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Silicon Valley Comic Con beams back into San Jose

Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Canadian astronaut and a girl dressed as a Stormtrooper walk into a convention center…

It sounds like the start of a joke, but it’s the reality at the fourth annual Silicon Valley Comic Con, which runs Friday through Sunday at the San Jose McEnery Convention Center. That’s because, unlike most gatherings of its kind, Steve Wozniak’s extravaganza puts as much emphasis on science as science fiction.

“There are comic cons that are purely just comic art. Then there are conferences like TED that are meaningful things going on in the world. And so we thought of just combining the two and having them both,” Wozniak said Tuesday when the Silicon Valley Comic Con flag was raised at San Jose City Hall. “We’re creating it the way we would want it for ourselves.”

In other words, it’s nerd nirvana.

Yes, Schwarzenegger will be at the convention Sunday for a “Terminator” reunion that brings together co-stars Michael Biehn, Robert Patrick and Edward Furlong. And of the 70,000 people expected to attend this weekend, hundreds will be dressed like their favorite character from comics, TV shows, games and movies.

But the keynote event Saturday is being headlined by Chris Hadfield, a Canadian astronaut who flew on two shuttle missions and was commander of the International Space Station. And if the space program had a rock star, it probably would be Hadfield. He paid tribute to David Bowie by singing “Space Oddity” on the ISS in 2013 and even released an album, “Space Sessions: Songs from a Tin Can,” of music he recorded while on board the station. Not surprisingly, he’s got 2.4 million followers on Twitter, where he shares everything from images from the Hubble telescope to people playing street piano in Toronto and responded to kids who dressed up as astronauts for Halloween.

“I love Chris’s commitment to inspiring young people,” said Adam Savage, the former “MythBusters” host who will moderate Hadfield’s keynote. “I think it’s never far from his mind that he was a young Canadian kid who wanted to go to space.”

Savage interviewed Hadfield several years ago at NASA Ames in Mountain View. They discovered they have very similar senses of humor and have been good friends since. “Knowing Chris feels like I have one of the X-Men as my friends,” said Savage, who will be appearing at Silicon Valley Comic Con for the fourth consecutive year and will host a Q&A Saturday afternoon. No doubt he’ll talk about his current Discovery Channel show, “Savage Builds,” and his new book, “Every Tool’s a Hammer: Life is What You Make It.”

“What I love about about Silicon Valley Comic Con is the culture feels so homegrown, maybe because it’s in my neck of the woods,” said Savage, who lives in San Francisco. “It feels deeply egalitarian in what it wants to share in terms of the enthusiasm. The fandom is the point, and that feels very embracing.”

If Savage sounds more like a fan than a celebrity guest, that’s an ethos he shares with Woz, the brilliant co-founder of Apple who prefers to walk around the convention floor to being on a stage. Savage also will be walking the convention floor, though you may not realize it, as he is famous for his “incognito” cosplay — appearing in amazingly detailed costumes that hide his face.



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