Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Con-Version Experience

A couple of years after I met Steve Fitzpatrick, I started joining him at Calgary's Con-Version science fiction conventions. We headed down to Calgary three or four times in the late 80s and early 90s, and I always had a blast. I loved the bad movie night, the guest speakers, and the panels. One year, our friend Steve Muir earned a glare from SF author David Brin; apparently Steve's giant feet got a little too close to Brin's toddler in the elevator. Another year I ran into Bjo Trimble, the so-called "superfan" who orchestrated the fan mail campaign that saved Star Trek from cancellation - twice!

Delegates are obligated, by tradition if not force of law, to bring costumes to this event. And of course there's a contest. At Con-Version XII in 1995, Steve convinced me to play a supporting role in his contest entry for that year. Revealing that there's much more to Klingon culture than simply war and honour, Steve dressed up as a Klingon accountant. But even a Klingon number-cruncher remains a Klingon, and when I, playing an uptight Federation bureaucrat, confronted Steve's character about his figures, well, he stopped crunching numbers and started crunching my hand. We had a lot of fun hamming it up for the audience, and took away some reward or other - I don't remember which. though perhaps Steve will.
Here I am in a turbolift (i.e., elevator) with Audrey Fitzpatrick. Why am I wearing glasses? Most 23rd century patients with vision problems are given a dose of Retinax-V. But I'm allergic to Retinax.

And here's the gang that went down that year: myself, Stephen Fitzpatrick, Peter Harris (as the Surgeon General), Dave and Paula Ticheler, Audrey Fitzpatrick, and Steve Muir, he of the giant feet.

Ask anyone what defines Calgary and they'll probably mention one of the sports teams, the Calgary Stampede, or the oil and gas industry. But every metropolitan area plays host to a plethora of subcultures, including science fiction and fantasy aficionados. Con-Version has been attracting thousands of fans for nearly thirty years now, as interesting and diverse a crowd of people as I've ever encountered. I haven't been to a convention for over a decade, but if anyone wants to make the trip again, I'm up for it.


Stephen Fitzpatrick said...

We won 'Best Journeyman' as I had won an award as part of a group in a previous year ('Best Performance Under Fire', for an alien rock band skit with makeup, costume AND equipment malfunctions, but that's another story...). I had a cute idea that ticked off a lot of Trekkies (Trekkers like you seemed to enjoy it), and you TOTALLY sold my hastily written dialogue:

FEDERATION OFFICIAL: Mr. Kolok, I'm going over your return, and I have to tell you, there are some serious discrepancies here - you've claimed principle residences both here and in the Neutral Zone, you've deducted body bags as both a capital *and* operating expense, and Schedule D is covered with some kind that blood? I'm afraid you are just going to have to re-submit this retur-"
[KOLOK, Klingon Public Accountant, grabs the Federation lackey by his lapels and viciously head butts him, sending a shower of papers into the air.]
FEDERATION OFFICIAL: (Cupping his nose to staunch the flow of blood) On the other hand, let me find my supervisor and see if we can't arrange a waiver...

Thanks Earl! You turned a cheeky concept and a so-so-costume into a great presentation!

I'm hesitant about returning, but I have to confess, a part of me is curious about getting the band back together. I understand you are quite the vocalist...

Earl J. Woods said...

I knew you'd have a more accurate record of the proceedings than I, and now I actually remember how it all went much more vividly. Thanks, Stephen!