This year's worldcon, Bucconeer, happened to be our 16th worldcon, and it was the
20th anniversary of our first worldcon trip. In case you're wondering, sixteen
worldcons is not even close to being a record; there are many fans have been to
quite a few more than that. One of them is Mike Resnick, who returns now with more
remembrances of some of those previous worldcons. In Part 2 of this series,
Mike's worldcon adventures feature the launching of his writing career, the discovery
of how to get THE best view of a worldcon masquerade, and more.
1966: TRICON (Cleveland)
Though we had met a number of fans during the past couple of years who would become lifelong friends -- Pat and Roger Sims, Bob Tucker, Ed and Jo Ann Wood, Dave and Ruth Kyle, Hank and Martha Beck -- we nonetheless spent most of Tricon with the Edgar Rice Burroughs fans. After all, it had been through the Burroughs door that we entered fandom, and Burroughs would never be as popular with the Hugo voters again as he was in 1966. The Barsoom books were on the ballot for Best All-Time Series, Frank Frazetta was up for Best Artist primarily be cause of his ERB covers for Ace, and ERB-dom, on which I was the assistant editor, was up for Best Fanzine.
Camille Cazedessus, Jr. -- Caz to everyone -- showed up late, and found they had sold his room out from under him. In fact, they had sold every room out from under him, and he was forced to accept a huge suite for the price of a room. The ERB-dom crowd -- Caz (the editor) and his wife Mary, us, John F. Roy, John Guidry, Neal MacDonald, and a new artist, Jeffrey Jones -- spent every evening camped out there.
This was the worldcon that hosted the first Asimov/Ellison Insult Contest. It was generally considered that Isaac was winning when Harlan segued off into a lengthy description of a fistic encounter with a couple of Frank Sinatra's bodyguards, and then the hour was over.
One of the most memorable, if not the most pleasant, memories I have of Tricon is the bagpipers. You see, back then the worldcon wasn't large enough to fill a hotel, let alone the two or three we now take over, and we shared the premises with other groups. In 1966, it was a group of happy bagpipers, who went up and down the corridors in the wee small hours of the morning, wearing their kilts, drinking their Scotch, and blowing their bagpipes. Loudly. (I don't think you can blow a bagpipe softly.) It was the first, and probably only, time in worldcon history when the fans complained to the hotel that the mundanes were making too much noise.
I sold my first sf novel at Tricon. In retrospect, I wish I hadn't. It's a pretty good Burroughs pastiche but a pretty awful Resnick novel, and copies of it come back to haunt me at every autograph session. (I resist the urge to tear it up, and just remind the reader that I was a teenager when I wrote it and I've gotten a lot better.)
(No, I wasn't a teenager in 1966. But it took me half a dozen years to sell that sucker. I should have listened to the first thirty editors.)
Now let me tell you about the Hugos. Back then you didn't have to be a member of the worldcon to vote. The worldcon drew maybe 600 attendees or thereabouts. ERB-dom had a mailing list of close to 1,000. All Caz did was copy the ballot and mail it out with the last issue before the voting deadline, and ERB-dom became the first Burroughs fanzine ever to win a Hugo. (And the last. I think the rules were changed the following year. They were certainly changed soon thereafter.)
Harlan won his first Hugo, and when it came time to announce the award for Best All-Time Series (a ridiculous award, since it presupposed that no series written after 1966 could possibly be better), he took the microphone away from a shocked Isaac, who was the Toastmaster, and announced that The Foundation Trilogy had won. Nowadays everyone just yawns, but on that night it was a shocker -- the sf fans all thought Heinlein's Future History had a lock on it, the fantasy fans couldn't see how Tolkein's Lord of the Rings could lose, and the old-timers voted en masse for Doc Smith's Lensman series. And of course, there were enough Burroughs fans there to give Hugos to Frazetta and ERB-dom, so they felt certain the Barsoom series would win.
Having been to one worldcon already, I knew what the dealers room was like (and back then, it sold almost nothing but books and magazines), so we took along an empty suitcase and I filled it up, courtesy of a few dozen friendly hucksters.
