[Home ]   [Meeting Info ]   [SIGs ]   [Newsletter ]   [Interest to Fans ]   [Con Reports ]   [Fiction ]   [Directions ]   [Links ]   [Site Map ]   [About Us ]

Science Fiction Association of Bergen County

Convention Reports:

Tinseltown -- L.A. Con III

A convention report by Taras Wolansky

[ Editor's Note : This material originally appeared in FOSFAX, Issue #183, December 1996. It is reprinted with the permission of the author. ]



Copyright 1996 Taras Wolansky

Table of Contents

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Tinseltown -- L.A. Con III

L.A.con III, the 54th Worldcon, was held August 29th through September 2nd just south of Disneyland, at the Anaheim (California) Convention Center and the adjacent Anaheim Marriott and Anaheim Hilton and Towers. Writer Guest of Honor, James White, creator of "Sector General"; Media, B-picture director Roger Corman; Fan, frequent Worldcon guests from Japan, Takumi and Sachiko Shibano; "Special Honoree", the late Else Wollheim, co-founder of DAW Books; Toastmaster, Connie Willis. (No artist GoH, I don't know why.) As L.A.Con II had had an attendance of almost nine thousand, I had confidently predicted at least twelve thousand this time. But in fact the 1996 attendance was significantly lower than the 1984 attendance. You can draw what dark conclusions you wish from this, but it's just as likely it was the high cost of an at-the-door membership that kept some people away. Too bad for them: I had a great time.



The Great Roberto

The first notable program item I attended was Dr. Robert Forward's "Indistinguishable from Magic", Thursday afternoon, based on his new collection of essays. Forward noted that even faster-than-light travel has turned into a respectable field of scientific inquiry: NASA paid for a Workshop on Advanced Quantum/Relativity Theory Propulsion, involving such SF-writing scientists as Greg Benford, John Cramer, and Geoffrey Landis. Contradicting those (scientifically ignorant) SF writers who insist FTL is proof that science fiction is really just a form of fantasy, Forward explained "why FTL is not forbidden by physics". It boils down to three reasons: 1) wormhole physics; 2) physics in which the speed of light is the lower bound; 3) the physics of additional dimensions of space. The original wormhole concept, as discussed by Forward 20 years ago, involved a doughnut consisting of 100 solar masses, spinning near the speed of light; the result would be a gate 100 kilometers wide to another universe. More recently, theorist Kip Thorne came up with a wormhole that could be of a much more manageable size, though it does involve an "exotic field" than no one knows how to create. Each end of the wormhole would be a sphere; fly one sphere to another star and you have a star gate; send one sphere through time dilation and you have--a time machine. Forward's novel, Timemaster, involves a Thorne wormhole; after he sent Thorne a copy, Forward boasted, Thorne had to add material to a paper his students were writing.

On the subject of tachyons--hypothetical particles with an imaginary (in the mathematical sense) rest mass--Forward noted that certain recent neutrino experiments can be interpreted as showing an imaginary mass. Coming back down to Earth--well, near-Earth orbit, anyway--Forward discussed a piece of "magic" that has actually been tried: space tethers. Run a wire between two orbiters and, as it sweeps through the Earth's magnetic field, it generates electricity (at the cost of drag); run current the other way and you raise the orbiters' altitude. (NASA's space station will still burn fuel the old fashioned way, however.) A recent Italian experiment aboard the space shuttle burned through when it generated kilowatts of electricity when milliwatts were expected!

It is possible to alter one's orbit with a tether. Geoff Landis has figured out how to bootstrap a spacecraft into a more and more elliptical orbit, by paying out and pulling in a tether, until its orbit intersects the Moon's orbit.



There Will Be War Stories

Not too surprisingly for a Thursday afternoon panel, "Might Makes Right", about military SF, came up with only three of its scheduled five panelists: Allen Steele, who said he has written plenty of hard SF, but only one military SF story; though later he admitted that his Labyrinth of Night and Lunar Descent contain scenes of military adventure. James W. Fiscus, a Vietnam veteran who has since taught military history; experience of combat, he said, teaches you your limitations about writing on combat. Joe Haldeman, Vietnam vet and author of The Forever War, as well as the non-sequel, The Forever Peace, currently in manuscript. Veterans are rare today, Haldeman said, at least in middle-class circle like this. He also noted that new readers of TFW don't know it's about the Vietnam War.

