Baltimore Boogie

Note --This con report is intended for my apa, SFPA. It contains boring personal detail. Read or skim at your own risk.

Prologue

At my annual review this year in late July, my boss informed me that they wanted me to be certified as a trainer in our SGML word processing program so they could stop having to fly people out from the vendor's Ann Arbor office and pay them. Unfortunately, most of the dates they listed bumped right into the Jewish holidays which would have meant waiting until November. Then I noticed on their web site that the two classes I needed to take were also being offered in August right after worldcon. For only four countable days of vacation, the trip would be a total of 16 days: 7 in Baltimore, and 9 days in Ann Arbor (broken up by a weekend in Chicago with friends).

The week before I left, I sat next to someone at work using the coolest portable computer I'd ever seen -- I immediately thought how great it would be to have one for my trip, and before the week was out I'd ordered one from the web (for $100 cheaper than the person whose original computer I'd seen, which did not amuse him.) For all you techies out there, its category is "handheld personal computer" (or HPC), and the specs are: 100 Mhz Hitachi processor, 16 Meg of RAM, 10 Meg of ROM, and a built-in modem. Plus an MS word processor, spreadsheet, calendar manager, and small web browser, and software and a cable that enable you to hook it up to your desktop PC and automatically synchronize new or updated files. What really sold me on it, though, were its weight (less than 1.5 pounds) and the 8-1/4" touch-typeable keyboard. To give you an idea just how portable it is, the case I bought for it enables me to wear it on my belt! (If this description inspires you to order one, go to www.laptopstore.com and when you call their 800 number, tell Ivan I sent you :-> )

Wednesday, August 5

Thus fully equipped, I flew off to worldcon. Besides inedible food, my flights were fine, and Eve had considerately waited for me to arrive past 7 pm so we could have dinner together. Despite the horror stories most people had about trying to get hotel rooms at Bucconeer, Eve and I definitely won the sweepstakes, with probably the best hotel situation I've ever had at worldcon: we were on the second floor of the hotel that hosted the major bid parties on the first floor, so we never had to take an elevator to get to our room or to get from our room to the major bid parties!

Just as we were heading out the hotel lobby door and talking about finding a place for dinner, we bumped into NY fans Moshe Feder and Lise Eisenberg, Toronto fan Hope Leibowitz, and Portland fans David Levine and Kate Yule. Moshe had read a review of a Baltimore restaurant called "The Purple Orchid" that featured "French and Oriental" food, and we tagged along with their party. The food turned out to be mostly French (with a daily special of ostrich!) and was excellent, although unfortunately Eve and I hadn't saved as much room for dessert as we thought we had.

Once back at the hotel, we discovered that our phone didn't work for long distance and I grabbed my Beanie Baby flamingo. I'd found the flamingo at the gift shop of the St. Louis hotel where I was stuck overnight on my way to Deep South. I figured I'd use it and come up with something twisted for the "Flamingo Flock-up" being hosted by the 2001 Boston/Orlando bid. Sure enough, I was inspired to make a vest like the ones worn by Boston supporters, a small button that said "Friends don't let friends run worldcons" and a nametag for "SmofCon 19" (the Smofcon number for the year 2001) for "SMOFlamingo, Orlando, FL." Oh, and a bowtie. It was a big hit at the Boston bid party. As usual, I bumped into bunches of people I hadn't seen in a while. And the room was very pink. I also popped by next door to see my erstwhile Exhibits "boss" Philadelphia's co-bid chair Joni Dashoff.

Thursday, August 6

Eve went off for her usual early-morning jog (*grrr*) and eventually I got up too and we went out to breakfast at a small, uncrowded place which turned out to be woefully understaffed. After we ordered, Boston fans Mark and Priscilla Olson walked in and jumped the line to sit with us. Despite ordering significantly before them, their food came before ours and by the time ours came, Eve's was cold and she had to leave for her 10 a.m. Ops shift. The rest of us went over to the Convention Center, me to register, pick up my various ribbons, and report for my 11 a.m. panel on "Fanspeak."

The panel was convivial but given its makeup besides me (fan historians Joe Siclari and our own Richard Lynch, old-time fan Roger Sims, and slightly less old-time fan jan howard "wombat" finder) I suppose it wasn't surprising that it drifted more into obscure fannish history than defining possibly confusing fan terms. After the panel, it was off to Ops to sign up for some shifts I'd promised friend Dave Gallaher, who was running the department. (At one point, someone asked me why I had so many ribbons and I replied "I know too many people." Besides Ops, I had a ribbon as a Program Participant, one for Exhibits for having run the commercial exhibits area when asked by Joni, and one for Events, helping out LA fan Bobbi Armbruster with the Hugos.) In order to have the same room 24 hours a day, Ops was stationed in the Hilton, one of the furthest hotels from the Convention Center, and after signing up for the shifts, I stopped by our hotel to drop off some stuff and see if Eve was around for lunch.

