Author Archives: Alex von Thorn

Bobbie DuFault remembered

For those of you who knew Bobbie DuFault and missed my post about reading her obituary in the company newsletter, HR has granted me permission to share it outside of Microsoft.

Sci-Fi Champion Bobbie DuFault ‘Had a Helper’s Soul’

Employee Barbara “Bobbie” DuFault is being remembered for her big heart, her passion to help colleagues and customers, and her love of science fiction.

Family was the most important thing to Barbara “Bobbie” DuFault, and she considered most of the people she helped family.

Barbara “Bobbie” DuFault spent more than a decade providing support, writing content, and managing projects in the consumer space.

That was a lengthy list. It included the customers she supported at Microsoft, families struggling with drug and alcohol addiction on the Makah Reservation in Washington State, and the legions of science fiction fans who attended the roughly 150 conventions she helped organize.

“Bobbie had a big heart and could tell when others had a problem,” Jerry Gieseke, her husband, told Microsoft. “She would sit down with them and make them feel like they were the most important thing on this planet to her. That was the thing: they were. Everybody Bobbie met was important, and she had a helper’s soul.”

DuFault, content program manager for Microsoft’s Support for Small Business portal, died in her sleep September 14. She was 55.

DuFault spent more than a decade providing support, writing content, and managing projects in the consumer space. She joined Microsoft in the late 1990s, a path that had started with the release of Publisher 1.0 in 1991 and her realization that Microsoft would own the small office. In 2002, she left her FTE role to raise her family and pursue her career as a technical writer and project manager. She returned in 2012 to work as one of the content project managers for the new Small Business portal.

DuFault had a real passion for customers and for how Microsoft support content and solutions improved the customer experience with Microsoft products, said Erik Lustig, director of business planning and management in Customer Service and Support (CSS). “In my 17 years at the company, I never worked with someone who had more passion about their area of work and influence than Bobbie did for her work. She was always positive, striving to include all perspectives and business needs into the work she did.”

Her big heart also extended to her colleagues, said Lisa Parks, business program manager for SMB Audience. “Bobbie cared about her coworkers and wanted to see them succeed. If she could help them, whether or not it was part of her job, she would.”

She was also “wonderfully unflappable,” Parks added. “In team meetings, when some issue was being discussed, DuFault would confidently pipe up, ‘I can help fix this.'”

Marilisa Vergottini, business program manager in CSS, said DuFault was such a pleasure to work with. “She was calm, knowledgeable, and so passionate about doing the right thing,” Vergottini said. “Proposals for change did not phase her, and when she was presented with a problem, she immediately looked for a viable solution. Her disposition was always sunny and positive, no matter what the circumstances. She was helpful and energetic, and for the short while that I [and my team] had the pleasure of working with her, she was a joy to have in the team and made my job a lot easier.”

Bobbie DuFaultA lover of sci-fi, DuFault was instrumental in bringing the World Science Fiction Convention back to the Northwest for the first time in 50 years.

DuFault was a professional artist, writer, and poet. She loved to do arts and crafts—so much so that she owned a vintage shop where she made and sold handmade jewelry. She was naturally curious and had an insatiable thirst for knowledge. “From ancient cultures to faraway planets, she had fairly extensive knowledge and would have extensive discussions for hours on whatever the topic was,” her husband said. “If she didn’t know the topic, she would let you teach her.”

DuFault loved science fiction and fantasy. In her spare time, she volunteered with nonprofit literary organizations as a speaker and program coordinator both in the United States and abroad. She was on the board of trustees for Reading for the Future, a nonprofit literary organization that promotes the use of science fiction in the classroom to help teachers inspire students. She was serving as cochair of Sasquan, the 2015 World Science Fiction Convention, which will take place in Spokane. She had spent more than a decade trying to bring “Worldcon” back to the Northwest for the first time in 50 years.

Even though DuFault was working in the tech field and loved science and technology of the future, she also looked back to the past. She and her husband owned a small farm on the outskirts of Gold Bar where they raised pigs and fowl, tended a garden, and canned food so that they always had plenty for their family.

Colleagues said DuFault will be deeply missed and never forgotten. “Bobbie was an advocate for the underdog—the small and medium business whose needs weren’t complex like enterprise, or simple like consumer,” said Toby Richards, general manager of Support Engineering. “She was extremely disciplined in understanding the customer and applied a delicate care in the content experience for them. That care translated in how SMBs perceived our online support experience and in how Bobbie’s team will carry forth her memory and passion.”

