When Stillwater hosts LexiCon on Sept. 14, it will bring together fans of the many variations of science fiction and pop culture. It will also host cosplay professionals, panelists, vendors, displays and experts on fans’ favorite characters and aspects of science fiction and comics
One expert set to ascend on LexiCon is Bill Tsutsui, the current president of Hendrix College, a liberal arts school in Conway, Arkansas, who is also an expert on Godzilla, the fire-breathing terrorizer of Tokyo. Tsutsui holds degrees from Harvard, Princeton and Oxford, and was a dean in the College of Humanities at Southern Methodist University before joining Hendrix College.
He grew up in a small town in Texas, where being a member of only two Japanese-American families helped him identify with Godzilla, one of Japan’s most famous movie characters that has become a worldwide phenomenon.
“I was about seven years old, I was laying on the blue shag carpet in my parents’ bedroom watching our big, old Sylvania TV set on a Saturday afternoon. The ‘Creature Double Feature’ came on and I saw Godzilla for the first time and fell in love,” Tsutsui said. “I just wanted to be the monster … I wanted to drag my big, scaly feet through Tokyo, make chemical plants explode and I just made a friend for life at that moment.”
Tsutsui’s panel at LexiCon is titled: “Beyond the Man in the Rubber Suit: Godzilla in the 21st Century!” During the panel, Tsutsui will discuss the Godzilla movies and will tailor his talk to people who are big Godzilla fans, but also for people who have never seen a Godzilla movie or might be interested in Japan or science fiction.
“I just love meeting people who love Godzilla as much as I do,” he said. “A lot of those folks are teenagers, some might be two decades earlier than I am. There is nothing more fun than sitting with people with shared interests and shared passion. I talk at a lot of cons around the country and I always, always have a good time.”
His love for Godzilla stems from his childhood, but he still lives that love with a vast collection of Godzilla memorabilia in his office at Hendrix College. He even had an inflatable Godzilla that was displayed during his inauguration as president.
“My office is absolutely filled with Godzilla toys, games, posters, you name it Godzilla, I’ve got it,” Tsutsui said. “I’ve even got a Godzilla humidifier. I started collecting Godzilla toys maybe 20 years ago when one of my students at the University of Kansas brought me a toy and said, ‘Professor, I want to give this to you.’ And after that, I asked all my students who went to Japan to bring me back a Godzilla toy, and they cost a couple bucks so it wasn’t a big sacrifice for anybody. By this point, I have hundreds of little plastic Godzillas running around my office, and my wife, being a sensible person, won’t let me keep them at home.”
Tsutsui has authored eight books, one on the lovable giant lizard titled “Godzilla on My Mind: Fifty Years of the King of Monsters,” among seven books about Japanese history and economics. He said the Godzilla book sold more copies on its own than the other seven books combined.
“When I did my book on Godzilla, I went and asked fans all around the country people why they love Godzilla, and for a lot of people, it was about nostalgia,” he said. “It reminded them of their childhood, because Godzilla was somebody they grew up with. When I look, especially some of those classics such as ‘Godzilla vs. King Kong,’ or ‘Godzilla vs. The Thing,’ it takes me back to being a grade-school kid and a wonderful world where I could imagine being a monster.”
LexiCon is set to take place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sept. 14 with activities at the Stillwater Public Library, Prairie Arts Center and Stillwater Community Center. There will also be a downtown dance party and cosplay crawl on Sept. 13 with the dance party at Modella Gallery, as well as downtown businesses offering specials and discounts for people in cosplay outfits or wearing LexiCon gear.
“I just wanted to be the monster … I wanted to drag my big, scaly feet through Tokyo, make chemical plants explode and I just made a friend for life at that moment.”
Hendrix College president