An Orycon Carol

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(With apologies to Patty Wells and Andrew Nisbet, but they really shouldn't say stuff like that at panels or on the mailing list if they don't want it repeated)

Ebenezer Scrooge, one-time trufan, sat down to read his e-mail one evening. But there on his monitor, Scrooge saw an image forming of his old business partner, Marley. Wrapped around him were strings of what looked like Blackberries, digital phones, watches, and e-mail icons.

"I am the avatar of Jacob Marley," said the image. "Beware! Do you know that it is nearly time for Orycon?"

"You are a clever virus or phishing hook or something," said Scrooge. "Anyway, I know that it's November, but I'm busy."

"Ah, that was what I often said," moaned the ghostly visitor. "Beware! This chain I forged in life, and yours is heavier still! Tonight you will be visited by three Spirits..."

When the bell struck midnight, there appeared the first Spirit, which looked like a young child wearing a propeller beanie.

"I am the Spirit of Orycon past!" it said. "Come with me and see the shadows that have been." And the Spirit took Scrooge by the hand and led him along toward a mass of gray buildings under the rain of November. Here they passed through the side of one of the buildings, and found themselves on the party floor.

"Good Heaven!" said Scrooge. "It's the Hilton downtown, where Orycon was held years ago!"

Indeed it was, and as the merrymakers wound an ever shakier path through the halls, Scrooge felt a long-ago memory twitch...

"I remember now!" he said. "Orycon left the Hilton because it too many people were crashing the parties for free beer."

"Indeed it did," said the Spirit. "Let us see the next one!" The walls blurred as it led Scrooge by the arm, and they found themselves walking into a new room. This one was full of tables, each surrounded by earnest fen who dealt cards, or scribbled on sheets, or frowned and looked thoughtful at arrangements of lead figurines.

"Ah, this is Gaming in the Columbia River Doubletree! Or are we back in the days when it was the Red Lion?" asked Scrooge.

At that moment, in wobbled the king of all drunks. Had he been slightly less disheveled, half as filthy, and a third as much redolent of alcohol, he might have passed for the very personification of the gamer sterotype. At the very center of the room gravity finally defeated him, but this only freed up the rest of his energy to redouble his protests to the security people trying to remove him.

"You can't throw me out," he bellowed, "I am H. P. LOVECRAFT!"

"Ah, yes!" said Scrooge. "I remember thinking that he had a point. After all, if you can't let H. P. Lovecraft into a science fiction, who can you let in? But really, the move did take care of the drunk problem..."

Then the Spirit pulled him up, up through the ceiling and another, and they emerged into the second-floor program space, where a group of filkers was wrestling with a room divider. Presently it was pushed into place, and the singing began in earnest.

"Ah, I remember many a filksing here," sighed Scrooge, "but this must be the year all the hotel staff vanished and we had to reconfigure the rooms ourselves."

"They were all at the Other Hotel," the Spirit explained, "trying to keep a real- estate brokers' convention from destroying it. But come, let us see some more!"

They walked to the Riverview room and saw the shadows of many an opening ceremonies- - the air thick with floppy disks hurtling toward the stage as David Levine scooped them up in handfuls, stuffed them into a prop computer, and shouted, "More software! We need more software!"; an interview with the band Tempest being announced and a man walking out onto the stage carrying a tray on which sat a simple white teapot; and many more, including, of course, the year that the organizers decided to see how many men they could get to wear dresses. Heading back up the hall toward the front entrance, they brushed by years of pirates, lords, ladies, elves, goths, and the constant presence of Klingons for Khrist.

"Yes, yes, good memories all," said Scrooge. "But they had to cap the attendance- - there's no need for you to have to drag me back into it."

"Not so," said the Spirit as they passed the front desk and walked over to Registration. "Look here!" And it led Scrooge behind the table, so he could see the date displayed on the computers.

"What-- Sunday, and Registration still open?" Scrooge exclaimed. "We used to bet on whether it would take until Saturday morning to reach the attendance cap!"

"Indeed," said the Spirit, "and there is worse to come. But my time grows short!" And its propeller began to spin and it sailed off into the darkness.

The second Spirit appeared then at the next stroke of midnight, and Scrooge found it making itself at home in his living room. Heaped up on the floor, forming its throne, were fanzines, songbooks, paintings, casks of bhlog, chocolate-tasting samples, elf ears, jewelry, issues of XXXenophile, collectibles, stuffed dragons, newsletters, laptops, schedules, cereal, cartoons, cards, game boxes, manga, fancy hats, cloaks, masks, and piles of uncountable brand-new hardcovers, filling the room with the smell of unread adventures.

"Come in and know me better, man!" called the Spirit.

"Look, this is all wrong," protested Scrooge. "Orycon's the second weekend in November, and this is only the first. You're early!"

"I am precisely on time," said the Spirit. "Orycon is happening this very moment! Come!"

Scrooge found himself walking beside the Spirit in downtown Portland.

