Wednesday, November 16, 2011


Hello, Fellow Geeks and Geek-ettes!

On Saturday, November 12'th, I had the privilege of witnessing first hand the triumphant, full-circle resuscitation of Hal-Con: the Maritime's oldest Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror/ Gaming/Comic Book festival.  The con originally had it's start back in the Mesozoic era (i.e. the 1970's), but unfortunately it suffered a premature demise in the 1990's.  In fact, I'm pretty sure that I may have attended the last original Hal-Con w-a-a-a-a-a-a-y back 'round 1995 when it was still being held at the Ramada in Dartmouth.

I absolutely loved attending that event.  At the time I was collecting Magic:The Gathering and Star Wars Customizable Card Game singles like a rat on cocaine, so I was super-excited to have all the local vendors (and a few I didn't recognize) under one convenient roof.  I was delighted to see model builders showing off their geeky wares.  I had a blast browsing through boxes of scarce and obviously-well-cared-for comic books.  I was heartened by the sight of people playing traditional board games, which I'd tragically fallen out of at the time.  I was excited to see all of the creative, imaginative costumes that people were dressed up in, particularly the boisterous Klingon Kontingent.

Above all, I was super-excited to meet the actors.  I got a chance to listen to Dave "Darth Vader" Prowse tell some cheeky 'behind the scenes' Star Wars stories.  I witnessed Star Trek scribe D.C. Fontana thrill an entire room packed with people all wearing pointy ears and forehead ridges. I even enjoyed hearing Brian Thompson (who at the time was playing the Alien Bounty Hunter in The X-Files) rant about how the hotel's dry cleaning service had ruined his favorite white shirt.

So, that's what happened: Brian Thompson probably murdered all of the original organizers with his bare hands!

Just to prove that this amazing event actually happened, here are two game cards that Brian and David signed for me:

Before I go any further, I do need to give a quick shout-out to another mini-Con that occurred with some frequency here in Halifax.  Even though Fleet Con eventually went bottoms-up as well, it certainly helped to keep organized genre fandom alive in the region during those lean years.  Although nominally organized and promoted, Fleet Con did succeed in bringing together board gamers, Klingons, anime fans, LARPers, vendors, model makers and dudes who have a fetish for dressing up in stormtrooper armor.

After the original organizer packed it in, Fleet Con vanished like the Tardis.  Fortunately for us, however, some industrious folks were laboring away behind the scenes in an attempt to resurrect the venerable Hal-Con.  When it was first announced that the event's second kick at the can would be held on October 29-31, 2010 at the Lord Nelson hotel in Halifax, we we all super-excited.  

Indeed, Hal-Con was supposed to be the great geeky hope to replace Fleet Con for us.  Unfortunately the organizers failed to provide the most basic convenience which essentially dampened the experience for us rabid board gamers.  Here’s the (admittedly harsh) post-mortem email I sent to the organizers after it was all over:

“Well, with the 2010 Hal-Con now behind us I felt compelled to email over a few of my thoughts. 

I'd like to start by saying that just as soon as the event was announced myself and four other friends all rushed out and got weekend passes. 

Although I'm happy that the event seemed to be well-attended (and hopefully successful from a financial standpoint) we were all very disappointed that there seemed to be absolutely no open space where we could just throw down and play some of the board games we'd picked up in the vendor room.  When we rushed out and bought those passes we just assumed that there would be some space to play a board game, read a graphic novel, 'ooooh' and 'ahhh' over our vendor room acquisitions, check out people in costume or just sit around and gab. 

In fact, as far as we could tell, there were only three tiny little broom-closet sized rooms on the third floor for gaming which were already spoken for by preregistered players. BOOO!!!

Because we weren't provided any place to 'hang out' (I've been told veteran con-attendees refer to it as a 'Consuite'?), we really had no incentive to stick around.  In fact, a bunch of us had to go across the street to Rockbottom Brewery just to eke out a place to play some of the games we bought.  Oddly, we found that the late, great Fleetcon, with it's on-site snack options and proliferation of free table space was much more conducive to a good time (for us at least).    

