Sunday, December 23, 2007

Bye, bye Claudia

Well, OSFES has run into our first snag in bringing a boffo fan experience to Omaha. We have lost our Media Guest of Honor. Due to commitments with her production company, Claudia Christian will be working on a reality television series for William Morris during the time period we will be holding The Omaha Science Fiction and Fantasy Festival. While this is great news for Ms. Christian, the actress; it forces us to rethink some of our convention priorities.

For decades the realm of science fiction and fantasy was strictly literary and therefore the traditional convention was centered around the writers and artists that produced the stories we enjoyed. Lineups for conventions consisted of a Writer, Artist, and Fan GOH with a Toastmaster, typically another writer to get two on the bill. That is especially true today since the banquet the Toastmaster officiated at has disappeared. Even then, there were fewer writers to draw from that everyone enjoying the field recognized any name you invited. That is not true today.

The ideas, the new worlds, the fun toys that writers have always brought us are being packaged in new forms. Television, movies, games, animation, and even the internet have opened new ways for we, the fans of this genre, to experience the visions the creators of this genre have dreamed up for us. So how to honor those creators?

OSFest started down this path by inviting Claudia Christian as our Media GOH. As an actress, she created a character that captured the imaginations of many fans of SF/F. She had been our attempt to capture the television side of the picture. Her lose will force us to examine how we can celebrate other facets of the genre. In the coming months, changes will be made in the lineup of the guests we are bringing to meet their fan base. Your input can help us decide which avenues to pursue. If you have a particular area of interest, or person you would like to learn more about, let us know. There are many ways you can do this:

So farewell for now Claudia, we will miss you. At least for OSFest '08.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Anime NebrasKon 2007

For me the Midwest convention season ended with three really wonderful conventions. Each had its own flavor, each was the right size for its purpose, and each brought in enough funds that they will be back next year. The last of these was the anime convention held in the University of Nebraska’s Student Center: NebrasKon.

Anime is a sub-genre of science fiction that grew up in response to the vast emptiness of American animation in the late 70’s and early 80’s. Probably the best way to explain why Japanese animation found an immense audience waiting for it is to look at its competition in the early 1980’s; Super-Friends had reigned on American Saturday morning television for over a decade (1973-86). The discovery of anime (or Japanese Animation as we called it then) gave us the choice of the exploits of the Space Battleship Yamato or “Wonder Twin powers activate”. I have DVDs of the former, but not the later.

But it is not the movies, OVAs (Original Video Animation), or series that make an anime convention. You can buy those and watch them in the comfort of your living room. It is the fans that make up a really good convention. From the discussions of what is good or bad on DVD, or whether you should watch dubbed or subbed videos (DVDs make this argument pointless since they come with both versions), to the cosplay (costume play) that happens during the entire weekend. Yes, there is going to be a Masquerade or Cosplay Competition sometime on Saturday evening but you still see a good many costume characters throughout the convention.

Yet, anime conventions are still trying to find their pattern. They have a lot of rough edges yet that SF/F conventions have polished down over the years. The best example of this is the Cosplay or Costume Competitions they hold. Rules seem to vary and have not taken all participants into consideration yet. The two anime conventions I attended this year were both flawed from the perspective of the audience, especially those of us trying to take photos. The entrants also need to polish their presentations. But anime presenters have been at this for a mere two decades and I am comparing them to events that have been honed since 1939. I think SF/F fandom has a lot to offer Anime fandom.

I also think that Anime fandom has a lot to offer SF/F fandom. Anime conventions have a raw energy about them. It seemed that almost one-fourth of the NebrasKon goers were in some type of costume, and in character for that costume. Their dealers room was thriving and they have found a new avenue for the artists to meet their fans; the Artist Alley. Though I do miss the Art Show with its hanging images where I can crawl into a new and wondrous world created by talented imagers.

Traditional SF/F fandom is graying, getting too comfortable in those events that are finely polished, lacking the hunger to create new experiences. How often have you gone to the same panel? Can you name a SF/F convention that does NOT have one named, “Where do you get those crazy ideas?” If traditional SF/F conventions cannot find a way to re-integrate both gaming and anime fandom back into our makeup, we will die. It is often asked at the traditional conventions by the con goers, where are the younger fans? Well they have started their own conventions around the sub-genres that we did not give enough resources to. If you look at the attendance figures; gaming, anime, and media conventions are growing. These were all pieces of the traditional SF/F convention until we started snubbing them, despite the fact that we enjoyed them.

