Pick of The Week

Destination Fandom

TusCon is like Tucson Comic-Con's chill, obscure brother; it's the Luigi of Tucson sci-fi and fantasy culture. But wearing the lesser-known green cap isn't a bad thing. For the past 40 years, the convention has brought fans of science fiction, fantasy and horror together with some of their favorite authors, filmmakers and artists—and this convention claims to have something the other Con does not.

"You've probably heard of things like the San Diego Comic-Con (or) the Tucson Comic-Con—all these big, huge, gigantic pop-culture events," said Eric Schumacher, actor and founder of Picture Arizona LLC and guest speaker at the upcoming 40th TusCon. "TusCon is different."

In the eyes of TusCon, the traditional convention has not brought the fan close enough to the action. And where others get skimpy, TusCon lays it on thick. The convention prides itself on bridging the gap between fan and author, and creating an intimate environment for the two factions to merge into one. "We actually cap three-day attendance at 500 tickets," Schumacher said.

Now, while that may initially sound a little like the return of the cool-kids-only, middle-school mentality, hear them out on this one.

"For example, (take) Tucson Comic-Con ... if you go to (a) panel discussion led by some celebrities, there may be 3,000 other people in the room. And that's really cool and exciting in its own way. However, if you raise your hand and want to ask a question, you may not get your question answered," Schumacher said. "At TusCon, because we limit the size so much, there may be a room full of, say, 100 people. And the odds that you're going to not only get your question answered, but actually get engaged in meaningful conversation with the guest of honor is very high. That's the intention: to make this a really friendly, relaxed environment, where much of the time the celebrities you're meeting there are almost like fellow fans you're chatting with."

The convention, which runs from Friday, Nov. 8, through Sunday, Nov. 10, will feature costume contests, local-area-network gaming, film screenings, art shows, voice-dubbing workshops, multiple anime-centric events, a live performance by the Bedlam Bards and a ton of other events primed for attendees to nerd out on.

But as we all know, the highlights of any fantasy, comic, sci-fi, horror or like-minded convention are the discussion panels. This year will also include a slew of panelists and guest speakers that you may recognize as prominent figures in the fantasy world, including Juliet Blackwell, New York Times best-selling author of the Witchcraft Mystery series and Haunted Home Renovation Mystery series; Ed Bryant, iconic sci-fi and horror author; Liz Danforth, an Academy of Gaming Arts and Design Hall of Famer; Carl Hergenrother, an associate staff scientist at the University of Arizona's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory; Robert Linden, who portrayed Zhon in Zhon: The Alien Interviews; and Matthew Yenkala, a Rocky Horror Picture Show disciple who recently appeared in The Perks Of Being A Wallflower.

And as Schumacher pointed out, anyone on the panelist roster is fair game for deep conversations and personal interactions. "(I'll sit) down on the couches outside the hotel where it's held, and within minutes I'll be joined by a couple of people who, it turns out, are fairly well-known, published authors and (I'll) start chatting with them and start learning about their processes," Schumacher said. "That's the point, and there's not many other conventions that will happen in."

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