Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Report from Westercon 66, Day 2

SASSAFRASSians at Westercon 66 (K Nahigian front/middle)

“For my part Westercon 66 is still all muddled; I am still sorting it out.  I floated through it in a half-daze, drained by heat and sleep debt, and feeling like an anthropologist: unsure, not quite at home, barely catching the humor, peering into the magic lantern from just outside.  Still, I had fun.  Certainly it was far better than the Westercons we put on, 28 and 32 years ago.  Goodgohd, am I that old?  Yes, yes I am.  Like most SF conventions it was an amazing intersect of art and intellect mixed with a fair measure of obsessive schlock, a kind of alchemy that these days seems just a bit out of my reach...Even the schlock has a certain raw, unpolished power.  It's honest schlock, schlock that flows from the heartfelt love of something.”  Ken Nahigian, Editor of 1970s fanzine ANDVARI

Exhausted and Adrift in the Suite Spot

July 5th, 1:45 PM: A late start for DCF and me as we needed plenty of recovery time from the previous day.  First up: the Art Show.  It seems much smaller that I remember from the 70s, but I am probably also throwing in memories from Worldcons, so maybe this wasn’t that different; on the other hand, maybe the shows have just gotten smaller.  There were a half dozen “docent” led tours of the art through the run of the con.  This particular one was led by artist Richard Hescox, who has just finished a heavily illustrated limited edition of George Martin’s A Clash of Kings.   Some of that art was on display, and it was fascinating asking questions and getting insight into how it was working with Martin and the whole Game of Thrones phenomenon.  Hescox had a wry sense of humor, so Happy Jack, DCF and I took full advantage, pushing him to reveal many candid and delightful tales.  There were some great pieces in the show, and the three of us bid on about a half dozen items. 

Atrium, 3:00 PM: A one person steam punk band called Unwoman performed.  She plays an
The Incredible Unwoman
electric cello strapped around her torso, and uses electronics and tape loops in performance.  Her voice and approach are reminiscent of Kate Bush, with a dollop of Nico thrown in, but she has a unique approach that was fascinating, with great stage presence and strong songs.  I purchased a cd but haven’t checked much of it out yet; one song sounds a little “over-produced” to me so far, but without reservation, her live performance is strongly recommended. 

As Unwoman’s set progressed, we slowly began to see various ex-SASSAFRASSians!  As it turned out, there were almost a dozen members who made it to the con.  It seems Unwoman’s performance drew us all out, and we traded tales from the last 30 years.  After that, we spent a little time at the Dealer (Huckster) Room where DCF and I filled our blue bag with more purchases and swag.

The Hospitality Suite, 5:00 PM: Exhausted and famished, HJ, DCF and I decided to go back up to the con’s 12th floor Hospitality Suite.  Sure enough, the huge table was still filled with a generous selection of cheese, olives, crackers, lunch meats, bread, fruits, dips, veggies and more.  HJ and DCF started filling their paper plates; I was feeling a little disoriented, and stared out the window at the cityscape below, marveling at this grand view and this unlikely return to a science-fiction convention.  I’m not sure how long I stood in this transfixed stupor, but my reverie was interrupted by DCF’s question to the adjoining room, “Did anybody leave their purse here?  Is anyone sitting here?”  I snapped out of my daze and looked over to the room, which was stuffed with fans; seats were at a premium and I could see HJ tell her, “It’s okay, just sit down”.  I filled my own plate and went over to where HJ and DCF were sitting.  The seat space on DCF’s chair was very large, and she invited me to sit with her, which I did.  Within a few minutes, an elderly woman came up to us and screamed, “I can see putting your bag down to hold a seat doesn’t mean anything to THIS crowd!” 

DCF and I were stunned.  Then the woman bent over and grabbed the bag at my feet.  Thinking it was our blue swag bag, I grabbed the handles, not knowing why she would want our bag, figuring that after her despicable outburst, she was trying to mess with us!  I held on to the handles, thinking she would quickly let go, but instead she just pulled harder, and for a few seconds we were engaged in a brutal bag tug of war!  She was looking at me like I was Satan; I must admit I was filled with incomprehension and rage!  Finally realizing it was ludicrous to be engaged in a physical battle with a 70-year old woman, I let go, thinking I would be the “bigger” person and end this charade.  She stumbled a bit as I released the bag, and then almost fell into a seat that had just been vacated on the couch across from us.  DCF told her she could have our seat, but by this time she was incensed and just stared at us, holding the bag close to her body.  And it was then I realized that the bag was in fact her purse, and I had mistaken it for our blue swag bag!  Humiliated and incredulous that I could make such a mistake, I looked in another direction, and a bitterly cold frost settled over our side of the room. 

Super Fan Mike Mormon w/original SASS T!
Luckily, within minutes, Laurine White, the SASSAFRASS Angel of Fandom, came over to join us.  I moved to a very high chair by an adjacent door and Laurine took my place next to DCF.  Then Laurine, who had no idea what had just happened, charmed all of us with her stories and recollections about kung fu movies and the kinder, gentler fandom of days past.  Shortly thereafter, we left the Suite and returned to the Dealer room.  We added to our blue bag, caught a bit of the Sneaky Tikis’ sound check for the “concert” later that night, and left fairly early, vowing to make the next two days incident free.

To Be Continued

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