Nichelle Nichols to be Special Guest at SF Convention on NMT Campus, July 28, 2008

Nichelle Nichols

by Kathleen Hedges

SOCORRO, N.M., -- Nichelle Nichols, who played Lt. Uhura on the original Star Trek series, is the guest of honor at New Mexico Tech’s first-ever science fiction convention, to be held on Sept. 12 to 14, on the university’s campus in Socorro. The convention “Digging Into Other Worlds,” is being organized by Miners’ Ink, New Mexico Tech’s literary magazine.

Right: Nichelle Nichols today. See profile at

In addition, an array of New Mexico science fiction writers and several New Mexico Tech professors will participate. The authors include Walter Jon Williams of Belen, Jane Lindskold of Albuquerque, S. M. Stirling of Santa Fe, and New Mexico Tech alumnus David Lee Summers of Las Cruces.

The participating professors are Penelope Boston (microbiology, astrobiology), Mary Dezember (creative writing), Michelle Creech-Eakman (astrophysics and astrobiology), and Scott Zeman (pop culture).

New Mexico Tech is a state-supported research university specializing in science and engineering. Despite strong interest on campus in reading science fiction, this is the first time anyone has organized a large-scale science fiction event on campus.

According to Karen Balch, editor of Miners’ Ink and organizer of the event, “It seemed a natural. We want to rally the campus together as a whole and provide a science fiction venue, as well as get more exposure for the magazine on campus. We plan to have an issue featuring science fiction by students published just before the conference.”

Nichelle Nichols

Left: Nichelle Nichols as Lt. Uhura on the original Star Trek.

Planned events include science fiction movies, gaming on the local-area network (LAN); talks, panel discussions, and readings by the authors; booksignings; a Saturday-evening dinner with keynote address by Nichols; and a campus costume contest.

A dealers' room will be available for people who want to sell science-fiction-related products. Dealers may register online at www.nmt.edu/~ink.

In addition, Balch has organized tours of two nearby astronomical facilities: the Magdalena Ridge Observatory (MRO), and the Very Large Array radio telescope (VLA, which has been featured in several movies, most notably “Contact”).

Local businesses have gotten involved in the event. Socorro’s Capitol Bar will hold a Star Trek Theme Night. Howard Johnson and Super 8 motels in Socorro have offered discounted rates for attendees.

Local sponsors include: Dr. Daniel H. López, president of New Mexico Tech; Dr. Peter Gerity and Dr. Scott Zeman of the Office of Academic Affairs; Student Association; Graduate Student Association; Tony Perreault, a New Mexico Tech alumnus who works at NRAO; Joanna DeBrine of the Capitol Bar; and Socorro Springs Restaurant and Brewery.

The deadline to register online at www.nmt.edu/~ink is August 29. After Aug. 29, the late-registration fee is $85 for everyone. Before Aug. 29, fees, which include all activities and the Saturday evening dinner, are:

  • $75 for the general public
  • $30 for New Mexico Tech faculty and staff
  • Events free to all full-time New Mexico Tech students, (registration required; dinner extra)
  • $50 for New Mexico Tech alumni
  • $10 for high school students (must show ID at registration table; $20 for the Saturday dinner)
  • $10 for Nichelle Nichols’ keynote speech on Saturday evening, without dinner


Thanks to support from the Student Association and Graduate Student Association, graduate students’ dinners are $10 and undergrad students’ dinners are $20.

Balch adds, “We are looking for dealers who want to sell science-fiction and fantasy related items, such as art, books, photography, etc. There is a contract online.”