Last year, Readercon had no Kirk Polland Memorial Bad Prose Competition for the first time since the convention was founded. This year, Kirk is gone as well.
I’m very sorry to hear this. Kirk, after all, is in my blood.
Many years ago, at the dawn of conventions as we know them, the very first Readercon was held in this small hotel outside Coolidge Corner in Brookline, MA. Readercon’s goal was (and, I imagine, still is) to bring books and reading back into a science fiction field that was becoming overwhelmed by movies, TV, gaming and comic books.
To balance the sometimes intellectually “heavy” topics at the first Readercon, co-founder Eric Van decided the convention should hold a special event on Saturday night. Thus was born the Kirk Polland Memorial Bad Prose Competition. Namned after a “bad prose” writer in a story by Barry Malzberg,the competition was a somewhat demented variation on Fictionary. It worked this way — the contestants would read actual examples of (bad) published sf prose, often by famous sf writers, and would stop the reading in the middle of a passage. The contestants would then read in turn a series of endings (written by these same contestants) along with the actual ending, written by the original writer. It was then the audience’s responsibility to guess which of the passages presesnted to them was the actual bad prose.
The audience almost always guessed wrong.
Those were the original ground rules. Four writers (myself included) were tasked with writing out own bad prose to fool the audience. The other three writers in that first year did a great job. Not me. I found the only way I could finish the prose passages was by coming up with incredibly silly responses.
It turned out that the audience liked my silly responses — a lot. They fit well with the whole bad prose concept, and thus the format for Kirk Polland was truly set. Eric and I co-hosted the mix a couple dozen times, mostly at Readercon, but also at various Worldcons and the like.
And now, apparently, Kirk is a thing of the past at Readercon. I’n sure the committee wanted to go in new directions. But in doing so, I’m sorry that they chose to discard what i thought was a great tradition. Not to mention a real fun time.
I’m sure Kirk will show up again somewhere. It’s too much fun not to. But Readercon no longer feels like Readercon now that Kirk is gone.