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Our Kansas City Revels

Forty years ago, at the first MidAmericon in 1976, the very first Hugo Losers Party was held in my room at the Muehlebach Hotel in Kansas City.

The night before, at the awards ceremony, I had lost two rockets (one to Larry Niven, one to Roger Zelazny, fwiw). The affair began as a modest little party in a modest little room, with some peanuts and cheese curls and whatever booze we had been able to scrounge from other parties. But as fate would have it, my room was next to the pool deck, which allowed us to overflow the confines of my double, which we soon did, to become the loudest, largest, and most memorable party of the con. Gardner Dozois was our 'herald,' announcing each guest as they appeared, and naming them either a winner or a loser. Losers were cheered and welcomed, winners were booed and cursed and pelted with peanuts... unless they told a good story about they were really losers. (Which Alfie Bester did most memorably). Thus did that first Losers Party pass into fannish legend.

In the decades that followed, the Hugo Losers Party became a worldcon tradition. Many more great parties were thrown (most notably, I think, the 1981 party in Rusty Hevelin's suite at Denvention), and eventually the party became somehow 'official' and a tradition arose whereby the following year's worldcon concom threw the bash after every Hugo ceremony. That worked for a while, but gradually the original spirit of the party was lost, as the event became stuffier and duller and more institutional, finally even abandoning the name 'Hugo Losers Party' because some sensitive (and irony-impaired) souls did not like being called losers. (Hey, we're all losers, boys and girls). The nadir was the 'party' the Sasquan concom threw at Loncon, which was truly a dismal affair. So last year, at Sasquan, I decided to reclaim the party that Gardner and I had started... but since life (and fandom) have been good to me, I was able to do a little more than we'd been able to do in 1976.

The Sasquan party was a great success, I think. But of course that meant I had to do it again. I mean, how not? This was fortieth anniversary, and we were returning to Kansas City. I did toy for a moment with the idea of trying to book my original 1976 hotel room... and the adjoining pool deck... but, alas, the room, the deck, and the pool itself are all gone, demolished in one of the hotel's numerous renovations over the past forty years. (The old gorgeous historic Muehlebach still stands, but alas, remained dark and unused throughout Big Mac II, with the con confined to the newer Marriott wing, and the even newer Marriott across the skybridge).

Instead we went two blocks away and rented out the Midland, a gorgeous old 1930s movie palace. I mean, how could I resist? I LOVE old movie theatres, especially the art deco palaces of the 30s and 20s, and the vaudeville houses that preceded them. And the Midland was stunning, as I think all our guests agreed.

Drinks were drunk, barbeque was eated, losers were feted, winners were mocked, Alfies were given (more on those next rock). And when two in the morning rolled round, the band played "Teen Angel" and we all remembered Dave Hartwell, who was sorely missed.

What more is there to say? It was a party to remember, I think. Just like 1976.


Sep. 8th, 2016 06:42 pm (UTC)
Nothing like a good old fashioned tradition ! Do you have any other routines or traditions ?
Sep. 8th, 2016 06:42 pm (UTC)
That was a wonderful party, so glad i got to come and be part of it. (I'm getting that invite framed, it was so beautiful) you did a wonderful job
Sep. 8th, 2016 06:48 pm (UTC)
Losers Party Guests
Hi George,

I saw Stephen King was nominated for a Hugo, did he attend? Do you invite every nominee that lost or just the ones you know?
Sep. 8th, 2016 06:55 pm (UTC)
Re: Losers Party Guests
Steve was not at the convention. He almost never attends cons these days.

