One of the most unique festivals in Missoula hits its 33rd year in 2019 and promises a packed four days of everything science fiction, fantasy, comic book and video game.
Miscon 33, with a video game theme “Level Up!” returns May 24-27 at the Holiday Inn in downtown Missoula.
The festival reliably brings in popular geek-culture guests, with this year’s headline visitor, David Gerrold, the writer of one of the most famous "Star Trek" episodes of all time: “The Trouble With Tribbles.”
The episode followed the crew of the Starship Enterprise as they dealt with a quickly reproducing species of fuzzy beings, called Tribbles, creating the indelible image of William Shatner covered in hundreds of the creatures.
“Star Trek fans are huge fans of that,” Chairman Justin Barba said. “That’s his highlight.”
Gerrold went on to write other episodes of "Star Trek," as well as more than 50 books and has won both Hugo and Nebula awards for his work.
Though Gerrold doesn’t quite fit the video game theme, Barba noted they’re expanding that section of the convention, adding new vintage arcade booths and expanding the virtual reality setup.
The theme will encompass old-school gaming as well, with guest Jeff Grubb bringing his knowledge of Dungeons and Dragon tabletop games. Grubb worked on several D&D settings, including the Forgotten Realms and Dragonlance.
The science fiction/fantasy artist Jeff Fennel rounds out the new guests of honor. Fennel has experience working on video game art and design, in early Electronic Arts and Sega computer games.
There’s also a planned visit from festival favorite Dragon Dronet, Barba said. Dronet is a longtime prop master in Hollywood, working on "The X-Files," "Batman Returns," "Total Recall" and several "Star Trek" movies and television iterations.
Dronet will lead a combat demonstration, a metalworking shop and a two-hour prop casting, where he’ll use movie molds to cast items like batarangs or swords.
“He’s a huge draw,” Barba said. “He’s kind of a showman.”
Miscon will also have its annual costume parade through downtown on Friday evening, to announce its presence to the “usual inhabitants of Missoula.”
This event in particular, Barba has noticed, has grown in recent years, even as convention attendance has stayed at around 1,800 people.
“(The parade) keeps doubling in size every year, so I’m curious about this year,” Barba said. “A lot of the newer, younger interest of middle, high school kids are into the costumes.”
He attributed some of that younger interest in the growth of comic books and science fiction as part of popular culture, noting Miscon’s more diverse attendance than at their first events in the 1980s. Plus, Missoula’s convention offers more hands-on opportunities than larger versions in other cities.
“We offer a little bit of everything for everybody,” Barba said. “There’s not a lot of opportunities to hang out with someone who makes props for movies.”