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Science Fiction Conventions

Damn, these were fun!

Back in the late 70's and through most of the 80's I used to attend a whole bunch of science fiction conventions.  If you've never been to one - a good one - then you don't know what you're missing.  If you're a fan of science fiction or fantasy writings, movies, TV shows, merchandise, or of authors or other sci-fi folk, then coming to a SF convention is all but mandatory.  I discovered this scene shortly after I really started getting in to reading science fiction books in a major way.  The movie Star Wars also helped a lot in the late 70's as it added a whole lot of zing to the genre in general.

I attended my first convention (or "Con") back in early 1980.  My last year of high school.  Me and my buddies, Bill & Mark, decided to go to BoskLone in February of that year.  That, being the one they held out in Danvers and not their usual ones they put on downtown in Boston proper.  We also decided to go as something special.  Something that I came up with.  We went as Space Marines!  United States Space Marines to be specific.  Attending these events in costume was something that was actually encouraged and we needed little of that to have some fun on our own.

I sold the guys on the concept of the Space Marines and that, to be truly unique, the Space Marines would be wearing camouflage uniforms appropriate to their alien environments.  As the US Marines do most of their fighting here on Earth (that we know of at least) their camo reflects this with its browns, and greens.  We decided to base our Space Marines on a recently terraformed Mars.  That meant that our uniforms had to be camouflaged for that environment.  That meant that they had to be red!

Well, that's what we tried in any event.  We had bought some army fatigues from an army surplus store with the intent of using red dye to color them the way we wanted.  Well, no such luck.  The Army was too effective in coloring their clothing green for us to change it.  We tried everything we could think of.  We first tried dying the uniforms in the red dye and that didn't work.  Then we tried bleaching the green out of the uniforms - we even left them overnight in buckets of undiluted bleach.  That didn't work either.  We even thought to spray paint our uniforms red.  In the end though we went with a set of standard army green fatigues.  We did, however all have matching maroon red berets and had also made up name & service tapes to sew on our uniforms.  That and our guns.

Bill and Mark worked at a golf course in Reading, Massachusetts, and had access to the shop's lathe.  So Bill worked up a set of "laser pistols" combining a bit of PVC tube, some hollowed through checkers, handles from squirt gun Lugers, and then turning a bit of Lucite for the laser "emitter."  The tube was just big enough for a D cell battery and he rigged a simple press switch in the handle.  The things lit up really cool!  On top of this he also made a "laser rifle."  That was a four foot long six inch diameter bit of PVC piping with a emergency strobe light at one end.  That was our "big gun."

We all got to the Con, checked in to it, checked in to our rooms, put on our uniforms and then went in to action!

One of the invariable truths at science fiction conventions is that there are never enough elevators to handle the crowd of attendees.  This is so much the case that someone turned the phrase: "Beam me up Scotty - the elevators don't work!"  In most cases it makes more sense, and takes less time, to use the stairs if all you are wanting to do is go up a few floors.  Going down it is almost always smarter and faster to take the stairs no matter how many stories below is your destination.  Well, even though this was our first convention, we found this out fast.  And we turned it to our advantage!

In our combat uniforms and armed with our laser pistols and backed up by our heavy laser rifle, we would "take the stairs."  We would assume the proper position before opening the door; one of us on either side of the door and the third in front of it and all of us with our weapons at the ready.  Then we'd pop open the door and "surveille the area."  With the immediate landing clear, we'd perform a "bounding overwatch" maneuver where one of us would pop in to the stairwell and immediately take up a position to provide covering fire for the other guy who would pop in and run to the next position to provide cover for the last of our buddies as he ran to the next covering position.  And so on.

Damn, that was fun!

Totally absurd, completely silly, and well beneath the dignity of most adults.  Hell, it was well beneath the dignity of most teens then too!  We didn't care though.  We were Space Marines!  And we were having a blast!

The next two years I was the only one who came back in a uniform.  We still had fun though.

