Halcyon Dragon*Con Days (or Was That “Daze”)

It’s hard to believe this was my third year at Con. I can distinctly remember the night over two years ago, when I was talking with some friends about this awesome-sounding thing called Dragon*Con, and decided to drive down to Atlanta pretty much on a whim and check it out. Since then, it’s been a crazy ride. Every year’s been different, and it’s hard to say whether or not this year’s was better than last. Last year I focused on the writing; this year I focused more on the con at large.

As usual, Dragon*Con had two sides: the daytime, full of panels and readings and costumes and the Dealer’s Room and the Art Show, and the night time, full of parties and dances and even more elaborate and/or skimpier costumes. So that’s how I’ll divide the report:

Daytime

I spent most of my mornings and afternoons being fairly straight-laced and normal, attending writing panels and readings. I got to see Howard Tayler read again, and I was also particularly happy to meet Laura Anne Gilman, who I’ve conversed with on Twitter a couple of times. I heard Mur Lafferty read, and I heard a number of different editors and publishers hold forth on their favorite books that will soon hit the shelves.

I enjoyed readings, and those sort of “what’s coming soon” panels, far more than I enjoyed the panels on the actual writing process. I feel like I’ve reached a point where I know most of what’s going to be said on the process panels. Intellectually, I know how to write, thanks to writing groups, podcasts, scattered classes and panels, and my own accumulating pool of experience. So as I listened to these panels, I began answering each question in my own head, and comparing them with what the panelists said, and came away reasonably sure that I could hold forth just as expertly on pretty much every panel I attended.

That’s not to say I know as much as published authors. But sitting in on one of these panels is like sitting in on a “Basics of Writing” class: it keeps things at a pretty trite and uncomplicated level (there’s only an hour, after all), and once you’ve moved beyond that level, the panels are kind of useless.

I felt the same way about the “How to Get Published” panels. I know how to get published, I just have to do it, and the biggest step to getting published is to write more publishable stuff. It’s a fact that most of these panels tend to gloss over, even though it’s probably what most of the audience needs to hear. It’s so easy to get caught up in how to get published, or the commercial vs. self-publishing debate, that it’s easy to lose track of the actual writing.

One panelist even commented that he’s met people like that: people who go to writing panels, attend classes and workshops, but when it comes to actual writing output, they write very little. They’re utterly fascinated by the business and process of writing but don’t actually practice it. And more practice is the main thing I need right now, far more than panels or advice.

Nighttime

Ah, the interesting part of Dragon*Con, and let’s be honest, the biggest reason to go. You can get panels and readings at any con, but only one con has earned the title “Nerdy Gras.”

This year, I was determined to cosplay. Not as any character in particular; I prefer making up my own characters, which I suppose comes from being a writer. I don’t cosplay to show off my outfit-making skills (of which I have none), but I like the aspecting of transforming into a different character for a few hours. And makeup & special effects are closet hobbies of mine, so I packed some interesting clothes, a variety of prosthetic ears/horns/teeth and bodypaint, and headed out.

I hit a stumbling block when the TSA confiscated my airbrush. Airbrushed bodypaint is longer-lasting, easier to wear, and faster to apply than regular bodypaint, and as a result it’s usually what I use when I’m costuming. It wasn’t the airbrush itself that the TSA had a problem with– it was a small electric air compressor, about the size of a volleyball, which the TSA classified as “dangerous goods.” Why, I have no idea. It plugs into a wall outlet, so it’s not like it going to turn on or explode, or, um, compress anything, in the middle of a flight.

When I got to Atlanta, I recovered my ransacked luggage and a generic form note from the TSA telling me I’m not allowed to take lighters on a plane. Makes me proud to be an American, I tell you.

After a bit of fruitless raging at no one in particular, I got over it and cosplayed anyway, using cotton pads bought from a mall pharmacy in lieu of airbrush (I’m the one on the left– my cosplay isn’t that good):

On Sunday night, I skipped the bodypaint and went with vampire instead of elf-demon. Technically, I was a time-traveling vampire from an alternate reality– or at least, that was what I told everyone at the Steampunk & Time Travelers Ball.

