I haven't seen this noticed yet on any other fannish sites, but fan Sgt. James Riley is one of the mechanics captured by Saddam's forces the other day. He wears glasses, which his captors have taken from him. His head was shaved and he sat in a wheelchair and answered questions in a clipped voice.
New Jersey's Cherry Hill Courier Post Online reports, "Riley, who taught himself guitar, is a science fiction fan who is making a chain-mail shirt of the sort knights wear." The Jersey Journal says likewise that Riley is "a natural-born mechanic who makes chain-mail armor and reads science fiction for fun."
Born in New Zealand but emigrating with his parents at an early age, he has kept up his dual citizenship even though he's never gone back. His hometown is Pennsauken, New Jersey, though he's of course stationed in Fort Bliss, Texas. He is single and has no children. He and his parents and sister Katherine have been dealing with his sister Mary being in a coma since January thanks to an undetermined neurological disease. But his parents have faith that he will make it; they say he's "stubborn and obstinate."
I know he's not the only fan in the war, and our POWs are already in everyone' s prayers and thoughts. But let's support Sgt. James Riley. He's one of our own -- one of our best. It would also be nice if some of the East Coast fans looked into doing something for his family...maybe somebody knows a good neurologist?
(Here's more about his family and the sister in a coma from The Newark Star-Ledger. News 12 has an article including a video and phone interview with Riley's mother. Here's New Zealand's take. And his hometown is behind him, The Jersey Journal reports: "Sgt. Riley's 22-year-old sister Katherine said most of Pennsauken's stores on Monday were sold out of the yellow ribbons, but she eventually found one and tied it around a thick maple in the family's front yard.")
The Other Side of Fandom
There's always been a divide between liberals and conservatives in fandom, way back to its beginnings. The first World Science Fiction Convention included a messy fan feud on the topic. (Naive Communist sympathizers who believed in the inevitable march of history versus people who didn't want political flyers at the con and told the Communist sympathizers they couldn't come in if they brought the flyers. Or something like that...I wasn't around in 1939 to hear both sides of the story.)
So this doesn't surprise me. What does surprise me is that anyone could honestly ask the corporate body of the Science Fiction Writers of America to issue a statement that it's against the war. Uh...don't we think SFWA is just a tad bit more pluralistic than that? They'd have to do like the Supreme Court and issue a bunch of minority opinions: SF Writers against the War, SF Writers for the War, SF Writers in the War, SF Writers Who Don't Give a Quark about the War, and SF Writers Whose Opinion about the War Is None of Your Damned Business.
It's too bad other unions aren't as sensible as SFWA. The NEA's endorsements never spoke for my parents, for example....