I had overslept every morning, and we had an early train back to Chicago on Labor Day, and I was worried about sleeping through it. I mentioned this to John Roy the night before, and at 5:00 AM he phoned me and started reciting the longest, stupidest series of filthy limericks I'd ever heard. They were so dreadful that I was totally awake and ready to leave at 5:15.
# # # #
1973: TORCON II (Toronto)
In 1972, as I was standing shoulder to shoulder with half a hundred sweating photographers trying to get pictures of some of the masquerade costumes, I noticed that the costumers all looked cool and composed and (especially) uncrowded, and I decided that I'd been on the wrong end of the camera long enough. All I had to do was convince Carol to make a costume for us to wear, and we'd finally be able to enjoy a worldcon masquerade.
Well, oddly enough, she thought it was a fine idea, and we spent the next couple of months trying to decide what costume to make. We finally hit upon Lith the Golden Witch and the wonderfully-named Chun the Unavoidable from Jack Vance's The Dying Earth.
Chun's robe was covered with eyeballs, so while Carol made an elegant flowing black velvet robe, I got a few hundred ping-pong balls, pasted irises and pupils on them, and strung them on a series of glittering wires which she then attached to the robe. Then, to make the costume complete, I carried the eyeless head of Liane the Wayfarer.
Carol's costume was a little more problematical. She would wear patterns of gold feathers on her arms and legs, and gold body paint, and gold leaves in her hair, and a gold loincloth, and she would carry a gold cage containing a frog, but what she mostly was was naked. We brought along a brass bra in case she changed her mind (i.e., lost her nerve), but she had three or four vodka stingers an hour before we were due on stage and that was enough to curb any inhibitions she might have had.
We had a wonderful time, posed for a trillion photographs, were interviewed on Canadian television (American news programs weren't wildly anxious to run interviews with a topless witch back in 1973), and won the award for Most Authentic Costume. There was no 'Best In Show' at Torcon II, but Joni Stopa, one of the judges, later told us that she polled the other judges and if there had been a 'Best In Show', we'd have won it. We enjoyed the experience so much that we would do four more costumes in the 1970s (and three would be even bigger winners).
The con was held in the Royal York Hotel. I remember an endless bridge game in the N3F room, and some nice room parties, but what I mostly remember was that they nickel-and-dimed you to death. You wanted matches with your cigarettes, it was an extra penny; ice with your water, an extra penny; and so on. After the masquerade, Hank Beck and I got hungry and decided to grab a sandwich. The only place open was the nightclub in the basement. We didn't want to be drowned out, so we called ahead to find out when the singer was taking her break, showed up two minutes after she left the stage, ordered and ate our food, and left before she came back on -- and nonetheless had to pay a substantial entertainment charge.
This was the year that the Hugo rocket ships didn't arrive on time, and the committee was able to hand out only the bases. Later that night John Guidry and I went up onto the roof to catch a breath of fresh air, and we found Ray Lafferty, who'd had a few too many, on his hands and knees, obviously looking for something he'd misplaced. We asked what he'd lost and offered to help him find it. He held up the Hugo base. He was pretty sure he'd won a Hugo earlier that night, but he couldn't remember what happened to the damned rocket, and he thought maybe he'd lost it up here on the roof. We gently escorted him back into the hotel, and he picked up the rocket the next year at Discon II.
I'd pretty much lost touch with all of the Burroughs fans except for John Guidry and John Roy, but when we heard that Buster Crabbe was to be the Guest Speaker at the Burroughs Bibliophiles' Dum-Dum (which was held at the worldcon until the end of the decade), we jumped at the chance to hear him. He was a brilliant, funny speaker. In all my experience at all the hundred-plus conventions I've been to, only Isaac Asimov and Bob Bloch ever performed better.
We'd taken our Dodge maxivan to the con, so we could carry our costumes, and on the way home we offered a ride to Martha Beck and John Guidry. When we hit Michigan we stopped at Win Schuler's, one of my favorite steak houses. They began by giving you free meatballs and bar cheese while you perused the menu. Martha, John and I put away a quick four or five pounds of meatballs while waiting for our meals to arrive, and finally Carol decided to take a table at the far end of the restaurant and pretend she didn't know us. It was quite some time before we even realized she was gone.