The year after that, I decided to do something different.  I decided to try creating a uniform from scratch.  I was pretty good with my hands and adapted some sewing patterns to do what I had in mind.  I spent hours at this over my Freshman Year Xmas Holiday Break sewing my creation.  My intent was to dye it after I had sewn it for I didn't think the pattern marks would show up.  I had been looking for a cotton fabric that was close to the weight and weave of existing army fatigues as I wanted this uniform to look as realistic as possible.  Aside from it being a very red red in color.  I had told the shopkeeper my needs and he assured me that the cotton/ poly blend fabric he had on hand would take dye perfectly.  Well, he lied.  The rotten git.  It didn't take dye well at all.  No matter what I tried it didn't take.  The most I got was a rather pink shade of red.  Corral was what my mom called it.  Corral.  Great.  Like any self respecting Space Marine would be caught dead in a Corral uniform!  So, that year's effort was a complete wash.  Not the next year's though.

The next year I got 100% cotton fabric and I dyed it before I put one stitch into it.  That did the trick.  Nice and rust red is what I came up with.  Then I set to work making my new uniform.  I went out and got new patterns and had at it.  I wanted the fit to be a bit snug (this _was_ the early 80's and I _was_ a young gay man) so I cut the pattern size to be snug.  I thought that dropping it down two full sizes would just mean it fit a bit more snugly.  My mistake.  Doing that meant that my pants were tight.  Very tight.  Shoehorn them on and remove them with paint thinner tight.  I had no choice.  I only had time to make them over school break and the Boskone always happens in February.  I dealt with it.  Without too much trouble.

The uniform was a big hit that year.  The next year I upped the ante by showing up in camouflage - Martian camouflage.  I had met a dancer from the road cast of "Cat's" that was playing that summer in DC.  He showed me how to use greasepaint to achieve the desired effect.  The first time I did that was at a small "them" convention out in Maryland.  Called "PhoenixCon" it was all about the short lived TV series "The Phoenix."  


I don't think the show lasted even a full season on TV.  It really was that bad.  The most it had going for it was Judson Scott in skin tight blue jeans running around taking off his shirt so that his character, The Phoenix, could "draw his energy from the sun."  Uh huh.  Right.  I was just coming out at that time and even I knew cheesy beefcake when I saw it - which was as often as I could get in front of a TV when the show was on!  

That little convention was a real hoot.  Sometimes the smaller ones like that make up for in spirit what they lack in everything else.  That year's little event was just such an event.  The costume contest (or Masquerade as it's called) was a high point of the weekend.  I got done up in full kit greasepaint and had at it.

Of course I couldn't put on my greasepaint as well as Willy did.  But then, Willy had to do his own face every performance and he was a pro.  I was but a mere amateur at this and it showed.

However, it was also a lot of fun!

I made quite the splash in my uniform and camouflage face paint.  Even if I did walk the wrong way off the stage.

I also learned a great deal about greasepaint.  The biggest point is that it is a true pain to remove.  That stuff is like glue and will stick deep inside your skin.  I was glad that I was at a hotel where I didn't have to pay for the entire roll of toilet tissue I used in their lobby bathroom to wipe off that gunk.  Even then I was still scrubbing greasepaint out of my pores for a week afterwards!

Captain Madoc Pope B Company Commander USSMC
A bathroom mirror close up. Ah the joys of self photography!

This is a shot of me in the hotel lobby rest room at PhoenixCon just before I began scrapping away all that greasepaint gunk.  

Not only did that stuff stick deep in my pores it also got into the fabric of the uniform as well.  That was a real pain to clean out.  But then, no one ever said that fashion was easy!

The Kids

This shot is a real trip.  This is one of the things I really like about these events.  For most of the folks who attend them there is no wrong way to do it.  These two likely lads are a case in point.  It was very obvious that these two kids had made up their own costume, had gotten mom to help out, and were just there having a good time.  And more power to them!

I thought these two munchkins were fantastic.  Great creativity and great originality and great chutzpah as well.  They were fun to watch as they had fun at the Con.

Click here to see the rest of these two!
The Phoenix himself: Judson Scott The MAN

He is what it was all about.  Mr. Phoenix himself, Judson Scott.  Here I demonstrated my skills as a dedicated amateur photographer by coming up with a nicely blurred shot of the man as he was signing his autograph.  I'm not sure it was for me as it could have been for some other adoring fan.

