Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Worldcon Report by Charon and T.B. Kahuna


OMG. My first Worldcon. I am still traumatized.

My vacation started out with a brief stay at a spa, where I had a relaxing anal massage followed by a bikini shave. My massage therapist, Dr. Deb, seemed pleased that I have been starved down to a gaunt twenty-seven pounds, and am a mere wisp compared to last year when I weighed a little over thirty. I was highly offended by the way she made light of my torturous deprivation of kitty treats and demanded that we leave at once, so we did. To Cat Safari, where I have a preferred room, overlooking the angelfish tank.

Meanwhile, She went to Worldcon to prepare my litterbox and also to sit sobbing in the corner, which is what I assume She does whenever I’m not in Her presence.


After I dropped my cat off at boarding it took me two fricken hours to crawl down US 101 to San Jose. It has been a while since I've rented a car, and while there's that initial sense of exhilaration, usually around the first time I hit traffic, I have an “oh yeah, this is why I hate traffic” moment.

I lived in San Jose from 1980 until about 1985 (and spent much of those five years sitting in traffic), at which point I moved to Berkeley and then San Francisco. There was no real reason for me to visit San Jose over the next few decades, so I didn’t, although I heard rumors about a Tech Museum and a shiny stadium. Upon my return, there are buildings, or sometimes entire blocks, that are instantly familiar. Between them are sparkly brand-new high tech skyscrapers and luxurious hotels like the Marriott (which stands on the same corner where the San Jose main library used to be – a place I frequently visited even though their science fiction selection sucked compared to the one in the south end of town, near where I lived, where I discovered George R.R. Martin and Chelsea Quinn Yarbro and Jack L. Chalker and Harlan Ellison and Octavia Butler and on and on).

San Jose is a science fiction town from way back. Science fiction is what people who have spent a long day inventing computer stuff read when they want to unwind. They appreciate nerds. San Jose also has Wickedly Fast Wi-Fi, which is a municipal thing that many other cities could learn from, and they do indeed have a Tech Museum, although I didn’t go in.

It’s always the ‘80s in SJ, which helped me understand Ready Player One a lot better. You see, I lived there in the Real ‘80s, when it was all new. Several decades later, there’s at least one full-time ‘80s station active in SJ and since I insist on listening to FM radio when I’m in cars, I was treated to large helpings of Van Halen, Led Zeppelin, Michael Jackson, Pat Benatar, Aerosmith and Ozzy. It’s like my body and brain changed, some blocks in San Jose changed while others remain familiar, and the music is just like it always was.

The Old Spaghetti Factory was there in the ‘80s, and still exists. It’s a particularly funky one built in a former church, stained glass windows still intact. The back wall is made of old brick of the type one occasionally finds in old California towns, embossed with the fingerprints of long-dead bricklayers and particularly photogenic when it intersects with black ironwork and flickering light. I had some mizithra cheese spaghetti, which is angelically, or devilishly, delicious.

Then there’s a Tiki bar nearby, Da Kine Island Grill. Except the name is different on the outside than on the internet. Back when we were discussing where to throw the meet-up in the File 770 comments, I had proposed Da Kine Island Grill. Past meetups had been thrown at the UFO Bar (in Kansas City) and a different big friendly brewpub type space in Spokane. Da Kine looked similar, plus my streak of Hawaiian nepotism runs strong. I even secretly sent them Facebook messages, making sure they didn’t have any live music scheduled for the day in question. [<<<<<foreshadowing]

But I was overruled, and a place called Forager was chosen. A place of kale salad and microbrews. Whatever.

I was still intrigued by Da Kine Island Grill, however. I decided to throw a party, and get some catering from Da Kine. Even though I hadn’t thrown a party in forever. I could call it a luau in honor of the Big Kahuna, to celebrate aloha and goodwill in the science fiction community, and stack PR stuff around to make it an official business expense. I will admit, however, my main thought was something like, “I want to order more seared ahi than I can possibly eat.”

