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One Ordinary Con Report, With Antlers 

Michael Abbott

There are a million stories in the big city. At a smallish Eastercon, there are 17,500. So I can't give you complete coverage of Confabulation, just the bits that happened to me.

Like the stories in the big city, though, there's a moral here: All Women Are Bad. Lux Interior sang it, lots of men have said it, and I proved it fifty times over the weekend. Watch out in particular for women called Alison. Also watch out for genuine comments on the convention hidden amidst the anecdotage, half-truths, lies and random gibberish.

The journey to the convention on Friday morning is ordinary, livened only by an encounter with a hotel receptionist with an unhelpful attitude and a painted-on smile (though, to be fair, she's the only member of hotel staff to give me problems all weekend, and anyway, she can't help it - All Women Are Bad). The Friday afternoon is much too embarrassing to be described in the present tense, so I'll skip forward to Friday evening, when I go to the downstairs disco and bar. Dave Langford is there, and we start talking about Expiration Date, the new Tim Powers novel. I think it's too slow getting started, but Dave likes it more than me, on account of its neat ideas (which I won't give away here). 'I have to say, though,' he adds, 'that the one-armed man is allowed to do an awful lot of things that he shouldn't actually find possible.' I nod agreement, and change the subject, not realising what an appallingly unsubtle piece of foreshadowing I have just been subjected to.

A little later the music has started up, and I am talking to Alison Scott, who is finally chairman of Her Very Own Eastercon and enjoying it immensely. She wants someone to dance with her, and I innocently agree that I will, as soon as I've finished my drink. I'm still drinking it when Alison Weston shows up and invites me to dance by the simpler expedient of grabbing my wrist and pulling, and possibly saying 'Come on and dance, then' (I really can't remember; classic accident amnesia). Alison S looks hurt at this betrayal, so I say 'Okay, I'll dance with you both,' and grab her wrist too.

She doesn't move.

Alison W keeps pulling.

Something gives way. If only it had been either of them. Instead, it's my grip; I slip, and land on my left wrist. Hard, and with it turned the wrong way round. I think 'What a great anecdote for my conrep this will make', and say a few well chosen words that reduce them both to helpless giggles.

No, sorry, my mistake. Actually, I think 'All Women Are Bad' and say 'Ow'. They both have the grace to look worried, and pick up my glasses for me.

I have a brief fling on the floor, mostly dancing with Mike Siddall, who may not be sexy but at least hasn't knocked me to the floor this evening (yet). But after a while my wrist starts to swell up and I retire to the bar to apply ice to it ('Iced water please, barman, hold the water').

The barman, one Jon-Paul, is showing off some drinks and stunts, and Pam Wells has got him to make her a Brain Haemorrhage. This is made with peach schnapps, vodka, Bailey's (run in slowly so it curdles at the bottom), and a few drops of black- currant juice, for the blood. It's meant to be drunk down in one. Pam has three of these during the evening, and spends ages showing off the latest one to everyone around (which is just as well, or she'd probably have had more than three). Mike Siddall, who's something to do with autopsies for a living, pronounces it thoroughly authentic. Most other people make very satisfying (to Pam) noises of disgust. The exception is Bob Shaw, who glances at it, declares it to be a bit of a wimp's drink, and orders a pint of real ale. No wonder they made him a Guest of Honour.

Meanwhile, I hold ice cubes over my left wrist. A snail crawls up the bar, glances at the Brain Haemorrhage, and crawls off again.

Later, I go upstairs, and get safely away from all the Bad Alisons (even Allison Ewing, who is probably driving her husband to newsletter-writing and excessive footnoting even as I stagger off, clutching my left hand protectively to my chest). I find Mike Siddall again: he's applying for the position of Eve Harvey's toyboy.

'Oh Eve, Eve,' he says, 'You just can't understand how attractive a woman like yourself is to me.'

'Oh yes I can, Mike.'

'No, no, it isn't just your looks, or your marvellous personality -'

'No, Mike, it's my bank balance, isn't it?'

'Oh Eve, Eve, you wound my aching heart. How can you say that?'

