Armadillocon 2004: Opening ceremony

Following the ArmadilloCon tradition, toastmaster K. D. Wentworth gave a humorous speech. She addressed the audience as a fourth grade schoolteacher, which she actually was for the most of her working life. She chastised SF fandom for forgetting their geeky, eccentric roots and becoming too mainstream. Then she and several other guests performed “The Fan Eye for a Mundane Guy” makeover on a guy they picked from the audience.

Note: My transcription of this speech is not completely accurate since I had to work off of a poor quality tape recording.

“Where are your Klingon foreheads?” K. D. Wentworth asks. “Your chain mail bikinis? (The audience whoo hoos) Your fuzzy tails? Why have you left your Starfleet uniforms at home? If you think about it for even a few minutes, the implications are staggering. What will become of us if no one will know how to make a Pangalactic Gargleblaster anymore? I mean, look at yourself. Some of you actually have tans. (Hearty laughter in the audience.) Aren’t you ashamed?”

It used to be said “the geek will inherit the earth”, she reminds us, but now “we can’t even recognize a geek when one walks into the room. How the heck are they going to inherit anything? If we don’t watch out, we’ll be fully integrated in the mainstream society. Yes, we’ll be one with the mundanes. (Wails of disappointment in the audience.) And then every Tom, Dick and Heather will be buying tickets to fantasy movies, quoting Tolkien and wearing hobbit feet to work. We’ll be raising an entire generation who thinks Buck Rogers was a guy who needed serious ortodontia, that McCoy should be wearing a tartan, and that Dune is the past tense of ‘done’.”

“There was a time when being a science fiction writer, fan or artist stood for something. People knew what to expect from you. When one of us walked into a bookstore or a movie theater, there was no mistaking us for anything else. Now look at us! We could walk into any department store in the entire nation and no one would blink and eye. I know how it starts. Just one white crisp button-down shirt: what could it hurt? A tie, maybe? A business suit? You could just hang it in your closet and no one will ever know.” […]

She shatters the illusions some fans may have that if they dress mainstream they can pass for “one of them”. “But I tell you now that you brand yourself by the tear gleaming in your eye whenever you play that Start Trek theme MP3 on your computer at work. Or by the way your hand trembles when you have to pass up a copy of “Debbie Does Jurasic Park” at your local Blockbuster when your mate lobbies for “Steel Magnolias” again. Do you really believe that no one will notice that “Mars wants you” poster in your cubicle? I know some of you think you can go cold turkey and simply give all this up, but I tell you that was a mistake. It would be far easier to tear out your beating heart for the benefit of Doctor McCoy’s -spray than turn your backs to who you really are.”

“Instead, let us return to that halcyon days when a mixed marriage was defined as a marriage between a science fiction and a fantasy fan, and formal dress for dinner was a newly stamped “Princess Bride” T-shirt, worn over black jeans.”

Then she points to a man in the audience. “You, sir. Yes, you”. She calls him on stage and introduces him as a man desperately in need of an intervention by a team of fannish style experts. She says: “This is obviously a job for… The Fan Eye for a Mundane Guy”.

(Audience howls with laughter and applauds.)

The guy, named Scott, comes on the stage. He is wearing a business suit with a crisp white shirt an a tie.

K. D. Wentworth introduces a team of experts, made up of some of the guests of honor, who are sitting on the podium. Chaz Boston-Baden performs a fashion intervention on Scott. Among other things, he dresses him in a black fannish T-shirt and puts a hat with a propeller on his head.

K.D. Wentworth: “Now I’ll have Melissa, our culinary goddess, give Scott a few clues about fannish cuisine.”

Melissa: “Let’s talk food and drink. What do you keep around for your guests?”

Scott: “Beer… and nachos.”

Melissa shakes her head in horror. “That is not good enough. You should always have one alcoholic drink and one non-alcoholic drink. For the alcoholic drink, Romulan ale.” She holds up a squiggly shaped bottle of red liquid. “And coffee is not gonna do it. Tea. Earl Grey. Hot.”

