Home Page

Fuzzy Niven, tablesetting(send e-mail)

How does the Academy entertain alien contacts or deal with meals in alien conditions? You can't just set your knife down in zero gee and you might not be able to lift it on a high gravity planet. What foods or utensils might be popular in the future? Just how do well-mannered Kzin eat? What tableware would a Ferrengi use? Who knows how the Whos down in Whoville eat?

Science fiction often talks about the technology (or even the breeding habits) of an alien race but doesn't often delve into the minutia of their sociology. With a look in that direction (and to play up an interest of some of the folks on the L.A.con IV committee) the convention is sponsoring a competition that's a combination of street theater, sculpture, and Miss Manners.

In other words, our Space Academy Table Setting Competition.

Try to imagine how you might deal with alien conditions with style and grace. We don't need you to build the chairs or figure out how to cook the meals, but what kind of plates would they put on the table? What would their utensils be like? And the centerpiece or other decorations? After all, species who populate different worlds are shaped differently, eat different foods, use different utensils and tableware, and generally have different customs about dining. Use your imagination and skills (including shopping skills) and make those utensils and plates become real.

Several members of the L.A.con IV committee have been entering the Los Angeles County Fair's annual Table Setting Competition and winning prizes in a variety of categories with an array of fancy and bizarre table settings (for example, the Houdini Seance Halloween Dinner Party, complete with manacles and crystal ball). We thought it might be fun to see what other fans can do with science fictional or fantasy themes.

Your challenge: Design a table setting to accommodate the needs of the Academy for entertaining alien species or operating in alien conditions. Choose an alien species or alien world from some popular science fiction books or films and set a table for your choice. We'll provide tables - just the tables - in the exhibits area of the convention's Concourse, you set them with everything else. If you feel you require a non-standard dining surface and are willing and able to provide it, you must contact the committee to determine feasibility. Settings will be on display in the Concourse for the duration of the convention. Judging will be based on creativity, suitability, and correctness. Judges will include winners of previous Los Angeles County Fair Table Setting Competitions and others.

Space Academy Table Setting Competition Rules

  1. Entrants must register in advance of the convention, describing the scenario for which they are setting a table. There must be science fictional or fantasy elements involved. Registration deadline will be posted later. Notification will be sent confirming acceptance and that a table space is being held.

  2. All entrants must be members of L.A.con IV. Groups entering must include the name of at least one person in their group who is currently an L.A.con IV member. Anyone setting up a Table Setting must be a member of L.A.con IV.

  3. All tables should include place settings for four, including all appropriate plates, bowls, glassware, utensils, and/or whatever else is appropriate for the selected scenario. Entrants are also required to provide any and all table decorations including table cloth or other covering. Entrants will have only a bare table to work from. Tables will be approximately 60" x 40" (exact dimensions will be provided closer to the convention when we know what is available).

  4. Entrants must provide a card that can be displayed at the end of their table describing the dinner situation, the source for any aliens (book or movie title, author, etc.), and describing the table items displayed and their uses. A menu for the meal to be served must also be displayed on the table. All of these table cards must be neatly lettered in English. The additional use of an alien's native language and/or alphabet is optional.

  5. No food or other perishable items are allowed on the tables. All items must remain on the table for the duration of the convention.

  6. While the writings of Emily Post, Miss Manners, Podkayne of Mars, and other known authorities on etiquette will be used as guidelines, customs typical of dining in the West, on each specified planet, and/or in artificial gravity will also be accepted.

  7. Centerpieces and other decorations cannot be over 24 inches high. No items that will block the overall view of your or other tables will be allowed.

  8. Settings should be in good taste. The Convention (and the Convention Center) reserves the right to reject any table setting that is objectionable or unsuited for the Table Setting competition.

  9. Entrants' Responsibility: While the convention will take reasonable care to ensure that nothing happens to any of the items on display on the tables, the Convention will not be responsible for loss or damage to table settings, regardless of cause.

Information on Registering for the Space Academy Table Setting Competition and on times for setting up and taking down your tables will be posted closer to the convention.

Fuzzy Niven
Academy Protocol Division

Rev. 28-Sep-2005