"Any publication is only as good as its contributors, and we're grateful that we've been able to publish material by some excellent fan writers and artists. This award really belongs to them."
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The last time, in Mimosa 11, that we wrote about a Worldcon vacation trip, we prefaced our comments by saying that, in some ways, we could be considered 'convention' fans as much as 'fanzine' fans. That remained true this past year; we published only our usual two issues of Mimosa, but including a brief appearance at Balticon, we attended nine different conventions, and turned down a chance to be at a tenth due to a scheduling conflict. This past August and September, our longest trip of the year took in two of those conventions, bringing us to Florida for the Worldcon via a weekend stopover in Alabama.
Our trip south to Birmingham was mostly without incident, but in southwestern Virginia we did meet up with an unwelcome visitor who had been touring Florida and Louisiana during the previous week. His name was Andrew.
By the time the storm had worked its way into the mountains of Virginia, it was no longer a hurricane, not even a tropical storm. But you could still tell it had been, once. Just north of Roanoke we hit storm bands of moderately heavy, blowing rain, followed by clearings where blue sky appeared. At one point, the rain and wind rapidly increased to a heavy, gusty downpour, then abruptly, to clear skies with bright sunshine. It didn't stay that way for very long, though; soon it was back through a heavy downpour, and then more intermittent storm bands. It wasn't until the Tennessee border that we were finally in the clear for good.
A week later, at Magicon, there was talk about the hurricane and how close it had come to demolishing Miami and New Orleans from people in those metropolitan areas. However, we were probably among the few people there who had actually been through the eye of the storm.
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If you look at a road atlas, you'll see that driving to Florida by way of Birmingham, Alabama, isn't the most efficient way to get the job done -- central Alabama is way, way to the west of the most direct route. We went to Birmingham because of a fan get-together the weekend before Worldcon, organized and sponsored by Charlotte Proctor and the rest of the Birmingham Science Fiction Club (publishers of the fanzine Anvil). The site was a little motel on the outskirts of Birmingham, where they'd held past parties. There was a catch this time, though; this was to going be a full-fledged convention (albeit a small one), and that had the motel management nervous. They told Charlotte that they specialized in family reunions; they just didn't do conventions. So, instead of arguing, Charlotte reserved a block of rooms for the 'Jophan Family Reunion', and spread the word about it to all her 'cousins' out there in fandom. (Charlotte hastily explained to the motel that nobody with the surname 'Jophan' would be registering, because the first branches of the family tree were all female.) About 50 or 60 of us showed up, although many were Birmingham fans who didn't need to take rooms. We were all hoping that two or three from the Irish branch of the family would make an appearance, but it was not to be...
'Kissing Cousin' Roger Weddall from Australia was there, though, making him easily the 'relative' from farthest away in attendance. We had previously first 'met' Roger when he sent us a long letter of comment that was published way back in the third issue of Mimosa. Since then, we've corresponded frequently and talked on the telephone a few times; Roger was even the distribution agent for Mimosa in Australia for a while. However, we'd never run across each other in our fannish travels before now; one of the reasons we came to Alabama was to actually meet Roger, in a less-congested place than Magicon would probably be.
The motel turned out to be ideal for an invitational relaxacon such as this. The room block surrounded a small green-space quadrangle that served as a natural gathering place. Chairs taken from rooms, coolers of canned drinks, and card tables filled with snacks turned the shaded center of the quadrangle into an outdoor con suite. The quadrangle area was easily large enough for a number of activities besides, so the more energetic fans played 'ghoodminton' and croquet, while the rest of us sat around under the shade trees at the center and talked well into the evening. Roger took his turn at croquet, and managed to win both games he played in, thus making him the uncontested champion of the fan universe. The defeated contenders were rewarded with (or had to endure, depending on your point of view) the spectacle of a triumphant Roger jumping into the air and clicking his heels (something that's hard to do in sneakers). Dick managed to capture it on film, either for posterity or for future blackmail purposes. "At least Roger's good at something," he remarked; it was the first volley in a war of mock insults that would continue through Magicon.
