Fred Patten News

My L.A. Con IV Report

L.A.con IV is now history, and it was a big success! 6,000 were predicted/hoped for, and about 6,500 joined. Everything went well; there were no disasters. The biggest mistake that I noted was that the Life Achievement Award that I was presented with on Friday night was reported in To Say Nothing of the News #10 as the Robert A. Heinlein Award, and the error was never corrected. Big deal!

I was just happy to have been able to attend the 2006 Worldcon at all, much less to receive such a special award. I would like to thank all the people who made it possible for me to be there, except that so many of them were anonymous donors. It cost $1,000 to hire the caregiver service that took care of me around the clock for five days, and I thank Marc Schirmeister for starting that fund and collecting the money. Glen Wooten made the business arrangements with Care Plus Nursing Services in Laguna Hills, reserved my room at the Anaheim Hilton, and came to the hotel to make sure that I got checked into a handicapped-accessible room even though he could not attend the Worldcon himself. Cora Buffa, the person at Care Plus who made the arrangements, came to the Hilton on Wednesday to meet me in person and introduce Abner Pacaigue, my Certfied Nursing Assistant who would be my companion and wheel me through the convention for the five days. (I also needed a separate nurse to come to the con twice a day to give me medications in the morning & evening, whom I met later - I actually had two different nurses, Analen Blancaflor, a nurse supervisor for Wednesday through Friday, and Lizette Valdevia on Saturday & Sunday. I had not expected that I would be so care-intensive.) My sister Sherrill drove me from Golden State Convalescent Hospital to the Worldcon on Wednesday and took me back on Sunday. Thanks, all.

I was on about a dozen panels; eight officially and four of the Furry program's "Special Interest Groups" which do not have formal panelists but which I was asked to participate in. The most popular had an audience of about 100; the least popular was the one that nobody came to. The average attendance was about 30.

To make this con report more orderly, my sister Sherry came to the hospital on Tuesday afternoon to help me pack two large duffle bags for my first multi-day trip away from the hospital since I moved here over a year ago. Sherry returned Wednesday at 10:00 a.m. so we could get an early start. We arrived at the hotel & Convention Center about 11:30 a.m., and went to the con's Green Room first for Program Participant registration. As a program participant, I was entitled to a "guest of" membership, which I had promised to Rob Powell for taking me out so often during the past months (Michael Burlake could not get the vacation time to attend the con), which I collected in addition to my own. The con committee had promised me additional admission badges for my caregiver & nurse, but the Green Room did not know about that, so it took a few minutes to confirm this and prepare the extra badges. Sherry then took me into the Hilton, where I met Glen Wooten & the people from Care Plus, and Sherry turned me over to Abner. Rob Powell was not there, so I left his badge with Glen Wooten who promised to get it to Rob if he showed up, or deliver it to Ken Pick if he did not. (Pick has been trying to sell a Furry space-opera novel and wanted to meet the publishers at the con, but could not afford a membership, so I had promised him my guest-of membership if neither Michael nor Rob could use it. Rob never showed up, so Glen delivered the membership pack to Ken that evening.) Glen got me an early check-in (regular check-in was 4:00 p.m.), so Abner & I rushed our bags to our room (13-404), and then we raced to the Opening Ceremonies. They had just started, so we missed the beginning of the Tom Corbett, Space Cadet pilot, but we saw the last half of it and the live part of the ceremony opening the convention. Then we returned to our hotel room to finish unpacking properly and discussing what I would want from Abner during the next five days. From there we went to the Dealers' Rom to start looking it over. We only saw a few tables before the first panel that I wanted to attend.

This was "Alternate Science Fiction" at 4:00 p.m. with Bradford Lyau (moderator), Tony Lewis, Harry Turtledove, John DeChancie, and Jim Frenkel. It was about how s-f might have developed if Stanley Weinbaum had not died, if John W. Campbell had remained a writer instead of becoming the editor of Astounding, and so on. Most of the "if" points discussed remained in the 1930s & '40s. The panel thought that the field would not have been too different, although a lot of their ideas sounded pretty different to me. (What if Campbell had written the stories associated with the Three Laws of Robotics himself instead of giving the idea to Asimov?) After the panel, I asked Frenkel (an editor at Tor Books) if he could get me a review copy of a forthcoming Tor Furry novel.

