Balticon 44 adds more family-friendly programming

At the science-fiction convention, kids can take part in writing workshops, art activities and more

May 28, 2010|By Donna M. Owens

Special to The Baltimore Sun

To enter a world of costumed characters, sci-fi and fantasy, there's no need to journey to a galaxy far away. The whole family can escape close to home this holiday weekend to the 44th annual Balticon convention in Hunt Valley.

The four day-affair, which runs today through Monday at the Marriott Hunt Valley Inn, is expected to draw some 1,500 attendees.

They're an eclectic mix: local and national authors, artists, musicians, scientists, costumers, filmmakers and fans of science fiction and other genres.

"It's always exciting, but this year we've taken things up a level," said Jonette Butler, a spokeswoman for the Baltimore Science Fiction Society, which hosts the annual event using an army of volunteers.

Attendees will be privy to an array of discussions and presentations about literature, film, art, music, comics and other media.

Meanwhile, top researchers and experts will cover topics including paleontology, canine evolution and the future of NASA and space exploration. Live role-playing games, writers' workshops for podcasters and others, an art show and auction will round out the weekend.

Butler also points to an expanded film festival with more than two dozen independent short entries, and more offerings for young people, some specifically aimed at teens.

"There's really something here for every member of the family."

Here are some highlights:

•Teen Zombie Zone: "We'll have an anime and manga discussion, and a teen writing workshop led by a zombie expert," said Butler, chuckling. "In another "hands on" session, they will learn to draw, well, hands."

•Kiddie Picassos: For younger kids, there's "so much diversity," says Miriam Winder-Kelly, who is overseeing children's scheduling. "We have a dinosaur expert, and the kids will get to draw their favorite [dinosaur]. We'll have board games, card games, videos and movies."

•'Project Runway' With a Twist: The youngsters will also have a chance to be involved with one of Balticon's signature events, the masquerade. Envision an eye-popping display of folks strolling in fantastical costumes, many of them "original" creations.

"We'll give the kids a big bin of fabric and let them make their own this year," said Winder-Kelly. "The idea is to encourage creativity and love of science, in an environment that's safe and enjoyable and where they can learn something."

If you go

Balticon 44 runs today through Monday at the Marriott Hunt Valley Inn, 245 Shawan Road. Some areas remain open 24 hours a day. Balticon membership (four-day pass) is $60 for adults and $30 for children. One-day passes are available at the door and are $8-$45.

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