Roger was here in the U.S. as the Down Under Fan Fund representative, so it was only natural (inevitable, even) that the Reunion had a Fan Fund auction. That auction featured the world debut of the new hardcover edition of Harry Warner, Jr.'s 1950s fan history, A Wealth of Fable. One of the several signed copies we had brought with us was auctioned, and the bidding eventually escalated to over fifty dollars under Roger's deft auctioneering. Each time when interest in the book appeared to be slowing down, Roger would prompt Dick to recite one or another of the anecdotal stories from it. This seemed to pique the interest (and loosen the purse strings) of the three or four people who were bidding on the book: The tale of Seventh Fandom and Harlan Ellison's "The Mad Dogs Have Kneed Us in the Groin" quote succeeded in boosting the bid to $35, when it looked like interested had topped out at $30. A little later, a synopsis of the 'Midwestcon Door' episode carried the bid price over the $40 mark. The story of the Room 770 party got the bid price up to $50, and a short recap of some of the exploits of Walt Willis and John Berry carried the bidding to its peak at $56. As the gavel finally came down, Dick called out, too late, "Wait! I haven't said anything yet about the Joan Carr and Carl Brandon hoaxes!"
Besides being an adept auctioneer, it turned out that Roger also knew how to handle a hot potato when he had to. We found that out the Sunday night we were in Birmingham, just as we, Roger, and Charlotte were leaving a nearby shopping mall restaurant after dinner. Charlotte suddenly remembered that she'd meant to bring the baked potato from her meal back home for her husband Jerry to eat later. Since we were already out in her car by then, she was ready to just forget the whole thing, but Roger said, "Wait! I'll get it for you!" Charlotte drove to the restaurant entrance and, as the three of us hummed the theme music from Mission: Impossible, Roger raced into the side entrance of the restaurant then, a moment later, came running back out again triumphantly holding up the foil-wrapped potato. He threw himself into the car, and we sped off. It was all done so slickly that the restaurant staff didn't even realize that they had been victimized by The Great Potato Caper; it was truly a moment that fan historians of the future will marvel at...
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Monday morning finally came, and it was time to head south. In contrast to the trip down from Maryland, the weather was very pleasant on the drive to Florida. The route we chose took us through some out-of-the-way places, like Ozark, Alabama, where signs pointed the way to the Boll Weevil Museum in nearby Enterprise, and Perry, Florida, where, at a traffic light, we were nearly assaulted by placard-carrying partisans of various political parties who were busily trying to get people to vote for them in the primary election scheduled for the next day. We were fortunate that the traffic signal picked an opportune moment to turn green and we escaped, but with all the distractions from the trip, we didn't arrive Orlando until well after nightfall.
The next two days we had reserved for touristing at two of the theme parks, Sea World and Universal Studios. These are located at opposite ends of International Drive in Orlando, which gets our vote for the biggest Tourist Trap in Known Space. It's studded with hotels and loaded with visitors; we heard more different languages spoken in one day on International Drive than during our whole European trip of 1990. (The United Nations should really consider pulling up stakes in New York and moving down to the south side of Orlando.) Besides the two theme parks, there were also some lesser attractions, such as a Ripley's Believe It or Not Museum (the building looks like it's vanishing into a Florida sink hole), a Wet'N'Wild waterslide park, and a UFO Museum (we kid you not). And last, but not least, there were hundreds and hundreds of souvenir shops, where you could buy everything from figurines of alligators constructed from sea shells to straw hats and t-shirts of every possible design (we think we must be the only people ever to visit Orlando and never buy a Mickey Mouse t-shirt). All of the Magicon convention hotels as well as the Orange County Convention Center were located right on International Drive, but against all of this, the convention hardly caused a ripple of notice from the mundane public -- it was lost in the background noise.
Of all the theme parks in the world that we've been to (which isn't all that many, actually), Nicki's favorite is Sea World. It must be something about those soft-and-cuddly 30-foot killer whales... Anyway, it was only about a mile from our hotel and we had a 15 percent discount coupon for it from the back of our road atlas book, so that seemed to be the place to start. The park has expanded since the last time we were there, over a decade ago. There's now more than one large show pool, which has allowed separate shows for the dolphins and killer whales. The 'Killers of the Deep' exhibit had also expanded, but the centerpiece of that display was still the Shark Encounter -- a 100-foot long, 20-foot deep pool with dozens of sharks of various species swimming around in it. Right through the middle of it, 15 feet down, is a large, clear, thick-walled, custom-built plexiglass tunnel. A moving sidewalk takes you through that tunnel, with sharks lazily swimming above and on either side of you. A 10-foot shark took up station on the other side of the tunnel wall from Nicki, and cruised along even with the speed of the sidewalk for most of the transit, just a foot away from her right elbow. Afterwards, we couldn't make up our minds -- was it merely curious? Or maybe it was hungry. Hmmm...
