Two big sci-fi cons are coming to Charlotte.
ConCarolinas – a three-day sci-fi/fantasy convention – kicks off Friday at the University Place Hilton. The annual HeroesCon, which celebrated its 30th year in 2012, descends on the Charlotte Convention Center again beginning June 7.
While many Charlotteans are aware of the city’s legendary comic book convention, ConCarolinas is growing in its own right after beginning as a two-day mini-con in 2002. Attendance has doubled since 2008.
The focus is heavy on literature, film, art, music, costuming, media and gaming and, of course, the presence of the mothers of all fandoms – “Star Wars” and “Star Trek.” This year’s guests include Hugo Award winning author Timothy Zahn, who’s revered for his “Star Wars” novels. Several “Star Wars”-related costumes will be displayed in the Fan Museum – a new feature this year – of professional grade, fan-created props and costumes.
But it’s not all “Star Wars” or even sci-fi.
“We don’t just have people talking about ‘Star Wars.’ We have space geeks, scientists who come to the convention and talk about what’s going on in the scientific world. If you’re an aspiring writer, it’s a place to go to get tips and learn about small press and self-publishing,” explains Con Chair Jada Diaz.
Other notable guests include “Battlestar Galactica’s” Kandyse McClure and “Babylon 5’s” Jason Carter and Bill Blair (who has played aliens on numerous series), as well as several authors, visual artists, filk musicians (a sci-fi genre), and game designers.
ConCarolinas attracts 1,300 to 1,500 attendees – a much more intimate experience than, say, San Diego Comic-Con or DragonCon in Atlanta or even HeroesCon, which doubles its floor space this year. What you might not expect at either con is that while fans have long been associated with the male-dominated factions of Stormtroopers and male superheroes, women are a big part of geek culture today.
As with many fans, most roads lead back to “Star Wars.” Diaz, who spent an entire summer when she was 11 watching the movie at the theater where her friend’s brother worked, met her husband through a “Star Wars” message board and eventually moved to Gaston County in 2006. Some of her costuming work will be displayed in the Fan Museum.
Charlotte-based Cheralyn Lambeth, an author and regular convention panelist on ghost hunting and costuming and props (by day she’s a freelance prop builder and costume designer for shows like “Homeland”), discovered what would become her career through George Lucas’ franchise.
“When I saw ‘Star Wars’ for the first time I was fascinated by the costumes and props and robots. I got into costuming for fun after that,” Lambeth says. After leaving the Air Force, the Greensboro native studied drama, radio/TV and motion pictures at UNC Chapel Hill before heading to Julliard for a year. She divides her time between TV and film and Grey Seal Puppets. But it’s her hobby as a charter member of the 501st Legion (the internationally recognized Imperial costuming organization) and side work as a member of the Carolina Ghostbusters that’s made her a sought-after convention guest.
One of the speeder bikes from “Return of the Jedi” that she created will be displayed in the Fan Museum. The author of “Haunted Theaters of the Carolinas,” will also talk ghost hunting. She recounts her scariest experience while working one summer at The Lost Colony.
“After a show I was in one of the hallways working and I heard footsteps behind me. I pulled my stuff to the side and the footsteps went down the hall. The door opened and closed by itself at the end of the hallway,” she recounts.
“It’s not at all like that,” she adds of the popular TV shows like SyFy’s “Ghost Hunters.” “They show you the best 30 minutes of what can be a several-day investigation. So many investigations absolutely nothing happens.”
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