We mentioned in our Opening Comments that we saw and met many people at ConuCopia
and Aussiecon. One of our friends who wasn't there (and who we missed) was Mike
Resnick, who, surprisingly, still has yet to attend an Australian worldcon. In this
newest installment of his "Worldcon Memories" series, Mike educates us on the most
efficient way for party-hopping, why you shouldn't follow driving instructions too
literally, and what kind of costume not to wear at a masquerade.
1963: DISCON I (Washington, D.C.)
This was our very first worldcon. I was a mature 21 years old; Carol, my child-bride, was only 20. You could fill a book with what we didn't know about science fiction conventions. Several books. In fact, I'm sure someone already has.
We had no money to speak of. We left Laura, who had just turned a year old, with some grandparents, and prepared to spend five days in Washington, D.C., on my $93.17 income tax refund. (The wild part is that we did it, and came home with a few dollars left over.)
We had discovered Burroughs fandom the year before, and it was through our ERB friends that we learned about the worldcon. We couldn't afford to fly to it, and our car couldn't be trusted to go 50 miles without suffering from cardiac arrest, so we took the train -- a back-breaking 24-hour journey from Chicago.
What we didn't know -- one of the many things -- was that when we were told worldcon was on Labor Day weekend, the weekend for all practical purposes started on a Thursday. We got there Saturday morning, just in time to find out that the con was about half over.
We were met in the basement -- the train actually let us off inside the hotel -- by Camille Cazedessus, Jr., the editor and publisher of ERB-dom, for which I was the assistant editor. He waited until we got our room -- an outrageous $7.00 a night despite the convention rate -- and then took us down to the huckster room. I thought I had died and gone to heaven: there were 30 or 40 tables of books and magazines. No jewelry. No games. No toys. No light sabres. No clothing. No media junk. Just literature. (If it happened today, I'd know I had died.)
There was a sweet old guy in a white suit who saw that we were new to all this, and moseyed over and spent half an hour with us, making us feel at home and telling us about how we were all one big family and inviting us to come to all the parties at night. Then he wandered off to accept the first-ever Hall of Fame Award from First Fandom. When they asked if he was working on anything at present, he replied that he had just delivered the manuscript to Skylark DuQuesne, and only then did we realize that he was the fabled E. E. "Doc" Smith.
There were panels with all the writers we'd worshipped for years. And then there was the auction. Stan Vinson, a Burroughs collector, paid the highest price of the weekend for a Frazetta cover -- $70, for a painting that would probably bring $40,000 or more today -- but even broke kids like me were able to participate. I bought a black-and-white Virgil Finlay drawing for $2.00 and an autographed Ted Sturgeon manuscript for $3.50.
They held the masquerade Saturday night. Back then it was a masquerade ball, with a live band, and the costumes were secondary to the dancing and partying.
About that partying: Doc had told us there were parties, but he hadn't told us where, so we wandered up and down the various corridors of the hotel, and were finally invited into a suite by two bearded men who turned out to be Lester del Rey and L. Sprague de Camp. I don't know what they saw in a pair of kids from Chicago, but they, and every pro and fan in the suite, treated us like part of the family -- and they've been our family ever since.
The next afternoon we went to the banquet, where I got my first-ever look at a Hugo. At the time it seemed like the Holy Grail: if I lived a good and pure life and kept learning my craft and wrote to the best of my ability every day, maybe someday, 50 or 60 years up the road, I might even be allowed to touch one.
# # # #
1969: ST. LOUISCON (St. Louis)
By now we'd been to a few worldcons, and knew enough to get there a day early. We ran into Martha Beck in the lobby, and went to the bar with her to have some coffee and visit a bit.
Now, neither Martha nor I are drinkers, and I can't remember exactly how it came about, but somehow or other we got involved in a drinking contest. I knew enough to order Brandy Alexanders, which are like chocolate malts with just enough alcohol to kill the germs; Martha kept ordering one Planter's Punch after another. Well-named drink; after six or seven rounds it punched her but good. We had to help her to her room, where her husband, Hank, was not amused. With either of us. (I probably had more alcohol that afternoon than I've had in the 30 years since.)