Universal Studios was next, but we heard that Magicon had a supply of 30% discount passes, so we spent several hours on Tuesday night trying to find the person who had them. We located Magicon Chairman Joe Siclari in a snack shop in the Clarion hotel, but he thought the passes were in the con operations room; meanwhile, he'd check around. Janice Gelb was doing a late-nighter in con ops at the convention center, but she didn't have them, either. She advised us to find Cricket Fox, who was in charge of something-or-other, and meanwhile, she'd check around. Eventually, word circulated far enough that by the time we finally caught up with Cricket Fox (who didn't have the passes, either, but knew where they were), about half the con committee were on the lookout for us -- the fannish equivalent of an All Points Bulletin.
The going rate for getting into Universal is over thirty dollars per person, so those 30% discount passes saved us a significant amount of money -- even the lady vending tickets at the entrance to Universal was impressed enough to say, "You got a good deal!" We don't think they lost anything on the bargain, though, because we managed to spend more than our entrance fees on food and souvenirs. Nicki even added to her colleges and universities t-shirt collection, when she was in the Rocky & Bullwinkle shop and spotted a shirt for 'Wossamatta U.'.
Universal is easily worth a full day, and even then, it's difficult to see everything there. We were able to manage it, because there were only about half the number of people there that day than would be expected at a more 'peak' time of year (something we had also noticed earlier at Sea World). This meant that the longest line at Universal was only about half-an-hour long, and that was for the popular Back to the Future ride. That ride was not for the faint-of-heart, or for the full-of-stomach, either -- warnings are posted, in fact, that advise people who are prone to nausea or motion sickness not to go on it. 'Back to the Future' turned out to be a high-performance flight simulator inside an IMAX theater, which allows you to 'experience' the impossible -- flying in an anti-gravitic DeLaurean automobile, first through the time barrier, over an exploding volcano and through the mouth of a Tyrannosaurus, eventually returning to the 'present' for a safe landing in Doc Brown's lab. The IMAX provided the bigger-than-life sound and imagery, while the 'DeLaurean' flight simulator subjected you to all the turbulence, sudden drops, swoops, and banked turns you'd expect from a high-speed aerial chase.
If you think this sounds like an exciting ride, you're right, but we hadn't known beforehand what to expect and it was maybe more than we had bargained for. The four minutes or so duration of the ride seemed subjectively like an hour or more. In the end, the ride was just too intense for Nicki, who was nearly beaten into submission by it. She survived, just, but was sick with vertigo for several minutes afterward. As we staggered away, we decided that after 'Back to the Future', rush hour driving amongst thousands of maniacs on the Washington, D.C. Beltway won't be as traumatic an experience as it once was...
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Two days of touristing in late summer Florida seemed just about right to us, so by the time Thursday rolled around we were ready for Magicon. This year, there were two places where fanzine fans could convene -- the fanzine lounge, in the concourse area of the convention center, and the Minneapolis-in-`73 party suite, in the Peabody Hotel. Actually, they were two halves of a whole, since both were under the capable management of Geri Sullivan, Minneapolis fan extraordinaire. During the day, the fanzine lounge served as a meeting place, a fanzine sales area, and the location for certain fanzine-related program items like readings and the Fan Fund auction. At night, the Minneapolis suite was the preferred hangout. It was less crowded than most of the other bid parties, and a lot more in-groupish and friendly for us fanzine fans. Walt and Madeleine Willis could be frequently found there, too.
