LACon IV

Tuesday

In order to avoid the worst of the morning commute, Joe Rhett and I started out of the city shortly after midnight. After a surprisingly nice drive along the relatively deserted Highway 5, a three hour nap, a truly terrible Nations burger and an even worse gas-station coffee experiment, we stopped for a surprisingly nice breakfast of tofu, rice and vegetables at a place called Eat Well (Because Your Mother Told You To) and then proceeded to miss our exit and briefly\ visited scenic Costa Mesa. With all of this out of our system, we finally arrived at the Anaheim Hilton a little worse for wear but happy to be off the truly frightening Los Angeles freeways.

We navigated the Kafkaesque Hilton system to end up in our room on the sixth floor exhausted and excited, and in my case with a lot of work still left ahead in order to get ready for the art show.

Although I had packed the majority of my possessions for this one week, I had to forget something: in this case, the box containing all my makeup. Also, most of my artwork was in various states of completion. So after a trip to Target, a stop at a passable Italian place for lunch, and a lightning quick dash through registration (no line!), we had our badges and were officially members of the Con. Sleep would have been the next order of business, except the artwork had not magically gotten itself into hanging shape nor had the paperwork filled itself out. But, lo! After a few hours of working on this, Joe announced that there were honest-to-god parties going on. “On Tuesday?” I scoffed.

Still, procrastination is the sweetest of siren songs so I dashed from the room and wandered through the Denver and Chicago in ‘08 bid parties, which were all good… but ended up at the Australia in 2010 room. Does it make me old that 2010 still seems futuristic to me? Never mind, don’t answer that. A lovely Chardonnay took the edge off my urgent need to get art finished, and a lively conversation with Kevin Roche about, among other things, the intricacies of site selection, made the time fly. When I looked at the clock it was nearly midnight. Egad… back to the room to drunkenly finish the artwork and paperwork… without a doubt, this must be how Picasso did it.

Wednesday

I set the alarm for just past eight a.m., woke, showered and put more final touches on pieces that were “finished” a year ago, thinking all the while of what Da Vinci said: “Art is never finished, only abandoned.” Lust for glory won out over the desire to abandon, barely, but hunger trumped both and with an hour to go before the artist check-in an exploratory jaunt to Café Oasis was in order. The breakfast buffet was tempting but overpriced as were most things on the menu, so I got a fruit bowl, Joe got an omelet and we both drank enormous amounts of coffee to offset the healthfulness of it all.

The Art Show had already assigned locations, so getting in early to hang art wasn’t critical, but it was still nice to skip the usual line to enter control sheets in the computer and to have access to a still not quite worked-to-death art show staff.

Self-consciousness ran rampant as I wandered to and from the staff desk getting clips and pegs and caught glimpses of the art already hanging. Picacio, Gurney, Freas, and other household names lined the show, but also artists whose works and names I did not yet recognize, but whose art is just incredible. Suddenly my little yaffs seemed like kindergarten finger paintings. The Nippon contingent had two artists hanging with some really gorgeous pieces. I goggled at the tables of 3-D art as well: Bronze and copper sculptures, six-foot tall, of dragon and Predators; tables of pottery, wooden rocket ships, glassware and wonderful indescribable things. Quilts, fabric arts, jewelry, bowls with hands — awe soon won out over envy as I oohed and aahed at all the shiny.

Once checked out of the art show I was free, with no further responsibilities on my plate until the hotel bill was due on Monday — at which point I would presumably have to start cleaning dishes or hotel rooms since the Dealers’ Room was right next door to the Art Show and all the magic wards in the world would not protect my pocketbook. Booksellers, publishers, clothiers, leatherworkers, jewelers and silversmiths filled the hall and magazines, swords, cloaks, books, DVDs, CDs, posters and a million other items on display were suddenly on my must-have list.

After temporarily struggling free of the magnetic field of rampant consumerism we call the Hucksters’ Room, I made it to Opening Ceremonies. These included a Tom Corbett: Space Cadet episode in honor of the late Media GOH. Since James Gurney had not yet arrived at the convention, and Howard DeVore had also passed away earlier this year, Connie Willis was the only guest to speak. After the official gavelpassing from last year’s Glasgow WorldCon to Chris Maguire, she took the stage to enthusiastic applause. She was charming and lovely. This is the first time I had heard her speak and I was pleased to discover that her presence and wit were just as delightful as on the written page. After a sing-along to the Space Cadet Marching Song (no, really) we left the room in high spirits. Singalongs may be silly… well, ok, there’s no “may” about it, they are silly. But I have to admit they are a pretty good way to loose the social constraints on the audience and set a precedent of member interaction. To quote David Mamet: “If you don’t make it yourself, it ain’t fun, it’s entertainment.”

