by Randy Byers
Here's one of Ron. He's stretched out on his back on a bed in the smoking con-suite, eyes closed, battered hat crushed between his head and the mattress. It's late; he looks exhausted. A bearded man sits by his head, lips parted to form a word that has no origin or closure, that circles and circles around the void. In the center of the photo there is an almost unnoticeable distortion. It hovers in the air above Ron's face. Is it a warp in this cheap camera's focus? A patch of stale cigarette smoke? Or is Ron seeking to project himself into an astral escape from the eternal drone of loneliness?
+ Oh, this is a good one. It's a long shot of the dance floor. To the left, Apak Shakur, aka DJ Vacuo, looks up, startled, from a neat array of CD's. His eyes have the feral red glint of the giant rat of Sumatra. To the right, Jerry alone lifts a foot in a Spanish step. In the middle distance, Lesley and Heather gesture, though I can't quite make out whether they are amazed or alarmed. That must be my foot straying from behind the speaker, definitely alarmed.
+ This one's a standard panel shot: Howard Waldrop, Eileen Gunn, and Ellen Klages sit behind a long table. A toy rat sits on the mike, guarding against unwanted feedback. Howard and Ellen are looking at Eileen. Eileen is pointing at the camera. The white linen that covers the table could be the shroud of the undead stories that haunt this room. It is just as likely the birth sheet of a long labor. At the bottom of the frame is the unmistakable crown of Deb Notkin's head. Hm. Was she even in the room at the time?
+ I wouldn't believe this if I hadn't seen the picture. Who is more astounded, Chairman Luke or the puckish Tami? Luke's bare chest peeks through a white frock coat. His bare willie peeks over the waist band of his outlandish golden harem pants, which Tami has tugged down from behind. Tami's face has I-thought-there'd-be-underwear written all over it. Luke's willie has Yikes! written all over it. To the side, Jeanne Bowman leans over to read it.
+ Here's another one from the smoking suite. On the right, AP McQuiddy is laughing at something outside the frame. Sheila lounges in the middle, looking as though she feels three hours older than most everybody else. Victor, on the left, is looking at Sheila and rubbing his shoulder; in his eyes, the dreaminess of pain.
+ Here are three bushy beards. Chuck Garvin's is stained with nicotine that has transmigrated from his restless fingers. Mark Manning's rides his stout chest with Tolkienesque irreality. Art's evokes Walt Whitman, Santa Claus, and God Almighty in rapid succession. By all accounts, it was the latter incarnation that showed up for the Friday night poker game.
+ This, of course, is David Hartwell. His eyes are alight with holy fire, for he is telling me about Phoenix Cafe, the new novel by Gwyneth Jones, just out in the UK. Yes, that's the back of my head, inclined in an attitude of attention, or of prayer. My left hand reaches for the book, which isn't here yet. I look like a fanboy's dream of a hipster, but it's only an illusion. In the blurry background, that's Lesley not paying any attention.
+ Ah, here's one of the few not taken at the hotel itself. The setting is the Elysian Brewpub. In the middle, we have Fast Tommy Ferguson, come to us from Belfast via Toronto. On his left are Ron and AP again. On his right, carl is making an enigmatic sign with one hand. He's probably trying to protect his soul from the hunger of the camera, but it probably won't do him any good. Tommy is grinning, because he believes he has discovered that American fans like to have sex at conventions. The pint glasses are empty of pale ale.
+ Ooh! Here's one of Hooper staring at a blurry dog. Or is it an ape? Andy's eyes are red in this one, too. Must be the camera.
+ How sad. Here's another one of the dog, or ape, but now it's dead. All around the carcass, not quite coming into focus, is the real world. Looks like a picture of a hangover.
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