Con Report by Joseph T Major on RiverCon XXV and Last, July 28-30, 2000

The weekend before the con, Lisa went to her parents' and I stayed at home to watch things. She got home Sunday afternoon and we went out to eat. When we got back home, as we were about to go in the door, one of the local street cats shambled up to us and mewed piteously. He was horribly thin. This may not have been unconnected to the fact that he was declawed.

So, we went very promptly to the 24/7 vet and had him tested and given his shots. Which was why I was showing everyone pictures of our fifth cat at the Twenty-Fifth and Final RiverCon.

Thursday, July 27, 2000

After dinner, we went off to the Executive West for the Warm Puppy Party. There was a parking place not too far from the south entrance, fortunately. On the way in we encountered John A. R. Hollis and Dan Caldwell, whose trip had been somewhat longer. Lisa admires John, or his 50 books anyway.

The party had not quite started, so we went to the registration desk to pick up our badges, encountering Roger and Pat Sims along the way. Steve Francis and several of his descendants were at the desk. My badge has a pretty silver ribbon indicating that I have been to all Twenty-Five RiverCons. (The program book had a list of all the people who had been to all the RiverCons; all twenty-seven of us.) Annette Carrico came by in her powered wheelchair, and we compared it to Lisa's mother's powered wheelchair.

From there, we did indeed go to the Warm Puppy party, which turned out to be in the Non-Smoking Con Suite. Steve Spero was there, and we talked some more about the different con scene in San Diego. Apparently ConDigeo was something of an anomaly; cons there have a lot of science programming.

Tim and Elizabeth arrived soon, and I gave them the floppy disk with Johnny's material. As he had just entered a letter from Dainis Bisenieks, that seemed only fair. They had the Graustark with the editorial denouncing Harry Andruschak, and the new Trap Door, which had arrived in the club mailbox that day. I called Grant, who was at the 240-mile marker on I-40 in Oklahoma. Cell phones and their service options are revolutionizing the way we work and play.

Various other locals drifted in and out, including Mike and Susan Baugh and their daughter Erinn (with her new husband), Linda Wyatt, Mike Sinclair, Robert Wellinghurst, Tommy Stevens, and so on. Pat and Roger Sims turned up and we had a nice chat about alternate histories, such as Oliver Stone's JFK. Steve came up and joined the melee, and when Sue Francis arrived, we sang "Happy Birthday" to Steve and cut the cake, as he had just turned 61.

We had to leave a bit early, since Lisa had to get up at 5 A.M. on Friday to work. On the way out, we met Paul and Leah Gadzikowski, who were just arriving, and exchanged greetings.

And so to bed.

Books read: Monkey Business: The Lives and Legends of the Marx Brothers, by Simon Louvish; The Atrocities of the Pirates, by Aaron Smith.

Friday, July 28, 2000

Friday was interesting: A couple of months previously, I had scheduled an appointment with my internal specialist for the latest examination of my Crohn's Disease, on Wednesday the 26th. Around the middle of the month, I observed that one of my other prescriptions was close to expiring, so scheduled an appointment on Friday morning. Wednesday, the specialist's office informed me that my appointment there had been rescheduled to Friday afternoon!

So, Lisa went off to work and I tried to get some extra rest. Around eleven, I turned up at the doctor's, and was tapped for blood for various tests, including blood sugar and indicators of kidney failure. (Many of our readers will be heartened to learn that kidney failure and congestive heart failure are among the thrilling opportunities in the health field that I have to look forward to.)

There was enough time to go to the Executive West and I took the opportunity. Leigh Kimmel and Larry Ulrey were already selling stuff, but the first book I bought was Harry Turtledove's The Great War: Breakthroughs (which contains the depressing prospect of a Kentucky reconquered by the Federals), from Glen Cook. I also started a stack of books at Larry Smith's.

However, medicine summoned me and I went downtown, where all the lights are bright, to have the mysteries of my ileum probed. (On the way out I met Paul and Leah.) The doctor is moving his practice at the beginning of October. Which may prove interesting, since he recommends I take a new medicine, 6-MP.

