by Susan Murrie Macdonald

ERDA SLOWED HER motorcycle down when she saw the policeman. It wasn’t just that she didn’t have a driver’s license; in the eyes of the government, she didn’t officially exist, which would make getting stopped for a traffic violation more than a little inconvenient.

To her relief, the police officer paid her no attention as she turned off the highway and headed for her destination. Ten minutes later, she pulled into the hotel parking lot. Erda walked to the lobby, a backpack slung over one shoulder. The lobby was full of people in Starfleet uniforms from Star Trek, Sandmen from Logan’s Run and Runners in skimpy tunics with big ankh necklaces, Stormtroopers from Star Wars, and a lot of people wearing blue jeans and t-shirts. Most of the t-shirts had pictures or quotations from various Science Fiction TV shows and movies.

Erda ignored the people staring at her and went to the ladies’ room. She waited for the handicapped stall to be available. Once it was, she peeled off her leather pants and jacket and donned a yellow Star Trek: the Original Series tunic and an ankle-length denim skirt. She folded up her riding gear neatly and jammed it into her already overstuffed backpack.

When she came out of the stall, a woman dressed like Leia Organa, all in white, complimented her, ‘Great costume.’

‘Thanks, you too,’ Erda replied automatically. She glanced at the mirror as if checking her make-up. The reflection revealed a tall figure, just over 6’1’, with feminine curves under the Starfleet tunic. Her face was covered with thin brown hair. Her head and neck were covered with short, curly hair.

‘Out of curiosity, who are you supposed to be?’ Princess Leia asked. ‘Lon Chaney’s great-granddaughter in Starfleet?’

‘You remember Vila Restal from Blake’s Seven?’

Leia nodded.

‘I’m the hairy alien he was always afraid of.’

‘Great attention to detail.’ Leia happened to glance down. Instead of boots, Erda had hairy toes that would make a hobbit jealous. It looked like her feet and ankles were bare, but fur-covered.

‘Excuse me.’ Erda headed for the door.

‘See you around the con,’ Leia called out.

‘Yeah, see you.’

IDICon had started as a Star Trek convention (hence the name: IDIC—Infinite Diversity through Infinite Combinations, from the Vulcan philosophy), but over the years it had expanded to include Battlestar Galactica, Star Wars, Dr. Who, The Orville, and many others. Costuming was encouraged, but not required. Science fiction fans from all over the Pacific Northwest flocked to IDICon.

‘Hey, Erda!’

The ‘hairy alien’ looked up when she heard someone call her name. ‘Jim, how are you doing?’

‘Great. Have you been to Registration yet?’ Jim Leaping-Salmon asked. He was a short, stocky dark-haired man with a copper complexion who wore an ill-fitting Ghostbusters uniform.

‘No, just arrived.’

‘I’ll walk you over,’ Jim offered. ‘Pre-Reg, right?’

‘Of course. Who can afford at-the-door prices?’ Erda retorted. It was far cheaper to register in advance. When she had first started attending SF conventions, she had just followed groups of costumed con-goers, hoping Security would assume they were all together and not check for membership badges. Badges? We don’t need no stinkin’ badges.

Jim led her to a room that the hotel had turned over for con registration. The line for Pre-Reg was short, so the two chatted for a few minutes until the volunteer handling A-F was free.

‘Erda Dubois,’ she announced. She spelled out the last name.

The volunteer handed her a laminated badge on a thin black lanyard and a program book.

‘Thank you.’ Erda turned over the program to look at the map on the back. ‘I’m heading for the con suite. Want to come?’

‘Sure thing,’ Jim Leaping-salmon agreed. Not only had he known Erda since childhood, he was the one who had introduced her to Star Trek.

The con suite was crowded with SF fans. Two folding tables with Sesame Street paper tablecloths held snacks: three different kinds of potato chips, pretzels, corn chips, and a store-bought vegetable tray with celery sticks, carrot sticks, and cherry tomatoes, and a plastic bowl full of mini-Tootsie Rolls.

