Conspiracy 87

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Science Fiction Convention
Name: Conspiracy 87
Dates: 27 August–1 September 1987
Frequency:
Location: Brighton, UK
Type: Worldcon
Focus: sf
Organization:
Founder:
Founding Date:
URL:
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Conspiracy 87 was the 45th Worldcon and the second to be held in Brighton. The nickname of the con turned out to be a very unfortunate coincidence.

There were a number of problems with the convention, though not all con reports made note of them. The original chair of the concom had to step down, there appeared to be budget problems that led to the unwanted presence of a publisher associated with L. Ron Hubbard, and the general manager of the hotel apparently hated the con so much that he made everything as difficult as possible for congoers. Fans created a wall of jokes about the hotel manager.

Author Services Inc was at the con promoting a novel by Hubbard that had been nominated for a Hugo, but it came in last, after No Award[1]. The nomination itself is thought to be the result of Scientologists voting for it en masse[2] :

In 1987, members of the Church of Scientology campaigned successfully to place L. Ron Hubbard's BLACK GENESIS on the Best Novel ballot. That was not disallowed -- the Scientologists had done nothing illegal, after all, all they'd done is buy supporting memberships to a convention that they had no intention of attending, for the sole purpose of nominating LRH for a Hugo (hmmm, why does that tactic sound familiar?) -- but their campaign created a huge backlash. Hubbard's name was booed lustily at the Hugo ceremony in Brighton, and his book finished last in the final balloting, behind No Award.[3]

Ansible editor Dave Langford, who won two fan Hugos that year, reports that he had several unfortunate encounters with Author Services Inc representatives, although for one of them he was too drunk to remember it.

Peter Nicholls, who was MC at the Hugo ceremony, detailed in Innocents Abroad the series of decisions that led to the general impression by congoers that Scientology had taken over the convention.

Con Reports

There is a song by Sting that goes "I'm an alien, I'm a legal alien,,," and this refrain could well sum up the participants of Worldcon strolling around Brighton over August Bank Holiday weekend, Worldcon had two things going for it as far as I was concerned. The first was that it wasn't in Rio de Janeiro or Outer Mongolia, and the second was that it was by the sea. When I arrived, I found that it had a lot more going for it than that! My friend Jackie and I, due to work and lack of funds, could only 'do' Sunday and Monday - the convention officially opened on Thursday afternoon and continued until Tuesday morning. We drove down on Sunday morning with Valerie Guy (thanks again for the lift, Val), threw our bags into the hotel and zoomed off towards the Conference Centre to sign on (just like the dole!) Wandering up and down the promenade, in the blazing sunshine (I know, amazing innit?) were the usual costumed, made-up conventioneers - being legal aliens - attracting the usual looks of amazement from the cool British public.

We received our Con, booklet (not your usual 15 page booklet, this - it was MASSIVE, and took a good 2 hours to read it all!!) and I immediately discovered that we'd missed all the best talks. Good start, I wasn't quite sure what to expect from Worldcon, 5,000 people, a VAST amount to do, see and hear, it was bound to be a little overwhelming. However, despite some appalling mismanagement by the committee, things DID happen - if only because they were pushed along by themselves.

We went first to the Dealers* Room to find the Horizon table. *Dealer*s Room* is probably not the right word for what greeted us. Three large rooms (halls?) in one, packed with hundreds of tables and books as far as the eye could see! I staggered in shock. Surely this was Paradise?? We eventually wended our way through *Forbidden Planet*, *Andromeda*, the Tolkein Society, etc. etc. and arrived at the Horizon table, where I was joyfully reunited with all me mates. A few hours (days) on the table followed, surprisingly enjoyable (especially since I sold some WEBS).

The atmosphere was vastly different to the usual media con. It was, dare I say, more intellectual and the average SF fan could indulge his/her appetite for virtually anything without feeling the need to don costume. However, if one WANTED to, the more the merrier.

There were all the writers of SF and Fantasy you could wish to meet and the art of putting faces to names was hilarious. The talks ranged from *Magical Sex* (which I missed, dammit...) to *How to Enjoy Conventions*, to Brian Aldiss on *How to write a Bestseller*. Then there were talks on models, how to build aliens, talks by the Guests of Honour, a fan room (which I couldn't bear to go into - I peered through the window and that was enough - it reminded me of sweaty socks... work that out) and of course films 24 hours a day, slides, you name it - it was available.

And then there was the artroom, where I could have spent a year's salary. I deeply regretted missing the Masquerade on Saturday night, which to all accounts was wonderful. I dropped in on the Hugo Awards (just to say I*d been) which was very dull, since I hadn't read most of the books nominated. I would have loved to have heard the horror writers' forum (Clive Barker - whoopee!! and to hear what the 10 most overworked ideas in SF are. I did, however, meet Guy Gavriel Kay - to my unbiased mind the author of the most extraordinary fantasy since Tolkein. To my absolute joy he looked EXACTLY like I hoped he would, and gave a wonderful and moving talk on "The Silmarillion" on which he worked with Tolkein's son. Gosh. I'll never wash my signed copy again...

Then there was the spectacular firework display after the Hugos, over the sea, and the L. Ron Hubbard 'Writers of the Future Workshop'. This was notable only because I discovered at Worldcon that he'd been dead for longer than I thought! You live and learn, eh?

It was the first con. I'd been to in a long while, and apart from seeing all those friends again, it was lovely to be back in the unique atmosphere of a convention. They really are special things - it's so nice to be weird with nobody thinking twice and to discuss the finer points of page 642 of a certain book for hours on end, and to buy wonderful bits of jewellery and the definitive poster of Captain Black. I'd certainly go to another Worldcon - see you all in Holland in 1990! [4]

References

  1. 1987 Hugo Awards, The Hugo Awards website. (Accessed 26 April 2015.)
  2. See Notes from Chris Evans's Conspiracy Theories report.
  3. George R. R. Martin. Blogging for Rockets. Livejournal post Apr. 9th, 2015.
  4. from Horizon Newsletter #19