Two weekends ago I went to Las Vegas for the first annual Mermaid Convention and World Mermaid Awards at the Silverton Hotel and Casino, because not only are there enough mermaids in the world to gather for a convention, there are enough to get awards.
The con part lasted all day, and the highlight was a full-on mermaid pageant called International Mermaid. The reigning International Mermaid, who is also Mrs. Weeki Wachee and a current Weeki Wachee mermaid, Kylee Troche, was there in a gown, tiara, and gleaming International Mermaid sash to crown the new winners. I was a guest judge at said pageant, along with my fellow authors Tera Lynn Childs and Timothy Schaffert, who had (along with poetess Matthea Harvey) all come to do a “mermaid author” reading at Barnes and Noble the night before in an attempt to add some literary flair to the happenings.
The judges' panel, hard at work.
Here’s what a mermaid pageant is like: Strong men from the audience carry each contestant out, since as everyone knows mermaids cannot walk and there were no wheelchairs for them to roll themselves out in. Each mermaid was luminous in her tail, and there were tails of all kinds: tails made of fabric or silicone, tails covered in sequins, shiny spandex-y tails, and super-realistic scaled tales in a variety of shimmering colors. Some mermaids flapped their fins as they were delicately placed on the stage, others positioned their tails alluringly to the side, fluke standing straight up, and everyone smiled and waved at the audience. One mermaid chose to hop on stage, another to be carried up piggy-back style. All age groups were represented, as well as both genders. There was even a merbaby who was carried out on stage by his mother and who sat there grinning in his bright blue sparkling tail before attempting to crawl off out of the limelight. There were several little girls, too, including two Australian sisters, ages two and four. The four-year-old won for her age group and apparently the two-year-old was very upset by this.
It's not an easy thing, scoring mermaids and mermen on scales of one to 25. In the “formal wear” section of the competition, I did dock that baby merman several points for showing up in a polo shirt. I mean, what was he thinking? But we judges soldiered on and diligently scored every contestant, and new international mermen, mermaids, and merbabies were crowned, and at the end, every contestant came out on stage to sit on chairs or stretch out on the floor. The little girls were sucking on lollipops as crowns slipped off their heads, and that baby was crawling and smiling in his bright blue fish tail, and all those gorgeous mermaids were posing and smiling, and it was all ridiculous and wonderful and awesome, and I was proud to have lent my services and done my part. I thought, This is why I became an author.
There were also a bunch of vendors, photographers, and artists around, as well as the aforementioned authors, who did an impromptu reading on stage after the mermaid pageant, but, I’m not going to lie, didn’t get quite the same response. (We had had the reading and mermaid ball the night before, which you have to admit might be the coolest literary event ever. I mean how often have you entered a bookstore and seen this?
But anyway, the con ended and that night was the main event: the big pool party and World Mermaid Awards. Which meant that for the first time ever, tons and tons of mermaids and mermen jumped in a pool together and swam around in their tails. Many mermaids changed in nearby cabanas and were carried out by strong men, who delicately placed them poolside. Stars of the mermaid world, like Hannah Fraser, who swims with whales and sharks, and Marina MeduSirena, who performs with her pod of aquaticats at the retro Wreck Bar in Fort Lauderdale, were there, along with tons of reporters and journalists and photographers, and suddenly that pool was full of people in tails that stretched out of the water and splashed all around, and you knew that at least some of those creatures in that pool felt like they had finally, at long last, come home.
Speaking of journalists, Joel Stein of Time magazine was there at the Silverton, wondering what to make of the whole thing. “I kind of feel like I’m at a taping of Real Sex,” he said to me at one point, and for a moment I was taken aback — I mean, mermaids! splashing about delicately in the waves! — until I looked in front of us and realized we were in fact looking at tons of dripping-wet girls in shell bras and tight tails posing for a not-unsubstantial crowd of mostly male photographers and admitted he might have a point.
And then all those mermaids and mermen got out of the water and sat poolside, their tails dangling down, and the shimmering, light-haired, luminous Hannah Fraser did this gorgeous, mesmerizing performance, undulating with fire and then diving gracefully into the water, and then MeduSirena camped it up, all masses of black hair and curves and a deep red tail, and splashed through that pool to the other end and sat there and ate some fire, and Mermaid Sora bellydanced and later Maluhia Kawai did hula by the side of the pool, and there was swimming and splashing as awards were announced, and Sita Lange, who put on the whole thing — which was huge and crazy and at one point was rumored to be attracting Daryl Hannah and Johnny Depp, and at another point not going to happen at all — got a ton of applause, and I could barely hear, but it was all beautiful and ridiculous, which all the best things are, especially when you’re in Las Vegas.
Previously: Mermaid Camp.