‘You know, I’ve heard tell some conventions have real food in the con suite,’ Jim said.

‘Bet the membership prices are higher to make up for it,’ Erda replied. ‘Besides, this is real food. Salt, grease, sugar—that’s the three main food groups.’

‘You’ll die of cholesterol before you’re thirty,’ Jim warned.

‘And caffeine.’ She reached into a cooler for a can of budget-brand cola. ‘God bless caffeine.’ They looked around for a place to sit and eat. Every seat in the room was filled. Two teenagers in Pokémon t-shirts got up and walked out. Jim and Erda moved quickly before anyone else could claim the two empty folding chairs.

They sat down and started munching potato chips. Erda set her paper plate in her lap, opened her can of cola, and drained a quarter of the can at a gulp. Once refreshed, she opened the program book to begin perusing the schedule.

‘Darn, one of the panels I wanted started already.’ Erda gobbled faster. The potato chips disappeared. The corn chips quickly followed. She took another, smaller sip of cola. ‘Oh, good, Buckaroo Banzai is on in the video room this evening.’

‘Ever seen it?’ Jim asked.

‘No, but I’ve heard it’s good.’

‘I think you’ll like it,’ he predicted.

She nodded as she continued scanning the events and panels listed for the rest of the weekend. ‘I think I’ll be spending most of my time in the video room when I’m not filking.’

‘I see a few panels I want to catch,’ Jim told her. He gnawed on a celery stick like one of David Weber’s Sphinxian treecats.

Erda finished her chips and pretzels, then drained her soda can. ‘Catch you later. I want to catch the tail-end of that panel.’ She stood up, freeing the chair for someone else. She deposited her can in the recycling bin and threw away her trash. Then she double-checked the map before heading to the Elliott Bay Room.

Erda sat in the back of the Elliott Bay Room, where twenty SF fans were already sitting, paying rapt attention to the three panellists for ‘The Way of the Klingon.’ The moderator was Dr. Lidia Alvarez, anthropology professor at the University of Seattle. The other two panellists were a major fanfic author who’d written several unauthorized amateur Trek novellas and a minor actor who’d been made-up as a Klingon in the background in a few scenes of Deep Space Nine.

‘In the original show, Captain Koloth said Klingon vessels were not equipped with such luxuries as Federation vessels, and he did this with his hands.’ Dr. Alvarez mocked indicating a female form with her hands. ‘But in Next Gen you had females on Klingon vessels and in politics.’

‘The Duras Sisters,’ the fanfic author added.

‘Apparently, the role of females in Klingon society changed as much in the time between Kirk and Picard as they did here in the US between Joy Bright Hancock and Claudia Kennedy. My hypothesis…’ Dr. Alvarez began.

‘Your headcanon,’ the fanfic author interrupted.

‘…has always been that Klingon women were like whalers’ wives in 19th century Nantucket, keeping farms and shops going while their husbands and fathers were off to sea for months or years at a time,’ Dr. Alvarez continued.

‘What about Kang’s wife in “Day of the Dove”?’ one of the audience called out.

‘Yes, in the third season episode “Day of the Dove” Captain Kang’s wife Mara was not only aboard his vessel, but his science officer,’ the fanfic author confirmed.

‘There are always exceptional women who don’t fit the expectations of their generation,’ Dr. Alvarez said. ‘Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Maria Mitchell in our own history, for example.’

Erda listened for ten minutes as the three of them discussed what was canonical about Klingon society, and took questions from the audience on logical extrapolations of Klingon life.

‘Thank you very much. You’ve been a lovely audience,’ Dr. Alvarez complimented them. ‘I’ve been reminded our time is up, and the Whovians have this room in five minutes.’

‘Dr. Alvarez, will you be here for the rest of the con, or are you just here for today?’ Erda stopped the professor on her way out of the room.

