The Book of VCON is where attendees of VCON—Vancouver’s annual SF&F convention begun in 1971—record their impressions of the convention. Originally a scrapbook, at some point Clint Budd had the 284 pages properly bound in textured black hardcover complete with a red ribbon to mark pages and the words “The Book of VCON” embossed in gold.on the cover. Measuring 11 inches by 14 inches and weighing 4 lbs., it is a very impressive fannish object!
As VCON Archivist I carry it about VCON bringing it to people’s attention. Hospitality is a particularly good venue where people can relax, take the time to look through previous comments, then thoughtfully add their own.
Pages are numbered. On the inside cover a list of VCONS in sequence indicates where to find comments by assorted Guests of Honour over the years. This makes it easier for people to browse.
What do they see? Comments ranging from a single sentence to multiple paragraphs, assorted doodles, and some really cool illustrations.
For example, David Gerrold (Author GoH at VCON 23 in 1998) drew a Chtooran eating a Tribble (both beasties having been invented by him).
As for VCON 21 in 1996, Artist Mike Jackson drew a hovering Flying Saucer, and a tentacled Martian beneath it swallowing a human arm, with the Martian’s thought balloon reading “Hmmm… needs butter,” while the heading read “Let’s have a better tasting ConCom for VCON 22!”
Great and cool stuff. Unfortunately the awkward size of the book makes it impossible to copy most of the art, but I did manage to scan a few items for the purposes of this article.
The Book of VCON was initially unveiled at VCON 6 in 1978. The first inscription was by Barbara L. Dryer: “People will look back on VCON VI and remember this one as the best VCON ever!”
Anonymous then wrote: “Square rooms are not conducive to good participation, views, or appreciation of talks.”
Followed by another anonymous comment: “They’re not square—they’re trapezoid!”
A.E. van Vogt was Guest of Honour at VCON 6 (1978). Quite a coup to get him, as he had been the first prominent Canadian SF author—publishing more than 600,000 words before moving to the States in 1944—noted for such works as ‘BLACK DESTROYER’ (1939), ‘SLAN’ (1940) and ‘THE WEAPON SHOPS OF ISHER’ (1941). He was also the first recipient of the Aurora Award, for lifetime Achievement, at Halcon 3 in March of 1980. The award was then called ‘THE COEURL’ after his legendary nasty beast creation. He filled an entire page of the Book of VCON with his reaction to VCON 6:
Dear VCON people: My overall impression is of a special brightness of intelligence, an unexpected high level of sophistication, and the feeling that Canada has grown into a nation of exceptionally mature people. When I left the country in ’44 Canadians were a good people, but even the liberals were narrow in many ways. All this has changed—for the better. The tendency to equality that has been observed in many parts of the world is stronger here than in the U.S.A. No sexism, no racism—that is the impression I have; this in spite of the French Canadian rebellion. Here in the West people are visibly willing to let everything sensible and generous happen, and I believe that that will win a favorable response. The role of science fiction in all this, if the BC SF group and the other persons from the other parts of Canada that I met at VCON 6 are any measure, has the appearance of an expanding phenomenon. I mean that what is happening is consciousness expansion and the end of that will be Canadian support of the space program in a significant way. It’s a much greater century with a much greater future than I would have believed when I first arrived at VCON 6. Sincerely, A. E. van Vogt.”
I have the vague feeling this was written in hospitality after van Vogt had downed a few beers. Then again, from all accounts, he talked this way all the time. But it’s nice to see he was pleased with the “quality” of fans attending the convention.
Paul Angel of Denver wrote: “VCON 6 was one of the three best cons I’ve ever been, and I’ve been to about 30 cons since 1970. Vancouver fans are very warm and friendly, and Edmonton fans are just plain crazy (that’s where we are going next). A fantastic con!”
Moving on to VCON 12 (1984), then BCSFA Archivist Gerold Boyko wrote:”It is hard to believe 6 years have passed since VCON 6. In case you are wondering, after that con this book was buried somewhere and forgotten. Then it wandered into the archives of the British Columbia Science Fiction Association where it was again put to sleep.”
Today (Friday March 25, 1984), while picking through all the stuff to gather together a half decent display of items from the BCSFA archive for the fan room at VCON 12, I came across this book again and figured, what the hell, it is a shame not to fill the rest of these pages. So here it is again, all dusted off and ready to have the contents of your mind transferred onto paper in the form of words, pictures, or what have you.”
Someone whose name I can’t make out (honest!) had a very negative view of VCON 12, writing: “Maybe if you devoted a little more space to the con, it might not be so incredibly boring next time. More: Movies—bad selection, Star Trek episodes, Gaming rooms, more thin people(!), Star Wars stuff, etc. You get the idea.”
Sure I do. He wanted more media stuff, a lot more media stuff. Evidently he found the astonishing lineup of literary Guests of Honour boring in the extreme, people like Judith Merril, Theodore Sturgeon and Samuel Delaney! But then not every fan is into SF literature. Oh well. VCON has always been a general interest SF&F convention trying to cover as many aspects of SF as possible, and as a general interest fan myself I heartily approve.