In a sense, I feel like Dragon*Con is a big social experiment for me. The people who attend represent, in a variety of ways, a community I want to be a part of: from the professional writers on the panels, to the cosplayers who head out every night and party– but most of all, all of us geeks who spend four awesome days reveling in our geekdom. As I’ve said before, there’s a special combination of passion and independent thought that, for me, is at the heart of being a geek, and every year at Dragon*Con, I’m thoroughly immersed in it.

But because I started going to conventions only recently (Dragon*Con 2009 was my first), I don’t have the network of friends in the community that most congoers seem to have. My first year at Dragon*Con, I didn’t talk to anybody except the two people from Raleigh who I already knew. The second year at Dragon*Con, I did better– I had dinner with some professional authors, and attended some parties, but still spent a large chunk of time feeling introverted and out of place. This third year, I still felt introverted and out of place– but I cosplayed, I attended the Steampunk Ball with a few of my roommates and their friends, and interacted a little more with the larger community. Each year has been a little step forward, a little bit of progress in this weird social experiment.

But it’s a lot like my goal of being a professional writer– it’s about being patient, and playing the long game. In multiple senses of the word I’m remaking myself, redefining my identity, going through a stage that I feel like most people get past in their early 20’s. I didn’t like my first try at being an adult, so now I’m having a second try, this time as the person I want to be.

And yes, I realize that to some people, there’s an irony in dressing up in costumes and writing fantasy novels while talking about adulthood. If you’re one of those people, then conventions aren’t for you. And I kind of feel sorry for you, because you’ve let society define “adulthood” instead of doing it yourself.

Next year, Dragon*Con conflicts with the World Science Fiction Convention. It’s gonna be a tough call as to which one I go to, but Dragon*Con reminded me of one thing: among cons, it is unique. Every WorldCon is unique, too, but the business networking I can get at other cons. If WorldCon is a glass of fresh-squeezed, healthy vegetable juice, then Dragon*Con is an entire bar stocked with beer and mead and wine.

And rum, of course. Can’t forget the rum. (No worries, Captain Morgan is on it.)

My Dragon*Con Photos on Flickr

Advertisements

Dragon*Con Part 4: An Affirmation of Insanity

When I woke up on Monday (hangover-free, although certainly not fatigue-free), my “costume” was still mostly intact, so after re-attaching the ear I slept on, I headed out to Monday panels. I wanted to squeeze what remaining drops of Dragon*Con essence I could out of the day before embarking on the 6-hour drive back to Raleigh.

Over a week later, as I type this up, I’m still surfing the Dragon*Con high, although it’s mostly faded into a bit of post-con depression. Real life is just so boring when you aren’t constantly walking past Star Trek characters, remote-controlled R2D2s, and beautiful women in chainmail and/or bodypaint. Here, the most pressing issues of the day have nothing to do with whether the eleventh Doctor is adequately stepping into David Tennant’s shoes, or what’s coming down the pipeline at Tor Books, or having to pick between the Adam Savage Panel and the Jim Butcher signing. Instead, if you follow the “real world” news, the biggest stories are either depressing (Afghanistan: Still a Moneysink Run By Corrupt Warlords!), pointless (See Pics of Kim Kardashian Going Shopping!), or just plain idiotic (More Inanity Spewed From Sarah Palin’s Pie-hole!).

Go on… tell me Dragon*Con isn’t an improvement.

Back in reality, the thousand pressing details of day to day life take a dreary precedence over the images and stories that conjure brilliant, fiery passion in the minds and imaginations of countless people. And in my opinion, the world is a duller place for it.

For me, Dragon*Con was an affirmation and a release. It was a release because when confronted with situations that make my inner introvert quiver– like a party, or a group of professional writers going to dinner– I didn’t retreat into the corner. I stepped up and joined in. I made friends. And I had a hell of a lot of fun.

It was an affirmation because for four days, I was surrounded by fantasy and science fiction fans, by writers, by geeks of all shapes and stripes. Here, if you say “I want to write fantasy novels!” people will cheer you on and encourage you. In reality, people will often look at you as if to say, “Don’t most people get past that stage by the time they’re out of high school?” For someone like me, not always comfortable with the oddities of his own personality, it was affirming to be around thousands of people with similar oddities, indeed, celebrating them.

