Sunday, June 30, 2013

17: SciFi is Not for Sissies; Westercon 66: A Skeptic Comes Home

Bacchanalia Unbound at the Ale-Moot

“Adonie, divine and most horrible of lords, we beseech thee in the name of thy son on Earth, The Emperor, that reigns eternally, Emp Adams, to make of this day a wonder for mortals who worship you…We importune thee, Adonie, on this festive occasion of the first Ale-Moot, to keep our heads together despite what we may quaff…Father of the divine Emp, on thy name grant us a day of beauty and happiness!  Amen, let it be so.”  The Emperor’s Invocation opening the first (and only) SASSAFRASS Ale-Moot, June 1975

“Memories from that time are mostly vague and often are only remembered stories detached from any real personal identification.  I have never resolved what part I played. I usually think I simply identified the core without being a member of it, at best an observer. And so your recollections of the stories/myths from that time evoke a curious nostalgic pathos for whatever I was and probably still am. At the center of the Bacchae is the running away from self to be absorbed into the collective and in the story once joined to the collective the self is torn apart...well, sorry about that, not sure where that came from, let's simply say the Emp never resolved the Dionysian/Apollonian dichotomy.”  John “The Emp” Adams, June 2013

The Ale-Moot, the Con-Dome and Feed

In early 1975, there was a “coup” in SASSAFRASS: Outlaw Fandom managed to convince everyone else in the Society that a different approach would be preferable and new leadership was needed.  So instead of the usually elected “President, Vice President, etc.”, an “Emperor” was somehow “appointed”.  My recollection of these events is almost non-existent, but what we do know from extant club notes is that shortly after the new regime (including a “Lord Prime Minister” and “Ministratrix of Protocol”) took over, an alternative to the annual December Yule-moot was planned.  Instead of being inspired by the Old Norse pagan midwinter festival or the feast of the nativity, it would take for inspiration the Summer Solstice, and celebrate beer, bashing and bawdiness. 

The event started around noon at a park on the first day of summer.  It began with The Emp’s “coronation”, culminating in his invocation/prayer (which is excerpted above).  Next came a fencing exhibition, followed by a banquet and some songs from Happy Jack.  There was bashing, poetry, an auction, and awards for best costumes.  It seems the police showed up toward late afternoon, but the event continued nonetheless.  There were a lot of people; “regular” fans mingled with Outlaw Fandom and it was considered a huge success, paving the way for The Emp’s acceptance for many months to come.  Something even bigger needed to come next.
Art by Jim McLeod; Layout by Terry Whittier

"Con-Dome One will take place in the breathtaking high Painted Desert of Arizona.  There will be no 'organized' huckster rooms, art exhibits or masquerade, although we encourage such events to happen spontaneously.  However, we shall present to those who attend such incredible experiences as the first night's mass pilgrimage to The Dome, planned so that the setting sun will present a spectacular visual display, a visit to nearby Indian ruins where attendees will be able to physically touch the remnants of a civilization that perished 10,000 years before, and a nightly light show consisting of the undiminished glory of 100,000 stars highlighted by a continuing barrage of meteoric flaming stripes."

Emboldened by the success of the Ale-moot, SASSAFRASS decided to sponser its first convention, scheduled to be held on the Ale-moot's one year anniversary.  But of course, it wouldn’t be like any other convention.  Dubbed Con-Dome, this would be held in the desert outside Flagstaff, Arizona.  Some of us knew the owner of a geodesic dome out in the middle of nowhere, and convinced him to host a science-fiction convention.  We threw out everything anyone knew about conventions, and made up a program and schedule of events unlike any other.  We sent out invitations to about 20 writers; about half of them responded: none of them accepted our “offer” and several of them were vitriolic and insulting with what they wrote back.  Of course, this probably had a lot to do with the invitations themselves; they were supposed to consider themselves “honored” to even be invited, and would have to absorb on their own most of the costs involved in making the somewhat difficult trek there.  Needless to say, Con-Dome had to be canceled.

As was mentioned earlier this month, I chose not to read Mira Grant’s Blackout because it was the third in a trilogy, so instead I’m reading the first in that trilogy, Feed, which was nominated for a Hugo when it first appeared.  I knew my idiot glee regarding the three nominees I already read couldn’t last, and that seems to be the case here.  Which is not to say I don’t like this book, or don’t want to finish it, or even that I won’t read the next two books, but it is a “letdown”.  I’m almost done with it, and will most certainly complete it before Westercon starts in four days, and so will hold off with comments for another day or two.

In any case, after a month, tomorrow is my next scheduled appointment with Dr. Akrabu.  I was supposed to be done reading all five 2013 Hugo nominees, but as suspected, was unable to complete what he prescribed.  It remains to be seen how the good doctor will take this, or if he will be able to help me further.   

To Be Continued        

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