She wasn't, so I went back to the CC to order a private-joke button for Baltimore in '83 worldcon chair Michael J. Walsh to commemorate his answer to questions about the current Baltimore worldcon: "I'm gleefully not involved!" Then I went to get my usual presents-for-work buttons from dealer Nancy Lebowitz, and Eve convinced me to order a ring from jeweler Laurie Edison, which I'd been faunching after since Westercon. While wandering around for a lunch expedition I bumped into British fan Tim Illingworth, who was about to try to drag his wife Marcia, who was running Handicap Access, away from her post for lunch. We agreed that after her latest crisis she would meet us at the Wharf Rat, a beer-and-sandwich place directly across the street from the convention center. This turned out to be the best people-watching location of the whole convention, sitting out on their sidewalk cafe and watching everyone go in and out of the convention center and past us on the street. Eventually, British fan Mike Ford stopped by and had a beer but Marcia never made it.

I left the restaurant to report to my Ops shift, which turned out to be incredibly quiet, giving me a chance to work on my con report on the toy and show it off. (I'm pretty sure the shift head will end up buying one.) Back at the room, Eve turned out to still not feel well but we decided to see if food would help and found a small Italian restaurant where her appetite would just about handle a salad. At the bid parties, we spotted Patty Wells sporting a mock-Pirate-typeset gizmo like the ones on the badges that said "Crew Member" or "Staff," only hers said "Jumped Ship." (Later in the con, she gave us ones that said "Mutineer" but after someone pointed out that once you mutinied you had to take over running the ship, I was a lot more hesitant about wearing mine!)

Boston and Philadelphia being next door to each other, we went straight from one to the other. We noticed some boxes of matzo on various tables on the tables in the Philly party and stood there for a few minutes trying to figure out the connection to their bid, which otherwise featured obvious Philly food like cheesecake and TastyKakes. I asked bid comm person Gary Feldbaum and he said to ask someone else, who replied "Well, we had a lot of it and it was free so we decided to put it out." Huh?

There were also a few other bid parties on the roof, so we headed up there and bumped into Gay Haldeman who immediately went to get Mike Glicksohn, a long-time Toronto fan who had been wanting to meet Eve since their days loccing FOSFAX and who had been in Gainesville a few times visiting the Haldemans but had never had a chance to get together. Meanwhile, I got in a conversation with George RR Martin, who gave me lots of advice on what to see in Australia and New Zealand once he heard we were going to Aussiecon. Aussie fan Stephen Boucher wandered by and made a face when I told him what George was recommending. "I'll save you the trip," he said. "Here's what you'll see in New Zealand: tree, tree, rock, tree, rock, tree, sheep."

Friday, August 7

We ate a leisurely breakfast on what was going to be the busiest day of the con for me: a lunch date with locals from a copyediting list (CE-L) I belong to, the Hugos rehearsal, and the TAFF/DUFF auction, not to mention a 5 pm panel and the Hugo ceremony itself. And I'm not even counting the Regency dance at 2:30, which was sacrificed to my busy social life! The neo I'd met at my professional conference in San Diego, who was at his first worldcon, and I walked over, meeting the third fan on the list and the, as it turns out, two other list members at a nice low-key bistro, where we had some great conversation and everyone was duly impressed with my toy.

I rushed back from lunch and was only a little late to the Hugos rehearsal, which went very well once past the awkward stage choreography part. I found out that I was going to be in charge of getting the presenters from the audience to backstage in time for the awards they needed to present. (I also found out later that I had been named Deputy Manager, which was news to me!)

The combined charity auction (TAFF, DUFF, SFWA Medical, Interfilk, and ASFA) had already started when I got there, but I ended up running some of the items for the auctioneers. One of them turned out to be Mark Bernstein, a guy who posts to the Usenet newsgroup rec.arts.sf.fandom that I also read. In a discussion of great ice cream places, he had posted a message about a good one in Ann Arbor, and I sent him mail saying thanks for the tip because I was going to be in the area for a training class related to work. He had written back to say that he worked for the place at which I was going to be trained! He turned out to be a very nice guy and we discovered we knew a lot of the same people, thanks to the fact that when I lived in Atlanta I used to hang around with a lot of the Dorsai Irregulars at midwest conventions. I got off easy at the auction, having only seen a pair of earrings that I wanted to buy, but had to rush to get to my 5 pm panel.