Anyway, Sam Delaney, renowned for his literary style and mastery of written English, offers proof in the Book of VCON that this isn’t always the case:
“I like this con a whole lot. Gee, I really like this con. Not only that, I’m having a good time. In fact, I’m having such a good time it’s fun to say how much fun I’m having. How much fun am I having? A whole lot of fun. (Of course with the time change and parties and staying up very late I’m a little punchy by now. And I’m not on top of what I’m saying [a whole lot]. But, well…) What was I saying there? I was saying how much I liked this con. And, there, I’ve more or less said it! Samuel R. Delaney… called ‘Chip’ by his friends. Many thanks…!”
To digress, a Chip Delaney story I can vouch for. At a VCON 12 panel when Theodore Sturgeon mentioned that he wrote at the kitchen table, rock music blaring out of the radio atop the fridge, and that he wrote in the nude, Delaney didn’t bat an eye. But when Sturgeon’s wife added that Ted never wrote a second draft Delaney was so discombobulated he nearly fell out of his chair. I was present, I witnessed this.
Further to VCON 12 a Mike Johnson wrote: “This was my first VCON. I’m disappointed and won’t come back. Badly organized. Nothing to do. Mediocre films.”
On the other hand, a certain Mr. Cook wrote: “We drove halfway across the continent for this? Yes we did, and it was worth every inch of it. Good to be back.”
Flipping pages at random, one comes across sample comments such as these:
VCON 14 (1986): “Once again, as my faith in fandom begins to wane, VCON shows me that some people still know how to keep fannish activity alive!” – Greg Hoder.
VCON 15 (1987): “I found this convention the most continually absorbing of any I have ever attended in recent years. Partially, of course, because of my interest in the history of the field, but most because the program really adhered to its theme throughout and displayed remarkable enterprise in locating and presenting information and media uncommonly seen and thereby avoiding the repetitive nature all too common with the majority of regional conventions. With a high rating of 10, I would rate VCON 15 a 9. Nothing went wrong that you could have avoided. With thanks for the honor…” – Sam Moskowitz (Fan GoH)
VCON 21(1996): “The world can only use more weird people. It’s great to see so many of them gathered in one place. The dream is still alive.” – Devin Ens.
VCON 23 (1998): “Once again a warm feeling to be among fen & lecture them for the ninth time (along with Stan G. Hyde, co-author of the lecture) on THE SEX LIFE OF GODZILLA! Sooner or later all will learn. Be warned! Gronk!” – The Graeme
VCON 25 (2000): “This is a great convention, and Vancouver fen are the best—congenial, warm, friendly, and very intelligent. It’s been an absolute delight to be here. Thank you!” – Robert J. Sawyer (Author GoH).
VCON 26 (2001): “Good lord. I was on panels this year. The more VCONS that pass, the more involved I become. But I still have no interest in running cons. I would just miss too much cool stuff. One small suggestion: Don’t schedule the kissing auction and the dance opposite one another. One is sure to tank!” – Pauline Walsh, who later served on VCON committees multiple times.
VCON 28 (2003): “My first con and when I got confirmation in the mail I could not help but feel a little offended! The driving directions were perfect, BUT the line regarding Mounties not having a sense of humour actually hit me personally, FOR I AM A MOUNTIE, and have been for quite some time! AND, as some can verify, I’m a pretty open and funny guy. Thanks, cu next year. Consider this a free ticket.” – R (illegible).
VCON 29 (2004): “After 20+ years I finally get to write in THE BOOK. I helped Rain get started. I was one of the five originators of F.R.E.D. (Nunc Est Biibendum), and am proud that our SF tradition has continued.” – Tom Waddell.
Note that Rain was a Vancouver Relaxacon, first held in 1979, the last in 1986, and F.R.E.D. was a weekly gathering of fen known as “Forget Reality, Everybody Drink” at a local pub.
VCON 30 (2005): “Best Dead Dog party. Wine and candlelight. Classy! Thanx…” – Kathleen.
VCON 33 (2008): “OMG physicists are hot! Like a hot hot thing covered in chili sauce!” – Shaddyr, scientist groupie.
VCON 34 (2009): “After all these years Dr. Jaymie Matthews confirmed my childhood suspicion about the invalidity of the science in the 1964 movie ‘WIZARD OF MARS.’ Wowzers! P.S. All shame to Forrest J Ackerman who served as the film’s ‘Scientific Advisor.’ Though total praise for everything else he did.” – R. Graeme Cameron.
VCON 35 (2010): “Seven years of VCON and I finally see there is a book? An amazing treasure to remind us of friends far and wide.” – Virginia O’Dine.
There are literally hundreds more comments to peruse in the book of VCON. I’ll be carrying it around with me at VCON 39, especially when I visit hospitality. Feel free to browse, and above all, to add your own immortal impressions to the Book of VCON!
Illo #1 – Rena Bassivlergoran
Illo #2 – Tarol Hunt
Illo #3 – J. M. Swanson
Illo #4 – Chilam
Illo #5 – Robert Bloch
Illo #6 – Tarol Hunt