Website & fanzine of the SF fan club USS Hudson Bay, Toronto, Canada









Snapshots of ConJosé

Convention report by Alex von Thorn

[The 2002 Worldcon, ConJosé, was held in San José, California from Thurs., Aug. 29 to Mon., Sept. 2. Guests of Honour included writer Vernor Vinge, artist David Cherry, and super-fans Bjo and John Trimble. I asked Alex von Thorn to interview Vernor Vinge and the Trimbles for The Voyageur and to write this report in order to give people an idea of what goes on at a Worldcon. Alex is the Deputy Head of Programming Division for the 2003 Worldcon, Torcon 3, in Toronto, as well as Vice-Chair of the "Seattle in '05" NASFiC bid. At ConJosé he spent more time working than attending programming. See also the ConJosé photo gallery—Ed.]

Marah Searle and I arrived in San José on Tuesday. I interviewed Vernor Vinge (pictured right; photo by Marah Searle) on the Tuesday afternoon, and we spent most of Wednesday in San Francisco.

Thursday morning, I got an early breakfast and got into program ops just after 9 a.m. I introduced myself to Kathryn Daugherty, division head for programming, and Ian Stockdale (program ops) and the others there. After lunch, I made my way to the "Seattle in '05" bid table, where I met friends whom I only knew from e-mail. Later I worked at the program participants' check-in table, which is absolutely the best staff-level job at a Worldcon. One gets to greet all the authors, from titans of the field to the excited newbie pros who have just written their first novel.

On Friday morning, I went to the preliminary business meeting. This is an odd ritual combining parliamentary procedure with fannish jokes and tradition, experienced schemers with fannish newbies. A great deal of time was spent debating a ruling of the chair on a subsidiary motion relating to a resolution which, if passed, would have had no effect. After lunch, back to program participant check-in, and then to a couple of panels (the only actual programming I got to at the con).

That evening, we went to the Civic Auditorium to see Patrick Stewart, who shared some behind-the-scenes photos from Star Trek: Nemesis, as well as previously unaired (even unedited) trailers for that film and for the sequel to X-Men. The audience gave a very warm ovation for this great actor who has contributed so much.

We went to parties well into the night. I spent some time at the Seattle Westercon party, and finally picked up the Aurora award [for fan writing] that Bobbie DuFault had brought from Con-Version in Calgary. The other parties that evening were not really memorable. The interesting people were spread among so many parties that none really reached a critical mass.

Saturday was the Seattle breakfast in the con suite. The salmon was fantastic, better than anything I'd ever gotten from local fresh fish markets. We served this with bagels and cream cheese; we also served fresh-ground coffee and Washington apple slices. After breakfast, the business meeting decided the fate of the Best Dramatic Presentation (short form) Hugo, which was mainly intended to separate television episodes from feature films. I covered the major points of the "pro" side in a two-page speech delivered within the 90-second limit for debate. The amendment passed by a huge margin. After the meeting, I tried looking for Bjo Trimble, without success.

After a quick scan of the dealers' room, I worked in program ops for the afternoon, closing down some panels. In the evening, I helped set up the Torcon party until about 8:30, and then went to help run the Seattle party. I spent most of the evening serving a very popular punch (it got a mention in the newszine). I left at 1:30 a.m., but the Torcon party had closed by then.

So we went to the Noreascon party [Worldcon in Boston, 2004], where we witnessed the beginning of the "Australia in 2010" Worldcon bid. After soaking up our fill of madness, we escaped to another party, I think it was for Los Angeles, where I thought we would decompress from the evening. Somehow we found ourselves in the con suite. The 4 a.m. shift failed to arrive, so we decamped to the Tor suite. Eventually, even they got tired of us (by this time a crowd of nearly 20 had gathered), and we went back to the con suite, which had since reopened. Sometime after 6 a.m., as people began wandering in to look for breakfast, the party broke up and we went to bed.

On Sunday I went to the final session of the business meeting. By the standard of such things, it was quick and painless. Although there were two contested bids (2006 and the 2005 NASFiC), the competitions seem much more cordial than in some past years. [The NASFiC—North American Science Fiction Convention, which happens when a Worldcon is outside of North America—will be in Seattle in 2005; the Worldcon will be in Glasgow.] Lunch was an unmemorable chili dog in the convention centre. But at the lunch counter I ran into John Trimble and was able to reschedule our interview.

