First printed in The Twilight Zine #20, October 1966
It was a weary little group that staggered into the Sheraton-Cleveland at about nine o’clock on the morning of Friday, September 2, 1966. By some miracle of atavism, in this technological era, we had managed to collect a carload of people consisting of only one driver (Dave Vanderwerf) and three confirmed non-drivers (me, Leslie [Leslie Turek], and John Boardman). The high spirits with which we had set out across the Verazzano-Narrows Bridge at five the evening before, had faded within the first hundred miles of driving through moon-lit Pennsylvania countryside, and had vanished entirely during the few hours of troubled sleep we had snatched at one of a series of Howard Johnson rest stops, all seemingly identical except for the fact that in some the Ladies’ Room was on the left.
Nevertheless, our hearts rose somewhat as we escalated ourselves to the mezzanine and handed over the extra dollar that made us Genuine Attending Members of the Twenty-Fourth World Science-Fiction Convention (along with some eight-hundred-fifty others and another three hundred non-attending members). Mine was so lifted that I actually managed to avoid falling asleep after unpacking; since the official program was not scheduled to begin until one P.M., I devoted the next two hours to wandering about, feeling rather neoish — this was before I learned that it is impossible for a female to be a neo. I passed through the Hucksters’ Room and noted that Pierre’s Indices [Erwin Strauss’s Index to the S-F Magazines, 1951-65] appeared to be selling well. I attempted to view the art show but was ejected on the grounds that it was not yet fully set up. Finally, as one o’clock approached, I sat down in the Gold Room, location of most events, and combated Morpheus by eating from my package of black licorice. I kept awake but developed such a profound distaste for the vile stuff, that I was eventually compelled to give the rest of the package to Bruce Pelz, west-coast Tolkienist, who was so ill-advised as to declare in the presence of witnesses his tolerance for this exotic delicacy.
The introduction of notables a la Ed Sullivan proceeded quickly, leaving time for a recess before Harlan Ellison spoke, animadverting1 the lack of avant-garde and controversial writing in science fiction. This speech displayed a tendency to degenerate into an exchange of insults with Randall Garrett, but perhaps that was the fault of the jellybeans…
Some time last year, Harlan Ellison wrote a 1984-ish type story entitled “Repent Harlequin, Said the Ticktockman.” One of the acts of its hero is to dump $150,000 worth of jellybeans on the moving sidewalks, causing no end of confusion as the passers-by stop to eat them. However, it is also stated that jellybeans had not been manufactured for more than one hundred years. Despite the resulting inconsistencies, the story did manage to win one of the few Nebula Awards that Roger Zelazny neglected to carry off and even got itself nominated for a Hugo. But all year, people had been going up to Ellison and asking him, “Harlan, what about the jellybeans?” So no wonder that by the time of the Con, he was pretty well bugged out of his mind.
As a result of this sad situation, a group of kind-hearted Angelinos decided to vary the routine to “Harlan, we don’t mind about the jellybeans.” Yet a further refinement was the purchase of four pounds of black licorice jellybeans. One pound was left with Banquet Toast-master Isaac Asimov, in case Harlan got his Hugo. The remainder was divided into small packages and given to various people to be presented at intervals during the weekend. Even Boston’s own mild-mannered Hal Clement/Harry C. Stubbs is said to have sidled up to Ellison, muttering, “I believe these are yours.” Now, the one kind of jellybeans that Harlan Ellison does not like happens to be black licorice. So if he had been bugged out of his mind before, now he was pretty well bugged out of the known universe. Which raised his innate aptitude for Randy Garrett-insulting to a new peak and provided much amusement for the assembled spectators.
