Dragon*Con Report

I got back on Monday evening from my first Dragon*Con, and it was quite a weekend. In order to see and do everything, you’d need to be able to be in… oh, I’d say 30 places at once. Saturday I was at the con from 8 am to past midnight, Sunday I was there from 11 am to way past midnight, and Monday was a short day, 10 am to about 2 pm, when I finally had to drive the 6 hours back to Raleigh.

In that time I mostly lived off granola bars and peanut butter crackers (snacks which luckily I thought to bring), hamburgers from the food stands that had been set up around the Hyatt, and one meal that was consumed sitting on the floor of the central food court (since all the tables were taken). After all, when you’re rushing between panels, standing in line to see celebrities, checking out the art galleries, spending money at the dealers’ room, or just watching the myriad of costumes walk by, who has time to eat?

The picture below is of the crowd in the lobby at the Atlanta Marriott Marquis, but it seems woefully inadequate for conveying the number of people there. The lobby basically looked like this 24 hours a day for all four days of the convention, and keep in mind that there were three other equally-crowded hotels:

Marriott lobby

When you gather this many people in one place, it’s inevitable that there are going to be long lines. It took me about 2 hours to get through the registration line on Saturday morning, which I believe was the second-longest line I’ve ever stood in (first prize goes to the line for an Obama rally last year, which wound its way around several city blocks). There were also long lines for the celebrity panels, particularly William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, and Patrick Stewart, so I avoided those. I did, however, stand in line twice to see Adam Savage. The picture below is from a panel on the Skeptics track, which was a great discussion about ways to promote science and critical thinking in popular culture.

Skeptics Panel

From left to right: Phil Plait (writer of the blog Bad Astronomy), Adam Savage, Scott Siegler (horror/sci-fi author who uses a lot of hard science in his books), Rebecca Watson (runs a podcast called Skepchick), Melissa Kaercher (comic relief, in a good way).

Most of the panels I did were on the Writers’ Track, although I only did a few of the couple dozen that were available. In addition to having a Writers’ Track, there were also several Science Fiction and Fantasy literature tracks and a Youth Literature track which had panels useful to writers. So… much… to… do….

Here’s one of the Writers’ Track panels. This one didn’t have any writers on it, though. It was actors talking about what draws them to certain roles, and what actors look for in the characters they play.

Writing Panel

From left to right: Eric Roberts (aka Salvatore Maroni from The Dark Knight); Bruce Davidson (aka Senator Kelly from the X-Men movies); Jennifer Blanc (aka Kendra from the Dark Angel series); Nancy (not actually an actress, just the moderator); Doug Jones (aka Abe from Hellboy, the Silver Surfer, and the fawn from Pan’s Labyrinth); Richard Kiel (aka Jaws from multiple Bond movies); and Ron Glass (aka Shepherd Book from Firefly and Serenity).

I wish I had gotten to do more, but I really sort of did the Dragon*Con Sampler Platter this year, doing events, wandering around, seeing everything I could…. maybe next year I’ll focus more on writing stuff. I enjoyed the ones I attended, though… some of the best-known authors there were Gene Wolfe, Kevin J. Anderson, Timothy Zahn, Michael Stackpole, and Peter Beagle. It was nice just to listen to professional authors share what they’ve learned about how to make a living writing (a lot of lessons carry over from other fields, particularly in regards to networking, behaving like a professional, that sort of thing). Peter Beagle regaled us with true stories of how he learned how to be a professional writer from shoplifting (although he did not actually recommend that anyone else follow the same path).

Chances are good that I will be back at Dragon*Con next year, and apply the following lessons:

-Don’t stand in line to see celebrities. There’s plenty to do at the con that does not involve standing in line for an hour.
-Plan ahead for the Writers’ Panels, and think of questions to ask ahead of time.
-If you get there Saturday morning, buy tickets through TicketMaster first. The line is way the heck shorter.
-Bring snacks, so you don’t starve rushing between events.
-Set a reasonable limit on the amount of money you spend in the Dealers’ Room. (Ha ha, yeah right.)

In two days I leave for Australia. Time to start packing again…

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Dragon*Con Coming Up!

Over Labor Day weekend I’ll be driving down to Atlanta to check out Dragon*Con, which is by far the largest sci-fi/fantasy convention I’ve ever been to. Potential celebrity highlights include:

Adam Savage
-Leonard Nimoy, aka DJ Spock
Terry Gilliam
Patrick Stewart
Ron Glass
-and William Shatner, among many, many others. (Is it too much to hope that William Shatner does some Sarah Palin-style beat poetry?)

Dragon*Con is large enough that it takes place simultaneously at four hotels, with a couple of dozen different event tracks available, including writing, gaming, costuming, science, comics, science fiction, robotics, and many others. The writing track looks most interesting to me (a lot of notable authors will be there, of whom my favorite is probably Peter Beagle), but I’ll probably be wandering all over the place, checking out the concourse, the events, the costumes, meeting people, and just seeing what there is to see.