‘I’ll be here all weekend,’ Dr. Alvarez said.

‘Good. I had a question about your article in American Ethnologist, but I have someplace I need to be in five minutes. If you don’t mind, I’ll try to catch up with you later.’

‘You’re interested in anthropology?’ Alvarez asked. Few laymen bothered to read the Journal of the American Ethnological Society.

‘Grad student, working on my MA in ethnomusicology.’ When Alvarez nodded, expressing interest, Erda continued, ‘I collect and transcribe Salish folk songs.’

‘Good. Well, I have another panel, so if you’ll excuse me, and you said you had somewhere else to be ….’

Erda nodded politely. ‘Hope to catch you later, ma’am.’ She hurried off to the video room. She’d heard about Buckaroo Banzai for years but had never had a chance to see it.

The lights dimmed and she relaxed, having snagged one of the few padded chairs in the video room and lost herself in the adventures of a surgeon/rock star/quantum physicist for the next two hours.

After a quick visit to the ladies’ room, she wandered over to the hotel’s coffee shop. She read the menu posted outside the door and tried not to faint as she read the prices.

She turned to another Star Trek fan, this one dressed like Uhura in the Mirror Universe, and said, ‘At these prices, I predict a lot of us will lose weight this weekend.’

‘They do say fasting is good for the soul … and the waistline,’ the scantily-clad woman agreed. Her nametag read Fiona. ‘Or maybe we can pool our resources and send out for pizza.’

‘Erda, you up to “freaking the mundanes”?’ Jim Leaping-Salmon asked.

Erda began humming ‘Waltzing Matilda.’

‘Hamburger Heaven is two blocks away if anyone wants to walk with me.’

‘Are you offering to escort us or asking us to escort you?’ Erda asked.

‘Both,’ Jim said. He raised his voice. ‘Yo! Anyone want to join us on a burger run?’

‘Now?’ asked a cosplayer dressed like the Fourth Doctor of Dr. Who. ‘Dressed like this?

‘Safety in numbers,’ Jim declared. ‘Besides, all you’ve got is a long scarf. You’re practically normal.’

‘I’m hungry. Lead the way.’ Erda began singing, ‘Freaking the mundanes, freaking the mundanes, who’ll come a-freaking the mundanes with me?’

A few others joined in the anthem, causing the business travellers in three-piece-suits to turn and stare at them. They walked out of the hotel and down the street ‘wearing all their silly clothes’ on a quest for affordable food.

Hamburger Heaven was crowded: con-goers from IDICon, local businessmen, clerical workers from nearby offices, students from the nearby community college campus.

‘You know you’re a middle-aged fan when Klingons in Hamburger Heaven don’t faze you, but you stare at the teenaged Goths,’ one customer said to his wife. As they waited in line, he stared at a college student with a purple Mohawk.

‘Cheeseburger Cherub meal,’ Erda ordered when her turn in line came.

‘Those are supposed to be for children under twelve,’ the cashier said.

‘My sister is a teacher. She uses the toys for her prize box,’ Erda fibbed.

‘Boy toy or girl toy?’ the cashier asked.

‘Whichever is closer.’

‘And drink?’

‘Cola, no ice, please.’

Erda gave the cashier a five-dollar bill, being careful to remove a green US bill rather than a blue Canadian bill from her wallet. Studying the nearly extinct Salish language, she spent time on both sides of the border. She collected her change and took her meal to a table beside the other convention members. As Jim had pointed out, there was safety in numbers.

Jim sat down beside her with a large order of chicken nuggets. He asked her about the movie she’d seen. ‘So, Erda, how did you like the Hong Kong Cavaliers?’

‘Not bad. Very different from the songs I’ve been collecting.’

‘How’s that going?’

‘Same old, same old. I go around to grandmothers and ask if they’ll sing the old songs to me, and if they’ll mind if I record them.’

