At the ArmadilloCon opening ceremony it was revealed that not just one, but two of the ArmadilloCon guests could not make it because of (separate) medical emergencies. Or… that was the official story. Mark Finn, the toastmaster, revealed the real story at the end of his speech. Actually, the toastmaster was supposed to be one of the missing guests, Esther Friesner, so Mark stood in for her. Or so everybody thought, until he disclosed his secret at the end. More about it later.
He introduced convention guests, organizers, and volunteers by way of telling little anecdotes about them. For example, fan guest Grant Kruger had lived in Mississippi, where the science fiction fandom is same as here, only they say Klangon instead of Klingon. Mark added: “If you have a model of USS-
James P. Hogan had lived in the southern parts of the US for a long time too. (As far as I knew, he moved back to Ireland sometime shortly before this convention.) He bragged about having found an easy way to imitate a southern accent: you just insert a “y” after each vowel. He demonstrated his technique, eliciting squeals of laughter from the audience.
Mark also waxed about the duty we fans have towards the “straights”, or the mainstream people, as science fiction is slowly percolating into the mainstream. Star Wars is no longer a niche success, and internet is not just for nerds anymore — “it’s for nerds and predators”. So, he says, fans need to step up, throw off off the Jedi cloaks, and lead the agitated masses to the good stuff. After all, all Battlestar Galacticas are not created equal. We are the people who are constantly asked about a new movie being made, the same way as they expect Fred in the accounting to know how far the Rangers are from the first place. That’s a baseball reference, he added. The audience found much humor in the fact that this last bit had to be explained.
At the end he revealed his “secret”. He said, I came to your with a confession. For the past 11 years he kept a secret from even his closest friends. For you see, he said, I am Esther Friesner. The whole thing was a lark. He and friends were talking about James Tiptree Jr (a female SF writer who wrote under a male pseudonym) and he thought he could pull off the reverse. To his surprise, there was much more demand for Esther Friesner books than for ones he wrote under his own name. Esther Friesner became in high demand at SF conventions, and Mark had to ask his mom to play Friesner. But as the time went on, he found it harder and harder to maintain this split identity, so he decided to “come out” at this year’s ArmadilloCon.
Those were the highlights of the opening ceremony. Aside from that, it turned out that James P. Hogan really knew a lot of jokes. Some of them were funny, others less so. I liked this one: “How many LA cops does it take to change a lightbulb? Two. One, to shoot the lightbulb, and the other to testify that the lightbulb fired first.”
Fan guest Grant Kruger at the ArmadilloCon opening ceremony
Editor guest Diana Gill, fan Grant Kruger, Guest of Honor writer Julie Czerneda, and Special Guest writer James P. Hogan at the opening ceremony
At the ArmadilloCon opening ceremony: Guest Of Honor Julie Czerneda (left), editor guest Diana Gill
Writer Wendy Wheeler (left) and a con-goer named Sharon (right) watch the opening ceremony.
An unidentified con-goer (left), Shane Cook and artist John Picacio (right) at the art show
Writer James P. Hogan (second from right) hangs out with the con-goers Curtis “Tri-Edge”, Stephen and Gus, on the Friday night after the opening ceremony.
Writer Katharine Eliska Kimbriel (left) and Melissa Tyler