After a quick bite at the convention hall Space Port, which was surprisingly reasonable and tasty, I attended my first panel of the convention. It turned out to be a truly incestuous affair, since the panel included our esteemed editor Chris Garcia plus one of our contributors Andrew Trembley, and Lloyd Penney in the audience. The subject was blogs and efanzines. The overall feeling from the panelists, who also included James Bacon, Theresa Nielsen Hayden and Lisa Deustch Harrigan was, unsurprisingly, that ezinedom is a Good Thing. The discussion veered in various directions and included some interesting zine and fannish history, and much fun was had by all. My second panel for the day was Someday My Prints Will Come, which had BArean artist Ctein and was quite informative.

After taking a nap to recuperate and changing into my glad rags, I ventured out to see what the party scene was like. Chicago, Columbus and Denver all had parties with food and alcohol, and Denver in particular had a wide and interesting selection of beers. Kansas City had ice cream, root beer floats and hot fudge, which go a long way toward purchasing my immortal soul. The must-attend party was Hollister in 2008, which had very nice fruit snacks, sake, and lovely wines. Plus conversation that was essentially a continuation of the fascinating fanzine panel with all the dirty bits left in. Issues of the Pacheco Progress were available to peruse during the extremely infrequent conversational lulls. Eventually Chris “Karisu” Willrich, Richard Man, Jade Falcon and Chain all joined the festivities, making it a Bay Area members club by the time one a.m. rolled around and I turned into a turnip. I would have braved the wee hours except that a trip to LA’s fabled Garment District was in the works for the morning, so I retired for the evening. My room was right on top of the Hollister party room and the faint sounds of merriment filtered in through the window and intertwined with my dreams.

Thursday

Thursday morning, it was time for my first proper trip to the Garment District. I had visited it briefly once before, but this time we were to hit Santee Avenue as I was specifically looking for boots. Jade Falcon and Eric Anderson were on the hunt for blood-red velvet for a Venice Carnivale costume and pirate shirts. Ah, fandom. The hot Los Angeles sun nearly killed us but we survived by running into a million stores one after the other like kids in a chocolate factory. In the actual fabric stores where the bolts are sold, I had no intention to purchase, but I enjoyed looking through all the lovely wools, cottons, silks, satins and velvets and some fabrics that were incredibly gorgeous riots of lace and organza and appliquéd flowers. Many of them were more akin to sculpture than anything as mundane sounding as “fabric.”

After we returned to the hotel exhausted, I slept for three hours. It was sorely needed but I managed to completely miss the Artist Reception and Chesley awards. It was evening when I woke up and the parties were in full swing by the time I got down to the fifth floor. My brand-spanking new boots came in handy as I bounced from party to party, ending up engrossed in conversation with Chris Garcia, Jason Schachat, Eric Anderson and a possibly Finnish person outside of the Evil Geniuses party, which had been the Hollister party the night before. I earned a Lab Rat ribbon for trying first a truly vile wasabi liqueur and then a liquorice one that was beyond delicious. Around 4 a.m. Andy Trembley started discreetly tidying up around us last drunken die-hards, and we finally took the hint and staggered off to our respective fates.

Friday

Friday I woke up early to attempt a breakfast in Café Oasis with some Browncoats, but I didn’t make it until 9 a.m. and couldn’t spot them. My recollection of their appearance was a bit of an alcohol induced blur so I was unsurprised to hear later that they had been there after all. I grabbed a bagel at the con suite instead and hoofed it to the Best Books of 2005/2006, which featured Charles N. Brown, Paula Guran, Gary K. Wolfe, Jonathan Strahan and Ellen Datlow. The panelists were very knowledgeable and made some intriguing suggestions that will undoubtedly make my reading list as they become available in the coming months. In fact, I already picked up the most recent issue of Fantasy & Science Fiction, which has Peter Beagle’s El Regalo in it. San Francisco publishers Nightshade Books and Tachyon Publications both got nice mentions as well.

Off I went to wander in circles between the second and third levels of the Hilton, which are a bit of a maze. Eventually I figured it out and listened to George R.R. Martin read a chapter from his next Song of Ice and Fire book. He didn’t use a microphone, so it was hard to hear at times, but the audience was rapt and filled the admittedly small room to overflowing.

