Marty Gear at 2009 Arisia. Photo by Daniel P. Noé.
Legendary costuming fan Marty Gear, whose fanac spanned six decades, died in his sleep on July 18 at the age of 74.
Marty and his wife, Bobby (who predeceased him in 2005), won many awards in masquerade competitions. He founded The Greater Columbia Fantasy Costumers’ Guild, a forerunner of the International Costumers’ Guild, was the ICG’s first Executive Director, and was honored with the ICG’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 1991.
One of Marty’s earliest fannish experiences, when he was 14, was traveling from Columbus, Ohio to Philadelphia for the 1953 Worldcon. Marty was unprepared for what he found there, felt overwhelmed and said he would have gone back to his hotel room to hide but for “a tall, white-haired man [who] came over and began to talk to me about what I liked to read. I had just bought a copy of Skylark of Valeron in the dealers’ room… and began enthusing about this ‘new’ writer that I had just discovered, E.E. Smith, Ph.D.” He soon discovered it was Smith himself he was telling this to, and Doc and his wife took Marty in tow, introducing him to other authors and artists. “For the remainder of the weekend, whenever either of them saw me alone they made a point of checking to see if I was enjoying myself, and of somehow including me in whatever was going on.”
Despite this friendly encounter with one of the field’s most loved writers, Marty did not attend another SF con until 1977 when Page Cuddy and David Hartwell “conned” him into going to a Balticon in order to meet Philip Jose Farmer.
After that Marty rapidly developed into a fannish leader. He ran programming for Balticon 13 in 1979 and became a regular fixture as the con’s masquerade director beginning in 1981. He chaired CostumeCon 3 (1985) and Balticon 21 (1987).
He held major committee posts on 4 Worldcons. Michael J. Walsh, chair of the 1983 Baltimore Worldcon where Marty ran the masquerade, likes to tell the story – “In 1981 when I called him from Denvention to let him know we had won: ‘Marty, bad news!’ [He answered] ‘We won?’”
Marty was famous for presiding over masquerades in costume as Count Dracula. And he was infamous for filling time with terrible vampire jokes such as —
What do you get when you cross a snowman with a vampire?
One of his most challenging moments came while directing the 1998 Worldcon (Bucconeer) masquerade — at the start he stumbled against a table of awards and took a four-foot fall off the stage. Quite the trouper, Marty got right back up and did his job without visible problems. He even looked in pretty good shape the morning after at the masquerade critique where he had nothing to say about his mishap except an apology for detracting from the costumers. He did use a cane for awhile afterwards, though.
Marty was a fiery advocate for his beloved event. Even at a Worldcon he refused to concede first place to the Hugo Ceremony, protesting during the Bucconeer masquerade post-mortem, “To the Worldcon committee the Masquerade is not the most important event…. It’s just the best-attended, and has the most people involved, but to the committee it’s a secondary event.”
When he was feeling more mellow he’d deliver the message humorously, saying things like, “Costuming is the second oldest tradition in sci-fi fandom. The first is drinking beer.”
Marty remained an active member of the Baltimore Science Fiction Society, and at the time of his death was parliamentarian of the BSFS Board of Directors, coordinator of the Jack L. Chalker Young Writers’ Contest, and liaison to the school for the BSFS Books for Kids program.
Over the years he was a guest of honor at Unicon 87, Disclave 34, Sci-Con 8, Genericon 2, Arisia 9, and Balticon 30.
Professionally, Marty managed his own company Martin Gear Consulting Ltd.
Other than dressing as a vampire, Marty said one of his favorite costumes was “Cohen the Barbarian” a prize-winner at the 2004 Worldcon as “Best DiscWorld Entry.” His Cohen wore a fur diaper, a very long white beard and an eyepatch — and not much else. In one hand he carried a sword and in the other a walking cane.
To the end Marty continually mentored costumers and passed on his enthusiasm for the costuming arts. He told an interviewer, “I probably won’t stop costuming until I am dead, and maybe not even then.”
See Marty in his Dracula garb start the 2008 Balticon masquerade with a horrible joke.
In this interview at Anime USA 2012 Marty explained how he judges anime and reproduction costumes in terms that would be at home on Project Runway — “Clothes have to fit.”