The elevators didn't work very well, and the elevator operators were surly as hell. The air-conditioning didn't work very well either, so I put on a swimsuit and thought I'd cool off in the pool. Bad idea. It was over 100 degrees out, the sun had been shining on the pool all summer, and about three seconds into my swim I realized that the pool was hotter than the water I shave with.
(We went to an Archon at the same hotel -- the Chase Park Plaza -- eleven years later, in 1980. The same elevators didn't work, the same surly help ignored the guests, the same air conditioners spit warm water into the rooms, and the same swimming pool was close to boiling.)
We were the only people who were satisfied with our room. In fact, 'satisfied' is an understatement. I registered as a publishing company that I owned, rather than as an individual. For $14 a night, they gave us a room with a fireplace, a bathroom that could have held a relaxacon all by itself, a few couches, and enough room so that the late Bob Greenberg was able to set up a screen, a projector, and about twenty chairs and show some movies he'd been working on to some of our friends.
(I registered as publishing companies the next 15 years, some real, some imaginary. Never got another room like that. For any price.)
Sometime during the weekend David Gerrold and Anne McCaffery found out that I had sold three science fiction novels, cornered me before I could get away, and wouldn't leave me alone until I joined SFWA. I've been a member for 30 years now, and I still haven't decided whether to forgive them for it.
The masquerade had what most old-timers think is the greatest costume ever done, Karen and Astrid Anderson's "The Bat and the Bitten." It also had Rick Norwood, who would later work for Freeman Dyson but was just a student back then, dressed as Charlie Brown (the comic book character, not the Locus publisher). Rick came out with a kite, did a Charlie Brown pratfall, and inadvertently tore the huge movie screen that hung down at the back of the presidium stage.
Harlan Ellison immediately climbed onto the stage, explained that it was our duty as members of the convention to help the committee pay for the damage, and collected a quick $800, mostly in dollar bills.
Well, the next day, at the banquet, it was announced that the damage had looked worse than it was, and that the total cost of repairing the screen was only thirty dollars. Harlan, who was the Toastmaster, announced that he was donating the rest of the money to Clarion.
Instantly, Elliot Shorter, who would make an NFL linebacker look small and puny, was on his feet, shouting that Harlan wasn't giving his money to Harlan's pet charity. Lester del Rey, on the other side of the room, stood up on his chair and echoed those sentiments. And in a matter of no more than a minute or two, hundreds of fans were screaming in protest. The results? First, the money was promised to a (never held) beer blast; and second, Harlan gafiated from fandom.
# # # #
1972: LACON I (Los Angeles)
We showed up a few days early to hit a bunch of second-hand book stores with John Guidry, and also to see the first performance ever given at the new, state-of-the-art theater at Century City (Stephen Sondheim's brilliant and bittersweet Follies, with the Broadway cast; it folded after leaving Los Angeles).
A girl from Chicago -- her first name was Helen, and I regret to say I've forgotten her last name -- had just gotten her driver's license, and rented a car once she arrived. One night she offered to drive a bunch of Chicago-area fans to a restaurant that had been recommended, so Joni Stopa, Carol and me, Martha Beck, and a couple of others piled into the car (cars were much bigger then), and off we went. As we were driving by a playground, we saw the street we were looking for about 50 yards ahead, and one of us said, "Turn left here" -- so Helen turned left here, right into the playground's chain link fence.
There was skinny-dipping every night. The only thing I really remember about it was seeing Frank Robinson remove all his clothes but keep on his trademark leather hat as he plunged into the pool.
The con was at the International Hotel, right by the airport. We had arrived early enough to get a room on the second floor -- non-functioning elevators have always gone hand-in-glove with worldcons, and we always try to get a low room -- but Martha had done even better, securing a ground-level poolside cabana for herself.
