[LoneStarCon 2 -- Progress Report 2]

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[Dressed to Slay by David Thayer]

Everyone wears something to a science fiction convention, although some look better in what they wear than others. Some dress more elaborately, some less. Some look ordinary, some extraordinary. If clothes make the human, costumes make the more than human.

At the masquerade of my first convention, MidAmeriCon in Kansas City in 1976, I opted to loiter backstage, trying to catch a glimpse of Robert A. Heinlein, the professional writer Guest of Honor, sitting on the front row. All I managed to see through the curtains was the back of the big name local exotic dancer giving him a special performance. She escaped across the opposite side of the stage, avoiding any close-up leers from me and several other young male fans.

She came on stage for her few minutes of glory
in little more than her hand-sewn 15-foot fairy wings.

Turning away in disappointment, I came face-to-face, or rather face-to-chest, with something more exotic than either Mr. Heinlein or the dancer, a 9-foot-tall, four-armed, green thark from Edgar Rice Burrough's Barsoom novels, complete with swords. The apparition would have startled me only slightly less had it been real. Despite their rigidity, its tusked face and massive upper arms exuded life. But then I saw the human eyes behind the screen in the chest and politely stepped aside. Had I been one of the judges, I would have given the costumer an award on the spot.

A naive female fan was the highlight for many at the masquerade at Seacon in Brighton, England in 1979. Her intent was to make flesh and blood a naked, winged character from a fantasy novel. What she had failed to foresee were the fantasies of the male members of the audience. She came on stage for her few minutes of glory in little more than her hand-sewn 15-foot fairy wings. The Spotlights caught and glistened off her large white breasts. The small bikini bottom, her one concession to modesty, seemed immaterial. After a few momentary gasps of surprise, the crowd burst into deafening applause. The poor costumer fled before her time was up, never to reappear. She had left little to the imagination but much to imagine, even after all these years.

[Graphic: cartoon - a man on stage cringes behind a podium and a scantily clad female with sword and helmet pointing her sword in his direction indicating to a very large dragon. One of the dragon's nails has become detached and he says, Hold everything. I can't go on. I broke a nail. Artist: Teddy Harvia, Texas]

I missed the masquerade completely at Nolacon II in New Orleans in 1988. The event was off-site somewhere, requiring a bus ride to reach it and I had visions of being stranded later in a crowd miles from the convention night life. One of the costumers never made it to the masquerade either. He had a better excuse. While waiting for the shuttle to the airport at the end of the convention, my son, Christopher, and I ran into him in the hotel lobby where he was laying out the pale green foam pieces on wire framework of a large dragon costume. Around one of his wrists he wore a large white bandage. Trying the costume on in his room on the evening of the masquerade, he told us he had impaled himself with a protruding wire, requiring a trip to the hospital and stitches. He was putting the costume on in the lobby to ensure that at least a few fans could appreciate all his effort. Christopher and I saw all the pieces but our shuttle came and we missed his final, dressed performance.

Some of the more memorable costumes walk the halls of conventions, with no intentions of appearing in the masquerade. At Nolacon II two attractive young women walked around in chain mail bikinis. My retinas are still recovering from all the flashbulbs that went off in their direction when they posed near them in a dark corner of the hotel lobby. I never did ask them if the fabric pinched.

SoonerCon, a regional convention held every year in Oklahoma City, seems to attract an inordinate number of Klingon dressers. Best of show one year in the masquerade at which I was a judge was the large Klingon warrior with the effeminate act. I admit it; I voted for him. I think it was an act.

What’s the costume I wear to conventions? I refuse to wear a Star Fleet uniform, even for the attention it brings at a Star Trek premiere. My convention uniform ever since Nolacon II has been an Hawaiian shirt, pastel yellow trousers, and red and pink flamingo canvas shoes. I even wore it to a Hugo awards ceremony before it went formal. But it wasn't that outfit, but the lack of it, that caused the greatest stir. Straight from the airport, still in the dark business suit I'd worn on the flight, I ran into friends from California in the hotel lobby. They endured my hugs stiffly, wondering who this stranger was. Only after a costume change did they truly recognize me. Suited businessmen are frightening characters to fans at conventions.

[A star with boots walking with the caption - The Lone Starrranger strides again! Artist: Sheryl Birkhead, Maryland]

Some of the best costume stories come to me second-hand, perhaps because the intermediaries embellish them. One story Diana Thayer tells, which she alternately attributes to science fiction writers Janet Morris or Carolyn Cherryh, depending on the phases of the Moon, could be true. First you have to believe that then-President Gerald Ford would be in the same hotel with a convention. Imagine him waiting for an elevator with his Secret Service agents when the doors open and a wookie draped in bandoleers and carrying a phaser steps out. The agents draw their weapons and shield the President. The President starts laughing and brushes past the agents and the wookie into the elevator. He must have recognized the humor in Star Wars technology even back then.

LoneStarCon, the San Antonio WorldCon, is in the tradition of a long line of dress-up affairs going all the way back to Forry Ackerman and his space-cadet outfit at the first WorldCon. When you come to Texas in 1997, I urge you to wear something. The convention will allow you to pretend to be whomever you want, among friends who will not only understand, but appreciate. If you do decide not to wear anything, please have the body for it. My imagination is still strong enough to take a few more shocks, but not many.

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This publication ©1996 by LoneStarCon 2, a service mark of the Austin Literary Arts Maintenance Organization, a 501(c)(3) non-profit literary/educational organization. All rights reserved. “World Science Fiction Society,” “WSFS,” “World Science Fiction Convention,” “Worldcon,” “NASFiC” and “Hugo” are registered service marks of the World Science Fiction Society, an unincorporated literary society.

The web version of this print publication was designed and produced by The Escher Group: Terry Sisk Graybill, Jane Jewell, Peggy Rae Pavlat and Katje Bonk Renner. All rights to design and design elements ©1996 by The Escher Group and used here by permission. For further information, please contact The Escher Group at: TGraybill@aol.com

All artwork ©1995 by the artists and used here by permission. Dragon illustration on this page is by Teddy Harvia, Texas; Lone Starrrrranger is by Sheyl Birkhead, Maryland.

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