Can a convention be created that will bring experienced fans together with energetic fans? I think it can and The Omaha Science Fiction and Fantasy Festival (OSFest) is going to try. I hope we can really create a science fiction convention with something for everyone.

What do You want?

Monday, November 12, 2007

ICON has risen from its ashes!

ICON 32 was Nov. 2-4 this year back onto I-80. Held in Coralville Marriott Hotel & Conference Center, the convention has moved back to the Iowa City area where it began.

Everything said about how this convention went has to be viewed with the understanding that after ICON 31, ICON was dead. Around January of this year, a group of experienced convention runners, lead by Greg Parmentier and Steve Keith Tait, got a bid together and presented it to the Mindbridge Board of Directors (Mindbridge is the corporate entity that is responsible for ICON and other convention in the Iowa City area). After their proposal was accepted they had only 10 months to pull everything together.

The Marriott is a fine new hotel, even if I grumble at having to pay for parking. OSFES went in to do our first room party ever and found an easy connection for our electronics. I most hotels, if you are lucky, you can disconnect the RF cable coming into the television to hook in a video deck. The Marriott had a wall mounted selection of connector plug-ins that hooked into their large flat-screen TVs. So with a few bed-movings, some room decorations (with no tape being applied to the walls), and John Pershing’s home-brew; OSFES’ party went over quite well. “”That’s Santa Claus Conquers the Martians” (pause, wait for it) with Pia Zadora.”

The convention shared its space with a wedding and a couple of meetings that weekend. It was a bit odd to see a non-SF/F group getting into costumes for their event – and they weren’t square-dancers. Their activities were very spread out, their Toastmaster, Rusty Hevelin, had to use an electric scooter to get around.

Yes, they had some problems. A snafu with the Art Show rules caused a lot of artists to not send in art and made the Art Show very small and the Art Auction almost non-existent. Several panels were run by a single individual (at least the ones I got to), but their Moderators (is the main person still called a moderator if they are the only panelist?) kept the panels interesting and on topic. Finally their costume contest had at least as many entrees as Windycon a week later, along with belly-dancers and The Great Luke Ski as half-time entertainment.

ICON has risen from its Gallium ashes – next year join Tanya Huff, Rusty Hevelin, and a host of the usual suspects at ICON 33 on Halloween for another really cool weekend.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Nuke-Con XVII

The Creighton University Skutt Student Center is a nice place to hold an event but you have to be in good shape to get from the parking lot to the actual building which hosts events. And most of fandom isn't, not with XL clothing being considered fannish medium. It's a nice walk for a 20-year old but I didn't see too many of the Creighton students gaming. Inconvenient parking plus the gaming convention in Des Moines (Fields of Honor) and River City Roundup the same weekend meant that Nuke-Con was going to take a hit on attendance, which they did.
There were some changes the Nuke-Con committee had to make to adapt to this new venue. The usual concession stand was replaced by Creighton sponsored eating establishments, though prices had been negotiated down for the weekend. It was a multi-level event, since the student center has its rooms divided between three floors. And their anime room was the five large screen televisions in one of those eateries. But the things we come to expect from a Nuke-Con were all there. Lavish miniature games, RPGA events, newly designed gaming experiences straight from the companies designing them, computerized warfare, lead figure painting (as opposed to the Chinese practice of painting figures with lead), gaming supply vendors, and a game materials auction. Fredd Gorham, their Artist Emeritus, ran his Artist's Jam on Saturday for the second year, which makes it a fannish tradition Fredd. Several local fannish groups were also in attendance supporting the convention: OSFES, NERO, OtakuOmaha, Amtgard. So it doesn't matter the venue they are able to find, the Nuke-Con people know how to bring fun things together in a complete low-cost package. Watch for another change in venue for 2008. The Skutt center does not book events a year in advance.
While it is easy to blame external circumstances for dropping attendance figures at Midwestern fannish events. I have to wonder if competing activities or a sense of apathy pervading Omaha fandom is the reason. Are we getting too old and/or jaded to support these events. What do you think? Post a comment about the state of Omaha fandom. Let's hear from you.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Star Trek - TOS returns

