By Airman 1st Class Timothy Kim
When people hear the word “sci-fi,” they tend to reference popular franchises and series such as Star Wars, Star Trek, Doctor Who and Firefly.
On an honest scale from “no clue” to “no idea,” my knowledge on the world of science fiction and fantasy was limited.
All I knew about Sci-Fi was “Star Wars,” The Force, light sabers and a frozen Han Solo. When it came to fantasy, the only face that popped into my head was Elijah Wood from “Lord of the Rings.” That’s not to say that I was biased, I was just what my friends — who happened to be subject matter experts in the realm of sci-fi and fantasy — called an “ignoramus.”
My mind just couldn’t wrap itself around the mysteriously complex laws that surrounded the universe beyond ours.
I knew plenty about monsters and werewolves. I know all three colors of a light saber, wait, there’s a purple one? But I knew close to nothing about the other worlds that existed.
That is, until Nov. 15.
Saturday, I had the privilege of meeting experts of science fiction and fantasy when I walked through the doors of what I thought was the Landscheid Room in our very own Club Eifel.
Oh, how wrong I was. Awestruck and gob-smacked by the intensity of the fictitious science before me, I knew I was going to have an adventure … that was out of this world!
Okay… my bad.
Camera in hand, mike in my back pocket and my mind swirling, I walked from one corner of the room to the next as I grew anxious with anticipation.
Who were these costumed mercenaries? Why was Darth Vader staring me down from the other side of the room?
I had way too many questions. To get them answered, I walked straight over to the event organizer, who was kindly pointed out to me by a very courteous Doctor Who.
Jarrod Garceau, the genius behind Operation Sci-Fi Con 2014, was the man with the plan; a plan that has succeeded for seven years.
Though Jarrod couldn’t tell me anything about Ms. Pretty-in-Blue, he did spill the beans on his reasons for hosting this awesome get-together.
“I actually started this program seven years ago as an Airman,” Garceau said. “When I got out of the Air Force, I continued working with Club Eifel. They took the program, loved it and nurtured my nerdiness.”
Garceau proceeded to explain to me the specific events that he had planned for that day.
There were movie trailers, music, video game stations, and tabletop games – such as “Warhammer 40K.” There was also costume contests, photographs with professional costume club members (whaaaaat?) and medieval gladiator cage fights (whaaaaaaaat?!)
The Singing Sabers, individuals from the Spangdahlem community dedicated to the art of singing, sang “The Misty Mountains,” a song from “The Hobbit,” in a cappella.
The German Garrison of the 501st Legion: (Vader’s Fist), an impressive costume club that sport movie-quality equipment and props, marched through the aisles with an army of storm troopers, pilots and commanding officers.
The best part — they were led by none other than Darth Vader himself.
There was also the Mandalorian Mercs, another group of dedicated fans who also sport movie-grade quality equipment, but more akin to the bounty hunters of the Star Wars universe, such as Jango and Boba Fett. The Twin Suns, a Mandalorian Mercs clan from Belgium, graced us with their presence that day.
I even got to speak to their leader, Sonny Bertels.
“We’re invading America/Germany, and we’re doing a fine job, if I can say so myself,” Bertels said. “We’re going to attract all the cameras and make sure it’s pointed directly at us.”
And they succeeded, because I followed them with my camera for a good while before I was distracted by Doctor Doom and his league from the Luxembourg Convention.
Dedicated costumers made their appearances from the Luxembourg Convention, and there were gladiators who fought in cages with weapons from the Luxembourg Knights.
We had merchants selling amulets, rings and necklaces. Vendors selling artwork and other crafts also made themselves known with their superb work. There was also a stand that sold other goods… like the sonic screwdriver.
But aside from the amazing attractions and impressive costumes, Sabers got to meet artists, authors and sci-fi geniuses.
I got to meet Austin May, an artist who I knew as the mastermind behind the Air Force Times’ “Air Force Toons,” as well as Keith Houin, an expert of science fiction and creator of Atomic Bazooka Studios.
“Jarrod Garceau and Club Eifel, the way they put this convention is remarkable,” Houin said. “I’ve seen events that are better funded and with bigger facilities, and all they get are 200 people – that’s it, at best. Garceau gets 500 to 600 people walking through the doors.”
Houin revealed to me that he was a former U.S. Air Force master sergeant.
“What’s really great is coming back to the Air Force,” Houin added. “I’m in Belgium right now, working for the Army, but seeing the Airmen out there that I worked with for so long, it’s great.”
What made me stare at him in awe wasn’t just because he created awesome works – such as a book he co-wrote, or his upcoming web comic, and not just because he honorably served his country as a military service member, but because he had a passion – a dream – and he still managed to pursue it and live in it.
After the convention, I grabbed a couple of fellow attendees and asked them how they felt about the whole event.
“It was really fun; everybody is dressing up and showing off what they can do,” said a spouse of a military service member. “The costumes were awesome, and it was a lot more than I thought it’d be.”
“I liked it, it’s always interesting to come out and see,” said an Airman who worked in the 52nd Maintenance Group. “You can see just how many other nerds there are.”
A new world had been introduced to me, a world I thought I knew, but was told that the world of sci-fi had not stopped just because I stopped watching “Star Wars” when I was 12. The world of sci-fi, much like our world, continues to evolve as long as there are beautiful minds that continue to imagine, dream and wish.