MarsCon’s history begins in the previous millenium! Fire up your Time Travel scooter and join us as we peek at MarsCon through the decades.
Way back in 1997–1998, a handful of sci-fi fans had a vision of what they would like to see in a convention — A silly vision, a creative vision, a place where costumers, fans of the written word, television and movie viewers, astronomy and hard science enthusiasts, filkers, prop masters, sf artists, gamers and their many friends could party and play all weekend long. They worked hard to make that vision real, sacrificing time, money, and even hair (honest) to make it a reality. We are so grateful to that group…you know who you are…for giving us MarsCon.
Our inaugural convention, MarsCon 1999: Celebrating 60 Years of Fandom, was held at the old Radisson South Hotel on February 26–28, 1999. Met with many obstacles during the planning stages, it was perilously close to not happening. But, miraculously, a new bunch of volunteers managed to join the mayhem that was early MarsCon to infuse it with new life and shore up the reserves of that core group just in time for MarsCon’s scheduled debut. With cooperative winter weather, a fabulous surprise writeup in the Strib, and even a weekend television interview about the designated charity (Camp Heartland), it was go for launch. Guests that year were actor Carl David (of Star Trek fame) and Jeff Grubb and Kate Novak (authors of the Forgotten Realms novels). The attendance numbers surpassed all expectations, and, most importantly, it was fun! So the organizers decided to do it again… Silly people.
MarsCon 2000: Don’t Panic! (Alternate Subversive Theme: M’00) had a much longer planning time since the dates moved to May 12–14, 2000—Mother’s Day weekend. MarsCon-goers partied at the Radisson South again, this time with Guests of Honor: Actors Mark Allen Shepherd of Star Trek and the lovely Lisa Getto of Babylon 5, author team Margaret Weis and Don Perrin, fantasy artist Denise Boie (who tied the knot that very weekend), and UFOlogist Donald R. Schmitt. Chesley Bonestell was honored as MarsCon’s first ever Posthumous Guest of Honor, and Fan Guest of Honor Jack Borkowski helped create an entire Klingon track of programming for the weekend.
The convention was growing. Anime, karaoke and 24-hour-gaming had been added as activities. Parties were poolside. MarsCon 2001: A Space Oddity was held on Mother’s Day weekend yet again, May 11–13, 2001, at the Radisson South. Guests of Honor that year included author Jane Yolen, actor Bill Blair of Star Trek and Babylon 5, makeup artist Carl Talliaferro, comic artist Christopher Jones, filker Michael Liebmann, Dungeons and Dragons creator/gaming legend David Arneson, and Stanley Kubrick as Posthumous Guest.
It was all going so well, but organizers bowed to internal pressure to move off of Mother’s Day weekend, and soon commenced our annual hotel migration. MarsCon 2002: The Magic of Fantasy was held in a new venue, the Airport Hilton, on March 1–3, 2002. Guests of Honor included author and programmer extraordinaire Lyda Morehouse, actor Peter Woodward (Galen of Crusade), John Levene (Sgt. Benton of Doctor Who), fantasy artist Robin Wood, and Harvey…you know, the pooka. Another wedding happened at this MarsCon, but it was not a scheduled convention event. Hotel staff got so nervous about it, they pulled the plug on the Nick Atoms, a musical force beyond ALL comprehension. But the bride was later seen mingling with Klingons and Emperor Ming himself.
MarsCon 2003: No One Here is Exactly What He Appears found us in yet another venue, the Holiday Inn Select. It was held February 28–March 2, 2003. The weather was kind. The guests were fantastic! Writing team Sharon Lee and Steve Miller of the Liaden novels schooled everyone on the finer points of cat whisker collecting. Julie Caitlin Brown arrived with her husband and new baby, and served everyone chocolate cake. Lev Mailer shared stories about acting on the original Star Trek series. Artist John Garner put on an amazing exhibit in the Art Show, and Fan Guest David Mendez transformed an ordinary individual into something extraordinary through the use of special effects makeup. Author Douglas Adams was honored as Posthumous Guest of Honor.
MarsCon 2004: Let’s Play Doctor! was truly a tongue in cheek tribute to doctors everywhere. We made the Airport Hilton home again on March 5–7, 2004. Guests of Honor included John M. Ford (Dr. Mike), Richard Biggs (Dr. Stephen Franklin in Babylon 5), Barry Hansen “Dr. Demento”, famous belly dancer and costumer Dawn Devine Brown “Davina”, Dementia artist Luke Sienkowski “The Great Luke Ski”, and Baron David E Romm. We kicked off the convention with a radio show featuring most of the guests in celebration of Shockwave Radio’s 25th anniversary.
Another year, another hotel. MarsCon 2005: Galactic Pirates and Mercenaries was held at the Airport Marriott on March 4–6, 2005. Guests of Honor included veteran actors Richard Herd and Jeremy Bulloch (Boba Fett), rocket scientist Stephanie Gannaway-Osborn, author Timothy Zahn, Todd Coss (creator of Trooper Clerks), The Great Luke Ski, featured comic artist Ron Ross, and actor Herbert Jefferson, Jr. (Boomer from the original Battlestar Galactica). Masquerade, as always, was standing room only, the Opening Ceremonies Star Wars skit was hilarious, and attendees enjoyed playing pirates in warmer-than-usual weather.
