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Sci-fi fans check out final frontier

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Enthusiasts flock to Keokon convention

KEOKUK -- Most folks don't realize Monday is the official birthday of Capt. James Tiberius Kirk, commander of the Starship Enterprise.

But the science fiction fans gathered in the Keokuk Public Library for the third annual Keokon 2010 Lite Speed science fiction convention certainly didn't forget.

Convention organizer Per Malm honored the character made famous by William Shatner with a Starship Enterprise birthday cake created by Hy-Vee, while his son Andrew sang happy birthday to the "Star Trek" theme. The celebration was topped off with the destruction of a Death Star piñata, which lasted exactly two whacks.

"This is becoming a tradition for our convention," Per Malm said. "It's a lot of fun."

The convention, which is the only one of its kind in the area, was last held in November 2009. Malm decided to move the convention to third weekend in March this year, which left him only three months to organize it.

"That's just not long enough," he said. "It's a lot smaller in scale than before. It's really an informal year."

But bigger doesn't always mean better. The most ardent science fiction fans arrived at the all-day convention when the doors opened at 9 a.m., spontaneously breaking into spirited discussions that would be lost on anyone not familiar with "Star Wars," "Star Trek" and "Dr. Who."

"I've been a science fiction fan since I was a little child," said Quincy, Ill., resident Greg Stille, who's a big fan of the military science fiction book series "Honorverse."

The first half of the day was spent in panel discussions headed by local experts, such as "Dr. Who" fan and Amana resident Bill Albert.

"I've been watching it ('Dr. Who') since 1973, when it was on Iowa Public Television," he said.

The original show ran from 1963 to 1989 and was successfully relaunched in 1995 on the BBC channel. The newest version of the show also airs on the Syfy channel, which has a history of editing the program for time constraints.

Considering the network's recent shift to shows that don't fall into the science fiction genre, there weren't many fans of the Syfy channel at the convention.

"There's no sci-fi on Syfy anyway. It's all reality shows," Albert said during the "Dr. Who" discussion panel.

"The best thing they have is 'Warehouse 13.' That show has great promise," said science fiction fan Nick Davis.

Albert hosted the discussion with Bonaparte resident Adam Whitlatch, who was the guest of honor at last year's convention. Both men are budding authors, and Whitlatch already has published several short stories and poems. Now, he's looking to sell the two novels he has written.

"The first Keokon was the first science fiction convention I had ever been to," he said.

Albert has two self-published fantasy novels out right now, and he's also hoping to catch the attention of a publisher. He does all of his own advertising and has to track down willing artists to create the covers for his books.

"It's a Catch-22. A lot of agents won't talk to you unless you have something published, but a lot of the publishers won't talk to you unless you have an agent," he said.

After the panel discussions concluded, the science fiction fans indulged in a few games and watched the 1927 silent science fiction film "Metropolis." One of Malm's favorite activities was a card game called "Once Upon a Time," which required the players to finish a fairy tale with the cards in their hands. Each card represented plot elements such as people, objects and events that could be used to spin the story.

Now that Malm has a full year to plan Keokuk 2011, he said it will be bigger than it ever has been before. And this time, it will be in the River City Mall.

"We're planning to fill as much of the mall as we can, and it will be free," he said.

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  • APA 6th ed.: Smith, William (2010-03-21). Sci-fi fans check out final frontier. The Hawk Eye p. 3A.
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