'A Tale of Two Conventions' opening comments by Rich & Nicki 
  Lynch; title illo by Sheryl Birkhead
We suppose it's only natural that people we correspond with think of us as fanzine fans, since that's how many of you have come to know us. This fanzine and its predecessor, Chat, have provided us visibility to others who are interested in this particular kind of small press publication. And, in return, we've gotten to know quite a few of you pretty well, even if we haven't yet had the pleasure of actually meeting some of you in person.

However, it also wouldn't be wrong to classify us as convention fans. Before we ever did a single issue of Chat, we had been regularly attending sf conventions for over two years. We currently average about eight or nine conventions a year -- pretty small by Tuckerian standards, but still probably well above the average for sf fandom.

Most of the conventions we go to are reasonably close by, but there are a few that we'll travel a long distance to attend. One of them, of course, is Midwestcon. It's now about four hours farther away than it used to be from Tennessee, but it would have to be a lot farther than that before we'd scratch it from our travel plans each year. Two other conventions that have become habits with us are about as much a contrast to each other as can possibly be -- Worldcon and Corflu, the latter being, of course, a fanzine fans' convention.

And yet, we attend them for the same reason -- they are two places we're likely to meet other fanzine fans and friends that we rarely get to see otherwise.

It was that very anticipation of getting together with friends that made us look forward to the long drive to Chicago for Worldcon this year. We had discussed other means of getting there, like flying, but the drive didn't look difficult -- just long -- and it turned out we could save several hundred dollars by providing our own transportation.

So drive we did. We left home the day before the convention, with the intention of stopping over somewhere in Indiana or Ohio that night, leaving what we expected would be an easy drive to Chicago on the opening day of Chicon. To get there, we took a southerly route through western Maryland, southern Pennsylvania, and central Ohio and Indiana. Besides avoiding hundreds of miles of toll roads, this would also allow us to visit an architectural marvel we'd been wanting to see for quite some time -- Frank Lloyd Wright's "Fallingwater" house in southwestern Pennsylvania.

We stopped in Cumberland, Maryland for lunch, and to that point the drive had been pretty routine, but we were amused by all the science fictional references we had noticed along the way. One of the exits from Interstate 68 is M.V. Smith Road (no sign of any R.A. Heinlein Avenue though). Farther along, right where I-68 passes up and over the eastern continental divide, we passed beneath Green Lantern Road (the day was pretty bright and no evil was in sight). The radio stations we listened to along the way were playing music as if they knew we were heading for a science fiction convention -- the send-off we got as we left home was the Byrds' "Mr. Spaceman," just before we stopped for lunch we heard "2,000 Light Years from Home" by the Rolling Stones, and as we neared the turnoff for Fallingwater, there was Donovan and "Sunshine Superman."

Perhaps Donovan's other 1960s hit, "Mellow Yellow," might have been more appropriate at that point, though. The road to Fallingwater was two lane and narrow, and we were often trapped behind slow moving vehicles. On the one occasion where it was possible to pass, Dick eased the car out over the yellow line to have a look-see for oncoming traffic. Immediately there was a wet-sounding *squelch* from the road as if we were driving through congealing mud. Ulp! We looked at each other, then, with a feeling of dread, in our car's rear view mirrors. Sure enough, there was a yellow tire-mark trail on the road. A little farther on, the road-painting truck was parked in a turn-off, having just restriped the section of road we had traveled. We never did see any road crew setting out warning pylons; we suspect that the Pennsylvania state budget is so tight these days it's cheaper and easier just to let motorists find out for themselves.

When we got to Fallingwater, we found a thick splattering of yellow paint along one side and near the bottom of our nice white car. Most of it is still there. It won't wash off, but Dick says it will flake off under his thumbnail, bit by bit. In fact, every time he goes out to drive it, he makes a point to flake off a little bit more of it. The rate he's going, he should be finished by, say, "In the Year 2525"...

Anyway, Fallingwater was spectacular, and lived up to our expectations, especially the magnificent view from the southwest atop a little ridge overlooking the creek that runs past the house. The rest of the way to Chicago presented no further difficulties, aside from long stretches of interstate repaving. We got as far as Springfield, Ohio that night, and made it to the convention the next day about an hour before opening ceremonies. It was time for the Worldcon First Fan guessing game...

We play this little game every time we go to a Worldcon. The object is to correctly guess who the first fan we recognize will be. Past 'winners' have included people almost anyone would recognize (Moshe Feder and Marty Cantor), and people almost anyone wouldn't (George Wells and Ron Zukowski). Last year in Holland, the first fan we recognized at Confiction was Barry Newton, who lives only about 20 miles from here. We looked at each other in mock disbelief, then Dick said, "You mean we came to this convention just to meet you?"

