Since that very first worldcon there have been fifty-four others, the most recent
being last year's LoneStarCon 2. That one and five others, including the
previous Baltimore worldcon, are remembered in this first part of a new multi-part
series of articles by Mike Resnick about his...
1971: NOREASCON (Boston)
Hank and Martha Beck had a room on the 23rd floor of the Sheraton. And on Saturday night, I wandered up there, toting a ton of books I'd bought in the huckster room, and hoping to find a nice, comfortable chair where I could sit and browse through what I'd bought.
Well, Martha had her share of comfortable chairs -- but being Martha, she had more than her share of friends sitting in them. And Martha, Pat and Roger Sims, and Banks Mebane were using all the uncomfortable chairs while playing bridge. And five or six people were sitting on the bed, talking about who the hell knows what.
So I walk around the room once, hoping someone will get up or die, whichever comes first, and no one does. And then I remember: there's an outdoor swimming pool on the fifth floor. I walk to a window, make sure it's visible, and then turn to the room and exclaim that there are naked people in the pool. Lots of 'em!
I never saw a room empty out so fast. Martha led the charge down the stairs -- no one was willing to wait for the elevator -- followed by maybe 20 other people, and I sat down to look at my books.
Must have been good books, too, because I hardly noticed the passage of time, or that the room stayed empty.
About two hours later, Roger Sims, red of face and short of breath, comes back to the 23rd floor and enters the room. "I thought you were kidding," he says.
"You mean I wasn't?" I say.
So he takes me down to the pool, and sure enough, there are about 200 naked bodies in and around the water. I have about three minutes to appreciate the prettier ones of the female persuasion, and then -- so help me -- the cops raid the joint.
John Guidry grabs Carol and me by our arms and tells us that he's got a room on the fifth floor, and we can wait there until the fuzz leave, which is precisely what we do.
Now, you can't keep a little thing like 200 naked bodies a secret for long at a Worldcon, and on Sunday night, some two thousand potential voyeurs show up to gape again -- but it is 50 degrees and drizzling, and all the skinny-dippers know enough to stay inside, where it is warm and dry.
Other memories of Noreascon...
...Meeting Marvin Minsky, and realizing that I'd found what was said to be impossible -- a man who was both smarter and wittier than Isaac Asimov (and a dear friend of Isaac's, as well).
...Finally getting to meet Cliff Simak, the GoH, and quite possibly the sweetest, most decent man I've ever known.
...Listening to Cliff's GoH speech. This was during the most bitter part of the feud between the Old and New Waves, and rather than speak about his career, Cliff spent most of the speech trying to make peace. It was too reasonable to have much effect.
# # # #
1978: IGUANACON 2 (Phoenix)
What I mostly remember is that Satan would have found Phoenix on Labor Day weekend much too hot for his taste.
We stayed in the headquarters hotel, the Hyatt. It was maybe 40 stories tall, and had a nine-story atrium. The atrium was cool and comfortable...but it took every bit of the building's air-conditioning power to cool it. Everything above the 9th floor felt like the anteroom to hell. CFG (the Cincinnati Fantasy Group) had a suite on the 21st floor; we got rid of it after a day. You couldn't open the windows -- they didn't want anyone jumping or falling out -- and you couldn't get cool air, or indeed any air circulation.
The Adams Hotel across the street wasn't much better, but at least it had some air-conditioning. I remember that we waited until Stu and Amy Brownstein, who were staying at the Adams, went out to party each night, and then we'd borrow their room for a nap, before we had to go back to the hell of the Hyatt.
Stu and I were going to wear our tuxes for some function or other. I remembered the tux, but forgot the bow tie. Carol had seen a formal-wear store two blocks from the Hyatt, so Friday morning we decided to walk to it and buy a black tie. Got almost halfway before we decided we'd never make it before we melted. On the way back, we passed five or six wrinkled old ladies trudging toward us, each wearing a sweater. I think that was when I decided that I didn't want to be immortal after all.
Then there was the Sun's Anvil -- the square block of concrete (and no shade) that you had to walk across to get to the huckster room, the art show, or the programming. I live in the huckster room at a Worldcon...but I made the trip only twice in five days. Not a lot of people made it more often.
