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Gordon Garb*

By Fred A Levy Haskell

Gordon Garb? He’s just this guy, you know?

So I’ve been struggling for almost two weeks now, trying to think of what else I can say about Gordon for this bio. I mean, it’s not like I haven’t known him very long—in fact, I just stumbled across the following in one of my old apazines in a con report on Archon II in St. Louis back in the summer of 1978: “…at some point during the con I walked to the Denny’s (or was it a Sambo’s? Anyway…) with Gordon Garb, and had a pleasant meal and chat.” And it’s not like I don’t know him well, although I don’t have a quote from an apazine to back that statement up. And he certainly doesn’t lack panache: I really don’t know of anybody else who’s gotten married in a matching tie-dyed cummerbund, bow-tie, and yarmulke. And you probably know as well as I do that, after a hiatus of several years, this is the umpty-umpth time he’s been Toastmaster at Bubonicon.

Of course, there’s the boring real-world stuff: to my knowledge, he’s worked at NCR Wichita, Cray Labs Boulder, Digital Productions, Apple Computers, Xaos Tools, and back to Apple, where he still is today. Ho hummm. Oh, yeah, he did get screen credit (and a cool jacket) for his work on the film The Last Starfighter while he was at Digital Productions, and I’m told he also helped produce computer animation for 2010, Labyrinth, the opening sequence of Spielberg’s Amazing Stories, a Mick Jagger music video, and lots and lots of TV advertisements. I guess that’s pretty exciting. He showed me a video tape of the video and some of the commercials, and they are way cool.

Speaking of “way cool,” he’s forever doing cool stuff: We owe the best sound recordings of a Minicon Music Party to date to the fact that Gordon showed up at Minicon 24 (1989) with his DAT tape recorder and dutifully “caught the action,” and to the fact that he then took the time to dub the results to cassette tapes for those of us who are hardware-challenged. And I’m sure you’ve heard the story about the time a scheduling conflict prevented him from being at Bubonicon in the flesh…. And his old roommate, Bucky, claims that Gordon once ran into the streets wearing boxer shorts with hearts on them during an earthquake (or isn’t that cool? I think it is, but… well… anyway…). Oh yeah, and he was editor for a while at one of the revived prozines (Galaxy? Weird Tales? pardon my flaky memory—it’s been such a long exposition). And somebody said he was an editor with Eclipse Comics for a while, too.

But, you know, I don’t think any of that really defines Gordon. So what’s actually important about the guy? Well, here, try this on for size: a few years back, when he was thinking about changing jobs at Apple or leaving Apple or something, he said to me, “I’m tired of helping others achieve their dreams; I want to achieve some of my own.”

Now I frankly don’t know whether he’s been able to effect that change, either professionally or personally, although I certainly hope he has at least been able to move toward it. But I’ll tell you something: Gordon probably got himself into that jam professionally because that’s just how he is, and he’s darn good at it too. He’s a helper—a guy who makes things happen or helps things happen or sometimes just lets things happen. It doesn’t always or necessarily take a great deal of effort on his part, and it doesn’t necessarily cost him anything (and sometimes it isn’t even obvious that he’s the guy at the center of the action), but he’s always thinking and making connections and putting people together with other people or with stuff or whatever.

For example, I’m sitting here writing this on a Macintosh II computer that I got through Gordon during one of those “Apple special sales to employees and their friends.” Further, it’s not just a plain II any more, it’s a IIfx, because Gordon recently snared me an fx motherboard that was otherwise going to go to waste (it was going to be a gag gift at a stag party—ask Gordon to tell you about it, because it’s quite a story and I’d just get all the details goofed up). Neither of these things cost Gordon much—it was just a matter of him paying attention and being willing to do some nice things—but they’ve been invaluable to me. And these are just a couple of the more obvious, tangible examples I could cite. I’ll bet if you asked any of his other friends, they could give you some other examples of ways Gordon’s helped them achieve their dreams. This is a quality that sets him apart from most other people I know.

So, you know, Gordon’s just this guy, you know? But I’m proud to be able to call him my friend.


Update/Addendum†

Some years ago I was asked to write a Guest of Honor bio of Gordon, a task I feel I failed miserably at because there was some crucial thing about him I couldn’t seem to get pinned down. I think now that I know what it is: Gordon is, to use Kurt Vonnegut’s terminology, a wampeter. That is, he is the hub around which a karass (or several karasses, more likely) revolve, regardless of whether he and they know it. A karass is a group of people working together, again regardless of whether they know it, toward a common goal. Further, it seems as if good things are more likely to happen to and for people simply because Gordon is around. It is an honor to be his friend.


*Written for Bubonicon <#>, 1996; ©1996, 2003 Fred A Levy Haskell.
†Written for Friendster.com, 05/29/2003; ©2003 Fred A Levy Haskell.