Haldeman appreciated the welcome he got on coming home to fandom from Vietnam. Unlike many people, fans did not buy "the idea that soldiers cause war."

Can one write about combat without ever experiencing it? Inevitably the discussion turned to Stephen Crane and The Red Badge of Courage. In spite of having no experience of war at the time, Crane was very accurate, said Haldeman, though after the book came out a perplexed British general asked Crane how he got the sound of bullets wrong.

Crane went to Cuba as a war correspondent in the Spanish-American War. Steele accused him of writing his dispatches second-hand, from behind the lines. But Haldeman came back with the story, which I have also heard, of Crane going into harm's way on purpose, for the sake of the experience of being under fire.

Steele threw out an idea: if Haldeman's military SF was commenting on Vietnam, was Heinlein commenting on World War II? And E.E. Smith on World War I? Tolkien found inspiration in World War I memoirs, said Fiscus. From the audience, a Canadian asked about differences between the U.S. and Canada in the attitude toward the military. Fiscus: "With the exception of Quebec, you have no natural enemies!"

Also from the audience, it was noted that the audience of this panel, and presumably the audience of military SF, is mostly male. Do the panelists intentionally write for a male audience? Haldeman: "I write for a twelve-year-old girl who collects butterflies." Steele: "You scared the heck out of that twelve-year-old girl!"



The Moving Writer Fingered

With the assistance of jet lag, I made one of a huge audience for "A Look at Past Futures", 10 AM Friday, with Hal Clement, Norm Dalkey, David Gerrold, Larry Niven, and moderated by Harlan Ellison. (Who was on good behavior. As indeed he was throughout the convention: perhaps because he knew all the sessions were being taped!) It seems that most or all--I'm not sure about Dalkey--were survivors of a panel on predicting technological developments, at L.A. Con I in 1972. Today, they were to be put on the spot, to explain what they had gotten right and what they had gotten wrong, based on their recollections but mostly on a newspaper account of the 1972 panel, passed out beforehand. Ellison: "How big of an ass did I make of myself?" Niven, quietly: "Opinions may differ!" A huge laugh from the audience. Clement wryly noted that he had not remembered "how cagey and generally wimpy" his own predictions had been.

Niven and Ellison appeared to pick up their argument where it left off 24 years ago. Niven noted "few substantive disagreements" in so far as the technology itself is concerned: Ellison had predicted beepers and cell phones--but as a threat to personal freedom. Yet you may bring your phone or leave it in your car if you wish, said Niven. And later, when Ellison made much of his choice to continue to use a typewriter, Niven pointed out that 24 years ago he didn't have any choice.

Niven also touched on his most famous prediction, the harvesting of organs for transplantation from condemned prisoners. Not only did this come true, but in 1972 it was already happening, in countries like China and India. Dalkey went over consensus predictions compiled by the earlier panel using the Delphi method. Antigravity was expected "after 2000". ("Way after," interjected Ellison.) The end of the world's oil supply, the arrival of fusion power, and establishment of a moon colony were all expected by 1980. Perhaps a bit embarrassed by some of these predictions, Ellison pointed out that by no means all the panelists had been in agreement. From the audience: "Nice weaseling!" "Why is it weaseling if you disagree--you pinhead!!" Ellison concluded with glee.

Gerrold noted that some of the 1972 panelists had taken an anti-technology position, while he disagreed; and was now entitled to "claim to be correct in that one area."

Ellison, who felt some of the current participants wanted to pigeonhole him as a Luddite, described his wonder at the rate of development that went from Univac, to using a laptop to write a novel on a four-hour Concorde flight to Paris. Four hours may be enough for you to write a novel, said Gerrold, tongue in cheek; but "I need the nine-hour flight!"

In a rambling declamation, Ellison tried to justify his 1972 prediction--and 1996 position--that we're losing our personal freedom. As evidence he called upon advertising pressure and, sounding like a neocon, the growing "ignorance of the masses". (I think he used those exact words.) He described a call he made to a movie theater in which, presented with two choices, he asked for "the latter". "We don't got no ladders here; it's a movie theater," was the response. (No one asked Ellison the obvious question: what do the failures of the public school system have to do with technological progress.)

