CARY — They came sporting blue hair, wearing winged helmets, carrying light sabers and pledging not to shoot Nerf bullets into the koi pond.
They came prepared to grapple with weighty questions: Why do we love to hate superheroes? Why does the end of the world sound like so much fun? What’s good on TV?
But mostly, they drooled in anticipation of the big event at Illogicon, the three-day science fiction convention running through Sunday in Cary: Saturday-night’s burlesque show, much of which will be comic book-themed.
“Nerdy burlesque is huge right now,” said Allegra Liana, setting up her display of knives and flogging tools.
Friday marked the second year for Illogicon, one of a handful of sci-fi gatherings in the Triangle. It is expected to attract roughly 200 zombie, Martian and wizard enthusiasts and a sample of local sci-fi scribes.
The Triangle now boasts three sci-fi gatherings, giving it wider notoriety in the world of fantasy fighters and space drama. Illogicon’s Friday schedule: 5 p.m., the state of short fiction; 6 p.m., advanced zombies; 8 p.m., dance with tunes supplied by DJ Jules Verne.
“There’s a lot of niches in overall geekdom,” said Brandon Ulick, Illogicon manager, “and we’re in favor of all of them.”
The panel discussions alone justify shelling out $25 for a pass: The Importance of Monsters. Time Travel is the Simplest Thing. Bad SF Reading in Cartoon Supervillain Voices.
Inside the Embassy Suites hotel, dozens of real-live scribblers gazed into the navel of the universe, delivering sad news about the close friendship between publishing and poverty.
“I thought my last book, ‘No Going Back,’ was the best thing I’d written,” said Mark Van Name, who keeps his day job running a marketing and technology firm in RTP. “It sold like my books tend to sell, like a pebble disappearing into a lake.”
In the convention’s early hours, sci-fi fans gabbed about how much fun it would be to hear an author conduct an entire reading under the influence of helium, and what compels the average person toward weirdness. Chin-scratching stuff.
“The number one advice to writers is write what you know,” said James Maxey, who’s written eight novels. “So what compels us to write about a gorilla in a dress bicycling to the moon to fight zombie Nazis?”
As Friday wore on and dance time neared, veterans mulled over war stories from conventions past: the time the police had to taze three people in the parking lot; the time just last year in Raleigh when a guy made too much merry and starting throwing pancakes in the IHOP parking lot on Hillsborough Street; the time a convention-goer brought a cooler full of deer meat and began tossing it around a bar.
“It even became a contest of who could land the liver into a pitcher of beer,” panelist Jim Minz said.
But even for those wrapped in fantasy garb and wielding futuristic weapons, Illogicon demands politeness.
The rules, as spelled out in the program:
1. You can’t prance around naked.
2. Don’t throw anything in the koi pond.
3. Nerf weapons are fine if you’re not annoying with them.
4. Don’t behave like a creepy basement dweller.
In the end, participants pledged to practice weirdness with a purpose. Nothing falls shorter than gratuitous strange behavior, panelists agreed. And with that, they suited up in leather and chain-mail, prepping for the big dance.