The panel was one I've done before, Religion in Fandom, and as usual, it was packed. Unfortunately, the moderator wasn't very strong and allowed audience members to ramble on with generalizations about Christians or atheists way longer than was useful for the panel. However, we made some good points--about the growing acceptance of religious observance among fans, and the fact that the con comm is willing to accommodate religious fan groups but is understandably reactive about this rather than proactively scheduling it without indicated interest--and the attendees seemed pleased. Then, the sprint started. I managed to rush back to the hotel, shower, get gussied up for the Hugo ceremony, and arrive back at the Convention Center for the reception all in 40 minutes, which may have been a new land-speed record.

Hugo Ceremony

Aside from nominees and hangers-on bringing way more people into the reception (and therefore into the reserved seating area) than had been anticipated, it went well (thanks in some measure to hostess Eve). I had a brief chat with the Hugo designer, Mike Rosen, who was looking somewhat lost, about the future of the Conservative Jewish movement, which was easily one of the odder things I've talked about at a Hugo reception! ( Administrators John Lorentz and Ruth Sachter had had to go out to the designer's house to get the plaques put on the awards and he was the one person I wasn't sure I'd be able to identify to grab from the audience to take his bow. Ruth said not to worry, he was the quintessential-looking Jewish boy, and when he showed up at the rehearsal I was able to spot him right away just from that description!)

Bobbi told me she wanted the first five or so presenters backstage at the beginning of the ceremony so they would be on time. However, when I looked at the script, I noticed that the first two presentations were from Forrie Ackerman for the Big Heart Award and Bob Madle to talk about First Fandom (whose awards were actually going to be presented at Dragon*Con). I assured her that I'd have plenty of time to get the next presenters up to do their awards despite her response that Madle had promised not to talk for more than 2 minutes. Sure enough, I was right, as Madle rambled on long past 2 minutes. The ceremony went smoothly, and Toastmaster Charles Sheffield good-naturedly wore a full pirate costume including a black-curled wig, red coat, and realistic scar. Our own Lynchi won for Fanzine, and my only disappointment was the Best Novel Hugo: fond as I am of Joe Haldeman, I had really hoped it was Walter Jon Williams's year. The ceremony was a quick 94 minutes long, but I told Bobbi that even if everyone would therefore like her ceremony better than mine, my toastmistress could beat her toastmaster any day.

The site selection ballots were being counted just before the Hugos, and Boston fan (and former worldcon chair) Leslie Turek, who was going to be helping, had told me that she might be a little late to the ceremony, at which she was the designated acceptor for Campbell nominee (and eventual winner) Mary Doria Russell. So, when I saw Leslie at the foot of the stage right after the ceremony, I asked her whether we were happy campers, and she responded no. My heart sank. Not only was I a Friend of the Boston bid, but I also don't feel that the Philadelphia committee is experienced or talented enough to run a good worldcon. Past the top four or five people on their bid (some of whom are friends), the competency takes a real dive. Plus, most of the usual Floating Permanent Worldcon Committee people who usually help rescue inexperienced worldcon committees were either part of or seriously supporting the Boston bid and are therefore unlikely to go leaping into the fray. The vote was heavily weighted by local fans, who voted not by which would be the better worldcon, but by which was closest to them.

Eve and I went back to the room and then over to the Hugo Losers party at the Hilton, which has for the past several years been hosted by the next year's worldcon. Stephen greeted me glumly at the door -- turned out they'd had a lot of trouble with the hotel, which had changed their room three times and was unable to provide a second bartender, not to mention charging them $5 for each drink no matter what. Partygoers were not happy with the long lines, and I suggested to Stephen that they let people know that this was the hotel's fault, not the fault of the Aussies, as Eve and I had done with the convention center prices in the MagiCon Green Room. Chair Perry Middlemiss announced that as well as the fact that a cash bar would start at the change of the shift, which didn't go over too well. Their final tab was a little over $2000!!!

Saturday, August 8

What I thought would be a leisurely day thanks to one panel and no work assignments didn't begin auspiciously. After getting in around 2:30 am from the various parties, I heard rustling noises at about 5:30. Eve was heroically trying not to waken me but was feeling so ill that she had decided to go to a clinic as soon as it opened. I'll leave the details to her but it was a strange morning!

We finally got to the convention center around 11. Our first errand was the business meeting, to find out whom the Philly committee had chosen as their guests of honor. We found that out, and also got to listen to the very end of the discussion of the proposal on eliminating the zone rotation for worldcon bidding. After the meeting I ended up hanging out with various SMOFs for a while talking about Convention Disasters We Have Known and finally got the chance to ask Stephen and Ben some questions about traveling to Australia. (Cross your fingers for the direct flight from LA to Melbourne that United has evidently been promising!)

