MarsCon 2011: Costumes and Creatures

This is part two of my MarsCon 2011 post. I wrote about the talks I attended at this science, scifi and fantasy convention in an earlier post.

One of my favorite reasons to attend scifi/fantasy conventions is the costumes. People are so creative and go to a lot of effort and expense to dress up and show off! Some of the best costumes will usually find their way to the costume competition, which at MarsCon is called “Masquerade”. These are some of the magnificent clothes, costumes and creatures that appeared at MarsCon this year:

Room Parties

Room parties are a very unique con experience. Usually one floor or area will be designated the room party area, and fan groups or individuals will rent a party room, decorate it in some theme and devote it to serving food and drinks and providing socializing areas. Party rooms usually cost the same as regular sleeping rooms (or more if they are larger suites) and you’ve got the added cost of providing food, drinks and entertainment to everyone and anyone who stops by. Room owners are responsible for checking IDs to serve alcohol, and there is never a cost for drinks, although cash may be accepted for snacks, tips or entertainment like taking a photo with one of the rooms costumed volunteers.  It sounds like a pain in the butt to run to me, but there is a fair amount of acclaim to be had for having a rocking party room. Some of the memorable MarsCon party rooms (for me) were the Seamstresses’ Guild, the Conan the Barbarian room, Geek Partnership Society, the karaoke room, the anime party room, the superheros room, and the Klingon room.

This is one of my favorite photos from MarsCon. Pictured are two of the ladies of the Seamstresses’ Guild, a guild of “ladies of negotiable affection” from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series.  The Seamstresses’ Guild under these ladies’ (as well as two gentleman of the Guild, not pictured here) ministrations have thrown some of the most well-decorated, well-stocked (read: boozed) room parties at conventions across the state. The front area of their party room consisted of a drinking, sitting and socializing area, and the back half of the room was dominated by screenings of the Discworld movies.

The Seamstresses are gearing up for a HUGE event in July – the 2nd annual North American Discworld Con. This is a fan-run four-day convention devoted solely to the celebration of Sir Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels.

MarsCon 2011: Costumes and Creatures

MarsCon 2011: The Talks

At the beginning of March I went to MarsCon 2011, a convention for people who like science, science-fiction, fantasy, anime and other nerdy hobbies.  This year’s theme was Days of Magic.

This was my first MarsCon, but I’ve been to CONvergence and other nerdy weekend events. MarsCon was significantly smaller than CONvergence; the main stage was about the same size as some of the speaker rooms at CONvergence.  But the schedule was chock full of programming (i.e., talks, games, presentations, roundtables…i.e., stuff to do), there was plenty of costuming to enjoy, and lots of music and fun party rooms.

As with any con there was always something going on, so there was always something that we were missing. We didn’t hit much of the Dementia Track (odd, silly, nerdy, comic music acts), and I skipped some of the hard science presentations in favor of sleeping, eating, hot tub-ing, hanging out in room parties and generally having a fantastic time.  But I did manage to hit three panels on Saturday.

Dude, Where’s My Flying Car

The thing that I remember most about this panel is that it was full of neat ideas and yet amazing on-topic. The three presenters were Brett Glass (science and tech non-fiction writer), a gentleman named Dave (Shockwave Radio Theater) and Tom Gardner (chemist and scientist at large).

Brett Glass

Tom Gardner and Dave

The panel members discussed the technology that we have now and compared it to the tech that people in the 1960s-90s thought we would have (digital future vs. a cyber future). Everyone agreed that our biggest technological achievements to date are the amount of memory capacity we have and our ability to search our stored data. There was a lively discussion about the challenges that have yet to be conquered before we can make flying cars part of our daily lives (energy requirements, noise pollution, traffic infrastructure and laws, safety. We crash the hell out of our regular terrain cars; can you imagine the damage we could cause with airborne vehicles?!). The panel also discussed privacy – what it is and isn’t and what we can expect and should demand in today’s digital (google) age. We discussed technologies that didn’t quite make it, tech that are on their way out, and the effect that social media is having on how we define “self” and “community”.

Best Quote: “The best thing about the future is that you can emulate the past.” (Dave)

Vampires: Why They Die in the Sunlight and Don’t Sparkle

Kiki Canon (Bad Philosophy podcast), Jamie Turnball (, DJ Vlad (World of Darkness LARPer)

This one I didn’t like. I mainly went so that I could report back to my blog buddy, Alannah, that I went to an anti-Twilight Vampires talk. It was billed as a discussion panel on Vampires as a genre, so I thought they’d do their “Boy, doesn’t Twilight suck” thing and then move on to discussing…you know…Vampires as a genre.

But the group never left the “Boy, doesn’t Twilight suck” theme. Early on they posed the question of whether letting kids read Twilight is at least a way to get them reading, but it quickly devolved into NO AND LET ME TELL YOU WHY TWILIGHT SUCKS SO MUCH. They painted such a morbid picture of Twilight as a creepy, stalkerish, trashy romance, borderline pedophilic, misogynistic piece of intentional Mormon propaganda that I started wondering if I had read the same books as they had.  Incidentally, at the end of the talk two out of three of them casually mentioned that they had never actually read ANY of the Twilight books because they were sooooo awful that they just couldn’t, so they got all of their information from second-hand critiques.  Rly?

Yes, the writing in Twilight is not masterful (see how kind I am?). Yes, Bella is pathetic in a lot of ways and Hermione would totally kick her ass (whoops! entirely different story there). But (confession time!) I enjoyed reading them…I wanted to see what would happen next. They flowed (if you ignored the poor grammer) and had a tension that kept me engaged. I wanted to see which twists and turns we were going to make.

