Geeks Gone Wild

If you can't get laid at a science-fiction convention, you can't get laid!

Some of the grudging acceptance can be chalked up to the original Star Wars trilogy, which introduced the world to cinema's coolest hero dork, Luke Skywalker. But save for a canny Boba Fett replica and a yummy little vixen dressed as Slave Leia from Return of the Jedi, Star Wars characters are in noticeably small supply in this 28th iteration of Archon. Ditto the cast of Star Trek, stereotypical fandom's Great White Way. Most conventioneers are dressed up as avengers, scoundrels and nymphs drawn from their own imaginations, with unique superpowers, quirks and fallacies.

"If you weigh 400 pounds and want to dress as a flag officer from a nonexistent future military organization, by all means you can," says Milan. "People will generally accept you on your own terms."

"Any particular cliché is in the minority," adds Swope, a computer programmer by day.

Steve Swope (far right) and his Tinkerbell psych 
themselves up backstage at the Grand Masquerade.
Jennifer Silverberg
Steve Swope (far right) and his Tinkerbell psych themselves up backstage at the Grand Masquerade.
Hold that smile for just one more second, and I'll have 
you on my hard drive forever.
Jennifer Silverberg
Hold that smile for just one more second, and I'll have you on my hard drive forever.

This doesn't quite explain the mahogany-skinned man in the courtyard sporting a velvet cape and nursing a tall can of malt liquor. The ultra-smooth party animal is none other than Lando Calrissian, underappreciated Star Wars alum and captain of the S.S. Happy Hour, the Drink-Ons' mythical celestial cruise ship.

It is a supporting role Calrissian accepts reluctantly -- but one he may ultimately come to embrace.

Actual quotes culled from workshop participants, panelists, gamers, flyers, merchandise and role players during daytime programming at Archon 28:

"When a baby is born, it's nothing but an eating and shitting monster."

"I love my cat dearly and she loves me, but I don't count her as my totem animal. It doesn't mean I love her any less."

"Nobody cares how big your ass is when they're looking elsewhere."

"Did women wear drawers? Pretty darn likely. Did men wear corsets? Pretty darn likely."

"Freeze, citizen!"

"In my book vampires are the oppressed class. They do the jobs that are too unpleasant for real humans to do, such as menial labor and sex trades."

"Get your geek on, my precious."

"Did anybody see I, Robot and notice that you had a black man treating robots like black men? It was brilliant."

"Vivo tiel vi. Vi falas, vi grimpas, vi rompas, kaj vi ricev -- as tion."

"Some women used to put on their bathrobes and stay home all day. Sounds good to me!"

"You all saw Mars Attacks! Tom Jones is God."

" new places...use them wisely. They can successfully fondle lots of parts, such as a cheek, the neck, a shoulder, the waist. Move them occasionally."

"Everything I ever needed to know I learned from gaming."

"Hi! We're here to talk about underwear!"

"Thank you, but I'm also twice your age."

"It's hard to be prejudiced against other nationalities when you're talking to a Klingon."

"Split up! We can obviously do more damage that way."

"One time, when I was driving to my sister's house in Wichita, I completed an entire children's book in my head."

Archon drew a crowd of 253 to its inaugural convention in 1977, held at Stouffer's Riverfront Towers (now the Millennium) in downtown St. Louis. At the time daylight programming (this year centered on workshops with titles like "How to Host Your Own LAN Party," "Knickers and Knockers: An Overview of Underwear" and "Hey Sexy Momma! How 'Bout You and Me Kill All the Humans!") was the confab's central essence.

But before there was Archon, there was the infamous 1969 WorldCon at the Chase Park Plaza Hotel. (The Olympic Games of science-fiction fandom, WorldCon still draws an annual crowd of 6,500 multi-genre enthusiasts from around the world to cities -- which engage in a competitive bid process, just like the Games -- as varied as Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago, Toronto, Melbourne, Glasgow and Yokohama. "Comparing local and regional conventions to WorldCon is like comparing a school newspaper to the New York Times," says Archon organizer Michelle Zellich.) Owing largely to the tumultuous political terrain of the late '60s, the St. Louis WorldCon proved to be a raucous event that saw thousands of counterculture types overwhelm the posh Central West End hostelry and its facilities.

"There was very little alcohol and huge quantities of pot and acid," recounts Brock "Dev" Hanke, a medieval enthusiast (and former Riverfront Times contributor) in his fifties who attended the '69 debacle and recalls thousands of participants camping out in Forest Park rather than booking rooms. "The poor wedding parties at the Chase were trapped in their ballrooms. They had no idea what was happening."

Chase brass promptly swore to never again allow St. Louis' sci-fi community to use its facilities. But thanks in no small part to an appearance by Stephen King, the hotel played host to Archon 6 in 1982, attracting a record 1,750 participants. After a subsequent decade-long stint at the now-defunct Henry VIII near Lambert Airport, the burgeoning local convention hit its stride on the east side in Collinsville, where Fahrenheit 451 author Ray Bradbury's presence in 1996 pushed attendance over the 2,000 threshold for the first time ever, at Archon's twentieth-anniversary assembly.

"The early Archons were more hard-core," says Hanke. "The number of sci-fi fans has probably doubled since then, but the attendance has multiplied tenfold."

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