‘Do most say yes?’

‘About half. We trade stories. Some aren’t willing to talk to me. Some are eager to save the songs, save the language. A lot don’t trust outsiders and don’t understand why a batch of professors they’ll never meet care about their language dying and why they send someone like me,’ she touched her hairy face, ‘out to collect words.’

‘How do they react when they find out you speak Salish better than they do?’

‘Some take it for granted, some resent it.’

‘Your people have known mine a long time,’ Jim acknowledged.

Erda just nodded and chewed her cheeseburger.

‘You’ve never met your professors, either,’ Jim noted.

‘Western University of New Mexico,’ she stated the name of her distance-learning college. ‘Not likely to ever go there in person. Too hot for me.’

She asked about his college classes and his part-time job, then directed the conversation to his relatives.

A child came from the play area. ‘It’s not Halloween. Why are you all dressed up?’

‘We’re attending the science fiction convention down the road,’ Jim said.

‘The what?’

‘We’re all pretending to be spacemen and aliens and such,’ Erda explained.

‘Why are you eating a cherub meal if you’re a grown-up?’ the grade-schooler asked.

‘Because it gives me dinner.’ Erda picked up her cheeseburger. ‘A snack,’ she pointed to her French fries, ‘and a drink, all for one low price.’ She sipped her cola. ‘Plus it gives me presents for young humanoids who are brave enough to ask questions.’ She pushed the toy closer to the edge of the table.

‘Gee, thanks.’ He grabbed the toy.

‘Keep asking questions. It’s the best way to learn.’

‘Are you a teacher?’ he asked in a slightly disappointed tone.

‘No, but I’m studying to be a scientist.’

As the boy walked back to the play area with his new toy, Jim asked quietly, ‘Why did you get a kid’s meal? That can’t be enough to fill you up at your size.’

She shrugged. ‘All I could afford. What do you mean, at my size?’

They walked back to the hotel, this time not singing ‘Freaking the Mundanes.’ They stayed in a tight pack as they walked, the smaller females at the centre of the group, the males and Erda on the outside. They encountered nothing worse than a few wolf whistles as they walked. When they got back to the safety of the hotel, they went their separate ways.

Jim and Erda went to the video room to see The High Crusade. Both agreed it was far inferior to the book.

‘Meet you in the filk room,’ Erda said when they parted.

‘Later,’ Jim promised.

She went to one of the rooms set aside for filk singing. She was the first one there, so she decided to set up. She found a marker next to the whiteboard. In ‘large, friendly letters’ she wrote Bardic Circle on the whiteboard. In only slightly smaller letters, just beneath that she wrote Pick, Pass, or Perform. She saw a marker in another colour. She capped the black marker and took the blue marker to add a warning to the board. Be advised. We are recording.

She pulled her laptop out of her backpack and plugged it in. Then she began rearranging the chairs from the nice, neat rows the hotel’s underpaid staff had painstakingly placed them in and shoved them into a rough circle. Once she was done, she went to the table in the back of the room where a half-empty pitcher of water waited next to a pyramid-pile of glasses and poured herself a glass of water.

She drained half the glass, then lifted it in a mock salute and quoted Tolkien.

Setting the cup down on the table, she returned to the front of the room. She carefully removed an Irish bodhran from her backpack. She took the drum from its protective case.

Erda pressed a few buttons on her laptop so she was ready to record the evening’s music. Then she sat down with the bodhran in her lap and began softly chanting a Kipling song, as she tapped out the beat.

It was half an hour before anyone joined her. She greeted them enthusiastically. After a few minutes of introduction and polite small talk, one of the newcomers opened a guitar case and began the ‘ritual of the Ancient Chinese folk song— “Tu Ning”.’

