MOSCON 40 (Part 1)!

Forty years ago, Steve (with more than A Little Help From His Friends) created MosCon. And It Was Good. But like the Living Dead, MosCon Returned! Is it Still Good? Read and find out! (Hint: You betcha!)

Figure 1 – MosCon 1 Nametag by Kelly Freas

Not many conventions are lucky enough to feature a Kelly Freas nametag (Figure 1), a George Barr logo, and an Alex Schomburg program book cover (Figure 2). But we were just that lucky in our choice of friends—between me and Jon Gustafson, we knew a good proportion of the top SF artists in the field in 1979. I have previously written about how MosCon 1 came to be (See this link). But what I haven’t told you—I did mention it in my last column—is how forty years later, MosCon returned, courtesy mainly of Mike Finkbiner (Figure 3) and Kathy Sprague and their friends!

Figure 2 – MosCon 1 program book cover by Alex Schomburg

Here’s the thing: MosCon stopped being a convention by about 2000-2001; PESFA (The Palouse Empire SF Association, the “founding body”) itself had become mostly moribund because many of the original members had graduated and/or moved away. (I, myself, had moved to Alberta in 1985.) It was hard attracting new members, even though there were two universities (Washington State University—go, Cougs!—and the University of Idaho—okay, go, Vandals!—were within spitting distance of each other. We had tried having a booth during “sign-up day” at both universities, but had attracted very few new recruits. (Sign-up day, whatever it’s really called, was when university clubs, etc., tried to recruit new members to their ranks.) As well, our favourite venue, Cavanaugh’s Motel, had become a University of Idaho grad student housing project and the convention was forced to go back to Best Western. Don’t get me wrong, after the bad experience we’d had at the first MosCon with Best Western, when Cavanaugh’s closed they were happy to host us again, and did a pretty good job.

Figure 3 – Mike Finkbiner

At any rate, soon after #20, MosCon died. Or so we thought!

Figure 4 – MosCon Revival Poster

Facebooking about it with those of us who lived out of town, Mike Finkbiner had been thinking about a memorial service for MosCon people who had died/passed away/gone to that great Convention in the Sky; and Kathy Sprague—sister of MosCon’s “Admiral of the Hot Tub Fleet,” Rod Sprague—had been talking about having a convention in Pullman/Moscow. They combined the two into a single entity and the MosCon Reunion (AKA MosCon 40, though it’s really only #22 or so) was born! And so, on June 21, the Beautiful and Talented Lynne Taylor Fahnestalk (figure 4a) and I packed our bags (and I my Martin guitar, just in case) and headed for the border. It was about an 8-hour drive from Vancouver, including a very short (<5 min) wait at the border (a pleasant surprise! Our previous convention trip was Norwescon at Easter, and we waited four hours(!) at the border that time). We headed down I-5 and cut east on I-405/I-90 across Snoqualmie Pass, thence to Vantage, across the Columbia River, and onto State Route 26 to Colfax (Whitman County seat), and south on 195 to Pullman.

Figure 4a – The B&T Lynne Taylor Fahnestalk

Now, Pullman (wheat, mostly) and Moscow (peas, lentils) are agricultural capitals, and the rolling volcanic hills (the land is rich because of ancient lava flows) and it’s quite attractive. I’ve put in Figure 9 so you can see what it looks like.

Now, when I left Pullman, almost thirty-five years ago, there was no Paradise Creek Inn (Quality Inns) in Pullman. But that’s who was hosting this year’s MosCon. I was unprepared for the changes in Pullman; the main drag (Main Street) was never a hotbed of activity, but it was even sleepier this time than before. (I never got over to Moscow, so I don’t know how much it has changed.) Both movie theatres, the Cordova and the Albion, have become religious venues—in fact, I was surprised at how much religion was evident in Pullman—although there was a new movie complex in the eastern part of town. And Pullman even has a WalMart and an Arbys now!

