Convention Reports
A Visit to Marcon 32

Well, it's been a couple weeks since the con, and the pictures are back from the developer, so I guess it's time to start writing.

Say, why are all the leaves falling off the trees? Didn't they just come in? Great Caesar's Ghost! The calendar says it's October. Oops. I guess that my procrastinating nature was in full bloom this time. :)

Seriously, though, I did write a synopsis of the con about a week or so after it, for the (Babylon 5-related) Zocalo online newsletter. They were good enough to print it back in issue 110. (Thanks!) The initial, longer version (I trimmed it down to fit the submission guidelines) is a significant fraction of this report. :)) The rest of the report comes from my notes, and my easily-jogged memory.

Note that my photography skill is limited, and I'm not skilled at all in retouching pictures, so they may seem amateurish. That's because they are! Ha! Fooled ya! :)


[Picture of hotel]

Marcon 32 took place over the weekend of May 9-11, 1997 in scenic Columbus, OH. (Okay, so it doesn't have spectacular scenery, Ohio is pretty flat compared to Colorado, for example, but it's a nice-looking city. I really like the convention center that it's held in, especially the food court. I never went outside all weekend!) In the picture at right, the Hyatt Regency is the glass tower on the left, and the actual convention center stretches off the right side of the picture.

This year's guests of honor were:

[Picture of Harry Turtledove]


Friday

I started out by taking in some of the art show and dealer's room, which I would visit a few more times over the con. Then at 8 PM, I was at the Harry Turtledove reading, from his forthcoming book _How Few Remain_. This book has since come out. It's about an alternate history in which the South won the Civil War. (In our world, some marching plans were lost by Confederate soldiers, found by the Union, and used to force the battle of Antietam - a battle that kept England the France from recognizing the Confederacy as a separate nation. In the book, the plans were not lost.) The year is 1881, and the action of the CSA buying a large tract of land from the Kingdom of Mexico (which would give them access to the Pacific) causes another war to start. Abraham Lincoln (alive, but near-universally despised for losing the Civil War), Samuel Clemens, George Custer, Stonewall Jackson, Jeb Stuart, Frederick Douglass and Teddy Roosevelt are main viewpoint characters, along with a German named Schliefen (whom I've never heard of). This looks like a really good book.

At 9:00, I went to a Juanita Coulson concert. (Did I mention that I became a filk fan since last Marcon? :)) This was my first experience with her, and while she's a good (and loud) singer, I didn't find it as entrancing as, say, Tom Smith. Afterwards, I saw the end of the Filmmakers' Seminar. The filmmakers there (JMS, Tracy Torme, and two others whose names I didn't catch) showed some clips of their shows. JMS' was a 30-second clip of upcoming scenes. Very interesting. (No time to write them down, so I don't recall specifically what all of them were, but all of them would have shown by now.)

At 11:00 (after a short trip upstairs to buy a copy of Tom Smith's new CD, "Tom Smith Plugged" and "Tom Smith's Big Book of Stupid Filk Tricks", which also contains lyrics), I saw the Moebius Theater talk about "Mad Scientist Career Opportunities." Moebius Theater is an acting group that puts on (crazy, zany) presentations like this at a lot of different conventions. Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures of this group, but trust me, they are a lot of fun to watch.

After this, I adjourned to the anime room, and saw "Ghost Sweeper Mikami" and "Neon Genesis Evangelion 3." Evangelion is one of the hottest anime shows in the US just now, but I haven't gotten into it for some reason. (Well, I'm not much into giant robot shows) Not like "El Hazard" that I first saw at Marcon last year. I tracked down all the tapes of that. :)

And then: ZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzz........

Well, first, there was the situation with the elevators. The Hyatt has four elevators. This should be sufficient, right? Wrong... It seemed that every time I was going to or coming from my room (on the 12th floor), no matter what time of the day or night, I had to wait an interminable time. Sheesh. I don't think that the elevators ever went out (like I have seen at other cons), but it would have been really bad if they had.

Saturday

Bright and early (or so it generally seems at a fandom con) at 11 AM, JMS hosted the 2-hour Babcom TV, which filled the largest hall the con could muster to the brim. (The Masquerade was in the same room later that day, and didn't seem to have as many people.) It started with the same clip I had seen the previous night. Unfortunately, there were sound problems (in other words, there was no sound system :)) for a half an hour or so, so he had to shout in order for the back of the room to hear him. Eventually, he was convinced to move to the center of the room. He stood on a couple chairs there, stoically answering questions. The main revelation for me there was that episode 422/522 is set 20 years after Season 4. (This, of course, allows the year five that has since been ordered to easily slide in between.) Also, JMS revealed his revenge on Andreas and Peter for the con incident in August 1996. Out of deference for JMS not putting it online, I won't reveal it here. It was good, though. :) Harlan was in tears laughing when he heard about it.