My own first panel was "Manga Mania" at 5:30 p.m., with me moderating, Buzz Dixon, and Tom Schaad. The three of us looked rather isolated at a table set for six speakers, so Peter Ahlquist, who works at TOKYOPOP, volunteered to join us. He probably saved the panel, because my own and Tom Schaad's knowledge of manga was more historical & generic, and Buzz Dixon is writing & marketing manga-style morally-uplifting comic books for the Christian bookshop market. The audience was most interested in the latest news about the American manga market - what titles and authors are selling best, what new titles can be expected - and Ahlquist knew about what is currently hot & coming next.

Dr. Melissa Conway of the University of California at Riverside's Library met me as the panel ended. We had agreed to "do dinner" because all of our panels turned out to be opposite each other, and this was the only way we could meet. A couple of other UCR librarians were with her. We went to the hotel's fancy Pavia restaurant for dinner, on Conway's expense account, thank Ghu. Conway said that a preliminary estimate of my donation to the library's Eaton Collection was that my collection had increased the Eaton Collection by 220,000 items. My donation was mentioned prominently in their presentation on the Eaton Collection, which I had to miss, and in their exhibit and brochure in the con's Exhibit area, which I promised to see. I was urged to come out to Riverside and see the Library soon. Apparently John DeChancie has already done so, and seen the portion of my collection which has already been unpacked & catalogued. The nurse, Analen, arrived during dinner and gave me my medicine; several pills crushed into powder & mixed with applesauce.

Dinner ended about 9:00 p.m., just as the evening's parties were starting. Abner took me to the Hilton's 5th floor where they were all located, and we cruised from party to party until 11:30, when I got tired enough to go to bed. L.A.con IV was my first Worldcon since I had my stroke, and I found it difficult to get really interested in which of the three bidders might get the 2008 Worldcon since I do not expect to be able to attend any of the sites so far from Southern California. We enjoyed all the parties neutrally.

The bed was so high that for awhile it looked like Abner might not be able to get me into it and I might have to sleep in my wheelchair. During the night, Abner probably saved me from choking to death. The beds and pillows were so soft that I sunk into them with my head lower than my feet. After a couple of hours, partly-digested food flowed back up from my stomach into my throat, and I could not cough it out. Fortunately, Abner awoke swiftly and got me into my wheelchair so gravity could get my digestive juices flowing the right way again. We fixed the problem by taking the hard cushions off the room's chairs and putting them onto the top of the bed, so my head stayed higher than my body and feet. We asked the hotel for extra pillows the next day, but they were all so soft that we ended up using the chair cushions as a base for the bed pillows every night. The room turned out to be "handicapped-accessible" only in having metal bars around the toilet to make it possible to pull myself upright from my wheelchair while being pivoted by a companion onto & off the toilet. This was indeed a big help, but the rest of the room was hard to get around in.


Abner & I had the Oasis coffee shop's breakfast buffet. It was good enough that we ate in the Oasis for the rest of the Worldcon. Analen came to give me my medications.

There was no programming that I was interested in until 1:00 p.m., so we spent the morning in the Exhibit/Art Show/Dealers' Room area. I signed the Wall of History under 1958 with some difficulty, but legibly enough. Dave Kyle congratulated me on still being around. So did lots of other fans, but they tended to do so from behind my back, and were gone by the time I turned around. A similar problem is that my wheelchair puts me on a level of looking at fans' stomachs or chests, not their faces, so I never found out who was talking to me.

Glen Wooten had said that the donors to my fund had been generous enough that I could pretty much buy any new books I wanted; but I found almost none that I wanted. I am very concerned with my limited shelf space today, which makes me reluctant to spend money for a book that I want to only read once. One book that I did want was Beth Hilgartner's sequel to her Cats in Cyberspace, which Meisha Merlin had been announcing as forthcoming since 2003 and was now supposed to be published in early 2007. I asked at the Meisha Merlin booth if that date was really firm, and was disappointed to learn that Hilgartner had missed her deadline one time too many and her contract had been cancelled. "If she ever finishes it, she'll have to find a new publisher for it."

We went at 1:00 p.m. to "L.A. Confidential" with Rick Foss, Michael Cassutt, and Mike Glyer. (Two other panelists did not show up.) This was about s-f stories set in Los Angeles, which could only be set here because of some innate "Losangelesity". Most of the usual stories such as Heinlein's "And He Built a Crooked House" were mentioned. I said that, considering how popular alternate histories are today, it seemed surprising that nobody had written one around the attempt in 1846 by Pio Pico, the last Mexican governor of Alta California, to give the state to Britain as a colony. Pico was aware that Mexico could not protect California from the coming Americans, and he thought that Britain would be powerful enough to stave off American annexation, yet little enough interested in Britishizing California that the Californios could keep their own culture. But Britain was aware that any attempt to expand into what America considered its sphere of expansion would mean war with America, and declined Pico's offer. This would seem to be worth an alternate history story in which California did become a British protectorate. The panel agreed but was more interested in discussing the possibilities of the Bear Flag republic becoming a permanent independent nation.