And in a broader sense, it’s not just being geeks that unites us. I think it’s something even bigger. The people who attend Dragon*Con are people who, by and large, live their lives, set their values, and define their happiness according to their own rules, not the rules that society tries to impose. Whether that means spending hundreds of hours on elaborate costumes, or writing novels and stories for years simply because you love to, or even skeptically thinking about the religion you grew up with– it all comes down to thinking your own way, finding happiness in unusual places, and living life the way you want. I think in one sense it’s a side effect of being a geek, but it’s also deeper than that. It’s an all-too-rare combination of independent thought and passion, but at Dragon*Con for four days I was completely surrounded by it. It was incredibly energizing, and affirming, and I miss it already.

So there you have it. This whole Dragon*Con series of posts has been a little more personal in nature than might ordinarily belong on what is supposed to be a writing blog, but to the extend that my journey as a writer mirrors my journey as a person, then they belong just fine. And the trend’s probably going to keep up, because a lot of plans that have been in the works for a long time are finally coming to fruition. (Stay tuned for a blog entry about why I quit my job.)

But regardless of where I end up in a year, if I can make it back to con, I’ll be happy.

Fin

Dragon*Con Part 3: No Sleep ’til Labor Day

When I met Dan Wells at Mary Robinette Kowal’s reading, I was carrying a hardcover copy of Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson. I had planned to get it autographed earlier in the day, but missed the signing, so the title page was still sadly devoid of a signature. When Dan saw it, he immediately asked if he could sign it instead, which led to an amusing reaction from Brandon when I caught up with him (with Dan’s help) later Friday evening. (And yes, the squiggly line at the bottom is Brandon’s signature. He’s definitely mastered the art of the speedy autograph.)

By then it was about midnight, and the Dragon*Con party was in full swing. I was still feeling a bit like an outsider, though. The only people I knew well were off doing their own thing, and weren’t really into the party scene anyway. So I walked around for a bit, taking pictures of the cool costumes and mainly just people watching. I thought about joining in on the drinking, but the crowd around the Marriott bar was rather large and intimidating at that point, so feeling a bit discouraged and more than a bit tired, I called it an early night.

When Saturday evening rolled around, I kicked it off by going to a late-night panel on writing sexy science fiction. Dragon*Con panels tend to get more interesting around 10 pm, but this one continued a trend of somewhat-disappointing writing panels at the con. The trend had been started on Friday when a somewhat-interesting panel on Let’s Build a Story in an Hour! turned into Let’s Build a Story out of Tired Crime Drama Cliches! Now, in the author’s defense, he was trying to construct a serious story by taking audience suggestions… but the audience was really only useful for silly suggestions, as is wont to happen during that sort of thing. Trying to build a serious murder mystery when the starting concept is a bagel is not easy.

Anyway, for some reason– call me crazy, but I suspect it was because the panelists were mostly female– the Writing Sexy Science Fiction panel turned into a discussion on why men don’t share their feelings these days. (To which I reply: duh, that’s what blogs are for!) So, somewhat disappointed at not having learned how to better write steamy sci-fi sex scenes– I suppose I’ll have to rely on reading Heinlein novels for that– I skipped out early. And with my trusty camera at the ready, I headed out into the general chaos of Saturday night Dragon*Con.

A quick lesson in Dragon*Con geography, for those who have not personally experienced it: the convention spans five large host hotels in downtown Atlanta. The Sheraton and the Westin are a little bit out of the way, but the other three, the Hilton, Marriott, and the Hyatt, are all in a line and connected by sky bridges. This is where the big party happens: it’s essentially a mix-and-mingle party that spans three city blocks and numerous bars scattered across the hotels. From what I’ve seen, the Hyatt is where the heaviest drinking happens (not that it doesn’t happen elsewhere, it’s just heavier at the Hyatt), while the Marriott, with its wide open lobby spanning three spacious floors, is the best place to show off and admire costumes. The Hilton’s main attraction is a karaoke bar, for those who are into that sort of thing… and it’s a little less crowded, for those looking to escape the claustrophobia-inducing conditions at the Hyatt and Marriott. There are also a myriad of concerts and themed parties in the hotel ballrooms that stretch until the wee hours of the morning, and plenty of lesser-known, more exclusive parties for those with the right connections (i.e. connections better than mine).

I made my way through the crowds, stopping frequently to take pictures, and having a few drinks of my own. By 2 am I was feeling pretty good, so I moseyed back on over to the Hilton and listened to karaoke for a bit. The crowd was really friendly to the singers, even to the ones that couldn’t carry a tune with both hands and a bucket, so with alcohol-fueled courage I weaved my way up to the front to sign up for a song. But, alas, foiled! Karaoke was so popular they had cut off sign-ups. I stayed to listened for a bit over one last rum and coke, and called it a night about 3 am.

