24 Years Ago This Evening…

Our first program book cover by Sonia Hillios, an amazing artist who got her start doing our committee’s fanzines.

I was welcoming William Campbell, June Lockhart John DeLancie and about 1100 fans to Marriott’s Hunt Valley Inn for the first ever Farpoint convention. Actually, if memory serves, John arrived the morning of October 9th, and Bill and his lovely wife Tereza had arrived the previous night, and we had driven them to the Inner Harbor for dinner at their favorite local restaurant, The Chart House.

Farpoint had begun a year before, when OktoberTrek chair Sandy Zier-Teitler had confided in me that perhaps she didn’t want to hold a fourth OktoberTrek, even though it was a record-breakingly successful convention. Weekend sales clinched it–Sandy didn’t want to hold OktoberTrek 93; but, bless her, she was willing to let me take over her five-year contract with the hotel (at no small expense to herself.) I met with the committee and proposed a slimmed-down, lightweight convention that would return us to our small-town con roots, bring a single, fan favorite guest (George Takei), spend only $30,000, and meet its startup costs by selling lifetime memberships at $100 each.

We did bookmarks…

The committee talked me up to two guests (John DeLancie would be our co-headliner) and $45,000, a lot of money for a 20-something librarian to commit to backing. And they voted in an older, wiser fan, my mother-in-law Beverly Volker, as con chair.

Like all our first fliers, I think this was printed on green, probably a bright lime.

We created a quick and dirty flier, just to say, “We’re coming.” Paul Balze hand-drew our first logo, including the then-very-relevant shot of the Enterprises A and D warping out from a common origin point. In 1993, you see, Star Trek was media fandom, and the only controversy was between the two generations of the show, original and Next. So I named the con “Farpoint,” to reflect the premiere of STTNG, which had featured our beloved De Kelley to bridge the generations; and because our con was a bit far from Baltimore, in then-more-rural Hunt Valley; and because it seemed to suggest autumn and coolness.

We booked our guests, called in some favors from local celebrity friends, and I bought a laser printer for about a grand to create our first real flier.

The first flier with guests, including Cheap Treks! The show that year was, as I recall, “Trek at Nite” by Lance Woods.

Lew Aide lent his desktop publishing magic to an improved version of it. It looked official for 1993, and memberships began pouring in.

By October, 1993, George Takei had canceled (to film the Peter-David-scripted Moontrap), Bev had dropped out, and I was sole owner of a suddenly very scary venture. I was disappointed that we didn’t break 2,000 attendees as OktoberTrek had, and as July sister-con Shore Leave was now doing. Still, I was addicted. At 28, I’d discovered something that let me be in charge, that let me show what I could do, that made me feel like something other than a poor librarian who, six years out of college, had not become a successful SF writer.

Sifting through my files tonight, I found some cherished souvenirs: some of the biggest checks I’d ever written, made out to celebrity actors; a check to the House of Ruth, our first charity, in honor of our beloved friend Gina Godwin, lost to domestic violence, a letter from June Lockhart, thanking me for tracking down for her two Lost in Space T-Shirts of a style she’d seen me wearing. She’d fallen in love with them. And, of course, my personal autograph collection–contracts I’d signed with our celebrity guests. Bittersweet memories as I look at the signatures of Jonathan Brandis, Michael Ansara, William Campbell and John Fiedler, all of whom have left us since their times at Farpoint.

I do wish I could have found a way to bring June Lockhart back. What a wonderful experience, working with her!

I only lasted eight years as the sole backer of Farpoint. In 2001, I stepped down and a new, committee-owned corporation was formed, under the leadership of my former program chair, Sharon Van Blarcom. But I stayed on, doing, well, pretty much whatever they asked me to. I’m still there, narrowing my job description every year, but still part of the family.

And, 24 years later, this family of which I’m only one of the founders is still going strong. So happy birthday, Farpoint, my middle child, or perhaps my foster child. You brought me good times, you stressed me out, you helped me grow. I guess we’ve both done all right these past 24 years.

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