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ConDor: Aliens, Conspiracies, & Feds, Oh My!

Sci-Fi Convention Celebrates Its 19th Year

Above: Men in Black is the theme at this year's ConDor. Here is Lowell Cunningham's comic and the film franchise.

Aired 2/27/12 on KPBS Midday Edition.


James Hay, ConDor Programming Coordinator

Vernor Vinge, Science Fiction Author


Con-Dor (running March 2-4 at the Town and Country Resort and Convention Center) is celebrating its 19th year as San Diego's science fiction and fantasy convention. The convention focuses on the literary and is known for its intimacy and panel programming.

You could say ConDor lives in the shadow of Comic-Con. Comic-Con draws upwards of 125,000 attendees and attracts Hollywood celebrities. ConDor draws less than 1,000 and focuses more on the literary end of science fiction, horror, and fantasy. But the two are kindred spirits in their devotion to highlighting an aspect of pop culture.

This year's theme at ConDor is Men In Black: Aliens, Conspiracies, & Feds, Oh My!. One of the guests of honor is Lowell Cunningham, the author of "The Men in Black" comic that inspired the "Men in Black" film franchise (the latest installation of which, "Men in Black III," is due out May 25).

The thing that distinguishes ConDor is its intimacy that allows attendees to really meet and speak with panelists and authors. ConDor also features a dealers room, art show, masquerade, as well as Regency and Steampunk dances.

Vernor Vinge is one of the writers who will be appearing on panels. His latest book is "The Children of the Sky," and it features some interesting aliens to tie in with the convention theme.

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | February 29, 2012 at 9:18 a.m. ― 4 years, 11 months ago

MIB III. Why a third? Because Will Smith hasn't had a hit in years and Jones refuses to move on.

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Avatar for user 'timeofthefaeries'

timeofthefaeries | March 14, 2012 at 9:12 p.m. ― 4 years, 11 months ago

I thoroughly enjoyed our first visit to ConDor, both as panelist and an attendee. This convention was intimate and filled with great conversation with intelligent literary and artistic people.

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Avatar for user 'davidleesummers'

davidleesummers | March 14, 2012 at 9:53 p.m. ― 4 years, 11 months ago

I enjoyed this interview. James and Vernor are exactly right about what makes ConDor great. There's a real opportunity for readers and writers to interact. In addition to the specific things discussed in the interview, there is also a vibrant science fiction poetry community in Southern California. The poets held a workshop and reading this year. One of the people who attended mentioned that he sold one of his poems from last year's workshop. You can explore the science behind science fiction at ConDor. You can explore all the varieties of science fiction and fantasy writing from poems to short stories to novels. It's just a great event.

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Avatar for user 'kraita13'

kraita13 | March 14, 2012 at 9:59 p.m. ― 4 years, 11 months ago

I really enjoyed the interview. I met a few people at ConDor who attended because they heard it. Thank you for treating us science fiction fans like the intelligent adults we are. It means alot.

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Avatar for user 'RoxyanneY'

RoxyanneY | March 14, 2012 at 10:13 p.m. ― 4 years, 11 months ago

Hey, it's not just for intelligent adults; it's for intelligent kids, too. I took my daughter and three of her friends and all four of them had a great time. There were great workshops on storyboarding and screenwriting, and the kids enjoyed the open competition gaming, then we all enjoyed watching MIB with live commentary from creator Lowell Cunningham. It was like having a live DVD Extras track running. It made a huge impression on the two aspiring writers I had with me. I'm glad this kind of gathering is available for them. And for me, too!

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Avatar for user 'Var13'

Var13 | March 14, 2012 at 10:15 p.m. ― 4 years, 11 months ago

Wonderful interview. Another reason ConDor has survived as long as it has because we are a non-profit 100% volunteer organization of fans dedicated to providing our fellow fans and guests a friendly, relaxed environment to share interests and views with each other. Thank you for your thoughtful interview and article.

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Avatar for user 'Beth Accomando'

Beth Accomando, KPBS Staff | March 15, 2012 at 1:21 a.m. ― 4 years, 11 months ago

Glad to hear back from some of the people who attended. I was bummed to have gotten a sinus infection and was unable to attend. :( But there's always next year.

Thanks for the comments!

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Avatar for user 'SherwoodSmith'

SherwoodSmith | March 15, 2012 at 9:03 a.m. ― 4 years, 11 months ago

ConDor was great as always. For people who don't care for the high octane wall-to-wall mob scene of ComiCon, this one is great. The Men in Black portion of the program was excellent, and Lowell a fascinating guy, but that was a tip of the iceberg.

