How to treat a Worldcon as a Relaxacon!

The 1985 Worldcon in Melbourne was my first science fiction convention and, when the opportunity presented itself to go to another Worldcon some 11 years later, I thought I'd give it a go. The initial impressions I had were really good, since they had an incredible array of information on the Internet, and responded to email enquiries swiftly. When I bought my membership over the net, the Progress Report and other information were sent immediately. LACon III put some professional conferences to shame in this regard.

The only thing that really annoyed me was with hotel bookings. The prices given did not include the (rather hefty) taxes. Considering that these vary from state to state and even city to city, not printing a full price for the rooms is just misleading advertising and the sort of conduct which they should have been prosecuted for if there were any decent consumer groups in LA. As it was, the hotel information said that the more expensive Lanai rooms had to be booked direct with a particular person at the Con, while ordinary room requests only went to the Housing Bureau. Well, I faxed my form to the Housing Bureau, and they allocated one of the more expensive rooms to me. It was at that time, only _after_ giving them my credit card number, that I also found out about the real, tax- inclusive cost of the rooms!

We sorted that out, and I eventually arrived at LACon III as part of 6 weeks I spent in the US. The first week was a computer conference, while the rest was just a nice, big, well-deserved holiday.

It was late on Thursday, Aug 29, that I was dropped off at the Anaheim Hilton for LACon III. I had brought appropriate food and refreshments, though full-cream milk was very hard to find in LA supermarkets, since LA people seem to think that sitting around being fat slobs will mysteriously be cured by drinking skim milk! I was lucky checking in. I was offered a room on the party floor, overlooking the pool, at the standard rate. The only disadvantage was that there was only one bed in the room but, since there is only one of me, that presented no problem at all.

Earlier in my trip, I had stayed at a pleasant but certainly not high- class hotel in San Francisco, and it had the expected facilities like a fridge and coffee-making facilities in the room. I had heard that quite a number of hotels in the US save a few bucks by not providing these and, unfortunately, the Anaheim Hilton is such a place. No fridge to keep drinks cold and no kettle to make hot drinks with. As they had ice machines, I filled the rubbish bin with ice (yes, this takes quite a few ice bucket loads to do, and ran out one of their ice machines in the process) and put the perishable food and drinks in it. It was usually possible to hire a fridge for your room, but the Hilton had run out of them and would have had to put me on a waiting list for one!

Through all of this, I missed the opening ceremony, but caught the tail end of the ice cream social, at least enough to get some icecream.

The swimming pool looked excellent, surrounded as it was by 4 spas, each of different temperature, ranging from pool temperature to human soup pot, so off I went for some swimming and lazing about. When I realised that the Con parties had started, it was obviously time to meet some people, eat some food, and generally check out the atmosphere. It's interesting to see the sorts of looks you get when you wander straight from the pool into parties!

There was plenty of food, plenty of drink and a fair number of people at the plethora of parties going on, but this was to be a quiet night, being so early on. As things quietened down, I checked my email in the Internet room before going to sleep.

This is the life! Friday afternoon, I awoke about 1pm, had brekky and had a read through some of the inevitably, and quite well put together, pile of convention information. When I left my room, a room nearby was holding an afternoon tea, chatting about food, politics and over-priced convention hotels. That was the friendly folks of Bucconeer, who are running the Worldcon in 1998 in Baltimore. Well, that was enough fannish activity for the day, so I went to the pool for most of the rest of the day, talking to a Maryanne from Canada and some Poms as well.

In the evening, the parties were a little more lively, with the most friendly being the Texans running LoneStarCon II, the Worldcon in 1997. However, the Croats' deadly, 50% vodka, red punch had to be one of the drinking highlights of the evening, and tasted much better watered down with some of the Aussies' non-alcoholic red punch. The "Krazy Kroats", though not given much chance of winning the 1999 bid, were obviously planning to have a great time no matter what.

On Saturday, I woke up a little earlier, about noon actually. I wanted to make sure I'd see JMS's Babylon 5 panel, but the queue to the auditorium which had apparently started forming at 10am told me otherwise. I couldn't believe that a Worldcon could so badly underestimate the popularity of Babylon 5, and was quite pleased when they announced a repeat performance later that afternoon, giving me a chance to investigate the dealers' room thoroughly until the second Babylon 5 presentation started at 5:30.

JMS showed clips from the end of season 3 and blooper tapes from season 3. He told us that someone major will die soon (soon means by episode 6, season 4). He told us who would be added to the permanent credits at the beginning of season 4 episodes, but not who would be missing. Season 4 started shooting on the Monday earlier that week and the first render of the CGI for episode one started earlier that Saturday. I'm afraid I don't remember his name, but the guy who is in charge of the post-production was there too.

JMS also mentioned that the Pentagon had phoned him once to ask how to access the Lurker's Guide, which is very sad indeed. They can blow up the world, but they can't cope with the WWW?!?! Now, that's worrying.

One of the cable companies in the US, TNT, has bought the rights to the repeats of B5 after the syndicated stations repeat it, and are also planning to do some films that take place during the story arc. So, we may see things like the Minbari War or the attack on Mars as films in future.

The clips of season 3, at that point unaired even in the US, included a really passionate kiss between Sheridan and Delenn, the arrival of the new Vorlon Ambassador, and a really big battle between the Shadows and everyone else. Another cute bit was where Marcus told Ivanova (in Minbari) that she was the most beautiful woman he had ever met ... and then explained that it was just a Minbari greeting.

Some of the out-takes were really excellent. A reference to the "Minibar War", various expletives, etc. The best one was probably: Sheridan: Are you sure we can't jump? Lenier: Yes. Sheridan: Then we are in trouble. Lenier: No shit, Sherlock.

At the end, JMS waited until most people had left and gave out B5 fan club posters to the remainder and signed them.

Despite, or perhaps because of, their plain, uninteresting parties, boring food and uninteresting drinks, Australia in '99 won the Worldcon bid for 1999. The Croats had served much stronger drinks and had sexy women, but even that could not persuade the rest of the world to go party with them in a war zone.

I must say that, for me, the best party was this night. Bucconeer had the best food (chili con carne and a vegetarian version of it as well), the best drinks (lots of scrumptious concoctions with Captain Morgan's rum in them), and the best atmosphere too, though the Texans the night before came close. The red drink and the "white whale" were both really excellent. Not the sort of drinks to make your eyes water, like the Croats' punch, but the sort that taste good as well. If the Bucconeer Worldcon has the same sort of atmosphere as its parties, it looks like being the best Worldcon in coming years.

On Sunday, for a change of pace, I went to the pool straight after having breakfast and playing some pinball. There were always a few con-goers like Sandy to chat to there anyhow, while feeling the warm rays of the sun and getting perhaps just a little bit of exercise.

Sunday night brought with it more parties, of course, and they dragged on late into the night. I eventually went to check my email about 5:30am before going to bed, knowing that I would have to check out and leave later that morning.

Of course, I saw many other people, including both the 2002 Worldcon bid groups and the Phoenix science fiction mob who were holding a con the weekend after LACon, over the period that was LACon III, but most of them just blur into oblivion now, leaving in my mind the highlights, a few individuals, and a feeling of having had a good holiday.