The first Bilbo and Frodo birthday party-picnic, sponsored by the Tolkien Society of Cal. State LA last Saturday afternoon, was quite a pleasant affair. It reminded me of the annual Oz fandom get-together, with a heavier emphasis on games and costumes. Well, it was only a party-picnic, and not a Tolkien-vention.
I spent Saturday Morning in downtown L.A. and in Hollywood, catching up on all the comic books and s-f that'd appeared while I was on vacation. (New York is unbelievably dead regarding newsstands, especially when you consider that that's where everything is being published. Besides, I had enough to do without hunting for stuff I knew I could pick up as soon as I got back to L.A. ) By 2 in the afternoon, I had run out of money, so I quit bookstore-browsing and drove over to Sycamore Grove Park, a tree-sprinkled park with a nicely forest-like atmosphere, near Pasadena. I arrived about a half-hour after the time given in the notice, and found things just beginning. Possibly 15 people were present; mostly teen-agers, about half of whom were in costume, with a light scattering of parents, and some little children whom I took to be younger brothers and sisters of the organizers. Though it had been specified as a bring-your-own-provender affair, there were three jugs of free "Ent-draught", which were kept filled with various fruit-ades; and at least a couple of birthday cakes that were served around later in the evening. I recognized Chris Barczak, who seemed to be one of the people running around directing the setting up of signs, and got a general idea from him of how the day's events would run.
People were drifting in in small groups. Fandom soon manifested itself, in the form of most of the Hill mob, in their usual medieval costumes. Dave Fox showed up with his family, later on; and Don Fitch seems to've briefly popped in & out, during a dead hour in the program which I made use of to drive into Pasadena and get some new Tolkien buttons at the Free Press Office & Book Store. I was surprised that the Pelzes didn't come, but the Hill fen explained that there'd been an ad for the picnic in the Free Press, and the Pelzes had figured the place would probably be swarming with hippies. I was glad I hadn't known that, or I would've doubtlessly stayed away, too. Fortunately, there was no hippie invasion, and things stayed quiet.
Almost dull, in fact. Most people were enjoying themselves, but I noticed that neither the Hill crew nor I were much interested in the various official events. There were charades, mediaeval-type dancing, and a match-the-statement-with-who-said-it contest. The crowd had finally grown to 30 or 35 people, including an L.A. TIMES reporter, and an elderly woman peddling genuine medicinal herbs which had been mentioned in Tolkien's books. Maybe 20 people were attending the official program at any one time. The others were eating their picnic lunches, clustered in conversational groups, or just generally wandering about enjoying the shady park. It was a warm, lazy day, and even if we weren't all interested in the program, we were feeling too relaxed to get bored and leave.
By the time the match-the-statement contest ended, it was beginning to get dark, so dinner and the passing of the birthday cakes were held, followed by a speedy Mathom exchange and a costume judging. It was definitely too dark to continue without lights, which we didn't have, following this, so the head organizer called everybody together to make a few announcements before adjourning for the evening. The announcements mainly concerned the Cal. State LA Tolkien group, which was forming and which invited us all to its meetings; and a plea for greater contact among Tolkien fans of the L.A. area and of the nation. We were asked if we wanted to make this birthday party an annual event -- everyone said Yes, naturally -- and we were more-or-less promised another such picnic in six months; a Victory Party to celebrate the destruction of the Ring on March 25th. On that note, we broke up to go our separate ways, and I gather that most of the fans present promptly headed toward another party or two they'd lined up beforehand. The weekends certainly have become topheavy with parties and outings around L.A. fandom in the last year, to what is practically a ridiculous extent. Not that I suppose anybody's interested in making any cutbacks.
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Speaking of parties, just in case anybody's looking for an excuse to throw any this weekend, I've got a couple of beauties. As those of you who read my colophon know, I've been amusing myself by keeping track of the date by the French Revolutionary calendar. Well, this Saturday happens to be Leap Year Day, the 6th Sans-cullottides, the Feast of the Revolution, the February 29th of the French calendar. And, since the French put this event at the end of their calendar, that means that Sunday is New Year's Day! Leap Year Day, followed immediately by New Year's Day -- can you think of a better excuse for staying drunk all weekend?
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I was just rereading the issues of RR I published before leaving for the NyCon, in which I confidently predicted victory for L.A.'s bid, and I notice that I made another forecast there which turned out to be almost 100% wrong. "Fred [Lerner] feels that WorldCons are in too great a danger from having their Business Sessions packed by non-fan attendees, the off-the-street trade, who'll outvote the regular fen on matters they really know nothing about. ... I can't conceive of any subject of business on which the "non-fans" would be willing, or capable, of outvoting the regular fans." Was I wrong there, or was I wrong?
When I typed that, I was making a big unspoken assumption: "all things being equal"! At the NyCon's bidding session, of course, all things weren't equal; we frankly made a lousy presentation, and Berkeley made a very impressive presentation. I feel that Berkeley's pitch was not entirely ethical -- and so do a lot of fans, which is why we have a Committee now to look into necessary changes in the bidding and voting system -- but this was a political fight, not a tea party, and we should've been ready for them. A lot of the regular fans did see some of the holes in their promises, but all the off-the-street attendees saw was that their pitch was better than ours, and so -- without any conscious "will to outvote the regular fans" -- they naturally voted next year's WorldCon to the Bay Area.
I got the impression that most of the regular fans there thought it was a shame that we didn't win (whether or not they were really for us, they sympathized for us in our disappointment), but that it was our own fault for not preparing an effective bidding speech. However, they were also dismayed by some of the things that Berkeley did to win -- such as listing a program with implied support of pros who hadn't been consulted, implying that their bid had the official support of the NyCon Committee, etc. -- and particularly with the way that Berkeley, at the bidding session, practically ignored the old-time fans to concentrate on getting the off-the-street vote. Several fans predicted that, with this as a precedent, future bidding sessions would just develop into circuses, with wilder and wilder promises made to get the non-fan vote, and regular fans ignored. It's the fans who feel this way that voted for the new revision-in-bidding Committee.