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Science Fiction Convention
Name: ConFrancisco, Worldcon 51
Dates: 1993
Frequency: 1 time (Worldcon is annual)
Location: San Francisco, California
Type: Fan run, nonprofit
Focus: Science fiction, literary, multifandom
Organization: Worldcon
Founding Date:
URL: Convention report
Souvenir book cover by Alicia Austin, artist GOH
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ConFrancisco was the name given to the 51st World Science Fiction Convention. It took place in downtown San Francisco, and was easily accessed through public transit. It had several thousand members. The registration packet included a souvenir book, a wirebound programming schedule, and a walkthrough of tables full of promo materials and freebies.


Convention programming was mostly in the Moscone Center, but also included a couple of other hotels. Congoers were encouraged to travel between them in groups, as the Tenderloin district of San Francisco was considered dangerous, especially at night.

Filking was in one of the other hotels, and was split into separate rooms: one "polite" room, with no food or drink allowed, and one "sin" room, with smoking and alcohol. Leslie Fish spent her time in the drinking room, with a large bottle of something clear & probably flammable, which had been labeled "Bard Oil."


Guests of Honor included Larry Niven, Alicia Austin, Tom Digby, and jan howard finder; the toastmaster was Guy Gavriel Kay. Mark Twain was the Dead Guest of Honor.

Voting for Hugos

The Hugo nominees included Connie Willis' Doomsday Book, which was given away free with registration.


ConFrancisco had an accessibility team as part of its volunteer staff; they'd arranged several wheelchairs, including motorized ones, to be available for the convention, and had Braille program schedules by pre-con request.

Con Reports

Personally, I think the director and staff had to basically make the best of a less than perfect atmosphere for an art show. Moscone Center's problem is that it's a glorified warehouse as far as the ambiance goes. It's proportioned for Trade Shows with humongous tall display gizmos, light shows, razzle-dazzle and machines that go "Ta DAH!"

Given the initial obstacle of the sheer scale of the place, the huge number of artists participation (I remember some 156 artists listed in the program book, I think) and the sheer numbers of panels, programs, workshops, etc. it's amazing that any large percentage of attendees had time to see the Art Show at all! This hardly an unusual situation for a Worldcon, given the reality of how large such events have grown over the decades. But such a reality is not much consolation to the many artists/dealers who had practically hocked their souls and were hanging all their hopes on sales at Worldcon to ease the pain of "recession-itis" that we have all been feeling for far too long now.

Since I sold 10 of the 14 pieces I had for sale (half of them for minimum bid), I consider myself fortunate because I made enough to cover expenses with enough left over to be able to reserve space in 2 more futures show (LosCon and Silicon).

I m not certain whether my location in the show was a factor: I was sandwiched in-between Ken Macklin and David Cherry, 2 artists whose work I have enjoyed and admired greatly. Being flanked by their custom mated and framed super pro presentation, with the hefty prices on the bid sheets provided a great contrast to my relatively small-in-dimension-and-price pieces on exhibit. I did have one large pieces, a black and white line and wash pieces worked as an attention-getter with a catchy title.

Perhaps, given the scale of a Worldcon show, it's necessary to have one big eye-grabber of a piece to get at viewer's atention as a kind of visual hook. Then one can Bank that large piece with smaller work; so that if Big Mama doesn't sel, there's enough sales possibility m the 'kiddie-sized' work. Ya gotta have a gimmick - as the strippers in the musical Gypsy sang. Although I can understand the reason for the 2 types of panels: the pegboard for paintings weighing a combines weight of 15 pounds or more and the of-white fabric type hangers, for those artists whose works are of small dimensions and not so heavy in tonnage. Frankly think that visualy it 'segregates' the art show. How many of the first time con-goers might mistakenly think that the solid-looking pegboard panels were where the "real quality art" was displayed, and the fabric hangers were the equivalent of the 'the cheap seats'? I know the reasons for the differences, easier shipping, set up and break-down, etc. But in this case, separate isn't equal! At least not to the artists as financialy impaired as I am.