David Gerrold and I were two of the five masquerade judges on Saturday night. And it turned out that the one truly cool room in the whole damned city was the room where the judges went to deliberate. For those of you who have been wondering for two decades why there was a record number of run-throughs, I might as well lay it on you: David couldn't bear to go back to the Hyatt, and that 68-degree deliberating room kept beckoning to him. Not that the rest of us tried to argue him out of it.
One night we went out for dinner with Lou Tabakow, stately old God Emperor of Cincinnati fandom. He'd heard of this very nice rooftop restaurant. We assumed he meant 'penthouse'; nope, he meant 'rooftop'.
We get there, take an elevator to the roof, and step out into the rays of the late afternoon sun. Lou and I immediately take off our jackets and ties. By the time the salads arrive, Lou has unbuttoned his shirt; it is gone before we hit the main course. Then, as the sun continues to beat down on us while we wait for dessert, stately, dignified, white-haired Legendary Lou looks around, sees that all the other diners except Carol are males, announces that Carol is a member of the family, and removes his pants, finishing the meal in his shorts. He was unquestionably the most comfortable diner there.
I remember being dragged off to an 'authentic' Japanese restaurant by Carol, Joni Stopa, Jo Ann Wood, and other sophisticated gourmets. And while they ordered a bunch of stuff that looked like uncooked rubber, Ben Jason and I studied the menu -- which was entirely in Japanese -- and tried to figure out which of those words looked like meat, or at least plain broth. Guessed wrong, too.
I also remember that the entire registration on Thursday was being worked by one teenaged girl until Lynne Aronson rolled up her sleeves, recruited some workers, and saved the day.
# # # #
1983: CONSTELLATION (Baltimore)
By now I was an established pro, and I found, to my unhappiness, that Worldcons were becoming more business and less pleasure.
I had just fired my former agent, and this was the convention where I'd made up my mind to find a new one. Found her, too. I hit it off with Eleanor Wood and hired her before the weekend was over. She quintupled my income the next year, and we've been together for fifteen happy and lucrative years now.
We stayed in the Hyatt, since it was attached to the convention center. Officially, no parties were allowed; I imagine we attended somewhere between 15 and 20 within the hotel.
The Hilton was six or seven uphill blocks away. I went there one night with John Guidry, got stranded on the 27th floor, walked down to ground level, and never went back.
I never did make it to the Holiday Inn, where the CFG had its annual hospitality suite. Carol did, a couple of times -- and both times was almost dragged forcibly into a burlesque theater by an exceptionally motivated ticket seller.
It had been a few years since we'd had a Hugo banquet, and I was really pleased that the grand old custom was back. That lasted about 10 seconds. Observation: crab feast or no crab feast, NEVER GIVE A THOUSAND FANS WOODEN MALLETS.
As we were sitting there waiting for Jack Chalker to announce the Hugo winners, a notebook somehow materialized at our table. Barry Malzberg, who was up for a Hugo, was sitting next to me. He pulled a pen out and wrote a title on the first page of the notebook: "Fear and Loathing in Baltimore." I took it away and wrote an appropriate opening sentence, then passed it on to Jack Dann, who wrote a second sentence and gave it back to Barry. The three of us wrote a four-page round-robin, one sentence at a time. Then Sheila Gilbert pulled out a blue pencil and edited it, and her husband Mike illustrated it. I'm sure they've all forgotten it many years ago -- but in 1985, I donated it to some fannish charity or other, and was told that it sold for $125.
# # # #
1987: CONSPIRACY 87 (Brighton, England)
Not a lot of memories of this one. We were just passing through on the way to Africa. We got there on Thursday afternoon and were gone by Saturday night.
I delivered "Kirinyaga" to Scott Card. Didn't mean a thing at the time; I had no way of foreseeing the effect it would have on my career. I did just one panel, and no autograph session. Met most of my European editors and some of my foreign agents.
What I most remember was trying to find the Corn Exchange. It was a large building that housed the Bantam party, the biggest shindig of the con. And it was all but impossible to locate. It was half a dozen twisty, angular blocks from the con, and "clearly marked" meant that the words 'Corn Exchange' were there in big, bold, 2-inch-high letters about 20 feet above ground level. I'll swear that there are pros and fans who are still wandering the streets of Brighton, trying to find their way to or from it.