Martha likes her friends to like each other. I had sold a bunch of books ("the kind men like") to Earl Kemp, who had chaired the 1962 Chicon before moving west to edit Greenleaf Classics for Bill Hamling. I was a dear friend of Martha's, but I hardly knew Earl at all; I just sold him books. Earl was a dear friend of Martha's, but he hardly knew me at all. Martha decided all we had to do to like each other as much as she liked both of us was get to know each other, so she invited us to her cabana on some pretext or other and then left and locked us in for a few hours. We each wanted to go out and party, and do some business, and we resented being locked in there with each other. Under other circumstances we might well have become close friends; but neither of us has had much use for each other since those hours of enforced togetherness.
Bob Bloch was the toastmaster -- and I persist in thinking he was our best/funniest public speaker ever, even including Isaac Asimov. Fred Pohl was the Guest of Honor, and it was the first time in my memory that both the Toastmaster and the Guest of Honor gave witty speeches at the Hugo banquet. I also got to meet one of my heroes -- well, heroines -- for the only time: Catherine L. Moore. To this day, whenever my sensawonder needs a shot of adrenaline, I pick up one of her Northwest Smith stories and I'm fine thirty minutes later.
The masquerade was memorable for a number of reasons. There were some gorgeous costumes. There were more naked ladies than ever appeared before or since, and their costumes -- from grandmother Marji Ellers' "The Black Queen from Barbarella" to teenage Astrid Anderson's "Dejah Thoris" -- were truly memorable.
But the most memorable of all was a fellow who came as an underground comic strip hero called 'The Turd'. His costume consisted of about five gallons of peanut butter smeared all over his pudgy body. But he forgot that he'd be under hot lights all evening. The peanut butter turned rancid, ruined every costume that he brushed against, and did some serious damage to the carpet and to some draperies he happened to lean against.
From that day forward, there has been an arcane rule that outlaws the use of peanut butter in worldcon masquerades. Now you know why.
# # # #
1976: MIDAMERICON (Kansas City)
MidAmeriCon, informally known as Big Mac, was billed as the Ultimate Worldcon. Ken Keller and the late Tom Reamy promised that they would provide brilliant innovation after brilliant innovation, such as fandom had never seen before.
Their biggest fear was that people might try to sneak into the con without paying, and they decided upon one final innovation to make sure it couldn't happen. They announced that they had a foolproof method of making sure only members were admitted. Most people thought it would be some kind of unduplicatable badge, perhaps with a hologram on it, but when we arrived it turned out that in addition to the regular ID badge, each member was given a hospital bracelet that could not be removed, or, once removed, could not be put back on.
So of course, a group of fans went to a local hospital, found a little old lady who liked science fiction and was being released that day, convinced her to keep her bracelet on, and got her into every function, including the Hugos and the masquerade.
Still, there were innovations galore. There was the first -- and, to this day, the only -- hardcover program book. There was closed-circuit television of the better panels, all the speeches, and the masquerade, piped into every room of the hotel.
There was an absolutely dreadful and almost endless live play based on some of the works of Cordwainer Smith.
To counter that, there was a humor group, just getting started, called Duck's Breath Theatre, that entertained us with their hilarious rendition of "Gonad the Barbarian" -- and they were still going strong, on Public Radio and elsewhere, two decades later.
There was the first fan cabaret.
There was, for the first time, a banquet with no Hugo Ceremony or Guest of Honor speech, and a Hugo Ceremony/Guest of Honor speech with no banquet.
At one point, I came across Ed Wood, who was doing some reviewing for Analog, sitting by himself in the lobby, looking like he was going to break down crying any second. He had a copy of Dave Kyle's coffee-table book on the history of science fiction with him, and at first I thought maybe Dave had died. Nope. Then I figured that he felt awful because Dave had been his dear friend for a quarter of a century and he was going to rip the book to shreds in his review. Wrong again. It turns out that Ed was heartbroken because he had looked forward to ripping it to shreds and had found only two mistakes -- both typos -- in the whole book. He later gave it a rave review. (If you didn't know Ed...well, now you do.)
Of the five masquerades in which we participated, this was only one we ever lost. So naturally I think they were our prettiest costumes -- Haunte and Sullenbode, mirror-image feathered things from A Voyage to Arcturus. Carol lost a contact lens while we were waiting backstage to go on. She wasn't wearing much except feathers, the lens had to be somewhere in the feathers, and I must have thought that Alfie Bester, who was serving drinks to the costumers backstage, spent a little too long helping her try to find it. He later confided to me that he stopped when he got the distinct feeling that I was about to turn him into a demolished man.
