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Marvin makes an appearance on a Mars Rover at Loscon 29.

Photo by Melissa Kaercher, 2002.
It's been a really obscene amount of time since I've written a convention report. As I am writing now, it is -- get this -- June 2004, and I have about a year and a half of convention reports to catch up on.

Loscon 2002 rolled around only a week after MFF 2002. This meant that after spending a weekend in Chicago, I had Thanksgiving in Minneapolis, then immediately turned around and spent the next weekend in Los Angeles. This trip was followed two weeks later by a plane ride to Austin for the Butt-Numb-a-Thon. After that, Christmas arrived, then New Years, and suddenly the last thing I wanted to think about was traveling and conventions.

And then I kept landing in the hospital, and I got screwed over by an employer, and then I bought a house, and then I broke my hand... and so on. So, in short, real life hit in a big way. Thus, this tale languished in the sad, dark place that is my brain.

This is quite sad, really, because Loscon was a blast, and I'm sure I've forgotten many delightful details. Thankfully, my long tenure at the University of Minnesota prepared me for this line of work by making me quite talented at taking notes. Thus, I should at least be able to get names and events put into the right places.

Onward.

Loscon is a fabulous convention that takes place over Thanksgiving weekend in sunny Burbank, California. I had attended once before, in 2001, and had so much fun that three weeks later, I purchased a plane ticket to Los Angeles for the following year's Loscon.

Loscon has an attendance of about 1,400 people, garnering a crowd that reminds me much of my favorite home convention, CONvergence. The events are great, the people are friendly, the parties rock, and the convention runs like a well-oiled machine. Furthermore, anyone attending has a high probability of running into celebrities. This is due to two factors: that Loscon is nestled in Los Angeles (so Harlan Ellison can just drop in and say hi), and that it has been running for a sturdy 29 years (so Harlan Ellison actually wants to drop in and say hi).

For my second Loscon, I was anxious to show off the convention to someone else from the Minneapolis crowd, and Christopher willingly stepped up to the bat. He purchased last-minute tickets for Thanksgiving weekend (a feat in itself), made all the preperations, gave up Thanksgiving, and yet misfortune befell him. You can read more about that in the adventure I relate below.

Before I proceed with the adventure, however, I must unleash my usual disclaimer. I realize that many of you may be reading this because you are looking for news on guests of honor, specific events, or other broad convention news. While I do my best to get a broad overview of any convention, I usually know very little about the guests of honor, I have a propensity to miss most of the panels, and I tend to totally ignore some convention offerings completely (such as gaming and filking). My tales are always just personal accounts of what went on in front of my eyes, and are usually filled with a coterie of bizarre friends, a good helping of mischief, and my usual buffet of personal foibles and antics.

That said, I am always on the lookout for other web pages that also detail what went on at the same convention, and I try to list them here so you can get a broader view of what the event was really like. Here is one I've already stumbled across:
  • Chaz Boston Baden has a wonderful web page that not only features extensive photos of Loscon 29, but also of past Loscons and other conventions.

So, without further ado, here is the full tale of Loscon 29:

11282002 Since Christopher purchased his airline tickets so late, the only flight options that remained for him left early in the morning on Thanksgiving Day. This meant two things. First, that he would miss Thanksgiving dinner with his family. Second, since my flight left on Friday morning, he would be alone in Los Angeles on Thanksgiving night.

It was a sucky arrangement for him, yet he willingly bought the tickets, since we were both giddy about the idea of traveling together.

So, early Thursday morning, we headed for the airport. Instead of just dropping him off at the airport, though, I figured it would be nice to see him off, especially considering that it was a holiday. This wound up being a very fortunate decision.

While we were standing in line at the Delta counter, I noticed that his return ticket was for the wrong date. He was supposed to return on Monday, and the ticket was for a return on the following Friday.

Since he was a) tight on cash because of the holiday, b) not too keen on spending a week in Los Angeles alone after the convention, and c) had an upcoming deadline for the latest comic he was drawing for DC Comics, this was a very bad thing.

We sat in the airport and spend the next two hours on the phone, venting anger at both Delta Airlines and cheaptickets.com for screwing up the tickets. Demanding the flight times be corrected did nothing, because the flights were already packed full because of the holiday. Finally, the flight left without Christopher on it, and he was without both trip and refund.

I took him out to breakfast after that. During the meal, we weighed our options. It was clear that he couldn't join me for Loscon, but the tickets could still be altered. We thought of shifting the tickets to the San Diego Comic Con dates in 2003, or to Loscon the following year, etc. Eventually, Christopher decided to use the tickets to attend the Gallifrey Dr. Who convention in February. It sucked that he had to pay $100 to switch the tickets, even though the airline had made the error, but at least the tickets didn't go to waste.

Christopher wound up having Thanksgiving dinner in Minneapolis after all, and he finally had the chance to attend Gallifrey. Thus, he didn't join me for this adventure, but he had a happy ending (minus $100).

Meet Moose, my traveling companion for Loscon.

Photo by Melissa Kaercher, 2002.
11292002 The alarm went of at 6:00 AM. I hit snooze until 6:30, then remembered that I still had to pack. Thankfully, most of my gear was still packed from last weekend's trip to MFF, so it was easy to throw some new clothes in the suitcase and get out the door by 7:10 AM.

Since I was now without a traveling companion, I packed Moose in my luggage. Moose is a small stuffed animal that Sharon has been taking on trips for many years, so I figured I'd take Moose out for an adventure on her behalf.