All told, I only felt compelled to spend a few hours there all weekend (and some of my friends, even less).  In fact, I'm just considering my $45.00 entrance fee this year to be a donation. 

On a more more positive note, there seemed to be a lot of enthusiastic attendees, a good assortment of vendors, the central location was convenient and I got to meet Denise Crosby.  Yaaay!!!

Overall, I really wish you folks well and hope that my concerns are addressed for next year.  I likely won't be getting a weekend pass again because of this and the guest list will be a major factor as to whether or not I go at all.  Trust me when I say this: we want to keep supporting unique events like this in in our region, but alas, we're gonna need more incentive next year to consider attending.”

Just a side note: Denise "Tasha Yar" Crosby was indeed a real delight.  I got her to sign a photo for a huge Star Trek geek in our family, which gave me a convenient excuse to chat with her.  I think she liked talking to me because I was the only dude in the lineup who wasn't wearing pointy ears or grilling her over how her cabin number on the Enterprise could possibly have changed between Episode 3 and Episode 21 of Next Gen.  Instead, I just asked her if she'd been to Nova Scotia before, recommended a trip out to Peggy's Cove and then told her that she was awesome in Dexter.  She even gave her only button away to me!

Well, after the previous year's debacle, we reasoned that Hal-Con 2012 could only go up for us.  Despite our optimism, we could only bring ourselves to purchase a day pass.  And let me tell ya folks, this year the Hal-Con organizers really made me kick myself for being so conservative.  In fact, on November 12'th, 2011, Hal-Con launched into the stratosphere faster then a Soyuz rocket!  Although I look back and wince at the brutal emails we sent to the organizers last year, I really do believe that they took our advice and made some really astute improvements.   

After our traditional breakfast at Cora’s @ 8 am we rallied and ventured forth.  We left the restaurant around 9:15, which was a bit later then I would have preferred since the doors were supposed to open at 9 am and I knew it was going to be busy.  My persistently patient significant other dropped me and a friend off at the doors while my two other homies hoofed down to the World Trade and Convention Center.

Still paranoid that we wouldn't get a table for gaming, my line-mate got her media pass and then went straight through to try and secure a spot.  Despite the early hour, the line-ups were huge, but moving briskly.  After I got registered, I quickly rushed upstairs to the massive game room to locate my line-breezing compadre.  As soon as I saw the arena-sized space allocated to gaming, all of my trepidations melted away.  The Hal-Con organizers really went above and beyond the call of duty to provide ample free table/crashdown space for everyone.

As if this wasn’t awesome enough, the vendor section had been heavily expanded.  There were at least four, double-lined halls filled chock-a-block with boardgames, toys, shirts, posters, vintage collectibles, jewelry, dice, keychains, costumes, accessories, comic books, video games and I think I even saw a Spaceballs-brand flame-thrower.

I also jumped at the chance to meet some of the guests, chief amongst them Erin Gray, a.k.a. Wilma Deering from T.V's Buck Rodgers in the 25'th Century.  In my first blog about formative television I talked about the impact this goofy show had on me as a kid.  Despite the sometimes questionable merits of the production, I have Erin to partially thank for confirming my heterosexuality even at the tender age of nine.     

In addition to her role in Buck Rogers, I first saw Erin as Kate Summers opposite a very young Rick (nee Ricky) Schroeder and Jason Bateman in Silver Spoons.  She also appeared in such diverse fare as Magnum P.I., Murder, She Wrote and in the ninth Friday the 13'th flick Jason Goes to Hell.  In 1996, Erin established "Heroes for Hire" a talent agency which specializes in booking Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror celebrities for special events.  Pretty cool, huh?  

As she signed my Buck Rogers DVD I asked her if all the crazy weather we'd experienced the day before had interfered with her travel plans.  She told me that she'd been lucky enough to get out of L.A.just ahead of a nasty storm system and also managed to avoid the torrential rain and wind that had cancelled flights into Halifax the day before. She expressed concern for her daughter Samantha on the East Coast, since her region had also been hit pretty hard with power outages and flooding.

I also had a chance to compliment Erin's recent turn in Felicia Day's amazing web-series The Guild, where she plays a Wilma Deering-esque character.   

