In praise of Joan Winston

September 2016 / Clerk’s Log, mJD 57275.16: Joan left us on 11 September 2008. As I later discovered, she probably never saw this article. I’m leaving it intact in memoriam. Gentle readers, if there is someone in your life whom you admire or respect, by all means tell that person. Our Internet era has given you unprecedented opportunities to do so. I beg you: Do not let them pass you by.

Foreword, February 2006: Whoever said it was right — be patient and eventually the old news will be fresh again. Joan will be at Shore Leave 28, 7–9 July 2006, same hotel. Peter David will be there too, and this time you can also have the pleasure of meeting Susan Shwartz. Get acquainted with these people; I promise you won’t regret it.

Foreword, February 2005: The following initial paragraph is not a paid advertisement. Although if the Shore Leave people would like to kick in something, who am I to object?

There are many reasons why you might want to attend Shore Leave 27 (8–10 July 2005, at Marriott’s Hunt Valley Inn in Baltimore, Maryland; see http://www.shore-leave.com/index.htm). If you enjoyed her work in Sneakers, Donnie Darko, Dances with Wolves, and Independence Day, or her marvelous character in the current Battlestar Galactica, the lovely Mary McDonnell is to be there. Star Trek folk will be interested in Chase Masterson, at the very least. If you’ve followed their work through many TV series you’ll want to see the remarkable William Windom (so many projects he’s worked on — and if it takes Trek to bring him before us humble public, so be it) and Malachi Throne (yes, friends, Leonard Nimoy was not the only actor in ST:TNG’s “Unification” who appeared in all three “generations” of Star Trek that had been established at that point — that’s right, three; remember “The Cage”?). Authors such as Peter David will be there, and it’s always fun to hear writers talk shop (especially Peter). For Buffyites there’s Danny Strong, who I’m told is quite entertaining in person. And if you’re male and something inside you doesn’t go poing at the thought of seeing and hearing Joanna Cassidy, please consult your physician at once; there may be something urgently wrong with you.

I belong in all of the above categories, but alas, time and other considerations prevent me from attending. Which is regrettable, because the main reason I’d like to go has nothing to do with the aforementioned celebrities.

Joan Winston is scheduled to attend.

Who is this lady, you ask? Let me tell you.

I first met Joan in the huckster room (now more politely called “dealers’ room”) at the first World Science Fiction Convention I ever attended, in nineteen-mumblety-mumble (all right, if you must know how old we are, it was, to misquote Mr. Scott, “Noreascon — no bluidy One, Two, Three, or Four”). Among other things, she was publicizing an upcoming event that had never been witnessed in the greater New York area, let alone the nation, the western hemisphere, or the rest of the world. (There had been one the previous year, but it was more like a neighborhood gathering. This year they were taking it public.)

It was to be … ready? … a “Star Trek Convention.”

There. Now you know. This is where it started.

So there I was, at not only my first SF convention but my first Worldcon to boot. Talk about star-struck. Poul Anderson … Larry Niven … Gordon Dickson … Robert Silverberg … Lester del Rey … Isaac Asimov already!! Giants walked the earth, and I was in the same hotel as they! It would have been appropriate for me to be wearing a propeller beanie, but it was a good thing I wasn’t; Boston didn’t need a tornado just then.

It was not the best time to be a wallflower. Yes, you can tell me that probably two-thirds of the fans there were as introverted as I was, and I’ll probably believe you. But, being introverts, how would we discover that fact unless someone who wasn’t an introvert led us out of the darkness?

Enter Joan. Easy to talk to, a wonderful source of information, and totally fearless when it came to dealing with people, she guided this pale flower away from the wall and introduced him to the wild, woolly world of science fiction fandom. Thanks to her (and, let me add, to Drew Whyte and Brad Linaweaver), my first SF convention was a pleasant one, and I was hooked on the experience.

Our acquaintance continued over the next few years, and I was occasionally able to hop a bus from college to New York City to visit her in her executive office at CBS (and later ABC), where we chatted for hours about showbiz and showpeople, television, movies, music, and so forth. I soon grew to like NY, even to it. Hey, if one city could hold people like Joan, Devra and Debbie Langsam, Thom Anderson, Dana L. F. Anderson, Elyse Pines, Steve Rosenstein, Stu Hellinger, Patrick O’Neill, Joyce Yasner, Stu Grossman, Linda Deneroff, Ben Yalow, Carol McFeeley, Alina Chu, and a host of others, something had to be right with it.

Since then she has gone into print, collaborating with Jacqueline Lichtenberg and Sondra Marshak on Star Trek Lives! and soloing on the collection Startoons and the memoir The Making of the Trek Conventions, or, How to Throw a Party for 12,000 of Your Most Intimate Friends. (I’m told she also appears in the 2004 film Trekkies 2.) Eventually she left television, becoming assistant to literary agent Sharon Jarvis, whose client Peter David once commented, “Yep, Joanie is one in a million.” Now, I see by her Shore Leave bio, she’s “a librarian for a prestigious NYC law firm and loves it. Her lawyers have a sense of honor and humor. Also, half of them are SF fen — from Babylon 5 to Dr. Who to Star Trek: TNG. Geez, who would o’ thunk it?” Not I, at least not the librarian part (that, more likely, would’ve been me). But I have no doubt that she’s damned good at it.

Thanks, Joan. You are, indeed, one in a million.

… Oh, yes: she did recruit me as a gofer, engineer’s assistant, and general factotum for that Star Trek Con, which was a runaway success — attendance over the weekend ballooned from the initial three hundred to three thousand plus, to the amusement of journalists and the nation, while we in the workers’ cohort found stamina we never knew we had. It and subsequent cons were a tremendous learning experience, and one of the most amazing times of my life.

The week following the con was an even more amazing time. But that’s another story.

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