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Fantasy and science fiction conventions ahead for Salt Lake City

By Ben Tullis

For the Deseret News

Published: Thursday, June 26 2014 3:50 p.m. MDT

Frodo (Elijah Wood) and Sam (Sean Astin) in "The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers." Both actors are scheduled to appear at next weekend's FantasyCon in Salt Lake City.

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SALT LAKE CITY — Science fiction authors, musicians, dwarves, hobbits, wizards and a dragon will all occupy the same city next weekend.

Three fan conventions covering the genres of fantasy and science fiction — FantasyCon, Westercon and CONduit — are scheduled at the same time for Salt Lake City between July 3 and 6. They're also collaborating more than competing, giving interested fans the opportunity to experience the different conventions with one purchased admission.

Utah-based FantasyCon will hold its inaugural convention July 3-5 in the Salt Palace Convention Center. The FantasyCon website says the event "is the first convention of its kind to answer the call for an interactive, immersive experience that encompasses all things in the ever-expanding genre of fantasy. In other words, anything outside the realm of reality."

“We are turning the Salt Palace into another world with a giant three-story-tall dragon, an animatronic rock monster, a battle arena and huge set pieces," said Josh Patel, founder and CEO of FantasyCon. "When people come into the Salt Palace … we want them to think that they’ve gone to Universal Studios or Disneyland without leaving the state."

Among the guests scheduled for FantasyCon are Elijah Wood (Frodo Baggins), Sean Astin (Samwise “Sam” Gamgee), Billy Boyd (Peregrin “Pippin” Took) and John Rhys-Davies (Gimli) from The Lord of the Rings trilogy; Simon Pegg, who plays Scotty in the new Star Trek films; Summer Glau of “Firefly” and “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles” fame; and many other celebrity guests.

According to the FantasyCon website, the event will feature opportunities for families to "visit with fantasy celebrities, dress up for cosplay and live action role-playing, wield swords, shoot bows, enjoy shows, explore masterworks of art, eat delicious foods and be entertained while creating memories that will last a lifetime."

Two other conventions are sharing the same space at the Marriott Hotel Downtown at City Creek from July 3-6. Westercon, a science fiction and fantasy convention held annually throughout the West since 1948, is combining with CONduit, Utah’s largest and longest-running science fiction, fantasy and horror convention, according to the CONduit Facebook page.

Combining the conventions “gives fans from both outside the state and inside to meet, network and learn from each other,” said David Doering, chairman of Westercon 67. “Since Westercon is a general science fiction and fantasy convention, it appeals to the same audience as CONduit, so it makes good sense to have the two together."

The combined convention will feature Larry Correia, New York Times best-selling author of the “Monster Hunters International” series, and David Farland, best known as the New York Times best-selling author of The Runelords series, as the special guests. Authors Brandon Sanderson (Mistborn series), Dan Wells (I Am Not a Serial Killer trilogy), Mary Robinette Kowal (“Shades of Milk and Honey”) and Cory Doctorow (“Little Brother”); cartoonist Howard Tayler (“Schlock Mercenary” webcomic); and "zombie expert" Bradley Voytek will also attend the convention.

Westercon and CONduit will include “four full days of panel discussions, presentations and social gatherings all about science fiction and fantasy," Doering said. "It is an intimate, participatory event for fans and creators, as attendees will interact with and learn from the top artists, writers and creators in the field during those four days."

The three conventions are being held in the wake of the inaugural Salt Lake Comic Con, which was held September 2013, and the Comic Con FanX convention in April. The two conventions drew a combined attendance of more than 150,000 visitors. The next Salt Lake Comic Con will take place Sept. 4-6.

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