MarsCon 2006: Things That Go Bump in the Night found us back in the Holiday Inn Select, which has been our home ever since our revelation about the Hotel Goddess Eris, sister of Mars. Hail, Eris. The convention took place March 3–5, 2006, and Guests of Honor included Gigi Edgley (Farscape), Dean Haglund (X-Files), artist Beth Hansen, author Walter H. Hunt (Dark Wing series), producer Paul Lawrence, and filker Tom Smith. Many massages were given while we paid homage to creatures from dark fantasy and horror. Most horrifying of all though was the IKV RakeHell “A Klingon Nightmare” party room that year. (shudder)
MarsCon 2007 was themeless for a change. It happened at the Holiday Inn Select on March 2–4, 2007, and, well, it is Minnesota after all. It kind of…snowed, a bit. Despite the weather, Guests of Honor Don S. Davis of Stargate: SG1, Patricia Tallman of Babylon 5, fan guest Eric Larson, author Eleanor Arnason, science guest Hugh Gregory, dementia band Ookla the Mok, all of the organizers and most of our regular attendees managed to make it. A fine time was had by all in the nice, cozy, warm hotel.
Eris paid another visit to MarsCon 2008: Press Start to Continue, claiming several rooms on the 12th and 13th floors. We shuffled parties around and managed to fit them all in. The Hollywood writers’ strike ended and our planned Actor GoH Erick Avari got called back to work—but Alien Actor Bill Blair agreed to fill in at the last minute. Our other Guests of Honor were artist Jeff Easley, author Naomi Kritzer, fan C. Robert Cargill, and dementia band Hot Waffles. Legendary sci-fi author H. Beam Piper was honored as our Posthumous Guest of Honor. Up on the party floors we got an unexpected preview of our 2009 theme “Invasion” when a group of military personnel stuck on layover decided to join us. We all partied through a typical Minnesota winter night.
MarsCon 2009: Invasion! may have sounded threatening, but Eris was too busy playing with the world economy to bother us. Once again we rocked the Holiday Inn Select with our music and costumes, along with actress Musetta Vander, artists Scott Rosema and Suzanne Hiza-Rosema, singer/songwriter Wally Pleasant, and author/science geek Jeanne Cavelos.
At MarsCon 2010: Dark Lords and Femme Fatales we explored worlds dark and sinister with actress Gwynyth Walsh, artist John Garner, science author Loretta McKibben, and the triumphant one-time-only return of The Nick Atoms. Our Posthumous Guests of Honor were dark lord and dreaded sorcerer Sauron and legendary femme fatale Mata Hari.
MarsCon 2011: Days of Magic! Convention volunteers rallied to deliver the magical themed convention first envisioned by our late, beloved Con Chair Christopher L. RiversBey. Guests of Honor included actor Alexis Cruz (of Stargate fame), Four-Time Hugo Award winning author Lois McMaster Bujold, artists Joe & Megan Rheault of “Dirty Inks” & “Pixie Girl Studios,” and musician Worm Quartet, (a.k.a. -=ShoEboX=-, a.k.a. Tim Crist). Authors J.R.R. Tolkien and L. Frank Baum were honored as Posthumous Guests of Honor.
MarsCon 2012: Rockin’ The Apocalypse! was spent prepping for the predicted Mayan apocalypse in grand style by partying with Guests of Honor Denise Crosby (Star Trek: The Next Generation), Nebula Award winning author Catherine Asaro, author Rob Callahan (of Rockstar Storytellers), comic book artist Jon Sloan, 3D artists Aric & Kim Stewart, Wes & Wendell Duellman (Omega Podcast), and musical group Consortium of Genius! We paid tribute to Elisabeth Sladen (Sarah Jane Smith) and Nicholas Courtney (Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart) as our Posthumous Guests of Honor.
Our 15th annual convention, MarsCon 2013: Ctrl/Alt/Del... Thriving Into the Future played host to the 3rd Annual Logan Whitehurst Memorial Awards for Excellence in Comedy Music. Fans enjoyed long-anticipated appearances by actress Claudia Christian (Ivanova of Babylon 5 fame), concerts by British comedy music trio Flat 29, fantasy artwork and a rare theremin performance by Sarah Clemens, costuming tips by The Thrift Brothers, and thought-provoking discussions led by award-winning authors G. David Nordley and Harry Turtledove.
MarsCon 2014: Time is the Key found us back in our hotel of origin—the freshly re-named DoubleTree by Hilton. And, despite Eris’s best efforts, parties went on gloriously as planned, both in cabanas and near to Krushenko’s in the North Tower. The North Tower Plaza created a veritable playground for fans who took advantage of the ceiling height to host sword demos, boffer events and dances throughout the weekend. Our wonderful Guests of Honor included actor J. G. Hertzler of Star Trek fame, author Esther Friesner, local artist Mickie Erickson, costumer-extraordinaire Rae Lundquist, Dementia musician Henry Phillips, propmaster Dave Duca, science guest Bridget Landry of NASA's JPL, and the Klingons of IKV RakeHell. Also, a crew from Meep Morp Studios attended with none other than 2004 Guest of Honor and radio legend Dr. Demento himself! It was a truly memorable year.