New episodes from the universe of the original Star Trek series have hit the web waves. Star Trek New Voyages currently has three new stories available for viewing at their website: The Cawley Entertainment Company with the Magic Time Company is currently working on a two- parter written by veteran Star Trek writer David Gerrold.
I came in on the third web episode: "World Enough And Time", which was written by Michael Reaves and Marc Scott Zicree, directed by Marc Scott Zicree, and starring George Takei. Grace Lee Whitney as Commander Janice Rand and Jacqueline Kim as Ensign Demora Sulu put in cameo appearances.
I was impressed by the technical accomplishments, it was like watching the old 1960's series complete with the kaleidoscopic computer screen and non-detailed model of the NCC-1701. The cast did an excellant job of mimicry acting, what else can you say when you have to recreate a role someone originated. And there was actually a plot with decent dialogue for the actors to say. It was like stepping back forty years and watching the cancelled series carrying on for the rest of its five year mission. While I was amazed at the recreation done with the sets and props used in this production, one thing I really care about is the writing that goes into something I watch, which is why I like the old episodes of Doctor Who despite their lack of a special effects budget. "Worlds Enough And Time" had a strong plot, tying in characters we had grown up with in the Star Trek universe together and sketching out a period in Lt. Sulu's life that woudl only have been possible in science fiction. The writer even dropped hints about where his story was taking us by the names he used for the shuttle craft and the planet where Dr. Lisa Chandris (the weekly new crew member) boarded the Enterprise. It was little things like this that endeared fans to Babylon 5, so watch for them.
I look forward to viewing the first two web-episodes and hope they keep getting whatever funding they have and making many more adventures of that first crew boldly going where no man has gone before.

Monday, September 3, 2007

The votes have been counted and...

...the 2009 World Science Fiction convention (Worldcon) will be held in Montreal, Canada. Anticipation (, the 67th WorldCon will be held August 6-10, 2009 at Palais des congrès de Montréal . This continues the trend of major SF conventions being more family friendly. This year's NASFIC, aka Tuckercon was August 2-5, 2007. Denvention 3 will be the 66th Worldcon August 6-10, 2008 ( With these earlier dates families don't have to worry about pulling their children out of school if the family wants to attend these annual conventions. The traditional Labor Day weekend dates for the convention had been established before schools moved their starting dates into the middle of August. So maybe its time that the Worldcons moved back too.
Montreal is a 1305 mile drive from Omaha or a 6 hour flight (that is shorter than their flight back from Nippon, which explains why they have not updated their website with convention information yet). Today's problem, of course, is that we will need a passport to return home after visiting Canada. So if you are thinking of attending - and a Worldcon is a unique experience everytime it is held - I would encourage you to begin planning now. They are having a problem processing all the passport applications they currently have. Besides the memberships, once they go on sale, will be close to $200 and tht is the cheapest they will ever be.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Archon 31/Tuckercon

Whenever the World Science Fiction Convention, Worldcon (tm), is held outside of North America, a convention known as the North American Science Fiction Convention is held. There have been nine such conventions, the most recent one was last weekend in Collinsville, IL. Where St. Louis fandom gets better facilities then in their home town.
They had four days of panels running from 9AM until midnight, gaming, costumes (but then I understand St. Louis has a strong costuming constituent), Kaffeklatschs, filking, workshops, art show, artist alley, small press alley, and more. This year they even did podcasting from the convention. Convention photos can be seen at the Midamerican Fan Photo Archive. I had a great time, even though I spent too much money on art. I bought another Kelly Freas original b/w interior.
What I didn't see though was a lot of people from Omaha fandom in attendance. The $120 at the door fee may have kept people in town, but even that is cheap compared to what Nippon 2007 (this year's Worldcon) is currently: $283. Yet those numbers can be controlled with a little pre-planning. We paid $55 for ours the year before. And with Worldcons the very act of voting in site selection locks you into the cheapest rate.
Some Omahans do considerable convention traveling, meaning they get to meet their out-of-town fan friends often. And kudos to those that do. For those that don't, why not? OSFES has currently developed a fan forum at (though we are looking into shorting this URL) and one of the categories is Conventions. Here you can post the conventions you are going to and looking for help in defraying costs, talk about the experiences that you had, and highlight ones that you think people might want to attend.
Fandom considers itself a family. Conventions are the reunions we have to keep in touch. Go forth and meet your fellow fan brother.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Otaku Omaha 2007

