Chapter 4: SPIKED

On Saturday I awoke at 7.30am -- I was finally acclimatising! -- and stayed in bed another hour reading fanzines before getting up and heading downstairs. Mooching around for a while, I ended up in the hotel shop. While at the counter, buying a copy of the second book in Jack Chalker's 'Soul Rider' series (yeah, yeah, I know), I bumped into Larry Carmody and Alina Chu. Feisty, intelligent and good-looking, Alina is easy to like and my appreciation of her has only deepened over the years with each occasion we've met since. Larry, however, is harder to pin down. At the time he was co-editor with Stu Shiffman of RAFFLES, a fanzine I then wrote a column for, and was never less than friendly to me. Larry may have left fandom under a cloud a few years after this, but my main memory of him is of an amiable guy who was good company.

We talked for a few minutes before being joined by a tall, athletic-looking woman in a track-suit who introduced herself as Spike. She was just off for her morning jog (jogging? ... at a convention?) but was meeting Stu for breakfast at 10.30am and invited me along. I accepted, particularly as she also offered me the loan of a badly needed hair-dryer. Spike, I later learned, is probably the only person ever to come into fandom via weight-lifting and one of the many formidable woman at the core of Madison, Wisconsin's feminist-oriented SF group. I would get to know her much better over the next few years.

Stu Shiffman in front of the hotel

Breakfast was in a Hawaiian restaurant just down the road from the hotel, one with as tasteless an exterior as all the other places on Harbor Boulevard, and the food was good, if expensive. I chatted to Spike and Stu over hash and eggs, a breakfast that seemed suitably American, inconsequential stuff about absent friends that was punctuated by Spike's frequent, infectious laughter. At one point she berated me about the photo of me in the Programme Book (which I'd got at a photo-booth and mailed in just under deadline - see Chapter 1) complaining that she'd hardly recognised me from it and that I was better-looking in real life. But then everyone is better-looking in real life. On the way back we stopped in the hotel car park so that I could take a photo of my companions next to Terl the Psychlo who stood a good thirty five feet tall, his head brushing the fronds of the adjacent palm trees. This amazing figure was actually a large inflatable, one connected by umbilical cord to a van-mounted compressor. The van and compressor were manned throughout the weekend by a cadre of scientologists/ Bridge Publications employees who were there to ensure that this character from their mentor L.Ron Hubbard's BATTLEFIELD EARTH didn't suffer any undignified sagging due to gradual deflation. I laughed at this ludicrous spectacle, secure in the knowledge that the Hubbardites were unlikely ever to get involved in any British conventions.

Stu, Spike, Terl

The early afternoon round-table discussion of fanzine standards, a perennial subject that was causing a lot of fuss in the fanzines of the day, started well but soon got bogged down in such irrelevancies as the different pronunciations of various words in the UK and the US. Making most of the running were Terry Carr, Ted White, Malcolm Edwards, and Jack Herman. Old-fans-and-tired around them admitted to reading very few fanzines all the way through; some seemed almost proud of the fact. Terry Carr was having none of this.

"I read them all the way through", he admonished them, and some looked duly chastened. A little later, Terry lamented the lack of scurrilous humour in current fanzines.

"What about Leroy Kettle?" asked Malcolm.

"I've never read any Kettle", he replied.

"Then you don't read EPSILON all the way through", I said, since Kettle had had pieces in more than one recent issue. All laughed, and Terry had the good grace to look suitably embarrassed.

Jack Herman, unknown, Terry Carr

In the light of his subsequent and highly untimely death I wish I could report that Terry Carr made a strong impression on me, but I'm afraid he didn't. I first saw Terry at a party that Chris Priest threw at his London flat, shortly after the 1979 British Worldcon, but he was taken ill and I never got to speak to him. This programme item at L.A.CON II was our second meeting. For whatever reason -- mutual hesitation or a certain shyness, perhaps -- we exchanged only a few words, and I never bumped into him again during the con. Our final meeting occurred in February 1986 when I travelled to the US again, this time for CORFLU, a fannish convention whose tiny attendance should have made getting acquainted with him a lot easier. Alas, it never happened. Once again we chatted for no more than a minute or two, somehow never getting it together for a more substantial conversation. A few months later he was gone, but he left behind him a body of fanwriting whose quality has seldom been matched, and the memory of one of those rare people who are respected by almost everyone who knows them. It's too late now, but I wish I'd gotten to know him better when I had the chance.

The fanroom item finally broke up when Marty Cantor brought in Charles Burbee, living legend and editor of LASFS clubzine SHANGRI L'AFFAIRES during what many consider to be its finest period, whose name was mysteriously absent from the history of LASFS that appeared in the programme book. The new generation of LASFans may not know who he is but we did, and we honoured him in our way.

