Wednesday, September 4, 2030


The Atlanta Fantasy Fair, known at first as the Atlanta Comics & Fantasy Fair, was a comics and SF convention that took place yearly at various locations in and around Atlanta, Georgia from 1975 until 1995. For several years it was the largest fantasy, comics, SF, and related media gathering in the Southeast, bringing together people from across the region and the nation. As an attendee and a staffer the AFF holds many memories for me, and I'm sure others remember it fondly or (not-so-fondly) as well. A few years back I noticed that information on the AFF seemed to be almost nonexistent on the internet, and it's the goal of this blog to rectify that situation by posting any and all data available on the AFF, in addition to information and images of other now-defunct Atlanta conventions and fan organizations from the same era, such as Phoenixcon, Dixie-Trek, etc. If you have any images, information, stories, rumors, tall tales, or legends about these conventions, please don't hesitate to send them to me at or post them here in the comments.

Friday, February 8, 2019

1979: Atlanta Comics & Fantasy Fair

1979 was the year the AC&FF, or the ACFF, or what we'd later just call the AFF, well, they moved locations up I-85 to the popular Century Center location on Clairmont Rd, just north of the site of their first 1975 show.  

I don't personally have any materials from the 1979 show - I would have been nine years old at the time and while I would have loved to have been there, at the time I didn't even know it existed. So I've had to dig these images up from the depths of the Internet, and once again I'll ask anyone out there with some old convention flyers or program books or photos of Atlanta Comics & Fantasy Fairs past to take an afternoon and do a little scanning and send them .jpgs my way. 

The program schedule for the 1979 Atlanta Comics & Fantasy Fair was a folded newsprint poster that boiled the essentials of the convention down to a few pages worth of text and some illustrations by the guests. 

From the vantage point of 2019 we can enjoy the charming five-point list of rules, and we can nod approvingly at the lady con chair, which is becoming more common but in 1979 must have been a novelty.  Judging from the welcome message's references to "circumstances beyond our control," there must have been some pre-convention drama happening behind the scenes, and let me say that this is an aspect of fandom conventions that has not changed at all. 

The full spectrum of fandom entertainment circa 1979 is on display as the ACFF gives you, the attendee, a main events room filled with classic movies, SF TV favorites, vintage serials, and Star Trek, Star Trek, Star Trek. What's that? You note they're only showing the Star Trek Bloopers ONCE? Well, let's check out another, perhaps more accurate version of the 1979 schedule. 

Looks like the Friday night crowd demanded their Bloopers!  Apart from the enigmatic inscription "Century Center Hotel - No Money", this schedule also tells us when the dealer's room is open. I for one am appalled at how late this convention lasts on Sunday. By 5pm I am ready to shut these things down, but the 1979 breed of fan had a lot more energy, for some reason.

Here's the guest list - John Byrne was still a rising star drawing the X-Men, Howard Chaykin had yet to set the comics world on fire with his American Flagg, Gil Kane and Jim Steranko were legendary titans of the field, and Dave Sim was (a) still married to Deni Sim, and (b) just getting into the groove his 300-issue run of Cerebus The Aardvark. Dr. Kenneth Smith, the only guest to attend the first five Atlanta Comics & Fantasy Fairs, was years away from being insulted by gamers and leaving AFF in a huff, never to return, and Richard Meyers was right on the cusp of becoming completely infatuated with Asian martial arts cinema and becoming one of North America's experts in the field. 

The Cerebus piece on the back of the program guide is a wonderful example of exactly how the rest of the world saw Atlanta in the 1970s - Atlanta was the place where Gone With The Wind happened, and that's it. That's all. Nothing else. 

The Kenneth Smith program guide artwork also was featured on that year's T-shirt. 1979's show would set new attendance records for the Atlanta Comics & Fantasy Fair, and if they got anywhere near the 1800 attendees the program book was claiming, then by golly that was one crowded show because the Century Center just isn't that big.  1980 would see the convention move back to the Dunfey's Royal Coach which, for all its faults, at least had plenty of meeting space. 

Thanks to the Cerebus Fangirl Site for the program guide images! 

