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Voice of the Fans: What’s Your Most Memorable Convention Experience?

Earlier this week, we asked science fiction writers about their most memorable experiences. Now it’s your turn…

Tell us about a memorable experience, good or bad, that you’ve had at a science fiction or fantasy convention.

About John DeNardo (13013 Articles)
John DeNardo is the Managing Editor at SF Signal and a columnist at Kirkus Reviews. He also likes bagels. So there.

16 Comments on Voice of the Fans: What’s Your Most Memorable Convention Experience?

  1. My most memorable experience, hmm. I can’t choose between:

    1. Taking a wizz with Harlan Ellison at side by side urinals.
    2. Hanging out with John Norman while he waxed bitter about his Gorean series being cancelled.
    3. Watching Fred Pohl’s shoulder’s sag as a fanboy wheeled over a cart load of books for him to sign.
  2. @Paul – You took a leak with Harlan Ellison? That’s freakin’ awesome, man.

    Lots of restroom memories in science fiction, huh?



  3. Comic-Con 2002, main ballroom, Saturday. Stayed for three consecutive panels. It went down like this:

    First up, Ray Bradbury, taking questions from the audience. Inexplicably the moderator quit on Bradbury mid-panel, so thus appears the late great Julius Schwartz! For those that don’t know, Schwartz practically invented the Silver Age of comics in the ’50s with his reboots of Green Lantern and the Flash. Before that, he was Ray Bradbury’s literary agent! So the remainder of the hour panel was Schwartz goading Bradbury into divulging his own secret history. Like the time Bradbury and Walt Disney took their kids to the amusement park at Santa Monica pier and together they came up with the ideas for both Disneyland and “Something Wicked This Way Comes.” Or how Bradbury used to send in scripts to the George and Gracie radio show when he was a kid — and George himself responded with script notes. Or how Bradbury kept a hit-list of journalists and radio personalities that mocked him during interviews for predicting a moonlanding in the near future. Then, when Apollo 11 landed, Bradbury called them all up in succession and simply said “asshole” and hung up.

    On some level, that panel is hard to top, but lord how Saturday tried. Next up? J. Michael Staczynski, who simply took questions for an hour. Really funny guy. Best moment: Some fan asking rather clumsily “What was supposed to happen in Crusade?” JMS’s answer? “They win.”

    And, finally, just when you think the day can’t get any better, the third panel was a Q&A with Joss Whedon. Joss is exhausted, because this is the tiny window in his career when he has three active TV shows in production. Buffy and Angel are still going, and he opens the panel by showing us the demo reel (for the coming fall upfronts) for this new gig he’s got called “Firefly.” It was the most awesome five-minute demo ever. It opened with Mal taking a leak. Joss pointed out they never showed bathrooms on Star Trek, so this scene was really important to him. Also, fox didn’t want to run the show widescreen, so Joss intentionally shot the pilot in such a way that pan&scanning it would leave whole characters out of the shot. (Rewatch the 2-hour Serenity pilot; there are “lots of two guys at opposite ends of a catwalk” conversations.)

    Seriously, I got to see Joss pitch Firefly at Comic-Con. After watching JMS mock his own fans for dumb questions. After watching the greatest editor in the history of comics drag secret anecdotes out of one of science fiction’s most important and respected authors.

    I’m afraid to go back to Comic-Con. There’s no way another convention can ever live up to that one.

  4. As cool as taking a wizz with HE may be, I actually had lunch with the man during DragonCon ’98.

  5. I am your basic Hobbit matron.  

    At Stellarcon, a very large Cyberman fainted on top of me because his suit lacked ventilation.

    I managed to keep him from hitting the ground until help came.

    He told me he’d recently had a heart attack.  He didn’t need a doctor, but it scared me so bad I almost did.


  6. John C Wright // March 26, 2010 at 4:04 pm //

    “Hanging out with John Norman while he waxed bitter about his Gorean series being cancelled.”

    Hey– I think I was there when that happened. Of course it is always possible he waxes bitter each time it is discussed, so I merely caught him on another occassion. Which Con was that?


  7. Confrancisco.

    After the Hugos I pack my luggage for departure the next morning, then hop into bed and finish Walter Jon William’s Aristoi, which I had been reading throughout the weekend.

    30 seconds after finishing, there’s a knock on the door.

    It is Walter Jon Williams. He look’s confused.

    “Is this where the party is?” He asks, then checks the room number.

    “Sorry, wrong floor.”

    He walks away.


  8. One more.

    Star Trek Expo in New York, 1977. Post Star Wars, Pre Trek movie.

    I’m a 15 year old suburban Catholic high school freshman on my own in NYC for the first time.

    I forget the exact details, but under my bed I find one of those gaudy 70s porn mags. It features a 12 page Star Trek parody. Hard core. Kirk and Spock DP a green woman. Uhura rims a Klingon. Sulu and Chekov are chained and sexually humiliated in an alien dominatrix’s dungeon. Extreme, non airbrushed close-ups of grotesque veiny cockshafts and horribly mishapen tits.

    The next day I sell it to a seedy guy in the dealers room for $25. I buy a Communicator replica, a copy of Bjo Trimbles Trek Concordance, and a United Federation of Planets banner, all of which I still have.


  9. Today I spent several hours hanging out with Steven Brust at Comicpalooza in Houston. He cracked a lot of jokes and we talked writing (I’m a journalist), and he told me about a neat trick he’s trying to do with his next book. Should be fun. It was a great time, and real cool that he was willing to just hang out and let me tag along.