Because it's true, that's how. Mike eventually gives up and leaves for a drink (not a Brain Haemorrhage, because he's something to do with autopsies for a living), which he has to pay for himself. Eve's only comment to her husband John is 'Poor lad. He's got to learn to try a bit harder if he's going to get anywhere.' John smiles. All Women Are Bad, I think to myself, and wonder whether I should let Mike know this great secret.

The conversation gets briefly onto a routine I did on the 'Moose TV' programme item during the afternoon (this is the bit that was too embarrassing to describe in the present tense). As 'Mystic Mike' (wearing a scarf lent by Kari, a black lacy affair with mirrors stuck on it) I did horoscopes for the weekend for fans born under each of the star signs (e.g. Cancer: You will get stuck in a lift at 10:30pm on Saturday evening. Since there are fifty Cancerians at the convention, be careful, the lift will be rather crowded). The only dead cert prediction I had was the one that people's phone numbers would change on Sunday. Since I got to do this once for every star sign, I actually got quite a good hit rate. The only shame is that other items overran, and my last four horoscopes had to be cancelled at the last moment: I made up for this partially by announcing that, prophetically, I hadn't bothered to write those four.

Where was I? Oh yes. The latest astrology riff in the Real World is National Lottery predictions, so the conversation rapidly passes on to this more tasteful subject: the woman who replayed a video tape of the previous week's show to fool her husband into thinking they'd won, and the man who killed himself when he realised he hadn't sent in his winning ticket.

'I don't think you can blame the lottery for the guy who committed suicide,' says somebody. 'People like that are unstable, and anything can send them over the edge.'

'Did you know,' says Mike Siddall (now with drink, and recovering slowly from his heartbreak at Eve's hands), 'if you want to stop serial killers, what you should do is ban the Bible? More serial killers are inspired by it than by anything else.'

'Wouldn't work,' I point out. 'The drug dealers would just move in and sell them on the streets. "Psst - wanna buy a Good Book?"'

'Hah!' adds John Harvey, 'and then they'd start gunning each other down over Bible turf.'

'You'd get guys cutting the stuff,' says cynical Rob Hansen, 'you'd buy a Bible and find half of the pages were Harold Robbins.'

At about two am, the hotel staff want to shut down the last bar so they can all go to sleep. Alison Scott is trying to convince the hotel duty manager that there are vast hordes of drinking fans who will be very upset by this, and won't be able to spend as much MONEY as they wanted to. Fortunately for her, she has eyewitness Martin Hoare to hand, who has just come upstairs to complain about him and his mate wanting a drink, thereby backing up her hordes-of- thirsty-fans story.

'So, Martin,' she says to him, carefully in front of the duty manager, 'just how many fans would you say are down there wanting to go on drinking?' I can see her thinks bubble: 'I want to hear a big number, Martin!'

Unfortunately, Martin doesn't notice the thinks bubble at all (he's not been waiting till two am for his first drink). 'Oh, there's the two of us,' he says, not having registered the needs of anyone else. Alison is so professional that her smile doesn't slip, but I can read her new thinks bubble anyway, and I wince, and think, All Women Are Bad.

A snail crawls past Alison and heads downstairs.

In general, relations with the hotel are pretty good. Confabulation has had special moose-embellished beer glasses made (that's embellished with, not by, a moose). Every member of the convention has been given one (to general approval), and the committee hand them out freely to hotel staff, together with Confabulation badges (and probably Crackerjack pencils), and it seems to make them feel wanted and friendly. Jon-Paul the barman seems especially enthusiastic about this entire business. Pam Wells, special disco liaison, is given two badges for the DJ, Roger. She gives him the one saying 'Roger' and keeps the other one, 'Roger the DJ', for herself. Getting ideas, just for a change. All Women Are Bad, though with Pam it's a matter of principle.

When I stagger off to bed, I notice that my right arm is scratched as well, presumably in the fall. And my left arm is still bruised from the last time I gave blood. My left wrist has gone on hurting, and my left hip is sore from the same fall, but at least my right leg is OK so far. One limb left intact, and it's only Friday night...

