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MARCON Day 3: In Space, Can Anybody Hear You Pray?

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Every year, for the last 44 years, Memorial Day Weekend is a big deal as sci-fi, fantasy, and otherwise "interesting" folks converge in the Central Ohio Convention Center in Columbus, Ohio. MARCON, or Multiple Alternative Reality Convention, is a gathering for fans, readers, writers, and anybody who is interested in comics, sci-fi, and fantasy. The three-day event is one of the most enjoyable events I go to in a year, but it is also one of the strangest. Let the tale end:

It's the last day of MARCON and my head is spinning. Too many drinks in the wee hours of the morning at room parties will do that to you. For those of you who don't know, room parties are parties that are forced into private hotel rooms because they get out of hand with either too much drinking or too much sexual play, though never both at the same time. Mine was the drinking kind.

Looking over at my clock, I notice that it's already 9:30 in the morning; I have a panel at 10 so this is a big issue. Jump out of bed, jump into the shower, and run to my car. A quick drive, along with the proper tipping and payment for valet parking, and I am in the convention center. Woot, I make it on time.

I head to Madison and look around; there is almost nobody there. This seems to be what happens on Sundays: everybody who is attending the con is either hung over, still asleep, or taking down the displays. What is officially a three-day con is more or less a two-day convention for most people. This disappoints me; not only am I on two Sunday panels, but I usually think that Sunday panels are the best panels of the convention. Oh well.

So I migrate to Madison and meet up with Madame Heaphy as we are about to start our panel. Low and behold, there is only one person there, a teacher-in-training who is focusing on science and math. Well, our panel is about teaching science fiction (even though I am only 21 I have taught scifi to high schoolers and studied it at many levels). So we'll do a one-on-one, but that's perfectly fine. Instead of the lecture and slide show we have planned, we sit down and simply ask him to tell us the subjects he must cover.

Earth’s layers? Journey to the Center of the Earth. Evolution? The Sound of Thunder. Gravity? Cold Equations. Any and every subject he needs to cover has been talked about in a scifi book, so he will be able to use them in class with his kids. God, I wish I had a teacher like that back in the day.

I have a break between panels so I head over to listen to a talk on 50 ways to leave the planet. We discuss a laser propulsion system which is a potential launch device, along with solid state and liquid fueled engines. We also discuss the various lift-off and landing techniques that NASA and JPL are working on for future spacecraft. Though the talk was advertised as being about 50 ways to leave space, we discussed only about five; but they were pretty interesting.

That's one of the problems with panels at conventions. While you might set out to talk about the new Harry Potter movie, or The Hobbit movies, or even 50 ways to get off Earth, the panel rarely goes where it should have. Take the time travel panel I was on during the first day. While we did discuss the physics behind it, we mostly talked about why time travel is so common in literature. Though I don't necessarily mind when people move off of the subject, it can be annoying when I really want to learn something.

After the panel on leaving the planet I go to my second panel of the day: Life on Mars. As we sit there and start to talk, I notice that most of the attendees have no idea why we are talking about a TV show. I pause and ask: “Who here has seen the British version, who has seen the American, and who thinks that we are talking about the red planet?” About half the room leaves when they realize that we are talking about the TV show Life on Mars, not the planet itself.

After everybody settles down I get to start actually talking about the show. We discuss the differences between the two versions, the sequel (Ashes to Ashes), and how the endings were vastly different. Near the end one of the viewers pipes up about how she didn’t like the World Trade Center scene as it reminded her too much of 9/11. The rest of the time we spend discussing certain gotcha and gut-wrenching moments and why they were used to tell time and set the mood.

Afterwards I decide to wander around the convention one more time. Checking out the dealer’s room, I buy some more dice, a goblet, and a present for my girlfriend. I also head down to the art room to check out the amazing pictures, sculptures, and origami. They also have some computer cases, which are well done, and look very Tron-like (granted, they were a mod based on Tron).

As I am making my way to the exit I notice one more panel which looks interesting: In Space, Can Anybody Hear you Pray? While this a popular line to alter and convert (including as the subtitle of a porn movie), it's an interesting idea. This panel is an interfaith meeting of convention goers who don’t want to leave their God(s) behind. They sit there, listen to a sermon on peace, and basically act normal. I am struck by how different this is from the rest of the convention: here you have a stereotypical Sunday morning, vs. the craziness that went on earlier in the weekend. It was a real surprise.

Overall, I had an amazing time at MARCON this year. Though I was scared by some of the things I saw (the walking vagina and two men dressed in Sailor Moon outfits will forever haunt me), I enjoyed most of it. The masquerade was amazing, the ball was good, and the costuming was stunning. I learned a fair bit at the panels, was able to share my knowledge with the rest of the community, and even had a lot of fun at the parties. It was a great experience for me, and I hope you enjoyed reading about it.

Here's to next year and seeing you there!

My post about Day 1 talked about my first panels and a general intro to the convention. Day 2 was about the characters and costumes you will find at MARCON and similar conventions.

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About Robert M. Barga

  • http://blogs.news.com.au/dailytelegraph/sundaysurfer/index.php STM

    I saw the British version of Life on Mars first, on an Australian free-to-air TV channel.

    Now I’m watching the American version on cable Down Under. Some great casting in both.

    They’re both really good.

    The best bit is that as both are set in the decade fashion forgot (the 70s), the clothes and hairstyles are remarkably similar on both sides of the pond.

    That is: bad. I know how bad, because I lived it.

    However, there’s a bit of a nod to London’s slightly trendier Carnaby St fashions in the British version.

    One thing that caught my eye: The flared pants … but geez, were they really the width of the platforms at Grand Central Station (or Victoria station)?