# # # #
1977: SUNCON (Miami Beach)
No one knew if there was going to be a worldcon in 1977. Don Lundry's group, known as '7 for 77', won the bid without naming a city. They later hit upon Orlando, lost their hotel a few months before the con (I think they were waiting for it to be built and it was behind schedule, but I could be misremembering), and then moved to Miami Beach and the Fontainbleu. A couple of weeks before the worldcon, the Fontainbleu went into receivership, and no one knew if it would stay open. As a result, Suncon was the smallest domestic con of the decade...but that just meant that those of us who showed up had this enormous, semi-empty hotel in which to play and party.
Carol and I arrived a day early, and came away with a pair of collector's items because of that. We were among the first to register and get our badges and program books and giveaways. A few minutes later they closed down registration. Seems they forgot to include Harlan Ellison's copyright notice on the program book bio he did of Toastmaster Bob Silverberg, and they had to make up a hand stamp and stamp the copyright notice into every program book. We have two of the ten or twelve copies that got away before the omission was discovered.
This was the con at which Second Fandom was created. It was First Fandomite Dave Kyle's suggestion, but a number of us modified it a bit. We wanted to be able to throw a party in which all the oldpharts didn't drink all our booze and the kids didn't eat all our food, so we created a group with restrictions at both ends: to become a member, you had to have started reading science fiction after the cutoff date for First Fandom (at the beginning of 1938, as I recall) and before the day that Astounding became Analog. We were formed solely to have parties at worldcon, and while I suppose we still officially exist, we haven't thrown one in a few years now. The person to complain to is Roger Sims, who's been our president since the beginning. (We actually did create the Groff Conklin Award, to be given to the author who did the most to interest us in science fiction, and we gave it out once -- to Sprague de Camp, a worthy recipient -- but we decided that awards were against the spirit of party-throwing and we never gave out another.)
The Fontainbleu was a bit shabby and run-down for a luxury hotel, but the lobby was magnificent: two thousand people could sit comfortably and visit. There was an Olympic-sized saltwater pool out back, and literally hundreds of fans spent goodly portions of their day in it. (It was so buoyant from the salt that it was literally impossible to sink; dozens of fans wiled away their afternoons floating on their backs and reading whatever they'd purchased in the huckster room.)
We attended the Dum-Dum to listen to Leigh Brackett give a speech. So did Keith Laumer, whose entire personality changed after he suffered a stroke. He became abusive and offensive, and only Leigh could quiet him down. Mainstream fans knew all about his problems, but this was Burroughs fandom's first exposure to him, and they didn't know how to react or what to do. A very awkward couple of hours.
Carol was willing to make me a costume, but she didn't want to go in costume herself. I hit upon Clark Ashton Smith's "Master of the Crabs", and tried to coordinate it by long distance with Angelique Trouvere (a.k.a. "Destiny"), who had to cancel at the last minute. I had a number of large, realistic-looking plastic crabs on my jeweled robe, and a long white beard, and a trident, and a bunch of other stuff, but Carol decided it needed something authentic, so the morning of the masquerade she went out to the Fontainbleu's unkempt beach and brought back a bunch of seaweed, which she then hung on the robe. By masquerade time it smelled pretty awful; no one wanted to be within 30 feet of me -- including me. I won Most Outstanding Costume, and two minutes later I was in the shower stall, scrubbing as hard as I could (and two minutes after that I was dousing myself with the strongest, cheapest men's cologne I could find. Neither helped much.)
The Fontainbleu had an all-night coffee shop. Lou Tabakow, who had become perhaps our closest fannish friend after we moved to Cincinnati, lived there. I think he had about 15 snacks -- pie and coffee -- a day with various friends, and never did order anything resembling a meal. (He also caught the costuming bug, and won a prize for a very funny fannish costume.)
Our room had a sign on the wall, asking us to please not litter the floor with food crumbs. We didn't know why until late one night, when we were using a basement passage from one tower to another, we ran into a small army of palmetto roaches, each about four inches long and ugly as sin. I went right back up to the room and made sure the floor was spotless.
