Heinlein Centennial Communiqué No. 1
September 6, 2002
Always listen to experts. They'll tell you what can't be done
and why. Then do it. -- The Notebooks of Lazarus Long
It was a pleasure to hear from so many people and meet some of you for
the first time at ConJosé. I will bring you up to date on where
we stand on centennial preparations.
Table of Contents
We have attracted responses from a couple of dozen members of the Heinlein
Society so far in response to the initial e-mail, and more are arriving all the time. Our task will be
intimately tied in with the Society's fundraising activities and since
Alan Milner is in charge of the latter he will figure prominently in whatever
we do. Of course the Society Executive stands squarely behind this task and will be heavily involved.
These are the most pressing activities as I see them:
- Define the task's purpose
- Create and populate job assignments
- Define the operating rules
- Create a schedule
- Increase membership
I will pro tem define our purpose as
To increase awareness of Robert Heinlein and his works among
the greatest number of people in association with the hundredth anniversary
of his birth.
Wordsmiths are invited to submit improvements upon the above for review.
We have many tasks to perform, and many more will become apparent as we
proceed. To make it as easy as possible to let people take on a task,
we want to empower them to recruit assistance with minimal effort. (Talking
with Alan and David, we kept thinking of the cell structure The Moon
is a Harsh Mistress, although we don't expect to keep the membership
secret, nor to be pursued by the Warden's goons...)
So taking on a task doesn't mean that you have to do it yourself; just
means that you're in charge of finding and directing people to get it done.
And any of them are equally free to recruit and delegate within their own
area of responsibility. We will keep a central database of everyone who is involved. Three points:
I will list specific jobs below.
- It is not necessary for someone to join the Society to assist with the
Centennial (although they can expect to be invited);
- It is not necessary for someone to be listed in the database in order to
help. We respect people's desire for privacy; the database is mostly
for ensuring that everyone receives their share of credit and can be included
in pep talk mailings and timely notices.
- No matter how little time you may have to spare, it makes a difference. Even if you have only one hour a month to spare, that adds up to over a work week by the time H-day rolls around. That counts!
Subject to debate, I foresee a committee (which will be a subcommittee
of the Heinlein Society) of no more than 7 members, making decisions by
majority vote according to Robert's Rules of Order. These decisions
should be kept to a minimum since the individual section heads should be
as autonomous as possible. I imagine we will also need to hold the
occasional election. I will do everything in my power to ensure that
we do not get bogged down in process; our primary function is to act, not talk.
Many events will need to be tracked, some of which will be combinations
of lesser events with dependencies. Ideally, someone with experience
with a tool like Microsoft Project is needed here. But if you can
just manage text, that's a good start. We need to start a schedule as soon as possible.
We need people, period. I foresee the Centennial being the nucleus
around which we gather all manner of Heinlein fen who previously had no
knowledge of the Society or insufficient motivation to join. The
Centennial will be their excuse to get involved, because it provides a
focus with a specific deadline for them to do something to promote Heinlein.
We've all heard of "Heinlein's Children" (most of us consider ourselves
in that category); many people owe a great deal to Heinlein, ranging from
their career success to their philosophy for life. We can't give it back
to Robert himself, but we can do what he would want, which is to Pay It
So bring that message to people you know who have some affection for
Heinlein, and get them involved. In due course we'll come out with
posters and other instruments of recruitment, but word of mouth will always
be the most effective way of enrolling someone.
A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion,
butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance
accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give
orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch
manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly.
Specialization is for insects. -- The Notebooks of Lazarus Long
This is a brain dump of what we need people for. Nothing stops you
from taking on more than one of these activities; many of them won't require
a full-time effort for a while. On the other hand, many of them will require delegating considerable amounts of work.
Note: Even if you don't have the time or resources to do justice to an entire job, don't hold back from volunteering for part of it. Remember, every contribution counts, and perhaps your rôle right now is to kickstart a task until someone with more time on their hands comes along.
- Web master/mistress
- Overall responsibility for the web site: keep it running.
- Data meister
- We'll have lots of data; this person ensures that it all has a home and
that anyone who wants data can get at it easily.
- Membership tracker
- Manages that part of the data pertaining to the people involved, how to
reach them, what they're doing, etc.
- Finance gnome
- Handles the $$$, £££, ¥¥¥, etc.
- Schedule guru
- Maintains the schedule, and issues reminders where people have scheduled
- Convocation planner
- Assuming we have a Heinlein event by this title around the centenary, this
person runs it. They will end up delegating a vast amount of responsibility.
- Communication manager
- Sets up systems so that people can send emails to the whole membership or a subset thereof; also works with the web master/mistress to create a discussion board.
- Convention liaison
- We'll need to get the word out to a lot of s-f fans. This person
will ensure that cons know about us and will work with Society people who
are attending or presenting at cons.
- Media liaison
- We'll need to reach out to many forms of media, many television outlets
and the like. This person will ensure that we take a coordinated
- Documentary planner
- One form of media outreach that is highly likely is a documentary on Heinlein's
life and legacy. We'll need someone to oversee that.
- Idea tracker
- We'll accumulate many ideas for things to do. This person manages
that data, and ensures that suggestions have been acknowledged and considered.
- Propaganda minister
- We'll be generating posters and other printed content for recruitment and
public awareness. This person manages that.
- Recording secretary
- Tracks the decisions and meetings of the committee, reports on same to
the Heinlein Society board.
- Content manager
- We'll need to keep the public's attention during the centenary year with
a constantly-changing stream of information about not only our activities
but Heinlein's life and works, life in 1907, the history of science fiction,
that sort of thing. This person will gather and package that information.
- Press liaison
- Interfaces with the press, prepares and distributes press kits.
- Advertising manager
- Responsible for creating and placing advertisements in outlets such as s-f convention progress reports and programs.
- VIP liaison
- We'll depend on the generosity of a number of important people. Someone must be assigned specifically to ensuring that they are treated properly.
- Graphic artist
- Right off the bat, we'll need a logo or three, plus a consistent design style to be applied to all the Centennial publications. Then there'll be poster design.
Of course, I've forgotten many important jobs. Please help
me add them and organize the ones I've got better.
Note: Responsibility and creativity notwithstanding, no man (or woman) is an island. Everyone will be working in tandem with others whose responsibilities overlap with theirs to some extent. Cooperation is the watchword; egotism is handy for motivation but it needs to be subordinated to the task we came to do. No-one will get their way 100% of the time except by coincidence.
Herewith, our first decision. We need a gathering place; we will
be heavily dependent upon the Internet. We should have our own web
site (I will donate a 10-year domain registration for the winner, and a
5-year registration for a secondary name if there's a close runner-up.)
Here are some ideas for domain names, all of which are currently available:
Any and all can also be registered under .org, .net, or .info. Please submit additional suggestions to me by September 18, 2002 and I will put the collection to a vote at that time. We will have an external outreach site as well as an internal coordination site, but I think the latter should just be a subdirectory of the former.
Peter Scott, Centennial@psdt.com.