How to do a Trip Report by Gene Wolfe

From aussiecon two progress report #4. Transcribed by Doug Burbidge

I’ve been asked to do something fannish for this progress report. Fat chance! Too many of us will be reporting on our trips to Australia for various fanzines, clubs, relatives, and friends. With my luck, I’ll read every one of those reports, and this seems to me more useful. A whole lot more useful.

How to Begin Most trip reports seem to have been started the day after the reporter returned from the trip. This is like starting dinner by pointing to a table and suggesting we all go out and buy some plates. Start your report early. Start your report before you even get that little whatchamacallit book. Start your report now, with a record of all the significant events (big stuff) leading up to Melbourne.

Which shouldn’t be taken to mean you start with, ‘I was born in a little mining town in the West . . .’ not even if you were. It does mean that you begin with the hopes and pitiful, only too human ambitions (marketable, I hope) that drove you to come to Aussiecon Two to begin with. (There are too many to’s in that sentence, but I’ll leave it; after all, they’re not paying me for this.) Face up to the fact that that you were afraid the committee would leave you off the Hugo ballot if you didn’t go. Admit publicly that you didn’t want to spend a year talking about how sick the chili made you at Nasfic. Be upfront.

But not too upfront. Upfront, many of us have always wanted a serious relationship with a Koala. We should conceal that, particularly if we live in the South or in a small town anywhere, such as that little mining town in the West. Unless we want someone pounding on our door every time his burro elopes.

Since we’ve moved into beginnings anyhow, I’m going to tell you another way not to start your trip report right now: ‘One shouldn’t party all night, I thought, even with jet lag. Even with Bruce, Bruce, and Bruce. I went out on the balcony to get a breath of fresh air and watch the sun rise slowly in the west. I was Down Under! I really was! How remote it had seemed that morning when Cuddles called to say that he wouldn’t drive me to the airport after all, that he had found someone new and was trading me in . . .’ Nobody really likes trip reports by automobiles, not even if Bruce, Bruce and Bruce (all Australians are called Bruce) had a party in your front seat.

Nor do we want to read trip reports by burros. How do you know if you’re a burro? Your friends will tell you. In fact, I’ll tell you: if you asked that question.

A Visit to the Stationery Store Do not get a spiral notebook, even if it has a picture of Miss Piggy on the cover. Do not get a neat tape recorder. The Guilty Party used to be a journalist, and as a result he owns half a dozen of the damned things and has spent many a lonely evening in their company. Believe me they are nothing.

(Have you ever wondered what magazine editors do the night before the interview? I’m gonna tell you. They call up Weather on the hotel phone and tape their conversation with the weather guy: “Hi! How’s the weather?’ ‘Thank you for calling First National’s Weather Service. Remember, save at First for a rainy day. Intermittent rain tomorrow except where you’re going, where the rain will be heavy and continuous, mixed with sleet. The barometer is . . . CLICK.’ I once had a colleague who’d been to Israel swear to me that in Tel Aviv the weatherman says ‘Don’t Ask!’ He was lying through his teeth.)

Do get one of those bound volumes of white space generally called blank books. The reason is Thursday night with Sheila. (Some Australians are called Sheila.) About two p.m. Friday you will write up Thursday night with Sheila in great detail. About two a.m. Saturday morning — if you bought the spiral notebook — you will rip the whole thing out, wad it up into a teeny tiny ball, and flush it. (This is called editing.) And about nine p.m. on your second night back in the states you’ll be ready to give a hundred bucks and all your teeth for that teeny tiny ball. Don’t ask Miss Piggy to help out then! It will be too late. Vous should have trusted me instead. If you want to, you can try holding your spiral notebook slantwise to the light and looking for the impressions of your Bic Banana on the next page like Lew Archer and Travis McGee do. You may be surprised by the things you find, but Thursday night won’t be one of them.

The tape recorder is even worse. A really good friend of mine went to Aussiecon One, and he used the tape recorder method. Early Friday afternoon he talked into the mike about himself and Sheila, and when he got back to the Oval Office he edited the whole eighteen minutes out. Some Busybodies found out about this and he lost his job and everything. So you see.

No, get the blank book, like I told you to. Then when you meet somebody at the Worldcon you can borrow my pen and write everything up in glowing detail if you’ll let me read it. Saturday morning you’ll be tempted to tear those pages out, wad them into a teeny tiny ball and flush it; but then you’ll realize it will spoil the entire book, and you won’t. You’ll cross that part out instead.

So when you get home, you can hold that page up to the light and read everything, just like secret writing. Furthermore, you can make a ‘fair copy’ adding lots of details you’re almost sure happened and leave the blank book around for the Right Friends to find when you go out for more beer. The Right Friends will tell each other they don’t believe you, but really deep down they will, and they’ll hate your guts. And that’s the very best kind of trip report to have.

A Visit to the Camera Store That’s such a neat ending back there I wish I could have stopped, but there’s something else I have to cover: Pictures. There are three kinds besides the kind Alexis Gilliland draws. (If your name is Alexis Gilliland, you’re coming to AussieCon Two — Good! — but you don’t have to read this.) The three kinds are movies, slides and Prints. Prints is used to make rock videos, and thus is most suitable for trip reports. With Prints, you can send pictures of the worldcon to Charles N. Brown and Andy Porter. Charles N. and Andy will then caption your pictures — isn’t that neat? Charles N. will say that Joe Haldeman is Mark 0l$on, and Andy will say that Gay Haldeman is Ted White, but what you you care? Let Mark and Ted worry about it. (You can even send your prints to Fantasy Review so Bob Collins can say Joe and Gay are are Rick Katze; if you feel that way, who’s to stop you? mine will probably be in Thurst, if Doug Fratz ever returns my calls.)

No More Stuff I have lots more stuff to tell you about Australia and about writing (and not writing) trip reports. And to be completely upfront about all this, I had planned to do it in the next Aussiecon Two Progress Report. But as soon as David Grigg and Bruce (see?) Gillespie found out about it, they wrote to say there would be any more Progress Reports. (To be totally and absolutely upfront, they didn’t write; they cabled. And they had Joyce Scrivner phone threats.) So I may continue in the Program Book. Or not. They’ll probably want me to write something fannish.

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