Pride of the geek

. June 6, 2012.

Fast becoming one of the most popular science fiction/open source conventions in the Midwest, Penguicon is the highlight of the local “geek” year. A lot of its charm comes from the fact that Penguicon is not just a sf convention—or a computer convention—but a hybrid that is more than the sum of its parts.

Brandon Sanderson, author of Guest of Honor, is a rising star in the fantasy world, best known for his Mistborn trilogy and for being chosen to pen the last several volumes of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series after Jordan’s death. Many other science fiction and fantasy authors are returning to Penguicon including John Scalzi, Elizabeth Bear, among others. I can’t promise any particular authors this year, but I’ve met more authors at Penguicon than at any of the other cons I’ve attended.

On the technical side, Mitch Altman, hacker and circuitbender, and Jimmie P. Rodgers, ditto, are the named Guests of Honor, but there will be panels and discussions and demonstrations of all sorts of fascinating technical things. Circuitbending, for those not in the know, is the modification of the circuits of small electronic devices (usually low voltage and battery powered) in order to create new auditory and visual effects. The items which have been “bent” are then used most often in noise music, although more conventional musicians have also incorporated them.

The musical Guest of Honor is MC Frontalot, the creator and foremost proponent of “nerdcore” hip-hop. He writes witty songs on topics such as spoiler alerts, blogs, boss fights in video games, and the like—all much appreciated by the average geek. There will also be other musicians in attendance; in all likelihood, local comedy musician and Funny Music Project Tom Smith will be there, and other members of the FuMPite may attend as well.

Some well-loved and unique traditions of Penguicon include the “open source soda” project, in which various flavors of soft drinks are reverse engineered and/or straight-up created. Try the Butterbeer!—a liquid nitrogen ice cream track, in which various ingredients (including some definitely non-workable in traditional ice cream) are nearly-instanteously transformed by the magic of liquid nitrogen at negative 320 degrees Fahrenheit into tasty frozen dessert (this is done by trained volunteers, be assured); and the chaos machine, a room-sized customizable marble roller-coaster, which attendees can modify, build, and tinker with to their heart’s content.

More traditional convention activities such as an artist’s alley, a dealer’s room, a masquerade, and a well-stocked con suite, open to all members, are also scheduled.
April 29—May 1, 2011 at the Troy Marriott, 200 W. Big Beaver Rd, Troy, Michigan 48084. To register, go to http://penguicon.org/registration.php and follow the instructions. For more information on programming, check http://penguicon.org/thisyear.php as the convention grows closer.

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