Cthulhu Coffee at Marscon 2002
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Doctor Who and Mountain DewAlas, I have broken one of my cardinal rules of writing convention reports: I allowed more than a week to pass before I actually sat down to write this thing. This could tell you one of two things: a) ...that it took me more than a week to recover enough to be able to write, or b) ...that it wasn't all that eventful, so I did not feel so compelled to write everything down right away.

Both are true. MarsCon did take quite a toll on me, even though, in actuality, not a whole lot seemed to happen. This is not to say this convention report will be boring, mind you. It is chock full of Klingons, nifty costumes, lizards, red yarn, a rousing game of Shock the Normals, and -- yes indeed! -- The Return of the Drooling Fanboy. There are plenty of fun things to report, just fewer of them than normal.

Why? MarsCon 2002 was something of a sleepy little convention. Perhaps the beastly cold weather that weekend sapped the energy away from the congoers, perhaps it was just me, or perhaps the crowd was just a little more low key than the usual group of fans that attend Minnesota conventions, but all in all, even though the parties ran well into the dawn hours, the convention was fairly low-energy. It was fun, but it didn't have that usual mad streak of excitement that I have grown so used to at most other conventions.

That said, MarsCon 2002 was definitely a pleasant distraction from life. It's attendance this year was between 600 and 700 fine folks, all of whom hovered around the MSP Airport Hilton during a dreadfully chilly weekend. MarsCon has all the fixin's, from a decent little art show to five tracks of programming, a Masquerade, a science room, and a swank party floor. The new hotel was a fine replacement for the Radisson South (who refused space to MarsCon this year), and their staff was quite accommodating, despite the fact they had never hosted a sci-fi convention before.

Before I go any further, let me just reiterate, as I always do, that I do realize that many readers of Cthulhu Coffee are looking for news on the guests of honor and other dignitaries at the conventions we report on. Generally, I tend to miss most of the events, panels, and guests entirely, despite my best efforts, and just give my best observations of the convention as a whole. These tales, as readers of my other reports know, mostly contain my own personal foibles and antics, as well as the foibles and antics of whatever attendees I have the good fortune to run into.

So, without further ado, here is my (Melissa's) Marscon 2002 report, entitled Convention of Kevins II, or The Drooling Fanboy III.

03012002 It was Friday, and it was the first day of MarsCon, and I had this delusion that I was going to get out of work early so I could hit the convention at a decent time.

This was not to be. Friday wound up being one of those days when everything broke at work, and since my job description involves fixing broken things, I was required to hang around two hours past my predetermined leave time. Yet, despite the delays, I did eventually manage to escape into the bristling cold air that generally marks Minnesota in March. As I scrambled over glaze ice to my car, I thought about how nice it was going to be to be able to spend the weekend inside. I cranked the Nyarlathotep Soul Processor (my car) to life, headed over to Ted's place, and picked him up. We then sped off to the south, to MarsCon's new hotel, the Airport Hilton.

I had never been in the Airport Hilton before, so I wondered how it would measure up to their old hotel, the Radisson South (the grand space that hosts CONvergence). As it turns out, the Hilton was a fine space for a convention. When Ted and I walked in for the first time, we immediately noticed a couple restaurants, a bar, a large lobby with sofas and chairs, a nice pool and hot tub, and a host of meeting rooms and auditoria. The hotel staff looked a little startled, though, which was no surprise, as I heard later that they had never hosted anything like a sci-fi convention before.

Ted and I wandered the halls for a few minutes, getting the lay of the land. Registration was easy to find, and the art show and programming rooms were all easily accessible. (The dealers’ room was tucked away in an odd little room on the first floor; we didn't find that until later.) Almost immediately, I ran into artist extraordinaire Chris Jones, who I had the sublime pleasure of encountering at Supercon a month ago. I was halfway through introducing Chris and Ted when they both said that they'd known each other for years.

As I've said before, Ted knows everybody.

The three of us chatted for a few moments before Chris asked if Ted and I were going to the Offense-a-Rama that night. The Offense-a-Rama, a yearly show by Minneapolis geek improv group The Scrimshaw Brothers, was absolutely a must see, and had nothing to do with the convention. Chris had mentioned it to me earlier in the week, and after waffling for a bit, I decided that yes, I could miss Friday evening at MarsCon to see The Scrimshaw Brothers perform. Since the show was at 11:00 PM, I figured we probably wouldn't miss a whole lot.

As Ted and I wandered onward to registration, we ran into friends Dex and Jennifer and chatted for a bit. We hadn't run into them for quite a long while, which is too bad because they are rather fascinating folks. Dex is a puppeteer and a special effects artist – how cool is that? I'm envious as all hell.

After a quick chat with them, Ted and I finally reached the registration table. Since I sent in my registration about eight months before, I couldn't remember if I had gone ahead and registered Ted or not, so we were hoping that I had. Sure enough, they had badges and programs waiting for both of us. Now we could do some serious wandering.

After inspection of the program, we discovered that the 11th floor of the hotel was the party floor and home to Consuite. Since neither of us had thought to have dinner before coming to the hotel, we decided to make Consuite our first serious inspection, so we headed for the elevators. Just before we got there, we ran into Jim Stone and his lovely wife, friends from the Minnesota Renaissance Festival. (Jim is perhaps better known as the "Dip in the Road".) I knew then for certain that this was going to be a good convention for social time. If things kept going at this pace, Ted and I were going to know every person at MarsCon.

We stayed at the elevators with the Stones and chatted a bit. It was wonderful to see Jim's wife feeling well and looking healthy – she had a tumor removed the previous fall, and it took her some time to mend from the procedure. After some catching up, the four of us finally got into an elevator destined for the 11th floor.