The big event for the evening was the Masquerade, with Phil Foglio as MC. He did a great job keeping the audience entertained through the technical difficulties that inevitably arise during this type of event, telling bad jokes and even singing a song to the tune of the beer barrel polka during the backstage removal of Optimus Prime. There were just over 30 entries and the overall quality was superb, with some pretty high tech constructions and lovely workmanship as well as amusingly choreographed numbers. The Spamish Inquisition, which I had seen at BayCon, was a huge hit and well choreographed. Lounge Lizard was fast, funny and highly entertaining. The River Tam entry was good, and notable in that it was clear that she had considerable practice with her weapon. The big winner was the Trinity Blood group costume, which won Best in Show, Best Anime, and received a beautiful wedding kimono from the Nippon 2007 Worldcon. Others worth mentioning included Lady Tottington, Fosters Home for Imaginary Friends, Puss in Boots, Handmaiden of Sauron, and audience favorite Dancing With Celebrities from the Stars.

The ever-brilliant Lux After Dark players provided halftime entertainment. The dancers all wore can-can outfits adapted to the SF genre, so we were treated to a Princess Leia, Leelo from Fifth Element, and Borg dancers, as well as a couple of others I didn’t recognize. Rather than a couple of dance numbers, which is what I expected, they put on an hour-long musical play. Set more or less to the tune and story of Moulin Rouge, it was tweaked to a boy-meets-girl-on-a-space station concept. The sftnal trimmings were nominal outside of the costuming but the acting and singing were good and the pace quick and snappy. After the play, the judges came back with the results (a bit of a shock to those of us who have been to BayCon Masquerades and waited hours for results) and the evening drew to a close as I dragged my tired ass off to bed.

Saturday

Saturday morning the newsletter greeted us with a “Congratulations Denver” headline, signaling to our great dismay that the 2008 Worldcon will not be held in Hollister after all. We rended our garments and rubbed ashes in our hair and headed to the con suite for bagels.

My first panel of the day was Galaxy Quest Revealed, which was supposed to be a talk by Robert Gordon, but when he called in sick they decided to simply run the movie. Despite the fact that I own it on DVD, I got sucked in and watched the whole damned thing. Afterwards, feeling sheepish at having sat through a movie I own while at a con, I went over to something more unique: Implications of Global Warming with Gregory Benford, Rick Lynch and Kim Stanley Robinson. I recently read Forty Signs of Rain and Fifty Degrees Below, so I was greatly looking forward to this panel. I was not disappointed in the least; all the panelists agreed on the reality of climate change, the dire consequences and the fact that human action must take place to change it if the human species expects to survive. Robinson was far more optimistic about our ability to do so than Dr. Benford but the discussion over possible solutions was fascinating. Handouts regarding carbon capture and storage were provided and realclimate.org was recommended for further reading.

Brain full of global scientific goodness, I then headed over to something that would make even the best of brains burst, Harlan Ellison Tells Us, were I got what I thought were reasonably safe seats ensconced in the middle of the auditorium a couple of rows behind the camera. However Ellison came from left field (duh) and decided to conduct the first half of the talk from the camera stand, which he bonked with his microphone first. He was in fine form and did eventually make his way first to and then onto the stage, where he told the infamous gopher story. He seemed more content than in past years, possibly due to his settlement with AOL and his Grand Master award. Near the end of his talk he expressed his happiness with his career, his home and his life. He also announced that this would probably be his last convention. Given later events, this now seems more likely than it did at the time.

After that I wandered over to the Fan Fun auctions where Lloyd Penney seemed to be purchasing, well… everything. I did manage to snag a Frank Lurz print at an embarrassingly low price. Chris Garcia was there bidding on every zine offered and even winning a few. A few items were put away to be eBayed as the minimum bids were under the reasonable value of the item, but an issue of File 770 originally mailed to Avram Davidson brought a pretty penny and some NASA teddy bears went over surprisingly well.

My money spent, I left the auction and went over to The Renaissance in Hard SF, which failed to really grab my attention and lost me to The Singularity: What Is It and Why Should You Care, which had Cory Doctorow on it. It was really quite interesting although the definition of Singularity is still vague enough in people’s minds that it was sometimes difficult to stay on topic. Issues addressed included post and trans-humanism, genomodification/body tailoring and informational and computational singularities. Much fun was had by most and I left the panel feeling oddly recharged.

