Worldcon Wayback Machine: Noreascon Three (1989) Day Two

Niven with a Puppeteer. Photo by Gordon McGregor from

Larry Niven with a Puppeteer at Louis Wu’s Birthday Party. Photo by Gordon McGregor from

Twenty-five years ago today Noreascon Three began in Boston, Massachusetts. I’ve been working on a post about its epic Science Fiction’s 50th Anniversary Family Reunion Sunday brunch which will appear September 3. The research has reminded me it was a superb once-in-a-generation convention and I have decided to republish my whole conreport in daily installments.

SF Tonight! Pam Fremon, Ellen Franklin and Tappan King created a format where Andre Norton and the other guests were seconded by their closest friends in sf and presented to a large audience in a warm and personal way. In that atmosphere the intended homage was paid to each guest and these charming but delicate individuals were not tossed into a den of 2,000 couch potatoes demanding to be entertained.

Tappan King in 1992.

Tappan King in 1992.

There was a minute-by-minute timeline for the show – this was Noreascon after all – but with 36 hours to go the script wasn’t done. Tappan King, host and headwriter, confessed, “I’ve been working at Tor the last two weeks and invisible weasels have been eating the gray matter.”

My job was to play Ed McMahon to Tappan’s Johnny Carson; I loved my role in Tappan’s outline and existing script, but welcomed even more an opportunity to brainstorm and help improvise the rest of the business.

The major brainstorming session was Thursday night at 10 p.m. I had fed my brain at Legal Seafood: squid, scrod and a brew. Trotting six blocks back to the Hynes I was a little late. Already at work, and on the verge of finishing “10 Reasons To Leave Fandom” were Tappan, Heather Wood (also of Tor, our kazoo-playing answer to Doc Severinsen), Priscilla Olson, Tom Whitmore, Ellen Franklin, Deb Geisler and some others (wish I’d made a list.) Thinking up the between-guests business and the pseudo-announcements was a lot of fun. The only thing we were barred by management from doing was jokes about ballot stuffing.1

Friday afternoon was the technical rehearsal for SF Tonight! (Somehow that phrase entangles in my mind with “…technical readout of the DeathStar…”) The tech crew efficiently set the microphone levels and coordinated the stage lighting with the Hynes electricians. Tom Whitmore and Tamzen Cannoy led the talent in setting the stage, placing furniture and checking sightlines.

Ellen Franklin, part of Hasbro’s management, had borrowed some toy fair backdrop scenery, swatches of Martian desert painted on sheets of canvas, to hang at the back of the stage.

At 8:30 p.m. 2,000 people were in the auditorium. I got my cue and stepped into the spotlight: “And now – live! – from the John B. Hynes (after whom the sloop was named) Convention Center in downtown Boston, Massachusetts, it’s SF Tonight!  – brought to you by First Fandom, purveyors of used parts, the Permanent Floating Worldcon Committee and SFWA Chewable Vitamins. Now here is your host – TAPPAN KING!”

Tappan led into our Letterman-inspired “10 Reasons Not To Leave SF,” then talked to the guests.

Andre Norton at World Fantasy Con in 1987.

Andre Norton at World Fantasy Con in 1987.

Andre Norton was preceded by two friends, Susan Schwartz, and Tom Doherty of Tor Books. Doherty told Tappan that one of his first acts as head of Tor was to fly down to visit Andre Norton because he’d heard she was dissatisfied with her publisher and he regarded her books as very important to the company. An extra benefit of having Doherty present was the assurance of a strong arm to escort Andre Norton to the sofa (given that she moved around the convention mainly by wheelchair). Tappan and Andre Norton had a good exchange, and the audience reacted enthusiastically to Norton.

Fred Pohl started the second set telling about the Ballantines. Richard Powers, well-remembered as a Ballantine Books cover artist, joined Pohl and answered questions about his career. Then Betty and Ian Ballantine were ushered in. Before that Tappan King told us, “These people are my ghods!” Although visibly moved, Tappan got through the questions without a hitch.

Between guests I stepped over to the podium and read some our concocted announcements chronically interrupted by the “Marseilles” howled on kazoos.

Art Widner at Torcon III in 2003.

Art Widner at Torcon III in 2003.

In a third segment Art Widner and Hal Clement of the Strangers Club2 related that Widner got the club’s name from a series of sf stories he’s never actually read. The club’s legacy included Louis Russell Chauvenet’s invention of the term “fanzine.” Among the Strangers’ most memorable meetings was one attended by John W. Campbell and L. Ron Hubbard, and Art told what it was like to be around those two lions of sf in their prime.

I had so much fun I couldn’t possibly be objective and went looking for people to ask about the show. All my friends, being too cool to go to programming, had gone off to baseball games and seafood restaurants so I’m still looking, but Chairman Mark Olson noted later, “I saw half of SF Tonight! when it happened and most of the rest of it looking at the mixdown video tape. I enjoyed it and have heard that we’re getting good reviews on it. (Certainly Andre Norton was delighted with her part in it.”)