Phil Foglio won his first Fan Artist Hugo. We felt partially responsible, since when we lived in the Chicago area, I was convinced Phil would go all week without eating and then visit us on the weekend and down 17 or 18 pounds of meat, and if we hadn't let him in, he would have died of malnutrition without ever having made it to a worldcon.
# # # #
1982: CHICON IV (Chicago)
Chicon IV began awkwardly. We had been to Windycon at the Chicago Hyatt the year before, and had been stranded on the 22nd floor for a couple of hours. (The elevators went straight to the rooftop, then began coming down -- but when they reached a certain weight level, which they always did before the 22nd floor, they expressed right to the lobby level, and then repeated the procedure.)
Now, a few years earlier, Windycon had been held in the Radisson, just across the Chicago River from the Hyatt. The rooms had been very nice, there was a great pool on the 13th floor, the elevators all worked, and the restaurant served a memorable brunch... so I wrote a letter to a number of our friends, detailing our experiences at both hotels, stating we would be staying at the Radisson, and recommending they do the same.
We showed up a few days before worldcon began...and found that the Radisson had lost our reservation. After considerable acrimony they found a room for us that was somewhat smaller and considerably dirtier than a broom closet. The corridors needed carpets and a paint job, the help was surly, there was a stale odor permeating the place. Third World facilities can nosedive like that in a couple of years, but we hadn't expected a member of a major chain on Chicago's "Miracle Mile" to degenerate so quickly.
So I left Carol there, walked half a mile to the Hyatt, found they had a room on the 5th floor, took it, went back, got Carol and the luggage, and moved to the Hyatt -- and am still catching hell from Jo Ann Wood and a few others, partially for suggesting the Radisson and partially for deserting it.
Of course, once Larry Propp (the co-chair) found out we were on the 5th floor -- which was reserved for committee bigwigs and the Guests of Honor and did not require elevators -- he spent an hour every morning trying to get the hotel to move us out. Didn't work. Finally Kelly Freas, who was the artist Guest of Honor, showed up, and Larry dragged him to our room and explained that it had been reserved for Kelly, and since Kelly was an old friend, we agreed to move to the 24th floor -- only to have Kelly decide that he'd rather be with fans on the 24th than committee members on the 5th. At which point Larry left us alone for the last couple of days.
The CFG was on the 7th floor and the SFWA Suite was on the 6th, and the escalator went to the 4th, so we never once had to take an elevator. I remember Frank Robinson and Jack Williamson were stranded somewhere around the 30th floor when they were due to participate in a midnight panel, and never did make it down.
Larry Tucker was busy filming FAANS, the now-classic video starring just about everyone in Midwestern fandom, and it frequently made the 7th floor corridor inaccessible. It was worth it, though; FAANS is every bit as important to fandom as Ah! Sweet Idiocy! or Fancyclopedia II.
My first few legitimate sf novels (as opposed to the Burroughs and Howard pastiches of more than a decade ago) had come out during the year, and for the first time I went to an autograph session and didn't just sit there getting sympathetic looks from passers-by. It was also the first time an editor bought us a meal at a worldcon; Sheila Gilbert of Signet took us to Doro's, my favorite Italian restaurant, and a place we used to go to celebrate each new book contract.
We had driven up from Cincinnati, and on the way back we stopped for a housewarming at Lynne and Mark Aronson's new home in Chicago's Rogers Park. John Guidry came back to Cincinnati with us. I gave him a map of the local second-hand bookstores, bade him good hunting, and hardly saw him again for the next three days.
# # # #
1988: NOLACON II (New Orleans)
This one's going to take a while to explain. To this day, everyone else complains about Nolacon II. Me, I had a great time. But there was no reason why I shouldn't have had a great time: I was the Toastmaster, and I was given the Presidential Suite at the Sheraton.
