On Saturday, July 1, 1989, I drove nearly 400 miles -- with my wife and young daughter in tow -- in order to meet Leo and Diane Dillon. They were appearing that weekend at Westercon 42, at the Anaheim Marriott Hotel.
The Dillons weren't the artist guests of honor, but somehow I had learned they would be in attendance at the convention. (Remember, there was no online "social media" then like there is now.) According to Tom Whitmore [more on Tom in a bit], the Dillons tended to turn down GOH invites, but they were in the middle of a book tour, and managed to squeeze in some convention time into their hectic schedule. Regardless of how I heard the Dillons were planning to be at the convention, I was planning to be there, too.
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Upon arriving in Anaheim on Saturday, July 1, we stayed at my parents' house [the house, alas, that I finally sold in April] as they lived only a mile or so from the hotel. And while my wife and daughter spent time that weekend with my family, I made my way to the Marriott and Westercon 42.
In addition to my family and a couple pieces of luggage, I had also brought with me two fairly large boxes (printer paper boxes) of books that I had hoped to have Leo and Diane Dillon sign. Among the approximately 50 or so books were all 36 original Ace Science Fiction Specials, edited by the late Terry Carr, in which the Dillons had done the cover art.1 Obviously this was back in the days of my book collecting mania. I still have these books -- and probably about three thousand more -- I just don't worry about getting them signed any longer. (That is, unless the book is one that I edited and/or the author is a personal friend.)
To successfully get all of my books signed, I needed some dedicated time with the Dillons. So, I approached Tom Whitmore, who was on the Westercon 42 staff, and asked for his assistance. Tom was one of the three founding partners of the Other Change of Hobbit bookstore in Berkeley; I knew Tom from spending far too much time (and undoubtedly far too much money) at that particular bookstore during the mid-to-late '80s and '90s.
Leo and Diane Dillon were presenting a slide show of their work in the afternoon, I believe it was on Sunday, July 2; following the slide show presentation, Tom graciously escorted the Dillons and me to a smaller room where we could have some private time -- and, in fact, Tom even remained by the door to ensure we were not interrupted.
But before all the signing was the Dillons' slide show presentation. I have this vague (after 23 years!) memory of the event, and truly wish that a recording of the Dillons' commentary was available. They showed slide after slide, discussing the particular technique used with each one: wood block prints, batik (or some similar process), various mixed media; and the occasional hassles they had with art directors, deadlines, and such. How Leo fell asleep while painting late one night and Diane picked up right where he had left off... How each piece they did was a collaboration of ideas and skills: what they themselves referred to as the "Third Artist." They touched on -- but didn't dwell upon -- some of the difficulties they encountered in the late '50s and '60s as an interracial couple.
Tom Whitmore also reminded me that it was this slide show that the Dillons presented an unfinished cover for The Last Unicorn. I don't recall the full story (i.e. how the cover came to be, and then remained unfinished), but Tom informed Connor Freff Cochran -- Peter S. Beagle's agent, co-producer, publisher, etc. -- about the unfinished piece; Connor then contacted the Dillons and had them finish the piece for a reprint edition of the book.
Sadly, I don't have Marilu Henner's memory, so I can't recall the specific details, but I can recall the feeling I experienced as Leo and Diane Dillon brought each of those pieces of art to life with their words.
For the signing afterward, we were all seated in a meeting room with a central table. I would open each book to the title page and then slide it across to Diane; she would sign her name, followed by a slash, and then pass the book along to Leo; he, in turn, would sign his name on the other side of the slash, thusly:
Even with 50 books, this whole process shouldn't have taken longer than, say, fifteen minutes at most. But as I would hand Diane one of the Ace SF Specials, she would say something like, I haven't seen this cover in 15 years! -- and then proceed to show it to Leo, and then they would chat about some unique aspect of that particular cover. I was experiencing Leo and Diane Dillon art history first hand, and I still didn't have a tape recorder. Somewhere around 45 minutes later, we said our goodbyes and parted company.
This, of course, all came back to me this week when I read of the passing of Leo Dillon on May 26.
So I would like to take this opportunity to thank Leo and Diane Dillon for sharing a piece of their life with me that day, and especially for their graciousness and patience. I met them again, albeit briefly, ten years later when they were, in fact, guests of honor at the 25th World Fantasy Convention in Providence, Rhode Island. This time I traveled approximately 3,000 miles -- but only had them sign one book: To Every Thing There Is a Season (pictured above).
Lastly, I want to thank Tom Whitmore for his friendship back in the day, and for helping to refresh my memory this day.
1. There were 38 original Ace Science Fiction Specials plus 1 reprint of an earlier title (Alexi Panshin's Rite of Passage): 36 with cover art by Leo and Diane Dillon, and 3 with cover art by Davis Meltzer. I also had documentation on 4 additional Ace paperbacks that had been selected by Terry Carr as Ace SF Specials, but the series was cancelled before these 4 books were released. One of these, Brian Aldiss's Barefoot in the Head, also had cover art by the Dillons. (Meltzer did the cover art for the other 3 titles.) The 36 titles I had the Dillons sign included the Aldiss extra, but did not include the 1 reprint title. I had the book, but didn't have it with me at the time of the signing. For those into books and lists and such, here are the 36 Ace SF Specials that I had the Dillons sign:
James H. Schmitz - The Witches of Karres (1968, A-13)
Alexei Panshin - Rite of Passage (1968, A-16)
Piers Anthony and Robert E. Margroff - The Ring (1968, A-19)
James Blish and Norman L. Knight - A Torrent of Faces (1968, A-29)
Clifford D. Simak - Why Call Them Back from Heaven? (1968, H-42)
R. A. Lafferty - Past Master (1968, H-54)
Gertrude Friedberg - The Revolving Boy (1968, H-58)
Wilson Tucker - The Lincoln Hunters (1968, H-62)
Joanna Russ - Picnic on Paradise (1968, H-72)
Bob Shaw - The Two-Timers (1968, H-79)
D. G. Compton - Synthajoy (1968, H-86)
James H. Schmitz - The Demon Breed (1968, H-105)
Michael Moorcock - The Black Corridor (1969, 06530)
R. A. Lafferty - Fourth Mansions (1969, 24590)
Avram Davidson - The Island Under the Earth (1969, 37425)
Roger Zelazny - Isle of the Dead (1969, 37465)
John Brunner - The Jagged Orbit (1969, 38120)
Ursula K. Le Guin - The Left Hand of Darkness (1969, 47800)
Bob Shaw - The Palace of Eternity (1969, 65050)
Keith Roberts - Pavane (1969, 65430)
Philip K. Dick - The Preserving Machine (1969, 67800)
John T. Sladek - Mechasm (1969, 71435)
D. G. Compton - The Silent Multitude (1969, 76385)
Ron Goulart - After Things Fell Apart (1970, 00950)
Joanna Russ - And Chaos Died (1970, 02268)
D. G. Compton - Chronocules (1970, 10480)
R. A. Lafferty - Nine Hundred Grandmothers (1970, 58050)
Bob Shaw - One Million Tomorrows (1970, 62938)
Avram Davidson - The Phoenix and the Mirror (1970, 66100)
D. G. Compton - The Steel Crocodile (1970, 78575)
Ursula K. Le Guin - A Wizard of Earthsea (1970, 90075)
Wilson Tucker - The Year of the Quiet Sun (1970, 94200)
Gordon Eklund - The Eclipse of Dawn (1971, 18630)
Suzette Haden Elgin - Furthest (1971, 25950)
John Brunner - The Traveler in Black (1971, 82210)
Brian W. Aldiss - Barefoot in the Head (1972, 04758)