This may cause pancreatitis, as if I don't already have enough trouble there, or a depressed white blood cell count. For this latter they recommend weekly blood tests. Oh yes, 6-MP is also used to treat leukemia. So just to make sure, they tapped me for blood. I suppose I was lucky I didn't have three doctor's appointments Friday because now I was out of arm space. "Take off your trousers, Mr. Major . . ."

I left the vampire happening for the more serious world of Fandom. Tim and Elizabeth were there, and we shuttled between the con suite and the dealers' room. Various familiar faces were seen, as when Johnny, the eBay junkie, showed up, escorting Jessica Bestler. Gary and Corliss Robe were there, and with the decreased demand now we really ought to start finding time for ConCave. Sue Phillips arrived from Atlanta. Todd Fluhr and his daughter Courtney had less distance to travel. Tom and Anita Feller fell somewhere in between. And so on. After awhile, Lisa called to remind me that she was at home (cell phones have changed our styles of communication). This was my fault, since I had finished early at the doctor's and gone back to the con, instead of going home as I had planned. I had to go home to pick her up, then. On the way back it started raining.

While going to and fro, I noticed large numbers of men with orange wristbands. Yes, the Promise Keepers were sharing our lovely facilities and all the others within several leagues. One of them, in fact, was David Herrington's father, and he came in to dinner after we did. David filially went over to say hello.

Curiously enough, Lawrence Watt-Evans and Julie Evans were at the table behind us. However, he wasn't talking about his current writing project. The hotel restaurant was reasonably-priced, unlike the Baltimore ones, which may explain this.

Opening Ceremonies were scheduled to start at eight and almost did. Sue, presiding, asked everyone to stand up. Then she started counting down: Will everyone who has not attended five RiverCons please sit down. And so on up to the attendees of all 25 RiverCons, which include Grant, (almost) back from work in Oklahoma City, Rod Smith, there with multiple batches of his famous cookies, Jack and Susan Young, John Hollis, and other workers, including Bob Roehm (who once upon a time edited this mess). Also there (not quite up to the 25 cons) was our loyal member Mollie Kate Henley.

The loyal workers of the con were rewarded with commissions as Kentucky Colonels. Us repeat attendees, and the returning guests, got RiverCon mugs made by Louisville Stoneware, a place not four blocks from where I live.

After the Opening Ceremonies came the Ice Cream Social, which was slightly ruined by the fact that the band was warming up for the Dance. Conversation was, therefore, difficult.

Our party time was somewhat sparse. We never did get to the Xerps party, and only hit the Charlotte in 2004 and Last Contact Party. Then we went home and tried to get the new cat used to sharing home space with four other cats and two slaves. The rain had started up again, so I had to dash to the car, since we had lightened our burden during the day, during a deceptively dry spell. (Oddly enough, I always managed to park close to the back door of the hotel. When I mention the membership results, you'll see why that's odd.)

And so to bed.

Book read: Rites of War, by C. A. Mobley

Saturday, July 29, 2000

Fed the cats and back to the con. It was raining. Lisa and I persevered, with good cause, since legends of fandom were going to speak about "SF Fandom: The Early Days": Forrest J. Ackerman, Dave Kyle, Hal Clement, Joe L. Hensley, and Rusty Hevelin. Kyle explained (again) the legend of how he got blamed for the fire marshals clearing the stairs at the NewYorCon, as in "Dave Kyle says you can't sit here." Joe talked about going to the wartime cons (and not about Claude Degler). 4SJ discussed his Esperantist antics, such as going to the New York World's Fair in his costume and delivering a speech in Esperanto. Our history is slipping away from us.

And we had trouble slipping away from it; not getting to "The Very Best of the Candid Stuff" on time. Candidly, there was a lot of stuff for Dr. Bill Breuer to cover, including such matters as the consequences of Al Shepard's macho overestimate of his capacity. Or the pragmatism of the von Braun team, as in the famous story of how Sears Roebuck did its part in getting the Mercury capsule in space. Alas, there are two venues he has lost, since Contact in Evansville has also shut its doors for good.

I had a bit off since the next panel I was interested in wasn't on until three. Had Julius Schwartz turned up, I would have gone to see him. So many people were held up by the bad weather.

