by Tee Morris
July 24, 2004
I first paid a visit to the Chesapeake Public Library when traveling with Tony Ruggiero and Walter H. Hunt during the Semper SciFi Tour. Along with it being an impressive building with terrific facilities—the staff headed by Jim Blanton—the three of us were given a warm reception by those attending the panel discussion. We enjoyed the evening immensely, and that was when Jim began to tell me about FantaSci 3. Tony had already volunteered me for the day-long event, but as it was so close to my wife’s projected (note, I say, projected) delivery date, I could only give a tentative “Well, let’s see how things go.” As first pregnancies go, my baby daughter showed up far earlier than the doctors and the sonograms indicated. Along with the arrival of a healthy baby girl, I could also celebrate the fact that I was not going to miss out on this one-day event held in Chesapeake, Virginia.
As many of you read in my review of Clovercon 2003 [Nth Degree #10], I am not a stranger to small cons. Provided they are done right, small conventions can be just as rewarding and as fun as the bigger weekends like Balticon, Arisia, or Philcon. Clovercon was not one of these small conventions done right. FantaSci 3, however, was a one-day event that I would love to see extended into two.
Jim Blanton is the first con chair that seemed to be enjoying every minute of running from Point A to Point B, checking to make sure that the guests were happy and the program panels were running on time. His enthusiasm was contagious, even to me! Instead of a con staff looking as if they would cut you down with a lightsabre, Jim and his staff of two were having as much fun as the attendees, and those attendees were making the most of this one-day celebration of science fiction, fantasy, and fandom. The turnout was very impressive (if not slightly unsettling to the rest of the library’s staff) for FantaSci—a collection of anime fans, dealers with hard-to-find comic books or CCG extension packs, and local Star Wars enthusiasts displaying prop reproductions, detailed models, and costumes galore. (And yes, even the Scapers made a showing with a booth promoting the upcoming Farscape: Peacekeeper Wars!) I shared a table with author Tony Ruggiero, and we spent the afternoon meeting, greeting, and enjoying the company of FantaSci. Now don’t let FantaSci fool you—they are only in their third year but they did have a terrific special guest show up for the morning, and no, I’m not referring to their local hero, Tony Ruggiero or me, the new proud papa. No, I refer to the master of late night macabre, the scientist who knows no shame when he shows the best of the worst B-grade horror movies. I speak of none other than Dr. Madblood.
If you’re not in the Southeastern Virginia area, you probably have no clue of whom I’m talking about. Before I knew Elvira and long before I watched Joel achieve orbit in the Satellite of Love, I had to get the rabbit ears on my television just right to pick up the fuzzy signal from Norfolk. Dr. Madblood was the first “late night-comedy-creature feature” I had ever seen on television, and there was something a bit nostalgic and a little reassuring to know that he was still on the air and doing his thing. (With the direction of programming the SciFi Channel has taken, I’m surprised Dr. Madblood and his gang haven’t pitched their show to them.) His crew were putting their full support behind FantaSci, getting the word out on the air about this one-day convention.
I only had one panel, immediately following Tony’s one panel, and then we hosted a Writers’ Workshop as a finale to FantaSci, and the only feedback that reached us was positive. At the end of the day, we made certain to let Jim know how much we enjoyed ourselves and that FantaSci is destined for bigger and better things than just a one-day event. Jim would love nothing more than to see his brainchild grow, but that would require a growth in attendance and (no offense intended to Tony or myself) “established” names in the genre. While small press authors have no issues with selling their works out of their suitcases, some larger press authors may turn their noses up to that. It would be their loss because FantaSci was time well spent, and I am already counting the days until next year for FantaSci 4.