My first errand after that was to see if the button I'd ordered was ready yet. It finally was so I got it and took it down to the dealers room to give to Michael, who was duly pleased. Unfortunately, the other thing I wanted from the dealers room, the second book in the l'Engle Wrinkle in Time series, was not to be found, much to my surprise. I also scurried off to see if someone had outbid me for the 70-year anniversary Pooh book I'd bid on for silent auction, brought over from the UK by TAFF delegate Maureen Kincaid-Speller. Depressingly, someone had. Then I bumped into George, who told me something really tacky to cheer me up: that Sheffield wanted to do a First Fandom shtick in the Hugo ceremony like the plague routine in "Monty Python and the Holy Grail," complete with the presenter brought out on a gurney and a gopher with a mallet. Given my experiences with First Fandom and the Hugos my year, I laughed immoderately. When I was telling the story around, fan artist and dealer Brad Foster solemnly told me that he thought chair Peggy Rae Pavlat was right that it would have been really tasteless in the Hugo ceremony...but that he thought was should do it in the masquerade :->

My 3 pm panel on Conrunning 101 went in the direction of generalized convention committee formation and trust, as opposed to some I've been on that offered more practical advice. Hopefully the audience still got something out of it. I went back to the hotel to see how Eve was doing and she managed to stagger out to dinner with Florida fans Joe Siclari, Edie Stern, and Melanie Herz. The food was good and the Caesar salad was excellent. However, the white board in the foyer looked like the Monty Python "spam" routine except that it featured crab for every dish--appetizer, soup, salad, and entrees--instead of spam.

For some reason, they were holding the traditional Old Phart/Former Worldcon Chair party the last night of the convention instead of dead dog night. Joe rushed back hoping to make it in time for the group photo, which I later heard he barely made. Eve and I had gone to the hotel first so we got to the party a little later. We hung around for a little bit before Eve went off to bed and I went to another hotel to the Cincinnati Fantasy Group suite, where we discussed elevated topics like what women sf writers qualify for SFWA Grandmaster status (you must be alive, have reached a certain number of years in the field, and have contributed significantly to the field). Andre Norton is the only one so far, and we really couldn't come up with another one. I also got a chance to pump Perry on tourist things to do in Australia, and he was very kind about providing helpful details. I'm sure he was sick of having to answer tourist-oriented questions all weekend, but at least I wasn't quite as bad as the woman who evidently had come up to their table and asked what language was spoken in Australia!

Sunday, August 9

The only time I was. able to fit in a meal with the Canadian fan I'd met at my work conference in San Diego was Sunday breakfast, so I was up at an unghodly hour to meet him at the Hilton coffee shop prior to my scheduled 10 a.m. Ops shift. Eve and I were scheduled to work the shift together, but she didn't feel well enough and given how dead quiet it had been in Ops, we figured it would not be a problem and it wasn't. Luckily, I was rescued from tedium after about an hour by a sweet little gopher who said he didn't have much to do and would be glad to hang out in Ops for a while. I immediately whisked off to the convention center and managed to catch up with Mary Kay Kare, who had run the charity auction. On discovering that the woman who had outbid me had still not picked up the book, I told her that I was willing to increase my bid to outbid her and MK agreed, told me where to find it, and the Pooh book was mine! Then it was off to my final panel: Religion in Science Fiction Literature.

This had been worrying me since I'd gotten my schedule: I'd done the panel before but the description indicated that we'd be talking specifically about books, and I must admit that I haven't been reading extensively lately. But the really daunting part was the panelists: Joe Mayhew, a Baltimore fan and ex-Catholic seminarian, author James Morrow, and author Gene Wolfe. Yikes! Luckily, moderator Morrow focused the panel on talking about science versus God, and that I could talk about. I don't think I made a total fool of myself, which was a great relief. I did find it somewhat amazing that Mayhew twice used characters and plot in Wolfe's books to illuminate points he was making with Wolfe sitting right there on the panel!

After the panel, a couple stopped me to say how much they'd enjoyed what I had to say, and asked what books I'd written. They were genuinely shocked when I told them I was just a fan, as they evidently had no idea that fans were "allowed" on panels like that! On my way through the convention center I bumped into TAFF winner Maureen and her husband Paul, DUFF winner Terry Frost, and Bay Area fan Dave Clark, who was offering Charlie Brown's Locus Hugo award for general fondling. We then walked over to the rather teeny Fanzine Lounge at the Hilton.