A Nation of Ribbon Clerks: After SF Tonight! I wandered up to Program Oops to check on the night shift, who looked remarkably like the day shift, Priscilla Olson, Ben Yalow, and Fred Duarte.

A bonus was getting my Hugo nominee pin. Noreascon gave each nominee a 1-1/2 inch replica of the Hugo rocket. I attached mine to my membership badge which by then was looking satisfyingly like the fruit salad on the uniform blouse of a commandante of the Bolivian Coast Guard.

The Noreascon Three membership badge was a great big laminated square with your name and town in LARGE laser-printed letters under a blue line-drawing of a Cheshire cat in a spacesuit. The cat grinned through its fishbowl-shaped helmet and held a party horn in one paw (which didn’t seem like good science and I was sure Hal Clement would criticize…)

Attached to my badge with duct tape was a “gizmo” identifying me as part of the Program Division. Staff wore them to be readily accessible to members. Some gizmos were special. Seth Breidbart had a flock of them hanging down from his badge, including “Hoax Division” and “This Space Intentionally Left Blank.” Sue Hammond’s gizmo said “Ice Princess” – Sue was in charge of giving away the tons of party ice on the Sheraton loading dock.

I had five ribbons pinned to my gizmo, out of many printed for Noreascon Three participants. I had a green Committee ribbon, a maroon Program Participant ribbon, an orange Hugo Award Nominee ribbon, a black Exhibitor ribbon, and one of Seth’s yellow Hoax ribbons. I’d have made it into the Guinness Book of Records if I’d found the time to claim my sixth ribbon, the half-white half-red one given to the Press.

After I got my Hugo pin, Tony Lewis wanted to show off Boston’s Hugo Award base. He convoyed me to another inner sanctum of the Hynes where Jill Eastlake allowed me to gaze from a discreet distance at the beautiful art deco bases. Taking inspiration from the 1939 World’s Fair Trylon and Perisphere, the circular black base was stepped with a smaller-radius granite base. The chrome rocket appeared to have landed on the granite, bull-eyeing a circular green ellipsis inset with small chrome and glass orbs, and sprinkled with tiny brass knobs and doohickeys.

BoxboroLogo-125Louis Wu’s Birthday Party: Leaving Tony, a plan to drop off my coat and tie in my ninth floor room failed to survive contact with the mobs at the elevator bank. But I hadn’t wandered more than 10 feet when a new plan took shape: Scott Welch in a fivesome from Bridge Publications was on his way to the biggest bash of the night, Louis Wu’s Birthday Party. Boxboro Fandom’s3 farewell blowout cost a rumored $17,000.

The Boxboro party was in the Marriott and everyone knew there was a line around the corner waiting to get in because the hotel would admit only about 545 individuals at once (blaming it on that bogeyman the fire marshal.) However, the “Scott Welch party” had passports and blue tickets certifying them as “Special Guests of Louis Wu” that allowed us to jump the line – we replaced the next five people out the door. Scott’s party would have graced any occasion for it included Edgar Winter, a performer so renowned that jaded fans scrambled from all corners of the party when he took the stage in the Mardi Gras room.

Inspired by the birthday bash in Niven’s Ringworld, Boxboro encouraged fans as they walked around the party to imagine they were being transporter to these (sometimes improbable) locations.

From the top of the stairs partiers were attracted by the hot jazz trombones and cornets blaring in the Mardi Gras Room as the band set a frenetic beat for a score of dancers, including Julie Schwartz and his well-endowed date. (“They always are,” said Craig Miller.) Joey Grillot, everyone’s favorite New Orleans fan, sang along with “Mack the Knife.” Though he never hit a single note Joey scored points for enthusiasm.

Good and Evil at the Boxboro party. Photo by Gordon McGregor from

Good and Evil at the Boxboro party. Photo by Gordon McGregor from

The Mardi Gras room was reached by way of the Puppeteer World, notable for the cardboard circles on the floor simulating stepping-disk sidewalks. The warm pastel yellows of the puppeteer room were in stark contrast to the roulette red-and-black of the Mardi Gras room. With Edgar Winter in tow the Scott Welch party made a beeline for the sound of Bourbon Street.

Eyes adapted to dim nightclub-style lighting could read the signs on the wall naming the party’s sponsors, announcing that the band was the Hi-Tops, and nothing this particular night spot was “The Silent Club.” A picture of a large bludgeon with golden spikes driven through the meat end was captioned, “You never hear a silent club coming…until it’s too late!”

Edgar Winter

Edgar Winter

When he introduced Edgar Winter, Scott flashed the “Mission Earth” album cover. Winter performed Hubbard’s score on the record. At the party Edgar Winter laid them in the aisles with two incredible blues numbers. Winter even played the sax. Photographers sprawled at his feet on the dance floor. Fans jammed the perimeter either listening raptly, or like Ellen Franklin, rocking and clapping in time.

Robert Neagle of New Orleans looked right at home in The Silent Club wearing a white shirt captioned “Porno Patrol” in scarlet letters. Neagle was plainly awestruck by Winter.

