Progress Report #1Feature Article: "Thought for Food"
by Teddy Harvia
iana Thayer and Bill Child, the editors, have asked me to write the premier guest feature article. Why? Your guest is as good as mine. The role of the first is to set a high standard for those who follow. I should stoop so low. Ha, ha, ha!Science fiction fuels the imagination. Food fuels the science fiction fan. It's one of those universal and memorable languages.
I can't count the number of world science fiction conventions I've attended on the fingers of one hand (unless, of course, I evolve a sixth digit). At every one, I've eaten. No matter what was on my mind in the beginningrockets, schmoozing with editors, cheap souvenirs, the opposite sexeventually my thoughts turned to my stomach.
To MidAmeriCon in Kansas City in 1976, which also happened to be my first convention ever, I took peanut butter and crackers to save on expenses. What I saved in money, I lost in adventure. I got a taste of what I was missing when a buddy and I scrapped together enough change to have breakfast in the convention hotel restaurant. At the table behind us sat Frank Herbert, author of Dune. We could hear every word he was uttering, but neither one of us had the nerve to open our own mouths except to eat. But I never forgot that restaurants are great places in which to run into pros. "Hey, George Alec, mind passing the salt?"
Some fans can't wait until they get to the convention to eat. On the road from London to Brighton for Seacon in 1979 with a family of British fans, I was surprised when the husband stopped in front of a meat shop (I think the sign actually said quot;shoppequot;). quot;He's addicted to pork pies,quot; the wife explained, quot;and they make the best here. They're bad for his stomach, but I haven't the heart to tell him no.quot; A moment later the husband came back, down in the mouth. He lamented that others had beaten him to that day's limited supply. The wife smirked as we drove on to the beach.
By Nolacon II in New Orleans in 1988, my financial situation had improved enough to allow me to eat in sit-down restaurants. I did get one free lunch in the Big Easy. George Laskowski, Jr., editor of Lan's Lantern, treated me to lunch at a sandwich shop across from the Marriott for some cartoons I'd sent him. For a boy used to nothing more exotic than ham and cheese on white with mayo and mustard, my sandwich was strange, with green sprouts, leaves, and spices (cilantro, cumin, etc.), things I'd never heard of, much less seen between two slices of ethnic bread. But I liked it.
The next year in Boston at Noreascon III, artist Peggy Ranson and I discovered the Cactus Cafe. We ate there not once, but twice. The motif of howling coyotes, towering saguaros, and warm adobe in the heart of proper Boston was very appealing. The cafe didn't serve my familiar Tex-Mex, but their New Mexico variety was close enough.
My most unusual dinner date came in Chicago at Chicon IV in 1991. Eleanor Lang (an editor with Ace Books) and I had just finished an exhaustive tour of the Chicago Museum of Science and Technology and were hungry. We reached the snack bar in the basement just as they were locking the doors. Our only other immediate alternative was the area of snack machines across the hall. After managing to make the bill changer take our crinkled dollars, we chatted over canned cola, cheese crackers, and fig bars.
At MagiCon in Orlando in 1992, I ate better. For being a part of a successful program at my company, my boss offered to reimburse me up to $100 for dinner for two. I asked Peggy Ranson to join me at the most expensive restaurant in Orlando. It was closed on Monday, the day of our date. We settled for the second most expensive in the Peabody Hotel. If the snooty and fawning waiter knew I wasn't accustomed to such service, he never let on. I enjoyed my sword fish, imagining the titanic struggle someone must have gone through to catch it just for me. Roast duck wasn't on the menu. I wonder why. Peggy and I ended the meal sharing one of their decadent desserts. The final tab plus tip was $99.97. Keep the change.
The powers behind LoneStarCon2 have not forgotten about food, given that "Chili Cook-Off" is part of the convention title. Have a meal or two in the convention hotel restaurant to rub elbows with the pros if you must, but escape at least once to explore the city beyond.
A fast food restaurant across from the Alamo has a second floor dining area with a wonderful view of the Texas shrine. Remember your parents yelling at you when you were a kid for leaving the backdoor open? Restaurants on the San Antonio River Walk try to air-condition the whole outdoors on purpose, blowing cool air onto the patrons on the patios. The food, from Texas-size burgers to the whole enchilada, is cool, too.
Go a little out of your way at LoneStarCon 2 and take home some unique culinary memories of the convention city. Can you imagine attending a WorldCon and going home hungry?