He started singing Leslie Fish’s ‘Banned from Argo,’ an old chestnut in filk circles based on Star Trek. After the first verse, Erda began tapping her drum along with him, keeping the beat. Then they sang Julia Ecklar’s ‘Purple and Orange Conspiracy,’ a song based on Battlestar Galactica. The next song was mildly obscure. Neither Erda nor the guitarist knew Kathy Ring’s ‘The Swan King’s Court,’ an original song not based on any TV show or movie.

‘That’s OK. I’ll see Acapulco,’ the singer volunteered to sing a capella.

Erda confirmed permission to record. She was always eager to learn a new (to her) song, even if it had been written around the time of the Bicentennial.

Filk music was science fiction folk music. The name came from a typo in a convention program book decades ago. There were songs about Star Trek, songs about Star Wars, songs about Stephen king’s books, songs about the history of the space program, songs about the fact filk songs were traditionally sung in the key of Off, songs about the slow speed of convention hotel elevators.

As the hour grew later, more people joined the filk circle. Some songs, like the theme song to the popular but short-lived TV show Firefly or Tom Lehrer’s ‘The Hunting Song,’ the entire room sang in unison. Some songs were sung by only one or two people. One or two people chose to recite poems rather than to sing. The Star Wars song ‘Come Ye Knights’ was immediately followed by the parody to the same tune, ‘Come Ye Muppets.’ Each person was given a chance to pick a song (or a song topic if they didn’t personally know any songs appropriate for their desired topic), ask someone more talented to perform, perform themselves, or pass to the next person in the circle. People came. People left to seek their hotel rooms or the bar.

About three a.m., Jim silently signalled her. When Kipling’s ‘Cold Iron’ ended, Erda stood and turned off her laptop. ‘Ladies and gentlemen, the hour is late. You are welcome to stay and sing until ten tomorrow morning, excuse me, this morning, when this room is pledged to the Bronies and their friends. I will remind you of Dr. Bob’s Law of Five and Two.’

‘The law of what?’ a neophyte asked.

‘Years ago, the late, great Dr. Bob Passovoy, who was himself a filker, decreed to ensure healthy survival at an SF con, everyone should get at least five hours of sleep and two meals a day.’ Erda recited with the air of a cleric passing on the wisdom of a prophet. She faked an ostentatious yawn and returned her bodhran to its travel case, then stuffed both laptop and drum into her backpack.

Once she escaped the crowded room into the empty hallway, she entrusted her backpack to Jim and bid him good night. Then she went outside to the hotel courtyard to find a soft patch of grass, first checking that it wasn’t near any sprinklers on a timer. She didn’t intend to make that mistake again.


Erda woke with the sunrise. She yawned once, then rolled over, turning her head away from ‘the cursed daystar.’ She napped another two hours. When she truly awoke, she padded into the hotel and up to the con suite. The potato chips had been replaced with two dozen donuts, coffee, and orange-coloured fruit juice. She snagged a French cruller and a paper cup of juice, thinking as she did so that this wasn’t what Dr. Bob had in mind.

She found a program on the floor and picked it up. Her own program was locked up in Jim’s hotel room, safely tucked away inside her backpack. She perused the program. There were no panels of interest to her for a few hours. The video room was showing all eleven hours of Star Trek: the Animated Series, in honour of it being Saturday morning, from midnight to 11:00 a.m. She decided to go and browse the art show and the dealers’ room, to look at all the pretties she couldn’t afford, until she could meet up with Jim to reclaim her backpack.

She went downstairs to the basement. She wandered past paintings of centaurs, oil paintings of Paris with a spaceship blasting the Eiffel Tower, watercolours of Sherlock Holmes, painted gaming miniatures, etched glass with IDIC designs and other logos from various SF TV shows, ceramic figurines of gnomes in Starfleet uniforms. Most were marked as being for sale to the highest bidder; a few had starting prices over $200. Erda looked but didn’t place a bid on anything. Carrying an oil painting on a motorcycle is impractical. Carrying etched glass or a ceramic Yoda is worse.

