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Friday, October 16, 2020

"Frontiers in Brain Research": Audio of Holmes' Neurology Lecture at Worldcon in 1978

Flyer for World Con 36 aka Iguanacon. Click for a larger view.


Here's a forgotten artifact that has just resurfaced
an audio recording of a lecture given by J. Eric Holmes at Worldcon 36 in 1978 (aka Iguanacon; each one has a unique name). It's titled "Frontiers in Brain Research"  Holmes was a professor of neurology at USC — and is almost hour and half in length! 

A direct link to the recording, which you can download & listen to like a podcast:

Frontiers in Brain Research

(214.5 MB mp3, length 1:29:22)


The recording starts with announcement identifying it as a product of Cassette Communications Corporation, a company that made recordings at the con and then offered them on sale for $6 a tape to con-goers. Here is their flyer from World Con 36:



Click on the image for a larger view

Per the flyer, if you ordered six tapes ($30), you received received a bonus "custom album" holder; I found a picture of one of these from an old Ebay auction of Harlan Ellison recordings:


There are a few technical glitches in the recording: Holmes was already speaking when the recoding began, so there is no introduction, although it is still clearly near the beginning where he is outlining what he will be talking about. There is also a break in his speech not too far in where the recording seems to have been stopped and started again. And there is some background hiss, not unexpected for those of us that remember audio cassette recordings.

But overall this is a real treat: we get to hear Holmes speaking clearly (the first time I have heard his voice!) and at length on a topic that he knows extremely well. He keeps it light with periodic jokes and the audience is very enthusiastic, asking many questions; the last half-hour or so is a Q&A following the lecture.

The recording is hosted on AZFandom (Arizona Fandom), "a site dedicated to Arizona fandom from its beginnings in the late 1960s to its future in the years to come", which has a page for conventions held in Arizona, including one for Worldcon 36, which includes a section of audio recordings.

The Sci-Fi & Fantasy Fan preservation site Fanac also has a page with a wealth of documentation of Worldcon 38 / Iguanacon.

Per the Pocket Program, Holmes gave his lecture from 11:30 am to 12:45 pm on Saturday, September 2nd, 1978 in the Phoenix Room of the Hyatt Regency, shown here: 


Sketch of the Hyatt from the convention program


I asked Chris Holmes about this, and he recalls attending this convention with his father but no other details. To put this in context, t
his was less than a month after they had attended Gen Con XI (Aug 17-20), where J. Eric Holmes was a Guest of Honor, gave a lecture on "Fantasy Literature, Fantasy Art & Fantasy Gaming", and ran two D&D games, D&D For Beginners and D&D on Barsoom.



Chris (left) and J. Eric Holmes (right) at Gen Con XI. Source: Dragon #20


Full page ad for Gen Con XI that mentions Holmes, which ran in Dragon #15 and #16.


Holmes had a history of presenting research in his area of study for the science fiction fan, having written several science articles for the magazine Analog Science Fact and Fiction, including:

He later went on to co-author, with David F. Lindsley, a college textbook titled Basic Human Neurophysiologywhich was published in 1984 by Elsevier:

2 comments:

  1. What an amazing find - looking forward to listening to it, and will be sure to post my thoughts here!

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  2. I had a listen, last night - a fascinating look at what was known about the brain in 1978. Holmes focuses on historical underpinnings that are still understood to be true, covering basic neuroanatomy, as well as fundamental principles regarding consciousness, memory, and dreams. He demonstrates a refreshing humility about how much wasn't known, and a healthy skepticism regarding the forward pace of scientific inquiry.

    He clearly spoke using a slide projector, and his occasional comments to focus particular slides made me smile! I remember using physical slides into the early 1990s. It wasn't until a few years later that we made the wholesale transition to PowerPoint.

    There's no doubt that he had an engaging style as a lecturer - keeping the audience involved, and getting laughs from the room. It's also clear that he really knew his stuff, judging from how well he fielded some of the more off-the-wall questions.

    One more thing - the formal lecture is only an hour in length, after which he answers a few questions. The last 15 minutes of the recording is just people talking in background.

    Thanks for posting! It was a real treat.

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