DuFault is survived by her husband, Jerry Gieseke, and two children.

Like many, I miss her.  — Amber Clark

Sasquan selects the Davenport Hotel as party venue

Davenport LobbySasquan, the 73rd World Science Fiction Convention, has chosen the Davenport Hotel and Tower as the party hotel during the convention.

The Davenport is one of the most luxurious hotels fandom will ever have stayed in. Regular hotel rooms are very large, with ornate furniture, three-head shower rooms as well as large bathtubs. Beds are so comfortable that some members of our concom have purchased them from the Davenport Home Store. Dining options include the Palm Street Grill, the Safari Room, the Post Street Ale House, the Peacock Room Lounge, as well as the lobby Espresso Bar and a champagne brunch on Sundays.Davenport bedroom The Davenport is on Post Street, the heart of downtown Spokane, near the theater district and the River Point Square shopping center.

Sasquan has chosen the Davenport primarily as it has the most suites available among our hotels. We plan to have hotel reservations available at the beginning of 2015, or a little earlier if possible.

Spokane Convention Center Expansion

Sasquan is pleased to hear that the Spokane Public Facilities District has finalized plans for expansion of the Spokane Convention Center. A total of fifteen new function rooms with a total of 45,000 square feet of exhibit, function, and support space are planned along the north side of the convention space, mainly along the walkway between the exhibit hall and the central building. Construction is scheduled for December 2014.convention-center-expansion

Sasquan is reviewing our facilities contract with the Convention Center. The new rooms are centrally located and may be convenient for programming or other activities. This expansion was approved by the voters of Spokane County in 2012; we just received details of the final construction timeline in October 2013. Details are provided at the Spokane PFD website.


Bobbie DuFault Memorial, 5 October 2013

As with many science fiction fans throughout the world, I was absolutely shocked when I learned of Bobbie’s passing the morning of Saturday September 14, 2013. I was meeting with the Sasquan Finance Division Head in Phoenix, AZ, to go over the facilities’ contracts for the convention in preparation for the preliminary budget. We had a question about one of the hotels, so I called Bobbie at home for an answer. Instead of reaching her I heard an unfamiliar male voice. When I asked who it was I was told it was her friend from the nearby area, our Facilities Division Head. I then asked why he had her phone. That’s when he said that she had passed away that morning and that he was taking calls for her husband, Jerry Gieseke.

stream near the memorial service After passing along our condolences we finished our meeting and separated. I then called Co-Chair Sally Woehrle to find out more and pass along more condolences. She told me what she knew. I asked if she needed me to do something else for the convention and was asked to become Vice Chair over the Back-of-House Divisions which I accepted. The next day we held a Skype meeting with the Chair/Vice-Chairs, agreed on a date for our first Spokane trip (two weeks later), and I made the arrangements with the CVB, hotels and convention center. About a week later Jerry announced that Bobbie’s Memorial would be held at their house east of Seattle on Saturday October 5. Since my wife and I were already planning on driving up from Phoenix for the Spokane visit we decided to stay in the area, tour around, and attend the memorial the next weekend.

The trip to Spokane took two long driving days. We spent three days on site visits, meals, meeting folks, and discussing details for the convention. The Monday following the visit we left to tour Yellowstone National Park. Unfortunately, Tuesday the federal government shut down and we had to alter our plans. So we drove around the park, staying south of there honoring our hotel reservation, then heading west through Idaho to Oregon. We visited Portland, and Powell’s City of Books, before heading north to Seattle. That night we met our Facilities DH for a late meal and discussed Bobbie, the convention, and got to know one another. row of cars parked at memorial

The day of the memorial saw beautiful weather. We drove out east until we saw the long line of cars parked along the road to their house. It is located next to a state park, so the scenery is awesome. I dropped my wife off in the driveway, then drove back to park about a quarter mile away. Someone was fetching folks as they parked, so I took advantage of it. We had bought a folding chair for my wife, so I joined her in the tent with about 150 other friends and family of Bobbie’s. We talked with folks whom we knew, met some new friends, then the memorial began.