"Wow!" she enthused, addressing me and her assistant/agent.  "It's amazing how many people are talking about The Guild!  It's great!"

I thanked her, shook her hand and wished her a great weekend.  Proud that I'd managed to avoid any  Vork-like fanboy behavior, I gathered up my swag and went back to our table where the boardgames had already begun.

En route I also noticed local behemoth Robert Maillet milling around amongst the crowd.  Known for his stint in the WWE as "Kurgan" as well as screen appearances in Zack Snyder's 300 as well as Sherlock Holmes, Robert seemed to be reveling in the con atmosphere just as much as all the insignificant humanoids were who were constantly jockeying for his attention. I was tempted to go over and ask him what it was like to plow Tony Stark in the mush if I didn't harbor an irrational fear of a live demonstration.  

Also in attendance was human Valkyrie Drakaina Muse.  After signing autographs and posing in her stunning Crimson DK outfit, Drak gladly did her rounds, meeting fans and graciously posing for about a hojillion photos.  Her gregarious personality and large then, presence, certainly explains why the French-born hottie has inspired well over 250 works of fantasy art.  Here she is posing with a wonderful Wonder Woman and L'il Thor, which I'm sure is how Drak would describe her spine after wearing this outfit for twelve hours. 

While my posse was finishing up a round of Mr. Jack Pocket and prepping for a game of Buffy The Vampire Slayer in honor Nicholas Brendon, I took the opportunity to get some mileage out of my last Halloween costume:

I started to walk around the convention floor, pausing every once and awhile to take a pic with other thematically suitable cos-players:

Man, Jean Gray's eyes are really freakin' me out back there...

My peeps also soon discovered that it's "not wise to upset a Wolvie":


After the Scoobies set the mood for Nicholas Brendon's Q&A by annihilating Adam in a rousing game of Buffy, a couple of us dashed off to catch the presentation.  With his natural comedic talent augmented by Joss Whedon's hilarious dialogue,  Nick effortlessly made Xander one of the funniest and most memorable characters on the show.  As it turns out, he's pretty damned hilarious even while making up his own lines!

We went to the main hall fairly early to ensure a seat and then promptly walked smack dab right into a Klingon Konvention, Maritime-style:

The local Klingon Assault Group was conducting a ceremony in honor of J.G. Hertzler, who played  Chancellor Martok in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.  A few interesting facts about Monsieur Hertzler:

  1. He seems to love the convention experience, even dressing up in full Martok/Klingon regalia for the presentation.
  2. He was born in Savannah, Georgia.  Out of character he speaks with a very cool southern accent, which makes his original performance as Martok all the more interesting to me.
  3. He's probably the most approachable con guest I've ever encountered.  He shook my hand on the way out of the hall and was even nice enough to leave most of my phalanges and metacarpals intact.
  4. He has a wicked sense of humor, playfully cutting up Nick Brendon as his fans waited in line for his autograph.   "What is this person's appeal?" he demanded. 
  5. Had funds and time permitted, I would love to have met him and gotten him to sign something.  I shant make the same mistake twice.  The dude is awesome! 
Eventually the Klingon Kombat Kore moved on, presumably to pick a fight with the pasty, frightened  Federation types wandering around and possibly annex an entire "Subway" location.

