Fans converge and prepare for battle

Not to be confused with pandemonium, which is pure chaos, Fandemonium is a very structured event that occurs the first week of August every year. It's Idaho's premier celebration of all things sci-fi, fantasy, gaming, animation, horror and comics.

Everything a gamer could imagine (and I suspect gamers can imagine quite a bit) has been carefully selected for inclusion into a three-day convention on fandom.

"It's nonstop action for three days" says Daniel Armstrong, the chairman of the convention. "Every single day is different. There's always something to do."

Armstrong also goes by the name Borneo (manlings know that as an island in Southeast Asia, but to some gamers, Borneo is a gifted hunter with some Asidri ancestry). A few years ago, Armstrong and several friends came up with the game plan to arrange Fandemonium. "We were looking how to put together an event because we hadn't been to one in a while," he says. "Idaho doesn't have an entertainment expo, so we thought, 'Hey maybe it'll work here.' And it has done pretty well so far."

This is the third year Fandemonium has enriched and celebrated the lives of fans and provided an escape from what its Web site says is "the massive discrimination we face in the everyday world and everything that sets us apart from the 'normal.'"

Armstrong and his partners work full-time on the convention, though throughout the year, the Fandemonium staff puts on several smaller expos as well. However, Armstrong says, "We spend a good portion of the year working up to this one big event."

Armstrong and his crew have been to a lot of expos that cover everything from gaming to cosplay, and they created Fandemonium from the influences of other popular conventions. But instead of limiting the events at Fandemonium to just a few of the themes, such as horror or Japanese anime, he and his partners decided to include everything. It's part marketing to the masses, part complete enjoyment in one place. "I like all of it," Armstrong says. "I am actually a fan of every concept the convention has. Some people are more into sci-fi, some are more into horror ... I like it all."

So what can fans, fans' friends and wannabe fans expect from the celebration?

A highlight of the event is the costume and cosplay contest. "Cosplay," for those who aren't up to snuff on the jargon, is short for costume play. And costume play is code for a short skit or play ... in costume.

Because he's busy running the show, Armstrong doesn't usually dress up, but he notes that most folks do. "People dress up as popular characters from Star Trek or Harry Potter," he says. "Last year we had a group dress as the characters from the Soul Caliber video game—they won the costume contest."

Armstrong's tips on winning: The costume must be homemade (no recycling that Spiderman suit you picked up at Wal-Mart last Halloween), and judges will take notice of craftsmanship, attention to detail, enthusiasm and "how well you can pull off the characters."

For the winners, it's no paltry Dr. Who trophies; Fandemonium is giving out cash for the best costume (the winner of the 12-and-younger division gets $25; the winner in 13-and-older gets $50; and best all-ages cosplay gets $100).

Armstrong expects at least 500 fans to attend the celebration, and he stresses that anyone can participate in any of the events, including the short story contest and the fan-made music contest.

There's also a music video contest in which fans create videos by combining cut footage from their favorite shows and videos and setting it to music.

There's fan music, fan music video, and so, of course, there is also a fan film contest, which is a video or a film inspired by a movie, television show, comic book or something similar--made by the fans, obviously.

Every year activities at the convention vary to keep it interesting. This year, organizers are adding a little Capcom-style fun with a live-action Space Invaders game. "Since you can't shoot with real weapons, we have little foam pixels. We call them pixels because they look like pixels. It's foam wrapped in duct tape and those are the ammunition participants use," Armstrong explains. "You get a group to act as the enemy coming to the fighter ships; another group plays the fighter ship. When a player gets hit, they get removed and whoever takes out the most enemies wins."

Local metal act Paylface will perform at the conference on Saturday, August 5, and DJ Lain will spin Saturday night at the Maniac Masquerade Dance and Sunday night at the No Pants Dance. But coolest of all, before the expo is over, Armstrong promises Grand Fandom Boffer Melee, which is Fanspeak for a huge sword fight in which everyone can battle each other. Expect a good duel between the winners of the costume contest and all the runners up, but don't expect a Lord of the Rings-level gorefest: "This is using safe foam weapons," Armstrong assures. "Conventions aren't as much fun with broken bones."

Fandemonium, August 4-6, three-day pass $30, Nampa Civic Center. Visit

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