MarsCon 2015: Heroes & Wizards & Fae OHhh MYyy!! returned us to the Airport Hilton. 900 fans celebrated with Spice Williams-Crosby, Antoinette Bower, Robert Odegard, Lyda Morehouse, Richard Tatge, Eric Wile, Rob Paravonian, Dave Duca, and Mike Glielmi. The weather was splendid. Parking was problematic.
At MarsCon 2016: Parallel Dimensions we shed two exclamation points from our theme and welcomed Actor William Morgan Sheppard, Artist Christine Mitzuk, Author Ruth Berman, Filmmaker Christopher R. Mihm, and Propmasters Extraordinaire Dave Brown, Dave Duca, Michael Glielmi, and Ann Neubauer to our cozy hotel. After promoting MarsCon for years, Luke Ski finally got to be the Music Guest of Honor (again). Yay!
MarsCon 2017: Dragons in Space paid homage to those great beasts of SF/Fantasy and reality. We ushered in the spring with Guests of Honor Jeffrey Combs (legendary actor from Star Trek & over 50 feature films and countless other TV series—the Re-Animator himself) and local artist Ralph Ryan who graciously shared his artwork with all, including a theme-inspired space dragon piece. Dynamic writing team Sharon Lee and Steve Miller reprised their roles as Guests of Honor after a 14-year break to energize the literary track with discussions and readings, and play host to a truly novel teddy bear tea, everyone's favorite plushie invited. Guest Goddess Judy Tenuta took center stage with songs, stories, and her own unique comedic brilliance and joined TV's Kyle & Luke Ski for a live podcast recording. Science Guests of Honor Benjamin Higginbotham and Cariann Higginbotham hosted a live video conference, entertaining questions from the audience and discussing future space exploration trends. Our very own mischievous, ten-foot-tall dragon Maleficent parked herself in front of Dealers Room for a time, then moved downstairs to help with the USS Nokomis Blood Drive, and later helped raise money for charities NAMI Minnesota (National Alliance on Mental Illness) and the Gordy Dickson Memorial Scholarship Fund. Parties were warm and cool, and programming was all awesomeness
The next year MarsCon got back to the basics with MarsCon 2018: Robots, Rayguns & Rockets – The 3 R‘s of Sci-Fi. Our Guests of Honor were Roger Cross, Steve Thomas, MaryJanice Davidson, brentalfloss and Bridget Landry. Parke Kunkle and the Library Bards made featured appearances. We morned the loss of Twin Cities all-around fan Blair Keith. Parking at the Hilton was a bit (ahem) problimatic.
MarsCon 2019: Legends in our Own Minds saw us back in the Hilton with Bill Blair, J.G. Hertzler, A. Merc Rustad, Luke Ski and Devo Spice as our guests. Our brains struggled - to varying degrees - in remembering what was once OPs was now The Bridge (and it was on the first floor). The Dementia Track had a full lineup: Devo Spice, Jeff Whitmire, Strffeny Messinger, Carrie Dahlby, Insane Ian, the Library Bards, Luke Ski, TV’s Kyle & Linzilla. Woo!
Eris was a bit late for MarsCon 2020: Visions of the Future—we had a splendid time with Guests Lee Arenberg, Darla Ecklund, Kathryn Sullivan, Eric M. Heideman, Lauren Mayer and Luke Ski. The weather was fine, parking was merely fair to partly horrible. Ahh, those days. Ahh, those nights.
Little did we suspect that soon after MarsCon 2020 the world would fall into the world of coronavirus. The pandemic stuck with us for the rest of 2020 and on into 2021... and 2022.
Alas, when March 2021 arrived conditions were still too dangerous to gather in person. Were nerds going to let a thing like that stop us? No way! MarsCon’s volunteers mustered all their collective computer horsepower and network bandwidth and took MarsCon - Forces of Darkness online. Friends old and new mingled with our virtual Guests of Honor Robbie Ellis and Jon Sloan. We gathered with our phones... tablets... laptops... whatever we had. There was music, discussion, gaming, partying. A different time to be sure, but still MarsCon.
MarsCon 2022 saw the return of in person, almost-back-to-normal fandom with our Jetsons-inspired theme: “The Future Ain’t What It Used to Be.” With extra precautions and everyone masked up for the weekend, it kinda felt like we were all contestants in the Masquerade. Parking was no problem, and the weather even cooperated for a change. Thank you Eris! Our wonderful Guests of Honor helped us escape the worries of the present day and made the weekend relaxing and fun with amazing art and insights by Jon Sloan, readings and discussions featuring author, editor and publisher Catherine Lundoff, behind the scenes stories and prop building tips from Michael Moore, and catchy comedy musical performances by TV’s Kyle and Lindzilla.
Join us again in 2023 - and beyond - as we make a little more history!