After Winter finished his set I prowled the party looking where its rumored $17,000 had gone, which obviously wasn’t for the snacks in the Mardi Gras room : they looked pretty funky. There were bowls full of oblong pretzel droppoings and at the rate fans were consuming them each bowl would be a lifetime supply. Normally locust-like fans were able to resist several kinds of generic chips. A lot of this stuff probably sounded tasty when the hosts were compelled to order it from Marriott catering, but snacks delivered in 5-gallon cardboard boxes inevitably have a certain industrial toughness.

Next door, the Nippon Room featured a hi-tech Japanese theme. Rock music provided by “Crime of Fashion” accompanied a laser show playing on the ceiling. A sushi bar occupied the far wall. To the right was a simulated video wall with four big-screen monitors playing a Japanese rock video while people danced to the music. My path was momentarily blocked by a Japanese fan taking his friends’ photo, which seemed completely appropriate and may even have been genuine.

Attached to the wall behind the sushi bar was some ominous plumbing variously labeled “Omni Trap,” “Detoxification Filter,” “Blasting Agent,” “Corrosive Liquid,” “Cyclohexanone,” and “Specialized Activated Carbon” which may have been a recipe for Kzin deodorant or the plot for Greg Bear’s next novel. Hopefully it wasn’t the ingredients for the Mad Tea Party next door.

There were 40 fans lined up at the Mad Tea Party behind ropes and stanchions, and I couldn’t believe it was merely for tea and cake. Nor was it. They were waiting their turn to take a wooden pink flamingo mallet in hand and play through the croquet course laid out in the next room.

Thanks to transporter booths the Kzin embassy and the Ringworld map room were just around the corner from Wonderland. Color monitors showed computer graphics vaguely suggestive of celestial navigation. A slide carousel projected quotes from Ringworld. There were life-size Kzin and puppeteer mannequins (alienquins?) Costumer Drew Sanders stalked around the party in a furry and incredibly hot Kzin outfit [originally an entry in the 1984 Worldcon masquerade].

These last rooms boasted a more aggressive range of munchies including fruit and vegetables, and some remarkably courageous chefs carving huge joints of meat in the Kzin embassy. (Where else?)

Francis Hamit said Louis Wu’s birthday party reminded him of Universal Studios – five attractions and a lot of standing in line. But I say it was a hell of a party.


1. “The only thing we were barred by management from doing was jokes about ballot stuffing.” There had been a controversy about the votes cast for one nominee, which was resolved by the nomination being declined.

2. The Strangers Club. The Boston science fiction club co-founded by Russ Chauvenet in 1940. He coined the word fanzine the same year. When did he sleep?

3. Boxboro Fandom. One of the greatest convention party-throwing crews. Steve Boheim’s reminiscence here has the details. Larry Niven also wrote about the aftermath in N-Space:

Boxboro’s Hotel Liaison was a straight-looking guy who never raised his voice or appeared without a tie: a proper gent. And heck, they were taking the whole second floor! So the Hilton Manager was cooperative. She signed the thick contract without really noticing a clause near the end.

Getting the prop walls for the Kzinti Embassy into the hotel was tough. They’d measured the largest doors – the front lobby doors! – but hadn’t measured them open. Open, they were too small. Boxboro considered taking them off their hinges, with and without permission. They considered junking the props. They were sure the prop walls wouldn’t come apart, but someone tried it, and they did.

Still, the only feasible way to get them out after the party would be to hack them apart with a chainsaw! That would allow the debris to fit into a dumpster. So they put it in the contract.

“I can’t believe they let you use a chainsaw at four in the morning!” the Hotel Manager wailed. But she didn’t stop them. It was in the contract.

4. Final note. The convention’s name was officially agnostic: “Noreascon 3″, “Noreascon Three” and “Noreascon III” were all declared correct forms of the name.

Worldcon Wayback Machine: Noreascon Three (1989) Day One

Hynes Convention Center in Boston, MA. Contemporary photo.

Hynes Convention Center in Boston, MA. Contemporary photo.

Twenty-five years ago today Noreascon Three began in Boston, Massachusetts. I’ve been working on a post about its epic Science Fiction’s 50th Anniversary Family Reunion Sunday brunch which will appear September 3. The research reminded me what a superb convention it was, a once-in-a-generation, and I have decided to republish my whole conreport. Here is the first daily installment.

The Worldcon was among the first events held in the John B. Hynes Veterans Memorial Convention Center, built the prior year in 1988. In the words of one travel writer the Hynes’ “severe gray interior is reminiscent of an early 20th-century German railroad station.” I see from my first paragraph I at least picked up on the “German” vibe.

(Incidentally, the convention’s name was officially agnostic: “Noreascon 3″, “Noreascon Three” and “Noreascon III” were all declared correct forms of the name.)

