I've Had No Sleep and I Must Giggle

"I've Had No Sleep and I Must Giggle" is a classic con report written by Ginjer Buchanan about Baycon and published in Granfaloon #5 p7. It captures perfectly the cosmic encounter between neofen and a first Worldcon when that Worldcon was the slightly surrealistic fever dream that was Baycon, the 1968 Worldcon, known for tear gas in the streets nearby (the Berkeley riots) and quite different vapors in the rooms, hot hotels and long speeches. (The title is a play on the classic Harlan Ellison story, "I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream.")

I've Had No Sleep and I Must Giggle

By Ginjer Buchanan

Limp, the body of Nancy Lambert lay at my feet, sprawled atop a double bed mattress. The mattress was on the floor. Next to her, long black hair all over the place Jeannie DiModica mewed in her sleep. Linda Eyster pushed past me and threw herself down on the naked, grey boxsprings. She twitched in discomfort. Suzanne Tompkins turned her face to the wall, away from the light’s glare. Suzle had a whole bed. There was something about Suzle. She always had a whole bed.

I moved past them and groped my way by the tiny, perpetually damp connecting bathroom into the other darkened bedroom.

In the corner, the Strange Girl crouched, crying incoherently for sleeping pills. We never knew who she was, or where she came from. She was in the corner all weekend. I circled to avoid her, and my foot touched something soft and warm and damp – Dale Steranka’s face. She snapped at my toe and rolled away. From on; of the beds came the sound of Sunday Eyster, making small animal noises, taking off her false eyelashes. I found the other bed and fell into sleep, troubled by images of eternal airplane flights, and permanently clogged ears.

It was our first night at Baycon.

* * * * * * * * * * *

There was a rumor that food was to be had in the hotel dining room. I doubted it.
“Look,” said Linda, “let’s go and see. Maybe this time –”
“Uh huh,” I shook my head. “Remember the coffee shop? Baycon said there’d be food there, too. So we hiked there, and waited. And Waited. And Waited. We almost blew our minds over that one.”
“And what about the water fountain?” Nancy added.

We were silent then, remembering how we had been forced to venture into the guts of the Claremont to find the Water Fountain. Deeper and deeper down unfamiliar corridors, knowing, with heart-stopping certainty, that somewhere down there – somewhere-there was also a Sauna.

“It doesn’t matter. We’ve got to try anyway,” Linda insisted.

I gave in quickly. It had been quite awhile since I had eaten. Airlines’ food. Solid sawdust. What the hell.

We left for the dining room. Things happened. A shaggy, bearded creature swooped upon Sunday and bore her away. Dale disappeared and later we saw her surrounded by numberless teenage boys. She looked stunned. At the N3F room, we were offered coffee. It tasted like boiled bears’ urine. We drank it anyway. When we left there Suzle began hearing voices. The Call of the Pro. She followed them away. Only Linda and I reached the dining room. The scent of food within was overpowering. We began salivating on the rug. There was steak and potatoes and roasts and… There was, suddenly a monstrous dollar sign, glowing neon green, blocking our way. We turned and ran. Linda began repeating over and over, “I’ve got to get to a store. I’ve got to get to a store.” She kept running, toward the hotel entrance.

I grabbed for her. “No, Linda. They’re rioting out there. You don’t want to fight that battle. Stay here with Baycon and worry about medieval problems.” I knew she knew what we all knew. Baycon did not want us to see what was outside.

She broke away and vanished into the chill mist. I waited awhile, and then returned to the room. The others were there. No one mentioned Linda. Later she came back, bearing candy and battered Pepsi cans. A vicious fight broke out over the Necco wafers. We never did thank her.

* * * * * * * * * * *

No light in the room. Blinds drawn, windows down. We lay, clutching blankets and bedspreads. Baycon did not provide heat. Telling stories. laughing. Sense of time distorted, sense of humour likewise.

“Tell us about Baycon, Suzle,” I pleaded. We liked that story. It gave us a false sense of reality.
“Well, this afternoon…” she began.
“No,” Nancy pounded the floor, “The beginning, the beginning.”
“All right. In 1906, Hugo Gernsback…”
Jeannie giggled. “Not that far back.”

Suzle began again. “A year ago, in New York City, there was NYcon III, the 25th Annual World Science Fiction Convention. At NYcon, two groups1 struggled for control of the 26th Annual World Convention. Baycon was one of these groups. Baycon won the struggle. Baycon began issuing progress reports. It had Joan Baez and Bishop Pike, but it dropped them in favor of Maid Marion and Robin Hood. It added this feature and that feature, until now it has two art shows, two light shows, four bands, a giant huckster room, a costume ball, a medieval fashion show, a medieval tournament, and Gene Roddenberry. Some people believe it may even become sentient.”

“And why are we here, Suzle?”

“We’re here because we’re neo-fen seeking to become true fen. We’re here because we’re creating our own scene. We’re here to meet and be met. We’re here because we believed the goddamn progress reports.”

In the darkness, one of us began giggling. Someone else picked it up. One by one, each of us laughing.

Then we heard…I don’t know…something moving behind the connecting door. The door opened. Dim light in the room. Huge, shambling, hairy, semi-nude, and possibly moist, it came toward us. It spoke.
“Has anyone seen my nightgown?”
“Linda, we can barely see you,” I heard myself say. They laughed. But I knew why they were laughing. They were surely against me. Baycon had brought us together here, but it had not affected me at all.

