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Geeks find love at Dragon*Con

  • Story Highlights
  • Romance blooms each year at Dragon*Con, a convention for sci-fi fantasy geeks
  • Officials get dozens of wedding requests from couples who met at event
  • The annual event attracts about 35,000 people from all over the world
  • Long-distance relationships can be challenge for couples who meet at event
By Stephanie Chen
CNN
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ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- It's the year 2000, and Eric Olsen is a medieval knight sheathed in armor with sword in hand.

Petrona Zickgraf and  Joe Kubinski celebrated their one year anniversary at Dragon*Con this year.

Tracey and Mac Carlson were married in January after meeting at the 2006 Dragon*Con.

The 27-year-old is waiting in a line at Dragon*Con, an annual science fiction costume and convention extravaganza that appeals to comic book nerds, horror movie buffs and anyone with a liking for the fantasy side of pop culture.

He spots a red-headed princess in a blue ball gown, reminiscent of a Walt Disney fairy-tale, about 15 feet behind him. She is stunning.

Is she single? Will she talk to me? What do I say?

By the time Olsen rationalizes his jittery thoughts, he has already asked the princess, Sandra Frazer, 19, out to breakfast.

Forget about the drunken bar scene or painful blind dates. As Dragon*Con concludes this week, some single attendees are finding themselves coupled with someone who understands their passion for science fiction and fantasy. Video Watch Dragon*Con participants talk romance »

When Olsen and Frazer finished their first date, the seeds of love had already been planted. They dated long distance for a year before Olsen proposed the following year at a Dragon*Con costume competition.

Frazer, in a leather Catwoman jumpsuit, accepted the ring.

"I've never cared about football or any of the normal guy stuff," said Olsen, a home health care director who enjoys obscure sci-fi television shows and elaborate costuming. "I met someone who shared my same geeky interests, and that's hard to find."

Pat Henry, chairman for Dragon*Con, said his staff sees romances blossom at the convention each year. Hundreds of proposals have occurred at the event since it began two decades ago. Requests roll in by phone several times a month from couples eager to hold their weddings at Dragon*Con, their meeting place. Share your sci-fi convention love story with CNN.com

The likelihood of finding a partner who enjoys alien movies or X-men comics isn't bad: Dragon*Con has evolved from a small gathering of a few thousand participants to a legendary event that reels in about 35,000 people from all over the world. It's one of the largest science fiction, fantasy and cult media conventions in the world.

"The chances are in favor of the females," joked Henry, who noted the convention participants are mostly men, though the number of female participants has increased over the years. "The other thing is if you marry a geek, you know you can keep them at home with the latest science fiction books or video games."

The convention -- four days of panels, events and parties -- offers bountiful opportunities to let the singles mingle. It's an adult playpen where geekiness is revered. The panels debate the science of Michael Crichton books and dissect the "Star Wars" scripts. Parties include a Buffy Prom for fans of the 1990s Joss Whedon television teen drama "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and the Miss Klingon Empire Beauty pageant themed after "Star Trek".

Perhaps the best-known event is the Dragon*Con parade, a Halloween party for grownups, some of whom have spent the entire year preparing their costumes. At this year's spectacle, a gray Saturday morning was lit up by a colorful throng of fairies with pink wings, elves in spandex, pirates in corsets and Jedi soldiers flashing lightsabers.

What better way to strike up a conversation than while people are watching together?

"You can't settle," said Dragon*Con attendee Dino Andrade, who created Soulgeek.com, a dating Web site for fantasy convention attendees and sci-fi nerds. "You can't be with somebody who's going to hope that someday you're going to grow out of this."

Three years ago at Dragon*Con, Tracey Carlson was smoking outside one morning in her Batman pajamas when her future husband approached her.

During their first dinner date at the convention, the two slipped into a deep discussion about "Babylon 5," a sci-fi television series by J. Michael Straczynski.

"I've had friends set me up with total strangers, but it's hard to keep the conversation going if the person isn't into what you are," said husband Mac Carlson.

They were married in January and their reception cake depicted Tim Burton's "The Nightmare Before Christmas," one of Tracey Carlson's favorite movies.

But romance at Dragon*Con can be short-lived and have downsides, said Kelly Rowles, a 25-year-old from Pennsylvania who runs a blog called Convention Fans. Attending her fifth Dragon*Con this year, Rowles has noticed the convention is more likely to produce hookups than serious relationships, and some participants meet compatible singles who live hundreds of miles away.

Accountant Petrona Zickgraf, 43, of New Jersey, understands the long distance challenge. She met her boyfriend at a movie screening at Dragon*Con last year, and he lives 250 miles from her in Virginia. They visit each other regularly to share their affinity for science fiction, but they also share other interests such as hiking and visiting museums.

"Let's just say one of us will move soon," said Zickgraf, who was outfitted as comic book heroine Vampirella in a revealing pleather jumpsuit. She and her boyfriend, arms wrapped around each other, were celebrating their one-year anniversary at Dragon*Con this weekend.

Sometimes, all it takes to meet your soul mate is the right rooming situation. Katie Marcinkowski, a high school English teacher from New York, attended for the first time last year because she enjoyed science fiction novels. She filed a request for roommates on a Dragon*Con LiveJournal Web page, a popular choice among attendees who want to save money by splitting a hotel room.

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Assigned to her room was 23-year-old Kellan Potts of Tennessee, who has since become her boyfriend. They share a fondness for "Torchwood," a British sci-fi show about extraterrestrials.

"You don't meet the kind of people who like the same kind of stuff out in the real world," said Marcinkowski, dressed in a suede warrior woman costume and holding hands with her boyfriend at the convention this year. "I can't go up to guys and say I like sci-fi and fantasy. They will look at you and say, 'You're weird.' "

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