LaffCon 3

Andrew Ferguson, 2018, photo by Yakov Varganov

The third annual gathering of the Northeast Lafferty League (NELL), LaffCon 3 was held in Lawrenceville, New Jersey on June 9, 2018. The event built on foundations laid last year by tracing themes carrying over into this year’s selected texts. Artists submitted an all new collection of paintings and illustrations for display in a gallery.

Gregorio Montejo, 2018, photo by Yakov Varganov

Andrew Ferguson got the ball rolling with some writing advice on why you should never begin a paper with a dictionary definition or: “Since the beginning of time.” That is unless you are Lafferty, to whom the rules simply do not apply. Among much else, Ferguson conveyed Lafferty’s belief in a latent genius within all people. A genius that may be unpredictable, dependent on context, and often unrecognized, but any person allowed to pursue their enjoyments may in so doing express that brilliance, whatever their acknowledged cognitive disability.

Details embedded in Not to Mention Camels were teased apart by Gregorio Montejo who began by asking, “What is the heaviest burden a camel can bear?” Is it the acceptance of a wholly nihilistic worldview? And what must one cast aside in order to carry this maximal burden? The spirit, the moral principle, or the will? Drawing on a wide array of connections, Montejo established a relationship between Lafferty, Jung, and Nietzsche.

Samuel Tomaino, Darrell Schweitzer, Robert Bee, Nancy Lebovitz, 2018, photo by Yakov Varganov

Following a break for lunch, Michael Swanwick and John Owen held a brief remembrance of Gardner Dozois, champion of science fiction and fellow Lafferty reader.

Next was a panel with Robert Bee, Samuel Tomaino, Nancy Lebovitz, and Darrell Schweitzer talking religion and politics in Past Master. They tried to pin down what was so wrong with the book’s great golden city by going back to Thomas More’s original Utopia to consider the convictions of the book’s author.

Butterflies of Snuffles by Yakov Varganov
Kevin Cheek, 2018, photo by Yakov Varganov

Hosts of the Gene Wolfe Literary Podcast, Glenn McDorman and Brandon Budda, made a live recording featuring Gregorio Montejo. They discussed Lafferty’s short “Snuffles”, and why it might connect with Gene Wolfe readers. Questions raised by the story’s strange happenings lead to possible answers in gnosticism.

Conference attendees were treated to a 30-minute promo of the first Lafferty documentary with interviews of Harlan Ellison, Michael Swanwick, and others. Andrew Ferguson answered questions about an upcoming Lafferty biography he is writing for the University of Illinois Modern Masters of Science Fiction series. Kevin Cheek of Ktistec Press talked future publishing plans, including the fifth volume of the Feast of Laughter fanzine. The convention closed with an informal panel involving all con attendees, and the National Kick-a-Pigeon Day celebration.

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