Farpoint Weekend Break

So there will be no blogs this weekend, because I’m attending and working the 25th annual Farpoint convention. In case you’re the one person I haven’t told the story to, I co-founded Farpoint with my family back in 1993, and, though I don’t have to write the checks any longer, it’s still a going concern and I’m still working on it.

Back in 2002, we introduced something called the Volker/McChesney Award to recognize fans who had made significant contributions to local fandom. My stipulation when we created the award was that no member of the Farpoint committee would be eligible—in particular, *I* would not be eligible, because I didn’t want to create an award and then appear to be giving it to myself.

But the committee pulled a fast one on me, and this year’s award was presented to both my wife Renee and me. Yes, we were given the opportunity to decline; but we thought that might hurt the feelings of some very nice people. So, last night, we received our award and the following words were read by a young blond man whom I’m told bears more than a passing resemblance to me. (That would be my son, Ethan, who was emceeing with his brother.)

Very kind words, so I share them here.

The Farpoint Committee is awarding the 2018 Volker/McChesney Award for Service to Fandom to Steven H. and Renee Wilson. As the founders of Farpoint Convention, and still serving on its committee, they have provided a long-lasting gift to fandom, a convention by fans, for fans.

Steve and Renee are the second in a 3-generation chain that started with Beverly Volker and Nancy Kippax and now includes Beverly’s grandchildren Ethan and Christian Wilson. The Volker and Kippax families attended the first Star Trek conventions in New York City, which inspired them and others to bring the Star Trek convention scene to Baltimore. Their families all participated in the first ShoreLeave, ClipperCon and OktoberTrek conventions. They also created the Contact fanzine, which provided writing opportunities for many to share and explore their desire for continuing adventures based on Star Trek and the beloved characters. One of those writers being a young man by the name of Steven H. Wilson….(Note from Steve-I never actually wrote for Contact, but Renee did!)

When the final OktoberTrek finished, Steve and Renee were inspired to continue to keep a fandom-centered convention alive in our area. Over the years, they have seen Farpoint grow and evolve, moving to embrace the full of science fiction and fantastic media and all the new technologies that let fans participate in the things they love and also create their own new stories and art. The Wilson family’s participation in today’s Farpoint Convention is a reminder of fandom’s roots, reaching from small groups of fans keeping Star Trek alive to the current mainstream fandom incarnation. Today’s high-profile fan culture would not be possible without the inspiration and dedication of people like the Volker and Kippax families, represented here by their children Steven and Renee and grandchildren Ethan and Christian.

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. Continue reading

Better Than I Was Before… Memories of Harve Bennett

Harve_bennet_(2009)Last week, I wrote about a famous man who had died: Leonard Nimoy. It was a gently chiding piece about name-dropping, and about how you don’t need to personally know a celebrity for him to have a huge effect on your life.

And this week, because I’m nothing if not contradictory–or is that everything if not contradictory?–I’m writing about a famous man who died, and how the fact that I knew him personally intensified his effect on my life.

This week, sadly, I’m writing about Harve Bennett, who died Feb 25th at the age of 84. He was about the same age as Leonard Nimoy. They both had long careers in the film business. They worked together on a number of projects. They died within days of each other. Continue reading

The Winter Blahs… And Frozen Pipes!

Ordinarily, I do a con summary the weekend following a convention, but I’m not up to it tonight. Farpoint was a great success, a very well-run con this year. Our show, “The Maltese Vulcan” went off without a hitch on Friday night, and Tim Russ was, of course, brilliant in the lead role. But things happened that have left me very drained, and not just the hard work of running a con. I may (or may not) talk about those things in this space down the road.

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My Farpoint Schedule

Farpoint 2015 is this weekend! Guests include Colin Ferguson, Tim Russ, Timothy Zahn, and, of course, me.

I know I said I’d retired from Farpoint and all, but Renee and I stepped up this year to run the Art Show, so that our friends Cindy Woods and Heather Mikkelsen could take over Programming, where they’ve done a stellar job. So I’ll be in the Art Show room a lot this weekend.

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I Am All These Things

Okay, I’m doing something a little different this week. It’s not going to be a regular occurrence, but it may be something I play with when I’ve got something to say that’s important, either from a publicity perspective, or from a “this is important to me personally” perspective.