This year, the 'winner' was Dan Hoey, who lives only slightly farther from us than does Barry. The odds of this happening two years in a row we figured was pretty steep. We didn't seem to find any omen from the fannish ghods in it, but Dick decided he'd better rush right out and buy an Illinois lottery ticket, just in case.

Actually, we didn't need too much luck during Chicon in finding people we had looked forward to seeing, but we weren't usually fortunate enough to be able to enjoy their company for more than relatively short periods of time. We were always able to connect up with friends for dinner or sightseeing, but never seemed to hang around with each other afterwards. This was true even beyond the bounds of the convention itself -- we barely managed more than a hail and farewell for two old friends from Knoxville we met in the Chicago Institute of Art's restroom, before we had to move on (this gives a different kind of meaning to the parting phrase 'gotta go!').

illo by Sheryl Birkhead The chaotic nature of Chicon was perhaps most typified by the nightly room parties. It used to be possible to find people you knew at Worldcon bid parties, and be able to sit down with them and talk for a while. It was something you looked forward to doing, in fact. No longer! Bid parties at Worldcons are now human pinball machines. You carom off people making your way to the bar for refreshments; your senses are assaulted by a a kaleidoscope of sight and sound. It's impossible to understand anyone who is more than two feet away from you. The most extreme example of this was Winnipeg bid party, where people were ushered in one doorway of their suite to where beverages and snacks were being served; the press of incoming people then sort of extruded you out the other doorway. If you weren't quick with your hands, you didn't get anything to eat or drink. We don't know how anyone could be expected to find out anything about a Worldcon bid there.

One quiet innovation in bid parties we observed during Chicon was the morning parties served up by the Louisville and Atlanta Worldcon bids. This saved the cost of breakfast for those who could haul themselves out of bed before the crack of noon. (We had seen this done earlier at a regional convention, so it wasn't a totally new idea.) Louisville had a low-tech breakfast of cake and cookies while Atlanta went hi-tech with french toast. Unfortunately, the hotel wiring wasn't so hi-tech, and all the hot plates going at once caused their hotel suite's circuit breakers to trip with annoying frequency. Eventually, they did work it all out, and we hope this will become a new tradition at conventions everywhere.

Apart from the parties, other things we remember most about Chicon were the baseball game excursion we and about 20 other fans took to the new Comiskey Park (we even received scoreboard recognition, which probably left the other 40,000 people at the game wondering what a 'Chicon' was), the off-the-beaten-path location of the fanzine room (yet again), and our first Hugo Awards ceremony as nominees.

We weren't exactly surprised when we were notified in May that Mimosa would be appearing on the Chicon Hugo ballot. The year before, we had tied for seventh in nominating ballots, and two fanzines that finished higher were not published in 1990. On the other hand, we wouldn't have been upset if Mimosa hadn't been nominated -- the reason we publish Mimosa has nothing to do with winning awards. Instead, the experience was mostly pleasant, a point we tried to bring across in the autobiographical sketch we were asked to write for the Hugo Ceremony booklet:

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Even though we edit a general interest fanzine, we are somewhat unaccustomed to writing about ourselves, so this fannish autobiographical sketch will be mercifully short. For those who have never met us, Dick is the taller and the more rabid baseball fan, while Nicki is the comelier and the more artistically inclined. Although we are originally from New York State, we now live in the Washington, D.C. metro area, a far cry from southeastern Tennessee where we were living when we discovered fandom going on two decades ago. There, we were co-founders (along with a lot of people) of the now-defunct Chattanooga Science Fiction Association. Since then, we have been, individually or combined, active as convention chairs, fanzine publishers, amateur press association official editors, artists, and artist agents. We've also attended lots of conventions, although until the last three years, most of them have been in the mid-south U.S.A. At one of them, the 1981 DeepSouthCon, we were honored with the Rebel Award "... for service to Southern Fandom."

All in all, though, we consider ourselves fairly ordinary fans -- we own fewer books than Forry Ackerman, have fewer fanzines than Bruce Pelz, have attended fewer conventions than Bob Tucker, and have a much lower annual income than Jerry Pournelle, Inc. It's only our fanzine, Mimosa, that you Chicon V members have kindly informed us that is above average. And for that, you have our thanks and appreciation.