Eve and I had been planning for some time to go out to the 'burbs to eat at a kosher Chinese restaurant that I'd eaten at a few years before and still dreamed about. Ben and British fan Kim Campbell were going to accompany us. With much regret, though, she was still not feeling well enough. The rest of us caught a cab, which turned out to be closer to $30 than the $20 most of the locals had been estimating. During dinner, we talked about the fact that it might have been cheaper to rent a car. Little did we know how prescient we were! I also went over to say hi to Hugo designer Mike Rosen, who had told John and Ruth that he'd be there, as his synagogue was taking him out for a farewell dinner before he moved to Phoenix.

The delightfully meat-laden dinner over, I got some takeout soup for Eve and when the cashier called a cab for us, the company assured us there was one in the neighborhood they'd be sending shortly. Fifteen minutes later, I went back into the restaurant to ask them to call again, and again we were assured the cab was on its way. Fifteen minutes after that, I went back into the restaurant, which this time was told by the company that the cab had been redirected, they had no more cabs, and we should call the only other cab company in town!!! Their line was continuously busy and just when I was trying to figure out how to explain to Ben and Kim outside that we were stranded, a voice behind me said "Waiting for a cab?" It was Rosen, who offered to nip home to get his wife's larger car and drive us back, about a 25-minute ride. I hope this act redounds to his credit in heaven!

When we got back to the hotel, I ran upstairs to deliver Eve's soup and change out of my religious girl outfit. Then it was upstairs to a party in Moshe and Lise's room. I traded fannish gossip with Bruce Pelz and Tom Whitmore for a while, and then John Hertz reminded me and DUFF guy Terry Frost about dropping by the CFG suite. That's where I ended up spending the rest of the evening, with a brief foray down to the "Dead Parrot" party (which was combined with the dead dog filk and therefore really noisy) so Mike Walsh could introduce me to Hal Haag, who had founded the Bucconeer bid and had been the only one of the Triumvirate Exhibits area heads to actually reply to my email in a reasonably timely way.

Back at the CFG suite, we realized the evening was winding down when during a discussion of people's burgeoning colds, we started giggling about various possibilities besides NyQuil and DayQuil (the latter of which half the people in the conversation had never heard of before). When you start laughing at things like "BrunchQuil," it's time to go to bed.

Monday, August 10

Eve was up early to pack and take her meds, and she kindly let me sleep more and then kept me company while I had breakfast a little later on. We were somewhat surprised at the lack of lines at the front desk when we went to straighten out our bill, but we should have known that it was a bit too early for fannish awakening. By the time I went down a little later try to get them to fix the coin slide for the dryer while doing my laundry, the lobby was packed. Thanks to this delay, I ended up running back and forth from the hotel's laundry room to the deli around the corner where I was having a previously scheduled lunch with Pittsburgh fans Laurie and Jim Mann, but everything worked out in the end.

When my business trip had first been proposed, I had thought it was great that I'd be in town an extra day on Sun's dime, but it turned out that the dispirited Boston fans left earlier than they had planned, so there was hardly anyone staying around until Tuesday. I walked down to the harbor with Boston fan Tony Lewis and his family and then checked out a mall before walking back in the general direction of the hotel. Amazingly, I bumped into Mark Olson, Perry, and Stephen (the latter of whom had been supposed to be leaving that morning but had convinced his company to let him stay an extra couple of days) and agreed to meet the latter two at the Marriott for a dinner expedition.

I was barely back in the room when a violent thunderstorm hit. I took the opportunity to wash my hair, pack most of my suitcase, and continue working on my con report on the toy. It was exceptionally cool to just plug the toy into the Holiday Inn room phone's data port and read my email! Over at the Marriott, I was both surprised and pleased to find George and Parris, and Jane and Scott Dennis and Jane's son and a friend. We ate at a seafood chain that actually featured several dishes without crab in them, and the company and the food were both wonderful. We heard a scurrilous Lee Smoire story from Scott, found out about George's "thermal activity" on a New Zealand business trip, and I saw my first Australian Yowie courtesy of Parris.

Summary

While there was nothing particularly wrong with Bucconeer, the con never really came together for me. I felt like I was attending a con in a strobe light: "Go here and do this. Then go here and do that." I suspect this was because of a combination of the lack of a con-generated central meeting place in the convention center and the fact that the hotels were so spread out. Nevertheless, I had my usual good time at worldcon, seeing bunches of people I hadn't seen in a while, trading fannish gossip, and generally hanging out with congenial folks, although I would have liked to have spent more time in the Fanzine Lounge.

Janice's 18th Sorta Annual Worldcon Awards

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