Sci-fi fans jam local hotel for Spacedock

February 08, 1998|By LAURA ERNDE

by Joe Crocetta / staff photographer

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Sci-fi fans jam local hotel for Spacedock

If you don't know what DS9 stands for or you think a Ferengi must be some type of mushroom, you probably weren't at The Venice Inn in Hagerstown on Saturday.

Science fiction fans there could tell you that DS9 is short for the television show "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" and that a Ferengi is an alien species featured on the show.

About 465 sci-fi fans attended the first day of Spacedock, said organizer Stella Sutkiewicz of Fruitland, Md. The convention continues from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. today.


Fans of Star Trek spinoffs and other sci-fi shows like "Highlander: The Series" and "Babylon 5" got a chance to meet some of their favorite actors.

More importantly, the close-knit community of fans got to see each other and trade stories about the shows as well as their own lives.

The shows provide the common ground that allows deep friendships to form, convention-goers said.

"It goes so much beyond fan-dom. These are my buddies. These are friendships and relationships that are going to last forever," said Jan Lopreste, 38, of Morgantown, W.Va.

Often, fans meet over the Internet.

Leona Shoffit, 43, and Beth Landon, 42, met while working at a medical laboratory in Oklahoma City.

Because of their mutual interest in "Highlander," about a race of immortals, they recently found themselves arguing about an episode the whole way home from a sci-fi convention in Dallas.

Their friendship has grown closer because of the argument about what constitutes the betrayal of friendship, they said.

"You discover kind of like hot-buttons within yourself," Shoffit said.

"Highlander" fans got to meet and get an autograph of actor Jim Byrnes. Some got their picture taken with him.

Other celebrities on hand were Philip Anglim and Aron Eisenberg of DS9 and Julie Caitlin Brown of Babylon 5.

It was the first convention for Anglim, who was killed off as a character on DS9 until his fans complained. They wore orange ribbons, the color of his costume, to protest his demise, Sutkiewicz said.

Anglim will return to play a similar character from a parallel universe, she said.

Fans of Eisenberg, a kidney transplant recipient, sold autographed pictures and buttons to raise money for the National Kidney Foundation.

Eisenberg portrays Nog, a member of the greedy Ferengi species known for their elephantine ears.

Fan club President Anita Campbell's science fiction days go back to the original "Star Trek" and an affinity for Spock.

"I sometimes think I have an ear fetish," said Campbell, 49, of Union, N.J.

In addition to the National Kidney Foundation, other charities will receive proceeds from the convention, Sutkiewicz said.

They are, St. James and Stone Chapel United Methodist churches in Carroll County, Md.; International House of Blues Foundation; and Lewis County Children's Fund of Tennessee.

Salespeople at the convention sold Star Trek communicator pins and other sci-fi collectibles, jewelry and videotapes.

One man sold what he called "real science," a voice-activated computer security system.

Tickets for the convention today are $45.

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