Marty Gear (1939 – 2013)

Marty Gear at 2009 Arisia. Photo by Daniel P. Noé.

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.”

16 thoughts on “Marty Gear (1939 – 2013)

  1. The world will a more mundane place without you in it.Rest in peace my friend.

  2. So say we all.

    I wish I had known him.

    The Doc Smith story echos what I have heard again and again over the years, the decency and generosity of the Giants in our midst who go out of their way to make welcome for neofen, going all the way back to Robert Heinlein in 1941.

    For all the feuding and social ineptitude which sometimes makes our no-longer-so-little community difficult, stories such as this make one proud to belong here.

  3. my friend for 30+ years and friend to nearly everyone that I know…. marty made everyone else’s lives better. a perfect man? no, but who is? one of the best that Fandom has to offer? absolutely.

    FIAWOL – marty lived that through and through, alpha to omega.

    RIP old friend

  4. When I was a student of Bobby’s, Marty came in and taught a separate section on science fiction for 2 of us – expanding what I read for the rest of my life. I plan to re-read Little Fuzzy in his honor.

  5. This is more than a loss to fandom. This is an invitation for less quality during show hosting that we could ever imagine. A PRO IS GONE. LONG LIVE THE PRO.

  6. Marty followed the excellent example of Doc Smith and made everyone feel welcome and comfortable. He would always have a story to share, and ask about your family. We are all better for having known him.

  7. Devastating.

    Marty was one of our closest friends in costuming. He epitomized everything a gentleman should be.

    We met him first in 1983 at the first Worldcon masquerade we entered. He was kind and helpful to two newbies wide-eyed about appearing among so many notables.

    Three years later at Confederation (the 1986 Worldcon) in Atlanta Marty not only remembered who we were (and we had not yet won any awards or otherwise done anything particularly noteworthy). We had entered the Costume-Con 4 Future Fashion Contest, but we could not attend the convention. (one of only 4 CCs we have not attended.) One of our designs was made by a lady named Beth Moberly. At the Friday night party at Confederation Marty asked us if we were pleased with her interpretation. To not only remember us, but to remember the design entry and that it had been made, truly impressed us.

    Over the years we were always delighted to see Marty and have the opportunity to spend time with him. He was always available to talk, consult and advise. And no one was higher on our list of people to call for advice.

    We will miss him terribly. He will be in our prayers.

    Goodbye, Marty.

  8. I first encountered Marty at my first Balticon in ’82, and my first WorldCon in ’83. I’ve always admired and respected him. Competing in his Masquerades was always an Event.

    I wish I had better stories to tell, but it just seemed like he would always be there. Even that heart attack didn’t get him! He is already sorely missed.

  9. I had the pleasure of knowing him since 1983. I was in many contests he MC’d including the 1998 fall off the stage. My group was the Green Army Men from Toy Story and I made the trophies Marty destroyed when he fell!

    He always did everything he could to make every costume look its best. He made sure he got the names and weird pronunciations right and added whatever drama or humor was appropriate. He always nailed it. A great guy on stage and off. The fans from the Baltimore area will always remember him with the greatest fondness.

  10. I had the great pleasure of working with him at Costumecon, Balticon, & even enjoying his wit and wisdom during Shore Leave. His calm spirit will be missed and a hole is in my heart. Losing Bobby was hard….losing Marty is devastating to so many who loved them both. I think it would be fitting to have an award in honor of his wit, his wisdom & his terrible vampire jokes. Good bye my mentor and friend I miss you all the more when darkness fades and and light be gone know that you are in our hearts forever!

  11. I think an award in the costuming community will happen – almost certainly

    perhaps a separate on in the general fandom community as well? a man so great that it takes two awards to do him justice? of course Bobby should get mentioned in there too – she was so fantastic, not to mention the light of Martys life so such a big chunk of it – they were such a great team. Both fantastic (and even FANtastic) people. A priv to have known both of them.


  12. Our first year at Upper Arlington Junior High School, Upper Arlington, Ohio, Marty was in my husband’s classes: Speech, Drama, Debate and he was on Stage Duty in every theater production. We became best of friends for life. He and Bobbi were great photographers and just 10 years ago, they presented us with a 3 foot square wall quilt of photos they and our son took at our 50 year anniversary event. He and Bobbie [and Bruce] were quite a team! We cherish them and the quilt! and so many good memories!!! over so many years! Thank you Marty and Bobbi. We regret we never saw him at a convention but he modeled many of his costumes, shared many videos, wonderful friend!!

  13. Marty was one the greats – whether you mean costumer, Dan , or human being. The SF and costuming communities have lost one of their greats.

  14. Mr. Martin dressed up as a vampire at the 2012 Balticon convention. I was the first place young authors contest winner. Words can’t describe how devastated I am. I only exchanged a few emails with him and shook his hand, but it felt like yesterday when my dad and I saw him, on the stage! R.I.P.

  15. Thank you so much for sharing all of this! I love the Doc Smith story, and wasn’t sure I’d remembered it correctly. The memorial last night was inspirational. So many different perspectives, all coming together to say that we were truly blessed to call this man our friend!

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