Lloyd Arthur Eshbach's ConStellation Reminiscence

1983ConStellation, Baltimore
by Lloyd Arthur Eshbach
From the Noreascon Three PB

With 6400 in attendance at ConStellation, 1983, the Baltimore Worldcon has been surpassed only by Anaheim the following year. This, probably, will no longer be true when the figures are in for Noreascon Three. But Baltimore was big!

Statistics in general are of little interest to me, but I found some statistics in my analysis of the 1983 Worldcon that seem to me to be worth repeating. On the basis of lists published in Progress Report #4 (written in April and hardly complete) and in the Program Book, 306 attending fans volunteered to help in any possible way to conduct the convention, and 132 pros (mostly writers and editors) offered to appear on the programs. That number, 438, represented more than the total attendance at fifteen of the first twenty-three Worldcons!

This ties in with the all-inclusive nature of the ConStellation programming — something for everyone. In addition to the Special Features — the Masquerade, the Hugo and the International Awards, speeches, slide shows — and the usual Science Fiction panels, discussion groups, and readings; there were art programs, a very extensive gaming schedule, sessions devoted to science, space programming (with Chuck Yeager speaking), and a strange heading called "fans." (This last made little sense to me, as I was always under the impression that almost all who attended SF cons, including the pros, were fans.)

In short, so much was under way that there was no possibility that anyone could catch a fraction of what he might want to observe. So — early on I gave up on the programming and enjoyed the convention by talking with interesting people, going on a "Meet the Pros" boat trip, browsing in the huckster room, and the like.

Two things about ConStellation disturbed me. First, when the Pro Guest of Honor, John Brunner, spoke in the main auditorium, fittingly, nothing else was scheduled in competition. But when the Fan Guest of Honor, David A. Kyle, spoke, it was under the strange "fan" listing in a small room, with a full assortment of competitive programming under way on every side. About fifty people constituted his audience. His credentials, though not the equal of Brunner's, were not too shabby. Five books in the SF genre, a substantial amount of fiction published in a variety of fields, founder of Gnome Press, one of the major specialist publishers of the 1950s, even a published SF illustrator. In short, he should have appeared on the program with Brunner.

My second source of annoyance was the Crab Pig-out. (Not my term, but the committee's.) Not being overly fond of Maryland crab meat, and the alternate menu (for $25.00) consisting of hot dogs, baked beans, and potato salad, I decided not to participate in the Crab Feast. Unfortunately, the Hugo Award Ceremony followed the crab binge in the same hall, with the feasters retaining their preferred seats. So I decided, second-class citizen that I was, I could survive without watching the Hugo presentations.

Despite what will be considered nit-picking on my part, I thoroughly enjoyed ConStellation, 1983. On the whole it was well planned and, considering the magnitude of the task, well conducted. Worldcons have grown so large and so complex that inevitably some activities must be less successful than others. And , I suppose, after you've attended ten or fifteen of them, the novelty has worn off, and for you their interest lies in meeting old friends. Of these there were a-plenty at ConStellation.