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The Unwithered Fen

Anynosha to the rescue! *sniff sniff* Can anyone smell hair burning...?

A couple of years ago, panelists at a local science fiction convention dolefully addressed the question of "Whither the Fen?" In other words, where were all the under-25 SF/fantasy fans? Precious few made it to that particular con or the World Fantasy Con held in D.C. the following year.

Well, you can call off the dogs. I found 'em. About 9,000 fans -- many of them so young they can't even vote yet -- attended Katsucon an anime convention held in Arlington, Virginia, over Presidents' Day weekend.

I stumbled across them completely by accident. After a lunch-time meeting in the Crystal City section of Arlington, I decided to snag lunch at the sushi counter in the shopping arcade. (Not Abenobashi's -- sorry, bad anime joke. Really bad.)

Still recovering from my meeting, it took a few minutes for it to sink in that one of the young women standing in line with me wore a blue dirndl with boots and torn fishnets. The other one wore a black leather corset, a skirt composed of nothing but belts and duct tape, and carried a green plushie toy that looked like a cactus. Then I noticed the telltale plastic badges clipped to their clothes.

"Katsucon?" I asked, squinting at the badges.

"Yes," five voices answered. The two guys and one girl seated at the counter wore con badges clipped to their street clothes. What they lacked in costumes they made up for in plushies, including a fat Totorro that needed a seat all to itself. As I waited for my order, more fans wandered by, some in costume, some not, all of them complaining about the budgets they busted in the con dealers' room.

"This is nothing," she of the belts (a.k.a. Lulu from Final Fantasy X) confided as young woman in a pink rayon kimono floated past. "The really freaky costumes are all at the Marriott."

The Crystal City Gateway Marriott? My jaw sagged. The same hotel that hosts the oh-so-sedate, traditional mystery convention Malice Domestic? OK, so maybe I did take an unplanned detour from reality into Abenobashi's Shopping Arcade by mistake.

Katsucon offered five separate tracks in two hotels, the Marriott and the Sheraton across the street. The Marriott hosted the cosplay, karaoke and anime music videos, Iron (Manga) Artist (shades of DragonCon), karaoke and two concerts by the KISS-goes-Kabuki J-pop group Psycho le Cemu. The Sheraton, most famous for hosting the Pentagon Family Assistance Center for the victims of the 9/11 attack, provided a home for most of the workshop sessions. The program also featured gaming and three, 24-hour, video rooms.

Costumed fans floated back and forth across the cold streets and bubbled up from the Metro, squealing from the cold. Listening to their laughter and snatches of conversations about titles I never even heard of, I felt like the universe just handed me a big fat February present. Who would've thought life-affirming fantasy would flourish two Metro stops away from the Pentagon?

Can't wait to see what next year's program looks like.

Jean Marie Ward

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