When I get up on Saturday morning, my left wrist is too sore to be moved, and my left hip has a pretty pastel bruise. As I struggle to wash and put on deodorant one-handed, I realise that I'm just like Sherman Oaks, the one-armed man in Expiration Date, and Dave Langford was right (surprise). In particular, I don't remember Tim Powers mentioning anything about Sherman's remaining armpit smelling of stale sweat, but then Sherman probably wasn't that clean anywhere else, either. This coincidence is just the first of many synchronicities over the weekend, but fortunately I miss most of the others.

En route to breakfast, I get into the lift and meet Jilly Reed and a pleasant, quiet man, whom she introduces as her husband Chris. 'Hi,' I say, which is all I'm up to saying, and I think no more about it at the time, since I'm not up to thinking either. (This may seem like a pointless anecdote, but trust me, it's actually more foreshadowing.)

Breakfast is pleasant, though it's the only time I get up for it all weekend. I then head off to take part in Peter Wareham and Gwen Funnell's Taxonomy quiz, which fortunately doesn't need any wrist action to play. It's got a neat format where half your questions are on a subject chosen by one of the other teams. Rhodri James and I chorus 'Oh please don't throw us in that DC Silver Age comics patch, Brer Fox,' but sadly no-one does. We're not dumb enough to give them to each other (Who invented the Metal Men? I ask you, how easy can you get?). In the end, my team don't make it through to the final, mostly owing to my inability to listen when Phil Nanson, my 'amateur' team mate, tells me the right answer.

Dave Langford then gives a 'serious' reading, from an article in New Worlds, in which he reviews the recent spate of SF books by non-SF authors. Even though it is serious (with an agenda, analysis and everything), people laugh anyway, but Dave doesn't seem to mind. I guess 'serious' here just means that it isn't only worth it for the jokes, there's stuff to think about as well.

The fanzine panel afterwards is one of the few items I go to that doesn't seem to work, perhaps because one o'clock is too early in the day for a properly rousing discussion.

Confabulation's advertised 'lightly-programmed' Eastercon has slightly more programming than the committee made out (bunch of fibbers: three out of the five are women, so the committee is at least 60% Bad), but that's a good thing, as if there'd been much less I'd have called the convention underdone. As it is, I feel the bases have been covered reasonably well. (On the other hand, the people who show up to watch videos all day - at a videoless convention - are disappointed, and, probably, haven't paid enough attention to the pre-con publicity.)

Shortly afterwards I see Dr Joan Paterson, and decide to ask her to look at my wrist. She's not wearing a first aider badge, but I figure that twelve hours later it isn't first aid any more, and anyway, she tells me it's not the first time she's been asked to diagnose someone this convention. She pokes and prods and asks questions, and tells me that it might be just a sprain, but it might be a small fracture, in which case I should wait a few days and then get an X-Ray. Which is all very helpful, but there's something about her cheerful smile as she tells me the bad news that makes me think, All Women Are Bad. (On the other hand, she took up her work occupation at a moment's notice, so I probably shouldn't grumble. Maybe this is a case where All Women Are Bad, but All Men Are Bastards.)

I also go to the Lois McMaster Bujold GoH speech. I am gratified to discover that she looks exactly like a Lois McMaster Bujold. Which is to say, she is neat, presentable, faintly nervous and obviously absolutely determined to not let her nervousness bother her at all. Just like Miles Vorkosigan, really. (Miles Vorsokigan: Mercenary Admiral, Imperial Special Agent, hero of many Bujold novels; a man who combines military genius with a distinctly nervous, amateur - but successful - attitude to problems.) She confirms this impression by spending most of the convention hanging around the lounge areas and chatting to people. No wonder they made her a Guest of Honour.

In the evening, we do Attitude Live, as announced in previous Editorials. This starts with Teddy, as our cover art, swanning on stage in something yellow, carrying a placard, and announcing the item. Fortunately, whoever had bought Teddy in the Slave Auction immediately beforehand let us borrow him (for a modest fee). Which goes to show that some slave-owners are actually nice people.

