This is a guest post by George Phillies, an author, gamer, and, well, you’ll see… You can find more about George’s work here, and he is the president of N3F, where you can subscribe for free fanzines that are delightfully focused only on the fantasy, fun, and frolics of fandom, leaving out the politics. You can also sign up there for a paid membership, which will support “The N3F began in April 1941, when all types of imaginative literature – including science fiction – were called fantasy. We’re one of the oldest science fiction and fantasy fan clubs still operating. In all the time since then, the N3F has undergone almost every combination of success and failure imaginable. At different times our membership has been in the hundreds, and other times under 10. It has produced some of Fandom’s most memorable fanzines and some of the worst crudzines. Its ranks hold professional writers as well as neofans (if you have to ask what a neofan is, you are one).” George didn’t ask me to include this bit, but I am, because given what we’re seeing with Origins and other cons recently, having somewhere you can hang out without first having to show how ‘woke’ you are is refreshing, and I for one am happy knowing that not every fan group out there is like the one that is in charge of Origins.
Origins was launched by Simulations Publications, Incorporated and The Avalon Hill Company as a board wargaming convention. I remember when it happened.
Now, I am actually somewhat familiar with the board wargaming hobby and its history.
I started playing board wargames, what we now call hex-and-counter games, in 1958. That was when the first modern hex-and-counter board wargame was published. The equivalent in SF fandom would be to have subscribed to Amazing Stories in 1926, in time to receive the first issue hot off the presses.
In 1963, I played a computer wargame using what was perhaps the world’s first joystick. The computer in question, a PDP-1, is I gather now in the Boston Computer Museum.
In 1964, I founded what was probably the first college wargaming club, the MITWGS (now the MIT SGS).
Soon thereafter, I published the very first board wargaming fanzine, The Tank. We advertised in the world’s first and only board wargaming prozine, the Avalon Hill General. The Tank under my editorship was the first board wargaming magazine to publish a complete board wargame in one issue. (I designed it.) I later published a number of other game magazines, including The Guide To Wargaming Periodical Literature, History Of Wargaming Quarterly, the American Wargamer, Strategist, and Game!
In 1974, I published, in another zine I founded, this being the American Wargamer, a review of that new set of miniatures rules Dungeons & Dragons. The rules had been written by two friends of mine, people with whom I had corresponded for some years, Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson. I said that Gary and Dave had in fact not written a new set of miniatures rules. They had created a whole new branch of the hobby, to be compared in its importance with board wargames, miniatures, and diplomatic games. At the time I published this claim, it was unique and not widely believed. As it turned out, I was right.
I collect board wargames and their literature. My board wargame collection now approaches 6000 titles, a count that will probably be passed this year. I also collect board wargaming magazines. My collection occupies 16 four-drawer filing cabinets.
I therefore claim that I have some modest knowledge of the wargaming hobby.
If I think back to the early 1970s, and a meeting of the MITSGS, I am reminded that members might have very different political opinions. At a given meeting, we had several people who were far to the right, we had the student political analyst whose computer software in 1968 meant that the Technology Broadcasting System called the presidential election correctly and accurately well before any of the other networks did, I had my Battle of the Bulge opponent who spent his time between his moves reading Mao Tse-Tsung’s On Guerrilla Warfare, because after all he was a far left sort and should read the material written by far left politicians, and finally there was the young lady whose support of women’s liberation included her shaved-to-the-scalp haircut. We were there to meet and play games, not to argue about politics, which we didn’t.
We now arrive at the present and the recent Origins action with respect to Larry Correia. He was a Guest of Honor at Origins, and then the invitation was retracted. For wargamers, Correia is a gaming figure painter. For SF fans, Correia is the creator of Monster Hunter International, the New York Times best-selling SF series.
Of course, there are folks out there who were annoyed about the Sad Puppies, the Rabid Puppies, et tedious cetera. However, the reason the invitation was retracted, as given by the organizers, was “”Unfortunately, when he was recommended I was unaware of some personal views that are specifically unaligned with the philosophy of our show and the organization. I want to thank those of you that brought this error to our attention. Origins is an inclusive and family friendly event. We focus on fun and gaming, not discourse and controversy. I felt it necessary to recent his invitation to participate in the show.” That reason clearly has nothing to do with the Sad Puppies.
In my opinion, the conduct of the Origins convention organizers has disgraced our entire wargaming hobby. Prior generations would have greeted news of the Origins actions with contempt, assuming that disbelief in such an absurd action could have been overcome. The convention organizers should be ashamed of themselves.
Having said that, what might fellow wargamers who agree with me do about the situation? Of course, it would be polite for a few people who know them to warn the other guests of honor of what is going on, so that they are not taken by surprise.
There are folks who propose that professional SF writers should stop attending conventions, or, at least, most conventions. That might have a positive effect. It also might shut those writers deeper into a ghetto of their own making. That’s what happens in the future, and as Casey Stengel once said, it is difficult to predict the future, especially before it happens.
Having said that, I would urge gamers to find out who the officers and members of GAMA are. Find the ones that you know. Learn if they know what is going on. If they do, tell them, entirely politely, that they made a mistake, that they have disgraced the hobby, and that they should be ashamed of themselves. And remind them that some mistakes can be corrected.