On a warm Saturday morning in early September, a small group of volunteers gather at a storage locker in Coralville sifting through plastic storage tubs filled with supplies in preparation for the longest-running fan organized science fiction and fantasy convention in Iowa called ICON, which will be held later that month in Cedar Rapids.
Started in 1975 by a University of Iowa student organization, ICON is held in the fall of every year via the support of the Mindbridge Foundation and hundreds of volunteers.
Past guests have included Hugo Award-winning authors Ann Leckie and George R.R. Martin (before his HBO hit show, “Game of Thrones”), and artists Megan Lara and Lar deSouza.
This year’s event is the 42nd ICON. Forty-two is an auspicious number due to its connection to Douglas Adams’ novel, “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” which indicates that 42 is the answer to life, the universe and everything.
This year’s organizers hope galaxy hitchhikers, young and old, will grab their towels and join them for Hitchhiker’s Guide to ICON 42 Friday to Oct. 1 at the Cedar Rapids Marriott.
Guests this year will include Wesley Chu (“The Lives of Tao”) and Jim C. Hines (“Terminal Alliance”), theater artist H. Russ Brown and ICON founders Joe Haldeman (“Forever War”) and his wife, Gay, who are referred to as Papa and Mama ICON. Tickets for the weekend as well as single day passes will be available at the door starting at 2 p.m. Friday.
As pop culture has grown in the Digital Age to accept and embrace shows like “Star Trek,” “Star Wars,” “Game of Thrones,” “Outlander” and more, interest in ICON has grown over the years.
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Today the three-day event is expected to attract about 500 visitors as fans of all ages join together in a family-friendly environment to discuss a variety of fandom-related topics such as the implication of the first female doctor on “Doctor Who” or how to binge watch responsibly, or which comic book universe has the best superheroes.
There also will be a free student writing workshop for high school and college students on Friday afternoon (registration required), a game room; a masquerade for cosplay participants and, new this year, a Variety Show, both held Saturday evening. Local band Wylde Nept will perform Friday night.
The event raises money for charity, which this year goes to the James L. “Rusty” Hevelin Collection housed at the University of Iowa. Hevelin was a science fiction fan and accumulated a large amount of pulp magazines, fanzines and other science fiction and fantasy memorabilia. He was a fixture at ICON and other science fiction/fantasy conventions until his death in 2011.
The UI is working to digitize Hevelin’s collection. Funds ICON raises though sales at Thursday’s author signing at Barnes & Noble in Cedar Rapids and the Charity Auction and Headshots for Charity will support the digitization effort.
For more information, including a programming schedule, visit Iowa-icon.com.
If you go
l What: Hitchhiker’s Guide to ICON42
l When: Friday to Oct. 2
l Where: Cedar Rapids Marriott, 1200 Collins Rd. NE, Cedar Rapids
l Cost: $65 for a weekend; $30 Friday only; $45 for Saturday only; $20 for Sunday only, $100 for benefactor; free for children to age 12 with paid adult registration
l Register: Online registration is now closed; On-site registration begins 2 p.m. Friday
l Details: Iowa-icon.com