A MEDIAEVAL INTERLUDE
I ducked out to eat during the mid-afternoon auction and returned near the end of a panel on comic books, just in time to hear someone passionately defending the thesis that Doc Sivana was really a good guy, apparently on the grounds that he had a beautiful daughter. After the showing of one segment of a totally losing television show, Time Tunnel (which did garner plenty of laughs, albeit all in the wrong places), the assembled mob was thrown out in order to allow for the preparation of an initiation into the Order of Saint Fantony. This British group had managed to acquire a few American members — TAFF representatives and such — over the last several years, and it was apparently decided at last years Worldcon in London to form a US chapter. So with much pomp and circumstance — not to mention cloaks, heroic music, and naked swords, Bjo Trimble and Fritz Leiber (ably proxied by John Trimble) proved their fitness by drinking unflinchingly (more or less) of the waters from the well of the renowned martyr and were accepted as true Knight and Lady of the Order of Saint Fantony.
The next hour, before the Boston-Syracuse bidders’ party, I spent wandering around, looking for Leslie, and hoping that she knew more than I did about what we were supposed to be doing to help. The eventual answer was, nothing much. But we did stand for a few hours by the door, attempting to counter Boston’s lack of buttons and propagandistic coasters by greeting people with our smiling faces. Pat O’Neil got his own party going just after midnight, but the chance to sit down proved fatal to me. Pat had brought Juanita Coulson and Elliot Shorter along to join him in folk-singing, but when I realized I was missing occasional verses, in half-hour chunks, I decided to give up and do the rest of my sleeping in my own room.
Much of Saturday consisted for me in sleeping through free movies and drowsing through panels, so I will resume my narration with an inside story as the only Bostonian to participate in the costume party. My costume (which, for lack of anything better, I described as “Dryad”) consisted primarily of black tights, a sort of tunic with leaves sewn all over it, more leaves in my hair, and lots of green eye shadow. I crept out of my room warily, aware of startled glances from passing Canadian Legionnaires (they would keep playing those bagpipes), was somewhat relieved to find myself in the elevator with an Explosion in a Time Machine, and emerged on the mezzanine into a scene of colorful bedlam. All about me I saw wizards in wigs and barbarians in bathmats, masked monsters, antennaed aliens, and a sightless superhero who kept muttering, “Maybe Spiderman can see out through these things…” Randy Garrett came as one of his own characters, which was considered decidedly dirty pool, and James Blish did the burnoose bit and claimed to be L. Sprague de Camp.
There then followed an interval of people marching around the room to be seen, judged, photographed, or whatever (especially whatever). A rather dispirited band played while the judges consulted and Harlan Ellison called for faster music (although presumably not stronger wine (what am I quoting from?)). The finalists (yhos included) marched around again. The band appeared and the judges retired… Finally, the winners were announced. They were, as far as memory serves*:
Most BEMish — The Rose Monster (Harriet Kolchak)
Most Authentic — The King of Fools and the Snake-Mother
Most Beautiful — Dragon Mistrees (Karen Anderson)
Best Presentation — Chung the Unavoidable (who proved that the hand is quicker than the eye, even when the eye is a ping-pong ball) (Bruce Pelz)
Most Humorous — Explosion in a Time Machine (Larry Niven)
Best Group — The Birds the Science Fiction is For
Special Award — St. George and the Dragon (A.C. Kyle III (age about 4) & ?)
Where it doesn’t, see Niekas. (Free plug)
The audience also voted another award to the Snake-Mother — probably for her endurance in sitting all evening on a dolly with her legs encased in several yards of highly impressive and tightly coiled tail.
The New York bidder’s party started soon after I changed out of my costume. It promptly fizzled, due to an insufficiency of liquor. (The liquor stores had closed at six that evening. Thanks to the holiday, they would not be open again until Tuesday morning. Some improvident people seemed to be very unhappy about this.) Since Leslie gave up and went to sleep early, I was able to entice Vanderwerf off to a party given by Charlie and Marsha Brown. The high points of this memorable evening were (1) J.K. Klein coming in with his camera and everyone trying to give him something interesting to photograph, (2) Marsha going to sleep, and (3) the Solemn Pact we made to tell everyone it was a Really Great Party. You heard that friends; it was great, and don’t you forget it.