Sunday evening: the last night at Dragon*Con. I still felt like I hadn’t really experienced the party. Sure, I had had some drinks and taken some pictures, but not really talked to anyone or done anything. And this was the last night of the con! Clearly, something needed to change.

I decided what I needed was something to help me feel more at home with the crowd: I needed a costume. But I didn’t want something flashy or flamboyant; I just wanted something subtle, a little reminder that I wasn’t just out to take pictures.

But what to do? I’ve avoided costuming at cons so far, not because it doesn’t appeal to me, but mainly because I haven’t had anyone to do with. Well, I thought, to heck with that… I’m going to do it anyway. But when it comes to cosplay, simply dressing up in unusual clothing doesn’t interest me so much as the idea of transforming, of becoming someone or something else. (Insert psychology thesis here about how this relates to my various neuroses.)

I passed a little booth that was selling latex prosthetics, and an idea hit me: devil horns! Not the fabric ones that clip onto your hair; actual latex horns glued on with spirit gum. It would be subtle, but not too subtle. And as those were being painted to match my skin, I mulled the collection of pointed ears and, well, what’s a demon-fae-creature-thing without pointed ears? So sporting horns and pointed ears, and feeling just “different” enough to blend in with the crowd, I made my last stop: a facepainting booth, where I let Natalie of Doozers Workshop have her way with my face. End result:

I actually think the horns blended better with my face than it looks, but they also reflected the flash better. Here’s another pic of me and Brandon Sanderson, when I ran across him in the Dealer’s Room signing books:

I wasn’t feeling the need for a wardrobe change; pretty much the only concession I made to my “devil-ized” face was to put on a red t-shirt. And to be honest, I sort of liked the mix of strange face and street clothing. It wasn’t exactly going all out, but I had done what I wanted: join, in both mind and appearance, the ranks of the weird.

I still didn’t know anybody out party-surfing, but dammit, I was going to party anyway. That night I made my way up to the bar, hung out and downed drinks with the best of them. I tried for karaoke, but once again did not get there early enough to sign up… geeks and karaoke are apparently a potent combo. Oh, I still took pictures (who couldn’t!), but for the first time, I felt like I was part of the crowd, not just observing it from the other side of a camera lens. I even talked with a few people, although I never really found anyone to hang out with for long. This was probably why I made my way to the Hyatt around 2 am to attend a Cruxshadows concert. (Cruxshadows is a gothic rock band with a big presence at Dragon*Con and some rather sexy dancers.) The interesting thing about this is that I don’t actually remember attending the concert, but I must have, because I found pictures of it on my camera:

It was a good party.

Afterward I do remember throwing up outside the Hyatt and falling asleep in a corner of the hotel patio, then getting woken up a short while later by a trio of concerned-looking EMTs. Man, I remember thinking as they helped me to my feet… that’s gotta be a sucky job. Wandering around Dragon*Con at 3:30 am, checking passed-out drunks for signs of life?

Puking up most of the alcohol had apparently saved me, as I was able to walk with only a minor wobble, and eventually they let me go and I made my way back to the Hilton. Karaoke had long since ended, so I hung out for a while and chatted with some equally-out-of-it members of the Dragon*Con skeptics track. Like everybody else at con, they were awesome. It wasn’t until the clock was getting on toward 5 am that I gave into reality and made my way up to the room.

Yup. Definitely a good party.

Part 4 here.

Dragon*Con Part 2: Networking for Nerds

In my previous post, I mentioned the two sides of Dragon*Con: on the one hand, there’s the uber-science fiction convention with a dealer’s room, hundreds of panels and discussions, art galleries, and all sorts of other craziness.  On the other hand, there’s the party.  Nerdy Gras, as it has become known.  But what they have in common is this: getting together and having a good time surrounded by your fellow geeks.  For four glorious days in Atlanta, weirdness is the norm.

And of course, there’s all sorts of weirdness.  Really, the only unifying theme is that all of it falls under the banner of what mainstream society might consider “geek”.  There’s sci-fi and fantasy geeks, gaming geeks, roleplay geeks, cosplay geeks, writing geeks, science geeks, computer geeks… you  get my point.  If you’re a geek and you’re at Dragon*Con, you are surrounded by your people.

