Contrary to its numerical designation, LoneStarCon 2 was actually the first worldcon
ever held in Texas (the first LoneStarCon was a NorthAmericon). We mentioned in our
previous issue that the LoneStarCon was one of the more entertaining worldcons for
us. Two of the many Texas fans we encountered there were our friends Richard Brandt
and Michelle Lyons, from El Paso, who had charge of the fanzine room/fan lounge area.
Or rather, Michelle had charge of it -- Richard, as we'll see, had a somewhat
We came to San Antonio, Michelle and I, to run the Fanzine Lounge at LoneStarCon 2. Once we got on site, and Michelle had a taste of fiduciary power, she decided she'd brook no interference from me in the operation of things.
"Leave me alone," she snarled whenever I tried to help with the fanzine sales, "I've got this all under control."
Since I suddenly found myself with time on my hands, I decided I'd check out the Green Room and see if the rumors of its undernourished state were true. Once I made it through the maze from the Fanzine Lounge through the exhibit hall and up the escalators and over to yonder Green Room, I was waylaid by Lori Wolf, who was running the Hugo Awards ceremony.
"Richard," she says, "could you do me a big favor?"
"We need someone to be Voice of God."
"I beg your pardon?"
"We just need someone to make a few announcements at the beginning and end of the ceremony. You know, no smoking, no flash photography, that kind of thing."
"So you need a voice that'll put the fear of God into them."
"So what do I have to do?"
"Well, I need you to show up at a rehearsal at two o'clock Saturday afternoon. Then just show up at the ballroom an hour or so before the show."
"Well," I said, "that rehearsal will conflict with the TAFF/DUFF auction... but since I don't have any money on me this time it's probably just as well."
So the bargain was struck. I showed up at the appointed time, and found my pal Chris Barkley, who was helping with the show as he'd helped me with the post-awards press reception at Noreascon 3. "I hear you're God," he said.
"Voice o' God Comics," I said.
Lori was trying frantically to organize the rehearsal. Turns out it would be the Tech rehearsal, too, since no one from Tech had showed up for the rehearsal the previous evening. Lori spotted me, came over and said, "Can you do me another favor?"
"I guess, what's that?"
"Do you think you could also do the voice of an armadillo?"
"I beg your pardon?"
"There's an armadillo in a space helmet that's been making an appearance at events throughout the con. He comes onstage at the beginning of the ceremonies and has a couple of lines. Do you think you could do a kind of cartooney voice?"
"Have no fear," I said, "God is here."
After I'd had a few looks at the script she asked if she could borrow it back from me -- she was a little short of copies. I assured her I'd committed my part to memory, and she sent me to the sound crew to get acquainted with the wireless mike I'd be using.
"Hi there," I boomed into the microphone.
The tech crew was impressed.
"Damn," one said, "you've got the deepest voice of any God since Covert Beach."
I went back and found Lori contemplating the stage with a bemused expression.
"Where are my center stairs?" she asked a techie. For verily, her plan for the show called for presenters and winners to ascend a flight of stairs to center stage and accept their award.
"Oh," said the techie, "your safety officer condemned them."
"I see," Lori said slowly. "When was this?"
"Oh, three days ago."
Whereas I would have made some smartass suggestion such as informing Lori a little earlier than the afternoon of the show might be more helpful, or perhaps pitched someone down those nonexistent steps, Lori reacted with commendable equanimity and set about arranging how to do the show in their absence. Since she had a steep and narrow set of backstage steps to work with, she would have the presenters show up backstage a little before their moment in the spotlight, and have extra helpers along the steps to help them -- as well as the winners -- up to the stage.
This left another problem, however. In addition to the center stairs, the tech crew had failed to obtain a wheelchair ramp for one of the presenters, Fan Guest Roy Tackett, who was scheduled to present the Fan Writer award. Lori resigned herself to the fact that Roy would just have to announce the award from the floor in front of the stage. At least he, like the rest of the cast, would be picked up on the large video screens flanking the stage.