Eventually, the sound system was fixed, and he adjourned to the front of the room. There was a gag reel, which was hilarious. (I understand that the gag reels might be available from the B5 Fan Club in the future.) I especially liked the scene in which Londo is visiting ::mumble:: in jail near the beginning of Season 4. He's surprised at ::mumble::'s condition, then continues.. "I've smuggled you in some Wheat Thins...", which he proceeds to pull out of his jacket. Next was a tape of upcoming scenes, which have all been seen by us US viewers since, but caused a lot of speculation at the time. JMS finished off with some more questions I've seen answers to on the net before. Oh yeah, there was a mention about a possible theatrical movie, dealing with a telepath war... :) (Of course, since Marcon, TNT has commissioned the fifth season, as well as the two TV movies JMS talked about at the con.)


[Picture of Tom Smith] 1 PM brought me to another Juanita Coulson concert, then I visited the dealers' room and art show again. (What to buy, what to buy???) I would have liked to have seen Marcon Mystery Theater 3200 (I liked the small sample of it that I got last year), but it was up against the major non-B5 item I wanted to see: the Tom Smith concert at 3:00. I showed up a little early, seeing some of Tracy Torme talking about Sliders (a show that I've only seen a few times; I think I watched all of the initial short run, and gave up because it was kind of silly and Fox was showing them out of order; I understand that it later became better, but reached a new low in the last season) I got a good seat for the concert, which became even better when Smith decided to do a "concert in the round". (OK, I was usually looking at the back of his head, but I was really close! Look at the photograph!) This concert was a bit short, because the Sliders panel had went long, and the time required for everyone to rearrange chairs before and after the concert. (BTW, take a look into getting his new album, "Tom Smith Plugged", on tape and CD! Click here for info, including lyrics to a number of the songs.) I have since found out about a possible new album, "The 500 Hats of Tom Smith", for next Marcon. (This would be primarily his parodies.) Let's cross our fingers!..
[Picture of Michael Longcor]

At 4 PM, I followed Smith and other filk fen to the Michael "Moonwolf" Longcor concert. I had never seen him before, but while most of his songs were not as funny as Smith's, they certainly were entertaining. I now have two of his albums, and one of my favorite songs (apparently partly inspired by Smith) is "Rhinotillexomania," a song about fighting nasal buildup. :) Longcor has a lot of serious songs, too. I guess that he's best known for historical ballads.

After this, I happened across Ed Wasser finishing up his presentation in the hall by the dealers' room. I understand that he had too many people attending his Q&A to fit in the room, so he moved them all out into the hall. Wasser impresses me with his ethical and moral strength. (I've seen him at other, smaller cons.) He's nothing like Morden, except in the smiling they both excel at. He could keep up with Richard Biggs (who was at last year's Marcon) easily. Take a look at Sunday's presentation below...

I then saw most of another Moebius Theater presentation, this one about Mars. The slide show was rather entertaining, some of the pictures of Mars seemed a bit... terrestrial. :)

At 7:00, after a tasty dinner at the downstairs food court (did I mention that I really like this? Food prices and selection being actually reasonable at a convention?), I saw another show of Moebius Theater, this one called "Don't Cry For Me, Arrakeen." This was a survey of the history of science-fiction musicals. Unfortunately, I don't recall any of the songs. :( It was good, though.
[Picture of Hal Clement]

Next was a presentation by Hal Clement, famed SF author and astronomy/chemistry teacher. He does a slide show every year for the Worldcon, and I think that "How Does This Soot You?" was this year's. I dealt with how to write a story dealing with the recently-found planet around the star 51 Pegasi, and not have the science disproved quickly. (Like what sort of planets could cause the perturbation in the star that caused astronomers to deduce a planet was there, and what other planets you could shoehorn into the solar system). The second part of the presentation was about a form of life that Clement was toying with for a story in this solar system - one that used lattices of carbon and buckyballs for its underlying structure. (This is where the "soot" from the title comes in.)

At "9 PM" was the Masquerade; actually we waited in the hallway until about 9:30 (well, that was when I, quite a ways back in the line, got to be seated...), and it started about 9:45. The actual entrants (about 30 of them) went until 10:45, and several people who were just showing their costumes, not competing, showed theirs in about 15 minutes more. The Sloane Gypsies were the half-time entertainment (while waiting for the judges to finish their deliberations), with their death-defying stunts. Also, a "piece of Kosh", an actual piece of the costume used in the episode of "Babylon 5" that Kosh dies in, was finally raffled off. (The tickets were sold ahead of time, of course; this was the third con that the Alien Empire was trying to raffle it off for charity. Neither of the previous two times had the winner showed up to get the prize. This time they were going to pick this time until they got a winner.) Ed Wasser picked the winner this time, who with a bit of urging on the part of the audience (she had been milling around outside the room, and fortunately for her, people realized she would be around), she came running up to the front of the room to get her prize.