We stayed in the "pros'" hotel (i.e., the expensive one, where they put all the pros, regardless of what we'd requested). The Metropole was the headquarters hotel, and CFG had its suite there, hosted (in Bill Cavin's absence) by Scott and Jane Dennis. Pat and Roger Sims were a few blocks away. We had dinner with them in their hotel. Then, with a sly smile, Roger invited us to see their room. I discovered the reason for the smile a moment later: the elevator was so small that the four of us couldn't fit in it -- and it was the only elevator in the building.
# # # #
1993: CONFRANCISCO (San Francisco)
This is the con that picked up the nickname "ConFiasco" very early on, and will never lose it. (The fact that some committee members have spent years on the computer networks arguing with unhappy attendees that they did so have a good time no matter what they think hasn't done much to eradicate the label or the taste.)
It began with the voting. The committee knew it had lost the Marriott, a huge, modern hotel across the street from the Moscone Center, but it kept that fact a secret. Then, after it won, there came the announcement that the Marriott was unavailable, and that the headquarters hotel was quite a few uphill blocks away.
CFG decided that we had voted for the hotel and we were damned well going to have the hotel, so using just our initials, we blocked 60 rooms and a hospitality suite, then passed the word to a bunch of old-time fans and pros, and sold them out instantly. The con committee was pissed because we cost them 300 room nights; but we were just as pissed that they were trying to stick us almost a mile away from the facility we'd voted for.
The CFG suite was like Rick's in Casablanca. You remember: "Everyone comes to Rick's." Well, if you wanted to meet every fan and pro with more than a couple of Worldcons under his or her belt, all you had to do was sit in the suite, and sooner or later they'd make an appearance. We opened it every night at about nine o'clock and closed it every morning about four; it was probably the best hospitality suite I've experienced in a more than a third of a century of Worldcons.
(In fact, it was in this suite that Alternate Worldcons was conceived, sold, and assigned to its writers. The story of how and why is in the book's introduction.)
I think the beggars -- they preferred to call themselves "the homeless" -- had one hell of an efficient grapevine. We arrived on Tuesday and walked to the Moscone Center...and passed one solitary beggar. By the weekend, there were thousands of them...and by the next Tuesday, there was only one again.
I remember the endless lines for registration. There was one to register. Then you had to stand in a second one if you were on the program, a third if you wanted a program book (for which you'd paid), and a fourth if you were a Hugo nominee. Bob Silverberg stopped by on his way out and offered to get me in. Since I was standing next to Mike Glyer, and I didn't want to be the star of a con report in File 770 about former fans suddenly becoming snobbish pros, I regretfully refused and spent another couple of hours waiting to register.
I remember going out to dinner just prior to the masquerade, and seeing an enormous line of fans waiting to get in. And I remember walking by on the way back, and finding that hundreds of them had been turned away.
I was up for a Hugo, and as usual there was a very nice spread of food laid out for the nominees. But no one had remembered to set out any chairs, and a number of nominees with physical ailments -- I remember Beth Meacham's arthritis was extremely painful that night -- were very uncomfortable until we were finally allowed to take our seats in the audience.
I lost the Hugo...but that was okay, because I got to accept the Campbell for my daughter (who was being charged by an enraged elephant in South Africa at that very moment). On my way back to my seat, someone -- it might have been Mike Glyer -- asked me for a quote. I still remember it: "My stud fee just tripled!"
# # # #
1997: LONESTARCON 2 (San Antonio)
So it's late on Sunday afternoon, and I've just finished doing my sixth or seventh panel or reading or something, and I'm beat. And I'm standing on the corner, waiting for the light to change so I can cross from the convention center to the Marriott and take a shower. And there's a young man standing next to me, saying how tired he is.
"Me, too," I agree. Then I see Kris Rusch standing at the opposite corner, waiting to cross to the con center. "In fact," I say, "I think what I need is a hug from a pretty woman. Like that one," I continue, nodding toward Kris.
The light changes, and the kid goes into a panic. "That... that's Kristine Kathryn Rusch!" he says in awed tones. "She's a writer and an editor and a Hugo winner and..."
"I don't care," I say. "She's a pretty lady and I need a hug."
"But she's married! You can't just walk up to her and..." The kid is actually sputtering now. I realize that I've taken off my badge, and he has no idea who I am.
We meet halfway across the street. I throw my arms around Kris. She smiles, hugs me back, and gives me a kiss.
I get to the opposite sidewalk, and I see the kid is staring at me, jaw agape.
