This was our eighth Dragon*Con, and it’s not getting any smaller. Dragon*Con TV, which entertains (and soothes) the masses while they wait for large panels, created a bumper this year projecting the growth of attendance. It won’t be too many more years before we pull in the full population of Atlanta. Won’t they be surprised?
Did you click that link and then get lost for an hour amusing yourself with Dragon*Con TV videos? No? Well then go to their site Be sure to watch Shatner of the Mount. And Rainbow Connection–love that one.
But back to the con itself–it’s tough to recap four days in one post. The beauty of it is, you can read 100 posts called “Dragon*Con recap,” and they’ll all be different. The con is approaching 4000 hours of programming in those four days. And since we don’t have a Time Turner, TARDIS, or a cosmic treadmill, there’s only so much we can cram in. So let’s take it track by track.
Alternate History — These folks had a banner year. We heard several people say that they feel like steampunk is trailing off, but it really seems to be growing every year. Take as evidence the steampunk world record attempt photoshoot. They expected maybe a couple hundred. There were more than 500 steampunkers in that room, and that doesn’t count all the ones who had somewhere else to be that hour. (Ruth’s in the back on the stage, looking off to the left for some reason.)
Animation — Two of our all-time favorite panels happened this year with the assorted voice actor guests. The first we went to included C. Martin Croker, George Lowe, Billy West, Tom Kenny, Dana Snyder, and John DiMaggio. To be more familiar, that’s Space Ghost and Futurama, among others. But you’d be amazed where else you’ve heard those voices–look them up. The second we landed at was Futurama-specific, featuring Billy West, John DiMaggio and Phil LaMarr. Amusingly, it turns out that John and Phil can do many of Billy’s voices, but he can’t do theirs. Which is not to say that Bill West isn’t an amazing voice actor. He has a lot of people trapped inside him. But Bender is a really hard voice to do, as the Bender sound-alike contest proved. Let’s just say that for Bender’s sake, John DiMaggio better not take up extreme sports.
Apocalyse Rising — Ruth decided to hit the “Pimp My Zombie” panel specifically in hopes of being made over zombie-style by Rob Fitz. Indeed, she lucked up (and apologies to anyone she may have flattened in the race to the makeup chair). With tissues and the blood made for the movie Three Kings, she discovered that (probably only at Dragon*con), zombies are hot. So the further apologies go to the two guys whose room numbers she was given but didn’t show up to as well as to the housekeeping staff who may have been afraid a murder took place in our room after she removed the makeup.
Art Show Forums & Workshops — Full disclosure, not sure either of us had ever stepped in the art show before, except maybe accidentally when by Monday, the word “art” looked liked “gaming.” (That can happen at Dragon*Con.) But Ruth met Tom Biondillo Saturday night, and since he was such a great guy, it seemed like a good reason to check out Artists’ Alley the next day. Not only is Tom a great guy and a great artist, but that hall is filled with a lot of other great people and great artists. If you’re like us and never made it in there, definitely don’t pass it up next year. And say hi to Tom. Buy his stuff.
Costuming — The costuming track underwent a big change this year and got a new track director and some new staff. As big costume fans (and makers), we were excited to see all the new things on this track’s agenda. And then somehow… hardly ended up there at all. Oops. That’s that whole “too much to do and too many places to be” problem. Next year, Costuming. We’ll fall in love with each other all over again. But from the looks of the changes, they’ve really whipped things into order.
Electronic Frontiers Forum — On the one hand, this is such a seriously underrated track, based on the attendance of some of the panels. But most of the speakers could benefit from one piece of advice, so here’s hoping they’re reading this. With the expection of a panel that is clearly labeled as n00b-level, e.g. “Copyright 101,” you can assume that the people who took a break from gazing at semi-clad Ironettes and Sam from True Blood to come talk about “serious stuff” already have a baseline knowledge about the topic. Hop right in. Talk about the good stuff.
Main Programming — Can somebody explain what was up with the number of things listed on the grid in “Main” that were impossible to find descriptions of in the rest of the guide? Nevertheless, it seems like we go to less and less “Main” programming every year. There just aren’t that many people worth standing in line for 90 minutes (or more, despite the “rules”) for.
We did, however, go a few main panels. I made it to see the cast of Warehouse 13. Eddie McClintock, Saul Rubinek and Tia Carrere came to regail us with stories from the set. Eddie McClintock is just as much a cut-up in person as he seems on the screen.
Dean Stockwell and Scott Bakula had a panel on Quantum Leap. Dean Stockwell has had an amazing career that has spanned 70 years, that began in the 40s in an anti-war film. They gave us a small insight into the potential Quantum Leap movie rumored to be in the making.
I also made it to a panel with Jim Butcher. He was spectacular. He talked a little bit about his career and his books, then took questions from the audience. The first guy up spoiled the ending of the most recent book, and I thought he might be needing a security escort to make it out of the room. But Butcher was very charismatic and left me wanting to see more from him.