Let me tell you about that suite. It had four bedrooms. It had six bathrooms. Every bathroom had its own television set. It had a four-poster bed on a raised platform in the master bedroom. It had a living room with a 60-foot window wall overlooking the French Quarter and the Mississippi River. It had a dining room that could seat two dozen people at the mahogany table. It had an express elevator to our front door on the 49th floor. We had a liaison (read: gofer/driver) all week long. We had complimentary breakfasts all week long. And since we were in New Orleans, and nobody eats in a hotel when the French Quarter is only a block away, we were given a substantial per diem.
Hard not to like a situation like that.
Which is not to say that the con ran smoothly. (My suite ran smoothly, but that's a while different matter. In fact, we made up hundreds of invitations to huge parties in the suite on three different nights. We spent the first four days passing them out, and the last three days partying until dawn in the suite.)
Nolacon had asked me to edit a reprint anthology of sf parodies to be known as Shaggy B.E.M. Stories. (Damned good book, if I say so myself -- even though the editor was never shown the galleys, and hence the final version has well over 200 typos.)
Anyway, one night John Guidry called to say that I had listed an Arthur C. Clarke story in the table of contents, but it wasn't on the disk I sent him. I said sure it was. He insisted it wasn't. I told him to put the disk in the machine and I'd tell him how to find the story. He had never worked a computer before, and was sure he'd wipe all the data from the hard disk with a wrong key stroke, and refused. I kept urging him to turn on the goddamned machine, and he began getting hysterical, so finally I told him to go out into the hall of his office building, find the first room with a light on, knock on the door, and bring whoever answered it to the phone.
Which is how I met Peggy Ranson. She turned on the computer and promptly found the story. She also mentioned that she had slipped a number of letters under the door to the worldcon office, asking for information, but had never been answered. By the end of our conversation, I realized that I was speaking to a very bright, very friendly, and (most importantly) very competent person, and I told John that I insisted on Peggy as my liaison, and that I would accept no other.
Good decision. Five years later she won a Hugo for Best Fan Artist, and she's been on the ballot ever since.
So we show up for the con, and the hotel has no idea that we're coming, or that the committee had reserved the Presidential Suite for us eight months earlier. (The Pro and Fan GoHs, Don Wollheim and Roger Sims, had first choice. Both chose huge suites in the Marriott, which was half a block closer to the Quarter.)
We get that settled, and the first order of business is the Opening Ceremonies, which goes rather smoothly. I introduce Don and Roger, a jazz band serenades (if that's the right word, and I suspect it's not) the crowd, and everyone goes off to pig out in the Quarter.
The next order of business does not go quite so smoothly. It's the 'Meet the Pros' party. Now, I haven't been to a 'Meet the Pros' party since my first worldcon back in 1963, and somehow I do not feel culturally deprived. I would much rather meet the fans, and in smaller groups, but what the hell, I am the Toastmaster and the Toastmaster presides at this. (Or so I thought, until I was drafted to do it again in Orlando when the Toastmaster refused.)
I know from hearing the pros talk about it that every year they wore funny hats or Mickey Mouse ears or some other distinguishing thing so that the Toastmaster can identify them and the fans can spot them, and every week for a year I ask some committee member or other if they've figured out what the pros will be given to wear and I have been assured that it's under control and there's nothing to worry about. I also request that I be given a couple of spotters, one at the door and one on stage, because I don't know every pro by sight, especially the newer ones, and I don't want to slight anyone. No problem, I am told; we would never dream of embarrassing you or slighting a new writer.
So I show up and ask who my spotters are. Spotters, they say; what's a spotter?
Okay, I say, we'll get by without them. What are the pros wearing?
You're the Toastmaster. We thought you knew it was your responsibility. What did you bring for all 400 of them to wear?
So I turned around and went back to my suite, one minute into the Meet the Pros party. I have no idea how, or even if, it went.
My novel, Ivory, came out that week, I did a joint signing with Michael Whelan, who painted the cover. Autographed upward of 300 copies, at which point I thought my hand would fall off.
Since we had all these extra bedrooms, I invited my father and Laura to each take one, which they did, and I seem to think Laura invited an old high school or college friend to use the fourth bedroom a couple of nights. Laura had just started selling romance novels; it would be another five years before she won her Campbell...but since she had been raised in science fiction, she already knew most of the fans and pros, and managed to hit just about every party, escorting my father -- an old party boy -- to most of them.