At midnight, with the Masquerade finally over, I went to the anime room yet again and watched a couple episodes of Ranma 1/2. This was my first experience with the dubbed versions, and I agree that I don't like most of the voices and some of the "Americanizing" they've done to the script. On the whole, it wasn't too bad.

I then sought out the comfort of a pillow. It was late. :) Oh yeah, and the elevators made it later. :)

Sunday

Bright and early the next morning (10 AM being defined as "bright and early" this time), was Ed Wasser's main Q&A. He started the talk by crawling into the room, and never slowed down during the hour. One of his stories was from when he was rehearsing "Othello" in Harlem, years ago. He encountered a man who had been shot. It doesn't sound funny from that description, but the way he told it, it was great. I'll not try to replicate the story here. He also talked about how he came to be on B5 and his upcoming project, "Heretic." Wasser plays the Angel Gabriel, sent to Earth on a mission to stave off Armageddon, and another B5 alumnus, Michael O'Hare, plays the Archangel Michael. (I understand that it still hasn't been picked up, which is a pity.) And, for something new to me, he also mentioned how to get his semi-monthly newsletter. Send an email to <subscribe@wasser.com>. Go ahead, do it. :)

Wasser was a great guest. I guess he didn't do any dancing on the tables like Richard Biggs did last year, but maybe that was because he had been working 24 hours straight just before coming to the con, and slept through the Masquerade dance.
[Picture of .. uh, stuff]

Next, at 11 AM, was JMS. There were some shenanigans at the beginning when people asked about Wasser appearing on B5 again (he put us up to it, of course), which ended up with Wasser reappearing and chasing JMS around and out of the room. (My picture, at right, didn't turn out too well, but I can tell you, it was funny...) The next picture shows that they're still friends...

The major things that we learned at the JMS talk was his thought that writing to the networks about the kind of shows we want might be more effective than writing in support of a particular show, which the networks now expect even for crummy SF shows. Other tidbits were that the fuzziness of the Drakh appearance was added during post-production because the intended look just didn't work as filmed; and that Jerry Doyle made the mistake of revealing that he's claustrophobic, so JMS added the recent (as of Marcon :)) air vent scenes to add a certain verisimilitude to Doyle's performance. [Picture of .. uh, more stuff] Oh yes, and he did reveal the fact that Marcus will at some point be horizontal with Ivanova, but the exact condition he's in at the time is unrevealed. :) (Actually, those of us in the US now have seen the scene in which this happens, near the end of Season 4.)
[Picture of Gary Lockwood]

Noon brought my last strike upon the dealers' room, including purchasing of filk tapes of Michael Longcor and Renee Alper. (Alper, I understand, was at the con, but I was unable to see her. I like her music a lot; there's some deep stuff there.) An unannounced guest was Gary Lockwood, of "2001: A Space Odyssey" and "Star Trek" fame. He was at the Star Base Columbus booth in the dealers' room. I got a signed picture of his.

1:00 was a Harry Turtledove signing, and 2:00 was the signing by both the B5 guests. There was not much to say about this last, except the woman right behind me in line had this stuffed Shadow ship she had made, to be signed by Wasser. I decided that at least it wasn't a Beanie Shadow, which would be too terrible to behold. :)

After that, it was time to make the long trip home, but I hesitated, wandering around the very nicely laid out building a couple more times. (This convention center is fairly new, and I hope that other new convention centers have some of the same amenities, including the food court; the gaming convention Origins has been held there the last couple years, but I have yet to make it there.) Luke Ski was doing a concert out in the atrium area, and I listened to a little of it. Ski, BTW, was the half-time entertainment at the Masquerade last year, and I reported on him rather unfavorably. This was partly because of circumstances beyond his control that caused him to be less than his best, (he graduated from college earlier in the day, and his plane was very late) and well, I'm not much into rap. I since have seen him at last year's AndCon (a September gaming convention held in Toledo), and he made a much more favorable impression. I still am not into rap filk, and I'm not happy about his lip-syncing, but I recognize that he has talent.

Well, and then I jumped in the car and made the long trek home. I can't wait to go again next year! (And since this is such a late report, I only have about six months to wait, rather than twelve! :))



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