A little later I took time out to view the art show and was as unimpressed as I usually am by these things. It may have been the biggest I'd seen at a con but the works on show displayed the same combination of technical excellence and imaginative sterility to be found over here. The only novelty, if that's what you can call it, was the profusion of paintings of unbearably cute creatures. Cute dragons, cute elves, cute cats, cute unicorns. It was so calculatedly sweet that it set my teeth to aching. No, by far the most beautiful objet d'art in the whole room was the shapely young woman clad in an improbable black rubber ensemble who was among those viewing the pictures. Judging by the stares she was attracting I wasn't alone in my assessment.

Early in the evening, after arranging to visit Disneyland with Sharee Carton and Allyn Cadogan the next day, I made my way to the Masquerade where I met up with Stu and Spike. The Masquerade is one of the two big production numbers at a Worldcon -- the other being the Hugo Awards ceremony, of course -- and, having come across photographs of earlier Masquerades in LOCUS, I was really eager to see this one. We stayed about two and a half hours, mocking some entries but being genuinely impressed by others such as the dramatic stagings of scenes from 'Metropolis' and Fantasia's 'Night on Bear Mountain'. One of the lesser entries was a transvestite Darth Vader.

"Hah!" said Spike, slapping my back, "I'll bet he's English!"

"Sure to be", I replied, smug in my Welshness.

At some point we were joined by Ted White and Victor Gonzalez, a promising if depressingly Reaganite young fan from Seattle, who added to the snide and cynical asides we'd been making about some costumes. Ted however, was rather louder than the rest of us and succeeded in arousing the ire of a woman sitting in the next row. While she was giving him a severe verballing the rest of us cracked up, and had to make a hasty exit, stifling chortles all the while.

For me the evening's partying started at 10.30pm, at the Britain In '87 bash. This was hosted by bidding committee members Chris Atkinson and Malcolm Edwards and was where most of the British contingent at L.A.CON II were to be found. More importantly, this was the first time on my trip that I encountered drinkable beer (all imported, of course) and I fell on it with glee. Spike and Stu seemed only marginally less gleeful as they grabbed up bottles of Pope's and Bass respectively. Hearing my accent as they and I argued the merits of the beers on offer, a strange Scots-American fan patriotically informed me that McEwan's Export was the finest beer brewed in Britain.

"I know, because I'm Scotch myself", he proclaimed proudly.

Refraining from pointing out that Scotch is a drink, I asked him what part of Scotland he was from. This was mere mischief on my part, of course, but I never cease to be surprised by the number of people who claim to be Irish or Italian or whatever, yet who were born in America of parents themselves born in America and so must clearly be American. Strange.

Jack Herman, Australian DUFF winner

When the beer ran out we grabbed Rich Coad and, moving on to the Australia in '85 party, we were deeply disappointed to discover that only Lite beer -- which turned out to be unutterably foul -- was available. What had the Australians come to I wondered, shaking my head sadly. Leaving Spike and Stu to the tender mercies of our Antipodean cousins, Rich Coad and I set off for the SFWA suite. We breezed in, soon to be joined by Jerry Kaufman, and chatted for a while to Joe and Gay Haldeman, who seemed pleasant enough. Once upon a time, when I was a young and wet-behind-the-ears SF reader, to have found myself in the SFWA suite at a World Science Fiction Convention in Los Angeles, surrounded by famous SF authors, would have been my idea of Heaven. But I was no longer that young reader and no longer capable of feeling a sense of wonder simply by being in the presence of writers whose works I'd read and admired. Sad, perhaps, but time continues to play its little jokes on us.

One of the beers I'd been hearing about since arriving in the US was Coors, a beer seemingly regarded as a premier brew, so when I came across a six-pack of them cooling in the suite's ice-filled bath I naturally tried one. This was a mistake. Coors was without doubt the most undrinkable beer I sampled during my entire trip, and after a single gag-inducing swig I decided to cut out the middle-man ... by pouring the rest straight down the toilet. Resigned to being teetotal for the rest of my TAFF trip, I wandered out into the corridor ... only to have Justin Ackroyd thrust a bottle of Irish Mist into my hand. I'm not normally a spirit-drinker but this was wonderful stuff and I swigged at the bottle gratefully, putting my arm around Justin and telling him what a truly exemplary human being he was. There was some sort of party going on in the corrider so I joined it, drinking more of Justin's Irish Mist and loosening up so much that I was soon incapable of any movement at all. It was 2.30am the last time I looked at my watch, and after that all else is blank. Somewhere in there I slipped into oblivion, little guessing that tomorrow, Sunday, would be the most exciting and eventful day of the whole convention.