The smallest trays at Da Kine were for 20 people, though, and I wasn’t sure I could find that many bellies to fill. I thought maybe if I invited my main science fiction friends, and maybe they could invite their science fiction friends, we’d be able to rustle up 10 people willing to eat ahi in the name of science fiction.  So I spent Thursday doing party prep. I even made a long-ass trip to the deepest heart of burbaria (Santa Teresa and Blossom Hill, near where I used to live) to find a Bev Mo, in a failed search for Twotown pineapple cider, which is delicious.

Woohoo, time for some Worldcon!

The panels were beginning around the time I finished shopping. I went to one about the “scurrilous” history of fandom where I heard a few cool stories, then I wandered to the dealer’s room and acquired three nerdy t-shirts. Then I ran back to my room for a brief rest before heading to the File 770 meetup.

As I approached I could hear extremely loud music. Music in the 100 decibel range. A cover version of Jimi Hendrix’s Voodoo Child, as a matter of fact. Perpetrated by a band called Make No Bones.

Not much mosh in their pit
A cheese plate

Filers ostensibly having fun

Filers grimacing in pain during Make No Bones' set

I’m not going to go into too much detail about Make No Bones, but here are the salient facts: (a) they also cover God Only Knows by the Beach Boys; (b) not only that, they can play 12-bar blues; (c) they have about five friends who were observing them from a distance; (d) when I asked the bartender if maybe the band would take a long break if approximately 40 hard drinking science fiction conventioneers from multiple nations were to show up clutching credit cards, he said no dice, band plays until 8:00 closing; (e) they refused to drop the volume to conversational levels even though this venue was basically a concrete garage because they seemed to think this was a concert (where the audience pays attention) as opposed to a bar band gig (where they don’t). 

They were, without question, the worst live band I have seen anywhere, ever. The meetup disintegrated right after their first break. We headed to a nearby Asian restaurant and split into subtables, and had some nice animated conversation.

Then on Friday I hit a few panels before it was time to drive back to San Francisco to get Kahuna.


I was removed from Cat Safari at about dinnertime, not that there was any dinner, even though it was time. I was upset about that. I was bundled into my nifty new pet carrier (velcro-fastens to a lightweight wagon base with spinning-rotating wheels, folds flat, made in China) which is actually so much fun to ride in that I forget to complain for long periods of time.

I was wheeled over an entire block of San Francisco because She wasn’t considerate enough to find a closer parking spot and I was left in the back seat all by myself, which led me to the horrified realization that She was driving.

I immediately started giving Her driving directions so that She wouldn’t accidentally crash into a wall or something and kill us both. She ignored most of them, although She did turn the music up like I asked, while still refusing to change the station as often as I requested it, so that we had to listen to lots of Van Halen and Michael Jackson. After what seemed like an eternity, we stopped at a huge crowded building in an uncomfortably warm climate, where I was wheeled into a room full of strange smells.

There was some unfamiliar cat food here, and I almost wanted to complain but I was so hungry I ate it instead. It tasted good, and there were even some cheesy-flavored kitty treats, which She hasn’t remembered to feed me in several years. There was also a nice tile floor to sleep on. The beds were too high for me to climb up and down, and She built me a little staircase made of chairs and overturned wastebaskets but I found it easier to just meow until She lifted me up or down.

Then, the first of many humans invaded our private space. This first one had a cart with a steak on it, and since She fed me a little of the steak I forgave the intrusion. Little did I realize there would be many more.



The Fairmont kindly made a cat exception for me. Usually they only allow dogs, but after I explained that Kahuna was not an ordinary cat but a minor internet celebrity as well as a huge lumbering senior citizen cat with no claws, he was permitted to accompany me as long as (a) I paid a pet fee; and (b) he was accompanied by a human at all times.

Since I didn’t want to spend the last couple days of Worldcon trapped in the room, I enlisted the aid of Sandy the Robotsmith, one of my oldest friends – we actually knew each other in SJ in the ‘80s. She is a very cool person with rainbow-colored hair and major animal handling skills, and she agreed to be a cat nanny for Saturday and Sunday, kittysitting so I could run out to the convention.

She arrived on Saturday and I ran away to the con. There was a big protest happening, which File 770 covered http://file770.com/alt-right-rally-outside-worldcon-76-draws-about-40/
I took a few photos too.