When she finished browsing, she went to catch the tail-end of a panel entitled ‘Real Vampires Don’t Sparkle,’ where rabid fans of White Wolf Gaming and Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight books each argued that their fictional interpretations outweighed generations of legends and decades of Dracula movies in capturing the true essence of vampires. It was all she could do not to laugh at both sides.

Afterwards, a blonde woman in a convention volunteer t-shirt stopped Erda in the hallway. ‘Have you signed up for the Masquerade Contest yet?’

‘No, I’m not planning to compete,’ Erda said. ‘This is just a hall costume.’ Traditionally, she knew, a costume that had been worn around the convention all day could not compete in the masquerade competition.

‘That’s too good for a hall costume,’ the blonde insisted. Her nametag read Karen Campbell.

‘Excuse me.’ Erda saw no reason to continue the conversation, so she walked off. She headed to the con suite for some pretzels and a cola. Once she finished eating, she went to the video room to watch the ‘70s cartoon adventures of the Enterprise and her crew.

Between episodes, the video crew turned the lights back on, so people who needed to leave the room could do so safely. Erda used that interval to catch up with Jim. He gave her his room key so she could fetch her backpack, then double-checked his program book and told her where he was likely to be when so she could return the key later. She split her fingers in a Vulcan salute, then headed upstairs.

Erda went up to Jim’s room. She put the do-not-disturb card on the door, then locked herself in the room. She went into the bathroom and stripped off her Starfleet tunic and denim skirt. She adjusted the water temperature, then stepped into the shower.

Spending most of her time in the backwoods, looking for tribal elders to share songs with her, she didn’t get much time to enjoy indoor plumbing with hot water. As she soaked and scrubbed, she sang Tolkien’s ‘Bath Song.’

As far as Erda was concerned, running hot water was humanity’s third greatest achievement, surpassed only by wi-fi and chocolate.

After a far shorter shower than she wanted, she turned off the water and towelled herself dry. The process took a considerable amount of time and three fluffy white towels. She collected the long brown hairs from the tub drain and from the towels and threw them in the trash. Once thoroughly dry, she redressed, fetched her backpack, removed the do-not-disturb sign and went back downstairs to the con.

She found Jim in the panel he’d predicted he’d be in: ‘Why are Dystopias So Popular in YA?’ After discreetly giving him his key back, she sat down to listen to a discussion of Hunger Games, Divergent, Maze Runners, The Atlantis Grail, and other series where plucky teenagers had to save humanity.

When that ended, the next panel, ‘Prop-Making for Cosplay,’ did not interest her, so she went to the dealers’ room to see what pretties they had that she couldn’t afford. She browsed past buttons, posters, DVDs, filk tapes and CDs, books, jewellery, t-shirts, more books, collectible toys and memorabilia. Plenty she wanted, nothing she needed, especially since her only home was her motorcycle, and she divided her time between hunting for old songs and hunting for places with wi-fi, where she could leech off for her distance learning classes.

The clock on the wall said it lacked five minutes of the hour. Erda noticed several fans hurrying to complete their purchases, then scurrying out of the dealers’ room, and others checking their programs to see where they wanted to go next.

Erda stepped into a corner, so she wouldn’t block foot traffic. She pulled her program out of her skirt pocket and unfolded it. The choices starting in five minutes were ‘Make-Up for Cosplay,’ ‘C. S. Forester and His Effect on Science Fiction,’ ‘From Maureen Robinson to Ellen Ripley—the Changing Roles of Women in Sci-Fi,’ or more episodes of Star Trek: the Animated Series in the video room.