My first panel of the day was "South Gate in '58" at 2:30 p.m., which I moderated with Roger Sims and Len Moffatt. The audience barely outnumbered the panel, and consisted mostly of 1958 Worldcon attendees like June Moffatt and Fred Prophet. Roger Sims, who was Chairman of the 1959 Worldcon, gave me an unused surplus membership card from it, which I later gave to Melissa Conway for the Eaton Collection.

We raced from there to "Estate Planning for Collectors" at 4:00 p.m.,, with Fred Lerner moderating and Andy Porter, Nicki Lynch, Don Sakers and me as panelists. This was full of horror stories about huge collections that had been thrown out after their collectors had died due to lack of a will, or to wills that had left everything to non-fannish relatives who did not understand the value of old books & fanzines. Several in the audience seemed seriously interested in finding out the market value of their collections, hopefully without having to hire an expensive appraiser. The Eaton Collection was touted heavily as a good home for collections.

At 5:30 was "Publishing Science Fiction" with Michael Walsh moderating and Tony Lewis, Lou Anders, Jaime Levine, and Alan Rodgers representing the range of publishers from the biggest (Levine, from Warner Books) to the smallest s-f specialty publishers. Levine said that Warner and other mass-market paperback publishers would not touch a book that they thought would not sell at least 100,000 copies. Most of the s-f specialty presses would consider 1,500 copies to be a big seller. Everybody warned against would-be authors giving their books to print-on-demand publishers just to get them published easily, instead of continuing to try to sell them to a "real publisher" that would actually get them into bookstores. I missed part of this panel because Analen arrived to give me my evening medications.

The LASFS meeting was at 7:00 p.m., close enough to the Furry Lounge that we had time to stop there first so I could deliver some flyers for Anthro. The LASFS meeting was packed. I was glad to meet Marty Helgesen in person for the first time. Everyone went wild when Forry Ackerman made a brief appearance. I had thought that the meeting would be very short, just to maintain the club's record of not missing a Thursday meeting since 1939 (not 1934, as the club's publicity states; the LASFS did not begin meeting weekly for several years), but it was a full meeting and ran for an hour.

I had expected to go to dinner right after the LASFS meeting, but Abner said that Christian McGuire had privately told him that it was important for me to attend the Guest of Honor speeches at 8:00 p.m. This turned out to be because of the convention presenting me with its Life Achievement Award. It was a complete surprise, and I hope that I did not embarrass myself too badly with my improvised acceptance speech. We stayed for Larry Niven's & Jerry Pournelle's presentations of the Robert A. Heinlein Award next (to Jack Williamson and Greg Bear, despite what the con's newszine reported later), but I was too hungry to remain through all of the GoH speeches. Abner & I had dinner in the Oasis coffee shop, and then went up to the evening's parties which were all under way by then. We got an invitation to the private Mad Tea Party, and otherwise again cruised up & down the 5th floor, going into the various parties, until about 11:30 when we both were tired enough to go to bed. Abner arranged the pillows carefully on my bed, and I had an uninterrupted good night's sleep.


There was nothing that I was particularly interested in before 11:30 a.m., so my caregiver Abner & I had a leisurely breakfast buffet in the Oasis coffee shop, then went to the Convention Center to see a bit more of the Art Show. At 11:30 we returned to the Hilton for the "Furry Mythos" discussion in the 4th floor's Furry Lounge. "From ancient cultures, to movies and TV, to the modern world of the Internet, anthropomorphic characters abound. What's our fascination with talking animals? What does it say about us, and our culture?" As with most of the Furry programming, hardly anyone showed up to this. We left early to get some snacks in the Con Suite, then went downstairs to meet my sister Sherrill in the hotel lobby at 12:30 p.m.