Niven was bemused by the oration. "I've been wondering if you listen to what you say," he said to Ellison. He went over many areas of life in which choices have expanded, concluding with a remark to the audience: "You've all got the freedom to listen to Harlan Ellison because he had a successful quadruple bypass."

Ellison and Niven dominated the discussion to the end. Hal Clement got a huge laugh from the audience when, after interjecting a brief remark, he said, "Sorry, I didn't mean to talk that long."



Silver Age and Silver Hair

Late Friday morning, I was privileged to attend the kind of panel that is the reason one attends Worldcons: to watch Robert Silverberg, Harlan Ellison, and moderator Frederic Pohl rib each other and swap stories about the "Science Fiction of the '50s and '60s".

Introducing Ellison as "one of the greatest sci-fi writers ever known", Pohl teased, "he's getting his mean look!" (A woman in the audience gibed, "Does he have any other?") In fact Ellison proved only slightly mean: some of his zingers at Pohl about loss of memory seemed in slightly bad taste, as Pohl has visibly aged recently.

Then Pohl introduced Silverberg as the author of many great books, "of which my personal favorite is Lost Race of Mars"--which, judging from Silverberg's rueful and Ellison's gleeful reaction, is a story Silverberg wishes forgotten.

Science fiction in the 1950s "was a tiny, lovely world," said Silverberg nostalgically, in which only two hundred people wrote science fiction and they all knew each other. "One of the reasons there was such camaraderie is, there was no money in it."

The ghosts of two great--and slightly mad--editors loomed large over the discussion: John W. Campbell of Astounding, and Horace L. Gold of Galaxy. Large indeed; Campbell was "between 11 and 13 feet tall", said Silverberg ("On his knees", interjected Pohl); or, at least, so he might seem to a young writer. Ellison told of an encounter between Campbell and Shasta Press publisher Erle Melvin Korshak--notorious to this day for his mistreatment of writers--at a convention in the 1950s. Without getting Campbell's permission, Korshak had reprinted Campbell's "Who Goes There?" when the movie version, The Thing, came out. Korshak approached Campbell with his hand outstretched, expecting Campbell to maintain decorum. Instead, when Campbell saw Korshak, he shouted at the top of his stentorian voice: "YOU'RE A THIEF!!! GIVE ME MY MONEY!!!". Just the sound of Campbell's voice drove Korshak back, step by step, across the room.

Asked about Campbell's well-known affinity for pseudoscience, the panelists admitted that he had "feet of clay"--and, by the end of his career, the clay came up to his jaw.

Campbell could be domineering and eccentric, but Galaxy editor H.L. Gold was an order of magnitude farther along in both dimensions. Ellison spoke of him with real bitterness, even after forty years. When Gold died a few years ago, Ellison said, a newsmagazine (probably Locus) approached him to do one of the appreciations. Why him, Ellison asked. Because nobody else wants to do it, was the answer.

Pohl was one of those who refused to write anything, in part because he didn't want to have to write about Gold's later years, when eccentricity and agoraphobia gave way to real psychosis. However, he agreed that Gold was a brutal editor: "When he rejected a story, he didn't merely turn it down, he made you commit suicide." Silverberg argued that Gold was trying to bully writers into doing a better job, but Ellison said he never got a useful rejection slip from him.

Gold has long been notorious for changing stories around, deleting and adding material with great abandon. But once, when Pohl was editing an anthology series and Gold submitted a story ("The Man With English"), Pohl finally got revenge for a legion of abused writers. He had an extra copy typed up--while the real one went to the printer--which he and fellow sufferer C.M. Kornbluth then proceeded to "edit" to death. Every joke was stepped on; the ending was destroyed. Then they made sure it would fall into Gold's hands ...

Ellison also had a bone to pick with Gold's successor as editor of Galaxy: Frederik Pohl. It seems Pohl liked to shorten Ellison's titles; thus, "'Repent, Harlequin,' said the Ticktockman" became "Repent, Harlequin"; and "The Beast That Shouted Love at the Heart of the World" became "The Beast That Shouted Love", which Ellison said doesn't make sense. (Neither does the full title, thought I.) Responded Pohl smugly, "All those extra words cost us a lot of money, Harlan!" Much laughter.