Patia von Sternberg, a fan who was also a professional stripper, entertained the audience while the judges were deliberating. She came out, did her routine, and got down to her g-string in about five minutes -- only to be told that she had to fill another 20 minutes before the judges returned. (Same thing happened to me at Chicon V, except that I wasn't taking my clothes off.)
Robert A. Heinlein was the Guest of Honor. This was right before he had surgery to cure a blockage to his brain. He was, by his own later admission, mentally impaired at the time, and his speech was embarrassing. Even more embarrasing were some ill-mannered fans who heckled him from the balcony.
Joe Haldeman won his first Hugo for the now-classic novel, The Forever War. We were all celebrating and partying on the roof later that night, when a bunch of skinny-dippers climbed out of the pool, grabbed Joe, and -- though he did his damnedest to fight them off -- threw him into the pool.
The only time I've ever seen Joe furious was when he pulled himself out of the pool. Over the years there have been a number of apocryphal stories explaining his anger the most common was that he was carrying a large check from a publisher in his wallet and he was sure the water had ruined it -- but Gay Haldeman told me just a few months ago that the real reason was simply that it was his first $100 suit.
# # # #
1986: CONFEDERATION (Atlanta)
We flew in from Cincinnati, met Pat and Roger Sims at the airport (they'd flown in from Detroit), and shared a cab to the hotel. We were in the Marriott, a large hotel which boasted a nifty 44-story atrium.
The tenth floor was the most interesting of all, because it was the party floor. Nothing but party suites all the way around. (CFG had its own suite on the eleventh.)
We had our usual problems with the elevators, and one unusual problem as well. Thanks to overloading, somewhere near the top floor one of the elevators went off its track. It didn't fall all the way down to the ground, thankfully -- it just kind of got stuck there -- but that, if I'm not mistaken, was the origin of what has become known as the Elevator Nazis, worldcon committee members who make sure the elevators aren't overloaded during prime party times.
Worlds of If, a three-time Hugo winner in the late 1960s, which had long been out of business, made a comeback for one single issue, which was given away free to all members of the convention. It contained Orson Scott Card's long, glowing review of Santiago, the best review I'd ever gotten up to that moment, so from my point of view it couldn't have made its reappearance at a better time, or with a better reviewer.
We'd been told for years that the best restaurant in Atlanta was Nikolai's, on the rooftop of the Hilton, which was next door and hosted most of the panels and the huckster room. We had three dinners there. I think our table was next to Bob Silverberg's all three times; he knows a good restaurant when he sees one.
Had a dinner in the Marriott with Beth Meacham and her husband, Tappan King. For my money, Beth is the best book editor the science fiction field has ever had, and is long overdue for a few Hugos -- and not because she is my editor. I've had a lot of editors; she's the only one I've ever said this about.
Anyway, I'd brought along the first hundred pages, plus an outline, of Ivory, the novel I was working on. I gave Beth the envelope containing the pages as we were waiting to be seated. Then, while Tappan proceeded to talk with us for the next hour, Beth looked up from the manuscript just long enough to find a few pieces of food and bring them to her mouth. This is a lady who never stops working. Still, when your editor would rather read your latest effort than eat an elegant meal, you can't help but be flattered.
There was an autographing at a local science fiction store, and meals with a few other editors, and panels, and a reading, and I realized halfway through the convention that this was the first worldcon at which I spent more time being a pro than a fan. I didn't like that aspect of it then; I don't like it now. But I don't enjoy World Fantasy Con -- there's an invisible sign on the door that says 'Fans not wanted', and I'm a fan -- and I rarely go to the Nebula banquet, so I find, of necessity, that I line up my next year's work at each worldcon, and that means I find them a lot more lucrative and a lot less fun than I used to. It's an ongoing trend that seems to have started with this one.
Bob Shaw was the Toastmaster. It was the only less-than-stellar performance I ever saw him give. He told me later that he was fine until he walked out on stage. He hadn't been expecting the five-minute light show, and it rattled him.