There's no doubt that one of the things we looked forward to most about Magicon was getting to meet the Fan Guest of Honor, Walt Willis. He was in the Minneapolis suite on Wednesday night, Worldcon Eve, and with some trepidation, Dick eased on over to where Walt was sitting and introduced himself: "Excuse me, Mr. Willis..." That was as far as he got, before Walt, who had seen Dick's name on his name tag, smiled and held out his hand. Dick was feeling a bit overwhelmed by the moment, however, and before he realized what he was doing, he placed the signed copy of A Wealth of Fable he'd brought for Walt into Walt's outstretched hand instead of shaking it. Luckily, it was a mistake that was quickly rectified!
While Dick was trying not to appear too foolish, Nicki, meanwhile, was busy meeting Madeleine Willis and James White. James seemed to be enjoying himself immensely, laughing and joking with the various people who came over to talk with him. Madeleine was only slightly less outgoing in comparison, and seemed to make a point of introducing herself to anybody she wasn't sure she had met before (not as if she needed any introduction in the first place). Her conversation with Nicki soon turned to where 'home' was located on the map. Nicki was explaining that we had been living in Maryland less than four years, when Madeleine asked, "Meer-a-lind, where is that?" When Nicki replied that it bordered Washington, D.C., a look of recognition brightened Madeleine's face: "Oh... Mary-land!" Actually, we used to pronounce it that way too, once, but that's what fifteen years of living in Tennessee will do to you...
Walt chose not to give a Guest of Honor speech at Magicon (he was interviewed by Ted White instead), but he was very visible during the convention, as either a participant or a spectator in several other program events. There was also an interactive display in honor of Walt, an Enchanted Duplicator Miniature Golf Course, in the concourse area of the convention center. Each of its ten holes was sponsored (and built) by a fan organization or worldcon bid committee; the design of the course allowed you to follow Jophan's journey to trufandom, culminating at the last hole where the duplicator itself resided. The whole thing was somewhat lowtech, with wooden mallet putters and plastic golf balls, but this added to the fannishness of the course, not to mention the difficulty (each hole was par six). Dick took the opportunity to play hole number five, the L.A. in `96 hole, after he delivered a signed copy of A Wealth of Fable to Bruce Pelz, who was manning the nearby L.A. worldcon bid table. Before Dick's first putt, the hole looked almost too easy to him; after the third putt, making par or better still seemed possible. Following his sixth stroke, Dick decided he would lower his expectations and just try to salvage his dignity; after holing out with his ninth shot, he furtively glanced around to see if anyone was watching. Bruce was, but only smiled bemusedly...
What else can we tell you about Magicon? It was the normal kaleidoscope of fan activities, parties, and meal expeditions. We were on more programming panels than usual this year, but other than those, didn't attend all that many programming events. Instead, we were content to visit with friends we don't get to see very often, in the fanzine lounge. It was there that Dick succeeded in finally getting the last contribution to the (still) forthcoming Mimosa 9.5, the audiocassette version of Mimosa 9; Elliott "Elst" Weinstein and Roger Weddall dusted off their best (or maybe worst) British/Irish accents and recorded the text of Bob Shaw's "Serious Scientific Speech" from the 1990 Worldcon. We're happy to report that the tape recorder survived intact...
By the time Saturday night arrived, however, we weren't entirely sure that we would survive the long weekend intact. We'd been on the road for over a week at that point, and it was starting to wear us down a little. We weren't exactly looking forward to going home again, but it was on our minds. This was evident that night during the pre-Hugo Ceremony nominees briefing in the Green Room. We were told that the Hugo Nominees party later that night would be hosted by the San Francisco Worldcon committee, and when their party hostess announced that the party would begin soon after the conclusion of the Hugos and last "...until everybody goes home...", Dick looked up incredulously and said, "Tuesday?!"
It almost seemed like it was Tuesday by the time everyone was finally ushered into the convention giant meeting hall and found seats. We and the other nominees had endured a prolonged wait in some backstage area otherwise occupied by salad bars, steam tables, and other banquet paraphernalia. Luckily, just before leaving the Green Room, Dick had paid a quick visit to the restroom, heeding a time-honored maxim about travel: 'When on the road, never miss an opportunity to eat or take a pee.' Nicki, however, had not, thinking that the Ceremony couldn't possibly last more than about an hour. It didn't seem such a big deal at the time, but it would soon become important.
