In what has become a Labor Day tradition since I moved to Atlanta, I attended Dragon Con, the biggest sci-fi/fantasy convention in the South. As I did last year, I’d like to do a reaction/reflection post on my experiences there. I’ll start with the good.
-The Battlestar panel was extra-good this year. Like last year, there were several panels dealing with that gem of sci-fi TV, Battlestar Galactica. Unlike last year, I was only able to attend one of them. I’m glad I did, though. This year featured a slightly different cast of characters, with only Richard Hatch (Tom Zarek) returning from last year. Also on the panel where Mary McDonnell (President Roslin), Tricia Helfer (Six), Michael Hogan (Saul Tigh), and Kate Vernon (Ellen Tigh). They shared a lot of insights about the show at the five-year anniversary of its end, with McDonnell talking about how difficult it was to film her death scene, as it was the last scene she filmed and she didn’t want to say goodbye yet. The cast, like many fans, also expressed some tepid acceptance of the rumored reboot movie . The best moment, though, was Hogan leading the fans in a boisterous “So say we all!” to close out the action.
-I was able to shake several hands at the Walk of Fame again. I waited in line to speak to Helfer and McDonnell, and they were great. Helfer is downright angelic in person, very sweet and much more down-to-earth than you’d expect for someone as pretty as her. McDonnell was very nice to talk to as well, and seemed appreciative of the fans’ attention. I also met Ron Glass, of Firefly fame.
-Caritas Karaoke was a lot of fun. The Whedonverse track set up one of the rooms at the Westin one night to look like Caritas, a demon-friendly karaoke bar from Angel, a spinoff of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. They brought in a karaoke machine and everyone took a turn singing their favorite songs. I was impressed with the singer before me, a little girl that couldn’t have been more than 12 or 13, but bounded onstage with enthusiasm and belted out a classic. It was a tough act to follow, but I had the entire room waving their arms to Weird Al’s “The Saga Begins” by the time I was done.
-I was able to achieve most of the goals I set out for myself after last year’s con. I was able to go to more of the “edutainment” panels, and most of them were interesting. A few panels were of particular interest. At “Science, Science News, & the Media,” I met one of my favorite podcasters, Jonathan Strickland, who hosts TechStuff, one of the podcasts of HowStuffWorks.com. The Electronic Frontiers Forum track put on a few interesting ones, including a screening of Terms & Conditions May Apply, a documentary examining what people are really agreeing to when they agree to an End User License Agreement. They also sponsored a panel on net neutrality. The Science track also had some neat ones, including two on science education, one on stem cells, and one on the theory of the multiverse. The Skeptics track had a panel that talked about climate change and evolution deniers, and why people believe that.
I took part in the Star Wars trivia contest as well. Sadly, I was unable to make the finals, but I think that was partly due to the qualifying test being heavily skewed towards the Clone Wars era, a period of Star Wars history that I am less familiar with than others. I didn’t see the Gonzoroo show on the schedule this year, though there was an event called “Gonzo Quiz” that I think may have been the same event under a different name. I wasn’t able to get there, though.
-The above panels were just a few of the cool ones I checked out. I attended one about the Firefly/Serenity comics with Georges Jeanty, the artist behind many of them (including the most recent series, Leaves on the Wind). Another Firefly-related panel was a live broadcast of The Signal, a popular fan podcast that is ending after 10 years on the interwebs. They took an interesting approach toward podcasting, taking a more variety show-like format, with segments such as “Blue Sun News Network” and “Learn to Speak Chinese.” Two Doctor Who panels discussed the new series and the 50th anniversary special. One panel on the BritTrack dealt with current British pop music, and they gave out CD samplers of several singles by new and well-known artists. I didn’t do as much on the Star Wars track this year, save for one panel with many of the authors of Expanded Universe novels, on how the recent decision to brand their books with the “Legends” banner and consider them non-canon affected them.
