This year I will be attending my fourth Worldcon. I am fortunate that I live in the Bay Area and Worldcon seems to return to California every few years. So I have been able to attend LACon III, ConJose and this year, LACon IV. But the first of these, and my very first convention of any kind, was the 1993 Worldcon: ConFrancisco.In 1993, I was eighteen years old and had been in the U.S. barely a year. I was living in the fog-enshrouded Outer Sunset, near Ocean Beach, and was just getting acquainted with the city.
I had been reading SF and adventure fiction since I was a kid, my father had old Judith Merrill anthologies and other genre books around, and I haunted used bookstores looking for their slim sftnal pickings. Mostly I would find older books – stuff from the 80s was modern to me. Short story collections were always my favorites. Merrill’s Year’s Best SF were the best, but I also picked up others, including the Hugo and Nebula collections. In the prefaces to these I first read about Fandom.
Asimov and Pohl would talk about meeting other authors and fans at conventions. Tall tales of unlikely events taking place in cities a continent away. Names like Worldcon, Wiscon and Lunacon were as exotic to me as Narnia. When I got to the U.S., I knew I had to find a way into this realm. And as fate would have it, Worldcon was to be held at the newly built, and at the time still unfinished, Moscone Convention Center just a couple of blocks from my job.
As I worried about the cost, fate intervened again and an acquaintance who turned out to be in the SCA told me about volunteering. Thus, on the first day of the convention I was delighted to find myself in the beating heart of the convention–ConOps! I was declared a gofer and while I stood around trying to figure out what that meant and what, if anything, I should be doing, Forry Ackerman walked into the room. My eyes goggled as he chatted briefly with someone and then left. My first BNF! Instantly, I regretted not saying hello to him. I got the chance some years later at BayCon so that worked out. As I stood all aflutter over the glamour of it all, I was deployed to Sales to Members, where I would spend many of the daytime hours at the convention.
In charge of Sales to Members was Laurie Freeman, who took me under her wing. She would later introduce/indenture me to BayCon and cement my con-going habit. We also became good friends and if you read this column last issue, you saw another bit of evidence of her impact on my impressionable young psyche. She is the one who first lent me The City, Not Long After.
During my leisure hours, I roamed the convention halls completely clueless as to what to do and see. I must have spent time in the dealers room and art show, but I couldn’t tell you anything about them. I saw Leslie Fish perform, although I didn’t know who she was at the time. I brought a book for Harlan Ellison to sign, and heard rumors flying that he would tear up any used books presented to him for autographing. I laughed but decided not to bother anyway, once I saw the huge line snaking away from his table.
In the evenings I was a Rover, assigned to wander the hotels and be a fannish security force of sorts. Since I didn’t really know anyone, this was a good excuse to hit the parties. The hotels were a few blocks from the convention center and I probably would have been oblivious to the existence of con parties if not for rovering. And aside from helping one very drunk fellow out of an elevator, it was an easy enough assignment, mostly involving just wandering about.
A lot of the convention was a blur. I was unfamiliar with panels and so I attended very few. I did sing ‘ConFrancisco’ (to the tune of San Francisco) with a few hundred other fen. I got to see footage of the Delta Clipper and a satellite videophone call from Sir Arthur C.Clarke. I watched the Masquerade. Of course, looking back, there were panels I should have gone to, participants I hadn’t even heard of yet. J. Michael Straczinsky was promoting a new TV show called Babylon 5. But that’s the joy of Worlcon, there is always more than you can experience. A Worldcon is an unwieldy beast, and I later heard of some problems with the running of it, but in my blissful first-time congoer ignorance everything was shiny and new. To me it was more than just an event. It was a gateway into a whole other world. I live here still.
SF/SF Issue 29, September 2006