Aside from his notable appearance in the Phoenix, the good Mr. Scott has done a lot of other work over the years.  He has been a long time daytime soap opera star.  He's also made a string of B movies and was even in "The Wrath of Khan" where he played the character Joachim.  I believe that Joachim was supposed to be Khan's son or something like that.  In any event I thought that he was sexy as hell there too.  Being paired with Ricardo Montablan didn't hurt the eyes either!

Other Cons and Other Times

In the years that followed PhoenixCon I kept on going to other conventions in addition to my yearly pilgrimage to Boston to attend Boskone.  Mainly I hit up the more notable Cons in my area.  I made it up to Philadelphia for PhilCon for several years as well as over to Baltimore for BaltiCon.  I even made it across the mighty Potomac on New Year's Day to catch the remainder of EveCon.  All of this was a lot of fun and I got a chance to hang with a really good gang of friends.

The Gang!

The Gang!

Standing with me are Cutter, Strider and Jerry.  I can't remember the name of the lad off to the left but I do remember he did a real nice Geisha girl in full kimono.  Cutter lives in in New Hampshire, Strider livedsn Boston, and Jerry is still in the DC area.  I met Jerry playing social volleyball with DC Sports.  The rest of met at Cons.  Such was the state of affairs that Cutter & Strider's driving down to Maryland for a weekend's event was no big deal.  These guys were a lot of fun to hang with and we really enjoyed exploring our sexuality in the supportive world provided by the Cons.

The Prom

It was at one of the Maryland Cons that the organizers held a "prom dance" each year.  This particular year we decided to all dress up for it.  It helped that there was a tux rental place across the street.

I was playing with Strider at the time so we decided to wear matching outfits and chose a cummerbund to match my beret.

The Prom

Stylin' Dudes!

The Crimson Menace The Space Marines Return!

Actually, I never left.  I did, however, get better at it.  I also discovered something aside from greasepaint.  

AcquaColor was the stuff I found.  It is a water based stage makeup line of products.  It covers about as well as greasepaint but it comes off a whole lot easier.  You can actually wash it off with just plain ol' soap and water.  

This stuff was a major improvement in my Space Marine days.  I made good use of it too.

I think this particular shot was from a Boskone but I'm not sure of it.  If you look carefully though you'll see that my pants no longer match the same shade of red as my shirt.  Close but not exact.

This is because I decided that the skin tight pants just were too much to try and wear even but once a year.  So, I made a new pair.  I went out and got new patterns and went to work.   What I did not realize was that I was using a "European" pattern for the pants.  European patterns do not include and allowance for the seams.  You are supposed to do that yourself.  I didn't know this, so I didn't.  That meant that the already snug pants became exceptionally tight ones.  Too tight in fact.  I eventually had to put an expansion strip in each leg to be able to even pull the things on!

The Modern Space Marines

The years passed and I kept updating my outfit.  My hair was getting rather long at the time too.  I think I had it in what today would be called a mullet but back then was known as a "soccer cut" after so many international soccer players adopted it.  In any event I liked the length.  

I now also had a full set up of black ALICE gear and had pretty well developed things.  I liked the touch of the old Oakley sunglasses.  Those things really looked cool and futuristic.

Doing the camo on my arms really helped complete the look.

Menacing from the side
The Modernized USSMC
The Lambda Warriors

Yeah, we had some fun!
Space Marine and Lambda Warrior Space Marine and the Lambda Warrior!

That's my boyfriend at the time, Aaron, there on my left.  He had tagged along to this particular convention and came up with his little costume on the spur of the moment.

If you've a nice enough body you really can get away with just about anything.  His "outfit" is proof enough of that.

Aaron did a lot of aerobics and had hit the weights pretty well and it showed.

He decided to call himself "The Lambda Warrior" so as to fit in with the military/ post apocalyptic them Cutter and I had running in our outfits.  What they hell, it was fun so it worked.

I also liked the reactions I got from this particular camouflage paint job.  The facial stuff, the red and black coloring, the Longhair, the beret and the whites of my eyes standing out from the red of my face really made a striking impression on folks.

At one convention a guy rounded the corner and came upon me unexpectedly.  He was set back a pace and said I looked like "Hot screaming death!"  Not bad.  My predatory smiling probably didn't help ease his fears one bit.  Too bad!

