Dave Kyle's ConFederation Reminiscence

1986ConFederation, Atlanta
A Reminiscence by Dave Kyle
From the Noreascon Three PB

Flipping through the pages of the ConFederation Program Book (Atlanta 1986) to awaken memories so that I might write this, I'm struck once more by the quality of these Worldcon annuals. This one is another magnificent work, with interior and exterior full-color artwork. As I've mentioned in other con reminiscences, there's a wealth of interesting material in them. In this one no day-to-day programming is outlined because that information went into the pocket program and the daily newssheet. There are, however, generalizations indicating various topics and formats. And there's a list of "Program Participants." In alphabetical order, there are almost 400 names!

This is the convention that finally captured that elusive Grand Master who went to the first Worldcon as a fan and rarely ever got back — Ray Bradbury. He was a great success, with his warm personal manner, as a fan and as well as a pro. His optimistic Guest of Honor speech was also inspiring. All in all, "Georgia Peachy," as someone said. What made his presence particularly satisfying was the "hospitality balcony," a sort of indoor-outdoor, wraparound con-suite. The Marriott Marquis (the other hotel) was a futuristic movie set right out of H.G. Wells' Things to Come, a hollow building with round glass cages for elevators from atrium to ceiling. Balconies were hallways, the floors set back one under the other to make you feel suspended in space. And high up on the hospitality balcony with the gardens and pools visible ten floors below, with tables ("hospitality stations") around holding "soft drinks and munchies," he and the other guests and celebrities mingled with the fans who stood about or who sat in comfortable furniture or who wandered to and fro. Terrific! The finest "con suite party" I've ever experienced. I hope it happens again.

The hotels were definitely part of the ConFederation success, two ultra-modern buildings facing each other across the street. The Marriott Marquis and The Atlanta Hilton furnished all the meeting rooms. Slightly similar to the Marriott, The Atlanta Hilton also had an enclosed, inside area, extending from ground floor to roof, with patios projecting into space at about every fifth floor. Programming was held in both hotels simultaneously and the brief crossing of the street, shifting scenes as warranted, was an ebbing and flowing adventure amidst con-goers. You constantly greeted friends.

Looking through the Program Book, I find a serious flaw. Those two hotels combined to be the action center and they magnificently set the tone for the weekend. There are no pictures of them in this memory book. They are hardly mentioned. Sure, they were publicized in the pre-bidding zines and materials and a bit in the four Progress Reports. But I wish they were honored properly in the Program Book. There were other hotels, too, which were used for accommodations and some scattered events or parties and they were not mentioned at all, either. Come to think of it, other Program Books have the same flaw. (And maps of the immediate area and diagrams of the meeting facilities would be wonderful memory refreshers, too.)

Hotels in tandem have figured in other convention arrangements. Phoenix in 1978, Kansas City in 1976, New Orleans in 1988 all had similar operation plans. New Orleans gave us the greatest challenge because the main street between the hotels was busy and huge.

A few personal anecdotes about ConFederation:

Thursday, Day One — The very first person I meet as I enter the Hilton that morning is Steve Whitmore of Delaware, once again House Manager for a Worldcon, who says to me — as his very first words — "Dave, you have four front row seats to everything!" Bewildered, I am told he remembered failing to get a front row seat for me at Baltimore 1983 (ConStellation) when I was Fan Guest of Honor, so he owes me… In the evening Bob Tucker takes me to supper — and insists, actually insists, on paying for it! What a day!…

Day Two: At supper with Forry and Wendy Ackerman, I'm told that the Burroughs bibliophile himself, Vern Coriell, has come — broke, ill, and depressed. Forry starts a money collection, I'm to draw up a special Big Heart Award Certificate, and we will call for a small Dum Dum tomorrow at which Vern is to be given both funds and certificate…. Later, I'm met at the door to the room where thousands are seated to hear Bradbury's speech and I'm escorted to the front row, where I find a new version of an old gag, a sign on an empty chair that says, "Reserved for Dave KyleYou Can't Sit Here." (And I sit next to my close friend, Britisher Bob Shaw, the Toastmaster.) What a second day!

Day Three: I meet Ben Bova alone at breakfast. "Alone? How come? You were always so surrounded with people, I never got to visit." Ben explained: "I gave up my editorship at Omni."… At noon there is a Dum-Dum. Not many present, but very devoted (loyal, faithful, loving). Forry, Wendy, and I flank Vern. The citation is read aloud. The monetary gift is passed. Vern is greatly touched, and the former circus athlete chokes up and wipes away the tears. Fandom is a wonderful thing! What a third day!…

Day Four: First Fandom (Eastern Division) has a nostalgic panel and I don a beanie…. At midnight I moderate a "Round Robin Space Opera" storytelling between Jerry Pournelle and Joe Haldeman, and find myself the central character. The story gets wilder and wilder and I'm reduced to bewildered pantomime and consider the whole thing a disaster. It goes on and on and ends on a fantastically high note! What a fourth day!…

Day Five: Bob Silverberg and I exchange confidences, updating him on a disastrous business swindle I suffered. Now it's my turn to choke up when he says simply, "You've got friends," and clasps my hand…. Herb McCalla shows me the Japanese animated feature on "Lensman" (My Lensman book has just been published in Japan)…. Over and over, people tell me what a terrific midnight panel it was. I really don't understand, but I'm happy. What a fifth and final day!
My wonderful memory of ConFederation has a melancholy tinge. The Fan Guest of Honor, Terry Carr, died shortly thereafter. And so did Vern Coriell.