The weekend was filled with TV, movie, book, comic talk, including in dept discussions, like where religion and science meet--and complement one another. Writing talk, from beginners to advanced. Horror, weird science, myth, heroes. This con is small enough that discussions can spin off and take place comfortably in the fan lounge, or around the pool.

I always come away energized, and looking forward to next year.

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Avatar for user 'vontell'

vontell | March 15, 2012 at 11:36 a.m. ― 4 years, 11 months ago

The interview was excellent. I have been involved with the convention since its inception and this is the best interview about it (not to mention SF cons in general) that I have ever heard. Bravo to Beth for asking intelligent questions and Jim and Vernor for answering in kind. I hope, Beth, that you will attend next year - and that so will everyone reading this message.

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Avatar for user 'Beth Accomando'

Beth Accomando, KPBS Staff | March 15, 2012 at 12:08 p.m. ― 4 years, 11 months ago

I am planning on attending next year and I refuse to get sick again. :)


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Avatar for user 'ArtistSue'

ArtistSue | March 15, 2012 at 12:30 p.m. ― 4 years, 11 months ago

Nice interview. Condor is always a lovely, relaxing convention, with interesting people, intelligent conversation and lots of fun!

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Avatar for user 'Stashco'

Stashco | March 16, 2012 at 8:43 p.m. ― 4 years, 11 months ago

I enjoyed the interview. James Hay is a great guy and he adds a lot of fun to Condor. One of the things I enjoyed the most was the Calligraphy class. It should have been longer.

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Avatar for user 'gbenford'

gbenford | March 16, 2012 at 9:30 p.m. ― 4 years, 11 months ago

I go to the con for the science behind science fiction.
Jim Hay and the core staff are indeed savvy and tap into the tech culture of the city, indeed, of Southern California.
Condor folk are among the core of PBS supporters, too. This is what stitches society together.

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Avatar for user 'mgarstang'

mgarstang | March 16, 2012 at 10:46 p.m. ― 4 years, 11 months ago

ConDor reminds me of what Comicon was like in the 1970s, where you can really talk to the guest authors and panelists. The whole steampunk aspect really sets this con apart for me, too. I love looking at all the gadgets in the dealer's room, and there is nothing more fun than seeing my daughter in her steampunk dress! I was pleased to see a Buffy panel this year. There's always something interesting. Also, the art show is small, but always has many excellent pieces to see. The interview was great, by the way. It really captured the feeling of this con.

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Avatar for user 'jonmann'

jonmann | March 17, 2012 at 11:30 a.m. ― 4 years, 11 months ago

ConDor is a GREAT local SF convention. I travelled from Santa Monica to attend because of the excellent panels, parties and interaction with other fans of all stripes. SF Fandom is aging so it was good to see members of the younger generations attending. Mundanes don't know what they are missing by looking down their noses at highly intelligent people having a good time. The Geeks shall inherit the Earth!~) There all kinds of fans in the world from football to Hello Kitty and everythig in between. Many mudanes consider all SF to be escape fiction, but like any genre there are novels that are highly literate and some that are just entertainment. SF has exploded into the media like westerns of yesteryear. You see a lot of mixing of genres, gaming, costuming, comics, etc. Anything that gets people to discover the lost art of reading and writing in this internet age of ADHD, Asperger's and other syndromes of the 21st century.

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Avatar for user 'GarFiction'

GarFiction | March 17, 2012 at 2 p.m. ― 4 years, 11 months ago

Thanks for the interview! Mr. Hay's comment about the intimacy of the smaller cons was right on for me. We don't go to ComiCon any more because it's just too crowded and impersonal. At ConDor and other similarly-sized cons (we have two here in San Diego), I can actually participate in the panel discussions, which typically turn into group discussions rather than lectures by the guests. And when I visit the Con Suite, I can chat one-on-one with published authors and other guests, who actually remember me from past cons! ComiCon left me feeling overwhelmed and exhausted, but I always come away from the smaller cons feeling intellectually revitalized.

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Avatar for user 'sbloom'

sbloom | March 17, 2012 at 2:40 p.m. ― 4 years, 11 months ago

I had a great time at ConDor as usual, and really enjoyed meeting new attendees who heard about it for the first time from the story on KPBS.

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