After Teddy's display, the panache level plummets, as I do my Editorial. I try to define what I've been thinking about Fan History, the Spirit of Fandom, Miles Vorkosigan, and the British Amateur Spirit. I do manage to draw these subjects together, but a lot of what I say is being worked out on the spot, and I'm pretty nervous and hesitant. So it's a good job that I'm trying to explain why it's OK to be on a programme item and sound amateurish. In fact, it's a perfect match of style and content.

Next up is Pam's on-the-spot convention report, which I remember as being chiefly concerned with Jon-Paul's drinks and stunts. I discover that three Brain Haemorrhages give you a hangover, but I'm not surprised. (All Women Are Bad, but some drinks are as well.)

Then Joseph Nicholas does twelve minutes of fanzine reviews, during which I distinctly hear him draw breath once. He slams this zine, he sneers at that one, he declines to discuss the other. Then he pulls Steve Brewster's Dr Beeching's Cold Fusion Tramway from the bottom of his pile. Since I am still sitting to one side of the stage, I am facing the audience, and I have a good view of Steve. As Joseph flourishes the latest target, I notice that Steve's spine has been replaced by an iron pillar and his eyes by marbles, and his brain has been sucked out by alien parasites. Joseph continues with some more of his second breath: 'Well, this is someone's first fanzine, which I was given at the convention, and it's a very solid effort from somebody who gives the impression of having been around a lot longer and knowing what goes on, evidently someone who pays attention,' he says, and then outlines the contents in shockingly complimentary terms. I continue to watch Steve, and am fascinated to discover that he is melting, just like the Wicked Witch in The Wizard of Oz, only without the curses. In fact, he looks quite relieved.

We then do a live 'Stance, Erudition and Scorn' about who we'd like to get to write for or attend Attitude if we could, including dead or fictional people (or even dead, fictional people). My memories of this are blurred, but I remember explaining - I don't know why - that I have an inflatable Tony Blair at home (my air bed - it's red on top and blue underneath), and this leads on to some sensible advice about not combining inflatable sex toys with body piercing. Someone produces the Quentin Tarantino weapons policy: 'Do you have a gun? No? Well I have! BLAM! BLAM!' We get interrupted a bit, but I nobly choose to regard these as live Interlineations. Then John runs the letter-column, which, owing to general audience apathy (or are they still stunned by Teddy or Joseph?), turns into more of the same on-stage banter, and then it's all over, and I have the most incredible adrenaline rush I can remember. I dare say I do some melting myself. The best thing about it being over isn't the relief, it's that I now get a chance to see the artwork Sue Mason has been drawing on a flipchart throughout the item. It's very good, especially Joseph Nicholas and his fanzine bonfire. In fact, it's not just good, it's Bad. Sue, being a Woman, is also Bad, and when I say Bad, I mean Baaad. If you know what I mean. Yo, bro. And all that.

After an evening obscured by the mists of time, I get to the room party held by Brian Ameringen, Caroline Mullan, Anne Wilson and Naomi Saunders (three Women working together - very Bad), who have two double rooms connected by an internal spiral staircase. Which makes it a pretty neat place for a party. Ian Sorensen tells a number of long stories about his brother, the Reverend Al Sorensen, a punk priest who set records for the complaints postbag with his local radio 'thought for the day' slot. Eventually, Anne decides that this person is too ludicrous to exist, and has to have been made up by Ian. I'm not convinced by this argument, because Ian is right in front of us, and I know about genetics. Isn't being too ludicrous to exist a family trait?

But this gets me thinking about Jilly Reed and her husband Chris, who Jilly admits is an oh-so- convenient way to turn down propositions without giving any offence. He's suspiciously convenient, in fact, and I say so. I'm supposed to have met Chris this morning, but I point out that I could have met an actor, or a random man in the lift who was just too scared to contradict Jilly to her face (who wouldn't be?).

'But Lilian Edwards has met Chris, and works with him, because they're both lawyers,' Peter-Fred Thompson explains.