Noreascon Three by Mike Glyer (from File 770 #82): Boston’s renovated Hynes Convention Center has ceilings tall as the Tombs of Atuan, floors black as Kubrick’s monolith, and walls as green as Tiffany enamel. The entry from Boylston Street looks like a stark glass and basalt-colored proscenium perhaps waiting for Leni Riefenstahl to jump out of a cab and demand to know who removed the swastikas, but just beyond are breathtakingly tall chrome escalators hurtling toward a promise of incredible activities.

Hynes Convention Center in 2009.

Hynes Convention Center in 2009.

Within, Noreascon’s Extravaganza Division marked the convention with unparalleled heart and understanding. Their events did not merely entertain, they touched the emotions of large numbers of fans. Ellen Franklin and Jill Eastlake’s division existed to stage the big events at Noreascon Three spectacularly. The 50th Anniversary Party (Thursday), SF Tonight! (Friday), Boxboro Fandom Party (Friday), Hugo Awards (Saturday), Masquerade (Sunday) and Closing Ceremonies and Retrospective (Monday) headlined the con’s hundreds of successful programs and events.

Hynes escalators in 2009.

Hynes escalators in 2009.

Mother of Invention: Some of the decisions forced upon the committee by necessity were so successful they will probably form part of the essential architecture of future Worldcons.

When the 1987 Boskone’s crowd problems instigated the Sheraton to dishonor its agreements to host future science fiction conventions, Noreascon Three was forced to create attractions in the Convention Center to compensate for the loss of hotel facilities, or later when they regained the Sheraton through litigation, to keep crowds in the Hynes for the sake of peace with the hotel. A new idea, the ConCourse, with the Huckster Room and the convention program gave members ample reason to hang out in the Hynes. The ConCourse amalgamated fanhistory exhibits, convention information, the fanzine lounge, the daily newzine publishing area, convention bidding and Site Selection tables, and a Hynes-run snack bar in one place, and layed it out as an indoor park. Fred Isaacs and Peggy Rae Pavlat [Sapienza] led the development of the ConCourse and fans responded to it so positively we should see others like it in the future.

A second invention whose mother was necessity, SF Tonight!, showcased the guests of honor in a talk show format hosted by Tappan King. Andre Norton in particular was not suited by health or preference to do her star turn in the form of a long stand-up speech. The interview format made a virtue of necessity, but the audience approval for SF Tonight! Is such that future committees should note how this format uses the guests of honor’s interesting friends to illuminate the guest’s career and personality.

The Virtual Trees: Noreascon Three attracted 7,100 members, including 700 full-attending memberships at-the-door and 900 1- and 2-day passes. The largest one-day attendance was 6,600 on Saturday. [It is the third-largest Worldcon ever.] Over 1,825 pre-registered members checked into the convention Wednesday before it started – probably to set up!

On Wednesday, green-stickered set-up volunteers poured in to convert the Hynes Convention Center Hall C to an artificial park with Astroturf paths, benches, couches, and a gazebo adorned with laserprinted “virtual pigeons” – white signs containing the word “pigeon.” Noreascon Three Hynes Liaison Joe Rico discovered fellow committee member Fred Isaacs also scotch-taping signs saying “tree” to the concrete support pillars. Joe reminded him the con’s agreement forbade taping anything to a painted surface. Fred dismissed that saying, “These are virtual trees.” Steam shot out of Joe’s ears as he announced, “Well I’m a virtual forester –“ *rip* *rip* *rip*

Amy Thomson passed among the set-up crew distributing jars of “100% Organic Apple-Ginger-Mint Jelly… Not For External Use.”

National computer networks Genie, BIX and CompuServe all had booths demonstrating their online services and special interest message bases. Free-lance journalist Francis Hamit, checking out GEnie, logged onto Jim Turner’s board and found himself talking to Tom Clancy; Hamit wangled a phone interview out of it. While setting up her BIX booth Bjo Trimble spied me 20 yards away laboring over my fanzine tables and descended on me announcing: “Flash! The Trimbles have taken over Texas and are selling it to Panama – write that down!” Critically inspecting an air bubble in Amy’s jelly, Bjo said, “That looks like it’s about gone – it will ferment and blow up on the plane and get you arrested – better drink it here!”

Bjo Trimble saw the yellow Ryder truck brought up in the freight elevator was disgorging heaps of cardboard boxes on pallets. She asked, “What’s that van for?” I told her it was the exhibit of the NESFA Displacement Authority.

Right on cue, Spike Parsons arrived to help me move cartons of my own, full of fanzines, from the truck pile to my exhibit. Spike said, “I told them I’d do anything as long as I didn’t have to carry a radio.”

Chef’s Tour of the ConCourse: Hynes Hall C was dubbed the ConCourse at the suggestion of “Filthy Pierre,” Erwin Strauss. The ConCourse was the con suite, although a Hynes snack bar and its satellite hot dog stand were the only sources of refreshments. The Hynes prices and Noreascon’s budget didn’t permit them to compete with the Atlanta (1986) or Baltimore (1983) con suites, nor did anyone really miss the spectacle of fans running on rugs full of broken Fritos in pursuit of the committee member setting out the last unopened carton of popcorn.