If you’re a regular reader of my blog at StevenHWilson.com, then this week you’re also reading the script for my weekly podcast. (And you can hear my reading, as well, here!) If you’re a regular listener to my podcast, that is the Prometheus Radio Theatre podcast, then this week you’re listening to my blog. Again, not a permanent change. Next week my listeners will hear the next chapter of Phil Giunta’s wonderfully scary novel By Your Side, and my readers will hear about Lara Parker’s wonderful expansion of the Dark Shadows mythos, Wolf Moon Rising. But this week, and now and then in the future, both groups will receive the same message. Continue reading

Reflection: Farpoint 2012

No review this week.  My brain is simply too fried to evaluate.  What I’ll write about instead is the thing that fried my brain, that thing being an event called Farpoint 2012.  Farpoint is a regional science fiction media convention.  “Regional” because it primarily draws its attendance from Maryland and the Mid-Atlantic area, although it occasionally pulls in members from as far away as Texas, California, Canada or even Germany.  It’s not a Dragon*Con or a San Diego ComicCon, which pull heavily from all over the U.S. and even the world.  It’s smaller, more laid back, and built to stay that way.

“Science fiction media” because those attendees come to Farpoint to celebrate the fandom which develops around TV shows and movies rooted in speculative fiction, fantasy and the supernatural.  We used to call them “Star Trek Conventions,” but that’s far too narrow a description for what Farpoint and many gatherings of its kind have become.

This was our nineteenth Farpoint.  I’ve been involved in some capacity for all of them.  This year I was co-operations manager with my wife Renee.  I think we worked a bit harder on the planning and execution that we intended or wanted to, but the result was a successful event that everyone seemed to enjoy.  Our attendance numbers aren’t in, but they hovered somewhere around 700 people.  That’s a good, healthy turnout for this convention.  A lot of well-intentioned friends frequently approach me with sentences that open, “You know, you could pull in a lot more people and make a lot more money if you…”  And I’m sure all the ideas which finish those sentences are wonderful.  The thing is, making more money would be nice, but growing much bigger isn’t really Farpoint’s goal.  Farpoint’s goal is to maximize people’s enjoyment, and part of the way it does it is by not being over-crowded.

It was nice, however, to see the convention reaching its peak attendance earlier.  Friday night the registration desk was mobbed with people picking up their pre-purchased memberships, and our opening ceremonies and Friday social were the best attended they’ve ever been.  I got the impression that people were just more excited to get to the con this year, resulting in them taking time off work and leaving earlier.  It was a nice atmosphere, and it made for an appreciative audience for the evening’s entertainment.  Gentleman Jim made a first-time appearance with us, performing (very well!) a mix of songs, including tributes to our celebrity guests for the weekend.  We presented the Volker-McChesney Award for service to fandom to a dear friend, Melissa James, who’s an integral part of Shore Leave, a summertime event similar to Farpoint.  We auctioned off donated items to raise funds for the Julien Fleming Fund and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and then my own Prometheus Radio Theatre hosted a variety show of music and comedy.

The Boogie Knights, Jonah Knight and Insane Ian provided the music, and I hope I’m not delusional when I say Prometheus provided the comedy.  My friends Renfield and June offered us a short adventure in the lives of two space-based hired guns and their trusty robot, and then we presented an episode of Waste of Space, a sitcom about evil geniuses that my son Ethan and I developed.  Kate Vernon from Battlestar Galactica and Kristen Bauer from True Blood were out special guests.  Sadly, Kate’s onscreen husband, Michael Hogan, missed his connecting flight and couldn’t be in the play, but the audience and the cast still had a blast.  Having your celebrity guest star (Kristen) miss a cue and tell the audience it’s because she’s having such a good time listening to you is not only funny, it’s very good for the egos of part-time actors.  I hope to have that show posted soon on the Prometheus Radio Theatre podcast feed.

While the Pack Ratz oversaw their annual Karaoke event, Vic’s Place, I threw a launch party for my latest book, Unfriendly Persuasion.  I sold a case of books, which doesn’t suck.  I understand our vendors in the dealers room also had a pretty successful evening of sales.  I know at least one said she’d made back the cost of her trip that first night.

Saturday I sat on four panels on New Media and authoring topics.  All were well-attended, which I was happy to see, as I was beginning to fear Farpoint needed to offer less programming.  The most successful panel seemed to be a discussion on self-publishing which included Aaron Rosenberg, Glenn Hauman and Marianne Petrino-Schaad, with some assists by Don Sakers.  We couldn’t possibly give a complete primer on how to self-publish a book in an hour (especially since we’re authors, and mostly want to talk about ourselves!) but we answered a lot of great questions from the audience, and I think we hit the high points.

