Meet Iowa’s longest-standing sci-fi convention attendee
Words by Sydney Schulte
Dennis Lynch knows that once you’ve been to more than 40 sci-fi conventions, they all start to blur together in a vortex of cosplayers, autograph lines and Star Trek jokes. Except the really good ones. And the 1976 World Science Fiction Convention in Kansas City, Missouri, was a really good one.
That year, Lynch found himself in a room full of promotional trinkets for an upcoming space warfare flick. As Lynch admired a black suit and helmet that would become infamous for its dark side discipleship in just a year, a stranger approached him.
“He goes, ‘Wow, you’re really excited for this movie!’ I said ‘I certainly am!” Lynch said. “And he goes, ‘Hi, I’m Mark Hamill.’”
Lynch was talking to future jedi Luke Skywalker.
“We chatted a bit,” Lynch said. “He was a fanboy. He was a comic book collector, and he was so fired up to do promotions for this film.”
The Rise and Fall (and Rise Again) of Geek Culture
Lynch, 63, is something of a staple at science fiction conventions in the middle of the country. He’s attended ICON, Iowa’s annual sci-fi convention, since it was conceived in 1975.
“I am the only survivor of the first 40,” Lynch said.
The convention guru leads ICON panels, creates art and auctions off sci-fi collection items at summits across the state. He’s been a general board member of the Mindbridge Foundation, a non-profit organization made up of three eastern Iowa conventions—AnimeIowa, Gamicon and ICON.
“Conventions are a chance for these people to get together and share their enthusiasms and skills and their knowledge—both with each other and with younger people coming up in the field,” Lynch said.
Lynch has been the leading man in a love affair with convention culture before being nerdy was cool. He’s been around long enough to see dramatic changes in the nerd world. He’s seen “geekiness” slowly morph into something cool. Which doesn’t matter to Lynch at all. He doesn’t give a flying Millennium Falcon whether his passion is cool or not.
“There’s some social awkwardness involved with being a fan, being isolated,” Lynch said. “But when you get your enthusiasms, there are some things you give up. For example, I’ve never seen a minute of a Super Bowl. It’s a badge of honor.”
Lynch’s Chewbacca-level dedication to the world of sci-fi has lasted through the Star Wars, Star Trek and now Marvel era of nerd fandom. And it shows no sign of wavering.
One of ICON’s first chairmen and Lynch’s college buddy Gregory Frost can vouch for his friend’s commitment.
“Denny is the human embodiment of ICON,” Frost said. “All the things that are good about ICON, good about fandom, you can sum them up in Dennis Lynch. He’s interested in lots of things, knowledgeable on an enormous number of subjects and a collector of the most arcane and bizarre and remarkable things.”
To name a few: “I collect books, comic books, soundtrack albums, sheet music from films, movie posters,” Lynch said. “And I’ve got about 13,000 magazines on science fiction, fantasy and horror movies.”
Frost will tell you that Lynch is ICON’s icon. He doesn’t just attend science fiction conventions, he embodies them like a good cosplayer embodies their character. He brings unabashed zeal to each convention. And Frost said Lynch’s Midwestern dedication is living proof that sci-fi fandom is not just a coastal phenomenon.
Science fiction is more than a hobby for Lynch. Whether he’s meeting Mark Hamill, a lifelong friend like Frost or a kid who’s just really passionate about Star Trek, Lynch has never failed to find community at a convention. “[Fandom is] our self-made family.”