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Friday, 30 August, 2002, 10:43 GMT 11:43 UK
Sci-fi's family gathering
Kelly Freas
Kelly Freas's 80th birthday will be celebrated this weekend
Maggie Shiels

In the world of fandom, science fiction fans are regarded as being the most devoted. Proof of that can be seen over the next few days at the 60th World Science Fiction Convention in San Jose, California.

Over 5,000 dedicated followers from 26 countries have come from around the globe to meet and mingle with their favourite authors and listen to experts dissect subjects such as "where does the true mythology of Buffy the Vampire Slayer lie?" and "Dream machines made real".

Outsiders might expect Worldcon to be all about walking around with pointy Spock ears and worshipping the likes of Leonard Nimoy - but organisers say it is a world away from that.

Spokesman Bart Kemper says: "The real stars here are the fans. We come from all over the world and we take five days out of our life to be here.


I suppose it's because a lot of people a have wish fulfilment fantasy, wishing they could have done something to prevent it

Phil Foglio on comics after 11 September
"The writers are also up there because they are the ones that create the world we love. This is about a shared interest. It's really just a big family."

One of Worldcon's celebrities is Kelly Freas - one of the most prolific and popular fantasy artists.

He has illustrated the work of writers ranging from Isaac Asimov to Arthur C Clarke.

Freas drifted into the work at a time when there were only four or five artists in the field.

"I've been in science fiction as long as I've been alive," he says.

Atmosphere

"Maybe it takes the place of religion. You have to be a little bit wild in order to step completely outside of your world and visualise another one."

Phil Foglio
Phil Foglio with his creation, Girl Genius
A party for Freas's 80th birthday this weekend will no doubt be an out-of-this-world affair because everyone at Worldcon seems to be invited.

Another icon here is British author Terry Pratchett, who has sold 27 million copies of his novels.

"I like connecting with the fans. It's a good atmosphere to write in," he says.

"I don't really get ideas as such here but it is very good for keeping in contact with what is going on."

Among the plethora of authors here are Vernor Vinge, New York Times bestseller David Brin and Diana L Paxson - who also bills herself as a consecrated priestess and a leader in the international pagan movement.

All will be on hand to sign autographs and take part in workshops to help future sci-fi wannabes pen the next big blockbuster.

Comic creators are also in the spotlight. One, Phil Foglio, has noticed a resurgence in interest following the 11 September attacks. "The superheroes genre was in a bit of decline until then," he says.

Fantasy

"Surprisingly there has been a boost and I suppose it's because a lot of people a have wish fulfilment fantasy, wishing they could have done something to prevent it.

Yhnared
Lifetime love of sci-fi: Designer Ynhared (left)
"That's pretty much what comics allow you to do, to submerge yourself in that sort of character."

Daring to be different is what Worldcon attendees are not afraid to be - especially through their clothes.

One of the convention's more popular panels is the one giving tips on how to design and make costumes. Ynhared - a sci-fi-fan for over 35 years - designs fantasy clothes and jewellery.

"I got into it when I was 7 after reading Edgar Rice Burroughs," she says.

"I love the freedom of imagination in sci-fi and fantasy."

Worldcon in San Jose ends on Monday, and British fans will have plenty of time to let their imagination run wild - the next time it will be held in the UK will be in Glasgow in 2005.

See also:

10 Aug 02 | Technology
20 Apr 01 | Entertainment
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