Thursday, April 28, 2016


It is my happy honor to announce another guest to LaffCon.

Who is it?

Raphael Aloysius Lafferty.

Kind of.

Sort of. 

In his introduction to his book Speaking of the Fantastic II, Darrell Schweitzer writes of the book as "TIME-TRAVELING WITH A TAPE RECORDER."  "... a book like this is a form of time-travel. It lets you go back in time and read what Peter Beagle  was thinking before he had completed Tamsin, or where Philip Jose Farmer was in his career in 1984. Three of the interviewees, Sheffield, Lafferty, and Walton, are, alas, no longer with us. What you read here comes close to being their last testaments..... Here are voices from the past."

While it's true that the printed page makes for a good documentary record, this transcription of a conversation still feels more like an event at a distance, removed from itself, rather than the event itself. What if, instead of a book, we actually could "time-travel with a tape recorder?" What if at least our ears could be transported to another location in space and time to eavesdrop on an unedited conversation between two individuals? Failing that, what if a stretch of the past could be gathered up and condensed and then broadcast to all of our gathered present ears simultaneously? I don't understand the science behind it (it is indistinguishable from magic, I say), but it is true. We have discovered a form of time travel.

As hard as I tried, I could not actually get Ray to agree to come to LaffCon. Thanks to Darrell Schweitzer's time machine, however, we will be privileged to welcome The Voice of Lafferty Past.

Ray is likely a bit chagrined that this ghost-aspect has agreed to make an appearance.

In the afternoon panel session on "Documenting Ray," I promise to rip open a hole in time and space and make the past present to all of you. I will uncap a bottle (resembles a lamp, a bit) of strong good stuff and deliver a snort of concentrated Ghost-Ray into your ears via a patent pending otological chrononautical apparatus. Surely, your ears are itching to receive such a gift. 

Quite seriously, this is an important piece of oral history. 

The audio featured at LaffCon1 is the audio recording of Darrell's interview with Ray which was the basis of the print transcript in the book Speaking of the Fantastic II. Buy a copy of the book to support Darrell. You'll also get a lot of good reading, including an interview with LaffCon1 Writer Guest of Honor Michael Swanwick.

Unfortunately, this treasure was preserved here on this earth "where moth and rust doth corrupt." We have lost the latter half of the interview to cassette tape corruption. What remains, however, is a wonderful 14 minutes of conversation that has been digitized and will hopefully be preserved far into the future, when some poor grade school student in the 26th century will have forgotten whether Lafferty or Shakespeare came first and finally gets it right because she remembers her tech history and recalls that the world has 14 minutes of Lafferty's voice in its digital treasure box and none of Shakespeare's.

We are all indebted to Darrell Schweitzer for his generosity in sharing this important recording with all of us. Thank you, Darrell. 

Oral history is often a neglected and underutilized field, though we have the amazing tools to preserve so much. In the case of Ray Lafferty, whose fiction is widely regarded as owing to oral storytelling techniques, it is a great gift to hear the man's voice and the rhythm of his speech. This one recording from late in Lafferty's life may not be as special as if we had a recording of him telling a whopper of a tale to army buddies in the mid-40s, but it's what we have and it is indeed precious. 

I am very grateful for its existence and look forward to sharing this audio with all of you at LaffCon1.

Hear you there.