    Shocking and cringeworthy if true. Did we really wear that stuff???

    Either way, I spent time in the US and the UK in that era, and I’m glad we all moved on (although the 80s were a worry too).

    We really did have some fun, though.

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    The ending of the American version of LoM is far inferior to the more ambiguous British ending. Or non-ending. Have you seen Ashes to Ashes?

    Dave

  • http://www.EurocriticsMagazine.com Christopher Rose

    Stan, are you kidding? The 70s and 80s were two of the three best decades of the 20th Century in almost every way imaginable!

  • http://whalertly.blogspot.com Robert M. Barga

    @stm that is my favorite part of the show, the fact that they copied all of that over in terms of cars, fashion, and attitude

  • http://whalertly.blogspot.com Robert M. Barga

    @dave
    i actually liked the american one better, as it was rushed but also clear that it was similar to all of their intent

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    #3,

    Right. We had no idea of the good times ahead.

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    Come on, you’ve got to admit the ending on the US version was pretty cheesy.

    Dave

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    BTW, Robert, as a past frequent SF and gaming convention panelist and participant I enjoyed your article. Maybe I’ll stop by Armadillocon this year.

    I found your description of the prayer meeting an interesting contrast to our state GOP convention where they had a designated prayer room which was entirely empty for the duration of the event.

    Dave

  • Bliffle

    I saw a couple episodes of LoM and thought it was fun, but didn’t see the finale.

    STM: you saw the Brit version on FTA? I didn’t know there was anything good on FTA. For the summer I’m sitting up in the mountains, actually in an alpine valley, where OTA reception is spotty, but there’s a dish and a cable terminated in an F connector, so I was thinking of hooking up an FTA receiver. What deterred me was that FTA has the rep of being all religious stuff. But if there’s something better I’ll give it a try.

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    When my wife and I moved into our first apartment we were donated an extremely hefty and ancient TV with a ropy old antenna that could only pick up Univision (which appears to broadcast using a large battery of thermonuclear reactors and can be picked up inside mountains and at the bottom of the Marianas Trench) and the God Channel.

    There’s nothing on American TV anyway so we weren’t missing much! ;-)

  • http://whalertly.blogspot.com Robert M. Barga

    @7 actually, i thought it was rushed but was forshadowed throughout the rest of the show
    the show was based on a davide Bowie song, so why not based the american one on another?

  • http://whalertly.blogspot.com Robert M. Barga

    @8 if you liked them, then why not comment in those ones as well
    I am planning on doing this next year, and will be sending PR things to local conventions hopefully to do this at more throughout this year. I look forward to seeing you around those articles too

  • Bliffle

    Actually, I’m getting a good PBS feed on KTEH 54 which has 4 subchannels. But the only commercial station is KSTS 48 which is Telemundo.

    If I thought that FTA had anything I’d get a receiver, but maybe I will anyhow.

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    Bliff,

    PBS is probably all you need, really!

  • http://blogs.news.com.au/dailytelegraph/sundaysurfer/index.php STM

    Doc: “Stan, are you kidding? The 70s and 80s were two of the three best decades of the 20th Century in almost every way imaginable!”

    Doc, I didn’t say I didn’t enjoy it. I said the fashions (and the hairdos) were shockers.

    Shit, I don’t even remember much of the 70s and 80s, but what bits I do remember can best be described as “character forming”.

  • http://blogs.news.com.au/dailytelegraph/sundaysurfer/index.php STM

    Bliff: “STM: you saw the Brit version on FTA?”

    In Australia Bliff … I think FTA is a bit different Down Under.

    There are five FTA channels. The three commercial ones make a fortune from sports broadcasts and advertising, and run ratings seasons where you get some really, really good TV along with the usual dross.

    The other two, the ABC and SBS, are government-funded. SBS has great foreign movies and docos, while the ABC has great current affairs and some excellent shows imported mostly from the UK (often BBC proudctions) but also some from the US and other English-speaking countries.

    Then there’s the 300 channels of nothing on cable.

    Actually, cable’s not too bad here either.

    I just can’t work out how to unlock the parental control device :)

  • http://www.EurocriticsMagazine.com Christopher Rose

    Oi Stan, just cos the Doc and I are two rare English voices amidst the Seppos is no excuse to mix us up!

    As to 70s and 80s fashion, add the 60s as well and I’d rather any of those fashions, including the ones I hate, than before or since. Indeed, there is a case to be made that any real sense of style died at least a decade ago!

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    The three no-nos in my book: bell bottoms, knits and sideburns.

  • http://whalertly.blogspot.com Robert M. Barga

    what is sad is that my generation is picking up your crappy trends as retro fashion
    me, i am fine with jeans and a tshirt

  • STM

    Robert: “me, i am fine with jeans and a tshirt”.

    Likewise … with ones for work, ones for piss-farting about in, ones for going to the pub with the boys on Sunday afternoons, others for going to the beach in … and last but not least, the good ones for going out in and impressing sheilas :)

    Yeah sorry Rosey, it is because you and Doc are kindred spirits.

    You both write similarly too. Sentence structure is near identical.

    Queen’s English???

    Now, settle, Seppos … not that kinda queen …

  • STM

    Dave: “I found your description of the prayer meeting an interesting contrast to our state GOP convention where they had a designated prayer room which was entirely empty for the duration of the event”.

    Lol. That’s hilarious Dave.

    I would’ve thought they’d be in there en masse praying for the demise of Obama.

  • http://whalertly.blogspot.com Robert M. Barga

    pretty much that is how i role
    but two for the chicks, i party two nights a week, dont want them seeing the same thing twice in a row

  • http://whalertly.blogspot.com Robert M. Barga

    @21
    thinking about it, it is ironic when that is the Chirstian party