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Atlanta Fantasy Fair 1984

Ah, yes, 1984. The year George Orwell picked for his dystopian novel of global brutalist authoritarianism, the year Apple Computers really broke through to the national consciousness with an ad referencing the 1984 novel, and the year Michael Radford made a film version of that selfsame novel that was chiefly noted for its Eurythmics soundtrack. 

1984 was also the year of the tenth annual Atlanta Fantasy Fair! So come on down to downtown Atlanta the first weekend of August to get your Fantasy Fair on!

signed by the model
The tenth annual... or the tenth anniversary... if the con started in 1975 then the 1984 show would be nine years after their first, but you don't start conventions with 'zero' so it's their tenth... aw, who knows. It was the tenth AFF. Guests included Robert "The Deadly Bees" Bloch, Larry "adviser to Ronald Reagan on the creation of the Strategic Defense Initiative" Niven, Forrest "dammit quit calling me we're trying to shoot Destination Moon here" Ackerman, and Howard Weinstein, whom Wikipedia tells us was a Star Trek author.

I attended AFF 1984 as a young teenager in the company of my older brother and a gang of friends, who, in those pre-helicopter-parenting days, were allowed to roam freely the Omni Hotel and the World Congress Center back in the days before Centennial Olympic Park, back when the area was a steel and concrete vision of a dystopian Orwellian future, only with Chic-Fil-A.

poster courtesy "Timelord Cardiff"
I can vouch for the panels, the costume contest, the huge dealers room, the amateur film festival, and it being a terrific show for a 13 year old nerd to spend all his hard-earned lawn-mowing money at.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Look Away Look Away Look Away Dixie Trek

In 1980 the Atlanta Star Trek Society was formed to further the ideals of IDIC and the vision of Gene Roddenberry throughout the United Federation of Planets, or at least Atlanta GA. They hosted their first convention on the Emory University campus. In 1982 they changed their name to Dixie Trek and organizers William Smith, Owen Ogletree, and Ron Nastrom moved off-campus and into the wider world of Atlanta fan events.

Personally I was never a big Star Trek fan – beyond the Kirk-Spock-McCoy dynamic and the overwrought 1960s TV writing there isn't much there for me – but if you became a science fiction nerd in the late 1970s, Trek was an ecosystem that you moved through and dealt with regardless of your personal feelings about the show. As a teenage nerd for whom conventions were the most fulfilling social events, I wasn't going to miss one, even it was mostly about Star Trek.
Mark Lenard and fan at Dixie Trek '84 - photo by Don Harden

As near as historians can figure, the modern-era Dixie Trek began in April of 1984 with a two-day show at the Oglethorpe College Student Center, a venue which would later host the one-day Dr. Who event "Brit-Con." Guest Mark Lenard - Spock's father Sarek, the first TV Romulan, and many other roles - was a hit with the fans.

Moving out of the collegiate atmosphere, 1985's Dixie Trek happened May 17-19 at the Northlake Hilton, which is now a Doubletree and which was the site of many small Atlanta fan events in the 1980s. Guests at the '85 show included Jon "Dr. Who" Pertwee, Terry "I Invented The Daleks" Nation and Majel "Nurse Chapel" Barret. The video room at this convention may have been the first time I ever saw Blake's 7. It is certainly the first and only time I was ever in the same hotel suite eating Moon Pies with the guy that invented the Daleks.

I was more of a Dr. Who fan than a Trekkie (I blame Monty Python), so Dixie Trek's growing emphasis on British entertainment was a welcome development, helped by organizer William Smith's connections to Atlanta's PBS station, then airing Dr. Who among its other, tweedier BBC programmes.

For their 1986 show Dixie Trek moved slightly west to the Sheraton Century Center, a fine establishment with a management that understood the nerd market. Guest Peter "Dr. Who #5" Davidson absolutely charmed the pants off Atlanta, both at the convention and via live remotes broadcast on PBS. My memories of this show are fuzzy but I believe they involve carting a load of fellow geeky teens around in my Mom's van, and being pulled out of a room party that involved people drinking BEER and SMOKING.

"Do I want to go to the Star Trek con, or stay home and watch Star Trek?"