'Third-hand hearsay? That's hardly convincing evidence.'

'But Chris has been seen on TV.'

'Just like Max Headroom, you mean? You know TV is a land of unreality.'

'But when he appeared on TV, he was subtitled "Chris, Jilly Reed's husband, honest, it is, Michael".'

I have to back down. At some point, it becomes rude to doubt people's word.

Steve Lawson arrives, wearing a badge with an odd angular design on it. I ask him what it is, and he says 'Seven'. This turns out to be the number of people who have asked him what it means so far, and the only answer he has is that he made it up in an idle moment and wanted to see what people would make of it. Since he has no better ideas, I dub him Symbol, The Fan Formerly Known As Steve Lawson.

Steve Davies, committee member, explains the intricacies of conrunning finances to me: 'Most conventions have a treasurer's system. Confabulation has a bucket of money. The convention carries on till the bucket's empty, then it stops. At the moment, the bucket is still getting fuller.'

'Hey, it's the con that never ends.'

'Oh no, we'll stop taking memberships at some point. Say about Wednesday.'

Pam and Jackie McRobert show up, both very excited about various things. Brief enquiries establish that it's mostly to do with Jon-Paul the barman, who has been talking to them and paying more attention to Pam than to Jackie. Pam can't believe this, and keeps babbling about having slipped into a parallel universe. She also says he was just flirting, but Jackie says 'If he was, he was flirting with his trousers'.

'Write that down,' says Pam, but I don't. Jon-Paul has let it be known that he gets off duty at four am, and Pam is wondering whether to hang around till then and happen to meet him.

Jackie is also excited because she briefly got stuck in a lift that evening. She's a Cancer. With her in the lift was Alison Scott, also a Cancer - and, I presume (though she didn't say), all the other Cancerians at the convention. Just like I said. Oh boy, right again.

Jackie has also added another author to her famous list of big mistakes (alongside Terry Pratchett, Alan Dean Foster, Geoff Ryman, Robert Asprin, and who knows how many more by now?), with only two well-placed sentences. She seems rather proud of what a quick job it was. The author was Jeff Noon, who she found with a young lady. Sentence one: 'Oh, this looks like a very compromising position.' Jeff and the lady look slightly embarrassed. Sentence two: 'But it's all right, I'm sure she's just your editor or agent or something.' No, she's his girlfriend. All Women Are Bad - in Jackie's case, on raw untrained talent alone.

Leave the room party myself, and stagger round the convention looking for Dave Ellis, to whom I have offered crash space. Can't find him. Instead, find Alison Scott arguing with Catie Cary about BSFA publications. All Women Are Bad, but only Alison has taken up half the world's supplies of adrenaline to be it with. Go to bed. Find I have Great Red Spots flaring up on my face. Realise that I have become At One with Jupiter, and another of my horoscopes has come true. See that my ingrowing toenail has flared up as well, so that's something different wrong with every limb. Wonder what new sicknesses await my pleasure tomorrow. Sleep, uneasily, and worried about lack of personal pronouns in thoughts.

Sunday is kind of a haze, really. Thanks to a well-placed Green Room shift, I can tactfully miss the Eastercon Bidding Session for 1997, the first contested one held since Contravention v Eastcon in 1988. In the end, Intervention wins easily over Illumination II, who seem to have been caught on the hop. So we'll be back in the Adelphi in Liverpool in '97 (just like in '88, '90 and '94). Illumination II decide to bid for 2000, and by the end of the con The Fan Formerly Known As Steve Lawson has already knocked up some I-2000 badges. It rather brings home to me how, with Mexicons and Unicons dying, and The Scottish Convention eating up so much energy, there aren't that many conventions around these days. I wonder whether I should do anything about this, then remember that I already am. So instead, I wonder whether I can steal a march on the other prophets of fandom by being the first to predict the Death of the Convention, to go with the old- favourite Death of the Fanzine. I wonder whether I should do anything about the Death of the Fanzine, then remember that I already am. Then I realise that I've reached the stage in the convention where I need my name badge to keep track of who I am.