Oh, Yes, Those Were the Days

Friday afternoon, the subject was "Did the Revolution of the '60s Succeed?", with: Jerry Pournelle, who "can't imagine anything duller than a bunch of old farts sitting around talking about the sixties"; Dick Eney, who said that if the revolution had succeeded, "we'd all have been shot"; "and now comes in the guy who would have done the shooting", said Pournelle as Ho Chih Minh impersonator George Clayton Johnson entered belatedly. Making up the panel was Japanese former student radical Yoshio Kobayashi, who said young people in the sixties tried to create a culture based on music and art--but it doesn't last.

Reflecting on the decline of religion starting in the 1960s, Pournelle said, "There is no source of the ideas of equality and democracy" any more. Later, when a woman in the audience took exception to his opinions, he used it as an example: "Where did you get this value judgment that you just made on my conscience." Pournelle's conclusion: "we are basically living on the moral capital of a civilization" that the 1960s destroyed. From the floor I had earlier remarked that left-winger Johnson and right-winger Pournelle have the same view of the effects of the 1960s--except that Johnson thinks they are good and Pournelle thinks they are bad. Vietnam was, of course, the great argument of the late 1960s. Pournelle recalled debating idealistic leftist Congressman Allard Lowenstein, who told him, "You want to win it and get out--but your friends over there [pointing to LBJ foreign policy adviser McGeorge Bundy] want to lose it and stay in!" Pournelle said he was silenced, for once. In the long run, however, the slow and cautious strategy of breaking the Soviet Union economically did work, he said.

Reflecting upon one ironic result of the sixties, Dick Eney said, "When we were in the Civil Rights movement, we wanted white men to treat black women like they did their own sisters. We didn't expect black men to call them 'ho's' and 'bitches'."



Who's Pulling the Strings

When I saw the title, "Robert Heinlein's The Puppet Masters: SF Classic to Mediocre Movie", in the pocket program, I wondered if the panel participants would be offended. You see, the panelists were: Dr. Michael Engelberg, M.D., the film's producer; and Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio, the original screenwriters. (Rossio came in half-way through.) I needn't have worried: when the panel got underway, Friday afternoon, Engelberg quickly admitted that he had suggested the title! The panel's aim was to explain how a producer who was an SF fan, and a pair of great screenwriters--Elliot and Rossio had Disney's Aladdin to their credit--created what Elliot described as "a dismal little failure". Though later the panelists were willing to grant that the film was OK as a made-for-TV movie. Elliot and Rossio's first draft, written in 1988-89, was "tremendous", said Engelberg. The problem was a high Disney executive, whom Engelberg called "R.M.", and Elliot called "Dick", who really didn't want to do the film. The boss of bosses, "M.D.E.", wanted to make the film, but he didn't. "Dick" lay down the rules: 1) Aliens can't invade the whole Earth at one time; everyone knows aliens in movies always attack a single town. 2) "If there's one thing I've learned, the President never works [as a character] in a movie." ("If there's one thing I've learned" was a phrase he often used.) 3) Flying saucers also "don't work" in a movie. When Terry Rossio came in, he added a fourth rule of Dick: "Shouldn't there be a mother slug--and if you kill her, they all die." Dick summed up his attitude toward the first screenplay, "It doesn't work for me on any level."

Elliot claimed some responsibility for the failure: he and Rossio had failed to make their screenplay obviously the right version. For one thing, he thought they had been too careful to preserve Heinlein's original, 1951 dialogue.

One of the puzzles of the making of The Puppet Masters was why good directors who wanted to do the film were rejected by "R.M.", until the film was finally given to an unimaginative hack. Even some of the panelists learned for the first time that "R.M." was planning a remake of The Brain Eaters, a simple-minded 1958 rip-off of The Puppet Masters. (Remarks during the panel suggest that Heinlein received some emolument for this film only when he threatened legal action.)

Trying to get something going, Engelberg slipped the original screenplay to "M.D.E.", the head of Disney, who enthusiastically responded, "Let's make this!" But then, the panelists recalled, "M.D.E." had said the same thing about their proposal for a film adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs' A Princess of Mars; and nothing whatever was made.

