Down Among the Zed Fen

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I've been wanting to go to Corflu for years, and finally it came to me. Well, Seattle, but most of the world thinks that's the same as Portland anyway. Seattleites even steal all our jokes about the incessant gloom and rain, not knowing that it actually spends more time raining 200-odd miles to the south.

So I was looking forward to a relatively dry and sunny weekend, in which Seattle did not disappoint. In fact everything about the location was excellent, including the views, the art-deco-style hotel, the general geekiness of the area (the marquee across the street read WATCHMEN, BYO SQUID, and nearby I found the Lothlorien Apartments), and the copious cheap food. There was a shop full of cats and secondhand books next door. (It was an odd feeling to read City at the End of Time a couple weeks later and realize it was that very bookstore where Daniel Patrick Iremonk found his cryptozoology book.)

This was the best site I'd ever seen for a small convention. Those of you going to Potlatch next year are in for a treat. It would also be a terrific place to hold Smofcon or C-Cubed, hint hint.

The first program item I went to was in fact an appreciation of the local architecture-- the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition tour of the University of Washington campus, which is only slightly hampered by the fact that very little of the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition architecture still exists. Instead you get to appreciate many fine examples of Collegiate Gothic (really, that's the actual term) and a few oddities like the one library building where someone in the 1960s said, "No, let's build this one section in modern brutalist style instead."

Back at the Hotel Deca, I found Chris demonstrating its one quirk, which is that it has room for about 300 people but bedding for roughly a thousand, by building a fort from the excess pillows. I handed out some zines, we got dinner, and then we skipped the opening ceremonies because, coincidentally, Cinematic Titanic was in town that night.

First I may need to explain about Mystery Science Theater 3000. You remember that show that had the guy and those robots heckling bad movies? That was MST3K. A few years after it expired, it was partially revived in spirit by Michael J. Nelson, Kevin Murphy, and Bill Corbett with Rifftrax. This is a site which allows you to download sound files which you then play long with your DVD of the appropriate movie for heckling. The advantage of this is that they can heckle big-budget movies that they'd never get the rights to.

After Rifftrax, the same guys come up with the other revival of MST3K-- The Film Crew, which is a complete movie-and-commentary package featuring the sorts of obscure terrible movies that MSTies have come to know and love.

Cinematic Titanic is the lther other revival of MST3K, also featuring bad movies and heckling. You can buy DVDs through their not-very-secure custom online store, but they also do live shows of movies they haven't released on DVD yet. So that's what we were going to.

The featured film that night was Blood of the Vampires, an unbelievably bad film from the Phillipines. It's set in romantic old Mexico, far enough back to be when they had slaves, who are played by, get ready, Filipinos in blackface. There's a bad script, bad acting, bad special effects, and everything, but that's my new low-water mark for obscure Z-grade movies: Filipinos in blackface.

There was some warm-up before the movie, starting with a guy whose name I've forgotten but who wasn't very funny anyway. Then they started bringing out the performers. Frank Conniff looks shockingly old, but Mary Jo Pehl makes up the average by appearing to have aged backwards. Joel Hodgson, Trace Beaulieu, and J. Elvis Weinstein (the original Tom Servo, in the episodes Comedy Central hardly ever reran) complete the set. Even though the warm-up was terrible, when it comes to the heckling, they've still got it, and I recommend the show in the strongest possible terms, should it come to your town.

You can also meet the performers after the show, but it was late, and there was a huge line, and the only autographable thing I had on me was a copy of CRY the Beloved Anthology anyway.

Saturday was for checking out panels and generally relaxing. It started with a session on fanzine collecting and preservation in general and the Eaton Collection in particular, which was all very informative but induced feelings of deep guilt over how I promised my filk tape collection with footnotes to the Eaton people almost three years ago and have only found time to document and send 20 of the tapes so far.

The panel on illustrations was very useful to me as a faned, or will be if I ever persuade anyone to contribute some to Picofarad. Then, at "My Other Fandom", we discovered why Curt Phillips had spent the afternoon dressed as a Union soldier-- his other fandom is Civil War reenactment. He talked about that and how the history of the actual war is treated in the South. Growing up below the Mason-Dixon line, he said, he hadn't realized until about the age of 12 that the South had actually lost the war, because no one really talks about that part.

The "Saturday Night Zed" was the reason we'd gone to Cinematic Titanic Friday instead of Saturday. It was a varied program, starting with the punk stylings of Nic Farey, whose "Zine of the Moment", set to "Heat of the Moment", is still getting stuck in my head occasionally. Rob Jackson's trivia contest, originally created just in case he was ever named GoH, will be remembered mainly for its chaos and the fact that the first question was all about horses, leading to random equine punnage for the rest of the evening. Interspersed with other items was the thrilling radio serial "Doc Fandom and the Stencil of Fear", in which a noble attempt to advance fanzine publication becomes a threat to the entire space-time continuum when it falls into the hands of the Sumerian king Lagadaga of Girsu (voiced by Ian Sorenson, leading to the observation that even in the progressive world of sf fandom, we still wind up with the Brit playing the villain).

Sunday, there was time for a last look-in at the con suite, which had always been relatively quiet when I was there, but apparently had hosted some really good gossip or something, because throughout the weekend the laptop with the live feed to the Virtual Tucker Hotel had sprouted increasingly big and alarming signage that there was a LIVE MICROPHONE connected to THE INTERNET. I have to say that having the Internet presence was almost totally unobtrusive. In the panel room, the eyes of the world were represented by someone's netbook perched atop a podium on the edge of the audience's field of view, and by one or two questions per panel from the back of the room prefaced with, "The internets want to know..."

The con wound up for us with the traditional brunch, which began by proving that there is no convention too small to develop a huge logistical crowd problem. But we were all eventually seated with food, and the FAAn Awards were duly presented. Elinor Busby gave her GoH speech, which consisted mainly of a plug for her book, and then Andy Hooper was nominated for past president of FWA. Jerry Kaufman contested it on principle, and may have regretted when someone shouted, "'Wrestle for it!"

I should explain, for those who haven't seen both of them in person, that Andy Hooper is about twice Jerry Kaufman's height. There were attempts to hand Jerry a chair to even the odds, but he insisted on a clean fight and managed to lose without any permanent damage, thus allowing Andy a clear field to become the past president of the Fannish Wrestling Association.

The festivities closed out with a bid for Corflu Cobalt, presented by Peter Weston, and then it was off to Portland for us. It started raining as soon as we were outside the city limits...

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