MarsCon 2008 and the British Invasion

March 7th, 2008 | by Sqotty |

MarsCon 2008 took place over the Leap Year Weekend of February 29th through March 2nd at the Holiday Inn Select in Bloomington, MN. MarsCon is mid-sized event with an attendance of about 850, which is up a bit from last year, and does not include the spontaneous British Invasion that took place on Saturday night.

I moderated two panels on Friday evening, one on a comparison of Heinlein’s Starship Troopers and Haldeman’s The Forever War, the other on getting started on blogging. Both panels, although small, went pretty well, with a lot of lively discussion.

One specific thought that came out of the ST/FW panel was that Heinlein and Haldeman came from very different military backgrounds and very different eras. The extrapolation to that is: Who will write the next seminal Military SF novel building his (or her) own experiences in Iraq.

We missed a good chunk of opening ceremonies as that was the only opportunity we had to grab dinner, and we grabbed burgers in the bar with SF writer Walter Hunt. Walter told us about the tour of Rosslyn he had a couple of years back and how that led to the writing of his soon to be released novel, A Song In Stone. I was disappointed that I would miss his scheduled reading as I had to leave MarsCon to attend another unrelated event in Lakeville. Fortunately, he offered to give us a private reading over the weekend. More n that later. More on that later in this report. Non-spoiler – this is going to be a really good book.

The Blogging panel was scheduled in the middle of the Friday night party time, and before I went on duty in the Rakehell party room. There were several folks from around the country on the panel, along with myself (moderator, and not that good at it) and Walter. Most of those attending the session were interested in picking up some tips to improve their visibility, and one person who writes regularly, was interested in where to get started, and I think we may have been successful, especially with the two different handouts that were provided.

The party scene was very lively, with many great parties, including the Rakehell’s Blue Screen of Death, following the MarsCon theme of computer gaming. Most of the drinks were blue in color and featured such things as Romulan Ale, System Freeze, and Andorian Yer In. The World Defense Force set up the Bog, and was serving Green Death (Fluffy’s secret recipe). The super Hero party with Batman, superman, Green Arrow, Batgirl, and others. Serenity party which was nicely done and featured live music. The Cosmic Tulip, a Tiny Tim theme party. The Tardis Tea Party running vintage Doctor Who episodes and providing a variety of libations. And there were many other parties as well.

I missed most of the daytime activities on Saturday due to a conflicting event, however I did see the end result of Qob’s panel on costuming the Geisha. It was an overwhelming success.

My wife, Sue, was able to spend more time attending panels and hanging out with her friend, Bill Blair, who was the media guest of honor. He remembered her from other cons back in the Bay Area, and we both got to spend a fair amount of time chatting with him. He’s a really cool guy and very friendly. And he knows how to party.

The Masquarade Competition on Saturday night had a lot of great entries. My darling wife, Sue, and our daughter, Anna, appeared together, both dressed as Minnie Mouse. Anna, being not quite two and a half, were a big hit with the audience. Qob and Mordok won honors for Best Performance (Experienced) for their rendition of the Blue Brothers. Yes, they were quite blue. Kosh did an exhibition peace combining two of his previous costume entries, a Klingon in his pajamas and then switching to vacation mode. all of the entries were quite good.

Saturday night was when things really got interesting as many of the con goers, myself included, invited a troop of British soldiers staying at our hotel to come join the parties on the 13th floor. Many of them accepted and came up to join the fun. There was a sea (desert?) of camouflage as they roamed the falls with the many fans, and enjoyed all that the con had to offer. To the Con Comms credit, they supplied badges to many of the British soldiers. I told many of these good soldiers that this is the best British Invasion since the Beatles. They liked the comparison.

I am posting pictures, however it had been requested that I blank out their faces for security reasons. These guys will soon be in Harm’s Way and I want them all to get home safely. This was at the request of Mike, his Lordship, who was there to liaison between the troops, the hotel, and the 850 crazy Americans dressed in “funny” costumes. Those that ventured up to party with us had a blast and they were all very well received. We later learned that there were British troops staying in three neighboring hotels and that they were jealous of their mates having such a grand time. Apparently there were messages and pictures being sent via cell phone to the troops in the other hotels, and they sent a few “spies” over to check things out.

I was stunned to be told that they would not receive such good treatment as this if they were in the U.K. There seems to be a tendency by British civilians to treat their military personnel with pretty severe contempt. Kind of like how the Marines are being treated by the City of Berkeley. Or like how the anti-war zealots treated our troops when they came back from Vietnam. Maybe worse. It made me proud that the fannish community came together with such at outpouring of good will towards these soldiers from across the pond.

One of the Brits, a guy I will refer to as John, recommended a book to me that I am now looking forward to reading: 3 Para by Jon Cooksey.

A group of us counter-culture (from fannish perspectives) got together and drank a toast to the memory of William F. Buckley, Jr., who passed away this week. We toasted him with a round of 16 year old Glen Morven, a Speyside single malt scotch. We then proceeded to give a Death Howl to warn Stovokor that WFB is coming.

After that, and still having a fairly full bottle of the Glen Morven, I proceeded to seek out our British friends and salute their courage and wish them a successful deployment and safe return. We were all pretty smashed by the end of the evening.

Sunday morning we went out to breakfast with Walter, jumping in the van and leaving the hotel for an adventure to find a place called Hell’s Kitchen. We found the restaurant, but the wait for a table was upwards of two hours and we went across the street to a place called the Newsroom and had a nice breakfast, and chatted about conventions, his new book, writing and last night’s party and the British Invasion.

Returning to the hotel I again missed most of the panels that day (seriously regrettably) but the lack of sleep for two nights running had taken a toll and I wanted nothing more than to get a good nap in. Walter, having time before his next panel and having wisely not stayed up as late as I had (and not getting plastered like I did), first gave us a private reading of his new novel, A Song In Stone, entertaining us with the first two chapters. The story sets up the central character and the background, nicely drawing you in to the story. A Song In Stone is going to be good; really good. It opens with the main character getting a tour of Rosslyn Chapel and learning about its history and some of the mystique that surrounds it. I’m looking forward to its release, which is too darned far off.

I caught closing ceremonies where we learned a bit more about our distinguished guest, Mike, and the troops that passed through our midst. Before we got to Mike’s speech, the Con Comm gave thanks to the various guests of honor, and then thanked the British Troops for joining in on Saturday night, at which point the audience cheered their agreement. Mike, during his speech, told us that the troops were planning on attaching the few con badges to the rope used to raise their flag. At this point there was a spontaneous drive to give them more con badges, many with names and addresses, forming an impromptu invitation to be pen pals. Mike was overwhelmed with emotion. Mike, realizing that the Internet would be plastered with pictures, requested that we obscure the faces of these fine soldiers.

This was MarsCon’s 10th year, and it was already a special event. The addition of so many fine young men serving their country and our staunchest ally made MarsCon 2008 all the more special. Thanks for serving your country, and God’s Speed to you.

MarsCon 2008 - 1

Anna Marie with friend Claire

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Feddies in the Rakehell Party room

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Anna Marie wants to try out the rocketpack

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Qob with the Geisha

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Anna Marie and Sue
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Media Guest of Honor Bill Blair

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Mike, the Highlander…interesting sporran
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The Blue Brothers – Mordok and Qob
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Qe’Pa and Stacey

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Sqo’tty, Sue’La and Anna Marie with Simon

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Blair, Fluffy, Walter Hunt with John


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  1. One Response to “MarsCon 2008 and the British Invasion”

  2. By Walter Hunt on Mar 15, 2008 | Reply

    Finally put my own blog entry up at Thanks for a great weekend of companionship.


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