Arcana is one of those conventions that I always wanted to go to, but I always wound up doing something else when it rolled around -- that something else was always the Minnesota Renaissance Festival, where I worked for 11 years. In 2002, I was sick enough of the MRF to vow to at least take a year off, so I decided to attend Arcana 32 come hell or high water.
Well, hell and high water did indeed come by in the form of two live shows that I was required to attend in Minneapolis that weekend, so I spent woefully little time at Arcana. Yet I was there long enough to decide that I indeed need to attend Arcana 33, which is when the venerable Gahan Wilson comes to town.
Arcana is a delightful mini-convention focused on the dark fantastic. There is only one track of programming, due to there being only around 40-50 attendees, but the programming is fun and smart. The attendees are also fun and smart, the epitome of cask-strength fandom.
Since I spent very little time at the convention, this convention report will be quite brief. Don't feel cheated, though -- there will be five more convention reports appearing in the next two months. Consider this an appetizer.
So, without further ado, here is Melissa's take on Arcana 32.
09272002: I popped into the Bandana Square Holiday Inn Express around 5:30 PM on this rainy Friday evening. The hotel, one of my favorite small convention spaces in the Twin Cities, was unusually quiet for being ground zero for a horror convention. I knew from the grapevine that Arcana was an ultra-tiny convention, and I was prepared for a slow start on a rainy evening, but didn't quite realize how small Arcana really was.
I soon found the convention space, which consisted of two meeting rooms, two hotel rooms, and a registration table. One meeting room was for panels, and the other was the dealers' room, which was slowly filling with books as a couple publishers worked on placing out their wares. Yes, this takes the cake for the smallest convention I have ever attended.
I walked up to the registration table and found, to my delight, that Kevin Trainor was manning the registration duties. I had run into Kevin at Diversicon in 2001, where he was one of several Kevins that I met that weekend. I hadn't run into him for some time, so it was good to see him. We chatted for a bit, and I handed him a check for the $35 registration fee. I wasn't quite sure if I would get $35 worth of convention that weekend because of my scheduling conflicts, but I dig small conventions, and I knew the Arcana group would use it well.
After filling out my badge, I picked up the Programming Schedule to see what was going on. There was only one programming track, but most of the panels looked at least interesting. Indeed, at 8:30 PM that night, a panel named "Harlan Ellison: Master or Menace?" was running. Given my encounters with Harlan at both Loscon and MadCon last year, I just had to be at that panel.
Unfortunately, there was nothing going on at the moment, since 5:30 - 7:30 PM was the designated Dinner Break. Thus, I took my badge and went off into the grey evening to find food.
After a fine dinner with Christopher, I made it back to the hotel just in time for the Ellison panel. I was delighted to see writer/teacher Bob Subiaga Jr. on the panel, along with Scott Wyatt, both of whom I've run into at other conventions.
Basically, the entire panel consisted of crazy Ellison stories. Harlan Ellison, for those of you unfamiliar with him, is almost more of a force of personality than an author these days. In person, he can be an unbelievable asshole, albeit a clever and funny one. Everyone who has met him seems to have a story about him, and indeed, we heard many that night.
After that, the entirety of the convention moved to the Krushenko's party room for movie-viewing. By "the entirety of the convention", I mean about six people, including myself, Eric Heideman, and Bob. Soon, we were all engrossed in the 1958 version of The Blob. Bob had a merry time sitting right in front of the TV, drinking beer and brainstorming Mythos-based names for porn films. (I think I'll have to post those in the Features section one of these days...)
After The Blob, we took in the 1958 version of Attack of the 50-Foot Woman and the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, neither of which I had seen before. It was a drive-in triple-feature delight! Attack of the 50-Foot Woman was fairly lousy production-wise, but it had an interesting feminist bent. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was much better -- ultra-low budget with some deft directorial choices that really made it work. I can't say that it ranks with the best horror films I've seen, but it certainly is leagues better than most slasher films.
By the time the films were over, it was around 2:00 AM. Everyone called it a night.
09282002: I missed almost everything on Saturday. I managed to only attend one panel, which was on "Drive-In Monsters". I was hoping to run into Pam Keesey, who was listed as moderator for the panel, but alas, she did not make it to Minnesota at all that weekend. Despite that, Eric Heideman, Dreamhaven owner Greg Ketter, and Paul Richards had a nice discussion about drive-in creature features.
After that panel, Guest of Honor Joe Bob Briggs did a reading and an autograph session. The room was packed, and there were only a couple hours before I had to be at O'Shaunessy for a dance/theater opening, so I decided to head out and prepare for that.
I mildly regretted missing that evening's viewing of Cronenberg's Crash, which I have yet to see.
09292002: I made a much better use of my convention time on Sunday.
I arrived at the hotel at 10:00 AM, just in time for a viewing of the extended cut of The Wicker Man, starring Edward Woodward and Christopher Lee. I had recently seen the 89 minute cut, and was less that enamored with it. The extra ten minutes of footage in this cut made a world of difference. I highly recommend the 99-minute version of the film.
After the movie, I helped Eric haul a few things out of the Krushenko's room, then headed off to the David Cronenberg panel.
The Cronenberg panel was great. Joe Bob Briggs, David Christensen, Sybil Smith, and Eric all had sharp insights into Cronenberg's films, especially about his obsession with the body and technology. I have seen most of his material since the early 80's, but I've decided that I must rent Crash and his work from the 70's. I'm also looking forward to seeing his latest flick, Spider, which tragically has no US release dates yet.
After that, I had aims to attend the "Feminism at the Drive-In" panel, but I instead wound up talking to Bob for the next hour and a half. We discovered that we both had graduated from the same high school, so we had a grand time talking about teachers we both had. He even took me into the dealers' room and showed me a story of his that he based on one of our mutual instructors.
Around 2:30 PM, I made it back into the panel room, were I listened to Kathy Youker read a couple James Thurber tales. I love Thurber, but she was re-hashing books I had recently re-read, so I ducked back out of the room after a couple of short essays. I re-armed myself with some Sprite from the Hospitality Suite and returned to the panel room for the Christopher Lee panel.
The Christopher Lee panel was quite interesting for me, since I have seen a pitifully small amount of his work. My experience with Hammer films is woefully poor. (Yes, I do realize that this is something that must be fixed as soon as possible.) During the panel, I heard that his biography, Tall, Dark, and Gruesome, just got a reprint, so I might have to pick that up.
After that, Joe Bob and Eric held a short-and-sweet five-minute Closing Ceremony, after which I had to leave in order to make it to yet another live show in Minneapolis. I was a bit sad about leaving before the Undead Dog Party, since it looked like it was going to be a good time. I should ask around and see how it went.
Before I left, I made sure to hand off another $20 at the Registration table so I can attend Arcana 33. Next year, I will definitely keep that weekend clear. You should, too -- it's a great, friendly little convention.