VCON 1 – Hotel Georgia, Vancouver, B.C. – April 9-10, 1971.
Guest of Honour – Ursula K. Le Guin
FRIDAY, April 9, 1971
Ursula K. Le Guin on left, laughing. Blue shirt left background = Mike Bailey, VCON 1 Co-Chair. Red jacket, wearing press pass on right = Susan Walsh
Daniel Say = the other VCON 1 Co-Chair, holding a whole bunch of membership badges.
“SF Loves and Hate” panel, Friday, 7:30 PM, VCON 1 Hospitality Suite. Bill Dodds on left, Brent MacLean centre, John Park on Right.
“This was great fun as they ‘attacked’ such prominent SF icons as Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein. The response from the assembled fans, more than thirty people swarming everywhere, on chairs, the couch, under the table, perched on windowsills, was terrific. Everyone joined in the dismemberment of ‘serious’ writers like Roger Zelazny, Kurt Vonnegut, and Philip K. Dick. Some of the more prominent fans present were Lawrence Ehman from Calgary (a member of the Alberta SF Association), Regina’s Leland Sapiro (editor of the Riverside Quarterly), and Seattle Fan Frank Denton (one of the five directors of the National Fantasy Fan Federation.” — “The Chronicles of BCSFA” — R. Graeme Cameron
SATURDAY – April 1o, 1971
“H.P. Lovecraft Talk” by Professor Mason Harris of Simon Fraser University – Saturday, 10:00 AM, York Room, Hotel Georgia.
Note the VCON mascot/logo hanging on the wall.
“Lovecraft, naïve, primitive, overusing adjectives in a horrifying manner, ramshackle plot, apparently no consistent idea of technique, or style, or literary discipline … The odd thing is he does succeed in creating a real sense of horror … how he manages this I’m not quite sure. It’s an interesting problem … the Cthulhu cycle. I have no idea how to pronounce it. Mrs. LeGuin has suggested that if we did know it and said it, he would appear if you pronounced his name right. I apparently haven’t pronounced it right, so far … degenerate race in this seaside town with the characteristic Innsmouth look: sort of low forehead, scaly scabby, hair falling out, peculiar small and frog-like eyes … I grew up in this area, and I think I have located Innsmouth as Gloucester, Massachussetts. It’s a smelly town, lots of fish factories, rather degenerate and decaying because the fishing industry has been driven out of business by Canadian competition … I recommend Lovecraft to you as someone who has real psychological interest. You can’t take his monsters seriously but one must take the inner darkness of Lovecraft’s psyche seriously and that’s what I think fantasy is all about.” — quotes from transcript of the talk in “Entropy Negative” — published by Daniel Say.
Assorted 1970s fans milling about. The young lady appears to be holding a copy of Leland Sapiro’s “Riverside Quarterly.” Could that possibly be Sapiro on the left about to sign an autograph? Dig the cool threads of the fan on the right.
Ursula K. Le Guin examining what appears to be a handwritten notebook or manuscript. Vcon 1 Co-Chair Daniel Say on the right. Note that he is holding an Ace Double pocketbook featuring Le Guin’s 1966 novel “Planet of Exile.”
More 1970s fans milling about. The guy in the blue Stanfield turtleneck in the background is today the Chair of VCON 41. He is NOT picking his nose. He is attempting to prop his head up in a dignified and intelligent manner designed to convey a profoundly empty state of mind.
VCON 1 Guest of Honour Ursula K. Le Guin conversing with Co-chair Mike Bailey. The chap in the yellow shirt in the background is clutching the VCON 1 program book.
Ursula gave a keynote speech titled “The Crab Nebula, The Paramecium, and Tolstoy.”
“Mrs. Le Guin argued that from the microscopic atom to the to the astronomical vastness of the Crab Nebula, nature shows a tendency to order. So too, living organisms, from the simple single-celled paramecium to the complexity of man, show the same general order, a generally lawful way of operating … ‘The revolution that began in astrophysics ends in the human spirit,’ she said. Science Fiction takes its place in the scheme of things by asking the questions important to our times just as Tolstoy asked the questions important to his.” — “City Hosts International Fan Fraternity” — Province Newspaper article Monday, April 12, 1971 — Michael Walsh
Believed to be Simon Fraser University Professor R.D. Callaghan delivering lecture “SF: Insulation or Illumination?” — Saturday, 2:30 PM, York Room, Hotel Georgia.
