Some Insights Into My History with Tachyon and the Inimitable Jacob Weisman
by David Sandner
My history with Tachyon (and Jacob) goes back to the beginning…to the first thing he did as an editor and publisher…to the moment I met J and he handed me the initial issue—Vol. 1, No. 1—of Thirteenth Moon, his magazine of fiction, poetry, reviews, and essays. This goes back beyond the 25 years being celebrated—1995? No, this would be Spring of 1982! We were in High School. I changed schools for my Junior year. I came to check out my new school toward the end of Sophomore year. I had friends—mutual friends with J—but all my buddies had to be somewhere else for some reason. J was free (how like him to be in his own orbit!) and agreed to show me around. Our friendship began with him handing me a newly-minted copy of his mimeo-ed sfnal zine, stapled in one corner, with a tiger on the front. He had a stack he was giving out. It was a crazy, ambitious, fantastic rag. Freaking perfect. I loved it. We’ve been lifelong friends ever since. Soon after, his magazine would be the first place I published.
Jacob always hatched plans and made things happen. We did a school project together that involved reading sf and meeting local authors: Poul Anderson being the biggest coup (there’s a story there, the “Frogger story”—I’m reserving that one for the drink you have to buy me), but I remember an entertaining visit with Ray Nelson, too. Jacob got a creative writing class set up taught by Marion Zimmer Bradley that I took (he was one year ahead of me and had already left).
When we were teenage fans, it was a strangely dead scene in San Francisco (at least for us). Our one and only specialty bookstore was the hilarious and wonderful Fantasy, Etc., a small store stacked floor to ceiling with books, residing in one of the worst parts of town, the Tenderloin, a place (then anyway) for drug and sex trafficking of various sorts. Yes, you had to be tough to be a sf fan in our day! I remember walking there with J one afternoon and some guy coming down the sidewalk the other way, shirtless, holding a very long knife, held casually loose in his hand down at his side. Everyone was pretending not to notice him, because he was not out of place there. Luckily, he was headed somewhere else. Other days, we would take BART over to visit Other Change of Hobbit or Dark Carnival to get a fix of sf.
After college, we spent our 20s and early 30s in San Francisco and Thirteenth Moon morphed into the book publisher Tachyon Publications. A group of us circulated around his magazine and what came after, a group sometimes called the “Tach Pach.” Jacob and I collaborated on writing stories, and still do; one of our earliest, “Egyptian Motherlode” in Realms of Fantasy back in the 90s, relates to our most recent, Mingus Fingers, a novelette in book form (that you should definitely check out) published this past November. (Both relate to a funk prophet/wizard figure that has haunted us for a long time. We are finishing a draft of a novel-length work about him we hope to publish soon.) In between that early story and the recent one, Jacob has published gobs of books that have won awards…edited ground-breaking collections (including The Treasury of the Fantastic with me)…and had his publishing work justly celebrated as an award-winning guest of honor at cons.
So, Jacob and I have known each other a long time, and I’ve seen Tachyon grow with pride in and wonder at what my friend has done. But out of all that, let me tell a story about one of Tachyon’s more difficult passages. This is a story I haven’t told it in full in decades, but the time has come for the “Tachyon to Texas Worldcon Debacle.” This was WorldCon 55, LoneStar Con 2, held in the great city of San Antonio some 23 years ago. The Tachyon Publications you know and love was just getting off the ground when J hatched a fabulous money-saving plan. Why ship books to Texas, or fly yourself there, when you can kill two birds with one stone and drive them cross-country yourself (with the help of an idiot friend.) We’re the birds here, you see—Jacob and I. Texas is the stone. I, in case you hadn’t guessed, am also the idiot friend, though the plan was all Jacob’s.
We would drive his stock of books in a reverse cattle-drive to Texas. What can I say? We were young and had little idea just how far it is from Northern California to the Southern border of Texas. In my defense, I thought J might consult a map. So, yes—we broke down—of course—I heard, in fact, some vital part of the engine just fall out, hit the pavement, and skitter away somewhere. We coasted, slowly, to a stop under the blistering Texas sun in the middle of nowhere, West Texas. I mean nowhere—when I hiked (a long way) to the next reststop and called AAA they told me they don’t serve that area. I had no way to contact J (no cell phones), no way to get other help (the pay phone didn’t even have shade cover much less a phone book). J was far away, baking in the car—the only shade for miles—with his sf books to keep him company. So, I begged, and they finally agreed to send someone out of Odessa, a long way back, to come get us. When they asked for any special notes, I said yes: make sure to tell them where I am since Jacob couldn’t know. (No cell phones, remember?) No one ever looked at that note again. Hours in the hot Texas sun later and the tow truck does find me, because J has them check the pull off where the phone was. It is toward evening now—we broke down fairly early in the day. Our Odyssey is only beginning.