As is my family’s habit on a particular weekend in mid-January, we packed up and hauled ourselves to Williamsburg VA for Marscon, perhaps the premiere fan convention in the general Mid-Atlantic region, and rapidly becoming my favorite con that I get to each year.
It’s a great chance to share an experience with like-minded people, meet artists and authors, play games, and make and meet friends, and it’s something that, even being the introvert I am (see my friend Liz’s take on this – she totally gets it), I look forward to. For the mundane among you, I imagine it’s something like taking your vacation the same weekend every year at the same timeshare in generic beach town USA, and seeing the same people each time because they all do the same thing you do. Except, instead of sitting around on the beach and eating dinner at the same overpriced seafood restaurant every year, you always end up finding something new, thanks to the ever-changing mix of interesting things on display in the form of guests, programming, gaming, film, craft, etc. There’s almost always something new to discover. If you have the means, I highly recommend finding one near you and trying one out.
Now, admittedly, I didn’t really delve into the “new” this year so much as go deeper into stuff I’d already waded into, but all the same, I ventured out of my comfort zone a bit, and didn’t fail or die. While I didn’t come home with a stack of new books to read and swag to devour, I came out of this year with a certain sense of accomplishment, having taken some baby steps into the realm of contributor rather than just consumer.
Put me in your mouth! I’m refeshing and delicious! – Mikey Mason
Friday night at the con is generally a lot about catching up with folks you haven’t seen in a while, perusing programming options and wishing you had some sort of time travel or cloning device in order to be able to be several places at once (for example – I’m a big fan of Jim C. Hines this year’s author Guest of Honor, but I totally missed all his events due to other commitments, managing only to trip over him briefly in the hallway), and easing into the experience. I did a lot of that (interrupted occasionally by children wandering off by themselves – thankfully, so many people at this event know my kids, so that if they get misplaced, they are easily returned), spending most of the early evening hanging out in the “big room”, enjoying the Friday night opening entertainment, mostly in the form of short sets by the entertainment guests. This year was laid out like a bit of a variety show, with tables scattered about and a cash bar in the corner. Much entertainment value was derived from one particular guest finding he had a drink named after him on the special convention menu, which I didn’t partake of, mostly because a friendly convention attendee kept putting free homebrewed Rye IPA in my hand (thanks, Marcus!).
The Corn Palace is bullshit. – Jonah Knight
The other big Friday night event (at least for me) at Marscon is “Filk and Cookies”, combining the filk circle concept with a cookie baking competition. Essentially, everybody sits around for several hours loading up on delicious snacks while some of us play music to entertain each other and the assembled throng. After a couple of years largely just observing and playing a long a little bit, this year I jumped in and took the virtual mic, so to speak, having come up with some material to share (after being gently yet publicly encouraged on a certain Pegasus Award nominated podcast last year), which I thought went over well. I sang a little bit. In public. About Pacific Rim. I didn’t die. There may be video, somewhere, but I haven’t seen it. And, since I didn’t have room to haul ALL THE INSTRUMENTS (more on that in a bit) along, I had the privilege to borrow and play Jonah’s beautiful and haunted 1947 Gibson guitar a little bit when the uke just wouldn’t cut it, and it was awesome. We stayed late into the night, singing and playing geeky songs, 80s hair metal, and making up quarter-hour long songs about a certain maize-based building in Mitchell, South Dakota until the hotel finally kicked us out at some point after 2am.
♫ Rock out, with me and CHUCK!♫ – Scott Vaughn
Saturday started out relatively early, as we roused ourselves from our hotel room slumber, hit the Best Con Suite in the universe for breakfast, and prepared for the day. The big event of the morning for me came during the 11am hour, when I had the privilege of being an honorary Blibbering Humdinger for a couple of tunes. Scott and Kirsten have been con friends for a number of years now, and a couple of months back, we hatched something of a plan at a house concert. A few months and emails later, and BOOM! I’m kicking off 2014 playing bass in wizard rock band. I think we all had a good time doing it (I know I did), and those in attendance seemed to appreciate it. Maybe we’ll do it again sometime. I hope so.
Your will is not your own. Roll “pistol” skill – The Pope of France
While my wizard rock debut was the big event of the day, Once I got that out of the way, I managed to do some other things as well, including sitting in on an excellent musical performance from the always entertaining Danny Birt (who is Catherine’s favorite, even if she was a little shy about joining Danny for a duet like she did last year). The rest of the day was taken up largely with kid watching duty, punctuated by a couple of very enteraining gaming sessions. In the first, we were FBI agents on a missing persons case, which soon evolved into a confrontation with alien invaders and some of us possibly earning real-world NSA flags for looking up the street value of 450 pounds of marajuana on our smartphones, leading to our being mind-controlled, forced to murder some of our own, and assimilated. The second session was a Traveller adventure, where I played an ex-space cop working on a free trader vessel, ferrying a semi-sentient carnivorous plant to an interstellar flower show, and fighting off space ninjas. We survived that one, after which we spent a while just hanging out in the hotel lobby with friends, chatting amiably until we all decided we were too tired.
Sunday, as expected, was kind of mellow – everyone’s kind of worn out from the weekend, and dealing with the imending return to polite society. We slept in a little later, packed up our gear, and handled breakfast and checkout. Then, we wandered the dealer’s room, picking up a couple of game accoutrements, a couple of hand-made trinkets, and some neat stuff from Darkfire Design, who I was happy to see present after getting some of their decals at the VA comicon back in November. Otherwise, I sat in on a panel featuring a live recording of the Pros and Cons podcast, spent some time hanging out with a very mellow Savannah Monitor lizard wearing dragon wings, and settled into the con-ending concert, featuring a round-robin performance from all the musical performers mentioned above. Lots of fun, with everyone playing along on everyone else’s stuff, cracking wise, and generally being entertaining. Twas a nice way to wind down the convention before heading home.
As you can see, it was a good time. The con staff does a great job keeping this one going – I can’t wait for next year. I would also be remiss without mentioning all the great friends who make the experience so much fun – KT, Kevin, Ora, Liz, Bert, James, Dan, Jamie, Ozma, Mikey, Jonah, Scott and Kirsten, Danny, and all those other people whose names I can’t remember (because I’m terrible like that). See you all at the next one!