© 2007 by Spider Robinson; all rights reserved.
Just got home from Robert A. Heinlein’s 100th birthday celebration in Kansas City, MO. What a party! There were actual Heinlein blood relatives there, in addition to his sweet granddaughter Dr. Amy Baxter and her husband Dr Louis Calderon. The famous brass cannon was there. NASA Administrator Dr. Michael Griffin, Spaceship One pilot Brian Binnie, Sirius Radio founder Dr. Martine Rothblatt, and the great Dr. Peter Diamandis, creator of the X Prize, were among the guests. (Dr. Diamandis gave a genuinely inspiring talk about its origins. Did you know that when he announced it from a stage full of astronauts and scientists—and for the next 8 years—the sumbitch was bluffing, didn’t have ten million cents? Nobody ever asked him. And with the luck of RAH, he found Anousheh Ansari just in time. The man actually is Delos D. Harriman...)
Also present were writers Ben Bova, Frederik Pohl, Elizabeth Ann Hull, David Gerrold, James E. Gunn, Allen J. Steele, John Scalzi, J. Neil Schulman, Yoji Kondo/Eric Kotani, Michael Cassutt, Robert Charles Wilson—who won the Theodore Sturgeon Award!--Brad Linaweaver, Robert Chilson, Chris McKitterick, David Mead, and retiring SFWA President Robin Wayne Bailey who did an outstanding job as MC. (There were doubtless others I’ve omitted.) The Heinlein Estate was represented by Trustee Buckner Hightower and RAH agent Eleanor Wood, and Hank Davis represented RAH publisher Baen Books.
Sir Arthur C. Clarke showed up by video. (He can no longer do live satellite chats: he says nowadays he functions in short bursts, and can walk 100 meters “on a good day.”) Official RAH biographer Bill Patterson dug up a photo of the first of Robert’s three wives, Elinor Curry, in a flapper hat. He also found the very very first story Robert ever wrote, for a fiction contest aboard the U.S.S. Lexington in 1930 (!), and reprinted it in the program book. (Sure, it stinks—but in interesting ways.) And there were Heinlein films, live theater, and dozens of genuinely fascinating panels by all those named above, plus the top five true Heinlein experts around, Bill Patterson, Dr. Robert James, James Gifford, Dr. Marie Guthrie, and M.G. Lord.
Jim Gifford, by the way, was one of the principal creators of the party, along with Peter Scott and Tim Kyger, assisted by Geo and Deb Rule and a host of knowledgable and devoted volunteers. It was one of the best celebrations I’ve ever been to, very different from a con. And Jeanne and I signed a ton of books, both VARIABLE STAR and THE STARDANCE TRILOGY.
For me, though, the highlight of the weekend was the Gala on Saturday night. Immediately after Yoji Kondo announced the winner of this year’s Heinlein Award, Elizabeth Moon, Jeanne got up onstage and gave an update on her Stardance Project, which began at the first Heinlein Award ceremony in 2003 (see http://www.stardanceproject.com for info) using both Powerpoint and a DVD with art by Ron Miller and music by James Raymond. You can find the 2-minute DVD on her site or on YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h7nuNiAdq7w ). After it was over, Jeanne asked for questions...allowing her “shill,” Dr. Baxter, to spring onstage, whip out her chequebook and ask who to make it out to A little piece of theater, P.T. Barnum style.
But Jeanne and Amy had not repeat not prearranged the other question she got. Someone out there in the dark, we don’t know who, asked if Jeanne intended to actually try out her zero-G choreography, in parabolic flight? Jeanne agreed she would love to, that she’d already exchanged email with Dr. Diamandis’s Zero G Corporation on the subject, and it was one of her prime fundraising goals. And out of the dark came the unmistakable voice of Dr. Diamandis himself, calling, “You’ve got a free ride, Jeanne.” He brought the house down. I once shocked Jeanne speechless, myself....but I had to propose to do it. I’m so proud of her, I could pop a stitch—my sweetie is going to slip the surly bonds of gravity! (and maybe even her dancer, Kathleen McDonagh too.)
The final toast of the Gala: “Ladies and gentlemen, to the the Heinlein Bicentennial, July 7, 2107—Luna City!” Hope I see you there....
PS--Further info on the Centennial: http://www.heinleincentennial.com/index.html .