Droids, Transformers, authors and artists celebrate fandom at inaugural

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Hundreds of costumed characters mingled and posed for photos in Escondido on Saturday. But this was no Halloween party.

Fandom Invasion was more of a celebration of a lifestyle and a passion for those gathered at the California Center for the Arts, and it was a long-awaited event for the Science Fiction Coalition, which had originally planned it for November 2020 before it was postponed because of the pandemic.

“I’ve always been a creative person, and this is my way of getting my creativity out and having fun with it,” said Colleen Burks.

She and her friend Linda Shoberg were at a table representing Costuming 4 the Fun of It! and other associated groups, including one for Smokey Bear and another for Space Force U.S.A.

They were among 40 venders and artists at tables at the arts center. Two rooms were reserved for panels for cosplay, podcasts and interviews with actors from science-fiction shows, films and related topics.

Organizer Shawn Richter said the Science Fiction Coalition formed in 2017 and has about 200 members who dress up to attend various charity events. Members also enjoy going to many conventions, this being the first organized by the coalition. Members funded the convention and volunteered at the event.

Fans shop from one of the several vendors offering costume accessories for cosplay characters

Fans shop from one of the several vendors offering costume accessories for cosplay characters at the Fandom Invasion convention in Escondido on Saturday.

(Nelvin C. Cepeda/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

“It’s a show for fans and by the fans, not put on by a corporation or a company,” he said.

Costumes ranged from a sinister Darth Vader to a whimsical Alvin from the Chipmunks. The San Diego chapter of Droid Builders International displayed homemade versions of R2-D2 and R5-D4, while real actors from science-fiction shows signed autographs at a row of tables across the hall.

At the table for Geekyguys for God, Rancho Bernardo residents Joe Queen and Brian Slape introduced people to their Christian group, where members meet monthly for Bible study and costuming.

Their table include a graphic novel version of the Bible, and Queen said many comic stories about good and evil translate to biblical stories.

At another table, romance writer Cynthia Diamond, one of four authors at the convention, was promoting her “Wyrd Love” series.

“I love doing these,” she said. “There’s a lot of romance readers in this type of culture. They’re definitely my people. It’s really neat to be able to build relationships with readers. They become more than readers. They become a support system and friends.”

Anna Rose, author of “Luci: Rhodes to Hell,” said the convention was an opportunity to meet fans of other writers.

“I like being able to talk to people and meet people and find out what they’re into,” she said. “If they’re creative, what they’re working on, or if they read a lot, what are they looking for that they want to read? What makes them tick?”

Outside the venue, Dr. Justin Wu was dressed as the Transformer Bumblebee while standing next to three decorated cars he owns to promote his charity Healing Little Heroes Foundation, which provides costumed characters to visit young cancer patients.

Dr. Justin Wu gets assistance with transforming into Bumblebee Transformer from his wife, Bernie Wu.

Dr. Justin Wu gets assistance with transforming into Bumblebee Transformer from his wife, Bernie Wu.

(Nelvin C. Cepeda/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Chris Canole of La Jolla has been a member of the Science Fiction Coalition “since the first day” and said he attends up to 150 charity events annually as “Dude Vader.”

Dressed in gold armor made of foam — switching from metal reduced its weight from 55 to 15 pounds — Canole said he’s been into science fiction since his days at UC San Diego, where a teammate on his fencing team turned him onto the genre. The fellow fencer, Ken Stanley Robinson, went on to becoming an award-winning writer best known for his Mars trilogy.

“It started as a lark,” Canole said about his costume, which began as just a helmet with a Hawaiian shirt but has evolved into a head-to-toe outfit he modifies weekly. Canole said he was contacted by Lucas Films after he began appearing in the costume and feared they were sending him a cease and desist order. Instead, they began working with him, and he has appeared at red carpet events and Disneyland parades.

Trevor Newton of Murrieta came as the Marvel character Hawkeye and said the costume was inspired by his resemblance to actor Jeremy Renner, who has played the superhero in several movies.

As a member of the Science Fiction Coalition, Newton also appears at charity events as the character.

“I love to do the charity work,” he said, “having people embracing the character, and making people smile.”

Kat Baxter from Orange County was dressed as Gamora from

Kat Baxter from Orange County was dressed as Gamora from “Guardians of the Galaxy.”

(Nelvin C. Cepeda/The San Diego Union-Tribune)



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