I knew. God, how I knew. Linda had been a brilliant klutz. Baycon had given her Earl, and she hadn’t locked herself in a bathroom in hours. Nancy had been lucid and content; now she roamed the halls in a daze, dragging her guitar behind her. Dale had been a Shy Young Thing. Baycon and a pair of black tights ruined that image. Jeannie was the quiet one, friendly and interested. Now she seemed to be fading away, like a used Sylvania blue-dot flashbulb. Baycon had made her insecure. Suzle went off for long periods of time. I don’t know what she did out there, and she never let us know. But whatever it was, she always came back, flying high. And Sunday. Baycon hadn’t changed Sunday much, maybe. But the more men there were around, the more problems Sunday had. And Baycon had given her plenty of men.
I was the only one still sane and whole and untouched. I’d only paid $36 for half of Harlan Ellison. Baycon hadn’t affected my mind.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Baycon appeared to us as a tarnished knight, flickering with phosphorescent colours, playing electronic music from his breastplate. He said we should take the elevator, if we wanted to get to the lobby – and food. Those of us who had been to worldcons before shrugged, and smiled grimly.

The Elevator. Small. The words old, battered, cramped, dirty, inefficient beyond description. There, at the controls, the operator, wrinkled belligerent spinster, two malignant ice-blue eyes, hating everyone under thirty. One operator. Four elevators. We stared. And turned, and started for the stairs. As we walked the lunatic voice of the operator rang out behind us.
“I don’t want people like you on my elevator.”

* * * * * * * * * * *

The hurricane hit us as soon as we entered the lobby. Odors, some sweetly illegal. Chill air. Food somewhere. Sounds. Clinking and clattering of bells and beads, rattleclang of chainmail and swords. Raucous. Caucaphony. Ear shattering, mind-blasting, music, music, MUSIC! And much later, hushed, silent halls, with secret sounds of secret parties from behind closed doors. Sights. Faces, bizarre, familiar or both. Ellison, Silverberg, Bradbury, Bloch, Harrison, Carr, Panshin, White, Anderson, Zelazny, Farmer, Pohl – even Campbell. The Fishers, Couches, Woods, and Trimbles. Fanatics. Olentangy. Lunarians. Fanoclasts. GRAS. – even the SCA east and west. A rioting, tinkling, flashing montage of mad events that whirled us from day to day, to where some of us had never been before -

We moved with it, sometimes slowly, sometimes in a frenzy. Sometimes together, more often separated. One day Dale and Jeannie spoke of the coffee shop. They disappeared, and were gone for a time. Later, they returned to us having been thrown out of the coffee shop for causing a disturbance by asking to be waited on. They were no worse for wear. But now Jeannie snarled whenever food was mentioned. Baycon had left her that.

It was a long weekend. The others kept talking and dreaming of smorgasbords and blog, and wine-tasting, but I tried not to think about it. Meanwhile, a voice from deep inside whined “Why are you doing this to me?” My stomach. Talking back.

And we passed through the panel discussions.
And we passed through the D.O.M.’s.
And we passed through the auctions.
And we passed through the business meeting.
And we passed through the open parties.
And we finally came to the Hugo Awards Banquet. The ballroom. Hundreds of tables, packed together, a patchwork scene of white cloth from one end of the room to the other. Hundreds. But not enough. We pushed and shoved and fought for seats.

In the distance, beyond and behind the many massive pillars which rose from floor to ceiling like parodies of redwood trees, effectively blocking everyone’s view – in the distance stood the speaker’s table. Someone was there. A voice droned on and on and out into the lobby2. Silverware clinked. Bodies stirred. All around us food began appearing. Roasted tribble. The sounds of gnawing and slurping oozed in our skulls. Someone cried, piteously, and began chewing on a plate.

In that instant, I became terribly calm. Surrounded by Baycon: surrounded by fandom. I knew what had to be done. And I had to do it quickly. I noted someone snapping at flies.

I half-turned to the right, grabbed the nearest waitress and got a large bottle of wine. Ripping out the cork savagely, I quickly poured the icy liquid into waiting glasses. Suzle must have realized what I’d realized what I’d decided. She’d gotten a bottle also.

All in an instant. We drank and poured and drank and poured. Again and again. Before long, I could not read meaning into anyone’s expression. But the others were at last at peace; they were all giggling again. At something.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Many hours must have passed.3 I do not know. Baycon has done things to my sense of time. Now I think it is Tuesday morning.

Baycon changed after the banquet. Became quiet, dull, dead. We walked endless dark hallways, searching for rumored parties, drifting aimlessly. And found nothing.

It doesn’t matter now. I am alone. On a plane, flying back to Pittsburgh. I am beyond Baycon. Yet Baycon is still with me.

There is a reflective surface – called a mirror – in the washroom here. I will describe myself as I see myself:

I am a great white blobby thing. Hair, greasy and stringy; skin, oily and blotched; eyes, dark circled and puffed; clothes, wrinkled and untidy.

I need sleep. I need Alka-Seltzer. I need a bath.

I am beyond Baycon. Yet Baycon has won! When the plane lands, I must go directly to work. To my very serious office.

Serious.

And I’ve had no sleep. And I must giggle.