John is a fine informal essayist and a dedicated fanpublisher. His weekly APA-L zine, VANAMONDE, is distributed by mail to roughly 300 readers outside the apa. Any of them will tell you that each issue is small but choice. He's also a reliable and observant fannish journalist whose annual Westercon reports in FILE 770 are a valuable addition to the fannish record. He's a polished master of ceremonies and expert judge at Masquerades large and small. As the reviver of art show docent tours he's helped make it possible to appreciate the shows as something more than mere displays, enriching the art experience of many. As a faneditor and fanzine critic myself, I admire BUTTON-TACK, the zine he co-edited with June Moffatt in memory of Rick Sneary. Among other things, that 1992 zine contained Marion Zimmer Bradley's first fanwriting in years, possibly her last. In 1984, for L.A.Con II, he designed and edited a program book and pocket program that are models of their kind. Beyond these and other accomplishments, he is, of course, just a great guy to hang around with. Yes, this is true of any worthy fan GoH, but how many of them are also amateur epistemologists?
Born in Chicago in 1949, John was an SF reader from an early age but unaware of fandom. Instead, his energies went to such hobbies as magic, which he eventually taught at summer camp and performed on TV. He was also an early computer lover, writing software in machine language, which he says he's since forgotten. In 1969 the uniquely free-form program of study at Antioch College brought John to Los Angeles and a boarding house where he met Jack Harness. Jack recognized John as a protofan and introduced him to APA-L, the LASFS and thence fandom at large. [Thanks, Jack!] John still resides in Los Angeles, where he works as a lawyer. He might disagree, but for many fans elsewhere, including me, he is one of the icons of LA fandom. He can usually be found at Worldcons, Westercons, Loscons and, happily for his eastern friends, Lunacon.
Though he looks great in the beautifully tailored Regency formal clothes he'll usually wear once during a con -- if you've never seen this, picture the man on the Johnnie Walker scotch label -- you're likelier to meet him in contemporary casuals and a prominent propeller beanie. It says something about John's view of fandom and his sense of humor about it that he's one of the few fans to have actualized this cartoon signifier. He wears it proudly.
I like to think of that sartorial choice as emblematic of John's ongoing effort to realize fannish ideals in his everyday fanac. John acts as if he believes he can find something in common with any fan. His conscious decision not to overspecialize helps to make this largely true. He's just as happy to talk about Nabokov as Niven, to rate greasy spoons or fine wines, to discourse upon Maimonides' Guide for the Perplexed or the philosophy in Tim Powers' The Anubis Gates, to discuss costuming or fanzines or just about anything else that happens to come up.
John says his role as fandom's dance teacher is accidental. Fuzzy Pink Niven and Mary Jane Jewell addicted him to Georgette Heyer's Regency romance novels. When the Heyer Teas began to evolve into the Regency Dances, teaching folk dancing, another of his hobbies, made him a natural choice to research how aristocrats like the characters in the novels danced in the early 19th century. Then he had to figure out how to teach elegant, stylized dances to, of all people, fans. We fans, after all, are not renowned for our grace and coordination. John says he is himself "a very clumsy guy" and claims, for example, that "to this day, I have never been able to reliably throw, catch or hit a projectile." (Sounds like a classic fan-type to me!) He maintains that if dancing is the exception to this, it is because he worked at it, "which proves anyone can." Indeed, he observes, "Almost all the things that I'm reputed to be good at are things that didn't come naturally to me." A valuable lesson for us all.
John is rightfully proud of having introduced a new convention tradition to fandom, but perhaps deserves even more credit for the way he's done it. I admire the way he's kept Regency dancing connected to traditional fannishness. Dancing, an otherwise mundane activity, was granted fannish citizenship, much as Pogo was in the Fifties. It became another of our whimsical customs, like the propeller beanie, the customized nametag and the Great Wall dinner expedition, rather than a "special interest" whose devotees segregate themselves at cons.
John has been called "inhumanly patient," a quality that has allowed him to serve as a moderator in fannish disputes, soaking up the neutrons of rancor and dissipating the heat of argument until reason and good fellowship can prevail. And if conversations can be likened to atomic reactions, he might himself be described as dialectically radioactive. Talking to him can lead to wonderful chain reactions of opinion, controversy, reconsideration, fresh ideas, and even agreement. Genuinely but humbly erudite, John has that virtue, all too rare in fandom, of knowing how to disagree, even argue, civilly, of being passionate but not shrill. It's hard to talk to him for long without learning something, and you can be certain that he will continue to respect you whether or not you part in complete agreement.
So please remember, this is Lunacon, not Regency London. You don't need a formal introduction to talk to John; just speak up. You'll find him to be open, thoughtful, precise, friendly, opinionated yet modest, soft-spoken but never shy. He'll probably be judging his success as Fan Guest of Honor by the number of interesting new people he meets and speaks with in the course of the weekend. If you're one of them, you'll soon agree it's a nice coincidence that his name is Hertz, considering how the aether vibrates in his vicinity.