Science Parties with Pop Culture at Silicon Valley Comic Con 2018

Who doesn't need an autograph from Nichelle Nichols. She was cast by Gene Roddenberry to create Chief Communications Officer Lt. Uhura, fourth in command of the Starship Enterprise, in his legendary TV series Star Trek. It was, in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King – “The first non-stereotypical role portrayed by a black woman in television history.”  (Photo: Courtesy of the Silicon Valley Comic Con)

Say hello to Silicon Valley Comic Con 3.0.

This weekend, the streets of downtown San Jose will be packed with science geeks. You're probably thinking, “This is new, how?” Well, some of them will be wearing costumes. But also, this comic con is very much different from the others worldwide in the sense it’s the baby of The Woz, Steve Wozniak of Apple fame.

"From the very beginning we chose to incorporate science and technology as much as we focus on pop culture. There is this union between the two, but we extend that much further," Silicon Valley Comic Con chairman Trip Hunter said.

Along those lines, Silicon Valley's Comic Con goes to extra lengths to pay tribute to real world heroes whose names are not as familiar to the public as the stars of film and television. For example, astronaut Dr. Mae Jemison, the first African American woman to go into space, will give a talk about human interstellar travel, introduced by Star Trek's Nichelle Nichols, who was the first African American woman to travel to space on TV.

Steve Wozniak and Stan Lee, two accomplished giants, one in technology, the other in science fiction, geek out at the Silicon Valley Comic Con.
Steve Wozniak and Stan Lee, two accomplished giants, one in technology, the other in science fiction, geek out at the Silicon Valley Comic Con. (Photo: Courtesy of Silicon Valley Comic Con)

"There are not that many public platforms for scientists delivering this size of a crowd," Hunter noted, adding he feels a strong drive to inspire the event's youngest attendees, from that 8-year-old experimenting with nuclear fission in his garage to that kid who just needs to know that science is cool.

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Last year, at a panel called "Women in STEM," astrophysicist Janna Levin spoke about black holes. Hunter thrills at the thought of the email he received afterward from a 15-year-old girl who wrote, "Until I went to that panel, I didn't know what to do with my life."

Hunter estimates the vast majority of the 60,000 people who annually attend are local. "90 percent California." I'd add that 100 percent are from this galaxy, but who can tell when so many people are in costume?

So don't get the idea science crowds out cos play and pop culture at SVCC. You can bet the blockbuster film Black Panther is on everybody's lips and there will be a capacity crowd to hear pop culture critic Evan Narcisse, talk about writing for Marvel Comics, including the Rise of the Black Panther series. (The fourth issue just came out this week.)

Evan Narcisse will probably be busy getting autographs at the Silicon Valley Comic Con, when he isn't busy giving then to Black Panther fans.
Evan Narcisse will probably be busy getting autographs at the Silicon Valley Comic Con, when he isn't busy giving then to Black Panther fans. (Photo: Courtesy of Silicon Valley Comic Con)

Is Narcisse a Comic Con enthusiast? Do you have to ask? "The best part of the experience has been meeting people who are reading the work and enjoying it, but also I’m going to get the chance to moderate some panels with people whose work I’ve loved my entire life and enjoy what’s it’s like to be a nerd in 2018," Narcisse told me.

He'll probably also find a way to point out how the success of Black Panther has dramatically proven, as he told me, "how if you give a wide latitude and agency to people of color -- and black people, specifically -- and trust and resources, you can reap similar benefits as what Marvel and Disney have."

Silicon Valley Comic Con runs April 6-8 at the San Jose Convention Center. Details here.

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