Rick kindly drove me to the airport and dropped me off at the door. After the previous day's debacle, I was paranoid about my flights, so I made sure I got to the airport with over two hours to spare.

Then I discovered the great loveliness that is eTicket kiosks. I had my ticket in hand in under five minutes. So, I had a couple hours to kill.

Standing in line and getting searched by security did little to slay those two hours. I wound up wandering around the airport shops aimlessly, gazing at the holiday decorations and trying madly to get gift ideas for Christmas. I paid $7 for a coffee and a muffin at Starbucks because they wouldn't take my nifty gift card (it was another six months before I found a Starbucks that would take their own nifty gift cards). I found a Dr. Seuss calendar that I desperately wanted. I sat down and read The Conversations with Walter Murch at the gate.

In direct contrast to the terrible airline experience from the day before, my flight was possibly the nicest, smoothest, most organized flight I've ever been on. I even got bumped from a middle seat to an aisle seat when a family of four wanted to sit together. I've never been fond of the airline industry, but by the end of that flight, I was at least at peace with the fact that I spent money on these tickets.

The flight was on time, and damn, it was hot outside. As a native Minnesotan, I'm still a little shocked when I find out some places are actually warm in between Thanksgiving and the end of March.

I had no problem nabbing my luggage and finding the avenue outside where my ride was supposed to be waiting. However, I got out there, and Kevin Cooper was nowhere to be found. I didn't have Kevin's number handy, so I couldn't call him, but I noticed that there was a new message on my phone. I had something of an adventure trying to get the message because of the noise, but I eventually figured out that the message was from Kevin, and he was running late.

So, I sat down on a bench and waited. I read a little, got chatted up by one of the most creative panhandlers I've ever encountered, and watched the rental cars cruise by.

Finally, Kevin drove up in a rental car. I learned that his regular auto had been grievously harmed in a nasty accident only a few days before.

We drove through the hills of Los Angeles, chatting about the holidays, family, and everything else that happened since CONvergence that July, when we last saw each other. We further expanded our chat time together by stopping for lunch at a little fast food hut named Tommy's. I could feel my arteries planning a revolt against me as I hoovered down a chili burger and cheese fries, while discussing the subtleties of Farscape and uber-geek Wil Wheaton.

That's when I found out Kevin had been at a dinner with Wil Wheaton only a few nights before.

Bastard.

Tadao Tomomatsu, Loscon 29's fearless leader. Pictured here with Moose.

Photo by Melissa Kaercher, 2002.
We eventually made it to the hotel in the mid-afternoon hours. I was quite anxious to figure out my hotel room situation as soon as possible, since now that Christopher wasn't rooming with me, I was reluctant to pay for a whole hotel room for myself. Kevin didn't have a room for the weekend, so I figured it was time to locate Tadao. Tadao, as I learned last year, was not only good at fixing people up with hotel space, but was also the head of the convention this year.

So, I sat down in the lobby of the convention hall and called Tadao on my cell phone. We were chatting only for a minute or so when he mysteriously appeared directly behind me. He was just waiting for me to notice that he was right there.

Sure enough, after I described the loss of my room-mate to the cruelties of Delta Airlines, Tadao generously offered the hide-a-way bed in the hotel suite that he and Susan Gleason were splitting. Relieved, I let Tadao run off to take care of convention stuff, and I trekked off to begin my convention experience.

I then walked over to the queue at the registration desk, where Kevin found me a couple minutes later. When I finally got to the front of the line, the staffer on duty could not find my badge or any record of my registration. As the situation escalated, the staffer called in Chaz, the convention head from last year, to see if he could help figure out what happened to the missing registration. While I talked to Chaz, Kevin found my name in the convention program and noticed it was misspelled. He suggested to the staffer that they look under the misspelled version of my name, and lo and behold, there was my registration. The staffer fixed the database entry, printed up my badge, and we were on our way.

Kevin and I then checked out the dealers' room, which was stocked wall to wall with great things to buy. I love the Loscon dealers' room -- there's a wide variety of stuff there.

The first interesting thing I noticed was that artist Kelly Freas had a table, and was doing caricatures of people for $75 a pop. I was instantly sad that I didn't have $75 to spare -- having a portrait done by a man who did the cover of a Queen album would earn me some serious geek cred. Needless to say, his work was wonderful.

We also found a book dealer who had a great coffee table book about the Burning Man celebration. Kevin and I spent about twenty minutes just pawing through the wild photographs.

Consuite 9 From Outer Space. Sadly, the cool lighting effects were not conducive to good photos.

Photo by Melissa Kaercher, 2002.
After a thorough examination of the rest of the dealers' room, we went to Consuite for some soda. I discovered that Loscon's Consuite had much improved over last year. Not only did they have an excellent selection of foods, but they had a really fun Plan 9 from Outer Space theme going, complete with paper-plate UFOs hanging from the ceiling. Plus, they had a stock of the rarest of convention sodas, my favorite non-alcoholic elixir, Diet Caffeine-Free Coke! After being stunned by its appearance at MFF only the week before, I was bowled over by this. I was in convention heaven.

After that lovely discovery, I then decided it would probably be a good idea to cancel my old hotel reservation. Since there was a sizable line at the hotel desk, I managed to strike up conversation with a couple of Kevin's friends. (The gent's name was Glen, but I have completely forgotten the woman's name.) The woman was great fun to talk to, because we both quickly discovered that we were both fascinated by Iggy the Iguana, the giant steel sculpture outside the Minnesota Science Museum. Not only was I surprised that she was familiar with the sculpture, but also that she knew so much about it. (The huge sculpture was built by a 15-year-old boy entirely out of chicken wire and railroad spikes.)