Instead, I was wondering about "Science Fiction and Mysteries" and did a little deduction. Robak, or Judge Hensley, was there anyhow, so he and others discussed how one crosses the two genres. Mysteries have a good reputation while that Buck Rodgers stuff doesn't, yet there is a substantial blending between the genres. No one dared to derogate Sharyn McCrumb. Had I wanted to do so I could have gone to "Myths and Legends of Southern Fandom" afterwards, but I wanted to do something degree-related.

This meant that I had to go to the class on "History In Science Fiction and Fantasy". Professor George R. R. Martin complained that he was only influenced by the Wars of the Roses in his wildly successful (damn big, too) Song of Fire and Ice series, so there was no point saying that Eddard Stark was Crookback Dick (Nixon of course), or even Richard III.

For some reason I felt too tired to see "The Andy and Allen Show", "Fannish Trends", or "The Rise of the Big Book". This was unfortunate, but at least I didn't have to choose one of these interesting topics and regret the choice.

Somewhere along this time I ran into Cuyler "Ned" Brooks (as in It Goes on the Shelf) and promised him a better Tengwar font than the one I had sent him [he got them Sunday]. Other faneds at this con besides Tom Feller, Roger Sims, and Tim & Elizabeth were Dick and Leah Zeldes Smith (as in the wonderful STET Nine) and Dick and Nicki Lynch (as in Mimosa). To the extent that it was mentioned at all, there was a consensus on Arnie Katz.

The easiest way to find Tim and Elizabeth was to hunt down "The Baen Books Traveling Slide Show", where Toni Weisskopf went on in the same vein as she had at that Louisville DSC so many years ago. For, you see, Baen is nurturing new writers by getting them name recognition in collaborations with experienced ones. She enthusiastically described James Doohan's writing and in general maintained a credible demeanor.

This was the lead-in to the FOSFAX Dinner. Present were Tim, Elizabeth, Tom, Anita, Larry, Leigh, Grant, Debbie Hussey, Taras Wolansky, and coming in late, Jack and Susan Young, and Frank Bynum, along with two of Debbie's friends from Nashville. A splendid time was had by all.

There was time for a party view, but not much. We managed to hit the bulk of them: New Orleans Mardi Gras, Boston in 2004, Kubla Khan Primus, and ConGlomeration. Not to mention stopping off briefly at the Baen Books party, though it was for authors. Khen Moore was at Oshkosh, again, looking over his flying. Kubla will be back at the Days Inn, on April 21-23, 2001. ConGlomeration is the "successor con" to RiverCon; it will be August 10-12, 2001 at the Holiday Inn Lakeview in Clarksville, Indiana. We joined there, and the special RiverCon discount just might have had something to do with it. So now that I've told you our con schedule . . .

At eleven, the storied "The Last RiverCon Masquerade" was scheduled to begin. While looking for Lisa, I passed an, well, interesting bondage couple (looking for sprinkler heads?). This hall costume did not take part in the subsequent parade.

Thirty-five presentations did perform in the main show. Or perhaps thirty-six, since B. J. Willinger came out dressed as, appropriately, Ming the Merciless. (Dave Kyle had told about going around dressed as Ming at an early WorldCon. What a missed opportunity!) There were rather a lot of children (seven) and some were a little tense, but they went off (and on) well enough. The adults were equally well handled, and I suppose I must mention the exotic decorator's advice on how to devastate a Japanese town tastefully, given by Mothra Stewart, sometimes known as Esther M. Friesner. (Note to Rodney Leighton: She thinks you look like Samuel Delany.)

There was a looooong interval while the judges (Lynne Aronson, Jon Stopa, and jan howard finder) made the difficult choice. The storyteller, Roberta Simpson Brown, a veteran of past Masquerade judging intervals, had to pull out a few more chillers. One was about a cat's slave who had to go to extreme measures to feed one feline master. In fact we got too tired, so we slipped out at quarter to one and went home to . . . feed our cats.

And so to bed.

Books read: The Great War: Breakthroughs, by Harry Turtledove: Sky Knife, by Marella Sands

I felt very strange reading the Sands book, since Sky Knife the title character served under King Storm Cloud, and I kept on expecting an atomic vortex to hit the Mayan town.

