Monday, March 25

Enigma pieces together media convention for tsunami relief


Club's fund-raiser offers panels with industry experts, gaming tournaments

What do Disney cartoons, Star Trek, UCLA professors, video
games, and tsunami relief all have in common?

Bringing together a motley collection of genre media
professionals and education, the UCLA science fiction, fantasy,
horror and gaming club Enigma is hosting EnigmaCon 2005 this
Saturday on the UCLA campus as a tsunami relief fund-raiser.

Enigma is partnering with the Hollywood Artist Alliance, a
fund-raising group founded by visual-effects producer Camille
Cellucci ““ best known for her work on “The
Matrix” series ““ to aid South Asian tsunami
victims.

The alliance is working with the World Trust Foundation and
Reverend Piyananda of the Dharma Vijaya Buddhist Vihara Temple in
Los Angeles to rebuild a village in the southern province of Sri
Lanka.

Faith Cheltenham, the EnigmaCon chairwoman and a seventh-year
history student, expressed enthusiasm about the prospect of Enigma
being a part of the tsunami relief effort.

“I was overwhelmed. … What do you do when a tragedy so
grand affects the world?” Cheltenham asked.

Enigma responded by planning EnigmaCon, the proceeds of which
will go to charity for the first time.

EnigmaCon, short for Enigma Convention (or Conference; it
depends on which Enigma member you ask), returns from a 10-year
hiatus.

Though once held annually, Enigma members have since opted to
hold other conventions, saving the venerated EnigmaCon title only
for special occasions such as Saturday’s event.

The convention will feature many events and attractions, as well
as celebrities, authors and gaming industry professionals.

A major draw will be the moderated panels occurring throughout
the day.

“We’re trying to put together people who
wouldn’t really talk to each other together on the same
panel,” said Cheltenham, citing a panel joining experts of
different religions to discuss the religious implications of
science fiction.

Another instance of unique panel-speaker juxtapositions is one
in which storytellers of different media come together, such as
video-game writer Chris Metzen, famed for his work on Blizzard
Entertainment’s Warcraft series, and renowned science-fiction
author Harlan Ellison, who will also be celebrating his
birthday.

Other panels cover topics ranging from how to break into the
video-game industry to a discussion of race and diversity in
science fiction, fantasy and horror, to even the classic sci-fi
staple panels on Star Trek.

Due to the Hollywood Artist Alliance’s member ties, many
special-effects professionals will be in attendance and will sit on
panels. Movie screenings and an art exhibit will also be on
display, as well as simultaneous gaming tournaments and
workshops.

The evening will offer a concert by Warp 11, a rock group with a
sci-fi twist, and will be followed by “The Dance at the End
of the Universe.”

Making EnigmaCon a reality has been a challenge for Enigma
members, in part because of its scale. Cheltenham hopes to see
1,000 to 1,500 people in attendance.

“It’s always hard to plan a large event … but we
were pleasantly surprised at how excited the administration was
about helping us,” Cheltenham said.

The preparation efforts for EnigmaCon have not been limited to
current UCLA students, however. A unique aspect of Enigma is alumni
involvement, a factor which has figured prominently into planning
EnigmaCon.

Aaron Vanek, an Enigma alumnus who graduated from UCLA in 1993,
assumed the responsibilities of director of guest relations,
securing speakers for the event.

Vanek said that though it was difficult sending out over 300
invitations, “a lot of the guests were happy to be part of
tsunami relief. … It definitely was an attraction (which helped
entice busy celebrities).”

Many invitees unable to attend still wished to aid
EnigmaCon’s cause, sending in various items to be sold in a
benefit auction, such as autographed photos and movie
paraphernalia.

Additionally, Vanek noted that interest “snowballed”
as more people were invited ““ some of those who accepted
their invitations invited their industry peers to come speak as
well.

But convention attendance will not be limited to Enigma members
and industry experts. UCLA faculty, students and general
enthusiasts will also be welcome.

Robert Hurt, a UCLA graduate, the founder of Enigma and an
astrophysicist at Jet Propulsion Laboratories will discuss how
science fiction influenced his career choice, a topic Vanek said
may inspire students.

Eager attendees can register online at www.enigmacon.org and see
a full list of the day’s events and guests.

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