Author Joe R. Lansdale (photo by Karen Lansdale)
SoonerCon 2010 is coming to Oklahoma City once more. This year's event is fast approaching as this article goes to electronic press, the dates being June 4th-6th. That's this coming Friday - Sunday at the Biltmore Hotel. I sent a few questions to Leonard Bishop with SoonerCon to find out a little more about the convention and this year's event.
Ethan Nahté: SoonerCon had a few one-shot conventions and then began in earnest back in 1986. Did the creators/organizers of this convention ever expect the annual event to make it this far when so many cons die in their first couple of years?
Leonard Bishop: I was not in on the small group of folks who revitalized SoonerCon and brought it back in 2006, but I do know that attendance far exceeded expectations that year, and brought in a much expanded core of volunteers, so at that point we knew there was a desire both locally and regionally for OKC to host another solid, general interest SF/F convention. And convention chairman Jerry Wall is smart about planning for both short term, as well as long term growth plans.
EN: The entertaining Joe R. Lansdale, recipient of the World Horror Con 2007 "Grand Master Award" for his contributions to Horror as well as winner of many other awards, is this year's Guest of Honor. Any particular reason beyond the fact that the prolific author writes great fiction, comic books and occasionally works in the TV & Film industry with projects such as Batman: The Animated Series and the cult-classic Bubba Ho-Tep?
LB: Joe is absolutely outstanding for both his quality of work, and his gift for connecting with fans, and we always have valued a headline guest who connects with our attendees. Our theme of "2010: A Bubba Odyssey" seemed to dovetail with his novella Bubba Ho-Tep, and he had an amazing stint as Toastmaster at a recent Nebula Award banquet, so we really wanted to hear more from him.
"The Study" from John E. Kaufmann's website.
EN: Artist Guest of Honor is John E. Kaufmann's this year. He seems to have worked a lot as an educational and commercial artist, doing a lot of scientific planet & animal kingdom art as well as dinosaurs. He has somewhat recently gotten into Sci-Fi/Fantasy art, including doing the cover for Toastmaster Selina Rosen's book Sword Masters. His site has some amazing material on it but do you think convention goers will recognize his work or is this more of a way to introduce an artist with some great talent to the masses?
LB: Sometimes you go for a headline guest whose work has been around a long time, and is recognized and respected in the field already; sometimes, you see someones work who you know will be in that same place a few years in the future, an "up and coming" artist or writer. Years back, we presented a fairly new writer who only had three books out as our Guest of Honor, because we knew she would become one of those "name" writers. Nowadays, Lois McMaster Bujold has more Hugo Awards for Best Novel than you can shake a stick at, and a shelf full of books in the local bookstore. We believe John Kaufmann is going to turn into one of those same "name" artists, and were feeling lucky that we get to showcase his work.
EN: Yard Dog Press & Toastmaster Selina Rosen are celebrating 15 years of publishing, putting out a new book as well as the Yard Dog Roadshow and an Interpretive Reading. Is SoonerCon ready for this onslaught of Bubba humor & the big celebration? Any special plans/events happening in regards to YDP? I hear rumors of Zombies running around the convention.
LB: Zombies and more! SoonerCon is braced and ready for a Yard Dog onslaught, and we welcome it. ZombieWalkOKC is staging a Walk beginning at 7pm Friday night, with a free make-up session beginning at 5pm for attendees who want to get in touch with their inner Zomb. More info is on the group's site at www.zombiewalkOKC.com/. And SoonerCon and Yard Dog Press have a longstanding relationship, as the original incarnation of SoonerCon was one of the first cons where Yard Dog debuted.
Yard Dog Press' head Bubba, Selia Rosen, Toastmaster - SoonerCon 2010
(photo © 2009, Ethan Nahté)
EN: Comic book artist John Lucas is also a featured guest. To my knowledge, with the exception of All-Con in Dallas, most of the other cons are either Speculative Fiction/Literary cons featuring writers and artists or they are Comic Book/Sci-Fi-Fantasy cons featuring comic book industry writers and artists as well as celebs from TV shows and movies. Has SoonerCon brought in Comic Book industry guests in the past? Why do you differ from some of the other cons in that respect?
LB: Our belief is that for Oklahoma City, what works best is a general interest convention, with a wide variety of activities, guests, and options. So, we've got a lot of writers and artists, but we also want something for comics fans, for costumers, for anime fans, for media fans, for gamers, and for alt-culture fans. We will continue to try and expand our range of guests, because what we hear back is, that's what our attendees want to see.
EN: There will be stages for musicians, stage craft & performance artists. People know what musicians are, but give examples for the uninitiated what they can possibly expect from seeing performance artists and stage craft? Also, are the musicians Filk performers or are there other styles/genres of music being performed?
LB: Most of our performers are not actually filk performers, filk being SF based folk and humor songs. Friday night we'll have a blues set with Bland Lemon Denton and the Lemonaides, performing at the Yard Dog 15th Anniversary Celebration. Saturday, local celt-rock group Borus Ghost will be doing a set, and that evening during the SinnerCon dance and party two professional DJs will keep things going with lots of dance mixes. Sunday a song and dance troupe from the local Ren group Arthurian Order of Avalon will be performing RenFaire type song and dancing.
EN: There are many other authors, artists and musicians appearing, as usual. But what other key events will be happening in addition to guest panels? (i.e. art auction, gaming, workshops, masquerade, etc.
LB: I think this year is the best yet for variety of activities. Saturday has things for our attendees from 8am til well after midnight. Saturday and Sunday morning both, we have family-friendly Cartoons and Cereal to start the day. Also both days there are KoffeeKlatches, where people can come in and sit and talk informally with our guests, and have complimentary coffee, juice and sweetbreads. Friday starting at 8pm Yard Dog Press hosts their Anniversary Celebration, and part of that is a contest to win a chapbook contract with YDP. Later Friday evening there is a shadowcast performance of Rocky Horror Picture Show. Tribal Stars Belly Dance is the exclusive dance troupe for SoonerCon, and they are performing Saturday and Sunday. Arthurian Order of Avalon will present Live Steel combat demos Saturday and Sunday. The Masquerade will take center stage Saturday evening, and is followed by our Art Auction and Charity Auction, which benefits local charity Infant Crisis Services.
EN: One of the gaming events will be LARPing on Saturday evening. For those who play MMPG or RPG games or who don't game at all, explain what LARP is and who can participate?
LB: LARP stands for Live Action Role Play, which is interactive role play gaming. The largest LARP group is the Camarilla, which runs a Vampire LARP. Con attendees can join in for free, or if anyone just wants to participate in the LARP, $5.00 memberships allow you access to the game only. That begins at 7pm Saturday evening.
EN: Is there anything different or new this year that attendees need to be aware of?
LB: Well, you can tell there's a lot going on. One note I want everyone to know about is, on Sunday, June 6th, we honor D-Day by admitting military personnel, active or retired, free with an ID. This also means that any military folks who come in Saturday and buy a one day pass upgrade automatically to a weekend pass. Saturday's our biggest day for activities, so I encourage everyone to take advantage of this special deal. And if you have any questions about the convention, try our website at www.soonercon.com, or if you dont find what you're looking for there, our dedicated contact number is 405-310-9255.