Soon, I discovered myself at the front of the line. I walked up to the desk clerk and explained my tale. I was under the impression that this hotel had a cancellation charge if the reservation wasn't cancelled with 24 hours of notice, but the clerk just canceled the room without the charge. Excellent!

After that, I located Tadao again so we could work out the logistics of the hotel room. I then had to chase down Susan, who was bedecked in one of her many costumes, to get a key and the actual room number. We had a few minutes of time to catch up with each other, and then she raced off.

After that, I located Kevin, and I pulled my stuff out of his car. I quickly dropped it off in the room, changed into a T-shirt, and nabbed my camera.

I then found some quiet space in the lobby so I could look at the schedule grid. Someone had thoughtfully left out several dozen boxes of Nerds in the lobby, so I treated myself to a sugar high as I mapped out my weekend.

I soon discovered that programming was light at this time of day, so I decided that this would be a good time to be a good samaritan. I walked over to the conventions' blood donation center.

Around a half hour later, I found myself sitting at a table with a bandage around my right elbow, eating Fig Newtons and gossiping about various film productions with a guy named Chain. As I talked about some of the more obscure details about the production of the upcoming X-Men 2 film, which I had gleaned from Robert Meyer Burnett and others, I suddenly realized that I was obscenely well connected for someone not actually working in the film industry.

Hunh.

Balloon fish, given only to those who generously donated blood at the convention.

Photo by Melissa Kaercher, 2002.
As I was finishing up my last Fig Newton, one of the blood donation crew handed me a balloon fish as a thank-you gift for my donation. I was heartily pleased to see that the balloons they used were the official CONvergence colors: purple and green.
Christopher would be so proud.

I then took my new pet fish to the I Want This Movie Now! panel, which I expressly wanted to attend because both Jeremy Bloom and Eric Hoffman were supposed to be on the panel, and neither of them knew I was here yet. I figured it would be a good way to surprise them both.

When I got into the panel room, I found the panel in progress, a good-sized crowd, and Eric, but no Jeremy. I sat in the back and listened in on the discussion as I caught up on my notes. In theory, the panel was about films that weren't available on DVD or even VHS. By the time I got there, the panel was experiencing some rather strong topic drift, though it at least stuck with filmmaking. Much of the talk involved old westerns, personal anecdotes about Fritz Lang and Akira Kurosawa, and other movie talk regarding nearly-forgotten films.

After the panel, I had a chance to check up with Eric. He was quite under the weather, so we only talked for a few minutes before he had to go. We made quick plans to catch up another time during the weekend, which, sadly, never really happened.

After that, I had some time to kill, so I ran to the hotel room to drop off my fish. When I got there, I found Susan changing into another costume. As we chatted in passing, I discovered that her goal for the weekend was to win as many hall costume awards as possible. It was only mid-afternoon on Friday, and she already had three awards -- very impressive.

I left the room for a bit, wandered through Consuite for some soda, and then returned. I was still a little wound up from running around all day, so I decided to just have some quiet time with my book as I decided what to do next.

Above: Images from the Ice Cream Social.

Photo by Melissa Kaercher, 2002.

Above: Images from L'Etoile Rouge!, which featured, among other things, a can-can/polka version of Bohemian Rhapsody.

Photo by Melissa Kaercher, 2002.
As I was reading, Tadao showed up in the room. As expected from a convention chair, he was running around in a state that hovered somewhere between harried and a bemused panic. As he hastily changed into a very swank suit, he pointed to a large Target bag in the corner.

"You haven't opened your gift yet!" he noted as he flew past.

Damn, I didn't even know it was mine.

I peeked into the Target bag and found it full of little sundries: a box of Pocky, a couple of books, a copy of Frequency audio magazine (one that Tadao provided voice talents for), and... a Mad Scientist Kit! The kit was one of those nifty supply boxes sold around Halloween, complete with plastic beakers, a Frankenstein bowl set, and other decorations. It eventually turned out to be very useful for the 2003 CONvergence Cthulhu Coffee party.

I thanked Tadao as he hurried out the door.

I then wandered back out into the convention, where I found Kevin standing in line for the Ice Cream Social. I had missed the Ice Cream Social last year, and Kevin stressed that I definitely had to attend this time.

The line was HUGE. Obviously, this was a popular event.

When I got inside the large ballroom, I discovered why it was a popular event:

1) Free ice cream
2) Cash bar
3) Free show

Kevin and I quickly descended upon the raspberry ice cream, and ate it while watching a parade of wild costumes go by. I was particularly impressed by a gent who was dressed as a Centauri from Babylon 5, complete with foot-tall hairdo and an impeccable uniform.

After I finished my ice cream and took a seat, I saw another well-dressed, older gent in a bright green tuxedo. He was obviously well-known and well-respected, as I judged from the way people flocked to him.

"That's Larry Niven," Kevin told me as I watched the bright green suit walk past.

"Really?!?" I knew that CONvergence had been talking to him to possibly get him as a guest, and I had some of the convention's progress reports with me. I made plans to give one to him later in the weekend.

After about an hour or so, the crowd settled into their seats, and L'Etoile Rouge! began. Basically, it was an hour long, live, spoof/drama/musical that set Moulin Rouge in outer space. The cast was really quite talented, especially the stars, Shawn and Denise Crosby, as I knew from meeting them and their work last year. The rendition of Roxanne was quite good, the Queen medley was entertaining, and the can-can/polka version of the Bohemian Rhapsody was downright disturbing.

