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by Anne Page

When I took on the task of organising the Masquerade, Masked Ball and other events for Worldcon I thought I was prepared for all the myriad problems that I might face. I had reckoned without the "Nutty Neo"! Now I've met some irritating and exasperating fans before (for example, the editor of this 'ere fanzine!), but here was a prince among prats. I was forcibly introduced to his existence by the intrusion into my life of Missive Number One, hand inscribed in mid January, viz:

"Dear Madam, Please can you send me further information, forms, etc, about the Masquerade, including what is it all about? Apparently one day of Conspiracy '87 will be spent dressed up in an unusual costume. Do we have to send in rough designs of our costumes? Where can we obtain badges from past TV/film science fiction e.g. the round badge seen on the sleeve of a colonial warrior in "Battlestar Galactica", therefore I'm not after items concerned with NASA and I'm not interested in badges that have the film title on them.

Can't we obtain science fiction costumes ready made? Do we have to make our costumes?

A suggestion : how about building a cardboard maze for the masqueraders to explore in individually, where each person may or may not fire toy, non-projectile weapons at each other?

I look forward to your reply,

P.S. What are gophers?"

Ho, hum, I thought, and as the Masquerade forms were still at the printers I put the letter with other requests for forms and went to the kitchen for a strong cup of Irn Bru!

Just over three weeks later, when the forms were printed and awaiting collation and mailing, Missive Number Two arrived with a dull thud on the mat. I put the dull thud aside to read later, and opened "Nutty Neo's" new note. It began thusly, in type,:

"At this time of writing, I have not heard from you at all, which is why I am writing to you again."

That figures, I thought! The rest of the letter was much the same as the first, but he now also wanted to know if toy laser pistols were allowed. He was still looking forward to my reply! I collated a set of Masquerade forms and sent them to him. That should do the trick, I thought, all the information he could ever need on weapons policy, making your costumes etc. is there before his very eyes.

I reckoned without our hero - he had more aces up his sleeves. Missive Number Three attacked the hall carpet exactly one week later. I cautiously investigated the contents with a sinking heart and the merest suspicion of a nervous twitch. Having obviously decided his typing was a major force in his favour he began,

"Dear Anne Page, Thank you for sending me the forms and details for the Masquerade. But some of my questions remain unanswered.
  1. Firstly, what exactly is the Masquerade, in the case of Conspiracy '87? Is it a costume competition? If so, what is the prize?
  2. Does everyone who wants to dress up in a costume e.g. for the Masked Ball, have to enter the Masquerade?
  3. What is a gopher?
  4. Does the Masquerade actually take place on August 29th?
  5. What exactly are you supposed to do, in costume, once you're on stage? Do you have to do more than just walk up and down showing off your costume?
  6. Are battery operated toy laser pistols/rattle guns allowed?
  7. Are you given help if you want stage props e.g. can you get someone, with advanced request, to build you a small, cardboard maze, or do you have to make it yourself and bring it to the convention? What I mean is, can you get someone to build you something ready-made, during the convention, prior to the Masquerade?
  8. Is it all right to ask someone e.g. the BBC, to "construct" your soundtrack? Can you recommend someone who can do this, or is it too expensive?
  9. Can you tell me, please, where I may find science fiction badges and masks/headgear? Or do I have to make them myself? I am particularly after badges worn on film/TV costumes - or is that disallowed?
  10. Is it all right to present the costume and design it, all by yourself?
  11. What does M.C. stand for?
  12. Do you have to mention everyone who helped you make the costume?
  13. Can you speak, on stage, without a microphone, if you do not intend to address the audience, but wish to speak as part of your presentation?
  14. No live microphones. Does that mean you have to bring your own? Do you have to have microphones?
  15. Any copyright laws broken if you do the following: use material, in costume or tape, based upon, or directly from established TV/film, book etc? Use music without prior permission from artist?
  16. Will Rostler says "No name tags on costumes". Does that apply to name badges e.g. like on the Ghostbusters overalls/NASA space uniforms?

I will be grateful if you could please answer all my questions as I have never been to a science fiction convention before, so I don't know what goes on in these things; particularly masquerades.