Sunday, July 30, 2000

There was a driving force motivating us to get out and on the road. However, had it gone as originally planned, it would have involved something really spiritual, namely bilocation, as Steve Silver was scheduled for both the "ChiCon 2000 Preview", which he sort of had to go to, and "Spirituality and SF/Fantasy", which we went to. Strangely enough for a panel at an SF con, except maybe here, the attendees were sincere about the need for spirituality.

I did get to see Steve afterwards. He thanked me for sending a copy of the obituaries of the six Marx Brothers and let me see the schedule for ChiCon 2000. It looks like I got what I asked for and those poor boogers who are expecting to groove on Cryptonomicon may be shocked to find VENONA at the Cryptology panel.

We settled up at Larry Smith's. The total for the four of us (Tim, Grant, Lisa, and me), after discount, was $260, of which about half was Lisa's and mine.

At two there came the "Closing Ceremonies". Sue and Steve thanked everybody else for coming, everybody else thanked Sue and Steve, Bob, and all the rest from Cliff on down, for making things possible. Then we said goodbye.

The "FOSFA Open Meeting" was next. Your devoted fools officers sat up front and traded comments with the few, the proud, who came in to talk. I think the Youngs got stopped halfway down and never made it. Mollie, Taras, Dave, Frank, and others whose names have appeared in this chronicle did make it, and we FOSFen even got a new member.

There was something very empty about the hall. In the way of convention hotels, as the old convention died away a new one took its place, and indeed, advance registrees for the Street Rod convention were already bringing quite pretty, if flamboyant, hot rods to the Executive West. We saw them when we left.

After a couple of hours at the meeting we decided to have dinner, and nine of us went to the Cracker Barrel up the road. It was crammed, since the table normally seated eight, but we managed (and besides, were we that normal anyway?).

Finally, there was the "Dead Dog Party", which was mostly more of the same, eating and chatting. Lisa and I held on for a couple of hours but it was just too much. So, finally, after twenty-six years, I said goodbye to RiverCon.

Final membership: 1276.

And so to bed.

Book read: King Kelson's Bride, by Katherine Kurtz

Monday, July 31, 2000

Today I did laundry.

The seventies and eighties saw a boom in cons. In the sixties, there had been a few regular features on the con circuit; for example, Mike Glyer discussed how back then prospective WorldCon bidders would face the powers that be at MidWestCon to discuss the feasibility of their bids. MidWestCon was an institution. There was a community of conrunners that ensured a certain standard.

Riding on the boom of fans brought in by the increased visibility of SF, cons then began to proliferate. The NoLACon II program book, which I happened to look at the other day, brags that there will be nine SF-related cons in New Orleans in 1988. Then it would have actually been possible to live the legendary lifestyle of the traveling trufen, who show up on Wednesday for the In Heat Party and stay until the Burial Party on Monday (but never ever go to programming and in fact make counterfeit namebadges), rooming fifteen to a double-bed room, and for WorldCon rent a room at some Motel 6/Red Roof Inn/Knights Inn/etc. (i.e., some bargain hotel) thirty miles from the action to live out their own epitome of true trufaaandom.

But NoLACon II was its own worst example. The concomm collapsed. The Permanent Floating WorldCon Committee, the fans who volunteered for the same departments con after con, filled in (Mike Glyer, for example, Sunday two weeks before the con called me to see if I wanted to take a panel on Clifford Simak; if I was rather brusque in turning him down it was because 1) I really don't care much for Simak, particularly the later Simak; 2) I had had a migraine headache that day and was trying to sleep it off; and 3) I wasn't going to go!), but there was a price. You had burnout.

And so with lesser cons. The knowledge of where to go and how to do it is not getting passed on. Charlie Dickens had great Parthecons, for the few who heard about them and went: he didn't do publicity, so almost nobody heard about them, almost nobody went. Publicity is merely one part of putting on a con, one of many parts that makes a sound whole. Not only Steve and Sue, but most of their assistants, are worn out. ConGlomeration is being run by the head of the RiverCon gaming department. Where are the successors?