I think it bent my brain.

After the show, Kevin wandered off, and I nipped off to the hotel room to lose my sweater. I then embarked on my quest to explore the party floors.

The first party I checked out was already going strong. The ceiling was completely covered in balloons, and the room was packed elbow to elbow with people, all facing towards one corner of the room. It was kind of creepy until I learned from the woman serving drinks that author David Weber was holding court in that corner. Ah, that made sense. The woman then handed me a Dixie cup full of something pink. Whatever it was, it tasted like cinnamon and could have been used as an explosive. I drank it fast and got more.

Since I wasn't familiar with David Weber or his books, I moved on to the party across the hall, which was a Buffy party. The room attendants were all dressed as knights, and they were running the partiers through a gamut of slayer tests.

A guy in the bedroom area handed me a plastic crossbow and three suction cup darts. I then was challenged to hit a poster of Spike, which was taped to a window across the room. I had no problem hitting James Marsters in the heart, so I was awarded a chocolate cross and sent back into the main room. Since I'm allergic to caffeine, I handed off the treat to someone else and wandered on.

In the main room, I ran into the guy dressed as a Centauri ambassador again. He was -- get this -- cuddling a stuffed Cthulhu toy in his arms. It was the most adorable thing I'd seen all day, this big guy dressed as a Centauri hugging his Cthulhu. I asked if I could get a photo, and he happily mugged for the camera.

After that I chatted with him a bit, asking him about his costume and such. Now that I had a chance to see it up close, I was really impressed. The uniform was absolutely gorgeous and perfectly detailed. Plus, Dave turned out to be quite a likable and fun conversationalist. I hoped to run into him more during the weekend.

Images from the Buffy Party.

Top: Babylon 5 meets Cthulhu.

Middle: Brad running the Twister board in full armor.

Bottom: Moose plays Twister.


Photos by Melissa Kaercher, 2002.
I then turned to the other challenge awaiting the people at the Buffy Party: the Twister board.

The Twister board was being manned by a gent in full medieval studded armor. His full chainmail headdress was carefully placed over his wire-rimmed glasses. I didn't recognize him until he cried out, "Melissa?"

I still had to think a moment until the neurons could place the face under the costume. "Brad!" Brad was one of the people I met at last year's Loscon who I was really looking forward to seeing again. I was thrilled that I actually recognized him -- I was quite drunk during last year's extensive conversations.

We chatted for a long while about various things, mostly just catching up on the last year. I played Twister with a couple other partiers and won a star. Moose played Twister, too.

At some point, I realized that it was fairly late at night, so I excused myself and dashed back to the hotel room so I could check in with Christopher in Minneapolis and see how his newfound weekend at home was going. As I was sitting on the couch talking on the phone, Susan came in and changed costumes again. She had a collection of Hall Costume Awards strung together like a stringer of fish, hanging off her convention badge.

After that, I decided to run back to the party floor. First stop was at the Baen Books party, where David Weber was still holding court. For some reason, I was actually thirsty for more of the pink rocket fuel stuff. As I claimed my drink, I noticed that I recognized the poor soul next to me -- Bill Goodwin, who I had also run into at Loscon 2001, and who still, to this day, holds the award for Best Presentation of Phone Number. (I solemnly swear I still own the paper plate upon which he drew both Nyarlathotep and his phone number.)

So, with joy, I wound up catching up with him while we surfed parties. We witnessed the dancing rodent robots at the Kansas City Worldcon Bid party. At some point, we stumbled across a nest of small Godzilla toys. We raised our eyebrows at the Corset Party down the hall.

But mostly, we just chatted and wandered, and eventually just found ourselves in the hall outside the Baen Books party again. I remember only snippets of our conversation by now. I recall a long talk about Ray Bradbury (who Bill had worked with), something about a treehouse, and a strange story about how Bill spent a portion of his life living in a rocket ship that he had built for Halloween purposes.

And then, somewhere in the middle of this, a very odd woman decided to insinuate herself into our conversation. Those of you who are familiar with sci-fi fandom know this type of person. This woman was one of those poorly socialized folk who simply pounce into any conversation they see near them, and then attempt to strongarm it into territory that they felt themselves expert in. In this case, she was fully intending to interest us in her family tree. Her oddness entertained us for a while, but after about five minutes, Bill looked at me with almost genuine fright. He nudged me into the Baen party for more alcohol, and thus we lost our interloper.

David Weber holding court at the Baen Books party.

Photo by Melissa Kaercher, 2002.

The antics of Bill Goodwin.

Top: Bill's hall drawings.

Middle: The Talking Cow.

Bottom: Bill as a Bat.


Photos by Melissa Kaercher, 2002.
After that, we headed over to the Buffy room, where we took up residence on the suite's couch. Brad was still there, sweating in his full armor, but still having fun running the Twister board. Thankfully, the couch was right next to the Twister game, so we could all chat and watch the activities. The three of us talked merrily about Cthulhu, Lovecraft, and other things. I also seem to recall being introduced to the gentleman in the Centauri outfit and chatting with him briefly. I am sad I don't remember his name (it could have been Dave), because he struck me as a really charming person. At another point, Bill started up his Talking Cow hand puppet schtick, which I had been introduced to the year before. Still bloody funny. Kevin turned up, too.

