The Cautionary Tale of ZellaCon -or- How to Hoax and Still End Up Hosting a Convention

Once in a while, I enjoy a good hoaxing. I’ve done Hoax Newsletters ( and various Hoax bids, notably the Hollister WorldCon Hoax ( and AhwahneeCon ( which were both great successes when all was said and done.

Now, in the year 2011, Andy Trembley and Kevin Roche were coming back from Redding, California on I-5. They stopped at Ganzella’s, a sort of highway side touristy place with all sorts of food, especially olives. They saw a weird little placemat, which inspired them to start a Hoax bid, sending a bunch of folks texts about launching the hoax.

I was one of ’em, and I was all for it!

Granzella's - The Inspiration for the ZellaCon Westercon Bid
Granzella’s – The Inspiration for the ZellaCon Westercon Bid

They came to BASFA the next day, and we talked about it, launching the bid in earnest. I made some plans to go off to Williams, where Granzella’s is located, and do some photography to help  make the Hoax a bit more flavorful. We started doing OliveFacts on Twitter and Facebook. Andy put together a long list of ’em, while I came up with very very silly ones, my favorite being about how a guy was fed nothing but olives and olive oil and became The Zellafied Man, a reference to the Honey-fed trophy the Mellified Man from The Dervish House.

I started refering to it as ZellaCon, though I think Andy may have come up with it too. I loved the thing, and I did take a trip to Williams, took a bunch of pictures, and stayed the night at the WORST MOTEL 6 IN THE WORLD! Somehow, it was colder with the comforter on than not! It was awful!

So, there was already a bid for the Westercon out of the city of Portland. It was a strange bid, they had a website and a bunch of folks working on it, but they weren’t exactly out there with their name or work. As I understand it, they hadn’t done much, and a lot of folks who were working on WorldCon who weren’t working on the bid.

This led to some being unsatisfied with the direction of the bid, and specifically Andy and Kevin started a new thought.

Andy put together The Olive Manifesto ( which was critical of the Portland bid, and announced that things were going in a different direction. ZellaCon had gone from being a Hoax (and I was still doing comedic OliveFacts and various other comedy bits) to a protest movement in the space of a month. It was a lot of fun still, and folks took it in brilliant directions. Andy figured it would be good to make a bilingual presentation at Westercon. Metta Hedin provided translation into Swedish, which was nice. I made a video of it, and put it up on YouTube. It was awesome! There was a lot of talk and there ended up being a fairly good turnout for site selction.

Williams - A City, almost...
Williams – A City, almost…

In the end, it ended up being 42-to-41, ZellaCon beating Portland.

This led to a weird situation, one that was unprecedented in the history of Westercon. A bid without a hotel contract, and therefore ineligible to actually win the Westercon in Site Selection, had won the vote, which meant that it went to the Business Meeting. That meant that the rules that normally govern sites that can be selected were suspended and anything could take it! Kevin and Andy, along with Dave Gallaher, had started talking about places in teh Sacramento area that could host the con.

The Business Meeting, run by Kevin Standlee, was a major SMoFish event. I handled Tweeting and Facebooking about it under the hashtag #SMoFpocalypse! There were a few hundred posts during the three+ hours. There was a lot of discussion, debate, accusations, and so forth, and votes. Lots and lots of votes. It turned out that, in the end, Kevin and Andy won (on the second consideration of the bid, and were on the hook for the 2013 Westercon.

There was a bit of bitterness from some folks, others got what happened and why, and others were still unhappy. The Boys put together their team quickly, and a good team it was. They’ve put together a con that’s going to be amazing!

The Initial ZellaCon Hotel, thankfully, they moved to the Sacramento Hilton Arden West
The Initial ZellaCon Hotel, thankfully, they moved to the Sacramento Hilton Arden West

First off, it’s at the Hilton Sacramento Arden West. It’s a bit outside of Downtown, and it’s a lovely facility, a beautiful atrium being the highlight to me! It’s a gorgeous venue, with tons of parking (which is FREE to all attendees!) and there’s going to be FIREWORKS! All sorts of places visible from the Hotel will have fireworks visible on the 4th! Nothing better than that, no?

And then there are the Guests of Honor.

First, Writer GoHs are Nicola Griffith and Kelley Eskridge! I wasn’t familiar with Kelley’s work, but I am a big fan of Nicola’s novels, particularly Slow. Kelley’s work includes Dangerous Space, which was up for the Best Novella Nebula.

Artist GoH? Eric Shanower, who is deeply steeped in the world of Oz, having done several Oz-based graphic novels, and created Age of Bronze, which is a great read!

Small Press GoH is David Maxine, who runs Hungry Tiger Press, which specializes in publishing Oz-related material AND publishes music, one of which was nominated for the Grammy!

Fan GoHs are The Three Who Rule – Warren, Steven and Chris of Radio Free Skaro, one of the best Dr. Who podcasts out there. They’re a TON of fun, not to mention Canadians, and they’re gonna be doing fun stuff at the con! You should look ’em up at

David Gerrold, the man who wrote Trouble with Tribbles and When Harley Was One, among others, is the Toastmaster. His writing is some of my favorite SF out there, and he’s HUGELY entertaining to have at a con.

The guests that I’m most excited about, because they’re a couple who are near-and-dear to my heart, are John and Bjo Trimble. Among the list of things that you lay at one or another of their feet are LASFS making it through the dark years, WorldCon art Shows, the modern WorldCon Masquerade, saving Star Trek, and on and on and on… They’re a pair who are amazing and I am so glad they are gonna be there!

The other thing is music. Friday is Music Day and it’s gonna be amazing! Cliff Winnig’s gonna rock out on his Sitar, Unwoman’s gonna rock a Tea Time Cello concert, and the main event, The Phenomenauts will be bringing their version of psychobilly awesomeness to the Friday night concert and dance! It’s their first convention appearance ever!

And what will I be doing? Well, I’m running the Fanzine Lounge, which is always going to be a good time, and the Nerdvana Podcast’s going to attempt to do a 24 Hour Podcast! You will be shocked at what we’re willing to try, and this will be insane! We’re going to be having a whole lotta fun! Plus, 5 Cons will be recording interviews, shooting b-roll, and telling the story of the con that’s had the strangest origin of all Westercons!

And though it started out as a hoax, Westercon 66 ain’t no Joke!

You can find out more about Westercon 66 at

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1 Comment

  1. That is unbelievably awesome. And another reason I am sad, really really sad, not to be living in California. Sigh. Have fun!

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