I staggered out of bed at nine-thirty Sunday morning to attend a meeting of the Hyborian Legion and staggered back to sleep immediately after. Aside from the facts that L. Sprague de Camp is proposing to write a new fantasy and that I gave somebody some money for something, I retain absolutely nothing of this interval…
By the time I got up again, I had missed most of a panel on “Religion in Science Fiction,” and so I never did find out why Roger Zelazny is a pantheist. However, I was in time for the Fun and Joke Session with Isaac Asimov and Harlan Ellison. After a few minutes of weakly struggling through Yiddish jokes, they settled down to Harlan telling tales of his life in Hollywood and dropping names as if they grew on trees, while Asimov inserted an occasional well-placed deflation. Despite the bad start, it turned out to be one of the most memorable parts of the formal program. After some more nonsense came the fashion show, which I am scarcely equipped to do justice to. Ask one of the local drooling males about it, if you’re really interested.
That evening was, of course, the Hugo Awards Banquet. Having shelled out five bucks for a ticket, I was able to sit and eat in comfort while the assembled dignitaries did the same up on the dais. L. Sprague de Camp’s speech as guest of honor consisted mostly of anecdotes of his world-wide travels — such tidbits as how to stop European waiters from robbing you blind, simply by speaking French. Although not an outstanding speech, it was more interesting by far than the series of presentations of special awards, by First Fandom and others, that followed. But even Sam Moskowitz cannot go on for ever, and so it came time for the Hugos to be presented.
Each of the lists of nominees was read off by a renowned star (played by Isaac Asimov) and the winner announced by a beautiful actress (also played by Isaac Asimov). Asimov further undertook to insult all the winners soundly because they were getting Hugos and he wasn’t. What is like unto an Asimov? Best Professional Magazine was won by If, making it the first winner since Galaxy tied in 1953 not to be named Astounding/Analog or Fantasy and Science Fiction. Best Professional Artist was Frank Frazetta. For Best Novel, there was a tie between Zelazny’s And Call Me Conrad… and Frank Herbert’s Dune. Best Amateur Magazine was won by ERB-dom, proving to many people’s dissatisfaction the power of special fandoms.
As Asimov read the list of nominees for Best Short Fiction, interest rose to a peak, for not even the old hands at predictions had been able to figure this one out. He read slowly and with delight at holding the attention of all. “‘Repent Harlequin!, Said the Ticktockman’ by Harlan Ellison. (hisses) ‘Star Dock’ by Fritz Leiber. ‘Marque and Reprisal’ by Poul Anderson. ‘Day of the Great Shout’ by Phillip Jose Farmer. The winner is… (prolonged pause as the envelope is opened) … oy! Come and get it Harlan. The winner is ‘Repent Harlequin!, Said the Jellybean.’” And as an astounded Harlan ascended to the dais, Asimov handed him the coveted award — yet another bag of black licorice jellybeans.
Upset perhaps by this ultimate insult, Harlan, after voicing his gratitude, proceeded to maneuver Asimov away from the podium and announce that he was finally going to satisfy his life-long desire to award a Hugo all by himself. Asimov appeared hurt by this rejection but bore it in patience as Ellison read the list of nominees for Best All-time Series. Finally the winner was announced — “The Foundation Series” by Isaac Asimov. And for the second time that evening, one who had previously been throwing insults about with a lavish hand was forced to reveal himself to be Sweet and Sincere and Grateful and all those uncool things after all. So, drowned in schmaltz, the banquet expired gracefully.