I wondered if I had accidently sent him blank forms by mistake. I wondered if cardboard mazes were some secret sexual fetish I had not discovered yet (and if not, why not!) I answered it all sensibly and carefully - well, he can't help being a neo, and we must be kind to neos, mustn't we? Privately I envisaged answering SOME questions very differently viz:

a) did you bother reading your PRs and forms at all?

d) see answer to a)

e) see answer to a) and d)

f) see answer to a),d),and e)

g) of course you may have a small cardboard maze - at the end of the pier!

h) the B.B.C. spend all their time doing contract work of this nature, ring up and ask for the Director General - he's already helped forty entrants with their sound tapes to date.

i) I do wish you'd stop badgering me about this!

k) What does M.C. stand for? Just about everything, sunshine, including people writing innumerable letters full of interminable questions!

m) and n) May I be so bold as to tell you exactly what to do with your microphone?

q) Aaaaaarrrgghhh!!!

I sent off the polite answers only, with a delicate hint that as a newcomer to such things he might find it easier to watch the Masquerade rather than enter, and went into the kitchen to find the two litre bottle of Irn Bru. After the second litre the carbon dioxide had restored my sanity. I hoped I had heard the last of our hero, but this guy was made of sterner stuff.

Missive Number Four left the carpet alone, but attempted to eat the cats. I put on oven gloves and opened it. My face resumed its nervous contortions.

"Dear Anne Page, Thank you for your letter of the 2nd March. You have more or less persuaded me not to enter the Masquerade, so I shall take your advice and just watch the event - which is free to see I presume?

If you could spare the time however, could you please answer just a few more questions, as I am considering to go to the Masked Ball.

  1. Is it likely that more than half of the party-goers, in the Masked Ball, will be in costume? If so, is it likely that all the costumes will be of a science fiction/fantasy nature?
  2. Do the Masquerade rules apply to costumes to be worn outside the event, and costumes to be worn at the Masked Ball, e.g. if you're just going to the Masked Ball, are you allowed to buy bits of/for your costume, or even buy/hire a complete costume?
  3. Are battery operated toy pistols/rattle guns stll not permitted in the Masked Ball, or outside the Masquerade? If so, why are they disallowed, since these toys do not fire projectiles of any kind (unless there is of course concern for the noise factor)? Are deactivated toy pistols allowed (pistols that will not fire projectiles, nor make any noise, nor produce any light effects)? are pistols that produce light effects also disallowed, and if so, why? I am willing to make a model weapon, if I cannot use or carry a commercial toy or models.
  4. If I am allowed to buy bits for a costume, or buy/hire a costume could you please tell me:
    1. Where in London can I purchase badges, as worn on the costumes of science fiction television/film, which do not carry the film/TV logo?
    2. Where in London, can you hire or buy, a science fiction costume e.g. space costumes as used in science fiction television/film - and how much could it cost?
  5. You mention that there are some people who make quite superb masks; can you please send me one or two addresses of people who make masks of a science fiction/fantasy nature?
  6. A Masked Ball sounds like something out of Cinderella. But in contrast, will the Ball be a disco affair most of the time, or will there be some "civilised or classical" music played on electronic keyboards. (There's a suggestion in this question)?

I do hope that you will be able to find time to answer most of my questions, particularly the latter four. Just in case you didn't get the message, please could you reserve a ticket for me, for the Masked Ball?

I look forward to your reply.

He was still looking forward to my reply! Well, I wasn't!

My reply was rather brief and answered some necessary points, but suggested he might like to do the same as the several thousand other attendees, and use his free time to seek out and gather his own costume together. What I would LIKE to have said would have gone as follows (you will have to imagine the steam rising in a red cloud from my typewriter as you read this)

1) What a bloody silly question.

2) For Ghod's sake, read your PR properly. It's all there in simple words.

3) If you utter one more word about bloody battery operated toy pistols, I shall find you at the convention and personally stuff one of the aforesaid pistols down your throat! So there, frog-face! And I don't see why I should have to explain every rule to a half-wit who can't read properly!

4) I do not believe this....this person with enough time to write all these letters, who lives about thirty miles from London, wants me, in Glasgow, to find him suppliers for his....... badges and costume bits. What next - would he like spoon-feeding at meals perhaps? I have, of course, little else to do all day!

6) Of course we will have civilised classical music at the Masked Ball, there's nothing like "getting down and boogieing" to a fugue in D minor, now is there?

"Aaaaaarrrggghhh! Mummy, Mummy, I don't want to work on Worldcon any more. I'm not feeling well. I think it's all the Irn Bru." "Hush dear, you're not alone, for all the rest of the committee are getting letters from him too!"


This page updated on 09 July 1999