The party floor generally died around midnight, so Bill, Kevin, and I all started a general wander around the hotel. We started out in Consuite, which had the look of being raided by marauding hordes of starving wildebeests. No food for us. Bummer.

We then found ourselves in the fanzine room. As I am not a 'zine fan, I found this primarily amusing for a toy airplane and an inflatable octopus that had also found their way into the room.

Now thoroughly bored, we wandered the halls. Bill found a stack of Post-It notes and began sketching critters upon them. They wound up adorning a random bulletin board that we passed.

We finally gave up on our search for adventure. Kevin headed home, and Bill walked me to my room.

As I readied myself for bed, Tadao came in. We had a brief talk about what my staff duties were. In theory, I was in charge of keeping the Fan Museum straightened up. Basically, the little history exhibit was housed in the Jubilee Room, and I was to check in every few hours to make sure nothing was out of order or stolen. Simple enough.

Soon after that conversation, I pursued several hours of sleep.

11302002 The gods smote me yet again. Somehow, I woke up at the ungodly hour of 6 AM. As I didn't want to wake up my roommates, who were snoozing in the next room of the suite, I took to reading my book again. I killed a couple of hours that way. I felt very anti-social for that.

My roommates eventually did come alive, and I leapt into the shower. When I came out, I was treated to the sight of Tadao in a kimono, strapping on a katana. He was ready for yet another day as head of the convention.

We both headed out of the room at roughly 9 AM. Instead of waiting for the usual elevators, Tadao showed me the Super Secret Freight Elevator, which was hidden in a sort of supply closet area of the floor.

I then went to Consuite, where I found half a donut to eat. They had more, but I figured I'd find something else later.

Now fed, I found myself aimless. Thus, I figured it was a good time to haunt the good ol' Volunteers desk. I practically scared them with my enthusiasm to work on something... anything.

I was promptly sent into one of the large convention rooms, the same room that held the Ice Cream Social the night before. I was introduced to Cathy, who instructed me to take the tape off the walls, and thus help the room recover from the debauchery of Friday night. I did this until they no longer had a use for me.

Thus, I found myself back at the Volunteers Desk at 10 AM. I was promptly sent to Registration, where I spent the next two hours laminating badges and pretending to know the answers to registration questions. The panic of the hour was that there were no schedules left, so I had to tell folks who had lost/abandoned their old schedule that there weren't any more. If I remember right, there were more being printed up, but I didn't have an ETA. Ah, well. Glitches happen at every convention.

While working the desk, I met a fellow who introduced himself as Zed Null. He was badging across the walkway from me, so we wound up chatting a bit. Interesting fellow.

When I checked out of my Registration post at noon, I realized that I was still only running on half a donut and a handful of candy corn. Ignoring my stomachs better interests, I stopped by the Jubilee Room to fulfill my staff duties. Yup, nothing had been taken. I straightened a couple of books and went off to Consuite.

Consuite rocked this time. I found myself amply nourished with a PB&J sandwich on sourdough bread, some oatmeal, and a dose of soda.

Nichelle Nichols
Nichelle Nichols
Nichelle Nichols, better known to the masses as Uhura.

Photos by Melissa Kaercher, 2002.
Sometime around 12:30 AM, the cry went up around the convention that Nichelle Nichols (translation for non-geeks: Uhura from the original Star Trek TV show) had just popped in, unannounced. She was going to use the hotel's largest room (the one that I had just helped clean tape off the walls) to speak about her new book. Though not a Trek fan, I was curious enough that I made sure I was there.

Seeing Nichelle talk is an interesting thing. You get the impression that she has told these stories at least three million times apiece. Thankfully, she is at least a good enough actress to make them seem somewhat fresh when she tells them. Each tale is highly polished, and I suspect that they're down nearly word for word. While they are good stories, I doubt that anyone who follows the original Trek hasn't heard her Martin Luther King tale at least three times.

It's also interesting seeing her these days. She's definitely become more matronly since the last time we saw her on screen. Her voice, though, continues to be wonderful. Half of the fun of listening to her tell stories is hearing the stories in that voice. I found myself wishing that she would do more cartoon voice work.

The talk went well, though she said maybe a paragraph or so about her new book. The rest of the hour was spent re-hashing Trek tales, which, you must admit, was probably what the audience wanted to hear about anyway.

After the talk, she was planning to sign stuff in the hall. I didn't have any money for her glossy photos, but I thought I might get her photo with Moose, so I checked out the line outside. It was insanely long, so I went to the Art Show instead.

Loscon's Art Show is always a pleasure to go through. They have a lot of space, and a lot of work to show in it. The variety and quality of stuff they garner is quite impressive. I was particularly pleased to see my friend, Denise Garner, represented on a few of the panels, alongside other such fantasy art pros as Nene Thomas and Kelly Freas.

I then wandered into the dealers room, where I struck up a conversation with a coin dealer, as well as the guy selling poison rings. I wish the guy who sold poison rings went to more shows in the Midwest -- his inventory is fascinating to look at, and inexpensive to buy.

I then went out and got into the Nichelle Nichols line. I purposely took the end of the line because I knew I'd be asking an odd question ("Will you pose with this moose?"). I waited and waited. When I got up there, I was brushed off rather rudely. Yes, I understand that these folks make their livings now by selling photos of themselves, but a polite "no" would have sufficed. I mean, I did my best to be polite to her and to everyone else who stood in line to see Nichelle. But oh well. I fumed for a bit.