We invited all the losers we could find... (and the winners, though we warned them they'd be mocked)... but it was a big con and we did not find everyone. Oh, and we had a "no assholes" rule. But I believe we had something like four hundred people there, so I don't think we missed many.
Sep. 8th, 2016 06:49 pm (UTC)
Hmmm, we stayed in the Muehlebach.
Sep. 8th, 2016 06:57 pm (UTC)
Really? I don't think so. You probably stayed in the "Muehlebach Towers" wing of the Marriott, like I did. The original old Muehlebach rooms, accessible from the elevators off the original lobby, are all closed.
Sep. 8th, 2016 07:00 pm (UTC)
My mistake. I didn't realize there was a difference.
Sep. 8th, 2016 06:49 pm (UTC)
Very interesting to see you in 1976 (userpic?)
Sep. 8th, 2016 06:58 pm (UTC)
Actually, that's me in 1973, at Torcon 2 in Toronto. I don't have a 1976 userpic.
Sep. 8th, 2016 07:45 pm (UTC)
Thanks for your reply. It made me happy.
I want to ask you many questions, but now I'm happy!

Let me enjoy the moment :)
Tanmay Kulkarni
Sep. 9th, 2016 02:32 am (UTC)
If I may ask, when and why did you decide to grow your whiskers/beard? I would love to see you all clean shaven now.

Sep. 9th, 2016 03:50 am (UTC)
Not likely to happen.

I started growing my beard back in 74, I think, while visiting Howard Waldrop in Texas. I forgot to pack my electric razor, and couldn't afford to buy a new one. By the time I flew home, I had the beginnings of a beard, and I liked how it looked.
Chris Huggins
Sep. 9th, 2016 09:22 am (UTC)
I wanted to grow my beard for years, but girlfriend/parents/mates all laughed whenever I started. When I was 23 I got diagnosed with cancer, barely ledt the house for 4 months whilst on chemo. Hair started to fall out but by the end I had a full beard. Now my fiance wouldn't let me shave it off (not that I was tempted) and all my mates have tried growing a beard too (only some made it work).

It's funny how something so simple can change how people percieve you though.
Sep. 11th, 2016 05:43 am (UTC)
Three Reasons Beards Are Better (my biased perspective)
Everyone always points out they have beards because they don't want to shave. I agree with that too and that it looks better (I mean mine is much better now it's gray too). But here are some better reasons (in my opinion):

1. Ocean waves rolling through beard is one of best feelings ever
2. Wind blowing through beard (especially on roller coasters) - one of the best feelings ever too
3. How can you know what it's like for your characters to have beards if you don't try it yourself?

May you always find the fun between the lines!

Edited at 2016-09-11 05:46 am (UTC)
Sep. 9th, 2016 07:27 pm (UTC)
I'm not sure it's worth the risk. How would you feel if George shaved off his beard and discovered he'd lost all his writing powers?
Erin Underwood
Sep. 8th, 2016 07:05 pm (UTC)
Thank You!
George, the theater was beyond beautiful. It was such a treat to go inside and visit with all of my friends (new and old!) after the Hugo festivities were over.

Truly, after months and months of planning the Program for MidAmeriCon II followed by some very long days in Program Ops, that party was the icing on the cake. There were times during the program planning process that we laughed, and cried, and laughed again. :-) Then, at the Losers Party, we toasted you for throwing one hell of a bloody good bash. Thank you so much for a very GRRM time. Hugs!

...and I do miss David's friendly smiling face...and those ties!
Sep. 8th, 2016 07:20 pm (UTC)
Losers Party
It was a great party -- and that theater was a wonderful space for it!

Glad I could actually be there this year!
Sep. 8th, 2016 08:07 pm (UTC)
The bar in that theatre is too cool! Glad you had fun, George.
Sep. 8th, 2016 09:19 pm (UTC)
Is that Michael Swanwick? It'd be nice if my two favorite SFF writers were friends.

And speaking of the greats...was Gene Wolfe at the con? I think it's high time he won a Hugo.
Sep. 8th, 2016 10:04 pm (UTC)
Re: wow
Agree about Gene. A fine man, and a true artist. One of our greats.