Consuite was easy to find, right next to the elevator bank. I was pleased to see that MarsCon had quite a nice Consuite going. The room was a vast corner suite with a soda fountain, a couple buffet tables stocked with decent snack food, and plenty of chairs and a couple couches. The two bedrooms were out of bounds, of course, and the bar did not stock alcohol (only regular coffee – no decaf – and water), but they actually had real sandwich fixings, ramen, and pickled artichokes among their food selections, so it was a fine Consuite. It was also decorated with a sort of fairy theme, which was kind of cool. Someone brought in a garden arch in and covered it with silk ivy, and also disguised a pillar in the room as a tree with some construction paper. Little static stickers of fairies adorned the panoramic windows.

Ted was filling up a bowl of ramen for himself when Pat Wick showed up. Pat is one of the geniuses behind CONvergence and the upcoming Omegacon, who I have worked with at both the Renaissance Festival and at one of the largest global corporations on the planet. However, I had never really talked with her until Supercon 2001, which is when I realized that I really should have started talking to her a long time ago. She's a blast.

Pat, Ted and I were chatting when we discovered that there were leaf-shaped pieces of colored paper on one of the tables, along with a pen and some tape. It took a couple moments before we realized that the purpose of this was for people to write on the leaves and tape them up on the disguised pillar-tree. Pat grabbed the pen first and wrote something to the effect of "Ted is cool" and taped it up. After some deliberation, I drew a lame picture of Zorak from Space Ghost, with the caption, "Zorak sez: STUFF YOU!" I taped it up on one of the higher branches.

ConcomAfter some other minor time-wasting in Consuite, 7:00 PM rolled around, which made it time for Opening Ceremonies. Pat, Ted, and I made our way back down to the main auditorium on 2nd floor. The three of us decided to be the Rowdy Section, and we were soon joined by the Stones, and a gent named Michael Lee, one of the web servants for CONvergence. As is usual for a convention, the ceremonies were delayed for a few minutes, which gave us, The Rowdy Section, time to be loud and obnoxious. (We weren't actually all that loud or obnoxious, but that's what we were telling ourselves.)

Finally, a very short Gandalf approximation walked out on-stage and began a Lord of the Rings-based skit. It was a good two minutes or so before I realized that the person in the Gandalf outfit was Steve McKillen, who I've run into many a time at various conventions (see both the reports for CONvergence 2001 and the Diversicon 2001). He was joined on-stage by a gent named Brian, a giant of a man who must have been well over six feet tall until they dressed him up as Frodo and made him walk on his knees onto the stage.

The skit was cute for about the first three or four minutes or so, which is about the average shelf life for a convention skit. Unfortunately, the thing dragged on and on, and Brian just looked uncomfortable, and finally the audience began to heckle a bit (it wasn't us in the Rowdy Section... we swear...). The skit eventually dragged to a halt, and Steve called John Levine to the stage, the only guest of honor who bothered to be part of the opening ceremonies.

John Levine, the British actor best known for his roll as Sergeant Benton on Dr. Who, took the stage, microphone in hand. He then did something of a standup routine, which invoked many of the oldest, stalest Henny Youngman-type one-liners ("I love this hotel. The concierge came up to my room and asked if I had a woman in there. I said no, so he threw one in." Rim shot please.). Fortunately, John Levine is an utterly charming fellow, so even though the jokes were awful, he was still fun to watch.

The ceremonies finished soon thereafter, so after a brief inspection of the program, Ted and I decided to go investigate the art show. On the way there, we ran into Steve in the hall, and chatted with him for a few moments. He seemed to be a little grouchy, so we soon traveled onward.

MarsCon's Art Show was rather sparse, unfortunately. To put things in perspective, ICON has a similar amount of attendees (around 700 people), but their art show was around twice the size of MarsCon's. Plus, a significant portion of the items shown at MarsCon were not very professionally done. That said, there were also some lovely pieces in the show. There was an exceptional stained-glass artist [05/10/02: I'm told her name is Jennifer Cleasby] who worked seashells into her glasswork. I also gleefully noticed that there were two large display spaces given to John and Denise Garner, two of the artists who painted me at ICON last year. When Ted and I saw that, we both wondered aloud if they would be here. John and Denise are wonderful people.

After our inspection of the Art Show, we decided to inspect the party floor. It was pat 8:00 PM, so the parties should just be getting started. As we made our way to the elevator bank, I saw something that filled me with vague dread.

The Drooling Fanboy was over there. Also waiting for the elevator.

I turned away and faced Ted and began laughing. "Look over there."

Ted saw him and got an evil twinkle in his eyes.

[Here's some backstory for you non-frequent readers: The Drooling Fanboy first showed up at CONvergence last year, when he somehow apparently thought I was actually interested in him. He then proceeded to paw at and follow me around. He then also showed up at Diversicon, though his behavior there was somewhat less interesting. You can read the CONvergence and Diversicon reports for details.]

Ted asked, "Should we get in the elevator with him, or should we just avoid him?"

Well, we wound up in the elevator with him, along with several other people. The DFB nervously said hi and made a little small talk with me as Ted grabbed me around the waist and began nuzzling the back of my neck. It was a cop-out to rely on Ted to deal with the DFB, but hey, it worked, and since Ted is quite good at nuzzling, I wasn't about to complain.

We all got to the 11th floor, and the DFB wandered off into the south wing of the floor. We went to the north and were done with him -- for the time being.

Sure enough, the parties were underway. Not every room was a party room, but the density was pretty good, as people were beginning to filter up from the main floors of the hotel.

Robots at the Mad Scientists' UnionThe first place we stopped in was the Mad Scientists' Union. There was only one person in there, the guy helming the party, but the room had this wonderful display of giant steel robots. We talked to the guy for a bit (never got his name, dammit), and it turns out he was also the man who hand-crafted each of these robots, and the largest of them was actually a Masquerade-winning costume. Ted and I hung out with him for a bit, even though he seemed to be a little pickled and told the same joke to everyone who walked into the room. (There was a big, fake pile of dog poo in the middle of the floor, and he took great pride in announcing that the Klingons had been in his room.)

