Corflu 2000

A convention report, of sorts, by R'ykandar Korra'ti

Written shortly after the Seattle Corflu, it was originally part of a letter that I've excerpted here, as I've no really good place to put it.

----- begin excerpt -----

Actually, I guess I could talk about Corflu a little...

For those wondering, Corflu is a mobile, bid-upon convention (in the sense of "somebody gets dragged into doing it every year") for hardcore fanzine fans. At least one 'zine is produced at the convention, and typically, one is also produced for it - altho' that latter is an anthology of some of the best material (in the opinion of the editor) that appeared in fanzines in a previous year. This year's Fanthology (the traditional title) was for 1994; I've read through about half of it, and so far it's quite good. Other activities include the at-con fanzine production (the Iron Faned competition, where two groups create fanzines at the convention, and a vote is held for which is better), the annual softball game (more on that later), the awarding of the Faan Awards, the election of the fwa (fannish writers of america) president for the previous year, and, occasionally, some past year well before that. There's also a smattering of panels - one track of programming at most, the selection (by random draw of attendees) of the Guest of Honour for that year, and a lot, and I do mean a lot, of fannish yakking.

In other words, it's not entirely unlike Rubicon used to be, only with a few more people (around 120), a little more formal programming (organised by the concom, rather than by the membership), and a changing location from year to year.

I went this year for two reasons; 1) it was a mile away from my house, so I could walk, and 2) I wanted to chat people up about the Norwescon fanzine lending library. 15% of the people and fanzines on my paper mailing list disappeared over the last year, so we're in trouble. It also had the distinctly unusual attraction of being the week after Potlatch, another, non-fanzine-specific convention which is quite similar in most other ways, which this year was not just in the same city, but in the same hotel as well, and hosted largely by the same committee. There was also a discount joint membership to both conventions, a logo, and 72 people (that I know of) attended both, using the week in between to muddle around Seattle being vaguely touristy and spending a lot of time looking through our significantly-higher-than-average-per-capita number of used bookstores.

A brief word first, though, about the University Plaza hotel. I'd never been inside before; it's in a part of down that used to be part of the University District - on the far side of it from me, in fact - before I-5 went through, cutting that section off from the rest. It's now more or less part of Wallingford, by default, though it hasn't changed zip codes. It's a perfectly nice business-level-of-maintenance hotel - but at one point, someone clearly had Ideas And Plans. The hallway leading down through the function space and office area - as well as the connecting corridor to the lobby and elevators - is done up as a reduced-scale Scandinavian village. The different conference rooms and offices are houses or stores, as is the hotel's barber shop/beauty parlour, each done as a series of connected "two-storey" facades, the bottom storey of which is done up at about 70% scale, the top floor of which is force-perspectived down to no more than 30%.

It is, therefore, completely farcical. I burst out laughing as soon as I saw it, and I love it in the same way that I used to love the old Galt House, host of the Rivercons of yore.

But enough of that.

Sadly, I'm not sure how much there is to say about the convention itself. I missed some of Friday, due mostly to being too tired to walk back after hanging out in the convention suite and talking to random people all afternoon. I met up with a couple of people from the Toronto worldcon bid committee, mostly notably the woman who took my pre-supporting membership; she remembered me, which was pleasant. F. M. Busby (fan and former pro writer) and his wife and I talked quite a bit about political trends; he's concerned that the "natural state" of humans may be something akin to serfdom, and doesn't like the possibility one bit. He's also of the opinion that we're headed societally back towards a more serf-like state, with a rigid separation between the very rich and everyone else. He and his wife also liked my name badge doodle. I met up again with a Seattle fan I know from the NorthWest SFS, who has the vaguely unfortunate name of Michael Nelson, and some UK fans I'd met while in Glasgow.

Corflu, particularly for such a small convention, is determinedly cosmopolitan. Yes, there were several Seattle fans there, notably Andy Hooper, Jerry Kaufmann, and Suzanne Thompkins (all from my fanzine mailing list), but the distribution of cities was really quite broad, and included 17 people from the UK, and two from Australia, all of whom were here for both conventions. Moshe Fedor was in from NYC, who I know, less than well, and for reasons I can't remember right now. Such is fandom.

At any rate. As I said, I missed Friday evening, mostly just due to lameness on my part; everyone scattered for various dinners, and I did as well - and after eating, I simply wasn't up for hiking back again in a fairly heavy rain. And then Saturday there were unfortunately issues that kept me away from the entire convention - so I missed the actual Iron Faned competition, and the salute to Seattle Fandom, both of which I'd quite hoped to make. But such is life. Pretend, if you like, that a longer Saturday convention report section appears here, and that there's a brilliantly pithy segue into...

Sunday morning, it finally stopped raining and the sun even started to appear, occasionally. The Los Vegas fans ran out beside the pool when they saw a weak sunbeam, saying that By Ghod, they were going to be in it if it was going to be out. Much nattering about random subjects took p lace, as everyone waited for the convention banquet and awards ceremony at noon.

