Nashville Fandom Since 1997

By Tom Feller

Editor's Note: This version was revised in November 2012.

The Nashville Science Fiction Club has met almost every second Wednesday of the month at the Green Hills branch of the Nashville Public Library from 1997 to the present. Ray Jones has been treasurer the entire time. Anita Feller was president for ten years but in 2000 gave way to Dan Caldwell. Reece Moorehead currently edits the club newsletter, which is distributed electronically to many fans around the world. In addition to the regular meetings, the club also has a summer picnic, a Christmas party, a chili cook-off, and other parties and get togethers during the year.

The only Nashville area convention in existence in 1997 and still around in 2012 is Outsidecon. Its traditional date is the weekend after Labor Day. A relaxacon founded by Bob Emler and the late Bill Payne, it has appealed to Worldcon and Dragoncon attendees as a time to chill out. It also seeks to combine elements of a Society for Creative Anachronism event with a science fiction convention, offering an all-inclusive price for membership, food, and lodging.

Until 2002, it was held at Camp Marymount, a Catholic youth camp west of Nashville. The con headquarters was the camp's lodge which housed a kitchen and dining room, where the con provided dinner on Friday night, all three meals on Saturday, and breakfast on Sunday. People slept in bunks in nearby cabins, which had electricity but no plumbing. For that the campers had to walk a short distance to a bathhouse. One cabin was designated for videos and another for dealers. Instead of room parties, they had cabin parties, such as Frank and Millie Kalicz's Xerps in 2010 Worldcon bid parties and Dutch and Mickey Stacy's Black Wolf Tavern parties.

In 2003, the Catholic diocese that owned the camp began to require more insurance than the con could afford. That year Bob rented a house at the Kentucky Dam Village State Resort Park and called it "That Dam Convention." It was an abbreviated version of Outsidecon and basically a house party. The highlight took place when eight of the attendees drove over to the marina and rented a pontoon boat for a two hour cruise.

Outsidecon found a new home at Group Camp One in Montgomery Bell State Park, also west of Nashville, in 2004 and has been there ever since. Like Camp Marymount, it has a lodge with a kitchen and dining room, cabins with electricity but without plumbing, and bathhouses. It was immortalized in the classic film Ernest Goes to Camp. The camp also has a pavilion where Fantascicon/Hallowcon (Dalton, Georgia) hosts a party on Saturday night, and the park has a hotel where wimpy fans like Tom and Anita Feller stay. We believe this is the only science fiction convention in the world that has a fishing contest. In 2007, the con was combined with DeepSouthCon. Unfortunately, Outsidecon is subject to weather. Middle Tennessee had a drought that summer, but for the first time in months it rained on a weekend.

Kubla-Khan was held for the 25th time in 1997 at the Days Inn-Airport. A great deal of fuss was made at the time, because the late Ken Moore, the chairman and founder, was retiring the convention. Many fans from other states came to give the con a proper send-off. To continue the tradition of Nashville conventions, Charles Dickens and Patricia Clements took over. They renamed it Parthecon, but kept the numbering, the hotel, and the same format with its wet con suite, banquet, art show, room parties, dealer's room, and well-known science fiction authors as guests. One of their changes was to make the main Saturday night event a concert by a local band called The Secret Commonwealth. The lead singer, the late Jack Daves, had been a fan since childhood and had attended many Kubla-Khans. They ran it for three years until Ken and Bill Payne took the convention back, again calling it Kubla-Khan so that conventions 1-25 and 29-30 were named Kubla-Khan and 26-28 Parthecon. The con stayed at the Days Inn-Airport as well. (The hotel eventually closed, was torn down, and is now a vacant lot.) Andrew Offutt was the permanent toastmaster for all but one of the cons, but missed the 29th because of a perforated ulcer. Because of declining attendance, Ken retired the convention for a second and final time after No. 30 in 2002. Ken passed away in 2009 and Bill in 2008.

Nashville was without a convention in 2003, but in 2004 Dan Caldwell and Fred Grimm revived Xanadu, using the same format as the old Xanadu with a few changes. Like most conventions, the masquerade was smaller and low key. Since the new hotel, the Holiday Inn-Express in downtown Nashville, did not have a restaurant, there was no banquet. However, under the direction of Art and Janet Hopkins, who also took over the kitchen at Outsidecon for Bill Payne, the con suite provided real food that could substitute as meals. Unfortunately, the new Xanadu only attracted a few fans and lasted only two years. It did, on the other hand, serve as the site for the 2005 DeepSouthCon.

Fred and Darrell Luallen then started Hypericon in 2006 at the Days Inn-Stadium near LP Field where the Titans of the National Football League play, and it became Nashville's annual fannish convention with programming, con suite, dealers room, room parties, and art show. Concerts featured local bands such as the Zombie Bazooka Patrol. They did, however, break one Nashville fannish tradition. Their con suite was a dry one, although they continued Xanadu's tradition of serving real food that can substitute for meals. Another divergence from previous Nashville conventions is that programming tended to emphasize horror rather than science fiction, and they tried to persuade more professionals to attend. For a couple years, they added burlesque shows as part of the late Saturday night entertainment.

The Days Inn barely survived the Flood of 2010 when floodwaters entered the basement and swimming pool. However, the lobby and meeting rooms stayed dry, so the 2010 Hypericon took place as scheduled about a month after the flood. In 2011, Hypericon moved to the Holiday Inn-Express in Donelson, but there was no Hypericon in 2012.

In 2009, Hypericon served as DeepSouthCon as well and included some fan-historical panels about previous DSCs in Nashville and the Nashville in 1994 Worldcon bid. The Rebel Award was given to Randy Cleary, but he missed the ceremony because he had elected to attend a concert in downtown Nashville instead.

Editor's Note: Randy worked as a fan artist and served as President of the Southern Fandom Confederation for a number of years. The concert was by the band Coldplay.

A science fiction book group in the Hermitage area started around 2005 and currently meets on the second Wednesday of each month at the Panera Bread Company on Old Hickory. The Middle Tennessee Anime Convention attracts thousands of fans each year in Nashville, and the same group started the Geek Media Expo as a general interest convention. It started in 2009 at the Radisson-Opryland, moved to the Maxwell House in 2011, and then the Cool Springs Marriott in 2012. It drew about 500 people in 2009 and grew to almost 2,000 by 2012. Although there are writers in attendance, the emphasis is on media guests such as actors from Star Trek and The Hunger Games.

Fandom is alive and well in Nashville, although most of the activity in 2012 is by younger fans who take Dragoncon as their model of the ultimate convention rather than Worldcon.


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