Engelberg noted that the film was not a major flop; at the time of the convention it was all over cable TV and will eventually pay for itself. The Puppet Masters screenplays influenced Independence Day, said Elliot. Not that this is necessarily a compliment: Elliot had compiled a list of the 100 most stupid things in ID4--"and I had to winnow it down!"

There was a question about the new, $100 million Starship Troopers, a Tristar/Disney co-financing project directed by Paul Verhoeven. Engelberg said he had advised Disney against adapting it. "I hate the book. It's a vicious, militaristic, fascist book. And no one loves Heinlein more than I do; but this book was a real mistake."

Later, Engelberg asked Rossio how he could be so certain that in TPM Heinlein was "definitely talking about Communism". Rossio responded flippantly, "Because he was a fascist, and fascists hate Communism!" Engelberg: "In 1951, Heinlein was a libertarian Democrat." "With fascist leanings!" said Rossio, to the audience's amusement. I suspect Rossio was pulling Engelberg's leg; clearly, this so-called "fascism", whatever it really was, did not alter the affection and respect that the panelists held for Heinlein.

Asked a "what's next" type of question, Elliot and Rossio wowed the audience when they revealed they are developing a screenplay for Steven Spielberg's company, Dreamworks, of Robert Heinlein's The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress.



Up and Away

Early Saturday morning, SF-writing scientists John G. Cramer and Geoffrey Landis led a panel of experts in a discussion of "Space Drives: From Launch Lasers to Warp Drives".

Cramer described a technically interesting but sociologically impossible alternative, Robert Zubrin's nuclear rocket, which could produce remarkable accelerations with what amounts to a continuous nuclear explosion. "The visit of the tooth fairy you need here," Cramer said wryly, "is to write the environmental impact statement that will let you do this." Somebody asked mischievously, "Is backfire a problem?" "Only once!" More within the realm of the feasible, Joel C. Sercel said that the opposition of NASA's program managers to anything not developed there has been overcome, and a deep space ion drive will be launched in June of 1998. Of course, the SF writer's main interest is interstellar travel. Some techniques involved flaky science but good engineering; other, good science but flaky engineering; both kinds are useful to the SF writer, said Sercel. With enough energy, relativistic accelerations are possible; but, Stephen D. Howe averred, at one-tenth the speed of light dust particles will destroy the spacecraft. If we are to reach the stars, it must be by some interdimensional means.

Cramer pointed out another way: the Alcubierre warp drive. In this concept worked out by physicist and SF fan Miguel Alcubierre, the front warp annihilates space while the rear warp creates it, in sort of a little Big Bang. As a sphere of local space travels along with the starship, there are no G forces and no relativistic effects.

Assuming Howe's dust problem can be overcome, the proposed grand unified theories of physics imply total conversion of matter to energy, said Landis, which would give us all the energy we need to travel to the stars in reasonable times. However, this brings up the issue of what Charles Pellegrino calls "relativistic bombs": at relativistic velocities, toss a golf ball out of the window and you can destroy a planet. "Would this lead to the 'Golf War'", asked one wag. "Are you saying one bad driver destroys a civilization", asked another.

Which may not be so funny. Later, Landis suggested that the Fermi paradox--in a galaxy this old we ought to be neck-deep in aliens--implies "it must be impossible to do star travel easily."

For the benefit of the audience, Sercel explained the Fermi paradox: given only a modest propulsion system, and a machine that can copy itself, replicating robot space probes--Von Newmann machines--should be all over the galaxy. Perhaps they're hiding beyond the fringes of the solar system, in the Kuiper Belt, he speculated. "I hate Von Neumann machines," said Robert Hurt. "One programming glitch--and you're going to consume every piece of matter in the galaxy to make more probes!"

Toward the end, the discussion turned to the mysterious astronomical phenomena known as gamma ray bursters which, some have suggested, might be the exhaust from a relativistic rocket. Or perhaps, Landis suggested morbidly, each gamma ray burst means "another civilization has discovered total conversion."



