This past weekend (October 24-26) proved to be a bit of unexpected fun right in my own backyard, so-to-speak; reason being that the seminar I usually attend and present at in the U.K. was scheduled at a different time this year. So instead of flying 5000+ miles to London for MCM Expo as I normally do in October, I stayed in Fargo and attended Valleycon, the local popular culture 3-day expo that covers everything from sci-fi to fantasy to comic books and gaming to horror and their related genres. It was the 40th anniversary for the con which also coincided with the 12th anniversary of the Fargo Fantastic Film Festival with over 300 films from all over the globe (a little more on this in a minute). Needless to say, these were two pretty large simultaneous events for Fargo, North Dakota.

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I do want to add that ValleyCon is a non-profit event which donates the proceeds to local charities, especially to the local children’s hospital. Kudos go out to the Red River Science Fiction & Fantasy (R2SF2), the host organization, for their generosity and for putting on such a great event.

As would be expected from a more localized event, the guests were considerably fewer than say a huge regional convention, but they were nonetheless impressive. One of the more notable celebrities was actress Dina Meyer whose roles have included Jane the bodyguard in Johnny Mnemonic, Kara in DragonHeart, Dizzy Flores in Starship Troopers, Detective Allison Kerry in the Saw franchise of films, Commander Donatra in Star Trek: Nemesis, and a slew of TV roles in such shows as CSI, NCIS, The Mentalist, Caste, Nip/Tuck, and Criminal Minds.

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Fantasy and science fiction author, as well as game designer, Troy Denning was also one of the featured guests. He is the author of a number of Star Wars Expanded Universe Novels, among other things.

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Tom Nguyen was the Art Guest of Honor at Valleycon for the second time. He is a Vientamese-American visual artist who started out freelancing to the likes of Marvel and DC Comics when he was just 19. And who doesn’t love Adolescent Radioactive Black Belt Hamsters? Come on!

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Other guests included a psychic (don’t get me started), several cartoonists, a demonstration by a world class makeup artist, and a local short story writer.

Combine all that with various vendors of comic books, collectibles, steampunk accessories, makeup and prosthetic artists/dealers, and even one guy who had spent his time recuperating from a debilitating injury building a to scale Dalek which you could sit in and drive! Exterminate! Exterminate!

Fargo Fantastic Film Festival was in its twelfth year but this was the last time it will reside with ValleyCon. It has grown exponentially over the years and will now be its own separate event two weeks prior to ValleyCon. The highlighted films from the festival will then be shown at ValleyCon. The 300+ entries this year were an eclectic grab bag of cinematic fun. There was Poison Apple, which tells Snow White’s story from the point-of-view of the apple. Not your style? Then how about Extreme Pinocchio, where a dwarf junkie disguises himself as Pinocchio so he can steal money from a psychopath who thinks he’s Geppetto? How about the techie drama Turn Right on Madness, the college road trip movie where their GPS leads them to their doom…or does it? One of the more clever titles, or so I thought, was Of Dice and Men, a story involving six gamer friends. You can see just from these couple of titles that no matter what your type of film is, there was bound to be at least one that you would like.

Along with all this madness, as if that wasn’t enough for a geek like me, there was a banquet, themed party rooms, and gaming tournaments of all descriptions – Battle Skies, Lost Worlds, Casting, Deadzone, a Dungeons & Dragons style session based on a magic scroll – The Wizard of Tresendar Manor, and a role playing murder mystery – Murder in Saint Sebastion. Of course there were costume contests, one for the younger cosplayers and one for the adults. I think that was the thing I missed most this year was that not a lot of people at the convention during the day were in costume. They were probably all home putting the last minute finishing touches on their cosplay.

Many thanks to the Chairman of ValleyCon, Tony Tilton, for giving me an all access pass for the weekend. ValleyCon 41 is scheduled for October 16-18, 2015, in Fargo. Hopefully I will be invited back next year! You can check out past ValleyCons’ photos and such, and keep up with info on the next convention at their website, valleycon.com

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Maybe I’ll see some of you there!

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