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The life fantastic

Sat., Aug. 10, 2013

Annual SpoCon Convention kicks off

Andrew Stepan is indecisive.

“I’m either a human or a dwarf, or a human who’s one-quarter dwarf,” he said. “Whatever I need for that particular game.”

Stepan attended the SpoCon 2013 sci-fi/fantasy convention Friday afternoon. The convention will continue through Sunday, bringing science-fiction, Steampunk, anime and gaming fans from across the Inland Northwest to the downtown Spokane DoubleTree Hotel.

Stepan’s a live action role-player, or LARPer. He can be found in Manito Park most Saturdays by the “sound of whacking noises,” as Spokane LARPers hit each other with homemade and plastic or foam weapons.

Stepan’s geek-chic outfit Friday was a “dwarven samurai” built almost entirely from scratch, complete with a foam and bamboo ax and pieces of armor inspired by period pieces. It’s all heavy gear, but Stepan said he’s faster than he looks.

“I love chasing the wizards, because they don’t expect me to chase them,” he said.

Being a member of the fandom is a major time commitment for Scott Wrobel, a Washington State University student and “maker of things and stuff” in his spare time. It’s taken 500 hours and three years for Wrobel to complete his snakeskin-like armor, and he still plans to add to it.

Each piece of his armor is handmade, down to the potion holder on his belt, which contains restoration potions – blue and red Gatorade. He showed off a harness under his scale mail vest, a leather belt with metal sleeves that fits around his chest.

“I could wear that and go full-on Conan (the Barbarian),” he said. “I don’t have the abs for Conan, but I could do that if I wanted to.”

The weekend’s events range from serious to silly.

Several guest artists and authors will host readings and speeches, including acclaimed science-fiction writer Brandon Sanderson.

Paying homage to a well-known spoof of “On Top of Old Smokey,” a lecture Sunday will evaluate the physics behind why one loses their poor meatball when somebody sneezes, and what it really takes to get that meatball into the garden.

Local businesses and artists will also display their wares throughout the weekend. Friday afternoon, men and women dressed as their favorite anime or television characters weaved through the booths looking at games, books or costume pieces.

At the art auction, Theora Rice weaved an ear cuff out of silver wire. It’s an elven ear, she said, the delicate silver wire decorated with a pale pink bead. Rice was dressed in a fitted corset, long skirt with a chain belt and lacy shirt.

“I feel lazy,” she said about her outfit, as she usually wears a more elaborate costume.

Rice said her parents have been longtime members of the science-fiction fan community. She was raised at conventions, she said, and it’s been a major part of her life.

The all-encompassing nature of the community is the main appeal for Rice. There’s something for everyone at sci-fi conventions, she said, a safe place for the “fandom” to celebrate and enjoy their common interests.

“It is the most accepting and open-minded community you’ll ever meet,” she said.

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