Spider Robinson was the host for the Hugo Ceremony, and was his usual entertaining self on stage, keeping the events of the evening moving along. It turned out that there were a lot more events than usual this year, including a 15-minute retrospective slide show of past worldcons. By the time the first Hugo was presented, more than an hour had passed since we had first convened in the Green Room. There were some technical glitches that slowed things down a bit, too; separate slides were projected for each nominee, but since Spider couldn't see the projection screen from his podium, his reading the nominee names sometimes got out-of-synch with the projected slides. (Also, after each winner was announced, there was one additional slide that summarized the category and winner; we provide this last bit of information so the reader might better understand what happened next.)
The Fanzine Hugo was the third one announced; previously, Ted Chiang had won the John Campbell Award, Dave Langford had added to his rocket collection with the Fan Writer Hugo, and Brad Foster had collected his third Hugo as Fan Artist. By the time Spider read the names of the Fanzine nominees, it seemed as if all the glitches had been corrected -- the correct slides, showing a photo of each fanzine, were projected at the proper time. An envelope was then handed to Spider; he opened it and read that the winner of the 1992 Fanzine Hugo was... Lan's Lantern.
George "Lan" Laskowski, Jr., the editor of Lan's Lantern took the stage to accept the Hugo, but just as he was taking possession of the trophy, above him on the screen flashed up a slide. It read:
Best Fanzine Hugo
Editors, Dick and Nicki Lynch
The audience gasped and whispered and generally looked around; where we were sitting, you could almost feel the murmur that rippled through the crowd. At that point, Nicki felt the sudden conviction that there had been some kind of screw-up, and that we had won, but in light of the previous technical difficulties, Dick thought that there must have been a 'winners' slide made up for each nominee, and the wrong one had been projected -- it was just the latest in the series of glitches. We'd lost out to a fairly popular fanzine, and there was nothing to feel badly about.
George's acceptance speech was very brief; when he finished, he departed backstage. And the ceremony went on.
Three more Hugos were awarded, which led us to think that the slide was in fact wrong, rather than the card in the envelope. At that point, Nicki decided that she had to depart the convention hall for the ladies room; there no longer seemed to be any reason why she shouldn't. But less than a minute after Nicki left, Laskowski came back out on-stage holding the Hugo. Spider Robinson then announced that there had been a mistake, and that Mimosa was in fact the winner of the Fanzine award.
Nicki had been right all along, of course (we later found out that the 'summary' slides had been prepared for only the winners in each category). If the correction had been made a minute earlier or three minutes later, there wouldn't have been a problem. As it happened, it was at the worst possible moment: Dick had gone on stage, in front of a thousand or two fans, trying to stall in order to give Nicki a chance to make it back to the hall in time. When he blurted out that Nicki had just left the hall to go to the ladies room, Spider said, "That sounds like a good idea; let's all go to the ladies room." In the end, there just wasn't enough time -- Dick had to read both parts of the short acceptance speech we'd written on the drive south from Maryland before departing the stage dejectedly. It was unfortunate and unfair to Nicki that she didn't get her moment on-stage, but there was nothing that could be done about it.
Or was there? Nicki returned to the Hugo Ceremonies just in time to see Dick leave the stage, and to catch a glimpse of the 'MIMOSA' slide we had seen earlier. Someone next to her said, "You won! Go backstage!" She hadn't been there even a minute when we heard a commotion and were waved back on-stage to re-accept the award. Spider apologized and had Nicki step forward to the podium. The acceptance speech had already been read, though, so she didn't have anything to say other than "thank you." The rest of the Hugo Ceremony was a complete fog; we were aware of other awards being presented, but we had to read the daily newsletter the next day to find out who many of the winners were. In fact, we were in such a haze that we never even made it back to our seats -- we'd forgotten where we'd been sitting!