Because I can't afford to protect my matted artwork with either glass overlays and/or frames, I had a couple of mats damaged by accidental streaks. One by magic marker, and one by ball-point pen (A promising bidding contest stopped cold because the pieces was instantly 'damaged merchandise', 3 bids short of auction). The main drawback with fabric hangers are that there is no solid backstop, so that bidders are forced to either write onto the bid sheets by pressing into the wavering cloth of the hanging OR hold the bidsheet in one hand while writing their bid with the other. [1]

The area for the art show was big. So big. I wondered why they were sold out of space so quickly. I think if they had the panels, many more artists could have been accommodated without harming viewing aisles and flow. However, there might have been financial reasons to which I am not privy... so I forgive.

There was a most excellent 3-D space available, and they were not just shoved off to the side of the room. There were many exhibiting artists who's work was very inspiring. Jim Gurney had new Dinotopia pieces, Michael had some new pieces from his new collection, and everywhere there were things to enviously gnaw my wrist over. I came home very inspired. They had a special section for us Hugo Nominees, but the rest of purchased space was amid the rest of the floor. I noticed that my Hugo panel sales were good, while the floor sales were so-so.

A veiy nice seating area around two round tables was inside the art show, and we artists took good advantage of them. We often spent some downtime there, chatting with the other artists who were cruising the art show. Some people even made some connections for commissions. This was a fine ideal

Too bad there was no real security to speak of. Of course with just a series of low curtains establishing the area, it would have been a headache to everyone. They did not check bags, or cameras, or food - they didn't even try. This was disturbing, but most fans know what to do, and what not to do.

There were artists in my room drawing every night. The crowd kept growing and we had a smashing time. I'm sorry we missed Monika, but the Masquerade held us up. It was a blast to see all the people I write to, but only encounter once a year. The custom of exchanging drawings in sketchbooks is not one in the midwest, but I asked Frank to buy me one when it seemed to be a common practice at this Worldcon. I wish there had been much more time.[2]

Seemed like a much smaller show than in previous years - very easy to see in a few hours. Fewer big name pros. But I think that helped my sales, which were good, for me ($1600+ including the print shop, two pieces to auction, others for min bid); better than Magicon. Eight bids to auction. Show seemed to run smoothly. Lots of complaints about not getting into the show from people before-hand. Lots of complaints about total lack of security during and after the show. Believe me, it was pretty weird being able to sit at tables and eat and drink and look though all the junk we carried with us right in the middle of the art show! (Alarming, but fun.)

Art programming was average for a Worldcon. Highpoints were theart workshops they offered, such as one on color pencils with Mark Ferrari. Print shop was run very capably by Pegasus Management (check received for print shop within 2 weeks), and was in the art show area. Art show was very accessible (some say, too accessible, partitioned off by low railings that people could almost step over). As with Norcsason 3, there were nasty fabric panels to supplement the peg board panels. I wish that could be avoided, as it makes for some hideous presentaiions ((worse at Boston's Worldcon, since it sagged badly on those panels). The voice auction seemed well run. Hopefully the check will come soon. Elayne Pez is usually fairly prompt with them.[3]

