Hertz: Love That Loscon

By John Hertz: (reprinted from Vanamonde 965) Loscon XXXVIII was held 25-27 Nov at the L.A. Int’l Airport Marriott Hotel (local s-f con, annually on United States’ Thanksgiving weekend; hosted by the LASFS [L.A. S-F Soc.], not the unrelated if overlapping SCIFI [S. Cal. Inst. for Fan Interests]).  Author Guest of Honor, John DeChancie; Illustrator, Aldo Spadoni; Science, Col. Rick Searfoss, U.S. Air Force (ret.); Fan, me.  Chair, Arlene Satin.  Attendance 1,000; in the Art Show, sales $5,700 by 35 artists.

Searfoss had flown Columbia and Atlantis and commanded a Spacelab mission.  Spadoni won Best Amateur Astronomical in the Discon II (’74 World Science Fiction Convention) Art Show at age 17, got an M.I.T. degree, worked at Hughes and for the past twenty-five years at Northrop, meanwhile consulting on Apollo 13 (R. Howard dir. 1995) and Iron Man (J. Favreau dir. 2008, 2010) and painting Niven & Pournelle space ships, some exhibited in the Loscon Art Show.  DeChancie besides his pro career has been an active fan, serving as LASFS Secretary, making friends with the Vegrants in Las Vegas, contributing regularly to APA-L.

At Opening Ceremonies, Satin showing images of might-be flying cars had to ask if we really wanted any.  Searfoss could only come Saturday.  Spadoni modestly said he was an aerospace engineer.  DeChancie said he’d never heard of fanzines until Cantor sent him Holier Than Thou.  I, not crediting Tom Whitmore who at Denvention III (’08 Worldcon) made Kipling’s Rikki-Tikki-Tavi with “Run and find out” his new inner avatar, said again Why wait to be taught?

Starting a Classics of S-F talk on Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles (1950) I asked what made it appealing today.  From the audience: it reaches everyone, the masses, the literary.  Another: it has simplicity, like Wilder’s Our Town (1938).  Another: it’s polychromatic.  Reading the first paragraph aloud, I said Chronicles attracts with beauty.  Bradbury is an act no one has followed.  Mike Glyer in the audience said, it rouses willing suspension of disbelief.  I said, or creates belief.

The s-f broadcast Hour 25 interviewed us honorees.  DeChancie said he thought Starrigger (1983) was a straightforward adventure until a review called it howlingly funny and he realized he’d put in a good line every third page.  Spadoni said engineering visualizers learned from Hollywood how handheld-camera footage looked, and built computer software accordingly.  I said I liked to share my toys with my friends.

Greg Benford had asked me to help with a talk on his Wonderful Future That Never Was (2010).  We sat on tables to be heard in a crowded room.  People suppose combining two technologies will be twice as productive; more usually it’s been half.  The quantitative is where bright ideas go wrong, like jetpacks.  NASA, he said, was a jobs program.  The ghost of F.D. Roosevelt, I answered, says that to do things you have to get votes somehow.

Heard in the Art Show, “I couldn’t find my combat boots.”  A parade, with costumes and a drum, “What do we want?”  “Flying cars!”  “When do we want them?”  “Yesterday!”  In truth the best time for them.  Benford with Naomi Fisher peeked at Regency Dancing.  Later I accosted him, “You fell for my s-f author’s illusion.”  He said “What?”  I said “You don’t really have a faster-than-light space drive.”  He said “You mean those people haven’t really been impossibly elegant all their lives.”

Jan Bender, Jerome Scott, Becky Thomson, and a host of others helped me build the Rotsler Award exhibit.  The judges (Claire Brialey, Glyer, and I; see if you like, www.scifiinc.org/rotsler.) had decided it should go to D West.  I’d spent the usual hours poring over fanzines for samples.  A kind of sticky-both-sides tape had been recommended; it kept failing; I, the Art Show staff, Glyer, and passers-by spent all week­end putting things back up.  At home a West letter waited.  He declined.  We determined there would be no 2011 Award.

Spadoni’s punctiliously detailed ships could have been contemporary.  A Rick Sternbach giclée took The Mote in God’s Eye (1974) differently, the Mote red, all else blue and white, a far viewpoint for simplicity. Selina Phanara’s “Aloha” and “Tiki” showed her mastery of cut and colored paper.  Mary Jane Jewell’s quilts were strongest in “Tropical Sun”, red and gold, its eyes askance.  I was as ever glad to see the Illustrators of the Future contest exhibiting, not least because entries are often from outside the s-f community, and the contest by nature encourages monochrome, which current fads neglect.  Of Richard Man’s monochrome photographs I much liked “Echoes of China”, his celestial eye seeing a classic landscape in the mist of Tomales Bay.

I moderated Niven and Pournelle in a twentieth-anniversary discussion of Fallen Angels.  Pournelle said “We tried to draw characters generically.  Any fandom has people like these.”  Maybe.  From the audience, “I didn’t recognize anyone, but I saw they knew things that affected their actions.”  Another: it’s funny.  Another: the big picture has changed surprisingly little.

Saturday night I circulated some after shopping for the Prime Time Party (1 a.m. Sunday to dawn each Loscon; you, dear reader, are invited) with co-hosts Thomson and Tom Veal.  Chaz Boston Baden shaved his beard leaving a mustache, and put on a bowtie and hair pomade, to help with a Kansas City for 2016 Worldcon bidding party; fliers showed Harry Truman with a newspaper headlined “Password is ‘Goats’” (the friends of Tom Pendergast 1873-1945).  We opened and closed as advertised – in fact we went till 9:30 a.m. – people coming and going in tides.

At the talk on Blish’s Jack of Eagles (1952), Jim Young in the audience said “Again Blish shows himself a stylist.”  Another: Martian Chronicles doesn’t engage with any particular person; Jack does.  Another, “I read it for the first time this morning.”  I recalling Sturgeon’s “Science fiction is knowledge fiction” said “Jack’s what-if being scientific proof of paranormal powers, look how intellectually clumsy, though powerful, are the characters who take them mystically.”  At the talk on Frank’s Alas, Babylon (1959) someone said “I still remember scenes from reading it on publication.”  Another, “It focusses on a small group.”  Another, “It’s hopeful.”  I read aloud the last nine words.  About Babylon’s treatment of race relations, and civilization, I said “Look at art – painting, singing or playing music – who’s doing it?”

At Closing Ceremonies, Spadoni in a superb gesture gave Satin one of his space ships.  I couldn’t improve on that so said again In fandom the difference is participation.