Alas, no, so far as I know he was not in Kansas City.
Sep. 8th, 2016 09:25 pm (UTC)
This party was AMAZING.
Sep. 8th, 2016 09:30 pm (UTC)
It was a grand party!
Sep. 8th, 2016 09:45 pm (UTC)
Thank you for being a gracious and generous host, and for giving back to the community of fans and authors in such a wonderful way!

(And thank you for those chocolate milkshakes and lemon cakes. Yum :)
Frances Marion Platt
Sep. 8th, 2016 10:30 pm (UTC)
Just desserts
THERE WERE LEMONCAKES? Dang. I need to start writing some stories that are good enough to get nominated for Hugos, but not good enough to win.

Speaking of confections, a couple of us regulars over at Watchers on the Wall think that we have figured out what the literally 'bittersweet' ending of ASoIaF is: dark chocolate. Arya sails off into the sunset to find out what is west of Westeros, discovers the New World, comes back with chocolate (to universal acclaim).

Sep. 9th, 2016 11:34 am (UTC)
Re: Just desserts
The happiest happy ending of all: chocolate!

And, yes, there were lemon cakes. They were awesome :)
Kelly Kluthe
Sep. 8th, 2016 11:11 pm (UTC)
Where did you end up getting BBQ?
Sep. 9th, 2016 03:51 am (UTC)
I had bbq at several places in KC, but the bbq at the party was provided by the caterer.
Sep. 8th, 2016 11:14 pm (UTC)
Do you think with the rise in quality of televisions and more and more people forgoing the movies and waiting to watch at home that there could be a revival in theaters for the kind of majesty these older theaters had?
Sep. 9th, 2016 03:51 am (UTC)
Re: Theaters
Sadly, no. I wish.
Sep. 9th, 2016 04:04 am (UTC)
Re: Theaters
At least you are trying buddy!

Not sure how much of a fan of fine art paintings you are, but an artist I studied under for a few years, Arnold Mesches, is also a big fan of these amazing type theaters and would incorporate them into his work sometimes. They are mostly large (over ten feet wide) political paintings.

Sep. 9th, 2016 02:26 pm (UTC)
Re: Theaters
does your theater use a proper projector or are you digital? it's crazy to think that the majority of theaters use 2k digital projection with sony's 4k projectors slowly becoming more popular. the best quality films i watched were as a child, there was just a different feel to it all ... i tried very hard to catch the hateful eight in panavision 70mm but ended up having to watch it in digital with no intermission.
Sep. 9th, 2016 05:20 pm (UTC)
Re: Theaters
We installed a new digital projection system when I reopened the JCC in 2013... but we kept the old 35mm film projectors as well. Sadly, we only get to use them two or three times a year. These days, very few films are released on film... unless they are by Quentin Tarantino or Christopher Nolan.
Sep. 9th, 2016 02:40 am (UTC)
Hi George:

It was a lovely party in a great venue. Do you know who created the themed drinks? I really enjoyed the tiny alcoholic milkshakes, esp. the ?Castle Black? (Guinness stout, chocolate ice cream, and raspberry syrup). The other one, ?White Wolf? was good too, with curacao, white chocolate, and, and, and (I forget).

Thanks for the invite!

Leslie (and Ivan)
Alex McDonough
Sep. 9th, 2016 05:14 am (UTC)
Hello George, I've been following your blog since I finished the first ASOIAF novel (roughly a year ago). You know us fans are grateful for having an author that's so willing to share his every day thoughts and feelings with us. This specific post makes me think that you're in a good mood, hence the title written in Chinese haha.