I then decided that sleeping was better than fuming, so I went back to the room and slept until 4:30 PM. I then hit Consuite to find only thin offerings. Bored, I wandered around aimlessly. When I wandered past the Volunteers Desk, they reeled me in and asked me with mild desperation to badge the Dealers' Room. So I badged for an hour.

After that, I headed over to the Fair Use panel, about copyright laws and such. My main goal of doing this was to see if Jeremy Bloom had shown up yet, but he hadn't. The remaining panelists were very good, though, and I found the panel to be a very interesting diversion.

I then found Kevin in the halls afterwards, so we wandered over to Consuite together. This time, there was more food out, so we hung out there for a bit. We wound up debating about Minnesota and politics with a fellow named Greg.

By 6 PM, I found myself badging again, this time for the Dealers Room. As I was at the back door, it was a rather slow shift for me. I spent most of it chatting with good ol' Zed Null and feeling hungry.

Jeremy Bloom
Jeremy Bloom in the hotel lobby.

Photo by Melissa Kaercher, 2002.

Chain
Chain.

Photo by Melissa Kaercher, 2002.

Ministry of Unkown Science
Ministry of Unkown Science
Ministry of Unkown Science
Above: images from the Ministry of Unknown Science show.

Photos by Melissa Kaercher, 2002.
When my shift ended at 7 PM, I dashed off to find real food. En route, I found Kevin watching a bellydancing demonstration in the hallway. There was a scary guy trying to bellydance along with the very talented Indian dancer. Kevin and I quietly mocked the scary guy for a few minutes, and then I went onward towards the Fiercely Overpriced and Mediocre Hotel Restaurant.

Just before I reached the restaurant, however, fate would have it that I ran into Jeremy Bloom. We cheerfully greeted each other, and I was promptly recruited into helping him unload his car. He had just arrived from somewhere well up the west coast (Seattle?) and was rushing to set up his room party. Since he promised that he had hummus and would willingly feed it to me, I practically dove into helping him unpack.

The next hour or so was spent eating pita bread, hummus, cheesy goldfish crackers, and potato chips while we set up the room and ransacked all the ice machines in the hotel. I noted with glee that he did not, repeat not, arrive at the hotel with another bottle of Thai whiskey, as he had the year before. Thank the gods.

Eventually, the room was in a passable state, so we sat on the beds and stuffed ourselves silly with snacks. We had plenty of time to catch up with each others lives and play with the box full of blinky light jewelry that he intended to give away as party favors. I wound up with one that alternated blinking in purple and green. The CONvergence folks would be so proud of me.

At 9 PM, I remembered that Jeremy never did move his car away from the hotel entrance. I reminded him of this, and then headed off to my room to change into my black vinyl dress. I then headed off to the Ministry of Unknown Science show, which was being held in the auditorium at 10 PM.

On the way to the show, I ran into Chain in the elevator. He howled and begged. I could see already that my mode of dress was going to be a hit.

I soon found Jeremy outside the auditorium, so we went inside to find seats. We had plenty of time to kill, so we partook of our usual fun banter. At one point, we noted the time.

Jeremy: "We have fifteen minutes!"

Me: "To move your car?"

Jeremy: *blinks* "CRAP!"

He dashed off at record speeds. Later, after he returned...

Jeremy: "You must marry me."

Me: *remembering a comment he made last year* "Even though I'm not a red-headed Asian Jew?"

Jeremy: *flattered, astonished* "You remembered!"

The show started soon after this. Now, I had never seen a Ministry of Unknown Science show, but I must say I was impressed as all hell. These guys are literally at Kids in the Hall level of comedy polish, and should have their own TV show. They had elaborate sets, well-written and well-performed and wickedly funny sketches, and talent on both stage and screen. They alternated between live and taped segments, and the show moved at rocket pace. There were points that I couldn't breathe, I was laughing so hard. My favorite sketch involved The Elephant Man as an ineffectual detective, but the single line that has stuck with me the longest was delivered by a (pseudo) Stan Lee: "So there I was... balls deep in Jack Kirby..."

Holy gods, it was great stuff. I wondered if I'd ever be able to port their comedy over to the Minnesota crowd.

After the fabulous show dispersed, it was party time. I wandered around with Kevin, Bill, and Brad (who was now free from Buffy Party duty). We wafted through the Pirate Party room (a fabulous room filled with arrrghs and sea shanties), the Creepy Scientology Room (which, nevertheless, had excellent ice cream), the Harvey Birdman Viewing Room (Birrrrrrrrrd-MAN!). The fellow who had formerly been dressed as a Centauri asked to take a photo of me (and, presumably, my famed shiny dress).

Later in the evening, I found myself in Jeremy's party, as the all-knowing hub of Lord of the Rings film knowledge and other movie gossip. I also discovered that the convention equivalent of the "party kitchen syndrome" (where people gravitate to the kitchen during particularly good parties) is a variant held in the bathroom.

And then later I found myself in... the Kansas City Worldcon Bid room? Not sure... but I mentioned that I was warm, and suddenly found myself surrounded by men willing to fan me with paper plates. Chaz Boston-Baden captured this most decadent moment on film.

It was also at this party that I wound up getting chatted up by Tad, a fellow who was running for Senate... It was a surreal evening.

In the wee-est hours of the morning, our little squad of geeks (myself, Kevin, Bill, and Brad) found ourselves searching for a working DVD player, as I had a DVD of Don Hertzfeldt's Rejected, and was hellbent on showing it to everyone. We eventually tracked down some complete strangers, who invited us into their room so we could show them and everyone else still alive at that hour the glory that is Rejected.

