Long-running MarsCon returns to Williamsburg

Contact Reporterhbridges@vagazette.com

The program booklet for the first MarsCon, held in Hampton, includes a hand-drawn map of the host hotel, a "Martian Rules of Conduct" list and an introductory page explaining, among other things, the convention's move from the beach to the Peninsula.

"We left the beach in an experiment to see if many local people would go to a con if they didn't have to drive the extra 30 miles," the program reads. "Who knows? Maybe next year we will be back on the beach (or not)."

That was 1990. MarsCon has remained on the Peninsula ever since.

"It is the longest running science fiction convention in the Tidewater area," said chairman James Allen, involved with the convention since the beginning.

In its 27th year, MarsCon will fill Williamsburg's DoubleTree Hotel with all things sci-fi and fantasy from Jan. 13-15.

While dedicated con-goers sustained MarsCon through the years, Allen said the convention's attendance has nearly doubled since 2007, from 600 attendees that year to around 1,400 in 2016.

"We expect at least that many this year, if not more," he said.

The 2017 theme, "The Year of the Dragon," references the Dragonriders of Pern book series conceived by the late Anne McCaffrey. Her son, Todd McCaffrey, a best-selling author and Guest of Honor at this year's MarsCon, has contributed to the Pern world in books both co-authored with his mother and written alone.

Other guests of honor include artist Ruth Thompson, author Mari Mancusi, game-designer Sandy Petersen, and musical comedian Mikey Mason.

From author panels to light saber demonstrations to a dragon armor workshop, MarsCon packs the programming with offerings for writers, readers, gamers and cosplayers alike.

"We have something for just about anyone," Allen said.

On Saturday alone, a MarsCon attendee could start the day at a panel on "Fantastic Beasts and How to Write Them," head over to a Doctor Who Tea Party and check out Todd McCaffrey's interview before observing the costume contest.

Allen said MarsCon feels like a family reunion.

"You see a large amount of the same group of people showing up every year," he said. "They're ready to actually reserve their (hotel) room for the next year the day that they check out."

If you're new to the convention, that's welcome, too.

"It's a way to meet new people," Allen said. "We're expanding our family right now."

Bridges can be reached by phone at 757-345-2342.

Want to go?

When: 2 p.m.-1 a.m., Jan. 13; 9 a.m.-1 a.m., Jan. 14; 9 a.m.-4 p.m., Jan. 15.

Where: DoubleTree by Hilton Williamsburg, 50 Kingsmill Road.

Weekend admission is $50 for adults, 13 and up. Day passes for adults are $25 on Friday, $35 on Saturday and $20 on Sunday. Admission for children ages 6-12 is half price with an adult, and free for children ages five and under. Cash, checks and cards accepted at the door.

For more information and to see the full schedule, visit marscon.net.

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