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The Decomposers, or Rivets Has Risen from the Grave

libretto by Sue Anderson and Mark M. Keller

Music by Sir Arthur Sullivan and divers hands

Presented by the RISFA Players

There are photographs of the performance

How many terrifying alternate worlds the imagination can conjure up: versions of history in which Germany built an atomic bomb in 1943, or Napoleon’s victory at Waterloo led to a thirty-year stalemate that totally exhausted Europe, or L. Ron Hubbard remained a science fiction writer. Some of these dark dimensions of probability may even permeate the cheerful world of science fiction fandom. After a decade of smoothly-run, enjoyable worldcons, we can easily forget that It Might Have Been Different.

Enter with us for a few hours that incredible world of the Rivets Conventions, a world in which con committees are made of fallible human beings instead of the paragons we have come to expect as fandom’s right; a world in which hotel elevators sometimes stick, in which the hotel managers do not cheerfully provide free sleeping bags for extra guests, in which postage rates for fanzines have increased every year since 1965 (what a horrible dream!). Enter a world, in short, where entropy and chaos rule science fiction fandom.

In such a realm you may find the protagonists of this year’s Boskone play, The Decomposers—third in the RISFA Players’ “Rivets” trilogy.

Formed in 1974 to produce “Buckets of Gor” for the Discon masquerade, the RISFA Players grew steadily more ambitious. Their 1975 appearance at the Boskone costume show involved what may still hold the record as the largest costume at an SF convention: the Arrakeen Sandworm, 10 meters long, 2 meters high, operated by eight fans. After this, could an operetta be that difficult?

So was born Mik Ado About Nothing (Back to Rivets) for Boskone 14 in February 1977: a moral tale of a crazed editor destroyed by his own ambition. Next came What Ever Happened to Helminth of Boskone (Rivets Redux) for February 1978—an inspiring story of once-great SF heroes who make a new life for themselves in the complex, dizzying world of modern science. And now, February 1979, the RISFA Players complete their study of love, death, and cheap laughs with The Decomposers (Rivets Has Risen from the Grave): a study of heroism and survival. The Decomposers dares to ask the question, “How can you have any fun at a fannish party when everyone else is discussing Lost in Space, Marvel Comics, or Franz Kafka?”

The arena for this struggle is the 37th World Science Fiction Convention, held in the Midwest as rotation dictates. The winner this year is Metropolis, a great port city on the Teays River, convenient to both Kansas City and Montreal. Running the convention are the Washingtons and their enthusiastic crew of gofers. Pouring into the hotel, eager to attend the convention, is the most motley crew of randoms this side of the Mos Eisely Cantina. Scurrying for shelter are the hotel management and a few more or less innocent bystanders.

What a relief, after visiting this menacing universe, to return to the level sunlight of The Real Fannish World, the true world where SF writers all garner the respect they deserve and SF readers can always find a book better than the last one, where fans have dignity and the con parties never run out of beer.

Mark M. Keller
Sue Anderson

Reprinted from the Boskone 16 Program Book.

Two hundred and fifty copies of the original script—with sketches by Keller and Schiffman, and annotations by Keller and Anderson— were produced by Chainik Press, for sale to the fannish and general public. The text was done on the Chainik Press mimeograph, still working after all those years (3). Original illustrations done by offset at Jo-Art Copy, Providence. 

This libretto is included in the NESFA Press publication Rivets!!!

Rhode Island Science Fiction Association