"What's happened?" he asked. "Why are we here, and on the wrong weekend? It hasn't gone back to the Hilton, has it?"

But instead, he saw they were walking into the Marriott on Naito Parkway, which faces OMSI across the river. In they went, and down an escalator, to where the award for best writer in the Pacific Northwest was being presented. As the names of the nominees were read off, Scrooge wondered why none stood up to be recognized, and when the winner was announced, she was said to be at the World Fantasy Convention.

"The World Fantasy Con, of course!" muttered Scrooge. "Can it be why none of the nominees were here?"

"Practically all," replied the Spirit.

Then the opening ceremonies commenced to tell the story of Dorothy, lost in the land of Oz, searching for a new hotel for her convention. In due time, of course, after the guest introductions and a few bad puns, her adventures wrapped up with the SMOFs of Emerald City presenting her with a new hotel contract.

"Did Orycon really lose its hotel?" Scrooge asked.

"Yes," said the Spirit. "It was bought last year, and now it's closed for renovation."

"But can the convention not return there next year?"

"I fear not," said the Spirit. "The new owners wish to attract a tonier crowd, so no more of my brothers will visit that place."

"A tonier crowd! Do they not know," said Scrooge, "that he will vanish into Portland Planning Hell, snarled in red tape, requests delayed and denied, until they finally admit defeat, go back to the zoning permits, exclaims `Aha! I've got permission to run a slighty seedy hotel here!' and allows the hotel to resume as before?"

They sped through the panel rooms, and Scrooge looked among the panelists for the familiar faces, but many were missing. "Where is David Levine?"

"World Fantasy Con," said the Spirit, "as are many others."

"Steve Barnes, as well?"

"No, he moved to Los Angeles."

"What about the audiences? Where have they gone?"

"Many people are just as busy as you," said the Spirit. "You can understand, can't you?"

"I thought they would get along and reach the registration cap without me," said Scrooge. "Don't they promote Orycon anymore?"

"There have been more difficulties than the hotel this year," answered the Spirit. "This spring, the treasurer resigned with the finances in a terrible state. Also the payments for the storage unit weren't made, and all the stuff there was sold off by the rental company."

"This convention is a disaster or two past where it should have failed," said Scrooge in awe. "What is going to happen next year?"

"If things continue as they are," said the Spirit, "I see a dwindling crowd, and very few more of my brothers to come."

"I suppose," said Scrooge, "knowing this story, I will get to see it for myself."

The third Spirit appeared, robed and cloaked in black, and led Scrooge by the arm through the rainy November dusk until they stopped before the familiar shape of the Doubletree Columbia River. There the Spirit pointed upward and Scrooge saw that the sign now read "THUNDERBIRD HOTEL".

They passed through the wall of the hotel and into one of the rooms. Everything was dusty with neglect, half-moldy near the windows, dead and abandoned, waiting on the planned transformation that would never come. But wait! There in the shadows was a furtive movement.

In crept a man carrying a guitar. He settled himself by the window and began tuning up. After him came three or four others, who arranged themselves in a rough circle.

"Welcome," said the man with the guitar, "to the StealthCon 1 filksing! If I may, I'd like to open with a commemoration of the day." And he began to sing:

The last stand at the Marriott was in two thousand and eight--
When it didn't make the room-nights, the contract sealed our fate.
And though we find no place to rest, the tradition still lives on--
As long as there is fandom here, there'll be an Orycon!

"What! This is what Orycon has come to!" said Scrooge. "Sneaking into its former home?"

The Spirit's hood gave the perception of a faint nod.

"Can attendance have fallen that far? I suppose if I decide I'll go to Orycon next year, that means everyone else as busy as me manages to make it, and Orycon is saved? But wait", said Scrooge, turning thoughtful. "Suppose this song is about to go on to win the Pegasus Award, setting the singer on the path to fame and fortune as the first filker ever to cross over and find success in the mainstream? You have to think about these things. Or suppose someone here will cut themselves and die of sepsis, thus depriving fandom of some tiresome blowhard who might otherwise drain the life out of parties wherever he goes for years to come? Well? Do I dare meddle in the future?"

The Spirit, which had clearly not come prepared for this debate, folded its arms petulantly, and a twitch at the hem of its robe suggested that it was tapping its foot.

"Oh, all right," said Scrooge. "I'll go! I'll go!"

On waking, Scrooge immediately resubscribed to the Orycon mailing list and found that his worst fears were not true. Orycon had been a success, except for the elevator bottleneck in getting to the third floor, which the Committee promised to work on with some rearrangement of events next year. There was quickly a contract for the next year, arranged so it wasn't going to go up against WFC again. And, best of all, the eternal smoking flamewar was banished forever from the mailing list.

Thus, for ever after, Scrooge went to Orycon faithfully, and was never again troubled by parachronological visitations, at least not outside of the really good parties.

Incidentally, the next Orycon will be November 17th-19th, at the downtown Marriott.

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