From there, we went next door to the Beach Party on Mars room, hosted by the Klingon group, the Rake'Hell. The Rake'Hell always throws great parties, and this was no exception. They had a limited, but quite decent, bar going, and the room was completely filled with great beach decor, including a map of Mars, with all the best beaches marked. Of course, this place was packed with people, half of them dressed as Klingons. We did not inspect the drinks at that point, even though they looked great, as we knew we were going to The Scrimshaw Brothers show in a couple hours, and we did not want to get distracted.

From there, we poked our head into the CONvergence room for a few seconds to wave hello to what was basically the entire CONvergence committee, then wandered over to the south wing to see what was going on there. That was where we found room 1105, where -- yay! -- John and Denise Garner were hosting a fabulous social room. Ted and I found a couple chairs and hung out for a while just to watch people. We had a wonderful time watching one of Ted's male friends hit on a woman named Jolene, who had deemed herself the Evil Hobbit Wizard Slut and announced that she was very, very single.

I had been sitting in the room for some time before I noticed the item sitting on top of the room's entertainment center. I knew instantly that it was something Denise had made by hand.

It was a skullcap-type hat. With Cthulhu on it.

My eyes went wide, and I went up to inspect. It was gorgeous. It was made of dark brown velvet, with red glass eyes and tentacles posed into elegant curlicues that would look absolutely stunning coming out of Denise's long, curly hair.

I had seen other hats that Denise has made, and they all have been beautiful, ornate things with long, curling tendrils. But this was magnificent.

Ted gawked at it a bit, too. He remarked that I should ask to have Denise make one for me. As cool as the hat was, that didn't seem right to me, so I never mentioned anything. Denise made it for herself, and it would look stunning on her. That style hat (which requires hair combs to stay on) would never even stay on my head because of my lack of hair. Besides, having her make a second one would ruin the uniqueness of the first.

After eating a few more cookies, Ted and I wandered back to the CONvergence room, where our friends there were hosting an Indiana Jones party. They had hung several National Geographic maps across the walls of the room, then threaded red yarn across all of them, approximating the map sequences in the movies. I noted that Tim Wick, the world's biggest Indiana Jones nut, had clearly been in charge: the piece of yarn originated on a map of the United States, in San Francisco, where the red line begins in the movies.

Anyway, the room was still filled with various CONvergence concom members, including Tim and Pat Wick, Chris Jones, and Michael Lee, and someone had just begun The Mummy playing in the VCR. Ted and I decided that this would be a fine place to hang out until it was time to go to The Scrimshaw Brothers show. Thus, we staked out a spot on one of the hotel beds alongside Tim and Pat and began half-watching the movie, half chatting with everyone.

Around 45 minutes passed, then one by one, almost everyone in the room got up, bundled up to go outside, announced that they were going to the Offense-a-Rama, and left. I knew that most of the CONvergence folks were Scrimshaw Brothers fans, but I wasn't expecting a total mass exodus from MarsCon. Pretty soon, only a couple people were left in the room, then Ted and I announced that we were off to the show, and we left, too.

Since we hadn't gotten a room at the hotel, the two of us had left our coats in the car. When we left the warmth of the hotel, we rediscovered that, yes, Minnesota does get beastly cold during the winter, and March 1st is still winter. Shivering and swearing, we ran to the car, threw our icy-cold jackets on, and cranked the heater on high. Then we were off to the show, which was in downtown Minneapolis at the Loring Playhouse.

If anyone who was at MarsCon is ever wondering where everyone went at about 10:30 PM on Friday, you can tell them that we were all at the Offense-a-Rama. Literally, the entire audience, with the exception of two people, were people I had just seen at the convention. (The two people, who seemed to be rather upscale, normal folks, looked a little scared of this ragtag assortment, one of whom was still in Klingon makeup. In fact, they left before the lights came back up at the end of the show.)

I won't say a whole lot about the Offense-a-Rama, since it wasn't part of the convention and you probably don't care, but I will say this:

  • There's nothing like opening a show with two skinny, buck-naked guys clothed only with two bottles of Carl Rossi wine.
  • I really didn't need to hear the sound of Darth Vader masturbating. But I did laugh.
  • If you understand geek humor, live in the Minneapolis area, and have never seen a Scrimshaw Brothers show, you owe it to yourself to go.

We all laughed ourselves silly into the wee hours of the morning, and then returned to our homes in order to rest up for Day 2 of MarsCon.

03022002 The following morning, Ted and I decided we needed a battle plan. Actually, this was just an excuse to go out for breakfast, but we figured it was an impressive excuse, so off to Perkins we went. While we hoovered down our grease-laden hashbrowns, pancakes, eggs, and bacon (welcome to the Midwest), we studied the convention's programming schedule for the day and decided what we would like to see. The first interesting thing was a puppetry panel at 1:00 PM, followed by a panel with Guest of Honor Peter Woodward at 2:00 PM, a panel featuring John Levine at 4:00 PM, and finally the Masquerade at 8:00 PM. The Blue Mars movie room was showing a host of nifty videos, including some great silent Fritz Lang films, but I wasn't in the mood to watch anything that they were playing.

After this food-laden meeting, Ted and I decided to divide and conquer, since I intended to stay at the convention quite late, and he needed to be able to go home to take care of the dogs. So we both took off for our respective homes, with the agreement that we would meet at the puppetry panel at 1:00 PM.

Once at home, I began assembling a costume. It had been a long time since I had been in an actual costume at a convention, and since the theme of MarsCon this year was high fantasy, many of the women were running around in fairy costumes. I saw this the day before and had an idea... to quote Dr. Seuss, "got a wonderful, awful idea." A few years ago, some friends held a fairy-themed birthday party for one of their children, and everyone had to come in costume. That was when Ted and I had first gotten the idea to go as punk fairies. I still had most of the costume laying around, and I figured that MarsCon would be an excellent excuse to bring it out into the light again.