True Histories

Late Saturday morning, a highly qualified panel discussed "Alternative Histories in Reality"; that is, histories when historians don't agree. There was Michael Flynn, author of the Hugo-nominated "The Forest of Time", who said that with the Presidential campaign "we now have two alternate versions of the last four years"; Lisa Goldstein, who said she writes stories set in the interstices of history; S.M. Stirling, author of many alternative histories, "most of them horrible dystopias"; archeologist and SF writer T. Jackson King; and "defrocked historian" Harry Turtledove. The moderator was Teresa Nielsen-Hayden.

The differences between what really happens and what gets written down was the first issue. While it is often said that the victors write the histories, Turtledove pointed out that this was not always true: the Germanic conquerors of Western Europe after the fall of Rome couldn't write! Another issue was just how little we can understand about cultures that don't leave a written record; for example, if the Athenians' writings had not come down to us, said Stirling, Athens would look like a matriarchy, instead of the severe patriarchy it really was.

Then there are dueling histories. Somebody compared Confederate memoirists to "crabs in a bucket": each trying to shift the blame for the defeat on someone else.

Nielsen-Hayden asked the panelists for "pet peeves". Flynn didn't like stories that assume so many changes that anything at all could happen. Stirling was irritated by illogic; e.g., kill Columbus and no European discovery of America. (Rounding Africa, the Portuguese accidentally hit Brazil circa 1500.) Turtledove picked Kirk Mitchell's Procurator--Roman Empire surviving to the present--as particularly bad.

Though it was not exactly a "peeve", Goldstein singled out Turtledove's "The Last Article", in which Gandhi attempts to use passive resistance against the Nazi conquerors of India. "You convinced me [that it wouldn't work]; I was very depressed." She added, "I like the 'thought experiment' aspect" of alternative history.

Somebody asked about how tiny causes can mushroom into huge effects. Stirling recalled Antietam during the Civil War, when a Confederate officer used Lee's secret plans to wrap some cigars (Flynn: "Imagine if he had been a non-smoker!") and lost the package where Union troops found it. Even with Lee's plans in hand, McClellan was barely able to stop the Confederate advance; a Confederate victory would have meant recognition of the new government by England and France. "Without those three cigars, the Union would have been dissolved," said Stirling.

Indeed, the sheer improbability of this case was so great that Nielsen-Hayden wondered if we could find "evidence for tampering with the time line". From the floor, somebody suggested Hitler's suicidal declaration of war on the U.S. as another turn of history too improbable to be believed. "The reason that truth is stranger than fiction," said Nielsen-Hayden, "is that fiction has to be believable."

The line between history and fiction is not always clear, however. For example, Harry Turtledove's The Guns of the South--in which the South wins--is often shelved in the history section in bookstores, said Flynn. Turtledove: "This happens quite a lot, I understand, south of the Mason-Dixon line." From the floor, it was suggested that had the development of Christianity been aborted, other religions would have taken its place. Turtledove said in one of his stories, Muhammad converts to Christianity (applause), preventing the rise of Islam and a whole lot of trouble. Actually, Turtledove knew of another aggressive religion operating in the area, but "palmed the card".



Awards and Other Trivia

"I'd like to welcome you all to 1946," said Retro-Hugo Mistress of Ceremonies Suford Lewis. "Any glitches you notice, you just have to put them down to 1946 technology!" The major glitch was when--poorly selected--excerpts from the nominated stories were read aloud and the wrong slides were displayed. "Next category, let's ask the guy to run the tapes backwards," said presenter Robert Silverberg. The audience was only a fraction of what it would be for the "real" Hugos, two nights later, but even so it comprised several hundred people.

The ceremony got under way and Silverberg boasted that 4EJ (Forrest J. Ackerman) and he were the only people to see every Hugo ceremony since 1953, as he presented 4EJ and Walt Daugherty a special award for organizing the 1946 Worldcon in Los Angeles, Pacificon. Harlan Ellison presented a special award to the 1946 Guest of Honor, present in the flesh at least: A.E. Van Vogt. Ellison gave credit to Van Vogt's 1951 story, "The Shadow Men", for hooking him on SF.

Then the Retro-Hugos themselves. Too many of the awards were, I suspect, given on the basis of longevity to nominees who had the luck to still be alive and going to conventions. Hal Clement, who said he was "so sure Murray [Leinster] would win" for "The Ethical Equations"--indeed, he voted for it himself--that he had prepared no remarks. (Leinster's "First Contact" won in another category.) William Rotsler, who chuckled at his "fifty year meteoric rise to the top". Forrest J. Ackerman, of whom Silverberg remarked, when 4EJ won his first of two of the night, that that was "two Hugos 43 years apart". (Judging from the excerpts read, the Best Fan Writer should have gone to Charles Burbee.)

