Dragon*Con is an extravaganza of sci-fi fandom held annually over Labor Day Weekend in downtown Atlanta, Georgia. As of 2008, it spans four hotels and boasts an attendance of more than 30,000 fans. Rumor has it that when the numbers swell with day pass folks, the count can go as high as 50,000. It can be a little overwhelming to attend a convention with 30-50,000 of your, er, um, closest friends. This year, the addition of the Sheraton, and the completed Marriott renovation, made the long Labor Day weekend a much more pleasurable experience than in the recent past.
What To See…Beats Me!
With a cacophony of choices in a wide variety of fandoms, you can’t see everything. Lines for many popular media based events are long, and give you no guarantee of entry even after you’ve waited for frakking ever. For me, the choice is simple. I don’t try. That has it’s own pitfalls, though. If I had tried to get into the Firefly panel with Nathan Fillion and supporting cast members, I would have been able to get in. Instead I watched it on Dragon*Con TV .
I never seem to get to the Miss Klingon Empire Beauty Pageant either. I’ve wanted to free my inner Klingon and be a participant myself, but dang it, I don’t know any practicing Klingons to ask for help. Maybe next year… At 6 ft. tall, I could make a passable Klingon. Hint, hint, is anyone out there listening?
The Dragon*Con Dealers Room is one of my favorite places to do early Christmas shopping. Okay, yeah, I know, you can find most of the stuff online. BUT, the Dealers Room and Exhibition Halls are like a giant bazaar of the bizarre and beautiful. Who can resist?
I’ve been out of what I would call participatory fandom for years. Once upon a time, I did filk and theatrical stuff back in Virginia. Once upon a later time, I participated in the Writers Track programming at Dragon*Con. Some years ago I went into gaffiation for a while, writing, but not attending any conventions.
Then my sister-friend and SCA maven, Dinah, reawakened my dormant fannish gene…and I started filking again. It was all downhill from there. Um, I mean it renewed my fannish sense of self.
I also happened to have a post-apocalypse short story published in a magazine and anthology. Thus I participated in the Apocalypse Rising program track this year. Discussions were lively, and the rhetoric occasionally heated. I don’t know what it was like from the audience, but it was a blast from where I sat .
Program Track sounds so dry, doesn’t it? There are many fandoms contained within Dragon*Con (officially or not), and each is almost a mini-con of its own. This evolution in the ever burgeoning Dragon*Con makes it possible for fans to connect, share, and not get lost amid the proverbial teeming masses that conglomerate to make up Dragon*con (yes, I meant to say that, not congregate).
It’s exciting to walk down the halls and see the Weyrfest, Brit track, X track, gaming track, and of course, the venerable Anime/Manga track rooms, to name just a few. Dragon*con can be as big or as small as you choose. That factor, along with a metaphorical masochism inherent in my soul, made me return to Dragon*Con, like a stealthy prodigal fan.
If you go to nothing else big, attend the Dragon*Con parade! As a former costumer (yeah, did that, too), I am impressed by the sheer magnitude. Costumes range from beginner level to amazing, and all promenade together. The entire weekend is full of costumed fen, but this is definitely on my “don’t miss” list!
Tempest in a Tambourine & The Sound of Music
Absent from filking for many years, I’m from the “old school.” That means I am of the pitch in and try to make it work school of fandom. Filking had changed quite a bit during my gaffiation. I only recognized a few names, and knew even fewer in the community. I was acquainted with a goodly amount of their music, though.
There was a dismaying flame war going on at Live Journal about past Dragon*Con filking. Due to a variety of circumstances, there was no Filk Director this year until a few weeks before the convention.
Nothing, as it turns out. Robby Hilliard is a Celtic musician from Chattanooga with a good head for organization and a very positive attitude (you can pay me later, Robby Working with Dragon*Con, he was able to address many of the complaints of the Filk track attendees, which had definitely outgrown its previous space.
Concerts were held in ballroom sections, and the Filk Room was dedicated to that track 24 hours a day. Many of the usual area filkers boycotted the convention. Both the Brobdignagian Bards and the Bedlam Bards performed to near capacity crowds before it was all over. The Great LukeSki held two shows, despite being hampered by being asked to step up to the plate at the last minute. Carrie Dahlby was featured as well.
Yet, before they left, they were singing the choruses of a Battlestar Galactica filk. Taking chorus for an easy credit paid off for them, because they weren’t bad at all. The delightful and talented Ridikulus Music folks stopped by, featuring Luke She, and did a couple of songs as well.
With Robby the Fearless slated to be at the Filk ship bow in 2009 as well, I look forward to writing about and participating in an expanded Filk track for next year.
Oh, I almost forgot! I’m a huge fan of Ghost Hunters and Ghost Hunters International! Due to other obligations, I didn’t get to see their panels. I’d seen Dave Tango arrive on Friday. However, Rob, Dustin, and Dave were in the lobby on Monday as we were taking our leave, and they allowed me to take a photo! Woo-hoo!
And in the End…
If you asked twenty people (or 30,000+) to describe Dragon*Con, there’d be no consensus, probably not even a quorum. Dragon*Con is as many different conventions as its fans make it.
(Photo credits: Jedi Karaoke – Amber Hansford; Brobdignagian Bards – Les Howard
All others by Shiny1 & Chuck deVarennes.)