Science Fiction conventions suffer from plenty of stereotypes. One immediately thinks of the Saturday Night Live skit where William Shatner is asked for a precise tribble count. Or the great final scene in Galaxy Quest where Tim Allen destroys the evil alien in what the fans see as a great stunt. There is truth to those stereotypes which Sharyn McCrumb so deliciously lampooned in Bimbos of the Death Sun.

Science fiction conventions are easy to mock. People dress up in costumes that can be outlandish, superbly detailed or practically obscene. Pale faced men spend hours staring into videogame terminals or re-fighting the battle of Kursk. There are Klingons, Vorlons, Cylons and more all together for a weekend party.

Really, that's all a science fiction convention is: a weekend party for people who love science fiction and fantasy.

But in the beginning, there was the book. Speculative fiction (to use Orson Scott Card's term) is a literature of the imagination, of ideas. It was only natural that those who read the literature would wish to meet and talk with those who create it. Authors would like to meet their readers. Unrecognized mostly, at a con they receive their fifteen minutes of fame. Moreover, they get to connect with their fans and perhaps expose their works to new readers. Writers and editors get to engage in informal shop talk. And to party.

Context was created to return to the early roots of science fiction fandom, to smaller less formal conventions where the authors and the fans have enough space and time to actually interact and get to know each other. Though the creators and concom enjoy media SF, they wanted to focus more on the written word. By limiting the con's scope they hoped to control the convention size to the point where the Famous Author can actually afford to hang out in the con suite. Inspired by the ideas seeded within the literature, they wanted a place where those ideas could be discussed and inspire further discussion.

They succeeded. Context is a weekend party for the intellectual bibliophile. It's small enough that David Brin can afford to hang out in the con suite on Saturday night. Where Joe Haldemann might just sit down at your table and join in the discussion. Where you get to join in a discussion between Gene Wolfe and Mike Resnick. Where you go to lunch with Robert Sawyer, or drink beer with Allen Steele. I know, because I've done that.

Your brain will be stimulated. Context is a sericon, a particular variant of the SF convention given over to programming. Mike Resnick has compared it to Boston's Readercon. On Friday night the emphasis is given over to science. Local physicists, etymologists, historians and more offer demonstrations on evolution, cosmology or the behavior of slaver ants. Last year Catherine Asaro gave a talk on the real physics of travelling faster than light.

Other nights there will be panels on poetry, education and history, and of course the business of writing. The art show and dealer's rooms are small, but of high quality. Thanks to the Midwest Anime Guys, you can get a good introdutoin to anime.

You may improve your writing. The Context Writer's Workshop is affordable, run by Charles Colmean Finlay, and several graduates have gone on to multiple book deals. Many noted writers participate as instructors and the Guest of Honor amd Editor Guest of Honor usually pops in to contribute. You get to network as well.

Most of all, Context is fun. The con suite is friendly, reasonably well stocked and welcoming. The place is small enough that even shy people find space to participate. The con is loaded with people who read. David Brin said, " have been to cons with five times as many people with fewer readers." The Context attendees include the smart fens, the engineers and doctors who enjoy nothing more than talking about a great idea. Over chocolate and a drink of course. Or perhaps dinner at one of the many good restaurants nearby.

Context traditionally takes place in Columbus, Ohio in the first or second week of Cotober. In 2006, Context 18 will take place on October 6-8 with the location TBA. This year's guest of honor is noted Hugo, Nebulla, Tiptrtee and Campbell award wining author Maureen F. McHugh. Bram Stoker Award nominee Tim Waggoner is our Horror Guest of Honor, with Ellen Datlow editor GoH. Mike Resnick, Kay Kenyon, Stoker winner Gary A. Braunbeck are among the other guests. Fianna is our featured filksinger. A weekend pass if $45 (cheap!) or $80 if you wish to participate in the writer's workshop. For more information check out the conventionweb site at for rates, directions and so on.

Context is mind-candy for geeks

Connie Willis said this about her experience at Context.

Context was one of my favorite cons inrecent years. The programming was interesting, the people on the panels (and in theaudiences) were fascinating, the attendance at programming was great,and everything went off without a hitch. I'm going to recommend Context to everybody I know."

Mike Resnick calls us "The Readercon of the Midwest"

Robert J. Sawyer said about Context 12: ""It was a FABULOUS convention. Mike Resnick characterized it as the Readercon of the Midwest, and that's bang on target. I've been to SF conventions with five times as many people there with fewer actual readers. There was a great group of other writers present."

For more info visit the Context Web site:

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