Adam Savage is one of the most creative people in popular culture. He’s gearing up for Silicon, the convention he helms as creative director. Happening August 27-28 in San Jose, it combines science and technology with art, comics, and gaming. It attracts some of the biggest makers and cosplayers in the business while also encouraging novices to create something of their own. Nerdist chatted with Savage about the con, the science and science fiction he’s most excited about, and how important science is in pop culture.
Nerdist: How does SiliCon’s emphasis on science set it apart?
Adam Savage: Anyone who’s ever been to a con is going to feel at home at SiliCon. We’ve got amazing celebrities from all different franchises signing autographs and taking pictures and interacting with the fans. But for us, the science track is key. We are putting it front and center. MythBusters was the only reality show invited to San Diego Comic-Con. I didn’t know what we were doing there until we got there. The science track of cons is this wonderful, hidden world where critical thinking, cosplay, and—strangely—utility kilts, all sort of Venn diagram into this one big circle. At the core is a demographic of critical thinkers, freak flag flyers, and serial enthusiasts in this open sharing economy that I find really inspiring.
One of science fiction’s most important contributions is not just prognosticating what is possible technologically, but also taking a look at what those technological advancements mean socially. And when I’m at a con and there are people in anime costumes that took months to build, and they’re standing in line for a science panel, I’m like, “The world is in a good place and the right people are getting together.”
We have some amazing NASA panels. They’re actually going to do five panels at SiliCon, including one about Viper, their robotic Moon rover. They’re going to bring a Viper to the con. I’m so excited! We also have Kjell Lindgren, who will beam down for a panel from the ISS.
Tell us more about SiliCon’s cosplay and maker cultures.
Savage: I feel like we are simply codifying something that already happens at all the cons, right? There’s tons of cross collaboration at every single con. We are just giving it a structure. I think we all go to the cons because we want our perspective changed. We go to the movies because we want our perspective changed. And then when that is really thrilling, we build the costume so we can experience it at a deeper level. When we put ourselves into a costume and are putting our bodies into a narrative that’s important to us, we’re taking a real leap and we’re learning about ourselves.
When we make something, we take our point of view and we reach out into the world. Making could be a dress, it could be an article, a thesis, or a car. It doesn’t matter to me. It’s all about when each of us uses our point of view to make something from nothing. That is a powerful assertion. I am here, I am part of a culture. I am contributing to that, either with my hands, my mind, my voice, or my guitar. Because that’s such a part of my ethos, we are devoting 5,000 feet of the con floor to the Savage Maker-verse. Which will be tables, materials, guidance, tutorials, and contests. I want the threshold to entry to be as close to zero as possible. It doesn’t require any skill whatsoever. All ages are invited. And it’s all in pursuit of that feeling that I get every day, which is the power of making something from nothing. I get so much sharing that time through YouTube, through all of the other things that I do. I just want to spread that love.
What’s a pop culture panel you’re excited about?
Savage: We have The Expanse panel coming. And even though the whole cast and production team are friends, I still get tongue-tied around Shohreh Aghdashloo. That voice, it’s so amazing. That whole cast is one of the bright spots in the universe to me. We’ve got some key members of the production team coming. I’ve never been on a set that felt more like a completely cohesive family, from the carpenters up to the showrunner. Everyone knew they were pulling on the same rope. That set was everything you want a set to be for your favorite show. I actually called Naren Shankar when MythBusters Jr. was starting, and I was like, “Talk me through showrunning. What do I need to know?” And he just said, “At the very top, you get to set the culture with your reactions to everything. And that’s a real gift that one gets to do that from the showrunner position. And if you want a set based in love and respect, that is something that you can implement with yourself.” I thought that was an amazing lesson.
How do you look back on your time at MythBusters?
Savage: It was a remarkable thing that all of us got to do. I’m still gobsmacked that we got to spend 14 years making the Bizarro show. I look at the list of almost 300 hours of television that we made and I’m overwhelmed by it. And I’m so proud of it. The people who grew up on MythBusters, some of them are working teachers, professors, senior scientists. Those folks are coming up to my signing tables at cons. And they’re explaining that it gave them a sense of wonder, that they raised their children on it, or they watched it through COVID. We never set out to make a science show. We joke, but it’s true, we were never “thinking of the children.” We were not trying to educate. And we had no idea that the scientific method would be such a perfect narrative structure. But it did. And we learned that on the gig. And the gig changed all of our lives, so I’m super grateful.
One of my best con moments ever is you singing “The Commander Thinks Aloud” at w00tstock in 2012. Will you be singing at SiliCon?
Savage: I have really treasured the times I’ve gotten to. I’m not a great singer, but that experience of singing a song and feeling a crowd getting into it is really unique. I am jealous of rock stars, because I’m sure that at the super high level with a big crowd singing a song you wrote back to you, that’s got to be one of the great feelings of the world. All that being said, I am not singing at SiliCon this year.
Tickets are on sale for SiliCon, taking place August 27-28, 2022! At only $80 for the whole weekend, and even less for kids, seniors, and military, it’s definitely one of the more budget-friendly conventions out there.
Melissa is Nerdist’s science & technology staff writer. She also moderates “science of” panels at conventions and co-hosts Star Warsologies, a podcast about science and Star Wars. Follow her on Twitter @melissatruth.