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 Parsons. 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.
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
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
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
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.