Apparently due to the rules on word-count we ended up with Asimov's magazine serial, "The Mule", which was never published independently and eventually comprised part of his novel, Foundation and Empire, won for best novel; while Orwell's book, Animal Farm, won as a novella! As Ellison accepted the award for the Orwell estate, he passed along what he said was a message from Orwell: "I did intend to call the pig, 'Babe'." Early Saturday evening, I stood in the back of the room with Michael Flynn, watching the Libertarian Futurist Society announce the Prometheus Award winners. Accepting the Hall of Fame Award for Robert Heinlein's Red Planet, J. Neil Schulman said that Heinlein "gave me the tools to survive", that without Heinlein's work Schulman thinks he would have committed suicide. The Prometheus Award proper was won by British writer Ken Macleod, for The Star Fraction. This novel had not yet been published in the United States; the publisher must have provided copies for all the Prometheus jurors, that is, the Advisory Members of the LFS.

Actual listings from the Saturday party board:

Hilton 5110 10PM-[infinity] Crips shooting Whitie Killing Ho-down!! Hilton 666 12AM-[infinity] The raising of Beelzebub, the Lord of the Flies From fliers for the "Antarctica in 99" bid: "Single, Double, or Quad Sleeping Bags only $10". "Meet the Single-Celled Guest of Honor (shown actual size) [arrow pointing to blank space] Martian to attend Antarctica in 99 Party". "Antarctica in 99 / The penguins are getting restless". From a display by "Now Voyager -- The Kate Mulgrew Appreciation Society": "Touching Scenes / The Captain's Touchy-Feely Count computed by the Voyager Voyeurs / Chakotay: 36+ (finally knows the true meaning of peace)". In descending order, ratings for other cast members follow, plus jokes about Capt. Janeway's "animal guide", and comments; e.g.: "I'm not sure abducting and impregnating Janeway should earn points for Paris on the Touchy-Feely Count."

In the fan lounge, a fascinating display of Japanese fanzines, a few in English. One showed the results of a February, 1989 poll on the best novel, short fiction, and author (in translation). Novels in order: The Door into Summer, Childhood's End, Foundation, Flowers for Algernon, The Martian Chronicles; short fiction: "The Only Neat Thing to Do", "The Cold Equations", "Love Is the Plan ...", "The Girl Who Was Plugged In", "Flowers for Algernon"; authors, Heinlein, Clarke, Asimov, Dick, Tiptree. I suspect some of this is not Japanese taste, but timing of publication. Note the three Tiptree stories: perhaps one of her collections had recently been translated.

I swear, I actually looked through the convention souvenir book for the Guest Artist portfolio--until I remembered there was no Guest Artist. Aside from that, the usual stuff (including a James White bibliography). The pocket program--spiral bound and even at 148 pages actually fitting in your pocket--is something else again: the best, or among the best of any I've ever seen. One thing it has is something I've been suggesting in these con reports for years: it gives not only the name of a meeting room, but also a one-letter prefix signifying which hotel it's in; e.g., H-Monterrey. About half the book consists of the program schedule proper, in chronological order (unlike the ridiculous Lunacon pocket program) with all the information you need in one place: title of program item; location; explanation of subject; participants' full names (none of this nonsense of having to look up which "Smith" or which "Anderson" they mean).

But that's just half the booklet. Then there are the indexes by subject and participant; schedules for the fan lounge; the film, video, and anime program (all commercial stuff); and a wonderfully detailed restaurant guide. Kudos to editor Shaun Lyon.

The convention newsletter, Stat!, was two sides of a sheet fourteen times, plus special issues for the Hugos and Retro-Hugos. It did a pretty good job of recording awards, but it failed in its main purpose: keeping up with program changes. Perhaps most egregiously, a surprise appearance by Ray Bradbury was left unannounced and, I am told, lightly attended.--Taras Wolansky.



Back to Convention Reports main page

Return to SFABC Home Page