By 1988, I was writing for a lot of publishing houses, and we were wined and dined by editors at some of the finest restaurants in town: Arnaud's, Toujaques, Antoine's, Broussard's, and Brennan's. We went to Commander's Palace, probably the best single restaurant in town, with Pat and Roger Sims, and found that our old headwaiter from some previous trips to Brennan's -- the only headwaiter who ever recognized my name or read my books -- had moved there. We got the best table, the best service, and, as with Brennan's, no bill. (We promptly invited him to one of our room parties, and he actually showed up -- with a bunch of his friends.)
(I have to add, in all immodesty, that those were some of the best parties ever given at a worldcon. We got to see almost every one of our old friends -- something that gets more and more difficult each year, as I have more and more business meetings -- and that suite was so big that no one had to stand unless they wanted to. We took all the money we'd normally spend on room, board, and planefare, and blew it on food and drinks for the parties. We got everyone from old-time fans to Hugo-winning pros to my daughter to my agent to help host the various shindigs.)
Roger Sims had asked to be roasted, rather than make a GoH speech, and the committee accommodated him. I was the Roastmaster, and Dave Kyle, Jack Chalker, Jay Kay Klein, Lynne Aronson, Jo Ann Wood, and Pat Sims took their best shots at him. It was a lot of fun, especially if you weren't Roger.
Carol had to judge the masquerade on Saturday night. It was on the other side of the Quarter, and the pre-judging started early, which meant we couldn't eat together. I'd had so many 8,000-calorie meals I didn't feel like going out to a restaurant, so Fred Prophet and I went down to the second floor of the Sheraton, where all the bid parties were, hit each one, picking up some cheese here and some ham there and some cake over there, and after we'd made the circuit we felt like we'd had a huge dinner and were ready to go watch the costumers do their thing.
The Hugos were Sunday night. The committee had given me a contract, stipulating the amount of the per diem I was to receive. When we showed up, they gave me some of the money they owed me and asked us to wait a few days for the rest of it, since they were very tight for cash and would be taking in tons of money at the door, and I agreed. I asked co-chair Justin Winston for the rest of my money on Friday and Saturday, and was put off. Sunday the word was passed to me: we think we've paid you enough, we don't really need you anymore, so we're not going to pay you the rest of your per diem.
Fine, I said. I got into my tux, went down to the auditorium, and waited backstage. The room filled up. The time for the Hugo ceremony to start came and went. I stayed backstage. The fans started stomping their feet. I began reading a book. Finally a panicky message reached me: what the hell is going on? Answer: certainly not the Toastmaster, at least not until he gets the rest of his per diem. Justin gave the money to Craig Miller (an innocent bystander), and Craig got it into my hot little hand less than 30 seconds later. After which I went on stage, told some funny stories, and gave out the Hugos.
But I was so pissed that I became the first Toastmaster in history to boycott closing ceremonies.
Still, that suite made up for just about everything. As Jack Chalker told me after he toastmastered ConStellation in 1983, once you've had a presidential suite at a major hotel, you're never going to be happy with a mere room again.
Boy, was he right!
# # # #
1992: MAGICON (Orlando)
We showed up a few days early, since we would be leaving for a month-long Kenya safari with Pat and Roger Sims immediately after Magicon. This gave us a chance to sample some of Central Florida's attractions. Carol, an ardent birder, had me drive her and Rick Katze to Merritt Island at (ugh) 6 o'clock in the morning, and a couple of days later I took her and Barb Delaplace back at 5 o'clock in the afternoon, just to see those birds who like to sleep as late as I do. We also hit Busch Gardens with Laura, Rick Katze, Michelle Sagara and Thomas West.
I started a tradition of taking 'my' Campbell nominees out to dinner. We went to an Indian restaurant with Laura, Barb, and Michelle (who came in 2-3-4 to Ted Chiang, and came in 1-3-4 the next year, at San Francisco. Nick DiChario, who I met for the first time at Orlando, and who was also one of 'my' Campbellians, came in 2nd at San Francisco.)