Back in the Green Room after the Hugo Ceremony was over, a lot of people came up to us to talk to us -- so many, in fact, that at one point we were surrounded by about ten people, while just a few feet away from us Michael Whelan was standing all by himself with the two Hugos he'd just won. The room party circuit later on was pretty much the same, full of friends all wanting to know what had happened. It wasn't until much later that night that we managed to find out ourselves, and we wouldn't have known even then if we hadn't talked to George Laskowski. George told us that when he got on stage, the woman holding the trophy showed him the name plate (which correctly named Mimosa as the winner) and told him, "Just say thank you; we'll straighten it out later." Someone else associated with the convention committee said it took several minutes of scrambling around to confirm that the slide and name plate were right and the card in the envelope was wrong. At that point, George returned to the stage to give Dick the Hugo. We can only praise George for the way he handled such an awkward situation; he is a class act. However, if any of us had been sitting closer to the stage, we might have seen something that would have alerted us that something was amiss -- when Lan's Lantern was announced as the winner in the Fanzine category, convention chairman Joe Siclari (who knew differently) nearly jumped out of his skin in his haste to get back stage to find out what had happened.
So what did actually happen? The only thing we're positively sure of is that there was a blunder by the person handling the counting of the ballots and who was also responsible for making sure the right names got inserted into the right envelopes. We were told several stories, none of them entirely convincing (some of them weren't convincing at all, in fact). Apparently, it had been very late the night the voting results had been run through the computer and a copy of the summary had been printed; when the winners were transcribed from the printout, a mistake was made 'because the ruler slipped' (apparently the printout wasn't very user friendly). This story doesn't make too much sense, though, because the names of the winners had to be given to somebody who made up the 35mm slide that was projected, and also to the person who assembled the Hugo trophies, and both of those correctly had our name on it.
No matter. The 'Hugo That Was Awarded Twice' now sits over our fireplace, right next to the Japanese cat figurines (described in Mimosa 12) that we bought in Los Angeles earlier in the year. And we have two of them! A second, matching award was presented to Nicki after the Hugo Ceremony -- apparently the procedure is: two editors, two awards. The design of the award is really striking; since Magicon was the 50th Worldcon, the committee went out of its way to make their Hugo trophy a work of art. The rocket is gold-plated, and rests on a small rectangular piece of expanded metal that came from the gantry of Launch Complex 26 at Cape Canaveral -- the site where Explorer I, the first U.S. orbiting satellite, was launched in 1958. The award's base features a backdrop hand-painted to simulate 'infinite space'; the whole effect is majestic. It's also highly noticeable, as we found out on the way back to our hotel after the awards ceremony when we happened to pass near the hotel nightclub, a popular nightly watering hole for the mundanes who were also staying at the hotel. One drunken fellow leaned out from the doorway and, noticing the trophies we each held, yelled, "Congratulations!!! You won an Emmy!!"
This, perhaps the most surreal night of our lives, had an amusing postscript the next afternoon at the Hogu Ranquet luncheon. In a parody of the Hugo Ceremony, Elst Weinstein first awarded Mike Glyer a certificate from the 'Hogu and Blackhole Commission', then said there had been a mistake, yanked the certificate out of Mike's hands, and presented it to us, instead. There were also fans with buttons that read, 'I May Already Have Won A Hugo'. We'd guess these are not available from Publishers Clearing House...
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The trip home after Magicon took two days, which gave us plenty of time to think back over the trip's events and highlights -- the things we'd done and the especially people we'd met: Bjo Trimble who apparently had looked forward to meeting us as much as we did her, Chuck Harris who we'd missed meeting at the Minneapolis Corflu three years earlier, Shelby Vick who was only a few hours drive from home, and Australian fans Dave Luckett and Sally Beasley, who were midway in an around-the-world vacation trip. In addition, there were also old friends we see only once or twice a year, like Dave & Ruth Kyle, Roger & Pat Sims, Teddy Harvia, Peggy Ranson, and Guy Lillian to name a few; none of these found their way into other parts of this convention report, but we appreciated their company during the weekend just as much.
It was inevitable on the long drive home that the conversation would eventually turn to fan publishing: how much longer could we publish large issues of Mimosa? Burnout has claimed fans a lot more well-known than us, and we were becoming concerned that we might be running out of things to say. But just then, an amusing roadside sign advertising a restaurant at the next interstate exit reminded us of one of our epic dinner expeditions during the six nights of Magicon.
And we thought, gee, maybe this was something we could write about...
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"We also want to thank you, our readers, for honoring us with this award. You flatter us greatly, and in return we hope to continue entertaining you with new issues for years to come."
All illustrations by Sheryl Birkhead