If you look closely at the insignia on my left chest you can see a pink triangle gay symbol and although you can't make it out, little round thing above the "spaceborne" wings is a metal enameled lambda pin.  I figured that since this was supposed to be in the future and since it was my own creation that I could then give myself any award I wanted to for being a gay man.  So there!

This also shows to better effect the results of the camouflage face paint.

That little bright spot on my right ear is a sterling silver lambda ear cuff.  I had yet to get my ears pierced so this was about it as far as I was concerned.  All in all I was flaggin' pretty bluntly.

Hanging with the rest of the guys was pretty cool as well.  Occasionally we would hear some mutterings from someone about the presence of gays at the convention.  Me and the guys would then all get up and surround the ill mannered bigot in unison and ask him to expound upon his views.  That was an empowering thing for all of us and an educational thing for those ill mannered few.

A closeup
In drunken stupor The Aftermath

One of the other things we did at these conventions was party.  During the evenings it became the standard sport of all the convention attendees to wander from floor to floor searching out the rooms with the best parties.  "Best party" meant either free booze or good sex.  A really great party had plenty of both.  It was a lot of fun to get blotto'd at these events because you could always crawl back to your room and sleep it off.  Also, if you overdid it as I did once, the hotels all came with really spiffy and clean porcelain gods at which you could worship.

Here on the left you can see the aftermath of one such night's party crawling.  I think this one is from a con out in the Baltimore suburbs.  The place it was in was only two stories tall so that made the crawling much easier.  And safer too!  A good thing that, for as you can see in this shot, crawling was about all I was able to do at this point!

More good folks

By now you should recognize Cutter and Jerry.  This picture was taken fairly early in the evening and before the party in our room got its start.  

In short order just about everyone here had some sort of thing painted on their foreheads as it suddenly became all the rage that night in our room.

I, of course, did not partake of such juvenile foolery.  No, not me.  Instead, I already had my whole face painted!  

That white boy with the surprised look on his face in the back row is Terry.  He was a pretty cool guy.  He was in the Army at the time and had a really mature attitude about it all.  While that attitude was mature I think it also gave his CO's absolute fits.  It really didn't help things that he was smarter by half than most of them.

Later that evening, after the party had wound down, after I - even in my drunken stupor - had managed to scrape off my camo, and after we had pulled the mattresses off of the box springs so that more of us had something to sleep on (I think we had something approaching sixteen folks in that two bed size hotel room) I decided that it was time to crawl into bed.

A different bunch but part of the same gang
Remember what I said earlier about only being able to crawl?  Well I proved it that night.  As I stumbled over to my "bed" (actually I got to share one of the box springs with Aaron) I managed to actually step on poor Terry's head.  Of course he made note of this;  "Hey, you just stepped on my head!"  To which I replied "Well, you shouldn't have put it there!"  Of course, I remember none of this as it was all related to me the next morning as we desperately tried to metabolize off our hangovers.  So, it might not be true after all.  It does, however, make for a good story.

In the years since this I have gotten away from going to science fiction conventions.  I moved from DC to Atlanta but wasn't there long enough to attend but one local con.  Then I moved off to San Diego.  Out here there may be a good convention scene but I don't know of it.  The only local con that I've been to is ConDor and that was really, really lame.  For many years after I moved I was too damn poor to make that pilgrimage back to Boston each February for Boskone.  Over time that gang of friends of mine have scattered to the winds as time is wont to do to such folk.  I'm still in touch with Cutter and try and look him up whenever I'm back in Beantown.  But that isn't very often.

Back in 2004 I did attend a "Gaylaxicon" that was held in San Diego.  That was a fun event but it was also a "one-off" thing as they weren't held regularly and were also held in different cities when they were held.

So, I'm left with these memories of those times.  I'm happy with that for they were good times and they are good memories.


If you would like to know more about this night of adventure I had, then just ask!  Click on my email address here:
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This page was last updated on: 05 September 2022


Unless otherwise noted, all photographs and images on this page are copyright protected property of Madoc Pope.  If you would like to use any of my images you must contact me first before you do so.



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