That evening, Jilly Reed is explaining what an old hand she feels at conventions (one year after her first), now that she's been on a panel. But she's not too big to forget where she comes from yet, and to prove it she happily autographs my Read Me: 'To Michael, from an old hand'. Gosh. Jilly also mentions her head-girlish tendencies, but when I ask her if she was ever actually head girl of her school, says that actually she was only deputy head. A few moments later, someone knocks over a stack of glasses, which shatter. Jilly instantly has a dustpan and brush from somewhere, and cleans up all the bits very thoroughly, efficiently and politely, before returning to her conversation. Which leaves only one question in my mind: if she was deputy head girl, who on earth beat her to the top job?

(The above thought has already appeared in a fanzine, Ian Sorensen's Bob? 8. I feel justified in repeating it here since (a) it was my thought in the first place, (b) who reads Ian Sorensen fanzines anyway? and (c) Ian is the one scared of Jilly, not me, and I only told him the story to console him that, however frightening he found Jilly, there was someone worse out there. I find Jilly impressive, but I'm not scared of strong women, I just know that they're Bad. But I digress...)

At some point, while I'm in the bar, Christina Lake wanders past and tells me I can be on her team. Instantly, I become very confused (Christina often seems to have this effect on me). I am thrown into a flashback of games lessons at school. You know the squitty kid who's always the very last to get chosen for teams? Well, I used to be given away as a free gift with him. So actually being chosen for someone's team is a strangely disconcerting experience, and I get a healthy dose of cognitive dissonance right between the eyes, especially given that I didn't even know sides were being picked. It turns out (I think) that it doesn't mean a great deal, but there seems to be some idea of 'Whoever goes to sleep with the most on their team, wins'. (Though not 'sleeps with' in that sense. I think.) All Women Are Bad, though, so I guess Christina must be too, if I could only figure out how. I'm still working on it, when I notice the snail crawl up the side of an official Confab beer glass. Fortunately, Sue Mason is on hand to draw the incident for posterity, though I never catch the snail's name.

The Harveys run a late-night panel game that goes pretty well. I wouldn't bother to mention it, except that Mike Siddall's brilliant Call My Bluff invention for the word Bonter should be recorded: '"Space, the final frontier"; "It was the last and best hope for peace"; "A long time ago in a galaxy far far away". All these are Bonter. Bonter is whatever rhubarb they spout at the beginning of a dodgy SF TV show or film to convince you that what you're about to watch is serious and meaningful, and not a daft series thrown together by pretentious idiots.' As far as I'm concerned, this is what Bonter is from now on. The meaning was just crying out for a word. (I have just noticed that there is rather a lot of Mike Siddall in this con report. I should point out that I don't like this any more than you do, but I am committed to reporting the truth, however unpalatable. There is also too much of Jilly Reed, Alison Scott and Pam Wells, but they're only present to demonstrate how Bad All Women Are. Furthermore, there isn't nearly enough of Sue Mason and Giulia de Cesare, who were on the committee just as much as Alison was, and are every bit as Bad, as they both demonstrated at the Intersection Masquerade. Oh dear, I seem to have wandered off the subject again...)

Sunday turns into a very late night indeed, and I stagger up in the early afternoon. My wrist is starting to feel better, but I make up for it by falling apart everywhere else, which is normal for Eastercon Monday. The Fan Formerly Known As Steve Lawson is looking after the registration desk and selling t-shirts, and not taking no for an answer. Where does he get the energy from? Alison Scott leakage? At two pm, someone shows up and joins the convention. I wonder if the money bucket's nearly empty yet.

At three o'clock I'm on a panel, Sucking Growth Fandom, based (flatteringly) on my editorial in Attitude 4 (copies of which I pass around in the Green Room beforehand: although the entire panel is on the mailing list, half of them plead complete amnesia; understandably, on Eastercon Monday). The panel is chaired by Martin Tudor, and features Ian Sorensen, Greg Pickersgill, Pat Silver and me. It's surprisingly positive, and everyone seems quite willing to talk and entertain new ideas. In fact, it's a bit of an anticlimax compared to the pitched argument I'd vaguely expected. Someone from the Wincon committee (where Norman Spinrad's original speech was made) explains that Spinrad's original comments about Sucking Growths were actually referring to the increasing consumer- orientation of fandom, and people who focus on one show or fictional world to the exclusion of all else. In which case he's closer to my own opinions than the straw man I set up, and I decide I'd better note that in my con report (tick).

