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March 14, 2002

Mr. Sandman
Bestselling author Neil Gaiman is guest of honor at AggieCon 33

Eagle Staff Writer

WHAT: AggieCon 33, featuring author Neil Gaiman and fantasy artist Charles Keegan. Activities include guest panels, a dealer’s room with comics and collectibles, gaming and a 24-hour anime
WHO: MSC Cepheid Variable
WHERE: 2nd floor of Texas A&M’s Memorial Student Center and throughout Rudder Tower
WHEN: March 21-24
COST: Nonstudents $22, students $18, One day $15, ages 3-12 $6.

To some people, science fiction is pure escapism. To Yaru Liu, it’s all about the future.

For the second straight year, the Texas A&M student is director of AggieCon, one of the largest science fiction conventions in the Southwest — and the oldest to be completely run by students.

“[Science fiction] looks into how things could be,” Liu said. “It’s even sort of a ‘safe’ medium to explore present-day ideas and follow them to a conclusion, like George Orwell did with [his dystopian novel] 1984.”

Guest of honor for the 33rd annual event, sponsored by MSC Cepheid Variable, is author Neil Gaiman, whose most recent novel is American Gods. According to an interview on Gaiman’s Web site, the book is “about how, when people came to America, they brought their gods with them. And then they just weren’t very interested in them any more.”

The realm of gods is familiar territory for Gaiman, who is perhaps best known for writing The Sandman, a 75-issue comic-book series published by DC Comics/Vertigo. The fantasy-horror series focuses on The Endless, a dysfunctional family of godlike beings nominally headed by Morpheus, the lord of dreams.

Epic in scope, thoughtful and mature, The Sandman opened many U.S. readers’ eyes to the potential of comics as a medium beyond superhero slugfests and cartoony children’s fare. A multiple award-winner, The Sandman was also one of the first comics to be collected into paperback form. Several volumes are available at the College Station Public Library.

Among his other books are Stardust, Neverwhere and (with Terry Pratchett) Good Omens.

Q&A sessions with Gaiman will be in MSC 201 at 4 p.m. Thursday and 1 p.m. Friday. He will have a reading in MSC 410 at 10 a.m. Sunday.

The artist guest of honor will be Charles Keegan, who has painted covers for books by Poul Anderson and Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series.

The many other guests include author Joe R. Lansdale and his wife, fellow writer Karen Lansdale. The Nacogdoches-based Mr. Lansdale is the award-winning author of more than a hundred short stories and a dozen novels, many in a style best described as “indescribable.” His suspense novels include Bad Chili and Mucho Mojo.

John Lucas is a Waco-based comic-book artist making his fourth appearance at AggieCon this year. He and acclaimed fellow artist Brian Stelfreeze kick off the con Thursday, March 21, with Line Game. The artists are given a few lines, pull the name of an artistic style from a hat and must produce a picture in that style using the provided lines.

Even though he reads mostly nonfiction, Lucas said that his participation in AggieCon has been highly rewarding.

“ I ... get to visit friends,” he said. “Stelfreeze has become a pal. I met [previous guest] Tim Bradstreet here, and we’ve become pals. And I’ve stayed friends with the group of kids who were running the first AggieCon I came to.

“I just really dig small cons. The attendees are always glad to see you. The big shots don’t get to the area, so I can actually pass as a somebody.”

Liu said AggieCon gets between 400 and 500 attendees every year. Between the guest panels,the anime programming, the dealer’s room and the art show, there’s plenty to keep them occupied. In addition, the con does its part for charity with an annual auction in support of Scotty’s House.

“We’ve done the auction for many years,” Liu said, “and have brought in as much as $2,000.”

Other con highlights include the Masquerade Ball and the traditional screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. A full list of events, times and places is available at the con Web site.

Tickets to AggieCon are available at the MSC Box Office. For more information, call the Student Programs Ofiice at 845-1515.

AggieCon 33

Neil Gaiman

Charles Keegan

• Josh Krach’s e-mail address is jkrach@theeagle.com.

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