Nick Brendon's Q&A was fantastic.  Here are a few choice highlights:
  1. Thanks to Nick, at least three female members of the audience likely left Hal-Con with a " baby in their belly".
  2. Water bottles can strategically be used to cover up crotch holes.
  3. While shooting "The Pack", Nick got pantsed on set by Sarah Michelle Gellar and Alyson Hannigan. Yeah, guess who wasn't wearing their Underoos™ that day?
  4.  He'd been to Halifax to shoot a movie before and even visited the Home of Confederation/Provincial Sandbar P.T.A (i.e....P.E.I.) where he stayed at a hotel with a golf course.  He didn't play golf but he did see some potatoes.
  5. Joss Whedon actually wrote the role of "Captain Tightpants" (a.k.a. Mal Reynolds in Firefly) with Nicholas in mind.  Unfortunately, Fox picked up the pilot before Nick could leave Buffy, forcing Joss to cast Nathan Fillion in the lead role.
  6. Nicholas auditioned to be on How I Met Your Mother but didn't get the roll partially because the producers were concerned about having too many Buffy alumni in the cast.  *Pfffttt!* if there could ever be such a thing! 
  7. He was shooting a pilot when Buffy ended, so he wasn't on set during those last few days.  Although missing this farewell still inspires nightmares, he couldn't imagine doing it any other way for fear of being emotionally crippled.
  8. One of Nick's consistent nightmares: not being included in an imaginary Buffy Season Eight! 
  9. His reaction to hypothetically encountering a real life vampire:  incontinence!
  10. He implored fans to keep writing to the producers of Criminal Minds to keep his recurring character Kevin Lynch...well, recurring.   
  11. Voted "Hal-Con Guest Most Likely To Lose His Wallet".
  12.  Snoopy dance!
After the presentation, we went straight into Nick's autograph session.  Understandably, after killing it with the audience, the lineup to get his signature was freakin' insane.  When it was my chance to meet him, I thanked him heartily for the awesome Q&A and then told him that my significant other would likely beat me to death with a sack of rusty doorknobs if I didn't get her "Once More With Feeling" soundtrack signed.  He laughed and signed both the CD and one of my Buffy comics.  

Back at the gaming table, Dean, Chad, and Malcolm had already plowed through a butt-load of cool games like Perry Rhodan, Summoner Wars, and Quarriors!   I managed to sneak in a tense session of the dice-chucking Love(craft)-fest Elder Sign.  Like its big daddy, Arkam Horror, players take on the role of investigators, trying to collect Elder Signs by overcoming tests and challenges whilst trying to prevent the Doom Track from filling up.  Unlike its parent game, this game actually appears to be winnable.

Hungry, tired and spazzed out from all the concentrated geekery, we eventually decided to push off around 6 pm.  On the way out we all agreed that the World Trade and Convention Center was a fantastic new venue for Hal-Con.  We all vowed to go back again next year, this time properly armed with two day passes in order to reconcile all the game playing, panel attendance, Q&A's, costume contests, vendor browsing, photographs and signatures.

Stellar job, Hal-Con organizers!  Please take this blog entry as a formal apology for my chippy email from last year...


My humble video apology/love letter to Hal-Con 2011:

EPIC-CON  Felicia Day attempts to lead her fellow Guildies through the hazardous realm of Mega-Game-O-Rama-Con.  I can relate.  P.S. Part 7 and onward features the lovely and talented Erin Gray!

<a href='{from}&src=FLPl:embed::uuids' target='_new' title='Season 5 - Episode 1 - Road Trip!' >Video: Season 5 - Episode 1 - Road Trip!</a>

FAIL Mercifully I didn't see any costumes as heinous as what's documented here:


Drakaina said...

The human Valkyrie thanks and salute you sir :)Glad you had fun and see you in 2012

The FOO said...

Hi there,

Thanks for the comments about Hal-Con. As one of the board members we really did take as much of the feedback from last year as we could to make this year better.

Small point of order though. The Con at the Ramada in 95 & 96 was MarFest, and the winter of 97 at the WTCC is what killed that one off.

David Pretty said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David Pretty said...

@ Foo..Thanks for filling in the damaged memory banks! I tried to research the event featuring David Prowse and Brian Thompson as best I could but information was scarce. @ Drakaina...I'm already marking the days off the calendar for next year!

scott snailham said...

I remember the Maritime Science Fiction Festivals at the Ramada well and still have a couple of the programs. They kicked it off with a bang bringing in Majel Barrett Roddenberry the first year and Brian Thompson and Dave Prowse the 2nd. The third I didn't go to, but I remember someone telling me whoever organized them was only playying to do 3 years. I guess they were true to their word.

Argus said...

To be very late. Yes the gentlemen who ran MARFEST was only going to do it for 3 years, and setting it was sometimes a full time job in it self. The hope was that someone would take the reins afterwards. I ran security for the first 2 years and had moved to TO for a job by the time the third MARFEST ran. From what I heard moving venues and weather didn't help much.