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Word Balloons: SoonerCon celebrates 'Star Wars' and more

Costumed characters at last year's SoonerCon. [Photo provided]

Costumed characters at last year's SoonerCon. [Photo provided]

MIDWEST CITY — SoonerCon, the Oklahoma City metro area's sci-fi/fantasy convention that dates back to 1986, is getting a big time guest from a galaxy far, far away.

The convention was revived in 2006, and this year expects more than 2,200 attendees to visit the show. The original iteration of the convention took place from 1986-1997.

Author Timothy Zahn, who kicked off Star Wars' "Expanded Universe" in 1991 with the novel "Heir to the Empire," is the convention's guest of honor this year.

It's hard to imagine now, but for about six years in the late 1980s and early 1990s, "Star Wars" was largely in hibernation.

With no new films after 1983's "Return of the Jedi," fans of "Star Wars" were relegated to reading the comics and watching the aimed-at-kids "Droids" and "Ewoks" cartoons. And by 1986, even that was over.

In 1991, that all changed. The release of Timothy Zahn's literate, action-packed "Heir to the Empire" revitalized "Star Wars" as a publishing phenomenon, leading to more than 100 "Star Wars" books.

"I was a big fan of the movies, so when I was offered the chance to play in George Lucas's sandbox, it was both exciting and a bit scary," Zahn said in an interview with The Oklahoman. "I knew I needed to write a story that would fit into the overall "Star Wars" mythos and feeling, being true to the original characters even as I was adding new ones."

Set five years after the events of "Return of the Jedi," "Heir to the Empire" posited a struggling, infighting New Republic government dealing with surviving vestiges of the Empire.

The Grand Admiral Thrawn is a clever, charismatic commander whom Zahn describes as Erwin Rommel crossed with Sherlock Holmes. Besides Thrawn, Zahn introduced other characters who would become important in what's now called Star Wars' "Expanded Universe," smuggler Talon Karrde and former assassin Mara Jade. Although those novels are no longer "canon," Thrawn has made his way into the current mythos, and is the subject of Zahn's latest novel.

"I've spent so much time with Thrawn over the years (over the decades, really) that it was mostly just like revisiting an old friend," Zahn said. "This book covers a different era than I've written him in before, where he's dealing with unfamiliar Imperial politics and a somewhat prejudicial military structure, but Thrawn himself is still the same person that he always was."

In recent years, "Star Wars" has continued to be at the forefront of pop culture, with new films planned featuring new characters and storylines.

"Star Wars originally captured its audience by its wonderful mix of action, adventure, loyalty, courage, fear, danger, sacrifice, friendship, and humor," Zahn said. "Those are the factors and emotions that resonate with people of every nation and every era, and that's the mix we all continue to strive for."

The convention

"Star Wars" is just one of many fandoms that will be in focus at SoonerCon, which features gaming, cosplay, anime, comics and much more.

"SoonerCon 26's theme is 'welcome to the show,' focusing on showmanship, magic, carnivals, and circuses," programming director Matthew Alfred said. "We plan to have magicians perform, a dedicated kids programming track, and our Friday dance will be a Dark Carnival dance."

Overall, SoonerCon features more than 100 guests, including comic-book artists and writers, novelists, painters, actors and more.

Popular voice actor Todd Haberkorn (Ben 10, Fairy Tail) is a featured guest of the convention. Haberkorn said he already was a working actor on stage and in films before becoming a voice actor.

"When it came to my door, we seemed to get along and the rest is history," he said.

Haberkorn said he enjoys meeting with fans at conventions around the world. He says the most positive aspect of meeting with fans is "being reminded that what we do inside a sound booth or on a set actually gets to fans all over the world and impacts them in ways that we are never aware of until we see them in front of us. And that's such a great feeling; knowing we have a positive impact on people's lives amidst the sea of entertainment options."

Haberkorn played the live-action Spock in the fan films "Star Trek Continues" from noted anime voice actor Vic Mignona, who attended last year's SoonerCon. The fan film series will conclude with episode 11, for which filming has been completed.

Haberkorn said what's been rewarding about that role is "being able to fully realize the original vision of Vic's dream. And getting to play such an iconic role on a platform that is recognized in numerous countries with fans from all shapes and sizes.

"To be involved in a series with such a high production value built from the generous help of fans is unheard of on this level," he said.

"Star Trek" expert and Oklahoma native Larry Nemecek, who played McCoy on the first two "Continues" episodes, returns to SoonerCon this year with a look at the 30th anniversary of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" and much more Trek-related programming.

The artist guest of honor for 2017 is Peri Charlifu, known for his work in pottery.

Other featured guests include "Godzilla" comics artist Matt Frank; science fiction artist Mitchell Bentley; and inspirational speaker Victoria Price, daughter of noted actor Vincent Price.

NAMI of Oklahoma receives donations from SoonerCon, both from the charity auction and a portion of the ticket sales after expenses. Last year, SoonerCon donated $5,000 to the charity, which supports efforts to improve the lives of people with mental illness and their families.




Todd Haberkorn:

Twitter: @ToddHaberkorn, Instagram: @official_Habergram

Related Photos
<p><span class="bold">Timothy Zahn</span> </p>

Timothy Zahn  

<figure><img src="//" alt="Photo - Timothy Zahn   " title=" Timothy Zahn   "><figcaption> Timothy Zahn   </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//" alt="Photo - Todd Haberkorn " title=" Todd Haberkorn "><figcaption> Todd Haberkorn </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//" alt="Photo - Costumed characters at last year's SoonerCon. [Photo provided] " title=" Costumed characters at last year's SoonerCon. [Photo provided] "><figcaption> Costumed characters at last year's SoonerCon. [Photo provided] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//" alt="Photo - A variety of vendors will be on hand at this year's SoonerCon. [Photo provided] " title=" A variety of vendors will be on hand at this year's SoonerCon. [Photo provided] "><figcaption> A variety of vendors will be on hand at this year's SoonerCon. [Photo provided] </figcaption></figure>
Matthew Price

Features Editor Matthew Price has worked for The Oklahoman since 2000. He’s a University of Oklahoma graduate who has also worked at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and was a Dow Jones Newspaper Fund intern for the Dallas Morning News. He’s... Read more ›