Glass and marble were everywhere. Fountains and cascades flowed in orderly fashion over the centrepiece of a vast chamber fully fifty feet from floor to ceiling, around which milled large numbers of stern-faced people in strange attire. This being Los Angeles it would have been easy to believe we'd stumbled onto the set of some strange new fantasy film, but this was in fact merely the reception area for the main convention hotel of L.A.CON II, the 1984 Worldcon.

On checking in, I had my particulars entered on a computer, an imprint of my credit card left on a dummy bill (despite all my protestations that I'd be paying in cash), and an individual card key punched out for me -- the electronic combination of the lock on my room's door being altered automatically as the key was being made. It was all very impressive. As I left the desk, with my trusty native-bearer, Lucy Huntzinger, struggling under the weight of the baggage I'd smiled and assured the pretty receptionist we could manage on our own so she needn't trouble herself with calling a porter, I reflected on how technological accomplishments that would have been cause for wonderment to earlier generations of SF fans were now commonplace. The future had arrived, I decided, and all that was missing were the rocket back-packs. With appropriate synchronicity someone dressed as the title character from Dave Stevens' ROCKETEER comic-book chose that moment to walk by, dummy rocket-pack strapped firmly to his back. I sighed contentedly and told Lucy to hurry up.

Stacy Scott

At the lifts (or elevators -- I had to get into the habit of speaking American) we ran into a thin, dark-haired girl who looked about 17 years old but turned out to be 26. Lucy introduced her as Stacy Scott, wife of Rich Coad, and I was pleased to make her acquaintance, particularly as I'd be staying with her and Rich when I visited San Francisco. Stacy explained that Rich would be arriving the next day, and decided to help us with the luggage. Not that there was any great urgency about this, as it turned out. We seemed to wait days for a lift -- though it was probably no more than a few hours -- and such long waits were to be one of the hallmarks of the weekend.

If you're one of those who feel that by flying from one coast to the other, as I'd done, it's not possible to gain a true impression of the sheer size of the US, then you are mistaken. Struggling down those endless hotel corridors with a fully-overloaded suitcase and watching them vanish over the distant horizon with my room still nowhere to be seen, I soon began to appreciate how easy it is to be awed by the vastness of America without ever leaving the confines of the Anaheim Hilton and Towers. On finally reaching the room. I collapsed over my suitcase, blowing softly at the livid serrations on my fingers and thanking the gods that I wouldn't have to carry the case all that way again until I checked out. I was wrong. Sliding my wondrous card-key into the slot above the door handle I was rewarded not by the green light the instructions on the back of the card had led to expect, but by a red one. Three times the card was re-inserted, and three times the red light came on. Puzzled, I hammered on the door only to have an indignant female voice within demand to know what the hell was going on.

"You're double-booked, Rob", said Lucy, infringing my copyright on stating the totally obvious.

Dragging the baggage back to the lift, we returned to the reception desk, received profuse apologies and a new key, travelled up to the plush 14th floor, found the new room, inserted the new card-key ... and got a red light. Three times. I was beginning to despair of ever getting a room when, on my fourth attempt, the green light came on and the door opened. We were in! The first thing I wanted to do was change out of my sweaty T-shirt, but no sooner had I dropped my case and collapsed on the bed than the phone rang. It was Allyn Cadogan, asking for Lucy and inviting us to a party in Marty Cantor's room.

"Hey, Luce," I yelled, "put your clothes back on and get over here!"

The fully-clothed Ms. Huntzinger stuck her tongue out at me and got the necessary directions from Allyn.

Up to this point everyone I'd encountered I'd either met before (Lucy) or had little previous knowledge of (Ken Porter and Stacy) but now I'd be meeting a bunch of people I'd never met before but whom I felt I knew well, having exchanged letters and fanzines with them. Thus, I approached the party with a certain amount of trepidation, though as it turned out it was a very enjoyable experience.

Marty Cantor

In their room, Marty introduced me to wife Robbie, Larry Carmody, Alina Chu, Lenny Bailes, Ted White and, surprisingly, Chris Atkinson who I'd last seen a few days earlier and half a world away. With the exception of Chris, these people had all previously been only words on paper to me, and I studied them with interest. Ted White was large and bullish, with an incredibly deep voice that Avedon's devastating impression had prepared me for, an infectious laugh, and an engaging sense of humour. In short, he was everything I'd imagined he would be and I took to him immediately. Larry Carmody was quieter than I'd expected, Alina Chu sharper, and Marty Cantor ... well I don't know what I'd expected of Marty Cantor, but whatever it was he came as a total surprise. In print he comes across as somewhat tetchy and obstinate, but in person he's the very model of courtesy and friendliness. For those of you who remember HILL STREET BLUES on TV, Marty somewhat resembled, in both appearance and speech, S.W.A.T. team leader Howard Hunter, only with shoulder-length black hair cut in a page-boy style. Whenever I encountered him during the course of the weekend, his teeth were clamped around the stem of an enormous pipe that looked like a hollowed-out shillelagh, while a shoulder bag containing still more pipes was never far from his side. It was Robbie Cantor, however, who saved my life. After fifteen hours of travel I was in dire need of a drink and, noticing the dismay with which I regarded the few cans of undrinkable American beer lost among the sea of soft-drink provided for their guests, she produced a can of Canadian beer for me. As the cold nectar caressed the sides of my parched throat I thought that, truly, there could be no finer person in the world at that moment than this veritable Florence Nightingale of fandom.