We had arranged for Sherry to take over Abner's wheelchair-pushing duties and his badge from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m., so I could show her around the Art Show and exhibits areas. I figured that Sherry would want to see the photo-exhibit on the Eaton Collection, which included two or three of parts of my donation. Fortunately, Dr. Melissa Conway was there at the time, so she & Sherry got to meet each other. Our conversation included a promise that Sherry would take me to the UCRiverside Library to see the Eaton Collection at some time in the reasonably near future. We hastened through the Art Show and the Dealers' Room, where Sherry bought me Turtledove's Every Inch a King (10% discount at the ISFiC Press table), and a set of Soviet Republic flag pins at the Russian Things table to replace the set I had which was presumably sent to the UCRiverside Library with the rest of my stuff. (I am glad to see that the "Soviet going-out-of-business sale" cosmonaut pins & similar stuff has not disappeared from the Worldcons.) Sherry wanted to buy some "official souvenirs", so we went to the L.A.con IV shop in the Convention Center's lobby where she got one of the T-shirts with James Gurney's Dinotopia painting.

Sherry handed me back to Abner at 3:30, for my 4:00 p.m. panel, "Anime 101" with Tom Schaad moderating and Rachel Manija Brown and me. This was supposed to be an introductory survey of the history and current status of Japanese animation, but as at the "Manga Mania" panel on Wednesday, the audience was more interested in hearing about what titles are currently the "hottest" and "what's new" than about the past.

At 5:30 I was back in the Furry Lounge (or the room next to it) to join in the "Venus in Furs" discussion. Rod O'Riley had brought an armload of Furry erotic art as visual aids for "The adult and erotic aspects of Furry art and story. Just what is the appeal of fur?" But this event had barely started when I got so sleepy I could barely stay awake through Analen's coming to give me my evening medicine. I asked Abner to take me to our room for a nap for an hour, so that we could go to dinner about 7:00 to be ready for the Masquerade at 8:00 p.m. However, when I woke it was almost 8:00. Abner had felt that I needed the extra sleep, and that we should just have dinner and go right to bed for the evening, without trying to attend the Masquerade or any of the night's parties; particularly since Saturday was scheduled to be my busiest day. I was still so tired that I agreed with him.


We got up after a good night's sleep at 7:00 a.m., to have time for a good breakfast (Lizette took over as my nurse bringing my morning and evening medications) before my first panel at 10:00 a.m., "Anime Girls" with the same panelists as "Anime 101" plus Paul Cornell. The pocket program description of this panel was, "How did Japan's male dominant culture produce so many kick-butt female characters? Did Japanese anime creators develop the concept themselves, or did they all watch lots of Avengers episodes when they were young?" We both agreed and disagreed with this, since it implied that all the girls in anime were kick-butt aggressive and ignored the greater number of demure, ladylike girls. I cited Mrs. Moroboshi, Ataru's mother in the Urusei Yatsura series, as the earliest example in anime (that American fans saw, at least) of the Japanese social reality that housewives are self-effacing in public but ruthlessly rule the family within the home while Dad retreats behind the newspaper.

My biggest panel of the Worldcon was the 11:30 a.m. "Are There Too Many Cats in Science Fiction?", with Jody-Lynn Nye moderating and Connie Willis, Lisanne Norman, and Nicki Lynch as my co-panelists. "Cats seem to be every-where. Science Fiction. Fantasy. There are entire anthologies of cat stories. And not just in our genre. Romances and Mysteries have more than their share of cat tales as well. Are dogs anywhere to be seen? Why is literature so catty?" For this panel, George Van Wagner had helped me prepare a two-page printout of one of my reviews in the then-current Anthro of two cat-fantasy anthologies, Magic Tails (which included stories by Nye and Norman) and Twisted Cat Tales (included in Apa L last week) as a handout for all attendees, plus a 15-page bibliography of feline fantasy novels for the other panelists. I had also brought three tape recorders to record the panel, and Chaz Baden had promised to send someone to photograph it. It was my best-attended panel, with an audience of around 100, although several turned out to be dog fanciers who wanted to humorously complain about the preponderance of cat stories. The mood was light and the discussion was mostly superficial, barely mentioning the titles of favorite books with a promise that they were worth reading. Afterward, one of the audience (as usual, all that I could see was her stomach) thanked me very much for the handout with the review of Twisted Cat Tales, since she was one of the authors in it and she had never met anyone else that had even heard of it.

Abner and I had a hasty lunch in the coffee shop, and went to my 2:30 p.m. panel, "Independent Booksellers", moderated by Lawrence Person with Greg Ketter, Tom Whitmore & Willie Siros as the panelists besides me. I felt very out of place and had almost nothing to say here, since all my experience with being an independent bookseller was over thirty years ago, and Wonderworld Books only stocked current s-f paperbacks besides its main line of comic books. The others talked about the current difficulties of independent specialty bookshops keeping in business in these days of the mass-market bookshop chains, the problems in determining the value of used out-of-print s-f books, and of finding rare books that collectors ask for, etc.