- - - - - - - - - -

It turned out that we weren't fortunate enough to win this year, but if nothing else, being seated in the nominees section gave us a better view of the proceedings. And one of the things we got a good look at was the actual Hugo Award itself (we were seated right next to Teddy Harvia, who won one). The rocket was made out of acrylic instead of metal this year, and was attached to a thin circular marble base by a hex nut that could easily be tightened or loosened by hand. The Chicon committee had designed the award for easy disassembly for packing and shipping. This was demonstrated to our amusement when one of the winners unscrewed the rocket from the base and stuffed it in his pocket. At that point, the fellow's female companion asked him, "Is that a Hugo in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?"

We weren't really very happy to see the convention wind down, even given the reality that it was by no means the best-run Worldcon we've been to. At times, organizational breakdowns affected many of the scheduled program events. One example was an unscheduled practice session for the Masquerade, which disrupted scheduled events for that ballroom the same day. Some events, most notably the opening and closing ceremonies, looked pitifully under-rehearsed. A few planned events, like the Worldcon bidders panel, were, by some oversight, omitted from the pocket program altogether and as a result never happened. The TAFF/DUFF Auction almost fell into this last category, but word-of-mouth publicity as well as some last-minute hand-lettered signs posted in the Program events area saved the day.

As we were driving home, we had lots of time to think back over the previous six days and talk about our individual highlights. We enjoyed seeing many of our friends again, many of whom contribute to this fanzine. We also made new acquaintances, like TAFF representative Pam Wells and first fandomite Mel Korshak. In spite of organizational breakdowns, real and perceived, it's really the people you meet that can make the difference between a subjectively 'good' and 'bad' convention. Using that as a yardstick, Chicon was a 'good' convention for us. We're happy we went, and we're happy we had the chance to see old friends and new, even though we wish we could have been in a more compact setting.

# # #

That 'seeing old friends and new' wish came true for us a little over a month later, at Ditto 4, hosted by Cathy Doyle and Kip Williams in Virginia Beach; it was a convention as much unlike a Worldcon as can possibly be. Whereas Chicon had thousands of people in attendance, this convention had about thirty. Where Chicon tried to appeal to just about everyone, this convention was meant exclusively for the fanzine fan. Where Chicon had many different concurrent tracks of programming, this convention had less than one, and that consisted of sitting on a veranda looking out onto the Atlantic Ocean.

The Atlantic Ocean turned out to be the featured attraction of the convention. Mid October was well past the tourist season, so the beach was almost deserted. But the weather that weekend was unseasonably warm, and much of the convention's activities moved outdoors to the large patio area overlooking the beach. It was almost surreal, sitting in the warm sunshine talking about fanzine publishing with Ted White and rich brown, all the while watching big ships slowly sail out beyond where the ocean meets the sky.

The nice weather that weekend also benefitted other events besides Ditto. Since the season was over, we expected Virginia Beach to be almost empty. Well, it wasn't -- it was overrun with people getting married! The hotel we stayed at hosted several weddings each day we were there. Fortunately, we were on the 'non-wedding' floor and weren't bothered by all the partying. Saturday night there were three weddings going on. One of them, at the older part of our hotel across the street from us, was an elaborate affair with a very loud country music band -- we had no trouble hearing it from almost a quarter of a mile away as we were walking back to the hotel's main entrance from the meeting rooms. That same night, another wedding party commandeered the hotel's rooftop restaurant for a private party. We fans could have probably joined any of the festivities, if we hadn't been dressed like fans. Somehow, we didn't think 'Jophan Says: Pub Your Ish' t-shirts would go unnoticed in the bride's re-ception line...

There was really no need to get involved in other people's parties, anyway. Cathy and Kip had gone out of their way to make sure the convention had enough refreshments to easily last the weekend. And there were no human pinball parties here! There was plenty of time to talk about fanzines and fan publishing, something we never seemed to be able to do very much of at Chicon. One recurring topic was the forthcoming new edition of Harry Warner, Jr.'s fan history of the 1950s, A Wealth of Fable. Dick had brought dozens of photos of past-era fans that he was trying to identify for possible use in the new edition. Several enjoyable hours were spent listening to Ted White, Roger Sims, and Bill Bowers provide identifications, and then tell stories involving many of the fans pictured in those photos. It was the stuff that fanzine articles are made from...

It seemed almost a shame when Sunday afternoon rolled around and it was time to leave for home. Ditto had been a nice counterpoint to Worldcon, and had banished some of the discontentment the chaos of Chicon had left with us.

In spite of all our travels this year, we're not in any danger of burnout. In fact, Corflu, the other fanzine fans' convention, is a mere 75 days (and a transcontinental plane ride) away as we write this. The convention committee is inviting several 1950s-era fanzine fans who live in the area. It'll be epic.

It'll be the stuff that fanzine articles are made from...

All illustrations by Sheryl Birkhead

Chat cartoon by Teddy Harvia

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