I circulated, chatting to most of those present before getting into a lengthy conversation with Ted White who, on learning that I had a new issue of EPSILON with me, insisted that we go to his room there and then to exchange fanzines. I'd intended handing EPSILON out the next day, but who was I to argue with such unexpected enthusiasm? On the way we picked up Malcolm Edwards and, once in his room, Ted showed us a thick folder containing his correspondence with Richard Bergeron over the latter's allegations concerning the TAFF race I'd won. Since Bergeron had become something of a figure of fun in British fandom by this point, both Malcolm and I gave the letters no more than a cursory glance. D.West had written me a rather amusing letter about this affair shortly before I left, so I showed a copy to Ted. It read, in part:

"I don't know what you're making of all this folderol of Bergeron's, but I gather it's setting the American fans in something of a turmoil. Anyway, as Official TAFF Loser my position is that I have absolutely no complaints about either the result or any part of the administration, and that I am in no way responsible for statements, claims, or allegations made by anyone else. In other words, Bergeron is out there on his own.

Nobody around here seems to be taking it very seriously -- the consensus being that R.B. is completely bananas -- but I shouldn't think either you or I can ignore it entirely, since some of the US fans probably will give it the heavy treatment. Anyway, feel free to point out that I myself (as chief victim of Avedon's searing attack on dominoes etc., etc.) don't see what all the fuss is about. (Though I shall expect to see a more favourable verdict on the game after her victory at MEXICON.)

Must admit, though, I'm curious to see Ted White's response. Snappy rejoinders, here we come. (I figure not less than six pages. Or is that too terse?)"

Ted laughed, and handed me a copy of EGOSCAN containing his response.

"Actually, it was eight pages," he chuckled, and I laughed too. Ah, if only we'd known how matters would develop from there in the months to come! 'All fandom plunged into war!', as they used to say. Still, all that lay in the future and in the meantime there was much to enjoy on that late-August night in Ted's room....

Some years ago, Greg Pickersgill commented on the way fans seem to be drawn towards certain BNFs no matter where they chose to hang out in a convention hotel, and as if to prove his contention people began arriving at Ted's room within minutes of us reaching it. The first to join us was Bob Lichtman. He was soon followed by Gary Farber, Steve and Elaine Stiles, Jerry Kaufman, Alan Bostick and, eventually, by Lucy, Stacy, and Allyn. In no time at all, and totally without planning, we had a pretty damn good room party going. Not surprisingly, most of the conversation centred on the Bergeron affair but at one point, or so my notes assure me, I overheard Lucy say of the diminutive Mr Farber:

"It's huge and it's pink!"

Gary Farber, Stu Shiffman

Tearing myself away from such merry banter, I left briefly to get copies of EPSILON ... and made a horrifying discovery in the lift lobby. As I rounded the corner, I was stopped dead in my tracks by the sight that greeted me. There, in front of the lift doors, stood a tall, dishevelled, and overweight figure with untidy hair and greying stubble, whose shirt-tails hung over sagging trousers and who radiated an air of shambolic seediness. For a moment, reality took on the shifting and unreal quality it has in a Philip K.Dick novel, and I staggered back in shock before this vision of unlovliness. I couldn't believe it! What the hell was Brian Burgess doing in Los Angeles!?!

Back at the room party, I told everyone about my encounter. Most were no more than mildly amused by the story, but Farber and Kaufman got very excited indeed and tried to talk me into finding Burgess again and bringing him back to the room for them.

"The guy's a legend", they explained. "We've been reading about this mysterious figure for years in reports of conventions and of evenings at the One Tun, and now ... to have the chance to actually meet him!"

Their faces took on a beatific glow as they savoured the prospect of -- dare I say it -- touching the shirt-tails of the Blessed Brian while I, faced with such clear evidence of mental imbalance, took out my notebook and wondered whether I ought to write "loonies" to remind me of the incident. I decided instead to jot down a few brief impressions of Farber and Kaufman....

Gary Farber is a short neat person with a short neat beard and Jerry Kaufman isn't. In fact, Jerry didn't even look like the guy in the photos people had shown me immediately prior to saying:

"This is Jerry Kaufman."

No, that Jerry Kaufman had had a rakish moustache that gave him a distinctly devil-may-care appearance, while this one not only didn't have a moustache but, or so he claimed, had also dyed his hair black.

(Later, when I reached New York, I reported this transformation to a mortified Patrick Nielsen Hayden.

"Oh no", he said, "he didn't ... he can't have! how could he have let you see him without a moustache!?! This is terrible! Jerry has the sort of face that demands a moustache! On behalf of American fandom, I apologise to you."

I accepted his apology on behalf of British fandom and told him to make sure it didn't happen again.)

Jerry Kaufman, Suzle

With the time fast aproaching midnight, I was still surprisingly alert and feeling pretty good, buoyed up on the elation I felt at being in L.A., but common sense told me that I really had to go to bed if I didn't want to feel lousy for the rest of the convention. I checked my watch, saw that I'd been awake 24 hours, and decided to call it a day. (I'd always called 24 hours "a day" and saw no reason to change the habit of a lifetime.) Back home in Britain, it was 8am and most of those I worked with would be on their way to their jobs and another hard day at the office. It was a nice thought to fall asleep on, a reassuringly familiar note on which to bring to close my first night in this strange new land....