When James Corrick launched the first TusCon Science Fiction Convention with Carol DePriest in 1974, 2013 was a year straight out of an Arthur C. Clarke novel.
“This was the future,” said Corrick, 68, a freelance editor and nonfiction writer.
The event brought 60 Arizona residents to the Tucson Inn where they watched films and held spirited debates on the science fiction topics of the day.
“We wanted something where people could come and talk and have a good time,” Corrick said.
This year, the convention, which celebrates its 40th anniversary Nov. 8-10, will cap out at 500 people and include three full days of discussions, vendors and entertainment.
TusCon 2013 will feature a wide swath of industry professionals sitting on panels and giving lectures, from University of Arizona professors and game designers to filmmakers and astronomers.
Local and national writers, including Weston Ochse and Juliet Blackwell, whose “Witchcraft Mystery” series made her a New York Times bestselling author, will be on hand to sign books.
Meteor hunter and Tucson resident Geoff Notkin, co-host of the Science series “Meteorite Men,” will talk about his life and career on Nov. 9.
“There is a lot of really cool stuff being done by local people,” said Eric Schumacher, spokesman for TusCon. “This convention is a way to showcase their efforts.”
Schumacher said the con has been working to expand its offerings in recent years to reach a wider range of science fiction, horror and fantasy fans.
Panel discussions, occurring throughout the weekend, will include a diverse range of topics such as time travel, types of zombies and how to spot their differences and whether or not extraterrestrials need water.
There will be a room for gamers, as well as a screening of “Radio Free Albemuth,” a film based on the 1985 alternate history novel of the same name by Philip K. Dick.
The movie stars actress and singer Alanis Morissette .
“It has been screened at a number of different festivals.” Schumacher said. “We are thrilled to have it.”
TusCon is not as large as many of its contemporaries, but that’s by design, Schumacher said.
While thousands turn out for events such as Worldcon, which was held in San Antonio this year, and DragonCon in Atlanta, TusCon keeps its numbers low, giving it a more intimate feel.
The smaller scale has been an attractive feature for regular attendees.
“There have been people coming to this convention for decades,” Schumacher said. “There is plenty of new blood, but also a strong, built-in community.”
Paul Dolenac has been attending TusCon every year since the late 1970s.
Dolenac, a cab driver, found out about the convention while attending a similar convention, Desert-Con at the University of Arizona.
A lifelong fan of hard science fiction, the “technology oriented, space travel, ‘Star Trek’ kind of stuff,” Dolenac said, TusCon was a good way to find like-minded individuals.
Dolenac, 63, attends several conventions a year around the world.
“Back then the internet didn’t exist,” he said. “It was hard to get in touch with people who shared similar interests.”
Dolenac also appreciated the convention’s early film screenings.
One of his favorite shows as a child was “Men Into Space,” a CBS program in the 1950s and ‘60s that followed members of the United States Air Force as they explored the universe.
Dolenac has always had an affinity for good science fiction film and television.
“It was hard to find some of these movies back then,” he said. “I was able to watch films that I had read about but never thought I would be able to see.”
Corrick has been to 39 of the 40 TusCon conventions. He co-chaired the first four with DePriest, but has spent most of them as a regular attendee.
Corrick said, like the science fiction genre, TusCon has grown more complex and sophisticated over the years, but the core values remain the same.
He often skips the convention’s panel discussions to catch up with his fellow science fiction aficionados.
“This is the only time I see a lot of these people,” Corrick said. “The idea is still to come, meet your friends, and have a good time.”