Subtle But Certain Tolkien Presence at Steamy ConJose – A Loyal TORCer’s Experiences at the World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon (SM)) Under Way in San Jose (California, That Is)

by Sep 1, 2002Events

Worldcon is an entirely volunteer-run gathering that is held every year in a different city and, often, in a different country. I could only attend one day, so I chose Saturday because the famous Worldcon Masquerade happened that evening.

One of the organizers had told me that a crowd of 4,000 was expected to fill the San Jose Convention Center and nearby Fairmont Hotel during the five day event (August 29 to September 2). Still, as more and more people kept wandering in from the streets of downtown San Jose, folks were whispering about a 7,000 people turnout. Not bad for an event that does not have a commerical presence from well-known franchises, such as Star Trek, Star Wars, or Disney.

Thus, while the folks at New Line Cinema were busy at DragonCon, the Tolkien Society was at Worldcon on the opposite US Coast, promoting their upcoming Oxenmoot. No commercial Star Wars booth entertained Worldcon goers. Yet, George Lucas’ special effects enterprise Industrial Light & Magic sent expert Tom Dilligan to give a short history of special effects and tell us how favorite effects in “Attack of the Clones” were done. None of the stars of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” were present, yet a number of talks were devoted to the Buffy mythos.

The Worldcon schedule does not include full day tracks dedicated to the works of one author or to a particular movie or television show universe. Rather, talks on different subjects are spread out throughout the five day event. Thus I had to miss Tolkien-related talks such as: “Sound and Spirit: Lord of the Rings Sneak Preview” (which will be aired on National Public Radio in the fall); “Tolkien versus (Mervyn) Peake;” and “Tolkien as an Iceberg” (re: “Silmarillion” and other related materials).

I did attend the talk “Costuming from the Lord of the Rings,” which was presented by Mary Cordero, Lisa Deutsch Harrigan, and Cat Devereaux.
These ladies discussed a topic dear to my personal heart: how to create costumes that duplicate, or are inspired by, Ngila Dickson’s costumes for “The Lord of the Rings.”

Mary C. wore her wonderful recreation of Arwen’s riding costume in the infamous AATF scene. Her handsome husband appropriately sported an all-leather Aragorn-as-Strider coat. Mary based her designs on stills from the film and the ToyBiz figures of Arwen and Aragorn.

The costumers admitted that many of their guides came from the ToyBiz figures. Their findings are available at the web site [L url=””][/L]

Evidentally, information about elven ladies’ costumes generates the most traffic on their web site, though fellow TORCer Yarrow and I urged web master Cat Devereaux for more information on costumes for humans. (Alas, some of us cannot imagine ourselves as species other than humans.)

Other than the talks that I mentioned, the Tolkien presence was small but resilient. Not a Nazgul nor Gandalf wandered among the convention-goers. However, I did see some hobbits and, presumably, elven women, at the masquerade. Most notably, costumer Leah Jakusovszky presented a wonderfully accurate rendition of Samwise Gamgee, complete with pack, frying pan, and curled human hair spirit gummed to her feet.

At the end of the fabulous masquerade, I rushed out to what, for some, is the highlight of Worldcon: three floors of party suites hosted by cities and countries and other “special interests.” The wait to get into the elevator for the suite floors was a half hour. But I got to the
marquee “Con Party” in time for munchies and drinks.

A scramble down to the 18th floor found me at my final destination, the Bagdad Cafe and Belly Jam. There I finally located my buddy and car-pooler Alex, who had shunned his “Da Nazz” costume in favor of cooler (temperature-wise, anyway) “Obi-Juan” persona for Worldcon.

It was hot enough in the “Bagdad Cafe” to replicate the Middle East, even though the suite was allegedly air conditioned. Moreover, I had costumed myself in a heavy Egyptian gallabeya in my attempt to portray Jehane, heroine of Guy Gavriel Kay’s “The Lions of Al-Rassan.” Everyone was urged to do their own belly dance (or sort of) belly dance performance. So I gave them a little Egyptian cane dance–not very Tolkien, but fun, nevertheless.

Totally drenched and very exhausted, Alex and I managed to disconnect ourselves from Worldcon at about 12:45 am. The parties, we were told, go on until past 3. Unfortunately, Alex had promised his sweetheart, and I had promised my cat, that we’d be home before 2 am. So we headed off through silent and balmy San Jose to the cooling relief of San Francisco, some 50 miles north.

As a final summary, I’d urge all TORCers to go to a Worldcon if one is in your region. The next is called TORCON (sound familiar?), held in Toronto in September 2003. You’ll have a great time, particularly if you are a fan of science fiction/fantasy books.


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