Green Astroturf paths flanked by park benches created a unifying visual theme for the ConCourse. Two open spaces, carpeted with green Astroturf and bordered by one-foot-high white picket fences, were designated Hyde Park and Jekyll Park.

All the convention information services and exhibits were in the ConCourse. Strauss set up an all-members message area at the corner next to the Sheraton, and beside it rows of “Filthy Pierre boards” with their string holders for all the different flyers distributed at a Worldcon. Along the wall were Site Selection, worldcon membership and bidders tables. Also, any club that wanted a table could get one.

The ConCourse strategy involved more than static exhibits. Autographing sessions were held there. Myriad events and diversions occurred within the area under the heading of Passing Fancies. It might by a filk performance by Orion’s Belt and Windbourne in Hyde Park, “Stfnal Pursuit” in Jekyll Park, belly dancing, origami, or the Gilbert and Sullivan sing-along, but something strangely fannish and entertaining was going on all the time.

Gavin Claypool showed up at the September 7 LASFS meeting decorated with all kinds of Worldcon souvenirs including what Bruce Pelz termed “A large pink thing he got at Boston.” Gavin, with an even pinker face, was brought up front to explain how he won a Passing Fancy ribbon. Gavin said while the trivia “pros” were off playing Stfnal Pursuit, he competed in a Trivia Bee and won a ribbon. He also won a Noreascoin, worth 10 cents at the convention. “Trivia pros” Jerry Corrigan and Leo Doroschenko won Stfnal Pursuit.

At the corner of Warp Drive and Alice Way (names given to two of the Astroturf paths) was the History of Costuming Exhibit. Dressmaker forms were used to display a variety of prizewinning Worldcon masquerade costumes. On Sunday the convention arranged a guided, tactile viewing for vision-impaired fans. Exhibit organizers Gary and Janet Wilson Anderson described details of the costumes.

Noreascon 3 Worldcon Masquerade History Exhibit. Photo from

Noreascon 3 Worldcon Masquerade History Exhibit. Photo from

Behind that was the Alice Exhibit of costumes and paraphernalia worn by the Noreascon bid committee in a past masquerade. Beside it was Joe Siclari’s exhibit of Worldcon bidding artifacts, including a wall of t-shirts (such as the glow-in-the-dark zebra shirt sold by LA in ’90.) Next to Pigeon Park (so named by fans because of its “virtual pigeons”) was a bulletin board of Mundane News containing the front page from a daily paper, coverage of the con, and weather reports from the world outside the Hynes.

T-short display in History of Worldcon Bidding Exhibit organized by Joe Siclari. Photo from

T-short display in History of Worldcon Bidding Exhibit organized by Joe Siclari. Photo from

Nancy Atherton arranged the History of Fanzines, which displayed rarities from the 1930s-1960s on vertical boards secured with plexiglass. It was a breathtaking array of important zines, mainly from the collection of Peggy Rae Pavlat [Sapienza]. The exhibit stirred up nostalgic memories for many fans of their early days in fandom, once again making an emotional connection that will distinguish memories of Noreascon Three from other conventions.

I heard all the comments about Nancy’s exhibit while at the fanzine sales table in my Contemporary Fanzine Exhibit. Fans purchased about $1500 worth of zines (including about $230 of one media zine going for $9 a pop.) The sales table ran with tremendous help from Linda Nelson, Dick Lynch, Hawk, Spike, Tony Ubelhor, Teddy Harvia, Marty Helgesen and Nancy Rauban. I also set up eight tables full of recent vintage fanzines for fans to read. Even though it was an unsecured exhibit open at all hours it seemed few zines disappeared, and a number of fans were observed reading and enjoying.

Bruce Pelz assembled the History of Worldcons exhibit. It included program books, banquet photographs, unique Worldcon sales items and press clippings. Most impressive were the sealed exhibit cases displaying 31 of 35 years’ worth of Hugos. Poul Anderson loaned 7, Larry Niven 4, Mike Glyer 4, ASF 5, Richard Geis 5, Carol Carr several, and one each came from Longyear, Whelan, Scithers, Kelly Freas, Virginia Heinlein and F&SF.

A sheet from Bruce Pelz' Worldcon History Exhibit. Photo from

A sheet from Bruce Pelz’ Worldcon History Exhibit. Photo from

The ostensible 1958 Hugo loaned by Kelly Freas was merely a brass plaque mounted on wood. After the con Bruce asked Len Moffatt, who remembers Solacon well, whether they gave out rockets at South Gate in ’58. Len Moffatt insisted there were rockets and that Rog Phillips manufactured each individual handmade base. Moffatt remembered in the 1960s Avram Davidson complained he took his 1958 Hugo to Mexico and it fell apart.

A like fate befell my 1984 Hugo with the ceramic L.A.con II rat base. The metal rocket battered apart the ceramic base during shipment to Noreascon. Fortunately veteran costumer Kathy Sanders came to the con prepared with all kinds of quick-fix tools and glue, and reassembled the base well enough to be displayed. (There happened to be spare rat bases back in LA, so no harm done.)