I spent a couple hours in program ops. The issue of the day was an impromptu radio play that Galaxy Publications had "planned." Apparently they had flown in actors from L.A. for this, though they had only talked to a low-level tech guy. The convention centre restrictions did not normally allow multiple microphones in a single room, and all the tech people who might have been able to help were preparing for the Hugo ceremony. The woman from Galaxy tried saying, "We confirmed all this with Rick," and then when past MilPhil program honcho Jim Mann and Ian Stockdale did not back down at this name-dropping, the woman went into iterations of, "I understand, but how about if we do X?" , with all variations of X violating the convention centre restrictions. So she went off in search of someone who could overrule Jim and Ian. She found ConJosé co-chair Tom Whitmore, who has the laid-back '60s manner one can only still find in Berkeley. Tom listened to the woman's tale for a while, then concluded that programming had done all it could to accommodate her. (It was agreed to try to supply them with an omnidirectional microphone.)

At 3 p.m. I went up to the Torcon volunteer tea, where I met some of the non-local division heads of Torcon. I explained my organizational thesis about how divisions and major departments should be run by a local and non-local person working in tandem; without prompting, Robbie Bourget explained to me how Torcon Operations was well represented in the person of Marah Searle. Robbie also told me how she had sent Marah for medical attention after a minor burn. I was amused to hear a relative stranger being protective of "her" team. This greatly increased my estimation of Robbie, and I told her that Marah had been the hardest-working person on the Torcon committee for the past six years.

After the tea, we had to get ready for the after-Hugo party. By tradition, the committee for next year's Worldcon hosts this affair to help introduce them to the movers and shakers in fannish and writing circles. We hefted quite a lot of drinks to the bar, draped the room in Canadian symbols and other decorations, made a lot of wraps, chopped fruit and vegetables, moved (heavy) furniture, and generally got the room ready. Unfortunately, one of our best volunteers was turned away when Marah and I were out of the room, due to a miscommunication. This left us a person short in the kitchen, such that I ended up spending a lot of time microwaving chicken wings, so I missed much of the first hour of the actual party. However, by all accounts, the conversation became a lot more lively once the doors were opened and most of the pros left. By far the most interesting creature to attend the party was a four-foot long iguana named Zaphod. He liked being stroked by female fen and being told how interesting he was, which he had in common with many others at the party. The chair considered closing the party early, but Marah explained that this would be a sure formula for losing goodwill. We closed at 3 a.m., then cleaned up the room, getting to bed around 5 a.m.

On Monday I worked program ops again. By around 10:30, people started hanging out in program ops, sharing their experiences of the con. Despite the pre-con difficulties, the programming team was fairly happy with how things had gone; we were all glad we'd come to ConJosé. During the afternoon, I had the opportunity to do an extensive debrief with Kathryn and Ian about how the convention had gone. Although they repeated the message of "For God's sake, don't do what we did," they also had many useful observations.

I went to look for Bjo and John before the closing ceremonies, as discussed, but I didn't find them. The Torcon team was there in our "Bob-the-Builder" hard hats (yellow for division heads, white for staff; I became acting head of programming for the duration of the ceremony). The closing ceremonies were as hokey as such events usually are. One thing Tom Whitmore did that was very classy was to acknowledge not just the senior committee members but all the volunteers and staff at ConJosé, division by division (which was nice because that way we got to see the people we'd worked with). He even mentioned "Everyone who doesn't know which division they're in," and asked them to stand as well; no few people rose for this. Kevin Standlee handed over the gavel in much the same way that Bilbo Baggins gave up the One Ring: with reluctance in the moment, but relief afterwards. Torcon chair Peter Jarvis said some words about coming to Toronto, and he pointed out each of the division heads so that people would know who to talk to about volunteering.

After the ceremony, people came up to the Trimbles to say a few last words. When the others had dispersed, Bjo asked me if I wanted her to sign something, and I mentioned the interview. (My yellow hard hat was an effective disguise.) We found a quiet room. Although I had prepared questions, my usual objectivity broke down, and the interview became just a conversation among fans. I ended up talking about my grandmother's quilting and the impact media fandom had had on our lives. The interview went on a little longer than usual; the Trimbles were not long-winded, but it took time to recap four decades of active fandom.

We had dinner, then had to get ready for the Dead Dog Party. A vast mountain of soft drinks, enough to keep a grocery store stocked for days, had been transported into the room, along with hills of chips, cookies, candy, and whatever else remained. In spite of the fact that parties were going on elsewhere, the room was packed for hours, well past the usual duration. As we were responsible for the room, the party had to end when we left. With a morning flight and still having to pack, we had to close the party for 1 a.m. We attempted such subtle manoeuvres as collecting all the chairs, but this failed to persuade several dozen people, so eventually we had to ask people to leave. We officially closed the party at 1:20 a.m. on Tuesday, September 3. The stragglers were heard to cheer, "We've closed down another Worldcon!"

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