The 34th World Science Fiction Convention was named MidAmeriCon and was held in Kansas City, Missouri, USA, 2–6 September 1976, 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.
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 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 and fantasy 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 program book. Longtime fan and science fiction and mystery writer Wilson Tucker (Bob Tucker) was the convention's Toastmaster.
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 manniquin, 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; 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 hit the entire Free World like a sneak atomic attack, members of the Kansas City Worldcon were given a close-up and detailed behind-the-scenes preview of the film that would eventually transform forever 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, with his friend and fellow writer Gardner Dozois, conceived of and organized the first ever Hugo Losers Party; it was to be a gathering spot for all past Hugo losers (and their friends and family), set to happen following the end of KC's Hugo Awards ceremony. Martin had planned the party well in advance and in a strong note of irony, he became the party's undisputed official host, having himself just lost two of MidAmeriCon's Hugo Awards: for the Novelette "...and Seven Times Never Kill Man" and the novella "The Storms of Windhaven," written with Lisa Tuttle. One of the highlights of the first Hugo losers' party was writer Larry Niven being presented with a replacement Hugo Award by convention chairman Ken Keller. This replacement was for the one he had dropped and broken backstage in a stairwell, shortly after winning it, as he rushed back to his seat (he was up for a second Hugo Award that year); he quickly departed after receiving a round of boos and katcalls in response to the 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 at the annual 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.
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