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John Desmarais

MarsCon Progenitor
Greensboro/Winston-Salem, North Carolina Area

When you’re the child of over educated parents and grow up in a family of voracious readers, your destiny lies along the path to Geekdom – and a lonely path it can be. The grand revelation occurred shortly after graduating from high school with the first excursion to an actual science-fiction convention. The revelation, of course, was the discovery that the world was full of geeks just like me. There were – as for many – other, smaller, fannish discoveries in this same time period, such as the community of comic book fans who shared my love of that medium. The most lasting of these groups though were the gaming communities. I had first encountered role playing games during that latter years of grade school, but had never been able to find others who shared an interest.


It was in 1985, at the Sheraton beachfront hotel in Virginia Beach, I met several members of a local science fiction club – specifically, The Hampton Roads Science Fiction Association – and learned about other conventions including Sci-Con, the convention that they ran. Conventions, as they are wont to do, lead to more conventions. More involvement with regional and local conventions such as Sci-Con leads to working – and eventually even chairing – them. More conventions also leads to goofy things like hosting ever larger room parties, and herein lies the dirty hidden secret of MarsCon: it’s really just a convention room party that outgrew the room. Chuck and I were young, dumb, and had to much time on our hands; and were convinced that we could run a convention. Using everything we learned from hosting parties (and doing real work at other convention) we had the idea of creating a small convention that could actually be attended and enjoyed by the people who were normally busy behind the scenes running other, larger, local cons – and so, twenty-five years ago, we did just that. Now, two and half decades later, its still going strong (stronger than ever actually). Mine and Chuck’s involvement in MarsCon has shrunk over the years, but other worthies have stepped in and taken the con further than we ever dreamed it would go.


In the years since MarsCon started my life has taken its own, different journey. I moved south be closer to the woman I’ve been happily married to for the past many years. I’ve solidified my career as a programmer, and am currently the lead programmer for financial and supply chain application for a large health care conglomerate centered in Winston-Salem, NC. I have two children, one grown and one still young. I’ve engaged in the typical “parenting” things them, and am still a volunteer leader with the Boy Scouts of America, helping to shepherd my youngest through the ranks. Along the way I went back to school to earn a degree that goes with my job, and continue to pursue additional education. Fannish activities waned for a few years while I settled into career and domestic life – occasionally helping out various small parts of then running of MarsCon. Gaming, which had once been a very large hobby for me, nearly came to end due to a lack of any organized or cohesive (or even findable) local gaming community – but instead of falling away from it entirely I embraced the larger extended gaming community to be found online. Along the way I became part of an APA called Haymaker!, a roleplaying game related APAzine that founded in 1992 that exists to support Champions and other Hero System based games. I have recently taken over as the coordinating editor for Haymaker! and look forward to many more years of publishing RPG material through it.

I still have a love for conventions and now, with one child grown and the youngest no longer a toddler I am once again, now frequently accompanied by with my wife, able to travel and attend conventions. Those of you who have ever been involved in the running of a convention will understand what can next… A group of local fans got the bright idea to startup a convention in my town. Being a con geek, and having forgotten how much work is really involved, I promptly volunteered.