We also made it to the first True Blood panel. Kristin Bauer (Pam)–great. Sam Trammell (Sam)–Great. Nelsan Ellis (Lafayette)–it’s tough to say this, but a little disappointing. Who doesn’t love Lafayette? Well… Ellis, it seems.
To start with the pair that was the best to listen to, Bauer had great stories about learning to say her Swedish lines from Alexander Skarsgård’s voice recorded on her iPod as well as speaking with the teeth in for the first time. And remember the time in the first season when we first see Sam running naked through the woods? That’s actually Trammell’s old family property. His ancestors are buried about a mile away, and according to him, probably rolling in their graves.
On to why Ellis was a bit of a disappointment. He didn’t seem to want to be there. He also doesn’t seem to be particularly excited about playing this flamboyantly gay character, which is a shame, since he does it so well. Nor was he particularly interested in the fans. On being asked how he felt about attending Comic-Con, he said something along the lines of, “I didn’t know you people existed. I didn’t know there was a comic book convention. I asked what you do at a comic book convention–sit around and read comic books?”
Moving on from True Blood, Masquerade also takes place in Main programming ballrooms. May we suggest our Masquerade tactic? This show gets worse every year. Hosts Peter David and George Perez with their occasional snarky remarks are the best part. So here’s our plan: About 30 minutes before Masquerade, order pizza. Return to your host hotel room. Dragon*Con TV plays it live. You can be as loud and snarky as you want, and nobody will object. You don’t have to stand in line, You don’t have to sit between two large people who haven’t showered yet (see Ruth’s beer panel experience below for more on this), and you don’t have to fight the crowds to get out. You also get some bonus time to put on your own (probably way better) costume to go out for prime photo op time.
Science — The science of making beer. Clearly a repeat favorite, based on the fact that not everyone got into the room. But we did, and it was totally worth it. Ruth got there first and ended up squeezed, as mentioned above, between two people who clearly exceeded the seating allowance. And for all the jokes made about smelly geeks, for the most part, you can get through your Dragon*Con experience without having your nose constantly assaulted. But one of these two fellows had not observed the 3-2-1 rule of cons. Fortunately, Scott came along, and a seat opened up next to him. Tasty beer tasting followed, along with some science-y bits and Futurama clips. Mostly tasty beer tasting.
Skeptic Track — Also a really great non-media track. But to the guy who had a four- or five-year-old kid in the late-night skeptics and sexuality panel… How many awkward questions did you have to answer later?
Trek Track — This is another track that underwent a big director change this year. Eric Watts, who had been the track director for 17 years, was ousted. (It doesn’t take much Google effort to read the drama and speculation surrounding that.) But who did they replace him with? Garrett Freakin’ Wang. This is both really cool and really weird, as it puts Harry Kim in the position of both guest and director. But he played it off pretty well, and does a pretty good George Takei impression to boot.
The TNG cast includes some of our favorite all-time guests. If you weren’t there and have never seen Jonathan Frakes if he was aware of his status as an icon in the bear community, you should go watch is as soon as you’re finished here. And this year, Frakes was back, along with Marina Sirtis, Brent Spiner, and LeVar Burton. Oddly, this panel included Armen Shimerman, who is amazing as an actor, but was a bit left out of the discussion on a TNG panel. Denise Crosby showed up as well, although she wasn’t listed for this particular session. Frakes made a few jokes about her leaving the show, and after one final crack, she got up and walked off the stage mid-panel, followed by Frakes, who presumably went backstage to smooth things over. He poked his head out of the curtain and joked, “Marina! Marina! Denise needs a counselor!” But after that, we didn’t see them again.
And that pretty much covers the time we spent in official programming. But of course, some of the best things that happen at a con are outside of that official programming. For us this year, it was a surprise roommate who we’d highly recommend, but then she might not want to come back to our room.
For a little background, the two of us plus another friend have roomed together for the last eight years. Then an assortment of other people have passed through our room for anywhere from a night to a couple of years. Our revolving roommate slot is a running joke that starts with our first year together when we woke up one morning to find that our room included eight new roommates, one of whom was sleeping in the bathtub having run out of other options.
This year, I met writer Natania Barron on Twitter. She recently helped launch Geek Mom, which if you’re a mom and a geek, or even just one of those two things, you should definitely check out. I offered her a ride to Atlanta, but then she even ended up staying in our room. As roommates go, highly recommended. But you can’t have her. Go find your own cool roommate. You can, however, get your fill of Natania by reading her stuff. < /shameless plug for our new friend >
To wrap up, in the interest of spreading health and well-being through the aforementioned 3-2-1 rule, keep this in mind for your next congoing experience: For each day of con, you must get three hours of sleep, two meals, and one shower. No exceptions.
May the con be with you!
This post written with the assistance of my wonderful wife Ruth Suehle (@suehle).