For finger food she gives some exotic recommendations that I didn’t fully understand. Suffices to say it involves frozen gummy worms.

K. D. Wentworth: “Now we’re gonna have Charlaine, our interior design expert.”

Charlaine Harris: “Is your bachelor pad decorated Star Trek, late Babylon style?”

Scott. “Early American thrift-shop.” Audience laughs.

Charlaine Harris: “Don’t you understand that no self-respecting fannish lass would ever get in the mood in such dismal surroundings?”

A woman from the audience, perhaps Scott’s wife, shouts: “Tell me about it!” (Audience howls)

Charlaine Harris then gives him remodelling advice that involves Star Trek and probably a lot of other television show references that I missed because I don’t watch them.

And so on, and so forth. The rest of the experts involved fannish grooming (Sharon Shinn and Barbara Hambly) and culture (K. D. Wentworth herself). Star Trek references abounded. Strange, I thought this was a literary convention.

Finally the poor guy is sent off, all made over.

K. D. Wentworth “Repeat with me, and don’t worry, you do know the words: ‘Do or do not… THERE IS NO TRY’ (the audience joins in). And, ‘The force has the greatest effect on… THE WEAK-MINDED’. And, ‘May the force be…’ the audience finishes: “…WITH YOU!’ You do know your catechism!”

“Bless you, bless you, my children. Go forth and carry the word out to every consuite and bookstore in the nation. We will not be erased from the style consciousness of the Earth! Sally forth into tomorrow! Wherever you see a nifty pair of Vulcan ears, we’ll be there! Wherever a man dresses as a tree- or a woman wears great hairy feet of a hobbit, we’ll be there. No one is going to pull us into believing “The Handmaid’s Tale” isn’t science fiction! (Laughter and applause in the audience.) We will never be afraid to be all that we can be: the few, the proud, the geek.”

Then K. D. Wentworth goes on to introduce the guests of honor. “In the course of preparing the toastmaster’s speech for this year’s Armadillocon, I discovered really fascinating facts about our main guest. Unfortunately for you, though not for me, all the checks cleared. (Laughter in the audience.) So we won’t be discussing most of them.” Still, she offers some fascinating tidbits about each of the guests.

It turns out, Sharon Shinn wrote “War and Peace” before she was born, but given the unlikeliness of this event, the Russian guy named Leo Tolstoy got all the credit. Sharon hopes some day to clear up this egregious misattribution.

Barbara Hambly at ArmadilloCon 2004
P0000504 Barbara Hambly at ArmadilloCon 2004

K. D. Wentworth has also finally figured out that Barbara Hambly must be triplets, masquerading as a single writer. “It’s the only explanation for how one woman can write so many wonderful books and stories in so many different genres. She has written science fiction, fantasy and mystery, as well as straight historical fiction, comics and strips” ranging from vampires, and wizards, to dragons, to Jedi and […]. “If you watch her closely throughout the weekend, you’ll catch her being in more than one place at the same time, and then her cover will be blown. She’s probably the only writer to ever write about the sex life of Luke Skywalker and President Lincoln.”

Along the same lines, the editor guest Stanley Schmidt is the Godfather of the infamous Analog mafia. The artist guest Charles Vess has been commissioned to repaint the Sistine Chapel, and the fan guest Chaz Boston Baden was born with two heads, but had the other one cut off because it didn’t like science fiction.

Rob Landley makes liquid nitrogen ice cream at ArmadilloCon 2004
P0000530 Though K. D. Wentworth gently scolded the convention attendees for not being sufficiently geeky, not everything was lost. Rob Landley was there in the Consuite, making liquid nitrogen icecream. Now that’s some geeky cooking. He was also spreading awareness of Linucon, a Linux and science fiction convention later that year that he was organizing. You don’t get much more geekier than that.