I spent the next couple of hours running around my apartment. "Wings with earring piercings... check... torn t-shirt with anarchy symbol... check... black lipstick... check... bicycle gloves... check... torn fishnet stockings... check... knee-high boots... check... denim shorts... check... pointy latex ears... uh, pointy latex ears... DAMMIT!"

I found everything except for the pointy ears. I turned my apartment upside down looking for the damned things. Finally, I just decided that I would look around the convention for some ears. The dealers' room had to have some. I mean, it's a sci-fi convention. You have to have a stock of fake latex ears at a sci-fi convention.

I assembled the incomplete costume into a bag, then dug around until I found my black vinyl pants and a nice sweater. Since I usually wear something provocative on convention Saturdays, I figured that, even if I didn't manage to pull of the complete fairy costume, I could still wander around in something shiny. Besides, vinyl pants are remarkably warm on very cold days, since absolutely no air can cut through them.

Thus attired, I drove to the Hilton and pulled into a parking space just as Ted's car drove into the lot. When we both got out of our cars, I saw he was wearing his black leather pants (yum!). Great minds do truly think alike.

Against our better judgment, we left our coats in the cars and dashed across the parking lot into the relative tropical warmth of the hotel. It was a little past 1:00 PM, but we didn't quite feel like hitting the panels just yet. Instead, we decided we would try to find the dealers' room and take a peek in there. Besides, I wanted to see how much prosthetic ears were.

We found the dealers' room tucked into an odd little corner on first floor, in a room behind one of the restaurants. Like the art show, it was quite small, but it seemed to have a decent assortment of offerings. One of the vendors was selling mini plush toy Cthulhus for $7.00, the type that I like to buy in bulk and bestow upon my friends as random gifts. Since I was fresh out of mini Cthulhus (I had given my last one to Kyle at Supercon), I told the vendor I would be back to pick up at least one (the Nyarlathotep Soul Processor needed one).

One of the other kiosks was indeed selling latex ears for $9.00 a pop. They even had a pretty good assortment of them, but I just didn't feel like forking over $9.00 for ears. Instead, I asked Ted if he could look for his old ears from the fairy party when he went home to take care of the dogs in the evening.

Further into the dealers' room, I ran into Sandy (Sharon's sister) and Katie, running their usual handmade jewelry booth. (They usually sell our Cthulhu Coffee items in the dealers' room at CONvergence.) I chatted with them for a few minutes then wandered on.

As there really wasn't all that much else that was exciting in there (though, interestingly enough, there was a Tarot reader at one of the tables), Ted and I then decided to find the puppetry panel, which was now about half over. We found the programming room within a few minutes. When we walked in, we were pleasantly surprised that Dex and Jennifer were the people running the panel. We shouldn't have been surprised, really -- we should have put two and two together and known that Dex and Jennifer would be doing some panels when we saw them the day before -- but it was nice to have a chance to listen to them for a while. When we walked in, they had several video clips of puppetry playing on a monitor, making comments on each one. They played clips of just about every film and TV puppet you could think of, from Jabba the Hutt to Farscape's Rigel, noting how the puppet was made, how it was operated, who designed it... neat stuff. The panel was over far too quickly, and Ted and I both regretted stopping in the dealers' room first.

After the panel, we exchanged a few pleasantries with Dex and Jennifer, then trekked to the next panel, which was evidently Peter Woodward talking about his experiences on Babylon 5 Crusade (he played Galen in the series). I'm not a great Babylon 5 watcher, but as Peter Woodward has also been writing and hosting specials for the History Channel, he seemed to be someone who would be very interesting to listen to.

The crowd was quite small at the panel; we were actually kind of dwarfed in the large main stage ballroom. Peter was sitting on the edge of the stage, just chatting with everyone. He was absolutely fascinating -- I regret not seeing this guy at any other point at the convention. He actually talked very little about Babylon 5, since most of the questions he got were about other projects, particularly the History Channel specials. Instead, we heard quite a bit about research on the pyramids of Giza and the history of the Masada. The man is remarkably well-versed in science and history, and he talked about it easily. It was interesting to hear him dispense these historical tidbits amongst questions about his acting roles. He also spoke at some length about his work on Charmed and The Patriot, but it really wasn't nearly as interesting as his documentary work.

After the panel, Ted and I decided to hang out in the hotel lobby for a while. It was something of a sleepy afternoon, and we started wondering if we should just rent a room for the evening so we could go have a nap. Instead, we staked out spots on some comfortable-looking couches near the front desk and watched the convention-goers pass by. Soon enough, we were joined by Cthulhu Coffee's own George, who was already in full Klingon regalia from some Rake'Hell activities earlier in the day. The three of us chatted idly for a while, and George wandered off. A few minutes later, a fine gent in full Jedi garb named John wandered by and joined us for chatting. I know John from CONvergence (he is a member of the local Farscape group), so I introduced him to Ted (finally, someone Ted doesn't already know), and the three of us talked for the rest of the hour, mostly griping about Star Wars merchandising.

4:00 PM rolled around quickly, and soon Ted and I found ourselves in the John Levine panel. I'm not a Dr. Who fan, either, but Mr. Levine was such a charming gentleman during opening ceremonies (despite the bad jokes) that I decided that I simply had to go to one of his panels. It was an hour well-spent. Even though he spoke of work that I was completely unfamiliar with (mostly Dr. Who projects), he was quite good at telling tales, and he was great fun to listen to. He was quite the scatterbrain. Every once in a while he would go off on a tangent and really never come back. When we walked in, he was griping about how Americans call women "guys", then proposed how we should just call everyone blokes and move on with life, then he went along some sort of tangent that involved light preaching about how women should be respected as ladies, then he somehow wound his way back to talking about Dr. Who. He was quite the gentleman.

Later in the panel, he talked very evasively about a new project he was working on (he couldn't give specifics, since the project wasn't a complete go yet), but whatever it is, I'm excited to see what comes of it. Since I've missed out on his Dr. Who work, I would like to see this fine fellow involved in a new project.

