A Con From California
by Andy Hooper
Corflu is a convention commonly judged by the quality of time-binding experience it offers, and this year's highlight came during the Sunday morning banquet. Among the award announcements, and the selection of Leeds as the site for Corflu 1998, Alyson Abramowitz asked members of the first two Corflu committees, to say a few words. Judging from their reticent and halting account of those distant days of the mid-80s, they must find it hard to remember being fans at all; nonetheless, they were confronted with a 127-member fanzine-intensive convention, and could only wonder at what they had helped set in motion. No wonder they blinked and gasped like people who had been locked in a dungeon for the past decade.
This first West coast Corflu since 1992 was certainly one of the most impressive in terms of facilities and hospitality. Alyson achieved quite a coup in convincing the staff of the Marriott to rent her the "concierge lounge," normally reserved for corporate clients. With so much room to stretch out, there was never any sense that the 127 of us were crowding the place. The selection of drinks, snacks, sweets and treats bordered on obscenity; Alyson explained that she hadn't expected other people to bring so much food of their own! We looked around for Don Fitch as she said this, but he had slunk off somewhere to have a smoke. Should Don stop attending conventions, the Macadamia nut industry would collapse over night. Most notable were the nine elaborately decorated cakes, three served each evening, which we struggled to finish. Some people wondered why so many cakes, why not the occasional pie? It was clear to me that Alyson had found a confection format she liked, and was bent on getting out as many issues as possible.
So, things were proceeding smoothly until Friday evening, when Victor's name was chosen from the hat as the convention's guest of honor. With both of us already committed to a production of my play "Fanotchka" on Saturday night, and Victor planning to issue a one-shot fanzine while at the con, it was hard to see when he would have time to write his speech. Some Relaxicon! I haven't worked that hard at some conventions I've chaired.
Walnut Creek is a pleasant little burg, once you got away from the highway; unfortunately, the hotel seemed to be surrounded by heavy traffic, which made walking to restaurants or for exploration an occasionally dangerous proposition. On Saturday, this hardly seemed like an issue, as my day was programmed from noon to 10 p.m.
The program area was a large room with a pair of concentric circles of chairs. This led to a chaotic but lively conversation, as the nominal panelists were tossed right in with the audience, who often seemed to be moderating the discussion. We talked about music and fandom for an hour, then moved on to Corflu and its traditions (all issues seemed to be settled, and bids have already announced for Florida in 1999, and Seattle in 2000). I ducked out for most of the discussion of Attitude the Convention, but it appeared that the success of Attitude would have some effect on the Leeds Corflu. Lenny Bailes' "Strange Faniverse," an improvised narrative designed to offer fannish spoofs of Fortean tabloid TV, was a surprising hoot. We raised over $1,500 for TAFF and DUFF at the 4 p.m. auction , and material not sold then was offered in a silent auction Sunday afternoon, which sent it to good homes.
I had done a minor re-write of "Fanotchka" to correct some problems that came up in the LACon production, and I guess these were good changes, because the audience seemed to enjoy the play even more. Paul Williams and Cindy Lee Berryhill played the principal roles, but the entire cast did a great job, and I thank everyone for giving up so much of their Saturday evening for the performance.
Sunday morning came far too early, but the excellent food at the banquet, including fresh, individually-prepared omelettes, helped us forget how hung over most of us were. Ted White supervised the election of the fwa past president, and conducted an impromptu symposium on the history of that body; we think we may finally have an accurate list of the past presidents, to which we added Bill Rotsler, for 1996, and Lee Hoffman, for 1951.
The FAAn award results were announced, with myself, Apparatchik and fan artist Ian Gunn taking home this years plaques. I was proud and flattered to win again, but I want to applaud someone else next year, and disqualify myself from further Best Writer awards for five years. I was extremely happy that Victor was there to help accept the award for best fanzine, and all of us thank all 51 people who took the time to vote.
This led naturally to Victor's speech, which you may already have read. I think it helps a lot if you've been reading Apparatchik for the last few issues.
After the brunch, some of us took off for a nearby school yard and played a little pick-up softball. It was fun, and I especially enjoyed abusing Steve Swartz in the outfield (after it became clear that we were not going to have enough people to play a formal game, we just played some work-up, with people coming to bat after they had made a certain number of plays. After a while, I stopped playing the ball and began trying to catch Steve's head instead. Greg Benford said the caption to any pictures of our grappling should be entitled "No Sex Please, We're Brutish"), but I think we might want to find an indoor game to play at Corflu in the future. The mere threat of rain is enough to keep many fans inside, and few want or can remember to drag gloves and bats across the country with them.
The number of fanzines handed out over the weekend was down a bit from the past two years, and only a few were written especially for distribution there. This enabled me to get the fanzine balance running my way for once, as I brought a huge paper box full of zines for auction, and went home without the box and everything in it.
Many members of the convention stayed over through Monday, and took excursions into San Francisco or Berkeley. I took the train in with Frank Lunney, and met Jay Kinney for lunch, then explored book and record stores in the Haight for several hours.
One terribly sad note on the weekend is that Seth Goldberg, long-time Official Editor of FAPA and co-administrator, with David Bratman of the Hugo award tallying, died suddenly on March 18th, apparently of heart failure caused by a viral infection. Seth was at Corflu on Sunday, and I said hello to him briefly; I had no sense that he was unwell. As of this writing, It's been decided that David Bratman and Robert Lichtman will handle the May FAPA mailing, but it will be very difficult to replace such a dependable editor, and impossible to redeem the loss of such a faithful friend.
Opinions are still coming in, but this must be regarded as one of the most successful Corflus to date. The variety of attendees, overall decency of setting, and high energy of the weekend met all my expectations, and I had a great time.
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