The late George "Lan" Laskowski won the first of his two Hugos for Lan's Lantern, thereby beginning a tradition he would tease me about for the next decade, that of winning Hugos only in years in which I didn't write for his fanzine.
# # # #
1991: CHICON V (Chicago)
We showed up a few days early, since Chicago is the town we grew up in and we wanted to hit a bunch of our favorite places. We spent a day at Brookfield Zoo, another with Rick Katze at Lincoln Park Zoo, a third with Barbara Delaplace at the Field Museum of Natural History, and a fourth hitting a couple of dozen second-hand bookstores with Joan Bledig.
Ross Pavlac had negotiated unbelievably low room rates at the Hyatt -- so low, in fact, that for the first and only time in our lives, we paid for a suite at a worldcon (and it was still less than we had expected to spend on a room).
Louisville and Winnipeg were battling for the 1994 worldcon. I was rooting for Louisville. They had asked me to be their Toastmaster if they won, and I already had my suite picked out atop the venerable Galt House. They had parties every night, but so did Winnipeg -- and Winnipeg imported a chef and gave out some really fine food, which nothing will endear you more to fans. Came the night of the ballot counting, and Winnipeg edged Louisville in the closest election of the modern era...and my beautiful free suite and perks went down the drain.
The committee forgot to schedule me for an autograph session. I was pretty popular by this time, and it seemed that every time I sat down, or stood still, or even walked slowly, half a dozen people were shoving books under my nose and asking me to sign them. Flattering and annoying, all at once; at least I remembered to be annoyed with the committee and not the fans.
We've never had so many fine meals at so many excellent restaurants. Beth Meacham and Tor took us to the Everest Room; Brian Thomsen and Warner's took us to Mareva's; Ginjer Buchanan and Ace took us to the Ritz Carlton Dining Room; Eleanor Wood, my agent, took us to Truffles. And the day before the con started, Carol and I went to Le Francais, rated by Michelin as the best restaurant in America. After all those 10,000-calorie meals, it was a pleasure to have a corned beef sandwich with Gardner Dozois and Asimov's, and a ham-and-egg breakfast with Dean Smith and Kris Rusch of Pulphouse.
I'd agreed to emcee the masquerade on Saturday night, so I spent about an hour and a half backstage with the costumers, making sure I could pronounce all the names and read all the descriptions.
I was told that I had a 'plant' in the first row of the audience. He had a set of earphones, and was in contact with the backstage gophers. They would tell him when each costume was ready to go on, and he would relay the information to me via hand signals.
Great idea. Didn't work. I've been on a lot of stages, but this one had the single brightest spotlight I've ever seen. It was so blinding that every time I looked up from the costumer's notes, which I'd laid out on the podium, I couldn't see a damned thing -- including my guy in the first row. (It was a problem all the Hugo winners would have the next night when they went up on stage to pick up their awards.)
So I figured, what the hell, I'll just read what I've been given to read and not worry about it. That worked until the third or fourth costume. Then, as I was prepared to read the name and title of the next entrant, a hand shot out from under the curtains and grabbed my ankle in a deathgrip. I explained to the audience what had happened, and that I assumed this meant I was to slow down. A moment later the hand gently began stroking my leg, and I explained that this either meant I was to go faster or else that I was engaged, or maybe both.
Anyway, it took about two hours to run through maybe a hundred costumes, and then the judges went off to deliberate, and the audience was entertained for the next half hour by a very funny professional comedian. Then someone hunted me up, explained that the judges weren't back yet, and asked if I could go out onstage and tell a joke or two until they arrived.
What do you need, I asked, as I walked out from the wings -- about five minutes?
About 45, came the answer, as the light hit me in the eyes.
So I went out and did everything except a striptease for the next three-quarters of an hour. We got through it -- barely -- and I have never consented to emcee another masquerade.
