34th World Science Fiction Convention

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MidAmeriCon, the 34th World Science Fiction Convention
Genre Science fiction
Venue Muehlebach Hotel and Phillips House
Location(s) Kansas City, Missouri
Country USA
Inaugurated September 2–6, 1976
Attendance 3014; total membership 4200
Filing status 501(c)(3) non-profit

The 34th World Science Fiction Convention carried the official name MidAmeriCon and was held September 2–6, 1976, in Kansas City, Missouri, USA, at the historic Radisson Muehlebach Hotel and nearby Phillips House hotel. The convention committee was chaired by Ken Keller, who had also chaired the "KC in '76" bid. There were 4200 registered members of the convention, of which 3014 actually attended.

Guests of honor[edit]

The professional Guest of Honor at the 34th Worldcon was former Kansas Citian Robert A. Heinlein. During the convention he was in much demand and was at many of its events; this included a successful blood donation drive and a later blood donors' reception held at the nearby Hotel Contennental, one of the Worldcon's overflow hotels. Being someone with a very rare blood type, Heinlein had organized the blood drive and reception. He did not prepare a formal guest of honor speech, as such, but gave a generally well received one, immediately following the convention's Hugo Awards ceremony at the nearby Art Deco-inspired Music Hall section of the Kansas City Municipal Auditorium. Heinlein came with an alarm clock and put it on his center stage podium and spoke casually until his own preset time period ended with the alarm going off. Heinlein was previously the Guest of Honor at the 3rd Worldcon (1941) and the 19th Worldcon (1961). He remains the only science fiction writer honored three times by the annual Worldcon.

Longtime fan artist and professional artist George Barr was the convention's Fan Guest of Honor. He provided the beautiful, nostalgic, wrap-around dust jacket art for the convention's hardcover program book. Longtime fan and science fiction and mystery writer Wilson Tucker (Bob Tucker) was the convention's Toastmaster.

Programming[edit]

Listed on the MidAmeriCon program was "The Star Wars Display" in Muehlebach Towers meeting room 364, where both actor Mark Hamill and producer Gary Kurtz were on hand promoting the upcoming George Lucas film that at this time was being called The Star Wars (Star Wars). A number of the film's used on-screen production props were on display in 364, including the Darth Vader costume, C-3PO and R2-D2 robots, lightsaber and blaster props, behind-the-scenes production 8x10 stills, and a wall of conceptual artwork by Ralph McQuarrie. (Chewbacca's full Wookie costume and head piece was also on hand but proved to be just too tall for display, even on a tall mannequin, so it was never put out.) As a part of the studio's promotion of their film, a mimeographed press release was handed out at the display room; it depicted an early graphic of the Luke Skywalker character. A three-inch blue promotional button and a full color poster were also made available. The display proved so popular that all three promo items were gone by day two of the display. An hour-long slide presentation, made up of 35mm slides of the film's production artwork and on-set production photos, was narrated live in the Muehlebach's largest ballroom to a standing room only crowd; this was presented by Charles Lippencott, 20th Century Fox's head of publicity and promotion for the film. He outlined in great detail the entire plot of the film from scene one through to the last scene. A long question-and-answer period then followed with the large audience, with Lippencott, producer Gary Kurtz, and star Mark Hamill talking about the film. Nine months before Star Wars debuted, members of the Kansas City Worldcon were given a close-up and detailed behind-the-scenes preview of the film that would eventually transform Hollywood, science fiction, and the western world's popular culture.

The "electronic tonalities" soundtrack for the classic MGM science fiction film Forbidden Planet was first released in 1976 by Louis and Bebe Barron at MidAmeriCon. It was on a vinyl LP album, done for the film's 20th anniversary, on the Barron's own PLANET Records label (later changed to SMALL PLANET Records and distributed by GNP Crescendo Records). The LP was premiered at the convention by the Barrons as part of a 20th Anniversary celebration of the film being held at MidAmeriCon. They helped the convention's programming staff arrange for the rental of a pristine, fine-grain, stereophonic sound print of the film from MGM's own film vaults. Three separate screenings of Forbidden Planet were held as part of the convention's extensive all 35mm science fiction and fantasy film retrospective. The Barrons were on-hand to promote their signed soundtrack LP, and they introduced the first of the three screenings of the film.

For MidAmeriCon, science fiction and fantasy author George R. R. Martin, along with his old friend and fellow writer Gardner Dozois, conceived of and organized the first ever Hugo Losers Party. On the cheap, they had cleverly gathered together all the opened bottles of liquor and various left-over snack foods from Sunday evening's many open room parties; this for a uniquely themed "dead dog" party: It was to be a gathering spot for all past Hugo losers (and their friends and family), set to happen Monday evening after the "official" closing ceremonies of MidAmeriCon that day. Martin and Dozois had planned to host this "dead dog" party should Martin lose either Hugo for which he had been nominated. In a strong note of irony, he became the party's undisputed official host when he lost both his MidAmeriCon Hugo Awards: for the Novelette "...and Seven Times Never Kill Man" and the novella "The Storms of Windhaven," written with Lisa Tuttle. When one entered the crowded party, George R.R. Martin was standing atop the room's credenza. Whenever a past or current Hugo loser entered the room (and there many at the party), Martin would take a deep swig directly from a liquor bottle and in a loud voice announce, "looooooose," as his other arm, held on high, made a wide, sweeping arc downward to the delight of the party goers. (This was an ironic tribute to MAC Toastmaster Bob Tucker's by-then famous "Smooooooth"ing party routine.) A bit later in the evening, one of the highlights of the first Hugo losers' party happened when writer Larry Niven was presented with a replacement Hugo by convention chairman Ken Keller. This replacement was for the Hugo Award Niven had dropped and broken in a stairwell backstage shortly after winning it, as he rushed back to his auditorium seat (like Martin he was up for a second Hugo that year); he then quickly departed after receiving a loud round of boos and catcalls in response to Keller's presentation. In the years and decades that followed, the Hugo Losers Party became an annual event and evolved into one of the largest social gatherings held annually at every Worldcon.

The convention also produced another first: a highly collectible hardcover program and souvenir book, edited and designed by the late Tom Reamy, one of the finest produced in the history of the Worldcon; only two others have subsequently been done, one for the 45th World Science Fiction Convention and one for the 63rd World Science Fiction Convention.

Awards[edit]

The Hugo Awards, named after Hugo Gernsback, are presented every year at the annual Worldcon for the best science fiction or fantasy works and achievements of the previous year. Results are based on the ballots submitted by the membership of each Worldcon, which comprises the World Science Fiction Society.[1] Other awards, including the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, are also presented each year at Worldcon.[2]

Hugo Awards[edit]

Other awards[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "1976 Hugo Awards". The Hugo Awards. World Science Fiction Society. Retrieved August 17, 2013. 
  2. ^ "Hugo Award FAQ". The Hugo Awards. World Science Fiction Society. Retrieved October 11, 2013. 
  3. ^ a b "The Long List of Hugo Awards, 1976". New England Science Fiction Association. 1976. Retrieved August 17, 2013. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
33rd World Science Fiction Convention
Aussiecon One in Melbourne, Australia (1975)
List of Worldcons
34th World Science Fiction Convention
in Kansas City, USA (1976)
Succeeded by
35th World Science Fiction Convention
SunCon I in Miami Beach, USA (1977)