgow, to find him suppliers for his....... badges and costume bits. What next - would he like spoon-feeding at meals perhaps? I have, of course, little else to do all day!
6) Of course we will have civilised classical music at the Masked Ball, there's nothing like "getting down and boogieing" to a fugue in D minor, now is there?
"Aaaaaarrrggghhh! Mummy, Mummy, I don't want to work on Worldcon any more. I'm not feeling well. I think it's all the Irn Bru." "Hush dear, you're not alone, for all the rest of the committee are getting letters from him too!"