She decided to go to ‘From Maureen Robinson to Ellen Ripley,’ but then she saw Lidia Alvarez and followed her into the C. S. Forester panel. Unfamiliar with either the Horatio Hornblower books or movies, she found herself paying more attention than she had expected to the panel as they first explained about Forester’s naval hero and his adventures, and then how Horatio Hornblower had influenced James T. Kirk, Honor Harrington, and Miles Vorkosigan. Erda paid rapt attention instead of pestering Professor Alvarez. The panellists concluded with the influence of The African Queen on Disney’s Jungle Cruise ride and movie trilogy. As half the audience left the room, Erda remembered why she’d come in the first place and hurried after Dr. Alvarez to ask her about her article on the survival of the Mayan language in the Yucatan Peninsula. They lingered in the hallway, with the professor asking about Erda’s Salish research.

Dr. Alvarez invited Erda to come upstairs with her to the Green Room to finish their discussion over lunch. The Green Room, Erda was delighted to see, had pizza for the convention’s guests (and their guests). The Green Room had Coca-Cola and Pepsi, rather than grocery store bargain brand soda pop. As a long-distance student who had never met any of her professors in person, being able to discuss ethnolinguistics with an actual anthropologist was a rare pleasure. The free pizza was a relief to both her budget and her stomach.

When the lunchtime consultation ended, Erda went back to the art show for a second peek, then returned to the video room, where the Star Trek: the Animated Series marathon had finally ended, to be replaced with Dr. Strange, the 1978 version with Peter Hooten rather than the 2016 version with Benedict Cumberbatch.

After the movie, Erda went outside for a breath of fresh air, then back to the hotel lobby to socialize. She met up with a filker she knew from previous conventions. Tanjanae Perry was an African-American woman barely over five feet. She was dressed as Storm of the Uncanny X-Men.

‘Hi, Tanjanae. Looking good, great costume,’ Erda greeted her.

‘Erda, how’ve you been? I see you’re recycling the same costume as last year.’

‘It still fits.’ Erda shrugged. ‘I’m not going to spend hundreds of dollars on something I only wear for one weekend and then never wear again.’

‘I was surprised not to see you in the filk room last night,’ Tanjanae said.

‘Huh? I was filking until three in the morning.’

‘I was in the Chaos room. You must have been in one of the other rooms.’

Filk had multiple styles, and most filkers preferred to stay with whichever method they had learned when they were first introduced to the genre. Therefore, some cons had multiple filk rooms after hours to accommodate different styles of filking.

Karen Campbell approached the pair and sat down uninvited beside Erda.

‘That’s really too good for a hall costume.’ Karen asked, ‘Are you sure you don’t want to compete tonight?’

‘Too nervous to go up on stage,’ Erda fibbed. ‘Not interested in competing,’ she added honestly.

‘But the workmanship and attention to detail.’ Karen took one of Erda’s hands, without bothering to ask. ‘You can barely tell these are gloves.’ Karen stared. She couldn’t see any seams. She felt. She couldn’t feel any seams or stitches.

Karen’s eyes opened wide, like saucers. She shrieked.

‘What’s the matter?’ Erda whispered. ‘Can’t a sasquatch like Star Trek?’

‘Yo, supers!’ Tanjanae yelled. ‘We need a cape wall.’

A mixed group of cosplayers, some DC’s Justice League, some Marvel’s Avengers, hurried over and formed a human (metahuman) wall between Tanjanae and the rest of the lobby. They spread their arms out—and their capes—to block Tanjanae and Erda from view. They had done this before to hide ‘wardrobe malfunctions.’

‘Exit, stage right,’ Tanjanae quoted Hanna-Barbera’s Snagglepuss.

Erda nodded. ‘Thanks.’ She hurried down the hallway.

Tanjanae turned to Karen. She held up the program book and pointed to the IDIC design on the front cover, a triangle piercing a circle. She quoted, ‘Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations.’

Although Jim Leaping-Salmon was the only one who knew the truth about Erda Dubois, several SF fans from Klamath Falls, Oregon to Hazelton, British Columbia, suspected, but discreetly kept their mouths shut.

Tanjanae sneered, ‘Your diversities are too finite.’

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