My last panel for the day was Crafting the Whedonverse, which involved Jane Espenson, Tim Minear and Loni Peristere speaking about their experiences on Buffy, Angel and Firefly. Marti Noxon could not make it but the panel was a huge success regardless, a fascinating look into the creative process and the specific culture within Mutant Enemy. Tim Minear’s speech cadences were almost disturbingly Whedon-like. Both writers discussed the level of oversight that Whedon brings to his creations, which was not much of a surprise to those of us who follow his work. As with his casts, the crew seems to have an endearing rapport with Whedon and with each other. At the end of the panel, Minear discussed his upcoming show Drive, the details of which are still quite secret but which seems to be potentially a very exciting show, unlike anything I’ve seen on TV recently.

After such a brain intensive day I was ready for a nap but the Hugo Awards ceremony was due to start at 8 p.m. and I had to decide what to wear. I rushed to the room and changed and then rushed back down to the auditorium. I arrived just late enough to miss the newly renamed Forrest J Ackerman Big Heart Award being presented to Forry. Connie Willis was a fabulous MC, keeping the festivities going while also managing to stall them and torture the nominees. The winners were all deserving and gracious, and in almost all categories my first or second choice. Whatever controversies his earlier onstage behavior may have provoked, Harlan was struck speechless and looked honestly touched when presented with his award. Betty Ballantine received a special award and gave a beautiful speech. She also looked amazing in a fabulous gold dress. John Scalzi accepted the Campbell award and tiara with panache, and David Levine rushed to the stage to receive his Hugo with quivering excitement. Morena Baccarin accepted for Serenity and BArean Frank Wu got his second Fan Artist Hugo.

Mentioned in the evening newsletter was the fact that there had been a Friday night dance, which few seemed to have been aware of. For the Saturday night dance large signs with arrows were parked at the feet of the escalators.

The parties were full, but my stamina was not up to navigating the maze of hallways and I crashed around midnight.

Sunday

The Battlestar Galactica panel was in a reasonably packed auditorium full of fans waiting for any tidbit on the new season. I arrived after the teaser had already been shown, but listening to the show writers describe the creative process was entertaining, and Ron Moore was an engaging speaker. We were told the third season will see the interior of a Cylon and that there is going to be more development of the Cylon religion and society.

Afterwards, I wandered over to the less well-attended but also highly entertaining Doctor Who panel with Paul Cornell and Shaun Lyon of the Outpost Gallifrey website. There was supposed to be a third panelist who never showed up, but his absence allowed the panel to essentially become a one-man talk. Cornell stood and spoke about working on the first and third series of Doctor Who and avoided spoilers for those of us who are still season two deprived. Although his episode, Fathers Day, was nominated for the Hugo, Steven Moffatt won for Empty Child/Doctor Dances, and Cornell read us some of the text messages he received from Moffet. His enthusiasm was infectious and he bobbed up and down as he spoke of his lifelong love of Doctor Who and working with Russell T. Davies, Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant and Billie Piper.

After that, the only thing left on the schedule was Closing Ceremonies, but I napped right through them; clearly I am getting old. This turned out to be the right decision, though, since the Dead Pluto party started at 7 p.m. and I awoke refreshed and headed down expecting a half dozen fen and a bowl of peanuts. To my delight the con suite was overflowing with diehard fans that refused to let the convention end. Sara Bruce, Lunatic E’sex, and various SMOFs kept the party going well into the night.

Two bottles of wine had sat neglected in the room all week, so those got broken out and I sat on the terrace with Sara Bruce and Tilly the Wonderdog and polished off first the red and then the white, with a little help from Andy Trembley and other staunch volunteers. After a lively, if alarming, political discussion with Allyn Llyr those present all agreed that a Revolution was in order. Not wanting to waste good booze on Molotov cocktails, however, I decided to leave that for another day and instead ended up in a conversation about autism with Kory Doyle that was as interesting as any panel of the convention. Just as the wine ran out, James Bacon walked by distributing beer like some alcoholic Santa. Around 2:30 a.m. my brain gave out and I declared the convention officially over for me. As I left I passed scores of fans still engaged in lively debate and I would not be surprised at all if dead dog lasted right through until dawn.

Like all good conventions, LACon IV left me both physically exhausted and mentally renewed. I didn’t sell one piece of art, but the work I did in preparation for the con and the art I saw while there filled me with new ideas. The panels full of creative people, some struggling to make it, others at the peak of their careers were an inspiration, and even the parties contributed to a feeling of endless potential, packed as they were with fen full of humor and outlandish ideas. SiliCon is just a month away, and LosCon the month after that, and then, who knows? Maybe it’s time to visit Colorado.

~España Sheriff

SF/SF Issue #30, December 8, 2006