As for me, I was hoping to get a chance to network with the writing crowd, much like I was able to do at NASFIC.  The chance to hobnob with successful writers, to hang out among people who embarked on this crazy dream and are actually doing it, is great.  Of course, Dragon*Con is a much different beast than NASFIC– larger, much more chaotic, and in general less conducive to actually meeting the panelists and guests.  Nevertheless, several authors and editors from NASFIC were coming to Dragon*Con, including Matt Rotundo, Gray Rinehart, and Mary Robinette Kowal.  Also coming: one of my favorite authors of all time, Brandon Sanderson. His books are great, but the main reason I’m such a big fan is a podcast called Writing Excuses, which he co-hosts with Dan Wells and Howard Tayler, and which I’ve raved about before.

I got to indulge my writing jones for the first time on Friday afternoon, when Brandon gave a reading from his new novel, Way of Kings… and then from his children’s series Alcatraz, and finally from a book called Scribbler that he’s working on for next year.  I mostly sat there in awe.  The man has released three large fantasy novels this year, and has plenty coming down the pipeline.  He is a MACHINE, and his writing is getting progressively better.  This is even more impressive because his work was dang good to start with.

A short while later, I attended Mary Robinette Kowal’s reading of her novel Shades of Milk and Honey.  Matt Rotundo and Gray Rinehart were there, so already it felt like a NASFIC reunion. After the reading ended, Mary was immediately caught up in various conversations, but I hung out, waiting for a chance to say hi. Around that time, I looked toward the back of the room and saw a man sitting by himself who looked vaguely familiar. I did a double-take, peered at his badge, and realized it was Dan Wells, co-host of previously-mentioned podcast Writing Excuses and phenomenal horror writer!

Feeling only a brief twinge of anxiety, I walked up and introduced myself, and proceeded to chat with him about Writing Excuses, his upcoming book (Mr. Monster, due out September 28th!), and even had the chance to ask him some questions about living as a writer. After a few minutes, the crowd had thinned enough that the only people still left in the room were Mary, Matt, and a few other professional writers who were all friends of Mary’s. Dan went up and join them, and I did so as well, even though, much like at NASFIC, I was feeling far too professionally unqualified to be standing there.

It was about 6:30 in the evening at that point, so talk turned to dinner. The introvert in me (which, let’s be honest, is the vast part of the brain) was screaming that it was time to head for the hills. In fact, almost every fiber of my being was twinging that I needed to leave, that it was awkward for me to be here, that this wasn’t my place.

But for possibly only the second time in my life (the first time being at NASFIC), I fought that urge. I didn’t blush and bow out. I stood my ground as introductions were made, and then as the group filtered out the door, I asked Matt, “mind if I tag along?”

He didn’t, of course. Every professional writer I’ve met has been extremely down-to-earth and friendly. Which was, how a short while later, I found myself having dinner at a table with Dan, Matt, and his wife. Mary was also in the group, as were Leanna Renee Hieber and Alethea Kontis, although thanks to the over-crowded restaurant they had to sit at a separate table. Later, after Leanna and Alethea had to leave, Mary joined us at our table for dessert, and so I sat between Dan, Mary, and Matt over a shared slice of cake, chatting about the con and quizzing them about what it’s like living out West (Dan lives in Utah, Mary lives in Portland, Matt lives in Omaha). Not only did I get a lot of useful information and make some new friends, I also– and I can’t really over-emphasize how important this is from a personal perspective– didn’t give into my introvert’s natural urge to flee at the first opportunity. I’m slowly coming to the realization that networking and talking with fellow writers and fellow geeks is really, really fun and I want to do it more. The long-delayed budding of a seed of extroversion? I suspect it has a long way to go. But it’s a start.

Part 3 here.

Also, I’ve finished uploading my Dragon*Con pictures. The full collection can be found here.

Dragon*Con Part 1: Geeks Unleashed

For those who aren’t familiar, Dragon*Con is a a convention in Atlanta that gets attended by, depending on who you ask, between 40,000 and 60,000 people. At its roots it’s a science fiction and fantasy convention, but it’s grown to be much more than that. Dragon*Con is, to put it simply, where geeks go to party.

