Room parties — parties hosted in someone's hotel room — are the primary places for socializing during North American cons. (European fen tend to hang out down in the bar.) Along with the consuite, they are the best places to meet other fans and talk ... sometimes even about science fiction. For some fen, throwing or going to room parties is their major form of fanac.
Most parties offer some sort of refreshment: drinks, munchies, candy, etc. Some can be quite elaborate with a theme, decorations, and fancy food. Some parties serve alcohol and some don't — it's mostly a matter of local custom.
When soda or bheer is served, it will typically be stored in the room's bathtub, which has been filled with ice. Usually fen crowd in to sit or sprawl on the beds and the food and drinks are served off the dresser, but hosts have been known to get creative with the furnishings. Groups and fans who feel flush may opt for a suite.
Room parties may be scattered all over the convention hotel or blocked together in one or two floors or sections of a hotel. Because elevators are often crowded at large cons, a common means of party hopping is to take the elevator to the top floor, and then walk down, listening at each level for the sounds of merry making.
Many room parties are open to all convention members and will typically be advertised at the con by party flyers. Clubs often sponsor parties to advertise their regional convention and publishers host promotional parties. A bid party is often a room party. Typically, door greeters check for membership badges and often pass out stickers to put on your badge.
However, there are also invitation-only parties held by individuals or groups for their friends; and some publishers' parties are exclusively for pros. Anyone who stumbles across such a closed-door party may ask to be admitted, but should take a refusal graciously.
It used to be said that the proper atmosphere for a fannish party was "quiet enough for conversation and bright enough to read in." Many fen still feel that way, though dimly lit parties with blaring music or videos playing are more and more common. Those of us who got into fandom to get away from that sort of thing have trouble understanding the appeal. We would ask, but it's too loud in there for anyone to hear.
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