After the panel, Ted decided that it was time to go home and take care of the dogs. I reminded him to look for the ears and walked him to the front doors, where I ran into George again. We talked for a little while in the lobby, and I eventually mentioned my costuming dillema. No ears, no place to change, etc. He immediately volunteered his room as changing space, and even said he could probably track down the ears in the Rake'Hell's costuming bins. I thanked him for the offers, and told him that I'll let him know if I needed the ears, but I'd definitely take him up on the changing space.

After George ran off to another engagement, I wandered by the front doors of the hotel. The front lobby was swamped with people in smart-looking suits, who obviously weren't fandom related. I noted several corsages and tuxedos, then I saw the newlyweds come in. The woman was in one of those big, expensive white dresses that said that she probably did not expect to be having her wedding reception in a hotel that was also hosting a bunch of people dressed like Klingons. I smiled wickedly to myself. This was likely going to yeild some fun people-watching later on.

After watching this spectacle for a while, I saw Richard and Aimee walk in the doors. (Richard runs the Gadgeteer's Petting Zoo at CONvergence, and Aimee is usually the MC at CONvergence's Masquerade. Ted has been friends with Richard since high school.) I was thrilled to see the two of them; I hadn't seen them since... well, too long ago. They had recently gotten engaged, and I had yet to congratulate them.

The three of us decided that a visit to Consuite would be a good thing, so we wandered up to the elevator lobby. As is par for a convention, the elevators were being either excruciatingly slow, or they were broken, so after a good wait, we decided to hit the stairs. Richard had injured his back the week before, so I was worried about him climbing 11 floors of stairs, but he seemed to be up for it, as long as he could crash in on the floor of Consuite once we got there.

Indeed, the first thing we did when we got to Consuite was stake out a spot on the floor for Richard to lie on, and he gingerly stretched out there. Aimee and I sat on the floor by him, and the three of us continued to talk for a good while. Mostly, we chatted about their wedding plans and the upcoming CONvergence.

Around half an hour later, my cell phone rang. Ted had found both the ears and the spirit gum. The costume was a go. Since it was around 6:30 PM, and I wanted to watch the Masquerade at 8:00, I had to get into costume soon, lest I miss part of the Masquerade. So I said goodbye to Richard and Aimee and went in search of George.

George, fortunately, is not a difficult person to find. In fact, I ran into him before I even got to the elevators. He said he was going to his room, so I told him that if he was going to be there for a while, I was going to run to my car and get my stuff, then meet him there.

Melissa and GeorgeAround ten minutes later, I was in George's hotel room on sixth floor, getting dressed in the punk fairy costume. As I was pulling on my boots, I called Ted to tell him what room I was in, and to bring the ears up there. Since Ted hadn't left his house yet, he asked if I would feel like having some cigars and scotch later. I, of course, did not turn him down.

Meanwhile, George and his wife Sarah were in the other room, eating Kentucky Fried Chicken and drinking rum. Sarah offered up some rum for me, as well, and I graciously accepted, even though I'm not a huge fan of rum by itself. Once I had assembled my costume and make-up, I sat down on the bed by Sarah and waited for Ted to arrive with the final costume piece. The three of us talked for a while, mostly about reptiles, as they both were members of the Minnesota Herpetological Society, and their house was a foster home to many lizards and snakes who were waiting for adoption by a good home. As a matter of fact... there was a closed sweater box on the bed.

"Do you want to see my lizard?" asked Sarah.

Of course I did, so she popped open the sweater box, and lo and behold, there was a fine little bearded dragon standing utterly still in the center of the box. Sarah had wrapped a couple hot water bottles in towels and placed them in one side of the box to keep him warm.

"I didn't have time to go home and drop him off," she explained.

Apparently, she had gotten the lizard at the Society's monthly meeting, which had been the evening before. He was a healthy, plump little dragon, and quite well behaved. She tossed a small piece of chicken into the box.

"It's probably not the best food for him, but if he's hungry, he might want it."

The bearded dragon didn't even look at the food. Their standard fear response is to freeze and not move a muscle, and that was exactly what he was doing.

We closed up the box, and a couple minutes later, Ted showed up at the door with the ears. He chatted for a bit with George and Sarah while I ducked into the bathroom to stick the latex appendages to my ears. In the meantime, George finished his dinner and put on his favorite costume, his Ming the Merciless outfit.

Finally, we were all ready to go. Sarah made sure to snap a couple photos of George and me in our outfits before the four of us ran back out into the convention. It was almost 8:00 PM. Time for the Masquerade.

K'elvis!Ted and I found a spot near the back of the auditorium, and we were soon joined by the Stones. Jim was in full garb as well, as Austin Powers, and his wife was dressed in a matching lime-green go-go dress. The four of us settled in to watch the show.

The lights went down, and the mistress of the Masquerade came out, wearing a black wedding dress and chewing gum. I'm not sure who she was, but she had an easy stage presence and some great wisecracks to offer. She made a few announcements, then introduced the Master of Ceremonies, Steve McKillen.

The ensuing show should have been entitled, "Why Steve Shouldn't MC Anything." Steve has his talents, but he likes to ham, mug, and steal the spotlight, and he was doing precisely that to all of the costumed contestants. Despite the fact that there were some fun costumes on-stage (nothing that was high-art, but some very fun stuff), Steve would always manage to try to wriggle in his own comments, wisecracks, and even a couple insults. Big no-no. I found myself wishing that the Masquerade mistress had stayed around and done the show herself.

