Dave Kyle's Discon II Reminiscence
Eleven years after Washington, D.C. had held the 21st World SF Con. The big weekend came again to the nation's capital city. Discon II in 1974, officially the 32nd convention, was enormously different in almost every way.
From 600 in attendance in 1963, the event now registered 3,587! It was by far the largest gathering to date and would be until Phoenix in 1978.
The site was the Sheraton Park Hotel and Motor Inn, possessing the largest convention facilities in the district (where Presidential Inaugural Balls were held). As I remember that year, I believe that this rambling, historical place was the former Park Shoreham or Shoreham Park, much like a resort hotel, with glass-enclosed promenades connecting various buildings and looking out over the landscaped grounds.
Registration (and films) began on Thursday, with the opening ceremonies at noontime Friday. Our weekends were getting longer. The announced intention for two themes in programming was phrased this way: "When Armstrong and Aldrin stepped out on the Lunar surface in 1969, they were taking the 'giant step' that many of us had taken vicariously for decades. To emphasize the close relationship between actual occurrences in the space program and the interest of science fiction writers and readers, the team was awarded a special Hugo by St. Louiscon in 1969 for 'The Best Moon Landing Ever'." (How did I manage to overlook this special Hugo in my report on that convention? For shame!) So, that was the focus of the "Outer Space" theme. As for an "Inner Space" theme, in part the con committee said, "The Discon II feels it appropriate to take a closer look at where our present developments may lead us. We hope to examine the question of whether or not our tomorrows can survive our todays." After the official start, there were these two keynote speeches to underscore the themes of the con: "Outer Space: Space Travel Then and Now" and "Inner Space: Our Earth and Its Future in the Hands of Man."
The programming, reflecting these themes, was put on a single track. "Single tracking" (no simultaneous and thus conflicting panels and speeches, etc.), traditional for decades, was used for the entire weekend. There were, however, many side events going on. There were the usual set features such as the Masquerade (there's that term again for the costume parade and contest), the Hugo Awards Banquet (with a Pre-Banquet Cocktail Hour) -- $11 for the chicken and $12.25 for the steak -- the Art Show, the Hucksters' Room, the Auction, and films shown on daytime and all-night schedules. The NFFF (N3F) had a hospitality room, of course, and the SFWA and the SFRA (Science Fiction Research Association) had ongoing activities, along with events such as the Burroughs Bibliophiles' Dum-Dum and the Georgette Heyer Tea. Multi-tracking would soon be the accepted way to program as growing attendance and many diverse interests would make this new approach popular.
Though Roger Zelazny, one of the newer celebrities appearing on the scene, and Jay Kay Klein were the Guests of Honor, the convention became almost an Isaac Asimov-Harlan Ellison weekend spectacular. On Saturday, they had a slam-bang dialogue which rocked the audience with enthusiastic delight. In the evening, Harlan presented his movie, A Boy and His Dog, as a special event, complete with commentary. Later, on a panel, he described his encounters with the frustrating ways of Hollywood productions.
Monday afternoon closed the weekend. The following year was now on everyone's mind. Well, anyhow, lots of minds, because a new phase of Worldcons was beginning. The next one would be down under, on the other side of the world. Australia would now be part of the act. The Aussiecon in Melbourne had been chosen for 1975.
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