Bubonicon, Albuquerque's first and only sci-fi and fantasy convention, enters its quadragenarian phase this year. Despite a little future shock, the hobbyist gathering established back in the days of moon landings, acid tests, free love and rotary phones just won't burn out. The annual convention draws about 500 science-fiction, fantasy and horror enthusiasts rarin’ to meet authors, try cereals named after movies or dress up like a Sith Lord. As the convention co-chair, Craig Chrissinger was able to share some nonfiction about the event. (Oh, and for its 40th anniversary, give Bubonicon a ruby.)
Where did the name Bubonicon come from?
In 1971, Robert E. Vardeman [author of more than 100 sci-fi books and convention founder] had noted that the country of Egypt was not allowing anybody from New Mexico to travel there because of the fact that we do still have bubonic plague cases every year and thought that was something that should be recognized. Science-fiction conventions often take their names from something that is unique to the area or is a pun on the name of the town. Denver has MileHiCon. Austin, Texas, has ArmadilloCon, since armadillos are common to the area. We've got Bubonicon. We could've been NuclearCon, I guess. The first couple actually ran under the name NewMexiCon.
Do people dress up in Swamp Thing costumes and stuff like that?
Some. Because we are more literary-based, you're not getting quite as many costumers, as say, like San Diego's Comic-Con, which has become kind of this media monster—it did not start out at 125,000 people, it started out much smaller. We do have costumers. Actually, there's a Star Wars club here that usually comes to conventions, mostly on Saturday, in their Stormtrooper outfits. Because we do have a costume contest on Saturday evenings, that's the day people normally tend to dress up.
What makes a New Mexico sci-fi convention different from one in, say, Delaware?
They all have their own unique flavor, and a lot of it has to do with the people who live in your state, the people who contribute to it. In New Mexico, probably our main distinction is we are very blessed with the number of professional writers in the state. Whether it's science fiction or fantasy or mystery, the state has a plethora of authors. So our ratio of fans to authors at Bubonicon is a very good one. We have about one professional for every 15 or 20 people. That's pretty amazing.
Is that just because people have moved to New Mexico?
Some are native, some have moved here. One thing an author said to me many years ago is, As a writer you can basically live anywhere. And this was even true when works were being typed out on typewriters. You can live anywhere because you don't have to be in an office. You don't have to drive to a workplace.
Sci-fi fans are associated with a certain archetypal character—the egghead outcast who's maybe a little awkward socially. Is there any truth to that?
It's up for debate and discussion. Socially maladjusted is the term we use here. It's probably about the same as in the general population. It's maybe because people are in a costume, or whatever, it may be easier to point them out. But I work at a bookstore, and I certainly see the range of humanity every day. Fans vary. Yeah, there's the stereotype, and a lot of people in fandom will make fun of the stereotype. And that's part of the thing, being able to laugh at yourself. The truth is that you see fans from every background, every educational level, every job. We've got people from Sandia National Labs and the guy who works at Chick-fil-A.
What's the role of sci-fi in our culture?
It really depends. I think it's changed from the '40s and '50s when people would say, Oh, you're reading that crazy Buck Rogers stuff. Now the movies that tend to make the most money every year are the science-fiction, fantasy and comic book based. The literature is sometimes looked down upon still. ... It can be used the same as any good literature. It can be used to look at what's happening in society, or what's happening with people themselves. Specifically within science-fiction, you probably have more works that [question] if this technology continues at a growing rate, what is the possible end result?