-The dealers’ floor was awesome as usual. There are all sorts of unique and interesting things sold on the dealers’ floor at Dragon Con, from crafted lightsabers and weapons to board games to t-shirts to fandom memorabilia. There’s even a shop there that makes custom desserts that revolve around fandoms. I bought a scrumptious treat of “red velvet brains” from them, which was essentially a piece of red velvet cake shaped and dipped in white chocolate, which was sculpted to look like a brain. They also had cookies emblazoned with such icons as the Super Mario characters. I also picked up a t-shirt that parodied Mortal Kombat, one of my favorite games as a kid, as well as a Hunger Games poster with Jennifer Lawrence’s autograph on it. At this rate, I may need a separate man cave just to house my autograph collection :).
-I no longer have a perfect record of getting into panels. Last year, I remarkably made it into every panel I tried to attend, even bigger ones such as John Barrowman’s & Jason David Frank’s. That didn’t happen for me this year, as I missed Patrick Stewart’s panel (despite getting in line 90 minutes ahead) and a panel discussion about the next Star Wars film. Missing Stewart didn’t bother me a whole lot, as I have never been much of a Star Trek fan, but I did want to see him because of his work on the recent X-Men movies. I got confused about which room the Episode VII panel was in, so I arrived too late. I was mildly surprised that it filled up, as last year’s panel about the movie did not (though we know more about it now than we did then). I did make it to every other panel I wanted to see, though, so I still have a pretty good success rate.
-Ron Glass & Adam Baldwin’s panel was… just okay. Ron Glass (Shepherd Book) and Adam Baldwin (Jayne) talked some about their experiences starring in Firefly. That was interesting, but the panel didn’t hold my attention the way I expected. Some of that was probably my fault, though, as they largely discussed their current projects (such as Agents of SHIELD and The Last Ship), with which I am unfamiliar. I’m glad I got to see them, though, because the Firefly actors were largely absent from Dragon Con last year.
-On a similar note, there were a few panels that turned out to be complete busts. The Electronic Frontiers Forum put on a panel called “Hacking 101,” which I thought would be an introduction to the world of hacking. Instead, it was just a series of people asking overly technical questions of the panelists, which made the panel incomprehensible to novices like myself. Also, the Space track did a panel called “Benefits of Commercial Space,” which I thought had a few too many panelists. It failed to hold my interest from the beginning, and I probably shouldn’t have attended it in the first place.
Plans for next year:
-I think I’m going to move away from going to the dance parties at night. I went to two of these this year: Suits, Sinatra, & Star Wars and the Heroes & Villains Ball. The problem with a lot of these parties at an event as huge as Dragon Con is that they can be very impersonal, and if you don’t know anyone there (which I frequently don’t), they can be kind of blah. Also, at the end of a day running from panel to panel, I’m usually not in the mood to dance the night away by the end. There are also a lot of other interesting things going on at night that I think are worth checking out, such as the Nerd Comedy show put on by the Skeptics track, and the Solve for X Science Show put on by the Science track. The Space track does Live Astronomy, in which participants look through a telescope to find planets and stars at night. Several of the other tracks do adult-themed panels at night, with titles such as Adult Themes in Sci-Fi and Nature is Kinkier than You. There’s also the aforementioned Gonzo Quiz as well as a burlesque show. The Georgia Aquarium decks itself out in sci-fi garb for a night and invites Dragon Con attendees to hang out there. Hell, there’s even a drum circle. Simply put, there are many, many other alternative events going on at night, and I think I’m going to investigate some of them next year.
-I want to see what the hell the Filk track is all about. Dragon Con has an entire track dedicated to the making of filk, a musical genre whose definition is unclear but seems to involve fans writing and performing songs about their fandoms. I think I’ll attend their introductory panel to see what sort of things they do, and then maybe go to some of their other events if I like what I see.
-There’s a few “standing exhibits” that I’ve never been to that I want to check out. These include the Armory, which is full of custom-made weapons made by fans of particular franchises. Also, I’ve never been by the art show, so I’d like to see that. I’m sure there are many interesting pieces there that run the gamut of different genres and styles. Finally, even though I’m not a huge comic reader, I’d still like to take a gander at the Comic & Pop Artist Alley, just to see what I might find there. One of the big takeaways from my two years at Dragon Con is that it’s absolutely immense. You can go for 5 or 10 years and still not see and do everything it has to offer. I think that’s why I’m so excited about it every year, and I can’t wait for next year.