Silicon Valley Comic Con 2018

The Convention Connection

Third annual Silicon Valley Comic Con is for nerds, by nerds

Intro | Call the Doctor | Cosplay Queen | Trouble Women | The Little Gentleman | Star Struck | The Prophet of Steampunk

Silicon Valley Comic Con returns with sci-fi stars, creative cosplayers and super heroes of all stripes.

There may not be a unified field theory yet, but the axis of science, technology and popular culture brought together at the Silicon Valley Comic Con may help the world find the key someday. The Steve Wozniak-founded convention unites authentic scientists and wreakers of fictions, in addition to movie stars who prove the Peter Weller Rule. Weller will never overdraw the credit he got from starring in Robocop and Buckaroo Banzai—the cult film name-checked in Ready Player One. Weller will always work because science fiction and fantasy fans are the most ardent of all fans. And they never forget.

Celebs this year include Mads Mikkelsen, the asthmatic Le Chiffre from Casino Royale (2006) and Ian McDiarmid, the palpably evil Emperor Palpatine. Jeff Goldblum, a Weller Rule beneficiary because of Thor: Ragnarok, canceled. But Stan Lee is still slated for an appearance—the Marvel co-founder must have access to some xenotechnology that holds the Angel of Death at bay.

Nichelle Nichols, the classic Star Trek's Uhura, was there last year to introduce Mae Jemison, the first African American woman in space. And Andy Weir, author of The Martian and Artemis will be back for another visit. "He's been our mascot for all three years," says the SVCC's chairman, Trip Hunter.

Hunter worked with Wozniak at Fusion-io; organizing the event is one of his jobs as a marketer. "People carve out time for this because it's really fun."

Like just about every great gathering in the Silicon Valley, SVCC has had Goldilocks moments. The first year was too hot: the floor was jampacked, and the air conditioning broke. In 2017 the crowd was too sparse because of the 10,000-person science march at Chavez Park, encompassed by the SVCC. "Last year," Hunter said, "we expanded perhaps too much. It was a terribly expensive ordeal. You had to get organized with the police and the water and fire departments. There's a lot of hindsight in this business."

In 2017, Hunter only attended one panel because of his schedule. He went to see Jessica Coon, the Canadian linguist who was a source for the character Amy Adams played in Arrival. "I was unsure of how popular her talk was going to be, so I was gratified to find it standing room only. I felt like we must have been on to something. "

The surprises are always the best part of SVCC—last year, I missed Shatner himself to go see warrior-woman movie star Pam Grier. Grier opened up about her considerable terrors and traumas. Her ability to project that lioness strength is all the more remarkable, considering what she's been through.

"The best thing that happened to me at these conventions was the time Janna Levin, an astrophysicist from Barnard, was on one of the panels," Hunter says. "Afterward, I got an email from a 15-year-old girl who told me, 'I didn't know what I wanted to do with my life until I saw Janna Levin.' I hope we're influencing kids into STEM—because that would make this whole thing worthwhile.

"We're trying to do a recipe that's different than the San Diego Con—they do what they do very well. Woz said, 'I don't want to be the biggest, I want this to be the best we can do.' He's very sensitive to attendees not being happy. So we hope they'll like the mix that we're bringing."

Call the Doctor