View of the Hugo exhibit at Noreascon 3. Photo from

View of the Hugo exhibit at Noreascon 3. Photo from

Distressed by the deteriorating condition of the bases or metal in some of the Hugo rockets he was loaned for his exhibit at the convention, as well as concerned about the advancing age of some winners and prospect that their Hugos may vanish in the same junkheap with the fanzines and old pulps, Bruce Pelz asked the business meeting to create a Hugo Preservation Study Committee to address both problems. The members so far are Bruce, Ben Yalow, Colin Fine, Peggy Rae Pavlat [Sapienza] and Debbie Notkin.

Some of the exhibits will continue on to Holland [the 1990 Worldcon], but the Hugo Awards were returned to the individual owners. Maybe in a few years somebody will find an excuse to do it again.

Thursday Night: The Bay-to-Breakers is an annual 10K run across the Golden Gate Bridge. Its exotic entries include “centipedes,” eight runners in tandem, usually in silly theme costumes. The knots of fans surging towards dinner on Boylston Street looked a little like that. I knew, because I was in Ross Pavlac’s centipede on its way to Legal Seafood with Spike, Bill Bodden, Tasmanian Robin Johnson, pediatrician Elst Weinstein, Rick, Jaice and little Connor Foss.

Walking in the door we found the waiting room so crowded that several of the fans with us despaired and were on the verge of bailing out in the direction of an Italian restaurant. If this had been the International House of Pancakes they might have been right to expect an hour wait for a table, but I had been here several times before and knew they moved people surprisingly quickly, and actually preferred serving large parties. Adding to that the fact that this was a Ross Pavlac expedition, I started giving odds against our waiting longer than 15 minutes. Wisely, nobody took my action for by agreeing to sit in the smoking section the “Aardvark, party of nine” was seated within 10 minutes.

Poring over the menu, I saw out of the corner of my eye Robin Johnson pointing emphatically at his paunch. No, he wasn’t having an attack. He was illustrating a point about his travels with the diagram of the Moscow subway system on his t-shirt.

The meek at the table ordered shrimp nachos, while others, encouraged by Rick Foss, savored friend squid rings. It gave Foss his opening to repeat a favorite story about the squid burritos he made one night, and how the next morning used the leftovers for a squid tentacle omelet. He thought the grey squid bits needed more color and reached into the pantry for some blue food coloring. Right about then his neighbor, Indian Mike, dropped in. Rick waved the beastly-looking omelet under his nose. “Want some breakfast?” Rick admits, “I didn’t know he was on acid at the time.” Foss says it took 2 years for Mike to get up the nerve to ask whether what had been stuck under his nose was blue with tentacles. Rick moralized, “It must be awful when reality is worse than your hallucinations.”

I had to leave in the middle of dinner to attend the SF Tonight! brainstorming session. Later, I caught up with part of our group and other fanzine fans in the ConCourse. When the subject of restaurants came up, Stu Shiffman explained where Legal Seafood got its name while Gary Farber did an interpretive dance behind him.

Spike was engaged in conversation with Gary, explaining her job in Program Oops. “I’m Fred Duarte when he’s not there – and you thought being Jeanne Gomoll was a hard job.”

Next installment: Friday, and SF Tonight!

Get Those Old People Off My (Artificial) Grass

Fans on The Lawn in Loncon 3's Fan Village. (You know, some of them don’t look that old to me.)

Fans on The Lawn in Loncon 3′s Fan Village. (You know, some of them don’t look that old to me.)

The Daily Dot thought all the geezers were a drag on Loncon 3.

“Worldcon is like a family reunion,” said longtime convention-goer and fanzine writer Curt Phillips, at a panel about the history of Worldcon. After a few days, I could only agree. It was indeed like being at a family reunion, in that it felt like you were spending your time with elderly relatives. You might want to talk to them and listen to their stories, but you’ll have to tolerate some offensive and outdated opinions along the way.

Daily Dot greatly preferred the Nine Worlds con held the weekend before Worldcon but did not play fair, inserting a complaint about the San Diego Comic Con that was totally inapplicable to Loncon 3 –

Nine Worlds also made sure their code of conduct was displayed clearly on their website, which is more than you can say for SDCC.

Seriously, that’s the last thing in the world you could fault about Loncon 3.

I also think it wouldn’t be a bad thing if the Daily Dot modeled the greater acceptance of diversity they claim to want.

For many, the Worldcon experience was just not worth it if your comments were constantly at risk of being shouted down old men. Either some drastic changes will have to be made, or those younger fans won’t come back at all.

When writing about the generation gap at Worldcon 2013, author Madeline Ashby phrased this rather more brutally: “It’s okay, because someday they’ll all be dead.”

I see Ashby’s curse repeated all the time but I don’t take it to heart. Anyone who lives long enough will be getting the same treatment from the generation that follows. I don’t actually wish it on the Daily Dot’s writers, however, nobody has ever been able to stop it from happening, either.

Paris in 2023 – Dead or Alive?

Paris in 2023 Worldcon bid chair Cécile Reyer says the bid is off again.