Otaku Omaha 2007, held last weekend (June 9-10, 2007) in the Carlisle Hotel Omaha located at 10909 M Street, was something new to hit the Omaha area. It was Omaha's first Anime convention. People have been watching, collecting and showing Anime in Omaha for the last three decades but an Anime Convention is more than the sum of those three.
Yes, they were showing Anime in two video rooms for people to watch, and they had a dealer's room for people to purchase VHS and DVD Anime programming. But there was MORE! The dealer's room was a cornucopia of genre items from, yes, VHS and DVD programming to models and music, buttons and pins to prints and stuffed Anime characters. Outside the dealer's room was an artist's area where very talented people were rendering Anime images, including caricatures of people in the genre style. Along with their main programming track they had two panel discussions going during the day. There was also a video gaming and non-video gaming room available.
Yet conventions are not about the components that draw the attendees but about the attendees and how they interact with each other. Cosplay (Literally "Costume Play." Dressing up and pretending to be a fictional character, usually a sci-fi, comic book, or anime character) is a very important part of any Anime convention. At least one quarter to the attendees were displaying some form of costume. Their Masquerade contest, while needing a guiding hand in its stage presense had almost twice the entrants I usually see at the SF conventions I attend. They definitely have a special enthusiam for the medium.
I hope that Otaku Omaha had a financially successful first year and can afford to continue bringing this caliber of event to the Metro because Omaha needs more places to play.

Monday, May 28, 2007

ConQuesT 38

ConQuesT (, the annual Memorial Day SF/F convention in Kansas City, MOO (their spelling, not mine) was last weekend and had several members of the Omaha Sci-Fi community were in attendance.
ConQuesT played host to regional tournaments for Yu-Gi-Oh and World of Warcraft CCG; brought together about four WorldCon chairpersons, three small press publishers (“Buy My Books”, the war cry of Selina Rosen, editor of Yard Dog Press, rang through the halls of the Airport Hilton all weekend), several area authors and artists; and a demonstrations by The Liftport Group, the Space Elevator Company and KANAR, a D&D style LARP.
ConQuesT is a literary style of SF/F convention, which is why they have so many authors, editors, book publishers and dealer’s in attendance. Programming, while it will follow that tract (“Believable Characters”, and “Writing For Small Press”), flows through many avenues of fandom. They talked about gaming, television shows and movies, being an artist, conrunning, and fannish themes like “Robots and Ethics”. Panel wise, they had something for everyone.
ConQuesT is probably most noted for its controlled hall parties. They isolate the eleventh (top) floor of the hotel and control access to only convention members. This allows those hosting the various parties from their hotel rooms to know what to expect from attendees. Anchored by the convention “Con Suite”, each party can then take on their own flavor. The ICON party was promoting the return of the 31 year old convention started by Joe Haldeman in Iowa City. Australia in 2010 and Kansas City in 2009 both had parties to encourage people to vote for their respective bids for the World SF conventions. SoonerCon 2007 hosted an event with the various concoctions created over the years by Selina Rosen. New Orleans even had a gumbo party.
I had fun at ConQuesT, I always do. And that is probably the main reason I am trying to return SF/F conventions to the Metro area. So bookmark this blog and keep hanging around as I bring you updates on what is happening towards the Omaha Science Fiction and Fantasy Festival next July 11-13.
Oh, and they had great costumers there too; TTFN

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Festival Memberships Are Now On Sale

The membership drive for the Omaha Science Fiction and Fantasy Festival is underway. The convention, to be held July 11-13, 2008, has a Demicon/ConQuesT special membership rate. From now until June 3, 2007, $30 will get you a membership for the entire weekend. After that, rates will be increasing. Watch for details.

We now have our first committed guest for the Festival. Aaron Allston, a writer of science fiction and fantasy novels, in his own universe as well as Star Wars and Terminator novels; and short stories. If you want to see his writing style, you can download a free e-book of his: Doc Sidhe at He is also a designer of role-playing games and supplements; an independent filmmaker; and from time to time, a columnist. Sounds like a man who knows the field and we can learn a great deal from.
Don't forget to join the Omaha Science Fiction Education Society for our next Movie and Dinner night. June 16th for Fantastic Four: The Rise of the Silver Surfer, we will meet in the lobby of the Omaha Douglas Cinema Center around 5PM, I don't know actual showtimes yet.
I hope to see you soon and let me know what you're doing within the Omaha SciFi Scene.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Free Comic Book Day

Saturday May 5th at the Free Comic Book day several local comic artists set up shop again in Krypton comics. The stormtroopers of the 501st were guarding the door since their main guest; Margot Kidder, forced the line to get into the store outside and half way up the mall sidewalk. The Omaha Science Fiction Education Society ( made an appearance, as well as Spider-man and the Man of Steel.
In conjunction (not related to the SF/F convention is Indianapolis, IN) with the events of the day, OSFES' Movie and Dinner Night went to Spider-man 3. Fans enjoyed the film despite the reviews posted for the film.