Dixie Trek's 1987 show was May 22-24 downtown at the Hyatt Regency, an Atlanta landmark whose revolving restaurant, the Polaris, was a fixture of the city skyline for decades. Dixie Trek was poised for the big time, but tragedy struck; their headline guest Leonard Nimoy canceled to go work on "Three Men And A Baby." The show had to soldier on with Robin "Saavik #2" Curtis, Robert "Freddy Krueger" Englund, comic artist George Perez, Janet "Tegan" Fielding, and Mark "Spock's Dad" Lenard. I believe I wound up dropping in and out of this show but not buying a badge. I'm sorry guys.

Dixie Trek '88 was held May 13-15 back in the Sheraton Century Center, with guests Johnathan Frakes from ST:TNG, along with Julie "Catwoman" Newmar, Paul "Avon" Darrow, and SF author Brad "I am at every convention" Strickland. Our anime club programmed a weekend of Japanese animation for the show, which meant hauling our VCR and a box full of tapes down to the hotel and screening 4th-generation untranslated copies of films like Project A-Ko and Macross.

we're talkin' FUN

Dixie Trek '89 - June 16-18 - moved to the Radisson, which was at one time known as the Dunfey's Royal Coach and later the Castlegate, a well-known fan convention destination with overbearing and confusing architecture and a staff that didn't care what went on as long as the bills got paid. It's my recollection that I spent much of this convention wandering around with my anime nerd pals, scoffing at the Trekkies and distributing insulting literature. At the time if we weren't on staff running an anime video room, our custom was to show anime out of our own hotel room and bring snacks and drinks and have what punk band Black Flag would call a "TV Party." So we probably did that. Details are spotty but apparently one of the guests was Dr. Who #3 Jon Pertwee.

1990's Dixie Trek was June 15-17 in the selfsame Radisson/Castlegate, and the listed guests included Gates McFadden and Denise Crosby from ST:TNG and Marta Kristen, Billy Mumy and Mark Goddard from Lost In Space. It's my understanding that a pregnant McFadden had to cancel, which is just as well as the Castlegate was not the healthiest place for children or other living things. I'm pretty sure I did not attend this convention.

Dixie Trek '91 happened on May 10-12 in the now officially named Castlegate. Guests included ST:TOS's Walter Koenig, ST:TNG's Suzie Plakson, Lost In Space's June Lockhart, comic author Peter David, and comic artist George Perez. I did not attend this show either; my spare time was taken up with seeing bands and college, and my convention-going time was taken up with visiting Dallas for anime stuff and trying to get Phenomicon started. But more on that later.

are we still talkin' fun?

In 1992 Dixie-Trek moved to the Century Center for a May 17-19 show. The Century Center may have at this point been a Marriott - it's switched back and forth a few times - and Denise "Pet Sematary" Crosby and Jonathan "Oh the pain, the pain of it all" Harris made return visits. I was not there.

Dixie Trek '93 was again at the Sheraton Century Center with guests Nichelle "Uhura" Nichols, Gary "Land Of the Giants" Conway, and David Hedison, one of only two men who portrayed James Bond's pal Felix Leiter twice.

In 1994 Dixie-Trek was back at the Castlegate May 14-16 with a rare convention guest appearance by Christopher "Superman" Reeve and Noel "Lois Lane" Neill - and that was it for Dixie-Trek. Star Trek as a fandom-inspiring franchise was on the wane in the 1990s; diminishing returns on films and a cycle of lackluster TV programs failed to keep the public's interest in the face of newer, fresher genre offerings, and like many other conventions Dixie Trek struggled to get new attendees and to keep the ones it had. The Castlegate was cursed to be the hotel where conventions go to die; in 1995 the Atlanta Fantasy Fair's final convention would take place there as well, and a series of smaller shows would fail to survive its fake Olde English exterior. Of course, 1995 would also see Anime Weekend Atlanta premiere at the same hotel, and it's still going 22 years later. Incidentally, the former site of the Castlegate is now a Wal-Mart, which seems to be doing fine.

Dixie Trek may have remained obscure if not for the October 19 2009 episode of "Big Bang Theory," in which the character Sheldon relates the story of his feud with TNG actor Wil Wheaton and how it began at a Mississippi convention called, yes, "Dixie Trek". One might think that if REAL nerds were writing "Big Bang Theory," they'd know Dixie Trek was a real convention, one Wil Wheaton never attended. Then again, highlighting the Atlanta SF fan scene of the 80s is what this blog is about, so maybe we should have written about Dixie Trek sooner so that these overpaid fake-nerd Hollywood writers would be able to look this stuff up on the Google. You're welcome.