Having the Sunday banquet be at a sane hour is apparently a change for Corflu, one that left most of the fans present wondering why nobody had thought of it before. I certainly couldn't imagine being awake at 9 or 10am Sunday morning of a convention for hotel cold-cuts and contractually-obligated pasta. So this gave everyone lots of time to stand about in the con suite - a marvellous con suite, by the way, one which gave me a brief moment to reacquaint myself with the (in)famous Scottish soft drink IRON BRU. (In the unlikely event that you recall my Intersection report, I mentioned it there. For all of you who don't, it's the most popular soft drink in Scotland, and it tastes _exactly_ like an orange version of Bazooka Joe bubble gum. I mentioned this to Anna; she said "Excellent!" Excellent, sick and wrong, whatever.)

At the banquet, I sat with a collection of fans I'd mostly not met before, except for one of the Australians who I in fact met repeatedly, and a New York State fan I'd met briefly via my housemate Mimi, and who crashed in our guest room for a few days between the cons, and I, as I'd been doing a fair amount during the weekend, talked about the Norwescon library, reacquainting people with Norwescon and telling them what we'd been doing, and what I was trying to achieve with the library. Everyone I talked with approved; while none of them would be attending a NWC anytime soon - we're too big, and far, far too neo-heavy - I think I did manage to repair the reputation a bit, making people who had abandoned Norwescon at the depths of its media-orgy feel a bit better about the whole thing. And everyone thought the library was a very good attempt - and while there was a fair amount of doubt as to whether it would _succeed_, no one felt it was a waste of time to _try_. The Australian and I nattered on quite a bit, too, about things we haven't gotten yet in our future - his was his personal robot housekeeper, and mine was the flying car. I'm still holding out hope for that last one; I've actually got a suggestion, but it requires _serious_ magnetic fields, and we'll have to abandon credit cards as we know them before we could ever use it. And _that's_ not happening. At least, not in America.

Eventually, the Faan awards were handed out [I'll fill in later here, once they're up on the web site], the fwa past president for 1999 was elected, and Walt Willis was elected past present for the year 1952. The far-far-past-president award is clearly a tradition gaining traction, as a way to honour great fanzine fans of the past; Lee Hoffman, one of the early female BNFs and creator of much remarkable fanac - see _A Wealth of Fable_ if you want details - had previously been elected past fwa present for 1951.

And after much eating, of watching the GoH and his wife do the tango as their primary GoH duty, several of us hiked out towards the nearby softball field, which is also towards my house. Andy Hooper had tried to reserve the field, but had been rebuffed, as the parks department didn't take reservations for something so small as a single game. They assured him that it wouldn't be necessary anyway, because nobody plays softball this time of year.

What they meant, of course, was that "nobody plays softball this time of year _unless_ the sun comes out," at which time _everybody_ plays softball, even though the field is remarkably akin to a pigsty and footing is simply an impossible dream. There were at least two teams there already when we arrived, with what may have been a third playing frisbee in the far corner of the park. Handing out the hats, someone came up with the brilliant idea of playing in the nearby basketball court/parking lot of the community centre - even _closer_ to my house - so we trekked over to that side, and got in a three inning game, with Moshe's team beating Andy's 9-8 - really, whoever got to bat last was going to win; I was on Andy's team, and we had two people who could play, as opposed to Moshe's, which had four.

I managed to injure myself trying to save the game in the bottom of the last inning; I'd been moved to the outfield as a defensive change - we found out later that it'd actually _worked_, as the batters coming up - who could all essentially hit home runs at will - had, in fact, intentionally hit _down_ to avoid hitting the ball at me - and, on the second hard chopper past the shortstop of the inning, my outfielder instincts kicked in and I dove for it. And on grass, it would have been one hell of a play. But on asphalt.... well, it's just insanely stupid.

I'm not actually beaten up too badly. My knee is healing nicely, I got all the stones back out from my palm, and the sheaves of skin the ground removed are growing back quickly. I thought I'd done something to my thigh, but that was fine the next day; I think I did more damage to my biceps when, on a previous play, I nearly gave myself whiplash reacting to Andy yelling at me - as I was throwing to second for a force-out - to go to first base instead. (Me: "DON'T TELL ME TO DO THE WRONG THING! JESUS! WHAT'RE YOU DOING, PLAYING FOR THE OTHER TEAM?" We got neither out, of course.)

The English fans were entirely unimpressed with softball, by the way. Apparently there's a game that three year olds in the UK play called "French Cricket" which is remarkably similar, and, except for Hooper's bizarre invocation of the infield fly rule in the 2nd inning, at least as complex. Alas, the American reputation for simple-mindedness continues unabated, even in fandom.

And it was all con-suite and chatting from there. More nummy chocolates in the lounge; all the softball players (and, because there were extras, spectators) got baseball caps; I bought a convention T-shirt and picked up a couple more fanzines from people for the library, with promises of at least one more. New England was talked into hosting next year's Corflu at the last minute; they don't have a hotel contract yet, or, actually, even a specific town, but they've got several places in mind. This is not, it appears, particularly unusual, as no one seemed particularly concerned. What's important is that everyone have a good time, and, despite much fear on Andy's and Jerry's parts leading up to the con, everyone did.

Including, even, me.