"Sexual magnetism," I explain, and vanish into the Marriott.
I hope he remembered to shut his mouth before he went to sleep.
...A female pedestrian was killed by a bus just a few feet from Jack Chalker.
...Linda Dunn was the first person to do a Worldcon costume from one of my books -- she was 'Suma', from Kevin Johnson's cover painting to Eros Ascending -- and she won a pair of prizes.
...I had the first kaffeeklatsch of the con, on Thursday afternoon. I was annoyed at the timing -- later in the con figured to draw better -- but I managed to fill the room. More to the point, the hotel didn't quite understand that the kaffeeklatsch wasn't the Hugo pre-ceremony, and they laid out a spread that must have contained, at a conservative estimate, 20 million calories and cost a few thousand dollars. (They figured out their mistake within the hour, and all future kaffeeklatsches had to settle for wet coffee and dry donuts.)
...Carol and I found a 'tea room' a couple of blocks from the con center. At one point, she asked where the ladies' room was. "We ain't got none," was the answer. "You're kidding, right?" she says. The waiter fixes her with a steely eye: "This is Texas, ma'am."
...Neal Barrett was an hilarious toastmaster. I know some people have criticized him for being too vulgar or too long-winded, but I was there, and the audience laughed non-stop.
...An audio publisher brought out my very first audio recording, a couple of Kirinyaga stories read by a New York actor.
And speaking of Kirinyaga, I had sold the book to del Rey, which proceeded to treat me like a king. This is the company that used to send writers into shock if they popped for a corned beef sandwich. Well, they took Carol and me out to four different meals, and Fed Ex'd a copy of the cover painting to my hotel when I asked for it.
Had lunch with Gardner Dozois, who was as sick of business meals as I was. I promised not to try to sell him anything if he promised not to ask me to send him anything. Most enjoyable business lunch of the con.
Bantam announced a month before the Worldcon that they'd be taking a select list of invitees (five huge buses' worth; so much for 'select') to a nightclub on Sunday night. It was so hot that we didn't dress formally -- but a lot of writers and editors did. And then found out, after driving well out of town, that the San Antonio definition of a nightclub is almost identical to everyone else's definition of a Texas honkey tonk. I spent most of the night playing horseshoes with Andy Porter; Dean Smith lorded it over a shuffleboard game. If you didn't like barbeque sauce, you were in deep trouble.
My daughter Laura, who has a major fantasy novel coming from Tor in 1998, roomed as usual with Peggy Ranson. We met in the Marriott's bar Sunday night to exchange gossip -- and I was flabbergasted to find out that she knew about five times as much as I did. The kid really gets around.
I was up for a Hugo for the 16th time in nine years, and managed to lose it. I was also scheduled to pick up Hugos for Maureen McHugh and John Clute if they had won; they lost, too. I did pick up chocolate rocket ships for all of us at the Hugo Losers Party (including one for Michael Burstein, who won the Campbell). Maureen was on a diet, so was I, and I hated to think of the condition John's would arrive in (he lives in England), so I gave Michael's to Tony Lewis to deliver, and hid the other three behind the television in the CFG suite, where I assume they are still rotting.
After about fifteen business meals in a row, it was a pleasure to just relax and eat with friends on Monday. Had breakfast with Rick Katze, lunch with Tony and Suford Lewis, dinner with Dean Smith and Kris Rusch, and a late snack with some CFG members. Helped me to remember what Worldcons were like before I started writing this stuff for a living.
One other thing. At LACon III the previous year, Dimensions -- the science fiction branch of Miramax -- had an offer on the table for The Widowmaker, which included Carol and me writing the script. One of the Dimensions execs flew out from New York just to have dinner with us at the Anaheim Hilton. We'd agreed on a pick-up fee for the books, a price for the screenplay, keyline art, everything but the price of the 3-book option, and he felt we were probably one phone call away from agreeing on that, too. And when we got home from LACon III, the offer was off the table. Seems that in intervening three days, Dimensions' first science fiction (as opposed to horror) film had come out and was bombing, and Miramax wasn't sure they wanted to keep Dimensions in business. But in the year following LACon III, Mimic came out and made a bundle, and Scream 2 began looking like it would even outearn Scream 1, and suddenly, at LoneStarCon, the offer for The Widowmaker was back on the table. This time we didn't give them a chance to reconsider.
All illustrations by Joe Mayhew