Interview with Rusty Hevelin

Sarah Bewley

Gainesville, Florida, United States

[0.1] Abstract—Interview with Rusty Hevelin, conducted by Sarah Bewley.

[0.2] Keywords—Fandom history; Pulps; Science fiction fandom

Hevelin, Rusty. 2011. Interview with Rusty Hevelin. Conducted by Sarah Bewley. In "Fan Works and Fan Communities in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction," edited by Nancy Reagin and Anne Rubenstein, special issue, Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 6.

1. Introduction

[1.1] Rusty Hevelin is a walking encyclopedia of the history of fandom in the 20th century. Beginning with the reading of pulp magazines as a child, he began collecting them at an early age, and has spent the majority of his life involved in fandom.

[1.2] He attended the third-ever Worldcon in 1941, hitchhiking from Southern California to Denver to attend. The only problem was, when he got there he didn't have the money for the membership fee. He found a job as a handyman at a local boarding house in return for food and a place to sleep. Then he went off to meet Lou Martin, the chairman of that Worldcon. He just wanted to talk about fandom things, and Martin allowed Rusty to attend, even though he didn't have the membership fee. (Which at that point in time was $1.)

[1.3] His connections to the "Big-Name Fans" (BNFs) of those early years were based on mutual love for the books and magazines, and it led him to lifelong friendships with many of the early writers, organizers, and fans in all areas of fandom. He watched as conventions changed from small fan-run affairs to huge money-making conventions. He mingled with the BNFs, who then included the likes of Ray Bradbury.

[1.4] Rusty became the driving force of the group that organized and ran PulpCon. This specific con, dedicated to the pulp magazines and books, has become a model for focused cons. It also had the reputation for being the only con where the dealers' room was a safe zone during all the years he ran it.

[1.5] Except for the period he was in the marines and serving overseas, and a time during which he was in college, chasing girls, and then eventually marrying and having children, his life has always involved fandom in a very important way.

[1.6] Rusty is a witness to how television fandom changed the nature of conventions and fandom forever. He attended the first Star Trek convention, in New York City in 1972. It was run by the fans, and no one expected the massive crowd that showed up. If it hadn't been for Issac Asimov showing up, the con would have had a dearth of programming. That con changed the face of fandom forever.

[1.7] One man who attended saw the potential in Star Trek, and from that point forward, the convention became a "money convention." It was no longer run by fans, and it was geared to the masses who had watched the show and become obsessed not just with the stories, but with the actors, the production, and every detail of what Star Trek had been.

[1.8] But some things never changed about fandom. Rusty says that in 1956 he went to Worldcon in New York City. He had a place to stay, out on Long Island with his wife's aunt, but he never showed up there. He was offered space in someone's room and stayed in the con hotel. Space sharing is still a common factor of fandom and conventions.

[1.9] Another thing that hasn't changed is the wide spectrum of fans. Age, race, career, none of that mattered. It was what the fan was interested in, the willingness to share, and the joy in the fandom; that made it a world that welcomed all.

[1.10] For 25 years, Rusty Hevelin and Gay Haldeman have done a panel at fan conventions on "How to Enjoy Your First Convention." It's one of the many ways he shares his knowledge and his experience with new fans.

[1.11] This interview was conducted on January 7, 2008, at Joe and Gay Haldeman's home in Gainesville, Florida. This grew out of my desire to have some record of the incredible amount of knowledge about fandom and conventions that exists in Rusty's head, and of his deep love of fandom. There are 4 hours of tape, and only a small portion of it is presented here.

[1.12] It was my desire to make this information available in some permanent fashion. The things that Rusty knows and has seen, and his life of fandom, deserve to be preserved.

[1.13] If someone wishes to know more, I would welcome the opportunity to provide access to the raw interview footage to anyone who has an interest in preserving this information for fandom history.

2. Interview

3. Acknowledgments

[3.1] April Steenburgh reviewed the tapes and provided the technical expertise to make the video clips included here. She also made suggestions and was incredibly helpful in developing the specific clips to be used.

[3.2] Rusty Hevelin is a good friend and a generous man. He sat for 4 hours with me one afternoon and allowed me to record his thoughts, his comments, and his memories. I am permanently indebted to him for that time.

[3.3] Gay Haldeman allowed me to set up on her patio on a lovely January day and record for as long as Rusty and I wanted. She also verified some details for Rusty during the interview. Her kindness in hosting us is much appreciated.