A woman officiated. She read some, spoke some, had family members come up to talk (Bobbie’s son, daughter and husband) as well as other friends who knew her for years. There were lots of tears, laughter and fond memories shared. As that portion ended the food and beverages started. We ate and talked, discussed Sasquan with other staff members, encouraged others to join and volunteer, then decided to leave as darkness fell and the air chilled. We returned to our hotel in thought. mermorial service, yard

When we left Seattle the next day we decided to drive down the Pacific Coast using US101 instead of inland using I-5. It would take longer, but be more scenic. My wife didn’t feel well enough to drive long distances each day, so I kept it to about 6 hours instead of the 12 coming up. She is a fan especially of the Oregon coast, and with Bobbie’s passing we wanted to enjoy the drive in her memory. So we took 5 days to get home before life returned to normal.

Neither of us shall forget Bobbie. We’ve been friends for years. I’ve worked for her and she’s worked for me on conventions. Now we work even harder in her honor to make Sasquan all she had hoped it would be and perhaps better. She only had two weeks to enjoy winning the hard-fought Worldcon bid for 2015, but they were of great joy from what I heard. I still remember her presentation in San Antonio at LoneStarCon 3 (Worldcon 2013) when she and the team introduced the Guests, the Facilities, and our plans for the event. She was in her element. She was in the spotlight. She was home. Pete and Jerry

Mike Willmoth
Vice-Chair, Back-of-House Divisions
Sasquan (Worldcon 2015, Spokane, WA)

Mobius Science Center

Practice your mind control at the Mobius Science Center


Ever wanted to:

  • Practice mind control …………………….(with your head hooked to a computer)
  • Test your aerodynamic designs ……..(paper airplanes, that is)
  • Build a cheap rocket ……………………..(out of water bottles)
  • Perform an autopsy ………………………(virtual autopsy, of course)


Then you’ll be happy to hear that the Mobius Science Center and Mobius for Kids’ Museums, that just opened this year are near the Spokane convention center and the Sasquan hotels.


The goal of the museum was to make the science center interactive to build an experiential visit to the science center instead of housing static exhibits.


Other fan–friendly events that the Mobius Science Center held this year that are:

  • Steampunk Science Saturday
  • Sci-Fi Spectacular film series
  • Extreme Science Show


The Mobius Science Center is open most days, but Mondays, except for some holidays.

For more information about Mobius Science Center, visit their website.

Ann C. Crispin, 1950-2013

Ann C. Crispin, novelist, passed away on September 6, 2013 after a battle with cancer. She was the author of 23 novels, including the Starbridge series and many well-regarded media tie-ins.

Crispin served as Vice-President of the Science Fiction Writers of America in the 1990s. With Victoria Strauss, she helped found Writer Beware, an important resource helping writers avoid fraud and exploitation from vanity press, unqualified “agents”, and others who would take advantage of the hopes of aspiring writers. She has also taught writing workshops at Towson University and Anne Arundel College, and was writing teacher in residence at DragonCon from 2005 to 2011.

In 2013, Crispin was recognized as a Grand Master by the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers. Her tie-in works include the Han Solo series for in the Star Wars universe, several Star Trek novels, most notably Yesterday’s Son, and books in the settings of V, Alien Resurrection, and a prequel to Pirates of the Caribbean.

Frederik Pohl, 1919-2013

The death of Frederik Pohl was reported by his granddaughter, Emily Pohl-Weary, on September 2.

Pohl had been active in the science fiction community as an author, editor, blogger, and fan for more than 75 years, following his first publication “Elegy to a Dead Satellite: Luna” in 1937. His novel Gateway won the Hugo and Nebula awards, and he was won other Hugo, Nebula, and other literary awards, including induction in to the Science Fiction Hall of Fame; he was named Grand Master by the Science Fiction Writers of America back in 1993. His blog “The Way the Future Blogs” won him a Hugo as Best Fan Writer in 2010, and his last blog post appeared on September 2, a couple hours before the announcement of his death. Pohl wrote dozens of novels during his lifetime, and also collaborated with Cyril M. Kornbluth, Jack Williamson, Lester Del Rey, Thomas T. Thomas, and Arthur C. Clarke. His career as an editor include Astonishing Stories and Super Science Fiction in the ’40s, later Galaxy Science Fiction, Worlds of If which won a Hugo award for Best Professional Magazine, and Worlds of Tomorrow, and then as acquisition editor for Bantam Books. Pohl was a regular participant in conventions, sharing his time and attention with fans and writers. He was a regular at conventions in the Chicago area in recent years.

Obituaries for Pohl at and Also see Pohl’s website and blog.