(Pat Cadigan, who was up for a Hugo or a Nebula, I can't remember which, berated me all weekend for only taking my Campbell nominees out, so beginning in 1993, I also took all 'my' Hugo and Nebula nominees out to dinner at worldcon. Given the amounts of food these men and women could put away, giving up editing anthologies a few years later may have been the most financially prudent decision of my career.)
As always in the 1990s, I spent too damned much time deal-making and nowhere near enough partying. Still, there was one deal I was absolutely thrilled to make: St. Martin's gave me the editorship of the Library of African Adventure. (I was a little less thrilled after we brought out the first three books, and the library is now at Alexander Books, which is owned by my old friend -- and sometime sf writer -- Ralph Roberts.) Also, John Betancourt brought out a beautiful, leopardskin edition of Adventures, my favorite of my own books. More importantly, Harry Warner's A Wealth of Fable finally got the illustrated hardcover edition it deserved.
We stayed at the Peabody, where the B-Line restaurant, built to resemble an old-fashioned diner, was frequently empty at 3:00 PM but always filled to overflowing at 3:00 AM.
We'd used a coupon supplied by the worldcon committee to rent a Cadillac for $90.00 for an entire week, and made good use of it. We'd been to Orlando a number of times, so we knew where to go to get off the tourist trail and find the best restaurants.
On Sunday, we had some time between a reading and preparing for the Hugos, so we drove through a couple of areas called Bay Hill and Windermere, visited some open houses, and decided that that was where we wanted to retire to. (We're getting closer all the time. These days we split our year between Cincinnati and Orlando, but haven't quite gotten around to selling our house yet. Dick Spelman is already down there, as is my father, and Pat and Roger Sims plan to move there in a couple of years. Bill and Cokie Cavin keep saying they plan to move there too, and so do Greg and Linda Dunn. So we should be able to put on a Midwestcon South before too much longer.)
I remember that the Hugo was absolutely gorgeous. (The rocket ship is always the same, but the base is different each year, and this year it was made from the platform that held the Apollo moon rockets.) I really faunched for it...so of course I lost.
A week later I was sitting 20 yards from a herd of elephants at a water hole in Samburu, and somehow losing it seemed a little less important, at least for the moment.
# # # #
1998: BUCCONEER (Baltimore)
A lot of our friends didn't show up for this one. John Guidry's father died the day before the con began, and George Laskowski had contracted liver cancer. My own father, who managed to attend a few cons this decade, was unable to leave his assisted-care home for this one. I hate all these reminders that I'm not 23 anymore.
We showed up on Tuesday -- not a bad idea, since by Wednesday almost every hotel had managed to screw up their reservations list -- and promptly got our room in the Marriott. After seeing all the other hotels (the Hilton, the Omni, the Holiday Inn, Days Inn, and the Hyatt), we came to the conclusion that the Mariott was the pick of the litter -- but that it was a pretty ugly litter.
The hotels were spread out, which meant we missed a lot of parties, and missed seeing a lot of friends who were walking around the area looking for us while we were looking for them.
Carol, who found out the week we left that she's got a couple of herniated disks in her neck and needed an awful lot of physical therapy, cheered herself up by falling in love with the Inner Harbor and walking there every day. She and I took every water taxi on every route that existed, and while I was doing panels and hanging around the huckster room (my favorite daytime location at a worldcon, just as the CFG suite is my favorite evening location), she spent hours touring the area.
My first panel was held at 10:00 PM Wednesday (that's what I get for telling them not to schedule me in the mornings), and Lawrence Watt-Evans, Roger MacBride Allen and I dutifully trudged to the Omni for some kind of quiz. But the quizmaster and the questions never arrived, so we sat and stared at the audience for a while, and they sat and stared back, and we finally wound up the hour plugging our books and telling fannish anecdotes.
The huckster room had more books and magazines than usual, and the art show was outstanding. I had three new books out, two hardcover novels and a trade paperback collection, and they seemed to be moving pretty well. Laura's first hardcover fantasy novel had been published a month earlier, and I surreptitiously made sure it was prominently displayed on every table that stocked it (something I have never done with my own books for reasons that currently elude me.)