Despite that, the costume show was fun. There were about ten or fifteen entries, most of them fairly good, most of them Klingons. Some highlights:

  • Steve had apparently talked John into signing up for the show at the last minute. He walked out in full Jedi garb, walking a remote-control R2D2 toy.
  • K'elvis, the Klingon King of Rock n' Roll, leapt out on-stage with a rhinestoned bat'leth and a sparkling white jumpsuit.
  • One of the Klingons donned bright yellow clothes and a yellow feather boa and marketed himself as a Klingon florist.
  • Yet another Klingon, attired in Rasta dreadlocks, a goofy sun-visor, a loud Hawaiian shirt, and striped shorts, came out on-stage with a camera, clicking photos of everything in sight. Yes, a Klingon tourist.

After this pageantry, the judges adjourned to decide on a winner, and none other than Ming the Merciless took the stage. The audience cheered mightily as they saw George take the podium, and the whole auditorium broke into a chant: "HAIL MING! HAIL MING! HAIL MING!" It was quite the entrance.

Ming basked in this glory for a moment, then began his announcement. To paraphrase, he announced that some 541 of his brides had been lost in a freak airlock accident, and that he was holding auditions for new brides. He said that the following women were all fine candidates, and that the audience would help him choose later which would be the best one to marry.

Thus, the half-time show began. The lights came up, and a team of bellydancers took the stage. The audience, of course, went nuts.

I wasn't expecting to be too thrilled by the bellydancing show, but I found that I was rather pleasantly entertained. The guys in the auditorium, of course, were ecstatic, even though most of the dancers were obviously amateurs (there were two or three who seemed to be quite good) and most were, shall we say, fairly heavyset women. The dancers impressed the hell out of me, not because they were particularly good at dancing, but because they were all having a good time, smiling at the audience as if they liked nothing better in the world than bellydancing. I was also pleased to see that they were much more confident with their bodies than, say, I am -- even though I am arguably in better shape than most of the women who were up there dancing, I wouldn't be caught dead wearing only a coin-laden bra and a jingly hip-riding skirt. More power to them if they are confident enough to do that. Moreover, the audience was thrilled about each and every one of the dancers, no matter what they looked like. It was one hell of a lot better than all of the other bellydancing shows I have ever seen at various Renaissance Festivals, which usually feature waifish little stick-figures that joined the bellydancing troupes because they want to wear the scant clothing, not because they wanted to dance.

The bellydancers were on-stage for a good half-hour to forty-five minutes, entering the stage in teams. The music was generally very traditional, though one of the pieces was a Middle Eastern version of the X-Files theme.

After the show, Ming took the stage again and called all of the dancers out for a final bow, which brought great applause. He then announced that he would now pick his bride, and he entreated the audience to help him make his decision. He said that he was going to raise his hand over each of their heads and, through the amount of applause for each woman, he would choose the best woman to marry.

Everyone in the audience shifted uncomfortably. Everyone was a little alarmed that Ming was about to turn this into a popularity contest.

But instead, when Ming went behind the women and raised his hand, he dashed along the row of women so that he, essentially, had his hand above all their heads at the same time. The audience roared and cheered. "You're right! I should marry all of them!" he cried.

After they left the stage, the Masquerade mistress appeared again and announced the awards. I really don't remember who won, or in what places, but I seem to remember seeing the Klingon tourist back on the stage.

And so commenced the party crawling.

Ted and I wandered back over to the elevators and waited patiently for a while. One of the wedding party guys (remember them?) was also waiting by the elevator. I smiled at him. He avoided looking at me. I figure he was hoping that I didn't get into the same elevator with him.

The elevators were taking a while, and were packed full of people, so eventually Ted and I just gave up and climbed the stairs to the 11th floor.

The first room we checked out was John and Denise's party. We didn't hang out long, but Denise was indeed wearing the Cthulhu hat, and just as I expected, it looked gorgeous on her. This was also the first time I saw the matching wings, too, which were set carefully in her curly locks.

Their room was packed, so we wandered on to the CONvergence room, where Pat and Tim were hawking stuffed grape leaves upon anyone who walked in. Ted and I gratefully ate many of these tasty treats while chatting with everyone. The whole CONvergence concom was garbed in Indiana Jones-themed clothing; I don't think I've ever seen so many khaki clothes at a convention before.

Without a doubt, the CONvergence party had the best food. Pita bread, hummus, dates... and did I mention the stuffed grape leaves?

Ted and I gladly hung out there for a while. I don't remember a whole lot about the conversations, but I do remember Tim demonstrating how well he could trade a golden idol for a bag of sand, complete with golden idol replica.

Eventually, Ted and I wandered along to check out what the Klingons were doing at the beach party across the hall. Indeed, the bar was still there, and this time, Ted and I sampled their offerings. There were two offerings, one of them involving the drink Hot Sex, and one of them involving, I believe, something like a banana marguerita. Ted first picked the marguerita, then when he tasted my choice of Hot Sex, he decided that he also needed one of those. Well-armed with alcohol, we walked back out into the hallway for some prime people-watching.

We idly stood out there for a while, chatting with whoever walked past. Windy Merrill spent a good amount of time trying to thread red yarn throughout the hallway, beginning in the CONvergence room. We're not quite sure what she was trying to accomplish, but it was evident that the yarn wasn't cooperating in some way, and the attempt was aborted.

Sarah then appeared, and Ted asked her if he could get his stuff out of the hotel room (he had left the cigars and his checkbook there). The three of us then went to the 6th floor, retrieved Ted's things and checked on the lizard, and off we went.

This was about when Ted and I decided to find a spot to smoke cigars. He mentioned that he saw that the hotel bar actually sold cigars, so it should be okay to smoke them there as well.

Ted and MelissaSo, there I was, dressed still in torn fishnet stockings, fairy wings, and black lipstick, in the hotel bar. Ted and I settled into a corner and lit up our cigars while we watched the people at the bar commingle. Interestingly enough, it seemed like the wedding party had disappeared, and the only haunters in the bar were make-up clad convention-goers. After a few minutes, Ted decided to find out what Scotches were served by the bar, so he bellied up and chatted with the bartender. He returned with two glasses of some rich, amber liquid.

"What did you find?" I asked when I saw him beam with glee.

