alternate history

minnow at minnow at
Fri Nov 14 18:55:07 EST 2003

The Knowledge Pika asked:

>I've been signed up to moderate a Panel on Alternate History at Darkover
>Con. Any ideas about what I should be reading to brush up my knowledge of
>the subject?

(Can't help you there because I don't know what you already have in storage...)

>(And yes, this is DWJ related, however vaguely, since the organizer of the
>Con suspects that the Con in _Deep Secret_ is vaguely based on DWJ's one
>appearance at Darkover. Personally, I find that only some of the fen
>characters-- and ok, the waiters in the restaurant-- are really
>reminiscent... but then, I just don't get invited to that sort of party.
>Personally, the business about travelling to Babylon sounds much more
>likely to have happened at an American Library Association conference,
>where almost every hotel appears to have 5 right angle turns and you could
>probably find people with every bit of equipment you need on any given

There I *can* help you.  The hotel in DS is specific to the fourth annual
filk con in the UK, "FourPlay", whose hotel had bedrooms round four sides
and the conference space in the middle, on the upper floors.  DWJ went
looking for breakfast on the first morning, missed the stairs going down
(which were hidden behind an almost unmarked door) and ended up going round
five right-angle turns (passing her room without noticing she was doing so)
saying "Coffeeeeeeee!" with increasing desperation, until she was directed
by a passing fan towards the lifts.  They didn't look much like lifts,
either, for some reason.  Something to do with their doors being much the
same colour as the walls beside them.  So she swore afterwards that the
hotel was built on a square with five right-angle corners.

The same hotel had a ladies' cloakroom on the ground floor which was
entirely lined with mirror -- even the door into it.  And the door into it
had no handles on the inside, and was difficult to locate, so one got
trapped in the loo (well, in the bit with the washbasins) until someone
else came in and the door was revealed when it was opened from outside.

The mirror on the ceiling of the lobby is from the Adelphi, Liverpool.

And I am not, repeat not repeat not, the Hotel Liaison person in DS.  For
one thing she carefully made him male.  :-)  But many of the fans are
loving portraits of an amalgamation of two or more British fans, apart from
the less likeable ones who are not portraits at all.  Tansy-Ann wossit had
to have a name-change in the second draft because she was a little too like
someone real and known to me but *not* known to DWJ (though of a different
nationality), and by an awful coincidence the name was also a similar until
it was hastily altered to be nothing like at all.  Most of the set-piece
scenes, like the stair-party and the drawing on people with felt-tips, I
have witnessed (in the case of the stair-party, caused) at various British

As far as I know nothing was particularly based on the Darkover convention.
Sorry if this disappoints the Darkover Con organiser, but none of DWJ's
reminiscences of that occasion are recognisably present in DS.  Fans are
fans the world over, though, so possibly some of American fandom is much
the same as some of British fandom.  :-)  The bits I have met are, anyhow,
apart from the ones who weren't.  :-))


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