Ellison’s Last Con: A MadCon 2010 Report in Two Parts

A MadCon 2010 Report, Part 1: Harlan Ellison’s Last Con

By Chris Welch

MadCon 2010 was held Sept. 24-26 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Madison, Wisconsin. While Madison is noteworthy for the number of sf/f/h conventions relative to its size — there have been four conventions in Madison during 2010 — MadCon had the honor of being Harlan Ellison’s last convention appearance.

Ellison’s role as Guest of Honor, of course, deserves to have much ink spilled (or in this case, pixels spilled) over what he said and what he did during the con. Specific details on that are either below or in Part 2 of this report. But it should be mentioned here that seven of the “Ellison Nine” were at MadCon as well — the Ellison Nine being the nine people who were trapped in an elevator with Ellison during the 2005 World Horror Convention in New York City.

Even if Ellison had not been present, MadCon would have been notable for every other Guest of Honor that attended the event. The other guests included authors Gene Wolfe, Peter David, Allen Steele, and Patrick Rothfuss; actress Sophie Aldred, who is best known to genre fans for playing Ace, the companion to Sylvester McCoy’s incarnation of Dr. Who;  and John Krewson, the editor and founder of The Onion, which had its start in Madison just under 25 years ago.

All weekend, the video room played various television episodes or movies written by Ellison — everything from The Flying Nun to Outer Limits to Burke’s Law; also included were multiple screenings of the Ellison bio-documentary Dreams with Sharp Teeth, too.

Ellison spoke five times during MadCon, including a rambunctious extemporaneous speech at an off-site book-signing.  Topics ranged from being trapped in that elevator at the WHC, almost causing an international incident by refusing to shake hands with a former KGB chief ,  to how the internet robs people of privacy. He also recounted the time he spent at a retreat with famous scientists only to find out that he was being mistaken for Phillip K. Dick. This was vintage Ellison.

A special limited edition book edited by Robert T. Garcia called Unrepentant: A Celebration of the Writings of Harlan Ellison was made available to attendees in 100 numbered autographed editions and 2oo non-numbered, non-autographed editions.

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