Bob the Stealth Guest

Once Peter David worked out whether he was or was not a guest at United Fan Con, he said, “You should come up and hang with me and Mumy.” So I did.

United Fan Con replaced the much-missed Wishcon, which was a charity fundraising con for the Make-a-Wish Foundation. In addition to a bunch of writer guests like me, Peter and Mike Friedman, they could only afford one or two Name guests and it was a small, fun fan-run show. It faded away because they had trouble growing it and some of those involved took over, came up with a much more lucrative business model and have been running the show in the weekend slot ever since. They still do some fundraising for different charities, which is cool.

Anyway, I campaigned before the weather turned sour then zipped across the state to reach Springfield, Mass. The rain didn’t slow me down much – the volume and road repair work did.

I got there about half an hour late, then walked into the Sheraton not the Marriott across the street so I was feeling all sorts of confused (and dumb). Finally, I found the David clan and the hanging out began.

Peter was going to be on a writers’ panel and invited me to crash. The other panelist, a lovely woman who has written dark science fiction was also there and I cannot for the life of me recall her name, although we share Michael A. Burstein as a common friend. Anyway, the panel was a little bit about writing and was all over the place from politics to sheer nonsense. The dozen or so attendees seemed entertained.

At one point, Bill Mumy stands in the doorway and gives me a wave hello. A few minutes later, his delightful wife Eileen comes in and declares, “You have the most amazing brother!” Not something I normally hear. It turns out Neil is the Mumy’s banker out west and they think he’s not only good with their money but a nice guy, too.

From 5 until 8, all the signatory guests were lined up at tables and one by one, fans clutching actor-specific tickets snaked by Peter’s table and got their autographs. Along the way, Peter sold books, scripts, signed stuff and we chatted during the lulls. I saw folk from other shows and it was nice to be recognized, even if I was there in stealth mode.

Finally, every last fan got their stuff signed and then everyone went to freshen up for the banquet. All the guests were scattered around the room so most every table had someone present. With Kathleen under the weather, I attended as Peter’s guest. Our table chatted about movies, Shakespeare, Shakespeare in Love, the relative merits of Ben Affleck’s acting, and so on.

Finally, around 10 came the cabaret. A holdover from Wishcon, the cabaret was a chance for those guests wishing to show off, got the stage. (My all time favorite memory was Armin Shimmerman and Robert O’Reilly more or less performing dueling Shakespeare as they quoted favorite soliloquies from memory.) Peter kicked things off with a reading from the first chapter of his novel, Tigerheart, which will be out next June and will be a must-have. The room was spellbound. Even Torri Higginson stopped from leaving the room and stood in the back, listening to every word. Peter is a natural performer and the reading was certainly part-performance. But his pastiche of James Barrie was a delight.

Wendy Padbury went next and did a reading from a 500 Year Old Diary she found with wistful and humorous annotations from her time travelling with the Doctor as his companion, Zoe.

The final half-hour was Bill Mumy Unplugged, as he played an acoustic set of songs from his various recordings. His borrowed guitar sounded fine and I was most impressed by his playing. With several diehard Barnes & Barnes fans in the audience, he performed a number just for them. His encore was a sing-a-long as he sang his greatest hit, “Fish Heads”.

By then it was 11 so I was getting ready to leave. I did manage to have a nice, albeit brief chat with Battlestar Galactica’s adorable Nicki Clyne and then spent a little more time with Bill and Eileen. Then, finally, it was back on the road for a zippy ride home.

All in all, a wonderful break from the routine, a chance to see old pals, eat some good food and just hang out and relax at a con.

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