I was back in the same place again the next night, for the Hugo Awards. I lost two Seiun Sho's (Japanese Hugos) before I even took my seat -- the winners were announced informally at the pre-ceremony party, as well as formally on stage. I was up for a pair of Hugos, and when Ed Bryant, who was presenting the Best Novelette Hugo, opened the envelope, paused for a moment, and told the audience he wanted to make sure he pronounced it properly, I knew "The Manamouki" had won, as indeed it did. I thought I might have a chance for Best Novella with "Bully!", since it had beaten Joe Haldeman's "The Hemingway Hoax" in the Science Fiction Chronicle poll, but I ran second to him for the Hugo. (Just as well. We realized after posing for Hugo Winners' photos again in 1995 and 1998 that each time one of us had won a Hugo during the 1990s, so had the other -- so now I vote for Joe any time he's not in my category, just for luck, and I assume he does the same for me.)
Then it was the nightly round of parties. The Hyatt is unusually convenient for party-hopping. All the large suites are by the fire exit door, so all you do is take the elevator up to the 32nd floor, walk to the end of the corridor, hit whatever party is going on there, then walk down a flight, repeat the process, and keep doing it all the way down to the 7th or 6th floor. Then, if it's before three in the morning, you take the elevator back up and do the whole thing all over again.
# # # #
1995: INTERSECTION (Scotland)
This one was a pain to get to. Ever since Delta chose to make Cincinnati a hub, and subsequently took control of 90% of the gates at the airport, we have been the single most expensive American city to fly out of. There's no competition, and Delta has never offered a cut rate from Cincinnati to anywhere. As a result, most Cincinnatians fly from Dayton, Columbus, or Lexington; most of the people you see at the Cincinnati airport began traveling from somewhere else and are just changing planes here.
Anyway, Delta wanted something like $900 to fly each of us, round trip, to London. We picked up a Sunday New York Times, found a bucket shop that had New York-to-London tickets on United for $350 apiece, and decided to buy them. Delta wanted $300 apiece for Cincinnati to New York round trip tickets, so we flew round trip from Dayton -- the airport's 10 minutes farther from our house than the Cincinnati airport -- for $103 apiece.
So far so good. But like an idiot, I didn't check my bucket tickets when they arrived. I went to my local travel agent, bought round trip tickets from London to Edinburgh, and then found out that the flight times from New York to London had changed and we didn't have time to make the connection. I went back to my agent, but the tickets were nonrefundable, so I had to buy a second set. By the time we were done, I think the aggravation had just about offset any savings.
We had chosen to stay at the Moat House because when we looked at the map it was next door to the convention center, and the other hotels were all a mile or more away. (They weren't even close to each other. The Progress Report said the Hilton and the Sheraton were 80 yards apart -- and indeed they were. What it didn't say was that they were separated by an eight-lane highway, and you actually had to walk better than half a mile to get from one to the other.)
We arrived at the Moat House, checked into our room, and stopped by the restaurant for lunch. It wasn't especially good or especially memorable, but it was 50 pounds (about $80 at that time), and we realized that this could be a very expensive vacation if we didn't watch our step.
Fortunately Jack Nimersheim came to our rescue. He found a pizza restaurant about a quarter of a mile away, and except for dining with editors, we ate just about all of our lunches and dinners there.
During our first night at the Moat House, the fire alarm went off. Now, we've been to enough conventions to know it was just fans being less amusing than they thought they were, but the hotel absolutely insisted that everyone evacuate it at maybe 3:30 in the morning. When it happened again an hour later, I think about 80% of us stayed in bed.
A few months prior to the convention I had been asked by the program committee if I could put together an hour videotape about our travels in Africa, and maybe narrate it as well. No problem, I said; do you need it in Beta, VHS, or PAL (the standard British format)?
Oh, VHS is fine, they said.
Are you sure, I asked, because every Brit I trade tapes with wants them in PAL format.
Trust us, they said; we know our convention center's video system.
I was to give the presentation in the huge auditorium -- the one that hosted the Hugos and the masquerade -- from 8:30 to 9:30 on Thursday night, so I stopped by at about eleven Thursday morning to deliver the tape to the tech crew. They put it in their machine and hit the 'play' switch. No picture.
This isn't PAL, they said accusingly.
I don't know which of us got more annoyed at the other, but the gist of the matter was that they took the tape downtown to have it transferred to PAL format. The committee told me it would be back around 3:00 in the afternoon.
