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July, 2005 : Feature:

Guests of Honor, Ghosts of Honor

Or: The Order of the Blinking Purple Fez; Or: The Coup of the GOHs

Setting: San Jose Doubletree Hotel, May 27-30, 2005.
Characters: Too many to name, 2403 (give or take a few) total.
Deeper Meaning: BayCon 2005.

Guest of the Guest of Honor (GOGOH): First of all, Mr. Lake, I would like to thank you for the purple fez. It made me feel so special. I don't think I have ever had my picture taken so often at a con, and certainly never from kids on a scavenger hunt for Guests of Honor. How precisely did you come up with such a distinctive and original idea?

Guest of Honor (GOH): Well, first of all you have to realize that such concepts hurl themselves across the eldritch depths of time and space before lodging in the receptive brain, via the agency of thought particles known as conceptons.

Okay. You're not buying that one, I can tell.

GOGOH: Nope.

GOH:     Actually, it's my friends K&D. They turned up in Portland a month or two ago in Leopold, their rolling art project, wearing fine and tasteful leopard print driving fezzes to match the leopard print headliner and interior trim in Leopold. I expressed great admiration and jealousy of the fezzes, and K offered to make me a fez for BayCon. This evolved into making a fez for me and a number of my closest friends. You, being GOGOH, of course got one, as did the other GOHs, Toastmaster Chris Garcia (who never did provide me with any toast whatsoever, the rat) and sundry others.

Frankly, like most of my ideas, it just sort of happened, then got out of control.

GOGOH: During the course of BayCon, a number of people were coming up to me and asking me what the significance was of the purple fezzes. Can you bring clarity to this burning question once and for all?

GOH:    The fezzes were the outward sign of the Order of the Blinking Purple Fez, a magnificent cult borne of a wild exuberance and a certain fondness for crushed velvet, with secret links to Freemasonry, the Bavarian Illuminati and the designers of those multifunction digital watches. (1)

I see you're not buying that either...

GOGOH: Not exactly, no.

GOH:     Okay, the true significance is that the fezmistress had several yards of purple plush fabric leftover from making Leopold's seat covers. I did attempt to tell someone in the elevator that we were a cult which worshipped a highly intelligent shade of the color purple, but I couldn't keep my face straight long enough. Beyond that, methinks it was an outbreak of good taste far beyond the usual run of classy Congoing attire—people were awed by our color coordination and subtle fashion statement. (2)

GOGOH: The Godfather accused you, the Toastmaster Chris Garcia, and several of the other Guests of Honor—Frank Wu, Kevin Roche and Andy Trembley—of staging a coup to take over the Con. Is there any truth to this charge?

GOH:     Michael Siladi is just mad because we put that hit out on him at the opening banquet. Which was entirely Frank's fault. I'm here to tell you that I quite happily made all my scheduled events, and a few unscheduled ones, was droll when drollitude was called for, was serious when seriosity was called for, and went far above and beyond the call of duty in supporting the dealers in the Dealer's Room.

If there was a coup, it was a sort of coup de tête, a meme outbreak. We had the purple fezzes. Kevin and Andy had their light-up wedding bling, which accented the fezzes most beautifully. There was perhaps an excess of participative enthusiasm on the part of the GOH squad, which might be a result of putting Frank, Chris and me in the same zip code—generally not recommended without special protective gear. I think GOHs are traditionally supposed to drink in the bar and be grumpy, and but we were all quite pleased to be part of BayCon, roaming the halls, eager for action.

GOGOH: Including writing a story in an hour with audience participation—and inclusion of audience members as characters when they heckled...

GOH:     Who, me? Writer in the Window, in which I channeled Harlan Ellison. I think he was surprised—I heard him squeal.

Seriously, I had a panel with me, a laptop and a projector. People came in and talked trash to me while I wrote, and I kept asking for plot cues. Those who mouthed off got written in and killed off in unpleasant ways. It was a lot of fun. I think we got 1,100 words out of it. I'm not sure I can legitimately claim authorship, since it was something of a mass collaboration, but it was a real story with a beginning, a middle and an end.

The idea actually came indirectly from Ellison's old bookstore thing. Alan M. Clark and I have done a couple of realtime collaborations in Borderlands Books in San Francisco, where we spent a week painting and writing, interactively with one another and with whoever wandered by. We've produced some very nice work we're marketing right now, but the concept was interesting and successful enough for me to want to try it in a Con environment.

GOGOH: What was your own favorite event at BayCon?

GOH:     Has to be "A Shot Rang Out." (3) This is a classic BayCon favorite, involving spontaneous storytelling of the rankest order from cue lines submitted in advance by Con members. Chocolate was provided to the panelists in order to properly reward or chastise the audience with showers of confection. I was unfortunately seated in the rotation between noted Cockney philosophe Martin Young and woman-of-parts Lee Martindale, and so was forced to resort to interpretive dance and a form of voiced mime to fit in with the panel. Our story eventually involved a beagle smuggling ring, a circus cannon, a giant steam-powered goat and Lassie. And those were the parts which actually made sense. It's cool to have two hundred people laughing their heads off at you.

GOGOH: On a more serious note, how did it feel to be a Guest of Honor at this point in your career?

GOH:     Well, frankly, about twelve people at BayCon had actually read my work. Luckily, it was the right twelve people. I'm used to being underread—I work a lot in the small press, which means a relative handful of readers for most stories of mine that ever escape into the wild. The surprise was being a GOH at all. I was thrilled to be invited, and the BayCon committee treated us very, very well. I tried to give back as much as I could with that enthusiasm and energy—everything from the purple fezzes to belly dancing in the hall. And the paper dolls, of course.

Did I mention the paper dolls? (4)

GOGOH: They have to be seen to be believed, but at least you have a link. So, would you do BayCon again?

GOH:     Would you?

GOGOH: Hey, I'm not supposed to have the last word here—you were the writer GOH, not me.

But yes, I think I would do it again. What with blinking purple fezzes, hilarious, spontaneous storytelling, belly-dancing with Marko (5), seeing you in a corset (did I mention the corset? (6)), and all the other standard con funnesses, a grand time was had by all, or at least by those in your general vicinity.

So give me a last word, Mr. Lake.

GOH:     :: cue Governor of California :: I'll be back.


  1. See the following article for a more complete elucidation of this particular cult. [back]
  2. See for an example. [back]
  3. See for a description of this extraordinary panel before the tasteful curtains of history are drawn over the memories forever. [back]
  4. You'll be sorry, but... [back]
  5. [back]
  6. At least, if I didn't, Nick Mamatas did. [back]

Copyright © 2005, Joseph E. Lake, Jr. and Ruth Nestvold. All Rights Reserved.

About Jay Lake

Jay Lake lives in Portland, Oregon, where he works on numerous writing and editing projects. His 2008 novels are Escapement from Tor Books and Madness of Flowers from Night Shade Books, while his short fiction appears regularly in literary and genre markets worldwide. Jay is a winner of the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, and a multiple nominee for the Hugo and World Fantasy Awards. Jay can be reached through his blog at or his Web site at

About Ruth Nestvold

Ruth Nestvold has published in Asimov's and Realms of Fantasy, and was a recent finalist for both the Tiptree and Sturgeon awards. She holds a PhD in literature with specializations in genre issues, gender issues and hyperfiction. After getting out of academia, she switched to translation and software localization to feed the writing bug. She maintains a web site at


Jul 4, 23:51 by IROSF
This thread open for discussion of Lake & Nestvold's new essay.

The essay itself is here.
Jul 20, 19:52 by Tristan Davenport
I guess you had to be there...

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