I left Lori and her equally frazzled crew and returned to the Fanzine Lounge, where I made myself insufferable for the rest of the day, concluding my every remark with the words "I have spoken!" Until Michelle started hitting me.
I hadn't planned on being part of any formal event at this Worldcon, so I put together my best duds -- a black Hawaiian shirt, black jeans, and silver bolo tie -- and headed to the ballroom with plenty of time to spare. Lori had been given yet another scare when no one could find Clayburn Moore, the designer of the Hugo base, who was supposed to show off and describe his design in the middle of the ceremonies. I was standing by to fill in, but Clayburn showed up at close to the last minute and all was saved.
The nominees and presenters were being treated to a pre-show reception in a nearby function room, so when the door guard had to leave, I filled in.
I noticed a young guy hanging around in the corridor, and nodded to him, and he introduced himself and told me his story. He was a local college student who had just found out about the convention in that week's newspaper, and decided to check it out. He figured that outside the Hugos would be a great place to spot all his favorite writers. The problem was, he didn't know what any of them looked like.
With nothing better to do, I decided to extend to this young fellow the benefits of my Godlike omniscience.
"See that fellow there?" I said. "Bruce Sterling."
"No way!" he said.
"Yep. And let's see, there's Lillian Stewart Carl, so that would be Lois McMaster Bujold walking in with her."
"Wow," he said.
And lo, I pointed out Fred Pohl, and Kim Stanley Robinson, and Kris Rusch, and many another star in the science fictional constellation, to my young companion's growing awe and wonder.
He was really tripping out.
"I mean," he said, "this afternoon I saw Larry Niven, in the restaurant, eating onion rings. And I said to myself, Wow -- here's the creator of Ringworld -- and he's eating onion rings!"
It was charming, to be sure. As the jaded SMOFs we have surely become, we can loses sight of how it was -- or would have been -- if, in the first flush of our affair with science fiction, we suddenly were presented with the chance to meet our idols in the flesh for the first time. So I explained to this star-struck youth how he could in fact approach his favorite writers: Saying a few words as you got them to autograph your book was one way, but heck, failing that, just walk up to them and say how much you enjoyed a particular story of theirs. I doubt they tire of that as a conversational gambit.
(In fact, I ran into our hero the following day, or rather heard his voice shouting "You are the man!" I turned around and found him excitedly telling his girlfriend how I had pointed out various pros to him, and then he told me that he had taken his advice, and gone right up to Larry Niven and spoken with him. And so another young life set on the road to ruin, but as God we must be resigned to this.)
Eventually we filed into the ballroom and took our positions backstage. Cathy Beckwith, who had a headset, would be feeding cues to me, who did not. I sat next to my homegirl, Nina Siros, who had taken on the job of counting the ballots, and was feeling pretty smug since her work was all done for the year.
The lights were dimmed, and I got my first cue, to intone into the wireless mike, "Ladies and gentlemen, will you please take your seats, and may I remind you that there is absolutely no smoking and no flash photography. Thank yew."
A dazzling display of pyrotechnics lit up the stage -- decked out to represent a Wild West saloon with a flying saucer parked out front -- following which the helmet-clad armadillo trotted onstage and remarked, in an eerily familiar voice, "If this is gonna turn into one o' them alien bars, I'm outta here."
The Master of Ceremonies, Neal Barrett, Jr. opened with some raucous remarks about science fiction and English literature, which brought howls from the audience and knowing smirks from committee members who detected odd similarities to Neal's Guest-of-Honor speech from Armadillocon...
And so to the awards. Sadly, although Takumi Shibano had pretty much recovered from a recent illness his doctors thought it was too soon for him to take such an exhausting journey, and so a stand-in presented the Seiun Awards (for best science fiction translated into Japanese). With Greg Bear not on hand to accept his prize, neither Lori nor any of the rest of us could think of someone near Greg to accept in his place; afterwards Amy Thomson noted correctly that we might at least have remembered she was in town... Meanwhile, in the absence of Campbell Award winner Michael A. Burstein, Stan Schmidt made an elaborate show of presenting the award to himself.
