On this weekend in 1988, the inaugural Starbase Indy introduced Indianapolis to the amazing world of Star Trek conventions, though it later expanded its dominion into other sci-fi TV shows. Setting aside several years skipped during turbulent times, SBI is one of the most persistent fan-run geek conventions in Indianapolis. It’s a fraction the size of Gen Con, Wizard World, and our other regular cons, but we’ve attended SBI more times than we have any other con. The smaller scale allows for shorter lines and less suffocating crowds, while still attracting talented guests from shows well-liked by geeks like us. With 2015 marking SBI’s twentieth iteration, the con is a regular highlight of our average Thanksgiving weekend, usually more satisfying and ethically defensible than Black Friday. (You can click through to the “Starbase Indy” tag for select photos from previous years.)
This year we nearly didn’t attend. The guest list was largely composed of actors from shows we’ve never watched (Alien Nation, Stargate SG-1) or shows I gave up on (Once Upon a Time). One guest, Admiral Nechayev from Star Trek the Next Generation, we saw at Wizard World Chicago 2010. Complicating matters further, we agreed to host Thanksgiving this year and spent much more time than expected over the past two days with visiting family members from near and far. We had a few obstacles with Starbase Indy, but money wasn’t one of them. Our energy levels weren’t at their peak today, we only had about two hours to devote to it, and the ultimate to-do list we prepared in advance could fit on a single Post-It.
But they invited one Deep Space Nine actor we were thrilled to meet at last, there were a few vendors we thought deserved money in exchange for goods and services, and I rather liked the idea of viewing our one-day ticket expenditure as a sort of donation on behalf of keeping Starbase Indy alive, even if we arguably didn’t get what other ordinary humans would call “our money’s worth”. We got exactly what we came for. We’re fine with that. Our funds will nonetheless go toward meeting costs for this year’s con and, we hope, help ensure Starbase’s continuing future. Yay geek causes!
On the plus side, SBI moved from its longtime home on the opposite end of Indianapolis to another hotel less than fifteen minutes from home. That simplified matters quite a bit for us, along with our mutual decision that if we got/did everything on our want list and were left with nothing we really wanted to do except kill time, then our day was done no matter how little time had passed. We previously laid this law down for ourselves at Appleseed Comic Con (a 90-minute experience) and HorrorHound Indy (a 50-minute whirlwind tour, including two actor autograph lines). I’m sure it seems weird to some that we don’t attend cons for the sake of mingling and partying for hours and hours on end. The short answer is when you’re an aging yet cheerily married couple that doesn’t drink, mingling doesn’t happen easily and parties don’t mean quite so much.
That being said, here’s what we did and who we enjoyed meeting:
1. Mandatory sci-fi backdrop photo, courtesy of a random Trek bridge entryway someone abandoned in a dark corner near some restrooms.
2. Meet Luther M. Siler, a fellow Hoosier and WordPress user, and an author who’s self-published three books to date, including two sci-fi novels readily available through handy links on his site. I’m a mostly silent one among many in his Twitter peanut gallery, but I’m also the kind of old-fashioned guy who likes having solid excuses to buy paper books in person and “I know that dude from Twitter!” is totally solid.
3. Pick up another grab bag of snacks from Pugs in the Kitchen, fine purveyors of doggy treats in the shape of geek symbols (e.g., Federation symbols and such). They ship anywhere in the U.S. if you need more stocking stuffers for your pooch.
4. Buy the latest CD from local Trek-rockers Five-Year Mission, whom I’ve name-checked here more than once in the past. Normally they write one song about each episode of the original series, but their latest effort is a concept album called Spock’s Brain because a single track wasn’t enough to contain one of the all-time worst episodes ever. It’s available directly from the 5YM store as a CD or digital download for the discerning, daring listener.
5. Jeffrey Combs! To many he’s known for Stuart Gordon’s cult classic Re-Animator, but he was superb as the harsh Dominion toady Weyoun on Deep Space Nine, and I admired his take on The Question in the great Justice League Unlimited. When we approached his table, he noticed Anne’s Twilight Zone T-shirt and immediately gave us his reading of the season-three opening. A-plus. It saddened me that he had no line and wasn’t mobbed by admirers.
6. Mandatory cosplay pic, starring a T-Rex. So now it’s an official convention.
…and that was it. Total time elapsed: 45 minutes after ticket purchase. Combs’ photo-op and Q&A were scheduled later than we could stay. We likewise wouldn’t be able to commit to the silent charity auction, the evening’s Dinner with the Stars, the costume masquerade, or Friday and Sunday in general. The real-world science lecturers and SF movie/anime screenings, we could take or leave. I might’ve been curious to hear the Q&A starring Lee Arenberg, a.k.a. Grumpy (one of the best things about that show before I couldn’t take it anymore), but, again, it was later.
Thus we took our leave with a paucity of photos, a wealth of hopefully cool merchandise, and our perpetual, sincere hopes that SBI has been and will be a phenomenal experience for everyone else in the house.
Depending on next year’s guest list, and assuming we can get out of hosting Thanksgiving, see you next year!