The SFWA Suite -- Laura, who spent more time there, called it the SFWA Sauna -- was as far from my hotel as you could get, and barely had room to turn around in. I went once, stayed ten minutes, and didn't return, which was pretty much par for the course. CFG had its usual hospitality suite (in the Marriott, where almost all of us stayed), and we spent the latter part of each evening there.
Thursday we went to the crab feast. (Some people never learn.) We waited half an hour, in the semi-blazing sun, for the water taxi to arrive. Once there, we discovered that a) we would be eating outside in the heat; b) that the only remaining table was about 15 feet away from a country/western band equipped with state of the art loudspeakers; c) there were no hotdogs or hamburgers [and I hate crabs], which means that I paid $30.00 for a drumstick and a corncob. We arrived at about 7:00. The crab feast was to continue until at least 10:00. I was ready to leave after half an hour, and much to my surprise, everyone in our party -- Carol, Dick Spelman, Sue and Steve Francis, Pat and Roger Sims, Mark Linneman -- felt the same, so we returned in time to hit some parties.
I did very little business at this worldcon. I had only one book to sell, and only a few publishing houses to touch base with. Friday we had breakfast with del Rey and lunch with Bantam and a drink with Tor, which took care of most of my obligations, and allowed me to revert to being a fan for the first time in maybe a dozen worldcons.
Except for Friday night, which was the Hugo ceremony. I wore a white suit -- Josepha Sherman calls it my Good Humor Man suit, while Barbara Delaplace, who doesn't pull her punches, refers to it as my Italian Pimp Suit. I thought I had a decent chance with "The 43 Antarean Dynasties," since I had won the Asimov's Readers Poll and the Sci-Fi Weekly Hugo Straw Poll...but I hadn't even been nominated for the Nebula, and writers can be pretty insecure people, so as usual I had no speech or notes prepared. And suddenly I was walking up to the stage to accept my fourth Hugo. I can't recall exactly what I said, but it must have been okay, because the next day about 300 people congratulated me on my moving and memorable acceptance speech, whereas only a dozen or so mentioned that I'd written a moving and memorable story, which managed to be both ego-inflating and ego-deflating at the same time.
We'd flown in with Stephen Boucher, who, being an Aussie, was helping to host the Hugo Losers Party. He pointed out that I had cheated in the past, losing Hugos on the same nights I won them, but this time I was only nominated for one, and if I won he promised to personally throw me out of the party. It was five or six blocks away, and I wanted to get out of my suit and take a shower, but I couldn't deny Stephen and Perry Middlemiss the pleasure of forcibly ejecting me, so I stopped by the Hugo Losers Party at the Hilton just long enough to be given the bum's rush, and then we spent the rest of the night celebrating at the CFG suite.
Saturday morning was the SFWA meeting. I usually make it to one a decade, and this was the one I chose for the 1990s. It was noisier and nastier than usual -- our president of 36 days' standing barely survived a censure vote -- and reminded me why I don't go more often.
I was scheduled to do an autographing in the huckster room in the afternoon, and to my surprise, my line was immense -- a regular Ellison or Asimov-type queue. Made me feel I'd finally arrived. I still hadn't finished when my hour was up, and had to move to another table to take care of the last few people who'd been patiently waiting. I was sitting next to Gardner Dozois, who thoughtfully signed my name to a few books just to keep busy.
We ate three good meals at the worldcon, all across the Inner Harbor in Little Italy, the last of them Saturday night. We partied with our fannish friends in the CFG suite, went to bed, packed in the morning, and went home. The flight from Baltimore to Cincinnati took 75 minutes. Laura, who bought cut-rate tickets on Northwest (which she has since dubbed 'Northworst'), reached the Baltimore airport a couple of hours after we did on Sunday afternoon, but didn't get home until daybreak on Tuesday, due to a series of snafus that found her making the final leg of the journey, from the Detroit airport to the Dayton airport, via a bus that left at 12:30 AM Tuesday morning.
All in all, a memorable con, if not always for the right reasons.
All illustrations by Charlie Williams