At 4:00 p.m. I was supposed to moderate "Learn About the Ursa Major Awards", in the Furry Fandom Lounge with Rod O'Riley and Kay Shapero as fellow panelists. We were the only three in the room (besides Abner). I would have adjourned and left early, except that I was already scheduled to get my evening medications in this room, and my next panel at 5:30, "Twenty Years of Furry Fandom", was also here. That got an audience of four or five people, but Mark Merlino was doing a good enough job of telling about Furry history that Abner & I left early. I took another two-hour nap in our room, and then we had dinner in the coffee shop and went to the 9:00 p.m. "Furry Fandom Reception and Artist Gathering". That was almost as deserted as the afternoon's events had been. After hanging out there for maybe a half-hour, I remembered that I had promised to visit the Fanzine Lounge sometime during the con, and I had no idea where it was except that it was supposed to be somewhere on this floor. It took Abner & me about another half-hour of wandering up & down the halls, even with knowing the name of the room it was in, before we found it. It was in a very large suite, with almost nobody besides Milt Stevens and Don Fitch there, and a very good assortment of nibblements for partygoers who presumably couldn't find the room, either. So I spent the rest of the evening there, munching on cheeses & chocolates & mixed nuts, and finding old reviews of mine in Science Fiction Review and other old fanzines of books I would swear today that I'd never heard of. (Including the novel by A. E. van Vogt that I remembered him accusing me of giving a bad review only because I mistakenly thought he was a Scientologist and I was obviously a Scientology-hater - clearly the only reason for giving him a bad review - but I had long since forgotten what the novel had been. It was Children of Tomorrow. Rereading my old review did not jog my memory, but if it were as bad as my plot synopsis made it sound, I would not change my opinion of it.) About 12:30 a.m. Abner suggested we should go to bed since we had to pack up and check out by noon tomorrow.


We had breakfast in the coffee shop, and Lizette gave me my morning medicine for the last time. We checked out of room 13-404 well before noon, and left our luggage at the luggage desk. We went back to the Convention Center to finish seeing the Art Show, and the part of the Exhibits area that we had not seen previously. The Art Show was already over half empty, with the art that had been auctioned off gone and artists already starting to pack up; but the Exhibits Concourse was up through the closing of the convention. I got into a long conversation with Kim Gottlieb-Walker at her "Behind the Scenes With John Carpenter" & "Photos of Science Fiction and Fantasy Creators" photo-exhibits. She had an extensive display of photos from L.A.Con I, which she said was the first event that she had photo-recorded. I identified some of the pros in the photos, and she gave me very attractive metal pins from the Superman Returns and Beowulf promotional campaigns.

At 2:30 p.m. we returned to the Furry Lounge for what I thought was supposed to be a discussion of Furry fanzines. I wanted to promote Anthro, but it turned out to be a discussion of Furry villains instead. "OUR FAVORITE FURRY VILLAINS AND WHY WE LOVE TO HATE THEM. Discussion group on a popular topic: Furry characters who are mean, selfish, cruel, and oh-so-watchable! From General Woundwort to Dr. Zaius to Scar and beyond." This had a goodly attendance. Most of the villains named were what I would call misguided egotists; characters who considered themselves incapable of making mistakes and who knew what was best for everybody (like career politicians). I named Jupiter, the "Dark God" (a cat) in Robin Jarvis' "Deptford Mice" novels as my candidate for a Furry villain who is truly evil.

At 4:00 p.m. were the Closing Ceremonies. Christian McGuire formally adjourned L.A.con IV and handed the gavel to Hiroyuki Inoue for Nippon 2007 in Yokohama. Abner took me back to the Hilton's lobby where Sherrill met us. She drove me back to the Golden State Convalescent Hospital, stopping for dinner at Marie Callender's in Toluca Lake on the way. It was about 9:00 p.m. when I returned to the hospital, after a delightful "vacation" but in need of several days' rest after it.

Apparently the flyers for Anthro in the Furry Lounge, and the handout of my review in Anthro at the "Are There Too Many Cats in Science Fiction?" panel paid off. Editor Cubist just e.mailed me: "ANTHRO's host server keeps track of what kind of web-traffic the zine is getting; on 29 Aug, the day after WorldCon, there was a significant spike (about 2* the 'baseline' normal traffic level), plus a second, similar, surge on 1 September... Let's hope that this is indicative of a permanent increase in readership, not just a one-shot deal..."

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