Art News

MileHiCon Returns for 54th Year This Weekend

Charles Vess (here in a self-portrait from a 1978 Heavy Metal magazine) is one of the Guests of Honor at MileHiCon 54,
Charles Vess (here in a self-portrait from a 1978 Heavy Metal magazine) is one of the Guests of Honor at MileHiCon 54,
Read any good books lately?

That's the central question posed by MileHiCon, which will hold its 54th iteration Friday, October 21, through Sunday, October 23, at the Denver Marriott Tech Center. Advance tickets are already sold out, but any lover of the literary — especially sci-fi and fantasy — can get tickets at the door for either the day or full-weekend event.

MileHiCon was created in 1969 by the Denver Area Science Fiction Association (DASFA). Inspired by other national conventions, the members decided to create their own for the Denver area. It was first dubbed Minicon, but there was already a convention under that name. It was then changed to Octocon, since it was generally held in October, but after a couple of years under that title, the group found that there was already one of those, as well. They finally landed on MileHiCon, which they figured had to be unique. And they were right: It’s been MileHiCon ever since.

It’s not just books that are the draw for MileHiCon, though that’s certainly the focus in its guest list, panel offerings and general outlook. The convention also boasts one of the largest art auctions in the state, a vendors' room, the Critter Crunch gladiatorial robot events, tables upon tables of gaming, plus comic books, cosplay and more. There’s kid-friendly stuff like the Avistrum Academy of Sorcery, video and anime rooms, and even a Star Trek bat’leth tournament. One would be hard-pressed to find a nerd-related passion that goes unrepresented at MileHiCon.

And that's the point. The convention's first year was long before the geek renaissance that we’re currently living through, with superhero movies at the top of the box-office charts, Dungeons & Dragons making a comeback, and video games being recognized as the art form they are without protest. “It’s all about people getting together and having fun,” says MileHiCon chairperson Linda Nelson. “People getting to meet their favorite authors, wearing their costumes, getting to enjoy all the things they love — the energy is just kinetic.”
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Fan fun at the 2015 MileHiCon.
Danielle Lirette
This year’s MileHiCon is definitely making strides to get back to its pre-pandemic levels. “A lot of people are still hesitant to come to big events like this,” says Nelson. Despite boasting more than 200 program items over the three days of the con and around eighty featured authors, that slate is a little on the low side when compared to recent years past. Still, pre-registration attendance numbers look to be approaching 2019 levels — perhaps even exceeding them, depending on the door.

“You know, COVID is still out there,” Nelson says, “so we made the decision to still require masks. It’s important. We want everyone to be safe. It’s going to be crowded, and we don’t want people to get sick. So we’re doing what we can.”

This year’s Guests of Honor span a pretty wide spectrum within the geektastic creative arts. Multiple Hugo Award-winning author of the Dandelion Dynasty series Ken Liu will be on hand, as will Colorado’s own sci-fi/fantasy master Kevin J. Anderson, author of many novels in his own worlds as well as those of Star Wars, Dune and more. MileHiCon is also proud to host artist Charles Vess, whose illustrations grace everything from Neil Gaiman’s Stardust to Marvel’s Spider-Man, as well as Denver fantasy author Travis Heermann, who has most recently been working on a horror-comedy short film called Demon for Hire.

One of the big events for the weekend is the live auction on Saturday night. MileHiCon, Inc., is a Colorado nonprofit corporation, and donates the proceeds of the auction each year to local literacy programs. For 2022, the recipient is BookGive, a literacy organization devoted to putting books in the hands of everyone, created in association with the soon-to-be-lamented BookBar. “We have some great stuff this year,” Nelson says. “I have a whole room full of items waiting to be auctioned. Charles Vess donated three autographed books of his. Big items like that.

“We aren’t here to make money,” Nelson adds. “We’re totally volunteer. We do it because we love it, because we love books and we love authors and we love the genres. And we love seeing the happy faces walking around the convention enjoying it all.”

MileHiCon 54, Friday, October 21, through Sunday, October 23, Denver Marriott Tech Center, 4900 South Syracuse Street. Both day and weekend passes will be available for purchase at the door; for more information, see the MileHiCon website.