Not a great shot, you can kind of see the counter protesters at the base of the flagpole

Here are the protesters, in the shade, blocking the blood donation van

San Jose Police Department were making a U-shaped barrier between the protesters and counters; they let me through without impeding me

Volunteers in pink shirts were escorting con attendees who were nervous about walking through the protest

Closer shot of protesters

I heard lots of locals yelling verbal abuse at the Trump supporters as they drove past. You have to go a few more miles inland to find the Californian Trump fans in large concentrations.

I made it past the protestors and into the convention, heading for a panel called In For the Long Haul: The Ups and Downs of Writing a Long Series with (drumroll) Robin Hobb! Marie Brennan! Seanan McGuire! L.E. Modesitt, Jr.! P.C. Hodgell! Moderated by Brandon Sanderson!

I wasn’t the only one who wanted to attend this panel. I actually stood in line for it, and once the line moved into the room it became apparent the room was too small, and a bunch of us were shooed out pursuant to the Fire Code. Which was a huge bummer. Apparently the last-minute reconfiguring of the program didn’t really segregate the likely-to-be-popular panels from the other kind, and I was bummed.

But not for long, I had a party to throw.


She went away, leaving me with the strange human who at least understood my demands for more of that weird unusual food (so I could determine whether or not to complain about it). I took a relaxing nap on the tile floor in the bathroom, unaware that in only a few hours, the most traumatic event of my entire life would happen.

Stop paying attention to me at once

That’s right, a huge number of strangers would pay attention to me, and pet me. While feeding me seared ahi, and kalua pork, and teriyaki chicken, and cheesy treats.

Several times I attempted to sneak down on the floor and hide, and at one point I successfully lurked beneath a chair without anybody approaching me directly. But She kept lifting me back onto the bed, despite my complaints, until finally I just collapsed and went limp, which is what we Ragdoll cats do whenever we can’t think of anything else to do.

Finally I succumbed to the sweet release of sleep, despite the fact that multiple humans were having conversations around me in their rude and inconsiderate humanlike way. In retrospect I realize that one good healthy poop would likely have cleared out the entire room of humans, earning me some much appreciated solitude so that I could nap properly, but at the time, I was saving it.


My little luau went very well. We had way more delicious Hawaiian food than we could eat, even though it was quite possibly the tastiest Hawaiian food I have ever had outside of Hawai'i. All the partygoers were quite satisfied, and then I posted around on Facebook and found a few more hungry people to help us attack the rest. Serendipitously, I fed a ravenous group of people who had teamed up to order a delivery – and then said delivery was snatched by some hungry fiend, leaving them stuck late at night with growling empty bellies. A constant stream of smart nerdy people came and went. I started reflecting that quite possibly, throwing parties and feeding random people was way better marketing than printing more useless little bits of cardboard or sitting all day at a book table, or was more fun at least.

In fact, I’m going to do it again at next Baycon. Most people would probably rather have a plate of delectable chicken than yet another pre-printed bookmark, and both options cost about the same.

We stayed up until three, then slept through breakfast (d’oh!) and I ambled back over to the dealer’s room, disenchanted with panels in general and more inclined to shmooze with passing friends and photograph cosplayers.


Finally, Monday arrived and my ordeal was nearly at an end. She took Her sweet time eating something that smelled like eggs while I lounged on the bed recovering from all the petting, a process which I can tell will take months.

Eat faster, human

Next I was rudely stuffed into my carrier, but then I got to roll around on those shiny floors again, which is definitely fun. Then I found myself in the back seat of the car again, listening to Van Halen as I frantically yelled out driving directions, all the way to San Francisco, again to no avail. I was quite hoarse by the time She made me leave the comfort of my carrier and walk upstairs.

Luckily the couch was right where I left it. And so is the hallway, where I left the biggest ever ball of revenge poop this morning. Unfortunately, She didn’t get out of bed until there was enough light to notice it, and therefore avoided stepping in it, so all that poop-saving went for naught. 


Douglas Berry said...

I think we frequented the same library at about the same time.

As the guy who spearheaded the restaurant guide, I'm sorry about forager. Nothing in my research indicated that "live music" was going to be earsplitting cover bands.

Charon Dunn said...

No problem, I don't think anybody could ever be prepared for Make No Bones. They are truly unique among bar bands.