The Dragon’s Lair

Sith Lord Kylo Ren, who will be in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, with some First Order stormtroopers.
Sith Lord Kylo Ren, who will be in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, with some First Order stormtroopers.

It’s that time of year again. A time for costumes, fanboys, swords, and spaceships. Oh, and some drinking, too… yes, you guessed it, Dragon Con 2015 wrapped up a few weeks ago, and it was a rollicking good time as always. I got to do and explore several areas of the Con that I hadn’t in past years, which, even though it was my third Con, made it feel like the first time (apologies to Foreigner 🙂

Me with Congressman and Civil Rights leader John Lewis (D-GA)
Me with Congressman and Civil Rights leader John Lewis (D-GA)

Highlights:

-I got to meet a Civil Rights leader. Betcha didn’t see that coming, huh? John Lewis, the only Big Six leader still with us, came to the Con to promote his graphic novel March. Written with the help of Andrew Aydin and Nick Powell, March chronicles Lewis’s experiences in the movement, including such pivotal moments as the Nashville sit-in demonstrations and the march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, chronicled in the 2014 film Selma. Lewis, who has been a Congressman from Georgia for my entire lifetime, came out to greet people waiting in line for his panel, signed books, and took pictures. The panel itself was emotional and powerful, with several great questions that tied the Civil Rights movement to the Black Lives Matter movement and other political issues of today. Several people tearfully thanked Lewis for his many contributions. At a time when many of us escape into fantasy worlds, Lewis’s panel was a stark dose of reality.

Filkers performing
Filkers performing

-The filk track was amusing. Filk, I’ve learned, is the music of fandom. Filkers write their songs about the things they love, such as Star Wars, Doctor Who, Firefly, and whatever else you can think of. Generally, filk songs are set to the tune of popular songs and are tongue-in-cheek, as one of the artists described herself as specializing in songs about “Star Wars and fornication.” I attended three of their panels on Friday, including an open filking session where filkers performed their songs for anyone who wanted to hear them. The filk track also sponsored Firefly Drinking Songs, in which Marc Gunn performed several hilarious songs about Firefly with the aid of an autoharp. I liked my introduction into the filk track, and I think I’d like to explore it more next year.

-Some of the night events I went to were cool. I finally made it to Gonzoroo on Saturday night, which basically consisted of several musical and comedy performances by the guests of Dragon Con. Some of the better ones included The Doubleclicks, a guitar and cello-wielding pair of sisters who weaved their fandoms into quirky, relatable songs. Joseph Scrimshaw was probably the best comedian of the night, making several hilarious Star Wars jokes. Paul & Storm were the only act there that I’d heard of previously, as I was familiar with the music they made as part of the comedic a cappella group Da Vinci’s Notebook. Friday night, I went to a show that the Animation track sponsored that was a takeoff on the TV show @Midnight. For those unfamiliar, @Midnight is hosted by Chris Hardwick on Comedy Central, and features comedians making jokes about memes and weird stuff on the Internet in a game-show format. Dragon Con’s version was similarly hilarious.

-I checked out several exhibit spaces for the first time, and they were really cool. The Armory featured many different historical weapons, and was like walking through a mini-museum. The Alternate History’s museum of steampunk and dieselpunk creations had a similar feel. I kinda thought the Comic & Pop Artist Alley was just going to feature several comic books I’d never heard of, but the “pop artist” portion of the proceedings was very interesting. The talent of the artists was pretty eye-popping, as many of them were able to fuse popular culture with a beautiful artistic style to a great result. I even wanted to buy one of the prints, but there are apparently still people in this day and age that can’t take credit cards for payment, so I was out of luck. The Art Show was less fandom-centric, and more, well, artistic. The art there was a lot fancier, and while it still featured goblins, dragons, and other mystical creatures, it was more focused on original work than on appropriating cultural icons.

Felicia Day
Felicia Day

-Felicia Day and Karen Gillan’s panels were positively charming. Felicia Day is the consummate geek actress, having appeared in such shows as Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, Eureka, and The Guild, a web series she created herself about online RPG players. She alternated funny moments with candid discussions of her struggles with depression and body image, that she outlined in her recent book. Karen Gillian, best known for her role as Amy Pond on Doctor Who, was similarly charming, and talked about her experiences there, and how she’s grown close to her costars Matt Smith and Arthur Darvill. She also shared some interesting stories, such as when she had to shave her head to appear on Guardians of the Galaxy, and she sent her hair to the Star Wars costume designers, who made it into a wig for her. Side note: I want to give a shout out here to the Doctor Who panelists, who always put together some great panels with some great conversation. That was true again this year.