So long, Dixie Trek. May the infinite diversity of infinite combinations grok your Spock... always.

Special thanks to William Smith, Owen Ogletree, and Ron Nastrom

Friday, June 10, 2016

seen waiting for a bus

One of our correspondents spotted a well-dressed fellow sporting this shirt in June 2016 in Cambridge Mass - it's the Ms. Fantasy Fair logo designed by Jim Steranko!

I honestly don't know if this shirt is vintage or not. Might be some enterprising soul found the image somewhere and is screenprinting AFF shirts without even knowing this logo pertains to the AFF, or maybe this was found in a former fan's hoard of clothing, or maybe this guy was a proud attendee of the Atlanta Fantasy Fair back in the day. Hard to tell. If you have any sightings of Ms. Fantasy Fair out there in the wild, let us know!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

magnum opus con 1986-2001

Magnum Opus Con was ahead of its time; embracing movies, TV, comics, gaming and all the other fandom categories that now make the various Comic-Cons and Fan Expos gigantic spectacles, and doing so in secondary markets far from typical con territory. MOC's peak attendance was somewhere in the thousands, but in spite of the nerd appeal and an enthusiastic crowd, MOC was its own worst enemy. After 16 years of conventions in Georgia and South Carolina, it vanished, never to rise again. 

MOC began in Macon GA, home town of its chairman. Early iterations of the convention were titled "Macon Opus Con", the “Opus” apparently a reference to the penguin character from the Berke Breathed comic strip “Bloom County”.  It soon moved to Columbus GA, to their unique downtown Columbus Ironworks Convention Center and several satellite hotels, linked by a shuttle service. Combining a strong media guest list with a crowd hungry for SF convention fun in the early Spring, and a geographical location under-served by fan conventions, MOC’s second and third years were busy affairs.  The second MOC became infamous as the last appearance anywhere of Dr. Who actor Patrick Troughton, who passed away in his sleep late Friday night of MOC 2.  

On the topic of MOC and Patrick Troughton and death, reader "A Million Masks" has this to say:

I am from Columbus, GA..where the infamous Magnum Opus Con was held in 1987. I didn't attend that show, but the guy who organized it was Pat Robinson, owner of Columbus Book Exchange which is the only comic shop left in that town. He's had the CBE since the late 70s/early 80s. At one point in the 90's, there were 7 comic stores in Columbus and Pat's the only one still going. He's also a kind and genuinely good man.

Anyhow, Pat told me about Patrick Troughton's death at the show that year. Apparently, he woke up, ordered his breakfast and talked to Pat about an episode of Dr. Who he personally selected for a screening at the show that day. When it came time for him to go down to the show floor, he was found dead apparently still sitting in front of his meal. Pat's still sad about that day. For one, nobody wants anyone to die on them and secondly (and certainly of lesser importance), it ended Pat's foray into organizing conventions forever.

For its fourth year MOC struck a deal with the city fathers of Greenville SC and became South Carolina's number-one (and only) fan convention. From 1989 to 1994 the downtown Hyatt Regency was filled with Trekkies, SF writers, Whovians, martial arts instructors, and “Bimbo Pageant” contestants of both sexes. The nightlife aspect of MOC began to take on more and more importance as crowds of liquored-up nerds surged through the city in various stages of inebriation and different crews of revelers competed with each other in "party battles." The convention added an extra day, becoming a four-day show, and events like the slave auction, the “MOC-Alympics”, belly dancing, MOC(k) Marriages, Casino Night, and the Mr Macho Contest captured the attention of congoers, to the perceived detriment of more traditional SF convention activities.