Party Hall
Hallway on the party floor.

Glen and Jeremy
Glen and Jeremy in the Jeremy's Frequency party.

Harvey Birdman Viewing Room
The Harvey Birdman Viewing Room.

Above photos by Melissa Kaercher, 2002.
(It is at this point in my notes that I had written, "What kind of underwear do you have on?" I have no recollection of this line. I imagine it may have been used on me at one of the late-running parties. You'd think I would remember such a thing.)

Sometime around 2 AM, our little geek posse wound up in Consuite, discussing serial killers, the World Horror Convention, and Bill's portfolio of art (which is smashing, by the way). Things became continually more surreal, until Brad wound up getting a completely platonic foot massage from Zed Null...

By the time 3:15 AM rolled around, my body had all the booze and surrealism that it could handle. Bill walked me up to my hotel room.

Once in the room, it was a slow process getting to bed. Susan and a friend of hers were there, the hotel bill got slid under the door, Tadao came in and chatted for a bit, etc. it was nice for wind-down time, but it meant a very, very late bedtime.

12012002 For no reason whatsoever, I woke up at 9 AM. I showered, and then called up Christopher in Minneapolis. We had a nice, long chat about our respective weekends.

I then quested for breakfast. Thinking I might want company, I dialed up Jeremy's cell phone. Unfortunately, there was no answer, so I left a message, grabbed my book, and headed down to the Fiercely Overpriced and Mediocre Hotel Restaurant.

As good fortune would have it, the restaurant was actually better than I remembered last year. I loaded up with coffee and pasta. Every cell in my body gave me a standing ovation.

I relaxed for a while and read a few chapters in the book. Jeremy called back, and chatted for a few minutes until I reminded him that he had a panel in a few minutes.

At noon, I went back to the hotel room to lie down at write up some notes. Susan came in after a few minutes, so we wound up chatting a bit about her convention duties, which involved writing articles for the at-con daily news-zine.

Susan then headed off to turn in an article, so I napped until 1 PM.

I met up with Jeremy after his TV panel finished, and promptly scored a free Witchblade T-shirt from one of the other panelists. Always a CONvergence schmoozer, I also wound up handing off a couple of CONvergence PR reports to some of the indy filmmakers at the panel.

After this, I wandered around a bit aimlessly. I ran into a gent (Tom) in the elevator who actually recognized me from this web site, and we had a very interesting chat about Madcon. I also ran into Politician Tad again, who introduced me to a Matthew, a con virgin and radio personality. I was blessed with toys and tschotchkes at the Volunteer's Desk.

I then found purpose, and badged the Art Show for an hour. During this stint of badging, I had several delightful conversations with passerby, including Mark (who loaned us his DVD player the night before), Chain, Tom from the elevator, Susan, and someone who knew that I know Denise Garner, I believe I even got to complain about the unemployment rate with Tom, which wound up being a rather interesting and involved little discussion.

At 4 PM, my badging shift ended, so I went back to the Volunteers Desk for a new task. There was nobody left. Well, darn.

After some aimless wandering, I happened upon Jeremy, Kevin, and Kevin's friend Claire in the hotel lobby. While we hatched ideas for lunch, we all sat in the big overstuffed chairs and played with our digital cameras.

We ultimately wound up at the Fiercely Overpriced and Mediocre (But Improving) Hotel Restaurant. The four of us sat around for two hours, eating real food and discussing dot coms, Tom Lehrer songs, and CalTech.

We then headed over to Consuite to see what was happening with the Dead Dog Party. We found some spice cake, but not much else. So, instead, we fetched Kevin's iBook for another viewing of Rejected.

Well, we headed up to my/Tadao's/Susan's hotel room, and found out that my key no longer worked. Odd.

Figuring that something demagnetized my card, we all went en masse to find Tadao and his key. We eventually found him in the pubs room and nabbed his key card. We went back up to 8th floor -- that one didn't work, either.

Well, we found Tadao again and asked for advice. He told me to hand off the keys to Christian, the hotel liaison. We found him in the hotel lobby, so we handed off the defective keys and waited. Christian disappeared for a long while. We all sat in the lobby and played with our cameras some more. Jeremy then disappeared.

Tadao and Susan
Tadao Tomomatsu and Susan Gleason.

Photo by Melissa Kaercher, 2002.

Then, in an odd little twist, Larry Niven walked into the lobby. Remembering my quest to hand off a CONvergence PR report to him, I mustered up my courage and struck up conversation. He was very sweet and friendly, though he seemed a touch confused about CONvergence (after all, he wasn't due at CONvergence for a year and a half). I handed off the CONvergence book, and he genially handed me his business card.

I then returned to our little lobby group and found that we still had no hotel keys. I quested again for Tadao, who, we discovered, had received new hotel cards from Christian. I nabbed one of those and led our little expedition into the hotel room. A few minutes later, Jeremy showed up with his friend Lilian.

We all watched Rejected again and chatted a while. Claire eventually headed home. Chatter continued afterwards until Kevin started getting antsy and playing with some blue tape that he had found. I took this as my cue, so I said good night to Jeremy and Lilian and gathered my luggage.

After packing my luggage in Kevin's car, I headed back into the hotel one more time to find Tadao and Susan. I found them in the restaurant, having dinner with the rest of the convention board. We said our goodbyes, and I handed off the hard-won hotel key.

