The fannish new year of 2012 started off very well for me with DarkCon in Mesa, Arizona. I live in west Phoenix, and it was a long drive back and forth, but still less expensive than getting a hotel room. The Con Committee invited me to the show as a guest and were extremely nice to me. Look at the great gifts they gave me, and the other Guests just for showing up.
DarkCon ran from Thursday afternoon at about 2 p.m. until Sunday night. They had 7 notable professional guests this year. First was Jacqueline Carey, the Author Guest of Honor. She has several fantasy epics to her credit, and I have to tell you all I consider her writing to be a little kinky–I like it.
There were 2 media guests: Ernie Hudson and Meg Foster, an actor and an actress, and they shared their experiences making such video entertainment as Stargate and Masters of the Universe. These three people were the true stars of the convention.
Gaming guests were John Wick and Ken St. Andre. Tod VanHooser, the master of the Laughing Moon system, was also there. All three of us ran games for fans who wanted to play. We also collaborated on a panel about Game Design on Friday afternoon. The panel was well attended. Many thoughtful questions were asked and answered. John Wick and I wore our hats, and we advised Tod to get himself a signature hat if he wanted to make it big as a FRP game designer.
Artist guests were Madame M, and Mark Greenawalt. Madame M was promoting her new book: CREEPY LITTLE BEDTIME STORIES. Mark Greenawalt did a body painting exhibition that was most entertaining. Alas, I had very little to do with the artists as I spent all my time gaming.
DarkCon is the brainchild of the Dark Ones, a Phoenix fan group with Steampunk and media connections. Jeff Jennings and Nola Yergen are two of the ringleaders in that group–they are the two that I know best, although I really don’t know any of them very well. The Dark Ones are an intensely social group, well known in Arizona for the great parties they throw. Although there were parties every day, I really only attended the opening party on Thursday night and the Sunday Brunch at the Wrigley Mansion. The food, drink, and conversation at both parties were truly excellent–I’d tell you more about it, but I don’t want you thinking I’m some kind of gourmand, and I don’t want you to be jealous. (grin–but I will say I was treated to champagne with orange juice at the Wrigley Mansion–first time I’ve ever had champagne for breakfast. Yum!).
I really can’t tell you too much about the Con. We held it in the magnificent facilities at the Marriott Hotel at 200 N. Centennial Avenue in Mesa, Arizona. There was a huge space allotted for gaming, and we filled it up with every kind of tabletop game you can imagine. There was computer gaming in a separate room, but I never found it, and frankly, I didn’t miss it at all. In addition to the two games of Tunnels and Trolls that I ran, I also got to play Ticket to Ride (Europe), Settlers of Catan, Thunderstone, Buffy the Vampire Slayer with me as the evil Master, Last Night on Earth (Zombies and Martians and Monsters, oh my!), Apples to Apples, and an ancients naval miniatures game with quinquiremes (for which Jay Nash and I made up a whole set of alternate rules–game designers tinker with everything–especially if we can see a way of doing the same thing that makes more sense.)
Jay and I spent a good part of Saturday afternoon together, first playing his game, and then just hanging out during a meal at the hotel restaurant. I showed him where the free Con goodies were at the DarkCon suite and the Green Room, but he preferred to buy something, and he bought me lunch too. Thanks, Jay. The reason I mention this is because Jay is one of the chief organizers of Vul Con, a pure gaming convention which will be held Feb. 25-26 at the Phoenix Convention Center, and I will be a gaming Guest of Honor at that convention also. (If you live in the Phoenix area, come say hi, and maybe game with me.)
Let me just rave about my enthusiasm for DarkCon for a moment. Gaming! That is what I like, and Gaming was well represented and attended at this Con. The Arizona Men in Black (who promote Steve Jackson Games) were there, and running excellent games continuously. I got to play The Stars Are Right, and had victory assured on my next turn when Jason Youngdale (who took most of the really good photos in this blog, and who is also setting up a gaming convention here for June called Con-Flagration) beat me to the punch.
The Arizona Guise Knights were also running games at the convention, and I played with their members more than once. This is an indenpendent Arizona group not associated with a gaming manufacturer in the same way that the Men in Black are. Excellent and friendly gamers however, and a credit to the gaming community.
Tiffany Branum ran the Game Room and did an excellent job of it. Signing up for games was extremely easy. She and her staff smoothed all obstacles. Phoenix area gamers owe Tiffany and her husband Chris a lot for all the work they do in creating great gaming environments.
If you look carefully at the pictures, you will see that many of us, including me are dressed oddly for a science-fiction convention where the usual attire is jeans and sf t-shirt. The Dark Ones have an affinity for Steampunk–Nola Yergen is an expert costumer,
and her work is often in the Steampunk genre. I put together a modest steampunk outfit–vest, pocket watch, hat with goggles on it, and if you look carefully a demon-head pin that identifies me as a member of a secret magician’s society. There were many better costumes than mine–in fact, most of the true costumes were better than mine–look at the Guise Knights picture again for an example of true elegance. Such fannish conventions often feature costumes, and always have a masquerade in which the best of the costumes are displayed for admiration and prizes. I’m sorry, but I missed the masquerade. I missed the Memorial Barry Bard movie previews and free goodies dispersal also (and I really like to go to those just to keep my t-shirt collection fresh.) I missed a ton of great stuff at DarkCon, and I was still as busy as I could be with the stuff I did.
Much more happened at the Con than I am able to convey in this blog. I spent part of my time hanging out in the Green Room–a hospitality room for volunteers and guests. The food and friendliness in that room kept me going even when I was tired, and especially when I was hungry. I played Texas Hold’em on Friday night with a great bunch of riverboat gamblers. I never won a single hand, but it was fun while I lasted. I took some weapons training from the Phoenix Society of Historical Swordsmanship–those guys really know how to use all kinds of swords, and thanks to their training, I know a bit, too.
I had a lot of fun. I saw and talked to a lot of friends. If you were there, you probably had a great time also. If you weren’t, then you missed a really good time. You can look up the Dark Ones, the Phoenix Society of Historical Swordsmanship, the Men in Black, the Arizona Guise Knights, and just about everyone else that I mentioned on Facebook, so I’m not providing any links. This is going to be a great year for conventions in Phoenix. I recommend that you try to attend some of them. I will be there–you can count on that!
(a note about the photos and pictures used in this blog: some of them are my own photos, others were taken by the stalwart Jason Youngdale, and a couple were lifted from Nola Yergen’s DarkCon page on Facebook–copyright and ownership of all the photos and pictures belong to the original creators. I recommend searching DarkCon on Facebook.com to find many more pictures of the convention–it was a fantastic place and time for us.)
If you were at DarkCon this year, or wish you had gone, why not add your own comments below?