There were a lot of worries about this con art show well before anyone got to San Francisco. Grumbles over the VERY quick sell out of the space, the outrageous mail-in fees, and the general scuttlebutt going around in the artist community all contributed to a cautious atmosphere. The show itself was on the main floor of the function space (something I like) only separated out by a line of theatre sanctions about three feet high with material hanging down. Not exactly secure. The layout of the show itself made very poor use of its space. They could have fit in a lot more panels. The panels themselves were either pegboard or canvas. Thecanvas panels were simply piping with canvas wrapped around and held in place by curtain hooks. They looked dreadful and seemed pretty flimsy. Dave Stein helped me to tuck in the ends of the burlap and made my panel look more finished. The show didn't open till noon each day which I wasn't too fond of. The biggest thing in the show that I found disturbing was the complete and total lack of security. People were wandering in and out when artists were setting up, carrying bags, cameras, drinks and food. When I approached a couple of the staff and mentioned it to them I was told that they didn't care. To be fair the person who said this wasn't part of Elayne's regular staff and this person is not exactly known for their tact. At any rate they tried to do security for about a couple of hours on Friday morning and then dropped it. No attempt was taken to stop people with drink or food or even cameras from wandering around the art. This upset a lot of people but as far as I know nothing was stolen or damaged. One thing I did like was that they had a couple of tables set up in the show for people to stop and relax at. Our group made good use of these and thoroughly enjoyed them. The actual art in the show was excelent. Much smaler than a usual world con show by atleasthalf. Someofthe usual bignames were conspicuously missing but there was stil plenty of lovely art to look and drool at. Of course I spent many an hour gnawing my wrists. The 3- D area was the best I've ever seen. They got lots of space and had an excellent assortment of all types of mediums. Just wonderful!

The money was very fine at the show. I sold everything I brought and got good prices for all of it (52,400.00 not including print and book sales). The auction had lots of money and the buyers were serious about spending it. There were 94 pieces in the auction (I had 11 pieces in the auction) and it was moderately well run. The auctioneers were not too bad although one of them drove me insane with his professional style cattle auctioning. Most annoying. But it moved pretty fast and steady. Everyone I talked to was real pleased with their sales and everyone was very happy with the money.

The print shop was well run by Theresa Patterson and Pegasus Management. They did well having to work with some problems of space and lack of furniture. Her staff did a good job and were friendly and easy to deal with. I do wish they hadn't been in the art show and could have kept better hours but that's just picking nits. Well now that I've picked apart the show and said al kinds of negative things about it, I should mention that I have heard some things that put it in perspective. Elayne did get control of the show very late in things and I do know that setting up a Worldcon Art Show is a lot of work and-time. Since Elayne is also doing next year's art show she doesn't exactly have a lot of time. I'm rather surprised she even took on this year's show. I expect they begged her a lot I have also heard that her budget was dreadfully small so they couldn't afford to have a lot of panels.I do think that they could have easily raised the panel fees and got more panels. At any rate, lack of money might be a reason for the smal, makeshift panels and the lame artist reception.

I have heard that the t^onfrancisco board was not ofering refunds for gophers that work enough hours. This could explain why there was no security and there seemed to be few art show staff around. All those volunteers (as opposed to the staff) that fill in at a Worldcon show probably just didn t want to work without the incentive of geting their membership money back. And who could blame them? This then could explain the lack of people to fill the security and back check posts. The staff that was there, with the exception of that one person I already mentioned, was pleasant and worked hard under the circumstances.

Overall, I was very pleased with my own performance at Worldcon and had a wonderful time. There were lots of little things I didn't like about the show, but I do think that Elayne did a pretty good job of what she was handed. [4]

You'll have to excuse me here - but I just need to bitch about this year's Worldcon art show and programming. First off - last year's Orlando Worldcon was my first and I found it a wonderful and awesome experience! The art was truly great, the art show run professionally, the programming extremely educational. In fact. I learned more about "art business" in a week than! have in years just from the various panels. It was great! This past one I found to be quite a disappointment. The programming - in general - was less interesting, there was less of it and fewer panels devoted to either business and or practical end of art. Then - there was the art show, which opened at noon, hap zip security, and wouldn't allow buyers to leave the art till mid day monday. I really believe that the noon opening and the last day checkouts created a certain amount of problems with sales. And the lack of security terrified me. Plus, the print shop didn't keep our prints in back of their desk - but we had to create our own bins on the floor in front of our art. That also scared me - with an added potential for damage, loss and theft. The opening at noon created certain aggravation to those of us who wanted to use our spare time scrutinizing the truly wonderful artwork. Also, I haven't even been paid.

However, the positive aspects made for a delightful show. And, for me. it was great to see old San Francisco friends from when I lived in San Francisco, plus my more recent fantasy artist friends and acquaintances. [5]