That evening, I just barely looked in on the bidder’s party and proceeded quickly to the festivities sponsored by Pat O’Neil. The clever thing there was the use of the Browns’ room down the hall as an annex to which to banish folk-singers, thus keeping them out of the hair of honest folk. Alas! there was no equally simple way to dispose of the cloud of cigarette smoke that steadily accumulated until it threatened to obscure the far wall. I held out as long as I could, in order to observe the fascinating spectacle of Bjo leaning comfortably on Ed Meskys and discoursing on the musical aptitudes of llamas, but, as my eyes became Niagaran, I was forced to flee. I stood, gasping, in the hall, wondering what to do next, when Charlie Brown came out and asked if I would like to see the pro party. He had been avoiding it, he said, in the attempt to meet new people, but he was willing to make the sacrifice for my sake. So how could I say no? Besides, what’s a conreport without a few names to drop? So stop me if I start sounding too much like Harlan Ellison, but…
From the moment we entered, it was obviously the pro party (despite Sheila (Elkin, now Gilbert)), because you could hear Isaac Asimov, Randy Garrett, and [Karen Anderson singing selections from Gilbert and Sullivan as only Isaac Asimov, Randy Garrett, and Karen Anderson can (or would dare). The next thing I noticed was L. Sprague de Camp bearing down on us to demand that Charlie justify his existence. Feeling thankfully inconspicuous, I wandered about for a bit, finally ending up listening to de Camp telling Roger Zelazny about how the rapier was very popular in ancient Crete until the invention of body armor, after which it languished in obscurity for several thousand years.
At about that time, I noticed a rapidly growing pile of high heels in the corner and happily added mine to the group. The singers had by now turned to such old favorites as “The Skye Boat Song,” “Flow Gently, Sweet Afton,” and “The Old Oaken Bucket.” I requested “The Ash Grove” but no one knew it.2 More stragglers from Pat’s party now began to wander in. Marsha Brown appeared, having shed her contact lenses, and Pat himself came by with Eliot Shorter to give a more folksongy tinge to the proceedings. It was at this point that nametags began to travel freely. Eliot turned into Karen Anderson, while she seemed content as Jack Gaughan. I finally gave up at five A.M. and, collecting my shoes, staggered off to bed. It was thus that I missed the once-in-a-life-time experience of watching the sun rise over Lake Erie.
Despite this self-deprivation, I still failed of as good a night’s sleep as I might have wished, for, for some obscure reason, I felt compelled to get up in time to hear John Brunner speak at noon. So I was not in all that great shape for the business meeting, which was perhaps just as well, for Boston displayed its inexperience sadly. I didn’t really come alive until that evening, in time for the bitter-enders’ party. This was held in the two convention suites — one for home movies and one for drinking. I opted for the latter, despite the fact that I had just come to the sorry conclusion that I must have a basic aversion to the taste of alcohol, since I find it unpleasant in any form or guise. sniff!
I soon found, however, that I apparently had a choice between standing up and having people shove by me in their haste to get on the liquor line, or sitting down and having people step on me in their haste to get on the liquor line. Then I made the happy discovery that there was a friendly little bench out in the corridor, between the two suites, and if I went and sat on it, people would come and sit down next to me. In this way, I managed to meet a good part of the TZ [Twilight Zine] mailing list, have my picture taken several times, and see all sorts of fascinating people go by in the elevators.
I had thought, in my folly, that I might even get a little more sleep that night. Heh. So I was dozing fitfully on one of the mezzanine couches at about noon, saying nasty things to people who came by and tried to wake me up (I didn’t recognize them with my glasses off, but whoever you were, I apologize), when I heard a gladsome cry rising from the lobby. It was the soon-to-depart Californians celebrating the belated arrival of Ron Ellik and Bill Evans’ The Universes of E.E. Smith, which Advent Publishers had supposedly been selling at the Con, but for which nothing but the covers had arrived. So Ron and illustrator Bjo organized an impromptu autographing party, while the Trimble offspring scampered about merrily and a fine time was had by all.
After that there remained but one last party at the airport (the Browns had convinced me that even if standby failed, Sheila and I would at least be stranded together) with Poul and Karen Anderson, Alva and Sidoney Rogers, and Ron Ellik, all waiting to disperse to the four corners of the earth. Then my plane was landing at La Guardia, and, as I saw the flag of the Borough of Queens flying in the breeze, I knew that I was truly home.