This past weekend was something like my eleventh or twelfth Midsouthcon since the mid-1980s, and as usual it was a blast. This time, the big change was in venue — at the Whispering Woods Conference Center in Olive Branch, just outside Memphis — and in the number of Star Wars-related folk in attendance.
Above is Cullen Johnson's photo of registration — which I liked because it got in the "CSI" T-shirts: the Carlin Stuart Interns. Carlin, a fellow Auburndale Prep School alum, has been the programming chair for several years and is dialing back next year; his trainees were visible everywhere. Everything seemed well-run, and I liked the larger con suite. It was probably the nicest place I can remember MSC being at.
For me, though, the weekend events kicked off earlier at the Germantown Commissary, where the Memphis FanForce took over half the restaurant. Dean Zachary and I got inducted into the Fanforce — this is me and Jedi Trace above, in a photo by Lin Workman, with the official membership plaque...
...and I really wasn't expecting the other gift, in the form of a bundle of Snivvian joy named Gryph. Tim Brown had designed the life-sized puppet, and he made for quite the impression at the drive-through window a couple of days later. "That's a really ugly child," said the girl at the Abner's. Another Lin photo here...
"Grypppph!!!" John Byrne Swipe Cover #256 here — another photo by Cullen.
The genesis of the Grypphet (as he'll be known in my household) is a challenge I posed to Tim, above, the previous year. The FanForce had wanted to come up for a costume for me — but I don't costume, and so Gryph had been my joke answer. I'm glad it was a puppet they came up with! I shall use the Grypphet in the entry hallway to scare religious solicitors and the Schwan's guy. (This pic and all the ones below by loyal Con Minion Cathe — thanks, Cathe!)
Now, a great thing about this year's show is we were able to get John Ostrander, my cowriter on "Vector," in as the comics guest of honor. I had actually met John in Memphis in 1987, I believe it was, at one of the Memphis Fantasy Cons on Mud Island. This is us with Eddie Zeno, upper right, and the aforementioned Lin.
John was kept extremely busy through the show — including here, at my first panel of the weekend, devoted strictly to comics. I was hyped about the panel — and about comics as well, having just found in the much-enlarged dealer room huge piles of comics from the 1970s and 1980s for a dime apiece. At that price, you can never have too many copies of The Man From Atlantis, The Human Fly, or The Dingbats of Danger Street...
I'm very much a panel guy when it comes to conventions, and so I think the space the center had was probably the best of any Midsouthcon I can recall when it comes to panels. The above panel was in the big auditorium — this was Don Richardson's panel on pulps, with, above, Elizabeth Donald, John Beifuss, and Laura J. Underwood. Film critic John and I also spoke on the Watchmen movie panel immediately following this one.
Now, another first for MSC was that Dean Zachary, a regular attendee, had drawn Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic #38 — making it the first time we could do the KOTOR panel with an artist on the book there.
With puppeteer Kevin Williams working the Gryppet, I was able to provide a bit of a reading with a visual aid. Apologies for my wobbling accent — I haven't spent much time on Cadomai.
The Memphis FanForce turned out for the panel — here's Jedi Trace again in her homebrew Zayne T-shirt...
...and the highlight of the panel was the arrival of the Rancor Raiders from the Mississippi Outpost of the 501st, to induct me and Dean into the 501st as honorary members. (Seeing the constabulary, Gryph ran for cover.) It was a great honor and a cool plaque — I'll be wearing that badge to future shows. More photos coming from the Raiders later on.
Yet another nice first was that we got John Hudgens, my old friend from the University of Tennessee days, in as the media guest to talk about American Scary, his Star Wars fanfilms, and, above, the films of George Lucas at the third annual Lucas panel. (Our apologies to the patient John Ostrander for spending the first ten minutes on the Howard the Duck DVD. Sorry, it was like we were back in college again!)
It was good to finally meet Jolly Blackburn of Knights of the Dinner Table — and I also sat in on the webcomics panel on Sunday. I have to give the con folks credit — it was the best-attended I'd ever seen a Sunday panel. (Maybe the lack of room parties in the new hotel helped everyone reach the last day with more brain cells active!)
All in all, a great show. As stated, I liked the new venue — food was easy to reach, the con suite was better, and everything seemed well-run. My thanks to all — see you next time!