Michael Hogan had arrived safely late Friday night, so all of our guest Q & A sessions and autographs went as expected.  More and more lately, our Farpoint actor guests are electing to make extra money by signing autographs and selling pictures throughout the day.  That means that there’s no scheduled “autograph session,” and thus no long lines.  It seems to be a pretty good system.
Saturday night’s cornerstone is always the Masquerade, where our costumers put together often screamingly funny presentations to feature their handiwork.  Sometimes there are duds, but not often.  These people are serious about their costuming, and serious about being funny.  I spent the time staffing the Con Hospitality Suite, and I’m told I missed one of the best shows in years.  Fortunately, there’s video.  I must see the Green Lantern entry put together by Don Sakers, Renfield and June and my son Ethan.

At Masqeurade half-time, Marty Gear auctioned off a meet-and-greet session with the lovely Kristen Bauer, again to benefit our charities.  Now Marty is our elder statesman.  His fandom career began in 1953 at WorldCon, where, just fifteen, he was taken under the wing of E.E. “Doc” Smith, and got to watch the Hugo Award ceremony from the balcony with John W. Campbell, Robert Heinlein, Sprague DeCamp and Isass Asimov.  Marty impresses the hell out of all of us.  He also loves vampires, has a very large library of bad vampire jokes, and can’t resist a pretty face.  The fact that Kristen’s pretty face so often is seen complete with fangs made Marty very enthusiastic about this meet and greet opportunity, as did his ceaseless devotion to raising money for our charities.  So Marty opened the bidding at a nice high figure himself, then waited.  Apparently, the audience, probably hit by our still-tough economy, didn’t bite.  So Marty dug into his supply of vampire jokes and decided to outlast them.  A frenzy erupted.  Audience members began passing a box to collect a matching donation.  Rumor has it Peter David threw his platinum card at the stage.  Kristen, meanwhile, made a grand performance, trying to figure out a way to hang herself from the chandelier to end her suffering.  The masquerade stage hands, dressed, traditionally, as ninjas, supplied a ladder.  Marty got his meet and greet, and our charities split over $700 for his and Kristen’s efforts.  (And that was only one of the items sold!)

Saturday ended with a Ten Forward dance, deejayed by the Pack Ratz.  They do a fantastic job picking the music mix, and the dance floor was packed.  I understand my son Christian impressed the crowd with his moves.  He certainly doesn’t get them from me!  Ten Forward is really loud, and I’m not really young anymore.  I spent a good deal of it sitting in another room, talking to Nobilis and Michael Jan Friedman about the merits of various publishing strategies.

Sunday is our most laid back day.  More Q & A, more autographs, more panels.  Attendance is usually a little less.  I was very happy to see more than a dozen podcasters show up for our podcasting roundtable, however.  New to our company were Jay Smith and Keith R.A. DeCandido, and we had some very good discussion about the changes the last year has brought to our endeavors.  Lauretta from Constellation Books was kind enough to add all of the Firebringer Press titles to her selection.  Constellation is an excellent, independent book store in Reisterstown, and Lauretta has begun working the local conventions.

We end every convention with a dead dog party, the name describing the state of the committee.  After the attendees have gone home, the committee, staff and some of the guests gather to eat, (the first time in three days some of us have done that sitting down!) wind down, and deconstruct the con.  There wasn’t actually a lot to deconstruct this year.  We talked about next year’s 20th anniversary event, and Peter David, T.A. Chafin and Bob Greenberger made plans for their next “Mystery Trekkie Theatre,” to be presented at Shore Leave.  I finished the evening chatting with my cousin Dave, Michael Hogan and two very nice young ladies, Alicia and Stephanie, who were big BSG fans and had flown in to see him.  (One also joined our staff, ably assisting with the huge amount of video that must be shot throughout the weekend.)

Not an objective review by any stretch of the imagination.  It’s my event, after all.  It was a weekend well-spent, however, if it did distract me a bit from being able to do an actual review this week.  This coming weekend, I’ll be attending MystiCon in Roanoake as an author/podcaster guest.  They’ve got me scheduled for quite a few panels, and I’m looking forward to it.  Let’s hope I can maintain my energy level for one more weekend of cons!