Strangers In A Strange Land

The 27th Annual TusCon Science Fiction Convention Touches Down.

SOMETHING STRANGE IS about to go down at the Best Western Executive Inn. The place seems like a lot of other hotels, with its ordinary rooms, ice machines and check-in desk. Yet the Best Western will soon experience a brush with the fantastic. Or speculative, if you will.

November 10 through 12, the Baja Arizona Science Fiction Society (BASFA) will convene TusCon 27 within the hotel's halls. Describing itself as the "Best Little Sci-Fi, Fantasy and Horror Convention in Arizona," TusCon 27 will feature still art, movies, notable authors, panels and a great deal more.

Created in 1974 by Jim Corrick, who served as toastmaster and chair until 1985, TusCon moved around a bit in the beginning, and no guests beamed down. "Only about a dozen members ... gathered to discuss SF and watch a couple of old SF movies," says Brian Gross, event programmer for TusCon 21 through 25. "This rapidly expanded to about 10 guests and 200 members by TusCon 6. Since then, we've been fairly stable at about 250 to 300 members each year with as many as 35 guests."

TusCon soon settled at the Best Western, where it has stayed for the past 22 years. "We developed a good relationship with the management and always felt welcome there," Gross says.

TusCon has been masterminded by several different organizations in its long history. Originally Corrick and his friends were the sponsors. Later, the convention came under the control of the Southern Arizona Science Fiction Association, an affiliate of the Central Arizona Science Fiction Society. In the early 1990s, the association split off to form BASFA; it boasts about 20 members and is growing.

Like many science fiction conventions, TusCon 27 will be attended by its share of notable people in speculative fiction. Toastmaster this year will be Ed Bryant, author (with Harlan Ellison) of Phoenix Without Ashes: A Novel of the Starlost and many story anthologies, such as Things To Do In Denver When You're Dead. Science fiction and fantasy artist Liz Danforth will be the artist guest of honor.

The author guest of honor will be local writer and 1997 Philip K. Dick award nominee Catherine Wells, the author of five science fiction novels and numerous plays and short stories. This is her first year to be honored with the prime convention slot. "I'm tickled pink," she says. "We have such a large community of SF writers here in Tucson, and along with the large out-of-town community too, it's a great honor."

She will be involved with several of the author panels and will read from her own work.

When asked what impresses her most about TusCon, she states, "The merchandise dealers. It may be small compared to the big Cons, but we have much better dealers.

"TusCon also has a lot of variety. It's a relaxed atmosphere, and although there's planned tracks you can follow, you can also just wander around."

Wells' new novel, Beyond the Gate (published by Roc), takes place off-world, in a closed, peaceful society of colonists whose belief system seems primarily rooted in Islamic thinking. When a creature is discovered that does not fit into the colonists' taxonomy of native animals, two expeditions are launched to discover its origins, both of which are headed by an "unbeliever" not native to the colony.

Another event taking place at TusCon 27 will be "Future Vision." Starting Friday, November 10 at 2 p.m. and continuing nonstop until late Sunday, November 12, this will involve screenings of classic sci-fi films, TV episodes and Anime. Among the long list of screenings will be the pioneering classic Metropolis, cult favorite Rollerball and the prophetic Things To Come.

Attendees will also be subject to an experiment of sorts. Con participants are invited to bring their own computers and set them up within a Local Area Network (LAN) during the "TusCon 27 LAN Party." There is currently space for four computers at a time. Participants must have the appropriate hardware and software installed in their systems. Once a part of the network, the participants will play whichever computer game that, through consensus, has been chosen.

Other events include an art show for both professional and amateur artists, a masquerade ball and live-action role playing, where participants will engage in a giant game whose setting will encompass the entire convention area. The game's theme this year is "Men in Black."

At last--a science fiction convention protected from the scum of the universe.

For more information on TusCon 27, November 10 through 12 at the Best Western Executive Inn, 333 W. Drachman, log on to the BASFA website at; write to TusCon, P.O. Box 26822, Tucson, AZ 85726; or call 881-3709 or 293-1455. Memberships, giving access to the convention throughout the weekend, cost $35. One-day admission is $10, $20 and $15 for Friday, Saturday and Sunday, respectively. Children 4 to 12 are half price.
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