Reyer initially announced the Paris bid would launch at Loncon 3, followed by a last-minute cancellation citing a family emergency. Then, during Loncon 3′s Fannish Inquisition, UK bid agents Jonathan and Sharon Lewis-Jones declared the Paris bid had launched after all and they were representing the bid at a table in the Fan Village.

Reyer says in her latest statement:

Due to a circumstances beyond our control the Paris in 2023 Bid Committee were unable to attend Loncon3 and for this we must apologize.

We wish to thank everyone who came and visited the information table in the Fan Village and showed support for our bid and to our UK Agents who represented us at the convention.

After much consideration the committee has made the difficult decision to withdraw our Worldcon candidacy at this time, and we hope to be able to re-launch our bid at a future date.

The latest fluctuation in the status of the bid reportedly is powered by a backlash among French fans who don’t want a Worldcon in France, hot tempers, and resignations from the bid committee.

What little evidence of French fannish opinion I’ve tracked down so far sounds skeptical but even-tempered.

Georges Bormand of Monde de la SF said he was surprised to discover at Loncon 3 “a booth run by the mysterious Irish who are behind the project” (English wording via Google Translate) and felt the bid’s presence in London was “premature.”

Then, a writer signing himself Hervé speculated on the French rec.arts.sf.narkive about “people who want to organize a convention of several thousand people who can not travel to London!” (again, English via Google Translate).

Bid agent Jonathan Lewis-Jones wonders, “Could this be the shortest running Worldcon bid in history? I hope not, they are good people, with a fantastic idea. I just hope they dust themselves off and go for it.”

[Thanks to Steven H Silver for his assistance.]

We Interrupt This Program

By Bill Higgins: I’ve learned that an old BBC documentary on Seacon, the 1979 Worldcon in Brighton, is available on Youtube. Dave Nee told Tom Whitmore about it, and Tom posted a link to Making Light, here.

The program itself, an episode of Time Out of Mind, is here.

Let the games begin! On Making Light, Jacque Marshall, P. J. Evans, and Tom Whitmore have been identifying the many pros and fans who appear in the 25-minute video. Any number can play.

Editor’s note: Wow — Gregory Benford is like the second pro shown in the video — at about 2:00.

Final Notes on Loncon 3

Officer Sue Smith Interrogates Brad Templeton, attending Loncon 3 via telepresence.

Officer Sue Smith Interrogates Brad Templeton, attending Loncon 3 via telepresence.

By Francis Hamit: Loncon 3 ran so well that it begs a record of small things that worked and should be added to the list of “best practices”. I speak as one who has attended 111 conventions, including 10 WorldCons and NASFICs. Full disclosure: I have never been involved in “con-running” and am not a SMOF.

First of all, security here was left to the professionals who work at ExCel. The UK has a very strong security consciousness and culture. There are CCTV cameras everywhere in London, and security officers in black suits and ties are ubiquitous. Rather than oppressive, their presence is reassuring in a city with a recent tragic history of terrorist attacks. In the USA, this function detailed to fan volunteers, whose quality ranges from poor and indifferent to jack-booted thugs. I spent twenty-one years in the security industry, and have an appreciation for the fine details of the art.

An innovation here was the provision of “Listeners”. These were people that attendees could go to with their concerns and complaints, or if they just needed someone to talk to. It was emphasized that first-time attendees should be especially aware of this service. I don’t know how much this was actually used, but I suspect that many molehills were prevented from becoming mountains because this service was there.

The Press Room was run by professionals for professionals, and, as a result, was able to not only handle Mundane reporters from mainstream media, but turn their presence to advantage and avoid the usual “look at all the funny people” journalism.

The Fan Village, and the prohibition of parties in hotel rooms, were also a unique feature that should be emulated. No elevators, er, lifts, were broken at this convention, and everyone got enough sleep (maybe).

The long lines at every turn were a detriment, because they soaked up time that could have been spent enjoying the convention. This was probably unavoidable and unplanned because of the last-minute surge in registrations, and the size of the convention, which was record-breaking. Perhaps additional volunteers could have been requested from the lines, of people who had experience with cons in other places, to help out an hour or so to speed things along.

Part of the programming was provided in German, because of the number of German fans attending. This made it a truly “World” con. Whether or not it could be emulated in the USA is an open question.

The huge expanses of concrete and distances between events and functions seem inevitable, but given the “graying of fandom” factor, more attention needs to be paid to disabled access. There were a number of incidents where people on mobis ran into each other and were injured.

Finally, as I sat in the concourse one day, that fandom in general needs to go on a diet and find a good chiropractor. We are woefully out of shape, and I am no exception.

Respectfully submitted.

Loncon 3 and the Graphic Novel, Guest Of Honour Bryan Talbot

Bryan Talbot signing at Loncon 3.

Bryan Talbot signing at Loncon 3.

