"Seven stormtroopers got together and actually devised All-Con in 2003," says Todd Carlton, who's both a proud representative of the Dark Side and an All-Con Content Manager. From those humble, difficult to walk-in beginnings, it sprung: A convention that adheres the best bits of Dallas' other conventions together, like a festival Katamari Damacy.
Now in its ninth year, All-Con has morphed into a geeky luxury retreat and intensive celebration of the nerdly arts, taking over the Crowne Plaza for three days of workshops, films, an art showcase, celebrities and general fan boy and fan girl worship. This weekend's affair (Friday through Sunday) will be the grandest to date so we've put together 10 reasons why. Nerds, dorks and geeks: I salute you. (Adjusting imaginary glasses with index finger.)
1.) Imperial Troops - Saying All-Con's founders dig Star Wars is like calling Hoth "chilly." They're members of the 501st, a group that has moved on from mere hardshell armor enthusiasm to further include officers and bounty hunters. This year's Con has reached Legion Level Status. (Translation: Look out for the invading Galactic Empire.) Roughly 120 out-of-town stormtroopers are scheduled to descend upon the North Dallas hotel. Please, please let them all go out for pancakes together at an off-highway Addison IHOP.
2.) Breathing Room - While technically the event's fire code is set for 2,500 humans, aliens, and assorted lifeforms, Con's crew caps the thing at 2,300. Why? "We have several of the Dr. Who angels hanging around," explains Carlton. "We refuse to make people stand shoulder-to-shoulder, especially if locked between 7-foot wings."
3.) Celebrities - Attracting celebs is the cornerstone of any convention, but this year's group seems especially engaging. "They really want to meet the guests," says Carlton. "We have Terry Naughton, a 17-year Disney animator, who was one of the lead animators on Beast from Beauty and the Beast. He's teaching a workshop on Saturday on how to draw Beast, so they're being creative with the content they're providing. They're not just sitting in a chair to sign photos." Others of note: Samantha Newark (the voice of Jem), Kathy Coleman (Land of the Lost), Camden Troy (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), and more.
4.) Naked Girls Reading (Friday, 7 p.m.) - If you haven't been to a Naked Girls Reading event, this will be a crazy means of exposure. The gals, all nerd-adoring burlesque performers, read themed selections while in the buff. Will they choose comics? Philip K. Dick novels? Scripts from classic sci-fi films? No telling. What we do know: They'll put the spark back in your lightsaber. Twenty-one and up, firm.
5.) The Costume Competition - Do you have a janky homemade tribble outfit burning a hole in your closet? Wear it. There's no "guild certification" at All-Con, which means that even leisurely enthusiasts can share their visual voices. There's a higher-grade competition for the folks with exoskeletons and complicated get-ups, and a "casual category" for those of you who choose the costumed path of least resistance.
6.) Ms. Star Wars Competition - Now a nine-year event staple, this is not a challenge for the weak of Force. Roughly 50 will enter this combination pageant and impromptu acting/trivia competition, but only one will receive the glorious title of Ms. Star Wars. I'm a judge for this, so check back with Mixmaster for a rundown of what I'm looking for in a champion. (Hint: Cookie bouquets are accepted.>)
7.) Marshall Barnes - I can't figure this guy out. I also cannot find any university or organization that publicly funds his career in the time travel sciences. He claims to have devised a path for warp speed, trademarked a working model time machine (albeit at a "micro level"), and seems to write a lot of his own press announcements. Still, according to Carlton, "He fascinates us." Con's organizers believe Barnes is a world class voice in the field of quantum physics, with specific focus on time travel navigation.
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Perhaps more important, he's bound to incite some wildly entertaining nerd wars. "You get the geeks who want to argue quantum physics and time travel, and that if time travel could ever be invented then it would always have existed," he explains. "And that's almost what we're looking for, that confrontation between the sci-fi geek and the scientist."
8.) The World Premiere of the Complete Pink Five Saga - Stacy has been green screened into every possible Star Wars scenario, from battles on Endor to Yoda chats, but when the series' creator Trey Stokes ran out of cash before the fifth episode, the award-winning You Tube phenomenon stalled. Soon, a Kickstarter was launched and Stokes got the dough needed to complete his mission. Now, the saga is complete. Rather than posting the episode online like its predecessors, they're touring all five as a collection. Dallas gets its geek card punched by hosting the Pink Five Saga World Premiere. That's happening on Friday night, and they'll screen all five shorts (it runs a total of 45 minutes) a total of three times.
9.) Burlesque - VIP quick pass advanced seating has already sold out for this show, which is one of the Con's biggest attractions. Why? Because the performers know their audience. "If you put a woman up there in a bikini, guys are going to scream," Carlton says. "But if you put her up there in a Cat Woman outfit, that shows most but not all, they're going to go nuts." Fair enough. *This year's highlight? A slave Leia performance to "You Don't Own Me." Eighteen and up, unless accompanied by a very cool parent.
10.) Choose Your Own Adventure - There are more than 200 events at this year's All-Con, so whether you're attracted to Middle Earth Jeopardy, low-budget costume workshops, speed dating (hopefully at warp speed), philosophy in anime, or even a curious workshop called Zen for Clowns -- there's something here for you. Now, go high-five a stormtrooper.