Westercon

My memories of fanzine lounges at conventions are mostly of empty rooms shoved Inside are mysterious publications and eager old fans who are full of interesting information once you get past the desperately lonely look they give you when you first cross the threshold, not unlike that of a hermit trying to remember what it is that’s so familiar about that bipedal shape approaching. It’s not their fault; you just may very well be the first person they’ve seen all day… maybe you brought food and water, news of the outside world?

Perhaps I exaggerate a little. I have had interesting chats and once even read a zine or two at some Worldcon or other…but the point remains that the fanzine lounge is not generally known as a happening place.

Which is fine, I don’t go to the library for the dancing, either. But it was a pleasant surprise to find that the fanzine lounge at Westercon was on the party floor. During the course of the convention, the fanzine lounge and the perennial League of Evil Geniuses, Wine Party and general Den of Fabulosity room became the two places to end up as the dances or parties waned. Mornings it seemed as though folks where ending up there after breakfast before wandering off to their panels, so it was not unlike a auxiliary con suite in a way. Except that unlike most of the con suites I’ve seen, we had booze (I am informed that Things Are Different elsewhere) and well, fanzines.

Chris Garcia opened the lounge early, but since he seems to have spent little or no time in it for the first 24 hours, we’re not going to be counting that toward his brownie points.

Anyway his head has gotten big enough as it is.

Aside from Garcia (who had no place else to go between panels after all), at any given moment poking your head into the lounge might turn up Jason Schachat, Derek McCaw, Leigh Ann Hildebrand, John Hertz, Kevin Standlee, Frank Wu, Daniel Spector, Wendy Newton and a host of other folks whose names I’m forgetting but who represented a pretty wide swath of fannish interests. Conversations ranged from the uber-smofy “What to do about the future of Westercon,” a discussion reiterated over the weekend in several different incarnations, to wrestling and the Chris Benoit tragedy, to comics and whether the current run of The Hulk is the Best Ever (damned close), to a delightful discussion of theology involving Anthony Kopec, Leigh Ann and myself that has forever changed the way I will look at rainbows.

Fanzines were read and distributed. John Hertz gave me a gorgeous issue of File 770 and we discussed the pros and cons of online vs. paper, natch. As is traditional, a fanzine was created in the lounge itself, with a piece by Writer GOH Jay Lake. Over the next few days we all even got to be (or not be) Jay for a while.

There was also filking, drawing, blogging, kvetching and all manner of other fannish activity. The room got a little smoffy now and then but there were also a couple of folks that I’m fairly certain may never have seen a fanzine before.

And the rest of the convention? What I saw of it was great.

The only issue I ran into was a problem with the computers or something that temporarily slowed registration, but it was soon solved. Plus the membership packet came with a trade paperback courtesy of local small press Night Shade Books — a choice between Jay Lake’s Trial of Flowers and Elizabeth Bear’s The Chains That You Refuse — so there was no reason to be bored during the wait.

The Jay and Frank Experience did a panel where we all got to see the truly gorgeous super-luxury Traife Buffet edition of Greetings From Lake Wu and witness an awesome display of hair prowess. The parties, though generally quieter than those I gravitate towards, were all good, the most boisterous being the ones hosted, cohosted or generally enabled by Kevin Roche and Andy Trembley, of course.

I missed the Masquerade but there were plenty of good hall costumes. The dance on Friday closed down too early for me to judge, and the Saturday dance ended early due to a mishap that left Wendy in a wheelchair with a broken foot. Which would have been sad, but she took it quite well — mostly by making Tadao feel guilty for encouraging her to get up and dance in the first place. She tried the same trick on me but there was no guilt left over, thank goodness.

Where BayCon was too large for the venue, Westercon fit it very nicely, with the advantage that a lot of the attendees already knew the layout and “the other second floor” and all the good shortcuts.

Once again I found the staff of the hotel to be genuinely wonderful. From the waitress who seated me for breakfast the first day who told us she was trying to convince her husband to come down for the charity Serenity screening, all the way to the nice gentleman who helped guide Mette, Jason and me back to the lobby when we opened the wrong door and found our drunk selves suddenly in the bowels of the hotel in some sort of service corridor at 3 a.m.

Speaking of which, having a 7-11 a block away was a lifesaver.

I would love to attend another convention of that size at the San Mateo Marriot.

When Wednesday eventually rolled around and it was past time to go, Garcia, Wendy, Tadao and myself managed to squeeze a few more hours of pure lounging out of the room, lingering while the last people trickled by on their way home. But even as we left, exhausted, the Last Gnome Standing party was just getting started.

Westercon is alive and well as far as I’m concerned.

~España Sheriff

SF/SF Issue #49, August 15, 2007