Loscon 2006

This year I grabbed an early ride down to the LA area on Wednesday night with Amy from Book Universe. She drives down every year from Oregon, stopping in Hayward, which is where she picked me up. With iPod loaded with a little filk, a lot of folk, and some old rock’n’roll, we headed out late and hit my sister’s place in Santa Monica in the wee-going-large hours of Thanksgiving morning.

After a relaxing day spent wandering the Third Street promenade and the beach, and a muscle-relaxing night watching expatriate Brits sing karaoke (some few excellently and at least one terribly), I was ready to get my geek on. The Big Blue Bus deposited me right across the street from the Marriott which was convenient since I don’t drive. Check-in was a breeze, registration likewise. The rooms were small but nice, though I wondered at the narrow doors and whether some congoers might not be thrilled with them.

Since I had never gotten around to sending in my check for the art show, I brought along art to hang just in case. I was not really expecting there to be space, but there was one last empty panel just waiting there for someone like me, so I ponied up my $7.50 and hung my art. The art show was connected to the dealer’s room so I bounced over to the Book Universe stall to ogle the goods and then to the next stall down, which had a fantastic selection of 1930s-1970s pulps. Still reasonably priced, the digest magazines of the Golden Age are starting to get pricier. I used to routinely find them under $3 and now they’re cheap at twice the price. Considering their content includes first appearances from luminaries of the field and true first editions of such classic novels as Dune, it’s really surprising that it’s taken this long. I picked up a couple of Merrill Year’s Bests since I’d forgotten my own copy of the 9th Annual edition which contains William Tenn‘s ‘Bernie The Faust’, source of one of my earliest memories of SF stories and the reason I was determined to make it to LosCon this year.

So far everything had gone as swimmingly as one could hope. I unpacked, changed, ate a decent ahi burger and took a nap, preparing myself for the next few dissolute days.

And what better way to start off than with ice cream? The traditional ice cream social included a lovely couple of sorbets; raspberry and “tropical”. I enjoyed the former and looked around to spot my usual BArean co-conspirators. No sooner did I find those good folks than the Lux Theater show started. This year it was The Adventures of Rick Deckard: Blade Runner. They did a lovely job of providing the radio show atmosphere and costumes, and as a play the thing was quite entertaining. However the voices didn’t seem quite so well approximated as in previous shows, such as their own Star Wars offering. Still and all they are one of the highlights of Southern California conventions, a uniquely fannish but quite professional and polished experience.

After the show it was time to cruise the parties, starting with the con suite, which was not as impressive as I remembered from previous LASFS shindigs. However, the Herbangelists had the room that had been the con suite in previous years, and their spread included some lovely wines and cheeses in addition to many other, harder-to-identify offerings: One of my favorites being little grey sesame seed-covered treats that looked like dried fruit but turned out to be some sort of fish (I hope). Chocolates and dates also abounded.

Baycon, LACon IV, DarkCon, Montreal, and others all had parties as well, so that despite attendance being down from previous years the convention seemed to be jumping. I ran into Chrisfortaff and Frank Wu and we helpfully blocked the doorway and had heady discussions about the Penguin Problem. After wandering the parties for a while and eating some odd yet delicious jello treats, a few of us headed for the dance, which had just started and was deserted. Another round of foraging for food and alcohol and we checked back in with happier results. Although the DJs had a penchant for dance floor-clearing music, they eventually got their groove on and the dance floor was reasonably populated from then on.

Saturday dawned and I slept in but eventually crawled my hungover ass out of bed and headed to the con suite, where there was still not much to grab my attention except a coffee so vastly superior to that provided in the hotel room as to be a different (and possibly controlled) substance altogether. That gave me the strength to make it down to the hotel restaurant for oatmeal and more coffee.

I wandered over to art show for egochecking but also to see quite a good selection of artists. The dealer’s room was pretty good as well, although my budget allowed mostly for window shopping only. In addition there was a very interesting display of matte and storyboard art that was sort of stuck in a back room and apparently not really advertised since I rarely saw anyone in there. A shame really, since there was some very nice work in there.

By this time William Tenn was scheduled to talk about the infamous Orson Welles radio broadcast of The War of the Worlds. It was a fascinating in-depth look at both the original story and its anticolonial themes and at the 1938 Mercury Theater on the Air adaptation and subsequent panic. As a SF author and teacher and also as someone who was listening during the event, Tennís insights were fascinating. 86 years old, Tenn (real name Philip Klass) spoke with the tiniest bit of a slur but otherwise his unamplified voiced reached the room quite clearly even before someone from staff came in halfway through to provide a quite unnecessary (especially in Klass’ opinion) microphone.

Directly outside the room where Klass spoke was a whimsical sculpture of the Doomsday Machine from Star Trek, easily six feet long, with a tiny model of the Enterprise hanging before its gaping maw.

After grabbing dinner with Chrisfortaff Garcia and Joe Rhett it was time to get dolled up for the big party night. It was already less than half an hour to the Masquerade so I chose beauty over entertainment and missed the entire thing. However Richard Man was toting his laptop of gorgeous masquerade photography when I ran into him on the party floor so I felt like I had been there. Amongst the highlights were a Linda Carter 1970s Wonder Woman costume and the Worldcon favorites Dancing With Celebrities from the Stars.

The parties were all in full swing, although the Writers of the Future had taken over the room that had been the Herbangelists the night before, and desiring neither water nor ice cream, nor yet a copy of Battlefield Earth, I cannot offer more than the snarkiest conjecture on what went on in that party. They did have the highest pro-to-fan ratio of any of the parties, however.

John Hertz’s party opened up at 1 a.m. and won me over with more fine wines and a very tasty Madeira, as well as cheeses, dates, persimmons, a lovely basket of fresh and varied vegetables and some lovely, lovely smoked salmon. As befitted the tone of the soirée, the discussion quickly turned to art, though I fled when it became about the original vs. print vs. digital photography subject.

Another stopover at the Darkcon party and for friendly abuse from Bill Taylor who opined that I’m too political, and with a cry of “A la lanterne les aristos!” I headed down to see how the dance was going. I had been handed a flier for The Red Party, the lads who ran the small dance at LACon IV and unfortunately never checked the room number, ending up with the mistaken conclusion that they were in charge of the official dance. Said dance was rocking along with at least twenty people out on the dance floor and eighties tunes blasting (always a reliable crowd pleaser at these things), and I soon forgot that they were more likely to be hitting us with some goth industrial. So I was sad when some friends grabbed me to head over to the actual Red Party room later only to find they’d already been closed down. These guys know how to do their thing and I look forward to their threatened appearances at BArea cons, or perhaps Gallifrey?

Eventually all the cool kids went off to bed and I sadly followed suit.

Sunday I woke far too late after not getting much sleep, as I missed a couple of interesting looking panels, but I eventually got everything ready for a leisurely 3 p.m. checkout and headed over to the dealer’s room to get my shiny new copy of Dancing Naked signed by Tenn. The line was satisfyingly long, a lot of it with dealers but also a number of regular fans of the man’s work. He wasn’t doing personalizations, unfortunately, but I got a small paperback collection signed on the title page of Bernie the Faust and that made me happy. He seemed confused for a second at having the book opened to that story, but I told him it was my favorite and he obliged, saying he was rather fond of it himself as Playboy had paid the sum of $5,000 for it, a handsome fee at the time.

With these words of wisdom I grabbed my signed prizes before they vanished and called it a day, saying a few goodbyes and disappearing back off to Santa Monica for a couple more days of fun before rejoining reality.

~España Sheriff

SF/SF Issue #35, December 8, 2006