  10. cryptonomico // March 27, 2010 at 12:33 am //

    Crossing the street with Ray Brabury and noticing it was 4:51.


  11. @Paul NYC: Cool! I rubbed shoulders at the trough with James Cameron at the ’92 ShowBiz Expo, after Gale Anne Hurd’s keynote address!

    I’ve only been to two SF conventions, the 25th & 30th Anniversary Star Trek events.

    For the 25th, I just drove down to the Shrine Auditorium with my checkbook and $20 in cash, oblivious to what the entrance fee was going to be. (I’d just never been to one of these things, and none of my friends had, either.)

    I paid $5 for parking, then joined the line, which stretched around the block. After a while I asked somebody, “Ummm, so, how much is it to get in?” I forget the exact amount, but it was way more than I had on me. I thought, “Gee, I hope they take checks!”

    The line flowed into the home stretch (Finally some shade!), and a guy comes walking down the sidewalk, passes me, then comes back and stops. Addressing the line as a whole, he says, “Okay, I’ve got an extra ticket. Anybody wanna buy it off me?” I said, “All I’ve got on me is fifteen bucks.” He shrugs and says, “Fine. Here you go.” (!!!!)

    Aside from blowing most of my checking account in the Vendor’s Room, the real highlight of the day was seeing Gene Roddenberry wheeled out on stage to make his final live appearance. That was the longest and loudest standing ovation I’ve ever been party to.

  12. Paul NYC // March 27, 2010 at 8:36 am //

    @John C. Wright

    That was at a con on Long Island called I-Con if I recall correctly — has to be fifteen years ago. Although I’ve heard from others (and now you) that he does the same thing wherever he goes. You figure in the era of e-books and self-publishing, he’d be much happier.

  13. One of them was at the Worldcon last year (Montreal). I looked twice at the guy in front of me in the line at a coffee shop, and almost told him “hey, do you know that you look a lot like Robert Silverberg?”. But he just started talking to the people in front of him, so I didn’t say anything. Of course, as I found out soon after, it really was Robert Silverberg, and I never got the chance to talk to him at the con… Sigh.


    Another one: an Eastercon in the UK, where I walked through the streets at night with some friends and one guy had an impulse to jump up on a statue of a cow. Except he just did some kind of somersault which looked much more agile than anything anyone would have expected of him. This was incredibly funny at the time (but probably mostly to those who know us). Aren’t most good convention experience slike that, sort of difficult to explain to anyone else?

  14. cryptonomico // March 28, 2010 at 8:47 pm //

    At UC Riverside’s Eaton Conference MAY 09, I think I was the only fan there. I payed my $100 plus and walked in day one with no expectations. There were speakers due to deliver papers about Jules Verne, librarians offering opening statements, and not one author I could see.

    An old guy showed up about thrity minutes late and sat in the back next to me. Came to find out it was Greg Benford up from UC Irvine. His twin brother Jim made it as well. Rudy Rucker, Howard V. Hendrix, Tim Powers, Sheila Finch, Kathleen Goonan and Greg Bear all paid attention to the various speakers over the next days. All very welcoming to me. Chatting at the punch bowl between sessions aboout this thing called Steampunk.

    There was a room set aside for a few vendors. WETA had beautifiul weaponry on sale for modest prices. Beyond my means but if you are in the market for a Manmelter… Bookseller tried to get me to buy a whole series of books and when I reluctantly refused, the AUTHOR herself made me a deal and signed them all.

    My favorite moment was when I almost convinced Greg Bear and his wife that a better Mexican restaurant was ten minutes away and I could be the designated driver. Alas, they opted for the one in walking distance. But I am geeky enough to dream of another day.

    On the final day I took down a placard and everyone signed it, aahhhh the unabashed nerdiness.


  15. John C Wright // March 31, 2010 at 3:39 pm //

    “That was at a con on Long Island called I-Con if I recall correctly — has to be fifteen years ago. Although I’ve heard from others (and now you) that he does the same thing wherever he goes. You figure in the era of e-books and self-publishing, he’d be much happier.”

    Ah. My brush with John Norman was later. He seemed to me to be a nice, weak-spoken, if somewhat shy individual, albeit he did give my wife an odd lear when she said I was a fan of his books. (Well, the first seven books, at least, before he went all weird.)

    I must reluctantly admit his discontent has a point. He flourished in the years of the great Sexual Revolution, writing the same sort of stuff that elevated Heinlein’s STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND to mainstream predominance. It was as if the non-traditional parts of society had all made an agreement with each other to overthrow the old morals and manners and ways, and to permit anything and everything: the day of the blacklist was over! And so he wrote his racy novels under the disguise of writing a Burroughlike planetary romance — and then the non-traditional parts of society turned on him and blacklisted him, despite that his books were selling perfectly well.

    I once saw Hugh Hefner interviewed, and he expressed a similar discontent, when, in the late 70’s the women’s liberation movement condemned him as an exploiter of women. In the interview, Hefner seemed sincerely surprised and taken aback (if I am a judge of such things). You see, he thought of himself as a supporter of women’s libertation, and as their fellow traveler, fighitng shoulder to shoulder against the oppression of traditional society.

    So no matter what you think of these purveyers of porn, they think they were betrayed by their own. Myself, I have no more pity for them than I would if I saw Long John Silver making Israel Hands or Blind Pew walk the plank — but even among pirates, betrayal is an injustice of a sort.

    John Norman has since written more books in his Gor series, and found a publisher, and so he may be happier these days.



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