There are some really icky ideas in the Twilight novels: Why should sex hurt, lust be dangerous, or women stay with men who hurt them? No, it’s not okay to go into a months-long coma because a boyfriend leaves you. Yes, the idea of a teenage boy “imprinting” on a newborn baby (i.e., flesh eating, blood-sucking monster) is creepy and weird. But you know what? Stephenie Meyers on her best day could never hope to approach the grotesque psychological darkness that I enjoy from some of my favorite horror authors, and they are celebrated for their effed-up imaginations. I just wanted to yell at the panel “It’s FICTION, PEOPLE”. Not great fiction, but neither does it seem to be some master plan for brainwashing the next generation.

Kids are getting exposed to all sorts of screwed up ideas through television and books. Hell, my 13 year old little sister (from BBBS) saw Precious. I don’t want to see Precious. My point is that there are worse things out there for teenagers to be reading. As with anything – if you have concerns over what your kid is reading (and you should), have a chat with them before and after they read it.

Oh…wait…I was talking about the panel. Dammit! Moving on.

ZARGS and You

Erik D. Pakieser

ZARGS is an acronym created by the presenter, Erik D. Pakieser. It describes five invader/disaster scenarios which one might someday encounter, as foretold by apocalyptic/societal collapse movies and books.

The neat thing is that ZARGS doesn’t just adress five specific examples of Earth’s potential future doom, but rather the five major invasion strategies which may be  used against us AND possible defenses that we have against them.

The underlying assumption is that these are all bad guys. They aren’t just new visitors who we start taking out because they look diffrunt from us ‘muricans. We’re starting with the premise that the invaders have made clear their intention of enslaving us or wiping us out. Just roll with it, y’all. 

Zombies – Any swarm of independent operators. These are creatures that hunt for their own advantage. They’re not controlled by any outside forces and don’t have a group plan. You can either stay and defend your fortress or bug out – try to outrun them and hide in an area that isn’t infested. Erik challenged us to consider whether we’d be prepared for either – how defensible is your home and do you have supplies to last? If you leave, do you have the wilderness survival skills to not die of exposure or thirst in the first few hours or days?

Aliens – This is a catch all group that describes any malevolent otherworldly threat that we can’t predict or don’t understand. We may not be able to identify our alien invaders, we may have to discover how to defend ourselves, they may or may not be operating independently or have an invasion plan.

Raptors – Raptors are intelligent man-eating monsters that hunt in groups. You need major firepower to take down raptors, but you also need speed and evasion skills because raptors may be fast. The thing with raptors is never shoot for the head – always take out the legs or pelvis and then finish ’em up with a fatal shot. The pelvis is easier to hit and even if you don’t kill them, they’re down. Also – always watch for the other hunters of the raptor party! If you only see one, look for the others!

Graboids – Raw, brute force, may not be too intelligent. You need HEAVY artillery to take care of these guys. Think Tremors. Graboids may be avian, subterranean, or ocean monsters. Their huge size may limit their speed and manuverability. They may work alone or in small groups. To some extent, environment defines whether a hunter is a graboid or a raptor: If you’re in the water with a ocean monster, you’re dealing with a raptor – it has the home court advantage and can move much better in the water than you can. If you’re shooting at flying graboids (or raptors), don’t try to lead the creature (run and shoot over your shoulder) – turn around to face the theat, plant yourself and take aim.

SkyNet aka our new Robot Overlords – The most distinct feature of the robot invasion is that individuals are controlled or directed by a central system. Killing individuals has no long-term advantage because the central hub can always make or send more; you must remove the central hub. You might employ a computer virus, try to reprogram the central station or physically disable or destroy the hub.

We also discussed supernatural threats (we decided to lump these into “aliens” because you can’t predict or understand the treat a supernatural invasion might take) and attack by microbes. We decided that with microbial attack the only real way to be safe is isolation or discovering what kills the bugs; they’d probably fit best into the “zombies” category.

I enjoyed this panel because we always related the five invasion types back to the movies or books from which the ideas came. It was good, gorey imaginative fun with some emergency preparedness truth nestled into the fantasy. If you ever get a chance to see Erik speak – do it!

After the morning talks, the Hubby and I rode the lightrail over to the Mall of America for lunch and then headed up to the room to catch some ZZZZ’s before the Saturday night party rooms.

Next MarsCon Post: Costumes and Creatures!

MarsCon 2011: The Talks

MarsCon 2011 Teaser Photo

I’ve been crazy busy. Last weekend I  was at MarsCon, a fantasy/scifi convention in Bloomington, MN and this week I’m preparing for a trip to Cozumel. Rough life, I know.  Plus I have two standing engagements this week; Monday I was gaming and Thursday I’m going to monthly meeting of the Minneapolis Skeptics. That leaves Tuesday and Wednesday evenings to blog and do all those things that one does before going on vacation.

I have some fun stories and pictures from MarsCon, but I haven’t had time to write them up or to go through the photos in any detail yet. For now I’ll leave you with this photo from the very beginning of the convention. People are taking seats for opening ceremonies. My good friend Mark is in the foreground modeling his new, super-sexy Clark Kent glasses.

More to come!


Oh heck, the seating photo was pretty bland. Have a photo of drunk, middle-aged He-Man from the opening ceremonies production:

Hehehe. Gotta love the fearless nerds and geeks.

MarsCon 2011 Teaser Photo