MarsCon was my first con ever. Back when I first started going, it was quiet and sedate and relatively innocuous. In fact, I'd come and go from the dorms at random. This year, though, the staff made an effort to step up the activities. This was partially good, but also partially the reason I heard a great deal of staff referring to it as DisasterCon.
Let me qualify just a few things. First, the guest list was about ten times its normal size this year. Secondly, there were a few mixups with the Saturday night peformance. Thirdly, there was a lot of snow that scared away the locals who are afraid of that sort of thing. And, also, there was a whole fleet of Navy guys staying in the hotel that weekend, so maybe two groups of people got rooms at the actual hotel. It was just bad timing and an unfortunate year for what is otherwise an excellent con without exception.
But instead, I will focus on what went right, because MarsCon really does deserve to be judged on its merits more than its flaws.
First off, Barb Fischer always runs an awesome webcomics panel, no matter what con she's at. (There were two, but due to an indisposition late Saturday I was unable to make the second.) She picks excellent, timely topics, and she tends to make sure the panelists stick to them. She's also really fun at parties. Not like that, you perv. Well, possibly, but I missed the first part of the party.
The dealers' room. Fairly small in comparison to something like Shore Leave or any anime cons, but their selection is lovely. Sir Nicodemys (from whom I bought my wand) couldn't make it this year, but my You Win at Selling Things Award at this con goes to the table of swords and daggers. I nearly bought a beautiful one, but buying things the weekend before you move that AREN'T furniture tends to be a bad idea. Still, the highest price of any item at the table -- including katanas and morningstars -- was $50, and a lot of the nice stuff was in the $15-20 range, but still excellent quality. The dealer is also very good at matching you up with something you'll like ... I still regret not going back Sunday to buy the sword he showed me, but I will find out the name of this person so others can seek him out.
The Luna-C improv. Can't say much about it since I was in it, but we got a lot of laughs.
A new addition this year was an autograph/sell-yer-stuff table, which anyone who wanted got for about an hour at a time. This allowed for not needing an Artists' Alley, AND not having people like self and Barb stuck behind a table all day. Unfortunately, despite its being outside the dealers' room, it was still oddly QUITE easy to miss. The glut of the activity at MarsCon this year tended to be around Parlour Room B, and putting the table out there would have served the artists better. Nonetheless, I sold a few prints and got a few new readers.
The only large complaint I will make about the con this year was Saturday night scheduling. And this was probably not the con's fault. Coyote Run, a fairly famous local band, was performing for the first time at MarsCon this year, but it was never communicated how much set-up time they'd need, OR how much space they'd take up. Because of this, the second Luna-C show had to be cancelled (we couldn't have done most of our skits without putting a foot through their drum set), which caused a great deal of grumbling all 'round. This isn't a managerial thing so much as a techie-related thing, and had we been able to chat with Coyote Run beforehand and compare setup times, things would have worked out better in general. But since we've got a new hotel next year, that shouldn't be an issue anymore.
MarsCon is starting to slowly lose its status as a relax-a-con, but I don't necessarily consider that a bad thing. However, it is fifteen years old now, and when you hit fifteen, puberty kicks in. This just happened to be the year the con started growing up a little too fast for itself. Next year, I think we'll have all the things planned for this year, but organised and handled better as a RESULT of this year. So while I can't give it a terribly good rating, I'm willing to give one to next year's in advance.