After the presentation of the Big Heart Award, and an allusion to the convoluted series of events which prevented the First Fandom Award from being presented in San Antonio, it was time for the Hugos proper. Teddy Harvia presented the Fan Art Hugo, which went for the second straight year to Bill Rotsler. Once he saw the award base -- pink granite carved in the shape of Texas -- Teddy expressed some sincere-sounding regrets about having taken himself out of contention.
Roy wheeled up to the front of the hall to present the Fan Writer award, and did a splendid job. At least, as I told him afterward, "You were doing fine until you said Langford won it."
Bradley Denton announced the Best Fanzine winner -- which, to its editors' mild astonishment, was a fourth win for Mimosa, squeaking past Tangent with a narrow last-ballot victory. Backstage, Brad shared how cool he thought it was once he realized that Voice of God booming throughout the auditorium earlier was... "Hey...wait a minute...that's Richard!"
Tres cool, I'm sure.
The Semiprozine award went to Locus with no more than the expected number of boos and hisses from the crowd. Pat Cadigan and Ellen Datlow presented the Professional Editor award to Gardner Dozois, who admired the award base and declared, "Pennsylvania will be jealous!"
Presenter Mitchell Bentley took a look inside his envelope and announced, "Why this award isn't for Best Artist, it's for Best Hair!" -- a sign for Bob Eggleton to make another of his patented goshwow leaps to the stage.
As it turned out the highlight of the show -- and who would have guessed -- was Don Maitz's absolutely hilarious introduction of the nominees for Best Dramatic Presentation. Don noted he was supposed to be getting a feed of the video display at the podium, but instead he seemed to be receiving an old Ed Sullivan episode. We returned from one clip to find him giggling, "Oh look, Eddie's taking to Topo Gigio now." On a grimmer note, he announced the winner -- in a landslide -- was the Babylon 5 episode, "Broken Dreams."
At this point the only wrench was thrown into the smoothly functioning gearwork of the production by the enthusiastic and athletic J. Michael Straczynski, who did an end run around his handlers, ran around the entire backstage area, and came up the stairs on the opposite side of the stage, to Neal's befuddlement but to the obvious delight of his fans in the crowd.
Michael Moorcock majestically ascended the stairs to present the short fiction awards, and explained why he'd moved to Texas: "Isn't that where all the washed-up writers go?" The short story went to Connie Willis for "The Soul Selects Her Own Society," and the novelette to "Bicycle Repairman" by Bruce Sterling, who as a local boy received even more profuse congratulations from the crew backstage.
Algis Budrys presented the Novella award to George R.R. Martin, who noted on picking up his first rocket in quite a few years that he could now assure Lady Parris that she was not a Hugo jinx for him. Then Algis gave Kim Stanley Robinson another Hugo for Blue Mars and we were fresh out of statuettes.
We then had a little bit that wasn't on Lori's script: Neal called her onstage to receive a bouquet of roses, and asked her if she had any words for us.
Knowing what had been going on all day, we can appreciate her response a little better:
"It's almost over?"
Then it was time for God to roust himself from his long silence and ask for a big hand for our Master of Ceremonies, and in the interests of controlling the masses note that the Best Dramatic Award winner would be screened in the ballroom in about twenty minutes. Then, as God says, I'm outta there.
Meanwhile, where was Michelle while all this was going on? Well, she didn't want to have to show up an hour early and wait around with nothing to do, so she was going to get dressed and meet me at the show -- or afterwards, as it turned out. The trouble was, as she realized when she asked one of the tech crew where I was, that just as I hadn't learned the names of many of the tech crew, most of them knew me only by my function.
She quickly determined exactly how she should phrase her request.
"Have you seen God?" she said.
All illustrations by Kurt Erichsen