MOC’s guest list impressed then and is more impressive now considering many of them are no longer with us: Dr Who actors like the aforementioned Patrick Troughton, Colin Baker, Jon Pertwee, and Louise Jameson rubbed shoulders with Star Trek stars DeForest Kelley. George Takei and James “Scotty” Doohan; SF writers like Marion Zimmer Bradley, Ben Bova, Robert Aspirin, Timothy Zahn, David Weber, Lois McMaster Bujold, Roger Zelazny and the unstoppable Brad Strickland mixed with astronauts and scientists like Dr. Story Musgrave and film & TV talent Phyllis Coates, Chris Potter, Bruce Campbell, Tom Savini, Bruce Boxleitner and Yvonne Craig, giving fans from all over the fandom spectrum somebody to get autographs from.

MOC made good use of direct mail advertising and several times a year would publish a magazine titled simply "Fandom", a black and white newsprint affair of 48-72 pages advertising the upcoming convention, highlighting the guests and events, showcasing glamour photography of the convention's costumers, and serving as a bulletin board for MOC attendees to ask questions and as a soapbox for MOC's staff and directors to sound off on whatever topics came to mind, with varying degrees of coherence and readability.

During the Greenville iteration of MOC, the Atlanta convention scene was then witnessing a bitter if meaningless struggle between the Atlanta Fantasy Fair and DragonCon. MOC's convention chair came down firmly on the side of the AFF in this debate, accusing the DC organization of sabotaging the AFF and any other fandom convention that threatened DragonCon's hegemony.  To this end MOC scheduled their 1995 convention directly opposite DragonCon, and moved it to Callaway Gardens, a resort complex located in Pine Mountain GA, close to Columbus and the "Little White House" historical site near Warm Springs, far away from anyplace fans had ever attended a convention.

This was a gutsy move, and as is so often the case with gutsy moves, was largely a failure. Attendance figures plummeted as Southeastern fans found themselves forced to choose between two conventions when they would normally have attended both, and Dragon Con, having a larger guest list, more attractions, and being in a city people could actually find, garnered the lion’s share of attendees. MOC compounded their problems by staging the next Magnum Opus Con in DC’s home turf of downtown Atlanta, on the weekend before the 1996 Dragon Con.  MOC 11 itself was reasonably well attended and its host hotel, the downtown Radisson, was a friendly if architecturally confusing facility with a charming indoor pool built for late-night convention socializing. Problems came when staffers from DragonCon rented a Radisson hotel suite and threw a DC room party welcoming MOC to Atlanta. MOC's con chair saw this as an “invasion” and made very public his feelings on the matter, removing the flyers advertising DC's party and at one point attempting to physically eject DC staffers. Atlanta fandom witnessed this in real time via posts to the Usenet group alt.fandom.cons, and the impression received was that of a friendly gesture irrationally rejected by an angry con chair.  The chairman’s behavior both at MOC and online would continue to repel potential MOC attendees for the remainder of the convention’s run.  

Antics such as these by con chairs continue to happen in the fandom world, but today social media gives fans the ability to spread news and gossip far and wide and with amazing speed.  These days, bad conventions and/or bad con chair behavior usually won’t last long. MOC, however, continued on for several more years.

MOC 12 would be in downtown Atlanta, attended by a dwindling number of fans attracted mostly by the convention's reputation for parties. MOC would move in 1998 to Athens GA, to a sprawling facility known as the "History Village Inn”, which was extensively remodeled in 2001 to become the “Foundry Inn & Spa” and after more remodeling has reopened as a boutique hotel operating as “The Graduate”.  MOC 13, 14, and 15 would be at the History Village in Athens, a location closer to the con chair’s comic book shop and a facility the convention could safely book every hotel room of, in order to keep out the vandals and secret agents thought to be working to destroy MOC. 

Pages from one of the final "Fandom" issues. Click to enlarge for more information about 'cronies'
In MOC’s declining years, the chairman’s behavior became even more erratic as guests, long-term staffers, and attendees alike were banned for transgressions real and imagined. The most frequent and most famous charge leveled against MOCs enemies was that of being “cronies” in the thrall of Dragon Con. Repelled by this behavior, fandom ironically turned its back on the convention whose magazine bore Fandom’s name. Surly, paranoiac, and stressed, the con chair retreated to the safety of his suburban Athens comic shop, where, with disturbing frequency, he’d ask female customers and employees to pose for nude photos.