Anyways, on behalf of my mom, I was wondering if the ASOIAF books are available in large print? I want her to start reading the series, but her eyes are so bad due to old age and having diabetes for 50 years that she's unable to read small print! She holds a magnifying glass up to her cooking magazine just to read the text. Anyways, I'll end the sob story there and let you get back to your bouncy mood. Have a good day!
Sep. 9th, 2016 09:51 am (UTC)
Re: 心情好
The ASOIAF audio books are pretty good.
Sep. 9th, 2016 02:49 pm (UTC)
Re: 心情好
doubleday use to sell the novels in large print but no more it seems. there are still two options, they have these covers about the size of a page which essentially a mangifiying glass but u dont have to hold it up you simply place it on the page your reading.

alternatively, you could go digital/kindle. i know i'm in the minority here and most book lovers appreciate a real book (i too miss the smell of a book even) but if your grandmother has an ipad or something similar you could increase the text size easily. you could also get a paper white kindle and do the same thing if it hurts her eyes. also, if you have a tablet and you don't want to purchase a paperwhite kindle and the light hurts her eyes switch the colors from white background and black text to black background and white text... that's how i read anyways. good luck, hopefully i'm wrong and there are still large prints available!
Angela Tuohey
Sep. 9th, 2016 04:48 pm (UTC)
RE: 心情好
Does your Mom have a kindle? They are all available on there and you can adjust the font size. I imagine that you would need to hire a crane to lift the large print editions!
Alex McDonough
Sep. 10th, 2016 06:06 am (UTC)
Re: 心情好
Thanks for the responses. She's tried Kindles but said they don't suit her (i'm not entirely sure why, she's a very picky person). I guess I'll buy her the audio books for her birthday then, since that seems to be the most sensible solution. @Vikjha, I've looked all over the place for the large print books and it seems they're no longer being supplied, understandly so if nobody buys them. I haven't looked into the book covers! I'll ask her to give those a chance. Thanks again
Jeremy Petit
Sep. 9th, 2016 06:23 am (UTC)
Bester, Varley, and Waldrop
I would love to hear more about that "most memorable" story Alfie Bester told at the first losers party. I just finished rereading "The Demolished Man" and "The Stars My Destination" and am currently reading his short stories.

Was John Varley at Worldcon? I recall you saying that he was at Balticon. He holds a special place to me as being the first SF writer I "discovered" myself without anyone telling me he was good.

I am also wondering if you have seen or heard from Howard Waldrop lately. I recently read the "Howard Who?" collection, which conjured up memories of reading his stuff in Omni magazine, which is also where I first encountered your work.

Edited at 2016-09-09 06:29 am (UTC)
Sep. 9th, 2016 05:22 pm (UTC)
Re: Bester, Varley, and Waldrop
I saw John Varley at Balticon, but not at worldcon.

Howard's still in Austin. He doesn't go to many cons these days, but I talk with him all the time.
Sep. 9th, 2016 09:43 am (UTC)
I can't believe that you are fascinated by old movie theatres and somehow this makes me feel quite happy to know.

This "Hugo Losers Party" was quite an enjoyable read. I chuckled at the "we are all losers, boys and girls part" and oh.. how true it is though! :)

The party is quite classy regardless.

PS: you are awesome. Thank you for being on Livejournal (the best blog platform for me) and being one of the few authors that I admire that is still alive.
Stephen Richter
Sep. 9th, 2016 06:39 pm (UTC)
re: How hard is it to sneak in?
I am going to Helsinki. Do I need to disguise myself as Ben Aaronovich to sneak in? Or claim to be Chuck Tingle?
Sep. 10th, 2016 01:04 am (UTC)
Re: How hard is it to sneak in?
No, you just have to buy a membership.

And, unlike the large megacons, membership pretty well means you will get into every program item you want to see -- panels, readings, the Hugo Awards, the masquerade, what have you.
Stephen Richter
Sep. 11th, 2016 12:48 am (UTC)
Re: How hard is it to sneak in?
Thanks I will leave the disguises at home.
Sep. 10th, 2016 05:08 am (UTC)
I saw the original Star Wars for the first time at the Midland theater in 1977 when I was 12 years old. One of the most memorable experiences of my life. What a gorgeous place.

Alas, I no longer live in KC and was not able to make WorldCon. I wish some bold soul would revive FoolsCon in Overland Park, KS.

KC Burnt Ends are the food of the Gods!


George R.R. Martin
George R. R. Martin

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