"The Macallen 25," he replied.

If they serve Scotch in paradise (and they would in a proper paradise), this would be the Scotch they serve.

We probably whiled away a good hour in the bar, sitting quietly, smoking Hemmingways and drinking Macallen.

As that was a nice close to the evening, Ted went home after that. I, on the other hand, had more party-surfing to do, though I was really quite tired and a little zonked after the cigar. I dutifully trekked back up to the 11th floor.

I went back to John and Denise's party, where the Karaoke machine was in full swing. Matthew, another mutual friend of Ted's and mine, was sitting on the bed with the microphone, leading the room in a rendition of Weird Al Yankovick's "Spam". Since I still don't get into the Karaoke thing, I instead stood in a corner and talked with Jim Stone for a while.

I soon wandered on, then firmly landed at the CONvergence party. The party was winding down, so everyone had pretty much gotten out of costume and was just lazing about and talking. As I said, I was a bit zonked after the cigar, so I just sat back and listened to everyone else for a while. Finally, I caught onto the tail-end of a story that Windy was telling. Something about a creepy guy that had been in the room earlier. I asked what had happened, and I got the full account.

Apparently, this creepy guy was in the room and decided to sit next to Windy while she was talking to several of the other girls. He kept trying to start up a conversation, then he -- ulp! -- touched her arm. She glared at him, and he said, "I shouldn't have done that?"

"NO!" she replied.

He then hung around for a while longer, trying to get into the conversation, to no avail. He then tried to cozy up to one of the other girls. No luck. Pat, bless her devious mind, then decided to have some fun. She made sure Tim was around, and then began talking to this guy.

The guy then began bemoaning about how he could never get girls to talk to him, that everyone was pairing off except him, that nobody would even talk to him, and that Pat was the only person so far to look him in the eye and speak with him, blah blah blah. A gent named Peter, who was sitting nearby, heard this, and walked up to introduce himself. He did this completely in earnest, mind you.

"Hi, I'm Peter," he said, offering his hand for a handshake.

"I'M STRAIGHT!" cried the Creepy Guy, who then practically sprinted out the door.

Everyone was dumbfounded. Creepy Guy had some serious issues, apparently.

So, what do Pat and Windy do? Why, have fun, of course! They enlisted fellow CONvergence concom member Matt to help, and the three of them followed Creepy Guy to Consuite.

As Pat and Windy watched from the wings, Matt went up to Creepy Guy, who had been working on cornering some scared-looking 16-year-old girl, but was now investigating the snacks table.

"Hi, I'm Matt!"

Creepy Guy grunted and turned away.

"I'm just trying to start a conversation with you..." Matt said.

Creepy Guy practically sprinted out of Consuite.

So, that was the main tale of the Creepy Guy. As this tale was related by Windy and Pat, other women in the room would pipe up with their own tales of Creepy Guy hitting on them.

It finally clicked in my head.

"Did he look like..." I described the Drooling Fanboy.

"YES!" everyone cried.

I laughed. I announced that they had just encountered The Drooling Fanboy, and that not only had I run into him at other conventions, but that his antics were even documented on the Cthulhu Coffee web site. We all burst into laugher as we started piecing the stories together. Yet another run-in with the DFB. Unbelievable.

Conversation wore well into the wee hours of the morning, and after a spell I walked out into the hallway in order to wake up a little bit. I ran into George and Sarah at the elevators, where they were preparing to go to their room for a couple of things. I took advantage of this opportunity to follow them back to the room so I could change back into normal clothes and get my things out of their way. I thanked them heartily, washed my face, changed clothes, and took my stuff to my car.

Feeling much more comfortable out of the fairy attire, I went back to the CONvergence room, where everyone was lending a hand in clean-up. I did what I could, but really, there were so many people helping that I felt that I was more getting in the way than anything. I helped pack up the snack food (eating a lot of it in the meantime), was part of a bizarre theater of errors in re-assembling the beds (the matresses had been leaned up against the wall for space), and was part of a fire-brigade line that formed for the purpose of moving cans of Shasta soda from the CONvergence bathtub to the Krushenko's party room. The room turned into a bizarre approximation of an anthill as everyone helped clean.

While all this was going on, one of the other helpers was navigating a bowl of salsa to the bathroom when SPLAT! Down on the floor it went. A huge pool of salsa formed on the pale blue carpet, and huge splatters of the stuff appeared on any wall within three feet of the accident. The anthill activity froze, and everyone got that wide-eyed oh-no look. Then three or four people dove for some towels and water.

Fortunately, the Hilton must have the best stain guard carpeting and paint ever created by man. The salsa wiped up without a single stain.

After this excitement, it was time for the party to wind down. A few people hung around, speading themselves out on the newly reformed beds, chatting idly and playing with a tinkertoy set that someone had thoughtfully brought. It was around 4:00 AM, and I was so tired that I don't even remember who was there, though I believe Chris Jones was around for a while. I finally decided that I should go home before I was too tired to drive, so I threw in the towel and called it an evening.

03032002 Sunday morning, Ted and I decided to do breakfast once again, but this time, we figured that we'd eaten at Perkins enough and instead went to Key's Cafe in downtown Minneapolis. Food-wise, it was an excellent choice, but it was lousy for planning purposes. Key's is one of the busiest cafes in the Twin Cities, so it was almost 1:00 PM before we were fed and out of there. Dex aqnd Jennifer were running a panel on pre-1960 sci-fi collecting at 1:00 PM, and we just weren't going to make it to the convention in time to see it.

In fact, since that was the only thing Ted was interested in on the Sunday program, he just decided to stay at home. I was on my own.

Ah, well, so it goes. After a brief stop at home to dress in my most comfortable jeans and laziest gray sweatshirt, I drove back to the Hilton.

Sarah and LizardIt was nearly 2:00 PM when I got there, and indeed, I ran into Dex and Jennifer on their way out the door after their panel. They had evidently shown up just to do the panel, and now they were going home.