The 'liveliest' part comes with the subject of whether fanzine fans were ever unwelcoming to newcomers. Pat swears it's happened to her, Greg 'finds this hard to believe', and off they go. Martin comments 'I've tracked back four separate incidents, all to Alan Dorey', but they aren't listening. I decide that fandom is like Ireland - it has too much history for its own good. Jon-Paul the barman, enjoying fandom enough to come to the convention on his day off, speaks up from the audience to plead that we have a lot in common and should just get on with having fun. (No understanding of history, that's his trouble.) On the other hand, David Hartwell, visiting from America, says how pleased he is to hear people arguing as individuals in fandom, and that it's like the 'old days' in America, before the consumer takeover.

I'm left realising, from this and from letters to Attitude , that the situation is very different in America from the way it is over here. Another warning against Big Pictures - they don't travel well.

It all ends happily, with Greg and Pat shaking hands on an agreement that it's not what you do, it's the way that you do it: i.e. written SF, films, fanzines, filking; just do it actively, and it's fandom. Gosh, how sweet.

The closing ceremony has some good bits of staging. The committee say how Confabulation was very useful for them as it gave them 'Get Out Of Worldcon Free' badges. Martin Easterbrook, Intersection co-chair, stands up (and either he brought his own microphone, or this is a set-up), points out that the excuse doesn't work now Confab is over, and various Intersection Ladies From Hell (All Women Are Bad, remember?) rush up and strip them of their protective badges.

So far, so scripted (and indeed conscripted). Steve Davies now stands up, and explains that for Intersection the Confab committee are handling Info Desk, Newsletter and Badge Making, and therefore control the lines of communication. This authorises them to make more 'Get Out Of Worldcon Free' badges, and he produces some to prove it. The committee all get a replacement, and a number more are flung out to the audience, many of whom are desperate for the life-saving badge.

All rather well done - but some of us don't need no steenkin' badges, of course.

Things are very fragmentary from this point on. I go in to the Taxonomy Final just in time to hear Rhodri saying 'Please don't throw me into that Independent Comics briar patch, Brer Fox'. No one does, and I find out later that Rhodri knows very little about independent comics. Clever. No wonder his team wins.

I have dinner with Jilly Reed, Ian Sorensen and Jackie McRobert. The conversation ranges over tapeworms, septic tanks and willow trees - Jilly and I are both rural, and Ian and Jackie are too polite (or, in Ian's case, scared of Jilly) to hit us or walk off. Jilly insists I do my pumpkin routine again, and I draw a blank, same as always.

At the Dead Moose Party, Mike Scott (the last committee member to get a mention) tells me that the committee knew that Attitude Live would be a success. I wished they'd told me so in advance: it might have saved me a whole barrel of worry. But maybe it wouldn't have been as good if I hadn't worried... My head starts to hurt.

And then comes the one fixed point to every Eastercon: after a little last-gasp socialising on Tuesday morning, exhausted, confused and unwell, I go home, and return to my work life. But it's a good sign, and a compliment to the people involved, that my convention high lasts until Thursday. It's not their fault that the sprained wrist lasts longer. Except Alison Scott's, of course; I'd complain, but what good would it do? All Women Are Bad, but Alison's been on management training courses in it.

There are 17,500 stories at a smallish Eastercon. (So plenty to look forward to for next time.) All human life is here, and quite a lot of inhuman stuff too, and I've only covered 38 of the 56 stories I was around for. There were a lot of good conversations that just couldn't be transcribed: because you had to be there; or because I forgot them; or because they are too private; or because they deserve articles of their own.

Or because of Bad Women, of course; but Confabulation just wouldn't have been the same without them.

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