Third annual Silicon Valley Comic Con bridges technology and pop culture

April 30, 2018, 1:45 p.m.

Now in its third year, Silicon Valley Comic Con (SVCC) — best known for being co-founded by Steve Wozniak and featuring a keynote speech presented by him — was held at the San Jose Convention Center in early April. The annual SVCC stuns as a pop culture convention, with big-name celebrity guests including Krysten Ritter, David Tennant, Stan Lee and Sean Astin. Most of the guests only did autographs and photos — beloved by fans — but there was also a sparse selection of well-known panelists. The overall panel schedule was less rigorous than larger conventions, but selections were decidedly more tech-focused than other large comic book and media conventions.

A unique feature of SVCC is its inclusion of “app alley,” which features emerging technology items and presentations from science organizations such as NASA. Fans of all ages gathered, comparing and admiring cosplay outfits, trading stories and discussing their favorite fandoms. Hallways and communal spaces at the convention center became a place of conversation, situated comfortably right outside the large hall with purchasable items. The SVCC artists’ alley — a convention staple — had an incredible selection of items and collectibles for purchase, including a more diverse set of interesting knick-knacks (favorites include fake ID cards and parking passes from TV shows and films, under-lit engraved plastic tabletop insignia and walls of unique buttons and pins).

Because of its unique location in the Bay Area, SVCC attracted artists with more specific niches. Talking to a few vendors, many also attend the San Jose Toy Show, which includes some overlap with the traditional geek-collectible community. Many fan attendees also follow certain vendors and their wares, knowing each other on a first name basis and making an effort to track conventions at which they’ll be selling their products. This is something about fandoms and fan culture that inspires me — this unifying force and a unique, mutual fascination for fandoms, whatever they may be. Many vendors and artists that sell their own products start out as fans themselves, creating designs and products that others find unique, some even starting from encouragement of friends and family to begin creating their own personal brand.

After recently starting to watch “Altered Carbon,” I attended the panel with Mexican actress Martha Higareda. From past conventions, I tend to shy away from spotlight panels simply because of their tendency to become a simple question and answer, which this one also turned into. In a lengthy panel, a moderator has to come up with nearly hundreds of questions, even if they’re effective at bouncing the conversation back and forth. Although I enjoyed the discussion, spotlights like these can get tedious and a form of back and forth tennis match between panelist and moderator with virtually unrelated questions.

Nevertheless, SVCC was a refreshing change from the often popular media-dominated landscape of fan conventions today. I was excited to see people engage with the NASA representatives and other science groups, and enthusiasts of technology of all sorts spurned conversation all around the convention center. Again, as a science fiction-obsessed fan, maybe I’m biased — but conventions like these have the potential to incite excitement for STEM careers in areas that directly tie to passion for fandoms.

Contact Olivia Popp at oliviapopp ‘at’

Olivia Popp was a managing editor of Arts & Life for volumes 251 through 254 and the editor-at-large for The Stanford Daily's board of directors for volumes 254 and 255. She hails from Michigan and enjoys science fiction TV shows, independent film festivals, and the Bay Area theater scene.

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