After seeing them off, I went to the dealers room and picked up my mini plush Cthulhu, as I had promised to do. I stuck him in the marsupial pocket of my sweatshirt and wandered back into the lobby.

For the next hour, I just hung out on the stairway and chatted with anyone who walked past. I wound up talking with a hodgepodge group of people, including Matt and a fellow named Kevin Wilson, who I had also run into at Diversicon 2001, the Convention of Kevins.

Eventually, Sarah wandered by as well, bundled up in a denim jacket, which was zipped up to her throat. Someone walked up to her and was about to hug her when she ducked under the open arms and said that they'll crush her lizard. With that, she unzipped the jacket a little bit, and there was the bearded dragon, cozied up to her chest.

A few minutes later, John and Denise Garner wandered by. Denise was dressed up in black garter-stockings and a little red plaid dress, which stood in stark contrast to everyone else's rather relaxed garb. She was also armed with a pair of red pompoms. Odd.

That's when I remembered that The Fan Show was going to commence at 3:00 PM. The Fan Show, one of Steve McKillen's brainchildren, was based upon Comedy Central's The Man Show, and would feature Steve and Brian in a series of Man Show-like skits. This was actually the second annual Fan Show; the version they did last year had been so well received, they decided to do a second episode.

Denise Garner as a Fan GirlAs it turns out, Denise had been recruited by Steve to be a Fan Girl, much like the Juggies on The Man Show. She was actually out trying to recruit more women to be Fan Girls. She looked at my baggy grey sweatshirt with disappointment.

"Do you have anything else to wear? A t-shirt? Anything? What are you wearing under that...?"

I told her that, no, I'm afraid I just wasn't going to be Fan Girl material that day. I didn't even have any of my gym clothes in my car. She wandered off in search of more Fan Girls.

Idle hallway talk ensued for the following twenty minutes, and then it was time for The Fan Show to start. We all filtered into the main auditorium, which was already quite filled with people. It was almost as good a turnout as Masquerade.

In front of the stage was a large banquet table stocked with cans of Mountain Dew, all arranged in neat rows. A gentleman dressed as Doctor Who (who, oddly enough, is also named Kevin Wilson) handed out these cans to everyone in the audience as we settled in, along with lyrics sheets for the words to the Fan Song.

Then the music cranked up, Denise and the impromptu Fan Girls appeared, and everyone sang boisterously and out of tune. It was a good start.

Brian and Steve then entered the stage and began their shticks. It was actually quite a good show, a much better offering than the opening ceremonies skit. Some highlights:

  • A large portion of the show was given to the "inventions" segment, which featured, among other things, a Fanspeak to English translator and a Nordic Trek exercise machine.
  • During the "If I Were Ming" segment, when Steve donned a false bald head and began to list off his demands, George ran past the stage, sat down at the buffet table, and began taking notes.
  • Not only did they manage to get a trampoline for the Fan Girls to jump on after the show, but Steve also wound up jumping on it.

The Nordic TrekThe show didn't quite fill the hour until 4:00 PM, when the closing ceremonies were scheduled, but it did a fine enough job. After the show was finished, I had some time to sit and chat with Matt. We were looking forward to hearing the attendance numbers at the closing ceremonies, and had some discussion about attendance at other conventions.

Then the closing ceremonies started.

And the damn things never ended.

Closing ceremonies at conventions generally have three purposes: first, to announce the attendance numbers, second, to have the guests give a closing speech of some sort, and third, to let everyone know where the dead dog party is at. The attendees and con staff alike are dog tired by the time the closing ceremonies roll around, and usually would rather just either go home or go to the dead dog party to get seriously pickled. Anything that happens outside of any of the aforementioned three things had better be pretty damn good, or else you irritate the hell out of people.

The MarsCon closing ceremonies were, well, one-and-a-half flippin' hours of concom members congratulating other concom members. All the guests of honor had already left (aside from Lyda Morehouse, who was lounging on the stage in a hot pink stole), so we didn't get any closing speeches from them. We didn't even get a cheesy skit. No, it just started with the con chair calling all of the concom members and volunteers to the stage. She then commenced to hand out a certificate of thanks to each and every human, alien, or dog who had ever had anything to do with MarsCon since before it's conception. It was perhaps the most insufferably boring thing I had ever witnessed in my life. I wouldn't wish that experience on my worst enemies. You know that scene in A Clockwork Orange where Alex had to sit in the chair with his eyelids pried open? That's how I felt. All I wanted were the closing numbers...

Lyda MorehouseSorry, guys, it's great that you want to thank and praise everyone that helped with the convention, but can't you do it privately?

And do you know what the worst part was? We never even got the attendance numbers.


Anyway, much to my disbelief, the blasted ceremonies finally did end, and Matt and I trekked to Consuite for some food and perhaps a bit of the dead dog party (or dead cow party, depending who you talk to). It was there we ran into John and Denise again, as well as Kevin Wilson (the one from the Convention of Kevins, not the one dressed as Dr. Who). A good group of people were gathered in the room, in fact, all cruising for a bite to eat and some good conversation. It was 5:30 PM, and the dead dog party was firmly underway.

Not a whole lot happened after that other than a lot of talking. Kevin and I wound up sprawling out on a couple of armchairs, chatting about movies and books until it became very, very dark outside. We were a little shocked to find out it was 9:30 PM, and neither of us had eaten lunch, let alone dinner. We decided to hit the local Perkins before they closed, and well, that was the last I saw of MarsCon 2002.

Honestly, there really wasn't a whole lot to MarsCon, though I did have quite a bit of fun with the people I knew. The parties were good, the guests were decent, but there really wasn't anything spectacular about the convention itself. The other folks I talked to concurred that it just didn't seem to have a whole lot of energy going for it. Of course, it is a relatively young convention (this was only its fourth year), and could go far. It is rather well organized, and all the ingredients are there. It just needs salt.

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