I then made my escape. Loscon 2002 was done, and I had enjoyed it greatly.

(Now, this is the end of the tale of Loscon 2002. However, this isn't the end of the trip. Feel free to stop reading if you don't give a rat's ass about what I did after the end of the convention. I normally wouldn't tack on this ending, but I'm going to because it gives me an excuse to post photos of a beautiful day in Santa Monica, which make me feel warm and happy during the harsh, long Minnesota winters. So there.)

Kevin and I sped off into the Los Angeles night. I believe we were initially questing for a movie theater (to see Solaris, I think), but we instead decided to just eat lots of spring rolls at P.F. Chang's. Since Kevin had asked me earlier to tell my infamous Gibraltar story (a comedic beast that involves gastroenteritis, angry friars, and Roachzilla -- ask me nice, and I'll happily waste an hour of your life telling you this story), I nabbed a pen and several P.F. Chang's napkins and told of this odyssey.

We then went to his house by CalTech, where we watched some of his skydiving videos. I was quite entertained by how apparently mild-mannered Kevin happily and excitedly jumped out of planes on a regular basis.

And then, quite late, I took over his living room futon and fell asleep.

12022002 I woke up to another bright, sunny California day. I thought about the beastly, sub-zero temperatures back home, and instantly resented the fact that I had to fly back there that afternoon.

Kevin woke up soon after I did. We chatted a bit at his apartment until we decided that we were hungry. We then quested for an IHOP, because, dammit, we didn't have any IHOPs in Minnesota at the time.

Fry's Electronics
Fry's Electronics.

Photo by Melissa Kaercher, 2002.

We then headed over to Fry's Electronics, a place that Kevin had been dying to take me to for a year. When we drove up, I understood why... the frontage of the store involved a UFO crashed through the entryway. COOL! We dashed inside.

The interior of Fry's Electronics was even better. Not only was I treated to a nearly orgasmic array of electronic goodies, but also to giant marauding ants, invading aliens, and a model Godzilla smashing a model city. (The latter prop was the top of the digital camera display.) We spent a good hour just wandering around, lusting after the latest TVs, cameras, and computers.

Near the end of our odyssey at Fry's, Jeremy called my cell phone and invited us both over to his Santa Monica apartment while I waited for my flight home. I was promised beach time. Hurrah!

Kevin and I headed over to Santa Monica, where Jeremy greeted us at his apartment, then led us the scant two blocks to the ocean. The three of us spent a good half hour just walking on the beach. I took my shoes off and stood in the ocean and squished sand between my toes.

All too soon, I needed to head to the airport. I thanked Jeremy, and entrusted the driving to Kevin. We arrived at the airport a tad later than I had hoped, but oh well. I noted on the plane that my toes were still gritty with beach sand. That thought cheered me greatly when I saw the piles of snow awaiting me in Minneapolis.

And that, my friends, is the end of my Loscon 2002 trip.

I'd like to thank:
  • Tadao and Susan for letting me share their hotel room.
  • Jeremy for feeding my cheesy goldfish crackers and for making me go to the beach.
  • Kevin again for the Fry's Electronics trip, the IHOP food, the airport taxi service, and the use of his futon.
  • All of the fabulous people who make Loscon a reality every year.

And now, some bonus photos! All images below were taken by Melissa Kaercher, 2002.

People
Melissa Kevin with Moose
Melissa Kaercher, just after arriving at the hotel.
Kevin Cooper with Moose.

Melissa Kevin
Melissa, fooling around with her camera in the hotel lobby.

Kevin, also in the hotel lobby while we were monkeying with our cameras.

Kevin and Melissa Claire
Still more camera monkeying, by Melissa and Kevin.

Claire.

Geeky Art Cars
Art cars Empire car
Art cars parked outside the Loscon Hotel. The foreground one is the Jedi car seen in the Loscon 2001 report. The one in back, the Empire car, was new.

Folks admiring the Empire car. The gent in the Obi-Wan Kenobi robes is Shawn Crosby, the creator of the Jedi car.

Empire car front Empire car back
The Empire car in more detail.

Tragically, I don't know who made this car. Anyone with more information about the creator is invited to e-mail me with the proper info.

Convention Oddities
Dog Godzillas
Dog in costume!

A swarm of Godzillas in a party room.

Minicon No Lips
Flyer for a Minicon room party. I'm impressed -- they're a Minneapolis convention.

"I have no lips, but I must scream."

Beautiful Santa Monica
Trio at Santa Monica Jeremy
Kevin, Melissa, and Jeremy on the Santa Monica beach.

Jeremy and the Santa Monica pier.

Ocean Hotel
Pier Bird

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2004

The Butt-Numb-a-Thon
Coming soon!

Midwest FurFest
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Omegacon
A convention full of marshmallowy goodness!

San Diego Comic Con
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CONvergence
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OdysseyCon
More panels than you can shake a stick at, and the identity of episode GGG.

Supercon
Supercon's first year in the land of Spam.

2003

The Butt-Numb-a-Thon
Coming soon!

Omegacon
Sleep, sleep, and more sleep. And Twinkies.

Arcana
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San Diego Comic Con
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CONvergence
Shriners. Play-Doh. Captain Caveman.

World Horror Convention
Coming soon!

OdysseyCon
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Supercon
"I'm telling you right now, this is all going to end on an ice floe."

2002
The Butt-Numb-a-Thon
Coming soon!

Loscon
More party prowling in California, with cameo appearances by Larry Niven and Nichelle Nichols.

In Brief

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