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To the uninitiated, Sunday's assembly of cloaked mystics, medieval warriors and Middle-earth denizens might have seemed a tad idiosyncratic.

But not to Dragon Dronet, the sword-wielding behemoth bedecked in 70 pounds of medieval armor. Dronet is anything but a novice, and he couldn't have been more at ease with his surroundings at this weekend's MisCon, Missoula's long-running convention devoted to all things science fiction and fantasy.

Dronet works as a prop and costume designer in Hollywood, and has had a hand in the set production of dozens of well-known feature films. Still, he never misses the chance to attend MisCon, which is relatively small in the realm of science fiction conventions.

"It's good to be back," said a battle-weary Dronet on Sunday afternoon, clutching a handmade replica of a medieval helmet against his armored torso.

Dronet flew into Missoula on Friday from Los Angeles, where he runs a special effects shop called Renegade Effects. His company has recently worked on the hit HBO television series "True Blood," in which Dronet starred as a vampire last season. His impressive credentials include designing the iconic "Fight Club" soap bar for David Fincher's 1999 cult film, and playing a Red Army gorilla in Tim Burton's 2001 remake of "Planet of the Apes" and a pit fighter in "Conan the Barbarian."

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On Sunday, after staging an epic sword battle, Dronet joined other well-known figures from the world of fantasy and science fiction for the 24th annual MisCon at Ruby's Inn and Convention Center. The four-day gathering drew about 600 science fiction and fantasy devotees from around the country, said Bob "Cthulhu Bob" Lovely, MisCon's principal organizer.

"Our numbers are way up this year and everyone is having a lot of fun," Lovely said.

The celebration of speculative fiction and art began Friday at Ruby's Inn and Convention Center and continued through the weekend, hosting dozens of artists and writers from the world of fiction and science - including renowned sci-fi author Harry Turtledove.

"Harry Turtledove is one of the biggest science fiction writers in the world, and he's here at MisCon," said Justin Barba, the convention's vice chair. "MisCon is smaller than a lot of other conventions, but it draws big names because we're really more of a family-type convention."

MisCon has its roots in science fiction and is attended in large part by authors and aspiring writers, but it also brings together a host of well-known artists, performers, and vendors, with a heavy emphasis on gaming.

Fantasy role playing games such as Dungeons & Dragons are played around the clock during the convention, which has continued to evolve through the years. Attendees decked out in neo-Victorian "steampunk" costumes now outnumber the Trekkies, and medieval swordplay and archery are practiced outside in the courtyard.

"The focus really centers on literature, but a lot of other themes have grown out of that, and there is definitely a strong gaming component," Barba said.

Members of the Realms of Avalon historical education group were on hand to recreate the arts and skills that flourished during the Middle Ages and Renaissance, demonstrating battle techniques from the era as a sort of tactile history lesson.

"We believe in getting out there and actually trying history," said Ruth Frey as she prepared to shoot a fellow Realms of Avalon member with padded arrows.

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Other convention-goers spent their time building props such as ray guns and chrono-manipulators, or learning how to "steampunk-ify" a Nerf gun. The popularity of the science fiction and fantasy genres was clearly reflected in the enthusiasm of those attending.

"I may be dressed weird, but I come to MisCon every year because I can't find this much creativity, intelligence and diversity anywhere else," said Sharon Reynolds, a nurse from Spokane whose 19th century steampunk outfit made her look like a character from a Jules Verne novel.

"I always say that I haven't had this much intellectual stimulation since graduate school," she said. "I'm an avid climber and a kayaker. I'm a competitive figure skater. But I love coming to MisCon. It's just another one of my interests."

Reporter Tristan Scott can be reached at

523-5264 or at tscott@missoulian.com.

 

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