By Francis Hamit: At the Press Briefing before LonCon3 officially started, the Artist GoH, graphic novelist Bryan Talbot, said that being selected made him feel as if his art had finally moved beyond being considered mere “comic books” to being “literature”. He is quite well known in the UK, and the subject of a recent documentary The Graphic Novel Man: The Comics of Bryan Talbot. This hour-long presentation was shown on the fourth day of the convention and it seemed to me that not only had his art evolved into a form of literature, but a way to put cinema on paper. His subsequent lecture the same afternoon demonstrating the wide range of techniques and graphic devices confirmed this. He laid out the various ways to format a page so that the reader’s eye is easily led through the images and text that comprise the narrative.

About the creative process, Talbot said, “When I get an idea, the first thing I do is write it down. Then I create a ‘bible’ for the graphic novel in a loose-leaf notebook so that I can move between the sections and make notes. Research is next, as I reference images and create ‘mind maps’ as a useful way of working through complete scenes and getting the order of scenes.

“Structure is very important. I chart the scene progression so that you can see the whole story, scene-by-scene, and the number of pages needed to tell the story. I create layers from the photo references as a basis for the individual panels, and add details. I make rough sketches that pre-planned of papaer are a mixture of words and pictures, so that the story changes at the right instants. Each moment is a moment in time. I choose which instants is needed to break the scene.

“The script is next, it is a page number and panel number description, which the editor approves; I then polish and improve the dialogue. A complex scene requires a description of when things are taking place as well as where.

“The layout can be on a grid or freestyle. Freestyle melds panels into a collage of images. Grid panels provide a ‘proscenium arch’ that you can look through, proportionate to the page. The Golden Mean (2 to 3) is used in American comics. Freestyle layouts let you have lots of open space.

“The placement of text and speech balloons is critical. It is vitally important that the reader not read them in the wrong order. Double-page layouts must form a whole. The pages have to work together and be harmonious. The palette is important, as a historical reference. We give each scene a different ambient color, and use composition lines to lead the reader’s eye from one panel to the next.”

I found this presentation extremely interesting because I’m not really up on comic books or graphic novels. Since I am in the middle of collaborating on a motion picture, I see the parallels between this and cinema. Part of our process is what is called ‘storyboarding’, where shots are planned in advance on paper. Graphic novels intrigue me because they are the dominant form in many other countries with huge audiences, such as India, China, and Japan.

Bryan Talbot has a PDF of his lecture on his website and it is something that even text-bound dinosaurs like myself would do well to read.

Loncon 3: A Stroll Through the Dealers’ Zone

The ExCel is big and friendly, if you don't mind walking.

The ExCel is big and friendly, if you don’t mind walking.

By Francis Hamit: One of the notable aspects of the Dealers’ Zone at Loncon 3 was the number of “small press” publishers who took advantage of Loncon 3 to display and sell their books. Two big British publishers were also present, as well as a couple of University presses. Also, displaying their wares or cause were some British nonprofit organizations.

“Small press” is a term that avoids the curse of “self publishing”: generally condemned for its poor editing and execution. (The truth is that while some eager writers in their rush to get to market have failed to live up to the standards of traditional publishing, the majority of those at Loncon 3 avoided this self-defeating behaviour, and had product indistinguishable from the mainstream. Everyone uses short-run print-on-demand technology now.) Since Leigh and I have our own publishing company, we are sympathetic to small press entrepreneurs, and had we any science fiction titles, might have also had a table. Here are some photos taken on the last day. We are happy to report that everyone not only covered their costs but seemed to be happily in profit.

Ticonderoga Publications' Liz Grzyb and Russell B. Farr

Ticonderoga Publications’ Liz Grzyb and Russell B. Farr

One young, pretty, and very smart scientist in the Fan Village said to me scornfully that 90% of self-publishing is crap, to which I replied with Theodore Sturgeon’s famous line, “My dear, 90% of everything is crap.” The high sales reported by small-press dealers indicates that this deplorable attitude is finally going away.

Closing Ceremonies End Loncon 3 on a High Note

The line for the Closing Ceremonies

The line for Closing Ceremonies.

By Francis Hamit: On the last day the organizers of Loncon 3 ended their four-year adventure with some well-deserved, self-congratulatory pats on the back. (Yes, it’s a cliché, what the hell, sue me.) The original pitch film that won London the bid was shown again, without the sound (not sure that there was any, since I hadn’t seen it before) but this may be not only the largest Worldcon ever, but one that ran so smoothly, and without noticeable glitches, that subsequent events will be hard put to meet, much less exceed, the standards set by this ConCom.

The co-chairs bid adieu.

The co-chairs bid adieu.

The Guests of Honour were once again presented, and Brian Aldiss, who was present at LonCon 1 and is one of the great authors of our genre, was serenaded with a rousing rendition of “Happy Birthday” by the entire audience. The GoHs were all presented with engraved crystal awards as a remembrance. The event was then Closed, and the organizers of the 2015 Worldcon in Spokane, Washington, USA, named after a mythological beast, were brought out to urge everyone to attend their event, Sasquan.

Brian Aldiss is serenaded with "Happy Birthday."

Brian Aldiss is serenaded with “Happy Birthday.”