Figure 9 – Rolling hills of the Palouse

Anyway, we got to the motel, and were greeted with loud cries of “There he is!” and the like, which was quite gratifying. The original idea, booted around a year or so ago, was for a “relaxicon,” with maybe one or two panels; otherwise, people would just congregate at the bar/con suite and chat. (Just FYI, the motel itself had no restaurant or bar, though there was one next door.) Of course, Kathy—who has previously organized pride rallies and the like—had no experience with a convention of this type, but she had scheduled two full days of programming, including two tracks of writing-related programming. I wasn’t asked to be on any of the writing tracks, and by the time I found that out it was too late for me to really prepare to talk intelligently about writing, but I was scheduled on a “History of MosCon” panel along with Mike Finkbiner’s son John Finkbiner—who was an honest-to-gosh convention baby (if I remember correctly, he was a “baby bump” at MosCon 1 or 2.)

Figure 5 – Nels Satterlund as Thermian

And I was scheduled to be part of the memorial service for all the people MosCon had lost. I can’t speak to the writing panels, but the two I was part of (and the “cosplay contest” which replaced the usual masquerade) came off very well, I thought. I did, as we were leaving, meet and chat with Cat Rambo, one of the writer GoHs, and Rantz Hosely, the comic GoH.

I will try to remember all the people whose lives, intertwined with MosCon, we celebrated, but I’m sure I will forget some. In no particular order: Verna Smith Trestrail, Kelly and Polly Freas, Jim Bearcloud (partner of George Barr), Debbie Miller and her mother, Jerry Sohl, Jon Gustafson and Vicki Mitchell, Lynn Fancher, Alex Schomburg, Annette Mercier, Mary-Karen Reid, Becky Fallis, Beth (Finkbiner) Toerne, John Dalmas, Algis Budrys, John Thomson, Richard Wright… I know I’ve dropped some, and my sincere apologies to those I’ve forgotten. It was a very emotional time for all of us, and candles were lit to the memory of all those we lost.

Figure 7 – Larry Reid

I won’t attempt to list all the people who came to this reunion, either—because my memory is more fallible all the time, I’ll only note a few that I remember off the top of my head (and I know I’ll be taken to task for forgetting someone). I brought my camera, but for some reason it was misbehaving, and I didn’t have much luck with the photos. I’ll show you some of the ones I was successful in taking; I’ll scatter them around the column.I was quite happy to see that an ex-PESFAN who had married a well-known author (and become a “name” author in her own right) drove down from Spokane to be at the reunion: Jane Fancher and C.J. Cherryh. Next week, I’ll finish posting the photos I have that are actually worth seeing.

Figure 6 – Lynn Kingsley with Team Moscon Headband

Comments on my column are welcome. You can register and comment here, or on my Facebook page, or in the Facebook I link to. All your comments, good or bad, positive or negative, are welcome! (Just keep it polite, okay?) My opinion is, as always, my own, and doesn’t necessarily reflect the views of Amazing Stories or its owner, editor, publisher or other columnists. See you next time!




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  1. Steve –
    You give me too much credit. I think the original impetus to have a PESFA/MosCon gathering came from Madilane Perry at Beth’s memorial service. Several of us talked about it and thought a small one-day relaxicon might be a better reason to travel the distance than just getting together for dinner.
    Kathy took the idea and ran with it. She had been interested in starting some sort of fannish gathering and thought this was a good opportunity to combine the two ideas.
    I was a bit dubious, considering the short schedule and lack of a con committee, but Kathy and Tabitha have had a lot of experience running other sorts of events and felt she could put this together. She wanted to do things her way and it turned out she could.
    Betty Smith helped with the memorial, budget and finance, Donna Baily, who had run Hospitality at MosCon’s in the past gave good advice on what to stock, and I gather other people both came up with ideas and helped put them together – I don’t know much about that end.
    But this was really Kathy’s idea and hard work. I imagine that next year, with more time to plan and organize a group of volunteers she will be able to offer more.

    1. Thanks for this, Mike. I’ll put this information in the second half of the MosCon Reunion column.

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