A Tale of ConQuesT, Magic, Mystery, and Mayhem

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Intihuatana Stone
Intihuatana Stone

While riding my keyboard and mouse across the infinite electronic pathways of the world, I discovered something quite surprising. At first when I stumbled upon it, I sloughed it off as just another coincidence. But as more and more evidence began to clog up my history folder, I realized that something strange was going on. You see, I discovered a secret. Not just any secret, mind you, but a secret so big it could alter our planet’s orbit.

Knowing the secret will not put you in any immediate danger. At least I don’t think it will. If you are skittish, you might want to leave now. If you are bold or foolish, lean closer. I have something to tell you. Make no mistake, your fate is your own. I refuse to guarantee your safety.

The tale begins in the lost corners of our world, where ancient civilizations discovered places of power. Some of these places may be known to you–places like Stonehenge, the Tower of the Winds, and the Intihuatana Stone. Scientists and archeologists have studied these locations for centuries. They have crafted complex theories and explanations so expansive that entire forests have been sacrificed to archive their findings.

Some of these experts have identified lines of power or ley lines that converge at these locations. Foolishness, you might say. Mere creations of the imagination. Perhaps you’re right. In fact, I never dedicated much thought to these fancies until I discovered something unexpected. You see, one common thread shared by these places of power and mystery is that they all exist outside of the United States. Surely if places of power exist in other parts of the world, they would also exist right here in North America. So why has no one ever discovered it? Why are there not libraries filled with hypotheses and data? Because it’s a secret. They don’t want you to know.

Somehow through all the subterfuge and obfuscation, I discovered their secret. I know where the ley lines converge. I know where to find the place of power. Come closer so that I might tell you before the secret disappears with me. In the heart of North America, nearly at its geographical center, a city was built. Its name is Kansas City. That’s right, Kansas City. Scoff if you want, but if you listen to the evidence, you may witness the truth.

The evidence is not unlike that used by scientists to argue the existence of dark matter and dark energy. Though we cannot directly see the source of power, we can see the influence it has on the objects around it. While dark matter exerts a gravitational pull upon visible objects, sources of power provide great energy to those who know how to tap them. They provide enough energy to create worlds.

Walt Disney
Walt Disney

As part of my case, I submit the following evidence. In 1911, a young boy moved to Kansas City. The boy attended the Kansas City Art Institute, where he learned to draw. When not studying, he spent time with his friends at Electric Park, an enchanted amusement park. The boy was named Walt Disney and represents one of the first recorded cases. You see, Walt located the power source. He found the convergence of ley lines and used that energy to create his Laugh-O-Gram Studio right at the source in Kansas City. Walt Disney was a world builder extraordinaire, but he was not alone.

Ernest Hemingway found the secret early on too. After graduating high school he discovered the source and took a job writing for the Kansas City newspaper. It took a world war to pull him away and place him behind the wheel of an ambulance on the war-torn roads of Italy. Later in life he continually tapped the source to create masterworks of fiction.

Some might argue that Robert A. Heinlein was even greater than Hemingway. He also discovered the secret. Born just outside of Kansas City, Heinlein spent his childhood learning to draw upon the energy converging within the city limits. Later tagged as one of science fiction’s “Big Three”, Heinlein used his hometown as a foundation for many of his greatest works.

It doesn’t stop there. Paul Henning created The Beverly Hillbillies from the convergence of power he tapped in Kansas City. A bit far from the mark of Hemingway and Heinlein, to be sure, but each person shapes the energy in a different way.

The name Hallmark brings to life images of greeting cards, family movies, and the creation of holidays that require you to give yet another gift. Donald J. Hall, Sr. discovered the convergence of power in Kansas City early in his career and shaped it into a business empire.

Imagine Harry Dresden fighting evil on the streets of Kansas City instead of Chicago. Jim Butcher grew up in KC and originally had his famous wizard living in his hometown. Butcher has explained the shift in locations during more than one interview, but don’t believe him. The truth is that he’s hiding the source. He is protecting the convergence.

Harlan Ellison at BYOB-5 in 1975. Photo courtesy of Keith Stokes.
Harlan Ellison at BYOB-5 in 1975. Photo courtesy of Keith Stokes.

The best evidence appeared in early 1971, when unsuspecting science fiction fans uncovered this convergence of ley lines, this source of power. In their zeal they grouped together to form the Kansas City Science Fiction & Fantasy Society (KaCSFFS, pronounced kax-fuss). Ken Keller and Gary Mattingly claimed that the club was created to bring together fans of science fiction and fantasy, but I know better. I suspect that they were facilitating the use of their secret discovery.

The following year KaCSFFS helped organize two events. The first was held in mid-June of 1972 and was called Mid-America Con. The second, occurring in the fall of that year, was named BYOB-Con. These conclaves or moots, if you will, were filled with events to celebrate this source of power. Those in the know conducted panel discussions and banquets and even a masquerade, while dealers and artists and filmmakers exhibited the results of this harnessed energy.

