[Sep. 9, 1959] WorldCon Report! [Detention, the 17th WorldCon]

Twenty years ago, something lovely happened.  Two hundred science fiction and fantasy fans got together in New York City and had what was (I believe) the first convention of their genre: Worldcon.  It has been an annual Labor Day tradition ever since, with the exception of the war years, from 1942-45.  It travels from city to city, adopting the name of its host city for that year. 

This year, the event was held in Detroit.  It was thus aptly named "Detention."

I did not get to go, but I stood anxiously by my phone last night to get a preliminary report.  I also paid a pretty penny to have some quickly developed pictures ‘faxed to my town.  I spare no expense for my readers.

Some 370 fans were in attendance, many resplendent in fantastic costumes.  Poul Anderson was the professional guest of honor (it’s a good thing he’s written some decent stuff this year!) and John Berry was the fan guest of honor.  I don’t know who that is either.

Here’s a great shot of the banquet:

from Jeff’s Flickr account

Someone captured this lovely shot of the Emshwillers, the artist and author pair.

from fanac.org

Isaac Asimov was the toastmaster at the Detention banquet.  The good doctor has a fine wit, so the quips came fast and furiously.  I think my favorite recounted anecdote concerned science writer Willy Ley (who was in attendance, and apparently the subject of an impromptu roast).

As you may know, Willy is an expatriate of Germany, who left before the Nazis ruined everything.  He still has a thick accent, which he reportedly practices in front of a mirror so as to preserve it.  Per Asimov, someone once asked Mr. Ley if he preferred being called "Willy" or "Veelee." His reply?  "Veelee oder Veelee.  Id makez no differenz."

I understand that the pint-sized super-fan, Harlan Ellison (who has aspirations of becoming an author) attempted to woo a statuesque attendee with the line, "What would you say to a little f***?"

To which, said attendee replied, "Hello, little f***!"

I suppose they can’t all be be Randall Garrett.

Speaking of whom, Randy was Henry VIII for the masquerade this year.  That’s a nice costume–if only his writing were of the same caliber.

from fanac.org

The highlight of the convention, aside from the Masquerade, the banquet, and the debauchery, was the announcing of the Hugo winners.  For those not in the know, the Hugo are the fandom-awarded prizes for best science-fiction/fantasy stories in a number of genres.  I am only passingly familiar with many of the candidates as they were taken from 1958 publications.  Nevertheless, for your edification, here they are:

Best Novel:

A Case of Conscience by James Blish (I keep hearing good things about this one)

Runners up:

We Have Fed Our Seas by Poul Anderson (I didn’t make it through this one)
Who? by Algis Budrys
Have Spacesuit – Will Travel by Robert A. Heinlein (a fine book, but not Hugo material)
Time Killer by Robert Sheckley (again, decent, but not Hugo-winning)

Best Novelette:

The Big Front Yard by Clifford D. Simak (I should remember this one–I read it, but it escapes me)

Runners up:

Unwillingly to School by Pauline Ashwell (I remember liking this one)
Captivity by Zenna Henderson (another one that left a good impression, though I don’t remember the details)
Reap the Dark Tide by C. M. Kornbluth
A Deskful of Girls by Fritz Leiber (completely forgotten, and probably a good thing)
Second Game by Katherine MacLean and Charles V. De Vet (vaguely familiar)
Rat in the Skull by Rog Phillips
The Miracle-Workers by Jack Vance (completely forgotten)

Best Short Story:

That Hell-Bound Train by Robert Bloch

Runners up:

The Men Who Murdered Mohammed by Alfred Bester
They’ve Been Working On … by Anton Lee Baker
Triggerman by J. F. Bone (a decent story)
The Edge of the Sea by Algis Budrys
The Advent on Channel Twelve by C. M. Kornbluth
Theory of Rocketry by C. M. Kornbluth
Rump-Titty-Titty-Tum-TAH-Tee by Fritz Leiber (middling)
Space to Swing a Cat by Stanley Mullen
Nine Yards of Other Cloth by Manly Wade Wellman
(I’ve read all of these but the Kornbluth, but it was before the column, so they aren’t ringing bells–I’ll do better next year, promise.)

Best SF or Fantasy Movie:


Runners up:

The Fly
The 7th Voyage of Sinbad
(Not The Blob?!?)

Best Professional Magazine:

The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction

Runners up:

Astounding Science Fiction
New Worlds

Best Professional Artist:

Kelly Freas

Runners up:

Ed Emshwiller
Virgil Finlay
H. R. Van Dongen
Wally Wood

Best Fanzine:

Fanac ed. by Terry Carr and Ron Ellik

Runners up:

Cry of the Nameless ed. by F. M. Busby, Elinor Busby, Burnett Toskey, and Wally Weber
Yandro ed. by Robert Coulson and Juanita Coulson
Hyphen ed. by Chuck Harris and Walt Willis
JD-Argassy ed. by Lynn A. Hickman
Science Fiction Times ed. by James V. Taurasi, Sr., Ray Van Houten, and Frank R. Prieto, Jr.


Best New Author:


Runners up:

Brian Aldiss
Paul Ash (actually Pauline Ashwell)
Rosel George Brown (my choice!)
Louis Charbonneau
Kit Reed (my #2, I think)

from Jeff’s Flickr account

Your thoughts?

P.S. Galactic Journey is now a proud member of a constellation of interesting columns.  While you’re waiting for me to publish my next article, why not give one of them a read!

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