 In 2001 the convention would have its sixteenth and final show in Atlanta, in what was then the Ramada Plaza Hotel Perimeter North and is now just the Presidential Hotel, a mixed-use residential/commercial building recently rendered bereft of electrical power owing to a billing dispute. MOC’s last year would wring maximum drama from a minimum number of attendees; a mere handful of fans attended the show and even this small group was subject to bannings, criminal trespass warnings, restraining orders, and threats.   The con chair suffered a heart attack while prosecuting some of “the cronies” in court, and as a result of his health condition and many other factors, turned MOC over to long-term staffers for an attempt at a 17th MOC that did not come to pass.

It's a shame MOC self-destructed.  The convention mixed literary SF, gaming, genre film celebrities, and fandom events in a way that hasn't really been matched since, and when it was focused on its strengths it was as fun a convention as could be.  However, its successes – and there were many - have been overshadowed by its apocalyptic and apoplectic end. MOC endures as a cautionary example to convention organizers and staffers alike of what not to do and how not to do it, and its legend still looms large in the collective memory of Southeastern fandom.

More information and photos of past MOCs can be found here:

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Atlanta Fantasy Fair 1986 program book

1986! A wonderful time to be a teenager with a solid part time job and some time off in the summer to visit the Atlanta Fantasy Fair! The '86 year was, to my admittedly biased mind, the pinnacle of AFF excitement. Attendance records are spotty but it sure felt like the '86 show was the busiest of all.

front cover by Joe Phillips, back cover by Jim Valentino

The AFF took up all of the convention space in the Omni Hotel downtown, as well as a good portion of the Georgia World Congress Center next door. Guests for '86 included authors like Robert Aspirin, Chris Claremont, Diane Duane, Denny O'Neil, Stan Lee, Steve Jackson, John Varley, and the ubiquitous Brad Strickland,  artists like Ralph Bakshi, Matt Feazell, Kelly Freas, Dave Gibbons, Greg Hildebrandt, Jim Starlin, John Romita, Boris Vallejo, and Bob "Flaming Carrot" Burden, and producers and media personalities like Carl "Robotech" Macek, "Officer Don" Kennedy, Steve Jackson of Steve Jackson Games, and more.

Of course video rooms at the AFF were still a big deal, and you can see that while Star Trek was still the go-to vid for fandom, weird foreign imports like Dr. Who and Japanimation (at this convention, this meant "Macross", "Captain Harlock" and "Mobile Suit Gundam") had staked out territory and were firmly entrenched. Gaming at AFF was held on the American Cafe level of the Omni, a large open-air area full of tables and dice and gamers. Both TSR and the club that would later become Dragon*Con ran tournaments that I avoided because I'm not a gamer.  Rest assured the Star Trek Bloopers and Warner Brothers cartoons were screened in the auditorium along with Ralph Bakshi films and a presentation on the upcoming Marvel Comics movie "Howard The Duck".  How did that one turn out, anyway? 

Saturday's big event was, as it is at every fantasy convention ever, the Costume Contest, which was a must-see event preceded by a film print of "Duck Dogers", as I recall. Other events like talks from artists and writers, a Robotech presentation from Carl Macek, and yet another screening of the Blooper Reels, awaited Sunday revelers. 

Most of the original text for the program book was generated using a very 80s dot matrix printer, which was then used to shoot negatives to burn plates for printing these books on cheap newsprint.  If you're wondering why we all wear glasses now, this is why. 

One of the fascinating elements of this program book is that it featured not one but two short comic book stories by emerging talents featuring their own original super-hero characters engaged in adventures. Since this is 1986 and the black and white comic boom was even then exploding across the racks of comic shops throughout America, such things were expected. Looking back this does seem to be kind of an extravagant waste of pages in an already bloated (72 pages!) book.

Much of the program book was taken up with ads, some from local merchants and others from corporate sponsors like Marvel and DC.

How did that whole "New Universe" thing work out for you there, Marvel?  Between this and the "Howard The Duck" film, the second half of the 80s was not looking so great for the company.

However terrible Marvel's short term future looked, things were turning out great for fans like us; we had a great convention to hang out at, lots of movies to see and comics to buy, whole new universes of Japanese cartoons and British television to expand our minds with, and friends with which to experience it all. Why isn't it 1986 every year? 

the author (left) with friends at what I believe is AFF 1986.

Thanks to Devlin Thompson for this program book.