“Professor Callaghan regards Sci-Fi as worthless. His talk was long, at least two hours. Said basically–though in an involved, obtuse way–that literature is a mind-opener, an axe with which to crush the frozen sea within, and that Sci-Fi merely enlarged the mindless sea due to the stultifying nature of its concepts. Somehow or another he threw in quotations from an article about the methods employed by certain African tribes to teach girls the pleasure of orgasm and how to prepare for marriage. His entire speech was littered with such oddities, but the thread of the basic premise ran throughout, and I managed to understand almost all of it.” — “The Chronicles of BCSFA” — R. Graeme Cameron
Panel: either “SF and Social Realism” or “SF and Serious Studies” — Saturday, late afternoon, York Room, Hotel Georgia.
Professor Mason Harris on the far right, Bill Dodds third from right, John Park in the middle, and possibly Ursula K. Le Guin on the far left.
Note Co-Chair Daniel Say and his ubiquitous tape recorder on the floor on the left, and audience member grasping a handful of SF pocketbooks to his right, perhaps in hope of getting them autographed by Le Guin?
After the last panel there came a supper break, and 29 fen, including Ursula K. Le Guin, and her husband Charles Le Guin, a Professor of History at Portland state, went down to the Ho Inn in Vancouver’s China Town.
Supper over, back at the convention, beneath the crystal chandeliers of the York Room, took place the much touted “mystery event,” nothing less than the momentous occasion of the first presentation of the Elron Awards! (Fiendishly conceived by the fiendish minds of Mike Bailey and Brent MacLean.) The Elrons, a bronzed lemon on a plywood base, were awarded in four categories:
Robert Moore Williams was voted “Least Promising New Author” for his “21st Century Vigilante.”
Robert Heinlein received the “Worst Novel of the Year” Elron for “I will Fear No Evil.”
Lin Carter was awarded “The Elron Hall of Fame” for his “consistent standard of poor writing”
And “Beneath the Planet of the Apes” scored as “Worst Melodramatic presentation.”
A clip from one of R. Graeme Cameron’s 8mm animation films was shown (somewhat unfairly) as an example of the quality of special effects found in the winning movie. The clip depicted a Godzilloid creature waddling across a table top. People laughed. Good. They were supposed to.
After the Elrons the convention partied into the night in the hospitality suite.
Province Newspaper reporter Michael Walsh, in his article, summed up VCON 1 thusly:
“The Vancouver gathering tended toward the highly educated end of the spectrum, Frank Denton [Seattle Fan] said, and he agreed with Leland Sapiro that this convention was one of the better ones he’d been to. ‘It’s certainly a lot more scholarly than a lot of the American conventions,’ he said. The tone of the convention, one of literate appreciation rather than fascinated adulation, was set from the beginning by the science fiction sophisticates from the sponsoring clubs.”
Today VCON embraces every and all aspects of the genre with relaxed enthusiasm. Welcome to the celebration!
This is a poor quality B&W reproduction of the VCON 1 program book cover sheet, a thin cardboard sheet donated by the Vancouver Chamber of Commerce. It depicts English Bay, the city of Vancouver, the harbour beyond, and the North Shore Mountains.
The first page of the VCON 1 program book. Note that VCON (also referred to as “The Vancouver Science Fiction Convention”) was founded by two University clubs and by the BC SF Association, an off-campus club spawned by the UBC club. Today BCSFA is part of WCSFA (the West Coast SF Association, the legally registered non-profit society responsible for VCON), and, just to tidy things up, “VCON” is a federally registered trademark owned by BCSFA.
This is the second page of the VCON 1 program book. The panel “Russian Fantasy” by Murray Schoolbraid had to be cancelled for some reason, and Professor Mason Harris filled in with his off-the-cuff talk on Lovecraft which became quite famous. Critics and fellow scholars occasionally wrote to him asking for copies for years afterwards. He repeated the talk at VCON 3, urged to do so by popular demand.
The comment “Short films will be shown throughout the day” refers to the private film collection of R. Graeme Cameron. These consisted of 4 minute and 12 minute 8mm silent versions of films like “Dracula,” Rodan,” and “Twenty Million Miles to Earth” which he had ordered utilizing the back pages of “Famous Monsters of Filmland” magazine. His 8mm projector and stack of films were simply left on the floor in the darkened bedroom of the hospitality suite. Anyone who wanted to could wander in, select a film, thread it through the projector themselves, and watch it screened against the wall at floor level, every viewer seated or sprawled out on the floor (the lucky ones on the bed). This do-it-yourself service proved surprisingly popular.
Third and final page of the VCON 1 program book. Evidently designed to entertain yet provide useful information. Duthies Books no longer exists. Neither does the Fraser Book Bin. Nor do Record Gallery or A&B Sound. Robson Strasse (originally a German immigrant neighbourhood prior to WW I) no longer displays its heritage, now being mostly a string of trendy shops catering to the Japanese and Chinese tourist trade. 1971’s future is now the 2016 present. Fortunately many of the original VCON attendees are still around and some, including the VCON 41 chair, will definitely attend!
Why don’t you? VCON 41 is gong to be fun!