Paul Weimer is joining us today with his 2017 DUFF Report, What I Did On My Summer Vacation. Here’s a description of the project:
The Down Under Fan Fund Report is compiled by the Down Under Fan Fund Representative as a record of their trip to the other side of the world to connect with SFF fandom, and bring disparate portions of the SFF community together. Having originated in 1970, the Down Under Fan Fund sends fans from Australasia to North America and back again in alternate years. Entirely run on donations from the SFF community, the Down Under Fan Fund report itself is made available so that all proceeds from its sale can help replenish the Fund. The 2017 Down Under Fan Fund delegate, Paul Weimer, traveled from Minnesota to the 2017 National Science Fiction conventions of both New Zealand and Australia, and saw many things along the way, ranging from Hobbiton to the Sydney Opera House. The 2017 Down Under Fan Fund Report details his experiences.
What’s Paul’s favorite bit?
For me, writing the Down Under Fan Fund report was very much like writing a travelogue. I was a stranger in a strange land, having traveled to the antipodes in search of conventions and other SFFnal and touristy things. It did take me a few days to truly get my bearings in New Zealand, driving on the opposite side of the road, dealing with technical problems, sulfur sensitivities, nearly not finding Hobbiton in time for my tour, and then the stress of performing my duty and attending the first of the two cons, Lexicon, in the resort town of Taupo. But it had been to that point an often-challenging trip to manage.
It was like a sign from the heavens, thusly, that as I left Taupo on an early morning, the sky was overcast if not rainy, making a long drive down the desert road and across a fair chunk of New Zealand to be an experience of sullen skies, poor photographic conditions, and a lot of driving. I had already learned that driving in New Zealand was a slow and ponderous affair, doubly so in rain and fog. I wound up in less than stellar lodgings after a day and a good chunk of the night driving where New Zealand had seemed mostly grey, flat and nothing like the Middle Earth I had hoped to see in and between the convention. Only brief breaks of clarity sustained me on that drive, but my hopes to see the great three central mountains of the north island of New Zealand had been occluded. A suggestion that author Adam Christopher had made to me months ago, when first planning the DUFF trip, had turned out to be a wash.
The next day, waking up in that questionable motel, seemed to promise nothing better. I had to get to Wellington at the bottom tip of the island that evening, but I wanted one more shot at real scenery in New Zealand before the next part of my trip, over in Australia. So, I went for it, driving up Mount Taranaki in the early grey morning in search of a waterfall. I found my waterfall, and a mountain wreathed in clouds, the top as invisible as the ones on the desert road had been. It was a pity, too. Mount Taranaki is a stratovolcano standing in the middle of flat country. Think of it as a somewhat smaller version of Mount Fuji from Japan and you’ll get the idea.
And yet, despite the weather, it was then, after the short walk to the waterfall, as I stood by my car, key in hand, something drew me to take a hike. I could have left after the waterfall, it was a long drive to Wellington, after all. The day was not getting any longer. And still, I found myself climbing a path through the goblin forest, a twisted and faerie looking forest of covered branches that gave the air of an Elven court. When I emerged from that forest an hour later at the “Hillary Seat”, the face of the mountain above me came into view.
Reader, the clouds had parted. The fog was gone. The rain was abolished. The sun was out. The snow packed top of the mountain peak gleamed in the sunlight. The flanks of the mountain were vibrant with color of brown and green. It was a transformative experience, looking up at one of the great mountains in the world, there for my eye and camera to capture (and yes, there are photos of that glorious vista in the report). I stood rooted to the spot for long minutes, unwilling to break the vision of all I had hoped to see in New Zealand in terms of scenery.
I would go on to a fantastic second con in Melbourne (aside from having gotten New Zealand con crud), and see many fantastic things in Australia in the company of most excellent people. And my report is full of photos of everything I saw and everyone I met, from beaches in New Zealand, to Hobbit holes, to the Sir Julius Vogel Awards, to the podcasters of Galactic Suburbia, the Great Ocean Road, and much more. However, it is that moment on Mt. Taranaki, after that hike that something told me I had to take against all rational thought, and to my benefit, that I go back to again and again in my mind. And that’s why it’s my favorite bit.
Paul Weimer is a SF writer, reviewer, and podcaster and an avid amateur photographer. When he isn’t doing any of that, he’s often found rolling dice and roleplaying. His audio work can be found on the Skiffy and Fanty Show and SFF audio. His reviews and columns can also be found at Tor.com and the Barnes and Noble SF blog, amongst other places. Paul is best seen on twitter as @princejvstin.