On one level it’s a massive sci-fi/fantasy convention. There are dealer’s rooms, art galleries, and booths where comic book artists display and hawk their wares. There are fascinating panels and discussions on everything that could even be considered remotely “geeky”: science fiction, fantasy, computers, NASA and space travel, fantasy and comic book art, writing, even rational thought and skepticism. People in these businesses come to meet their peers and network. Famous people come to give talks, answer questions, and sign autographs. And everyone comes to meet friends, hang out with a bunch of like-minded people, and party.

Because this is the second level of Dragon*Con: Nerdy Gras. Four solid days of geeks both shattering and confirming the stereotypes, proving that you can party with the best even while you’re dressed like Spock. Here, thousands of people who normal society would call weird get together and celebrate, nay, revel in their weirdness. The music blares, the drinks flow, and the people are awesome.

Last year I went to Dragon*Con, and I had fun, but really, I was just an observer. I didn’t arrive until Friday evening, so I missed an entire day. I stayed by myself at an offsite hotel. I didn’t dress up. Sure, I went to panels, and bought cool swag, and had enough fun that I wanted to come back, but it simply didn’t compare to this year. This year, I drank fully and deeply from the cup that is Dragon*Con. And I’m not just talking about the beer.

This year I stayed on-site, which just by itself made a huge amount of difference. Not only did it mean I could party into the wee hours and then walk back to the hotel room, it also meant I was interacting with more people. By staying on-site and having roommates, I was much more connected with the con community, which in my opinion, is really what makes Dragon*Con fun. Even though I didn’t hang out with my roomies that much (we were all busy doing our own thing), simply having that connection was nice. And it did provide interesting moments, like when I got rope burn from helping a girl do up her corset for a party. Or when I got into the room on Friday evening, only to find Zombie Marie Antoinette setting down her cake and taking off her wig.

I was sharing a room at the Hilton with seven other people, which sounds like a lot… heck, it is a lot. But it fits right in with the crowded chaos of the con. (Hey, if I’m going to embrace it, might as well embrace it wholeheartedly, right?) Luckily, we kept different enough schedules that the room never felt too cramped, and it was usually even possible to get a shower when I wanted. Doesn’t mean I’ll be looking for seven roommates next year… but all in all, it wasn’t bad. And at least as far as embracing the chaos, it laid the foundation for the rest of the con.

Part 2 here.

Also, I’m still uploading and organizing photos, but the set can be found on Flickr here. It will grow considerably over the next few days.

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…

This is my September, This is my time of the year…

Ah, September. Home of Virgos, the Fall Equinox, and sapphire birthstones. Resting within its 30 days lie numerous official and unofficial holidays, including that most tragic of modern anniversaries, 9/11.

But September is, all in all, a fine month. The heat of late summer begins to subside, and it is once again possible to venture outside in the evening without having to swim through the humidity. The days are getting shorter, of course, but they’re still long compared to the short, cold days to come. September is summer’s last hurrah– although of course, depending on your latitude, you may get occasional bursts of “hurrah” well into December.

When I was younger, September mainly represented the school year kicking into high gear, but now that work spans all twelve months, I like to think that September and I have made our peace, and are on friendly terms. In addition, September 19th is Talk Like a Pirate Day, and, well, any month with a holiday dedicated to piratespeak is a good month in my book. Arrrr, matey.

This September, in particular, I’ve been looking forward to for a long time. Dragon*Con is coming up over Labor Day weekend, and then comes the real focus of my anticipation: the following weekend I leave for a long-anticipated two week trip to Australia! Huzzah!

I’ve wanted to go to Australia for about as long as I’ve been aware of it, ever since I first saw pictures of Ayers Rock (Uluru) rising up from the flat, barren Outback landscape into the sky, and became aware that kangaroos and koalas and duck-billed platypuses (platypi?) actually existed. Plus, their seasons were backward! What a weird place!

Other things draw me there as well; it is one of the farthest (if not actually the farthest… someone should look this up) English-speaking countries in the world from America; it has a unique culture with a fascinating blend of British, American, Asian, and Aboriginal influences; and on top of that, every single Australian I’ve ever met has been totally awesome.

So this year I finally decided to plan it, because, well, why not?

Yep, this month is shaping up to be epic. Should give me plenty of stuff to write about, both on the blog and, hopefully, some good story ideas as well.