So I show up at 3:00. No tape. I check in at 4:30. No tape. I stop by on my way out to dinner and my way back. No tape.
Okay, I say; cancel the program and we'll do it some other year.
Too late, they say; you're giving a video presentation at 8:30.
But I don't have any video, I explain.
Nobody had an answer to that.
I show up at the auditorium at 8:00. There are four or five video technicians in the back, ready to project my African tape onto an enormous screen. Only one problem: still no tape.
At 8:25 I get onto the stage and check the microphone. I figure I'll spend 30 minutes excoriating the committee, and 30 talking about Africa.
At 8:27 a young man comes racing into the auditorium, waving a tape in his hand. It works, and nobody in the audience knows how close the committee and I came to killing each other.
Until the next day. Then I wake up to find out that the bastards are actually billing me 20 pounds for converting the tape from VHS to PAL. I explain my position and offer my opinion of this decision on the first three or four panels I'm on, as well as my kaffeeklatsch, and sometime on Sunday I am told that the worldcon has graciously decided to absorb the cost itself.
While this little battle of wills was going on all weekend, there was also a con to be attended. I got to meet many of my European agents and editors, and to sign foreign editions I'd never seen before. (Foreign publishers aren't too bad on paying what they owe. They're just terrible at sending out author's copies of the books.)
There were no parties in the Moat House. We hit the other hotels one night, but it was more effort to get to them than it was worth, so we spent most of the nights just visiting in the Moat House lobby.
On Friday John Brunner, Hugo winner and former worldcon Guest of Honor, became the first pro -- for all I know, the first person -- ever to die at a worldcon. It cast a pall of gloom over the rest of the weekend.
The masquerade was pretty small -- 23 costumes total. Most costumers are American, and it's just too much hassle (and too expensive) for them to ship their costumes to overseas worldcons.
I was only person ever to be nominated for four Hugos. Carol and I went in with Eleanor Wood, my agent, waited patiently for Diane Duane and Peter Morwood to finish their Toastmaster routines, and got ready for the Hugos. The Campbell went to Jeff Noon, a Brit who'd written a very nice first novel. Then Dave Langford won his umpteenth Hugo as Best Fan Writer. Nothing extraordinary.
But then Dave's Ansible beat Mimosa for Best Fanzine. That was surprising. And then David Prinle's Interzone beat Locus and Science Fiction Chronicle for Best Semi-Prozine. That was shocking. Then Jim Burns knocked off Michael Whelan and Bob Eggleton for Best Artist, and we began wondering if an American would ever win again. (I covered the Hugos for Andy Porter and titled my article "The Empire Strikes Back.")
I lost my first Hugo of the evening -- Best Editor -- to Gardner Dozois. Hardly a surprise. About five minutes later, my "Barnaby in Exile" lost Best Short Story to Joe Haldeman's "None So Blind." Okay, good story, no problem with that. Two minutes after that, I lost my third Hugo of the night when David Gerrold's "The Martian Child" knocked off my "A Little Knowledge" for Best Novelette. Not unexpected; David had won the Nebula, too.
But now we were coming up to Best Novella, and I thought I had that one in the bag with "Seven Views of Olduvai Gorge." After all, it had beaten novellas by Harlan Ellison and Ursula Le Guin for the Nebula, and Harlan wasn't even on the Hugo ballot. Piece of cake.
Then, as Chip Delany was reading off the nominees, he came to Brian Stableford's name.
"Isn't Brian a Brit?" asked Carol.
I had forgotten. I groaned so loud that I almost didn't hear Chip read off my name as the winner.
In my 'thank you' speech, I seem to remember explaining that I'd be proud and happy and elated later in the evening, but at that moment I was just relieved not to have become first guy in history to lose four Hugos in one night.
Later, I stopped by the men's room. The huge facility was almost deserted. I think the only two other guys in it were Bob Silverberg and Joe Haldeman. Then one of them -- I believe it was Bob -- said, "Quick, lock the door!"
I asked why.
"We wouldn't want the fans to learn that we do it the same way they do."
I locked the door.
All illustrations by Charlie Williams