Underground comix artist Richard V. Corben provided a special one day display of his original art at that first convention. Like Disney, Corben attended the Kansas City Art Institute. Like Disney, he shaped the energy he found into great things. Richard V. Corben left that convention and created worlds and images that have touched so many of us ever since. The most iconic character from the film Heavy Metal was Den, Corben’s own creation. In the film, John Candy voices the boy Den who transforms from a skinny youth into a powerful warrior and fights the forces of evil to gain control of a powerful green stone known as the Loc-Nar. Could it be that the transformation of Den is simply a metaphor for the change brought on by this mysterious power source that Corben discovered? Was he saying that he was the skinny youth transformed into a mighty creature? Did Richard Corben discover the Loc-Nar in Kansas City?

Over the years the convention has continued celebrating fandom, while offering something more secret and, dare I say, more valuable. A power exists for those who know where to look. What started as the Mid-America Con and BYOB-Con eventually evolved into ConQuesT in 1980. Perhaps this new name was more fitting of the secrets it hid and the effects it produced.

Frank Herbert on the roof of the hotel in 1976. Photo by Dave Truesdale.
Frank Herbert on the roof of the hotel in 1976, speaking to the masses. Photo by Dave Truesdale.

Today the Society established in 1971 still organizes and operates this Midwestern gathering. Across four decades thousands and thousands have made the pilgrimage to the heartland to seek this mysterious source of power. The names of those who have made the journey is astonishing:  Phillip Jose Farmer, James E. Gunn, Richard V. Corben, Robert Bloch, Robert A. Heinlein, C.J. Cherryh, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Gordon R. Dickson, Poul Anderson, Harlan Ellison, Norman Spinrad, Fredrick Pohl, George R.R. Martin, Tim Powers, John Varley, Michael P. Kube-Mcdowell, Joe Haldeman, James P. Hogan, Larry Niven, K.W. Jeter, Walter John Williams, Thomas M. Disch, Mike Resnick, Pat Cadigan, Esther Friesner, Darrel K. Sweet, James Morrow, Elizabeth Moon, Ellen Datlow, Jennifer Roberson, Kage Baker, Joe. R. Lansdale, and John Scalzi to name only a few. So many more have made the trek but alas their names have been blacked through. My guess is that they don’t want you to know their source of power? My Loc-Nar.

In 1976 NASA landed two Viking probes on Mars. Some say it was coincidence that the 34th World Science Fiction Convention was held in Kansas City at MedAmeriCon that same year. A few in the Society that were present at the event have whispered to me of a transformation that took place. The convergence that year was like none other. The WorldCon fed off the energy, and it has never been the same since. If you travel to WorldCon this year or any year, you might still see the glowing fingerprints left from that summer in 1976.

George R.R. Martin at ConQuest 16. Photo courtesy of Keith Stokes.
George R.R. Martin at ConQuest 16. Photo courtesy of Keith Stokes.

ConQuesT 16 took place in 1985. One amongst the attendees was an author named George R.R. Martin. Martin had already received critical acclaim for his masterful writing, but it was after he suckled at the Loc-Nar that his career exploded.

So our tale brings us back to the present–Memorial Day weekend 2013. The lines of power are flowing as strong as ever. A convergence is about to take place. Members of the Society and those in the know are gathering for their annual moot. My mind races imagining what greatness will emerge from this year’s convention. The names that will gather have shaped worlds, mastered time, and conquered the universe. Names like Patrick Rothfuss, John Picacio, Teresa Nielsen Hayden, John Kovalic, Patricia C. Wrede, Chris Garcia, Bradley Denton, Robin Wayne Bailey, and George R.R. Martin have all been drawn to this gathering. If you ask them, they might tell you they have come for the panel discussions or to read from their works. They might claim to have been drawn in by the Masquerade or open gaming tables. But I know the truth. They have each come seeking the power and energy that can only be found at the source. The beating rhythm of the heartland sounds a march to greatness.

The Loc-Nar
The Loc-Nar

The Society will be there watching over all. Their membership still includes such names as Robert A. Heinlein. (A rumor exists that he is still alive and well on Ganymede alongside Buddy Holly, but that is a tale best left to Bradley Denton.) Alas I find myself unable to resist. I will seek the source. Though I face magic, mystery, and mayhem, I must know the truth. I will attend ConQuesT 44. I know not what I will find there, hiding in the shadows, but perhaps I will discover the Loc-Nar.

Author’s note: Special thanks to the KaCSFFS members who provided valuable information for this investigation. http://www.conquestkc.org

2 COMMENTS

  1. ConQuesT starts today with one of our own. Amazing Stories Magazine’s very own Chris Garcia is one of the guests of honor at the science fiction convention.

    Good luck Chris.

    RKT

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