published Thursday, January 23rd, 2014

Chattacon turns 39 this weekend

Bill Harrison, left, shows a steampunk gun to Wanda and Tahir Mella.
Bill Harrison, left, shows a steampunk gun to Wanda and Tahir Mella.
Photo by Ashlee Culverhouse.
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    Thomas Kenney changes out the tires on his robot between robot battles.
    Photo by Angela Lewis.
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* What: Chattacon 39 fandom convention.

* When: 7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 24, through 2 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 26.

* Where: Chattanooga Choo Choo, 1400 Market St.

* Admission: $55 three-day pass ages 12 and older; $35 ages 8-12.

* Website:


A full schedule of events at Chattacon is available at

There are few events in Chattanooga, or elsewhere, at which the phrase "of course there will be robot battles" generally won't even elicit a raised eyebrow.

For almost 40 years, Chattacon has offered fans in Chattanooga of science fiction, fantasy, horror and other "fandoms" a chance to meet like minds and let their geek flags fly for one weekend a year.

When it returns to the Chattanooga Choo Choo on Friday, Jan. 24, the 39th Chattacon is expected to draw about 1,200 guests, says convention director K.C. Charland.

The convention ostensibly is literary-based -- it's put on by Chattanooga Speculative Fiction Fans Inc. -- but the programming schedule includes burlesque dancing, live music, medieval combat demonstrations, sideshow performers, how-to workshops and, naturally, robot fisticuffs. Special guests this year include celebrated genre fiction painters and New York Times best-selling science fiction and fantasy authors.

For some, however, the true draw of the event is the opportunity to reconnect with people they don't see otherwise.

"My personal favorite part of Chattacon is that all of my friends that are out of town and now living far away are coming back to town and we get to see each other for the weekend," Charland says. "We don't necessarily go to convention events, but we see each other.

"You get together with your best friends and do the things you enjoy and everyone around you is having a good time. That's what Chattacon is all about."

Charland has been coming to Chattacon since Chattacon 10 and has served on its executive board for 25 years. Throughout the year, she visits other regional conventions, where she hosts parties to raise awareness of Chattacon and Chattanooga.

Despite its status as the city's longest-running fandom convention, Chattacon still flies under a lot of people's radars, but Charland says she sees those as a chance to raise awareness and bring more fans into the fold.

"It's an opportunity to spread the word more and get the right focus on it," she says. "We try to reach as many people as possible. The more people, the merrier. We're fine with where [our attendance] is now, but we're not afraid to grow."

Contact Casey Phillips at or 423-757-6205. Follow him on Twitter at @PhillipsCTFP.


* Tobias Buckell (guest of honor) is a Grenada native and author of The New York Times bestseller "Halo: The Cole Protocol," based on the popular "Halo" video-game series. He has been nominated for prestigious literary awards, including the Hugo, Nebula, Prometheus and John W. Campbell Award for Best New Science Fiction Author.

* John Kaufmann (artistic guest of honor) has 20 years of experience creating astronomical, science fiction and fantasy paintings. He has won numerous awards at conventions, including DragonCon in Atlanta, Millenicon in Cincinnati and MediaWestCon in Lansing, Mich.

* Jean Johnson (special guest) is a Seattle-based, New York Times best-selling author whose works include traditional military science fiction and fantasy/paranormal romance. She has been nominated for a Philip K. Dick Award.

* Robert Buettner (special guest) is a former military intelligence officer, National Science Foundation fellow in paleontology and an author of military science-fiction novels. His catalog includes the five-book "Jason Wander" series and two-part "Orphan's Legacy" series.

* Wendy Webb (toastmistress) is an author whose work has been recommended for the Horror Writers Association's Bram Stoker Awards and the Nebula Awards. She was an honorable mention for recognition in the Year's Best Fantasy and Horror annual collection.

about Casey Phillips...

Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, consumer technology, animals and news of the weird. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German from Middle Tennessee State University, where he worked as the features editor for the student newspaper, Sidelines. Casey's writing has earned numerous accolades, including first and second place ...

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