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VOL. 126 | NO. 59 | Friday, March 25, 2011

MidSouthCon 29 to Unite Sci-Fi Fans

By Andy Meek

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At least 1,500 sci-fi fans are expected to converge this weekend on the East Memphis Hilton at 939 Ridge Lake Boulevard.

That means it’s time for MidSouthCon 29, the latest annual gathering of fans of everything from comics to gaming to fantasy fiction writing.

At this year’s convention – which starts Friday at 5 p.m. and runs through Sunday at 4 p.m. – there also will be eight guests of honor and a merchandise-packed “dealer room.”

There, guests can browse wares from artists, writers and purveyors of all manner of trinkets and creations. Those guests will include people like Amber Shineman, who is making her first trip this weekend to the MidSouthCon.

“My husband and I are artists that run our own business, Spiral Fae Accents,” said Shineman, a Missouri native. “We specialize in handmade leather masks and gemstone jewelry but also carry other costuming accessories such as latex ear tips. We really enjoy going to conventions such as (MidSouthCon) to merchant because there’s such an eclectic and entertaining group of people to interact with, and once the dealer room closes for the day, there are so many options for fun to be had.

“We can go play a game, check out a panel or even just chat with people about costuming in the hallway. There’s something for everyone.”

Carlin Stuart, a board member of Mid-South Science and Fictions Conventions Inc., said the convention had about 1,300 attendees last year. There have been about 700 pre-registrations this year, leading to an expectation of a minimum of 1,500 attendees for this weekend’s gathering.

Radio ads running on WXMX-FM 98.1 are expected to boost attendance. Tickets are $45 at the door, and more information is available at the event’s website, www.midsouthcon.org.

“This will be the 29th year,” said Stuart, who called the event a “multi-genre convention” covering things like gaming, comic books, movies, anime and re-enactments.

He said one of his favorite parts of the event is the art-related aspect.

“Other than hanging out meeting new friends, I’ve been leaning more and more towards the art, it seems,” he said. “I love the comics. I love the science fiction. But I tend to be buying more art now than I am buying books. And then you have the costuming going on.”

This year’s guests of honor are author Mary Robinette Kowal; artist Nene Thomas; game designer Monte Cook; comic book writer Kurt Busiek; costume maker Kelldar; Les Johnson, NASA’s deputy manager for its advance concepts office at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.; Jackie Gamber, a co-founder of fiction publisher Meadowhawk Press; and parody musician Luke Ski.

Stuart said the first event got started in Memphis around 30 years ago by a small group of friends who were looking for something like it as close to Memphis as they could find.

“They decided they were tired of always having to drive to somewhere like Atlanta to go to a decent convention,” Stuart said.

“So they said, ‘Why don’t we start one?’”

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