The New Orleans convention of 1988 has made me aware of just how much my world has changed since 1951. Then, at midway century, I obtained for that Nolacon an sf movie preview, When Worlds Collide. It made space travel look simple. Any space flight, especially a trip to another planet, isn't possible today without the ubiquitous computer. (Early science fiction plotting notwithstanding.) Likewise, I believe, the kind of Worldcon today, with all its complex organizational magnificence, isn't possible without the computer, especially the personal computer. There are thousands of con members — some active, some supporting, some complimentary. There are hundreds of program participants — big names, little names, no names. There are scores of subjects, events, interests — more important, less important, unimportant. The detail work is incredible, accomplished by a staff of amateurs scattered around America and even the world. Look over the Nolacon II program book; it's another fantastic souvenir book. Look over the Nolacon '88 pocket program guide ("The REAL Nolacon II Program Book"); only computer technology allows a volunteer Worldcon committee to produce such a remarkable informational document.
If ever a recent convention has breathed into itself the fannish spirit, it is Nolacon of 1988. Nostalgic bits are entwined in all its publications and in its programming. Not only were fond memories of its 1951 prototype featured, there was the retrospective look at all the Nolacons that never were. Those were "the Alternate Nolacon IIs," a whole string of bidding attempts made over twenty years — in 1973, 1976, a 1979 double bid, and 1982. The two 1988 guests were fandom personified: The Pro: Don Wollheim, once upon a time in the '30s challenging Forry Ackerman as the most active fan in creation; and The Fan: Roger Sims, laid-back leader of Second Fandom who left puberty at the original Nolacon thirty-seven years earlier. Looking back to that far away and long ago event in 1951, I'm struck by a melancholy realization. This original Nolacon was the last of the very personal, intimate, fannish weekend "worldcon" parties where less than 200 of us gathered. A uniqueness long gone but never forgotten. (The following year — Chicago II or TASFiC — began the 15-year climb toward a thousand attendees.)
The two main hotels, the Marriott and the Sheraton, sharing the action equally, were ideally positioned directly across from each other on Canal Street, New Orleans' main thoroughfare. Other official hotels were within a block or two. Walk around the corner and you were in the French Quarter. Fans in every kind of dress or costume, moving from event to event, constantly streamed back and forth across the street, aided by the safety zone of the median with its trolley tracks. Fortunately, the weather was excellent.
The pocket program, thick but still convenient to carry, exemplified the zenith of activities of the modern world sf convention. Here was multi-tracking with a vengeance. "Divisions" categorized interests into Mainstream, Fan, Special Interests, Horror & Fantasy, Children's, Film, Video, Special Exhibits, as well as Hucksters' Room, Art Show, the Masque. (The costume parade, in the spirit of the New Orleans Carnival Time, was identified as "The Masque" under the direction of a "Master of the Masque.") The list of events from Day One through Day Five, lines of small type yet fortunately easily read, was mind boggling. The daily options, each one itemized with time and place, grew in two days from 29 to 130, then 127 and 114 on Saturday and Sunday, and finally 47. My attempt at sanity was to check every hourly event which might interest me and then to underline in red only the ones I felt I should not miss. Unfortunately, unlike Disney World where one can return time and time again to discover every attraction, these events were transitory, never to be experienced if missed.
Some impressions, in the flash and turmoil of it all, are still strong. The convention began early Thursday afternoon as a potential disaster for many — confirmed room reservations at the Marriott were worthless, hotel guests from another convention were not checking out, queues formed, "neighborhood" hotels were offered as substitutes (even with enticements of no cost), tempers flared, disparaging rumors spread, but somehow the crisis faded away. At various times, I enjoyed the Nolacon hospitality suite, serving no hard liquor, generously dispensing good will and friendship… Bob Heinlein being remembered the way he would have wanted by the Heinlein Memorial Blood Drive… The gathering at Lafayette Park (after a short stroll) of SCA followers (The Society for Creative Anachronism), a disappointment, though pleasant, with just a few people chit-chatting. The chartered buses arriving and departing to carry viewers to The Masque in the municipal auditorium — something so many veteran con-goers skipped to catch up on other things (knowing they would later vicariously enjoy the display through video, photography, brief encounters, and word of mouth). Actually, the concern about the busing and the costume parade itself consuming too much time, was unfounded. The scheduling was fast and smooth.
New Orleans is a party town, meant to be savored. Con-goers were able to get a taste of its delights, but only a taste. Nolacon the First could never have dreamed — certainly I didn't — that there would be a Nolacon Second like this one — with over twenty-five times more of "the sf faithful" showing up for our annual party.