-I didn’t venture into the Walk of Fame as much, but got to shake one new hand. That hand belonged to Edward James Olmos, who starred as Admiral Adama on Battlestar Galactica. He had that same “wizened old dad” persona that he had on Battlestar in person, and it was great to meet him. I also made a return visit to Richard Hatch’s booth, and talked Battlestar with him too. I also decided to drop all the money I’d saved for the vendors on one item: a signed photo of Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher from Return of the Jedi, my favorite Star Wars movie. I figured I should probably get my hands on some Star Wars memorabilia before the new movie comes out.

-The “edutainment” and other panels were fun too. The only panel I attended on the Electronic Frontiers track was an interesting (and thankfully even-handed) look at the debate over the Second Amendment. The president of American Atheists had a great presentation on the Skeptics track, and the Space track’s panels were very interesting, about life on Mars and the future of space exploration. The lady that runs the Space track infuses a lot of energy and excitement into it, and it is often infectious. The Star Wars track’s panels were also extra-good this year, reassuring fans about changes to the canon and talking about all we know about Episode VII thus far. There was also one panel that talked about the history of Star Wars video games, which I am (you guessed it) an avid player of.

This is a screen shot from Live Astronomy.  That white patch near the bottom near the center is the Pillars of Creation.
This is a screen shot from Live Astronomy. That white patch near the bottom near the center is the Pillars of Creation.

Lowlights:

-Some of the night events were kind of a bust. The Space track’s Live Astronomy event was cool in theory, as some attending astronomers showed us live feeds of space telescopes stationed in Chile and Arizona. Only problem is, since the objects we’re focusing on are so far away, you have to leave the telescope’s exposure open for a long time (and if it’s cloudy, even longer), so you can spend an hour or more there and only get to see one picture, as I did. But the picture was cool, showing a live view of The Pillars of Creation, the subject of one of the most iconic photos taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. The Solve for X Science Show started out with a few comedians who were not as good as Gonzoroo’s offerings, so my friend Austin and I left to check out a party (where I discovered Apple Pie in a Jar, my new favorite drink). I’ll probably check out the show next year, as I’m sure it gets more interesting as the night goes on.

-The Star Wars trivia contest was way easier this year, and I should’ve done it. They restricted it to just the new canon, which is essentially the films, the TV shows, and a few novels. I thought it might focus on the more obscure parts, but I saw the qualifying test questions later, and I knew most of them. With my luck, they’ll make it hard again next year, when the new canon has had a whole year to grow.

To-do list for next year:

-I want to check out Dragon Con Night at the Georgia Aquarium. I’ve never been, and it sounds fun. The Georgia Aquarium has a really cool ambience anyway, but deck it out in sci-fi and fantasy stuff, and it’d be even better. It doesn’t cost much extra to get in, and would be interesting to check out. In a similar vein, I’d like to check out at least one of the adult-themed panels that go on at night, as well as the Skeptics track’s Nerd Comedy show.

-I’d like to do an InstaFilk session. InstaFilk is one of the filk track’s traditions, where a group of nerds get together and attempt to write a filk song on the fly. Several of the results have been good, and I think that could be a unique experience.

-Maybe I’ll explore the gaming area. I’ve never quite understood the point of coming to Dragon Con to play games all day, but the gaming track has some tournaments and such that could be fun. They also bring in these massive virtual-reality arcade machines that involve you controlling massive robots or something, and that could be fun to experience.

-The Armory, in addition to its display, has programming too. Most of the panels involve docents that teach about the history and use of certain weapons. Again, it’s a unique experience that, since I’ve never done it before, could be interesting.

In short, it was another great year! Here’s to one more!

This little girl cosplaying as Young Amy Pond made me want to melt into a puddle.
This little girl cosplaying as Young Amy Pond made me want to melt into a puddle.
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3 comments

  1. Your enthusiasm is infectious. A civil rights legend and member of Congress promoting his graphic novel. Let me get my head about that one . . .

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