I'm no stranger to conventions. I've been to New York ComicCon in 2010 and 2011, Phoenix ComicCon in 2013, and to Dice Tower Con in 2015 and 2016. I've wanted to attend DragonCon for a few years now, especially recently since I now live closer than ever. This year, I finally had my chance. From Thursday, September 1st to Monday, September 5th I was in Atlanta for the 30th DragonCon. I prepped everything I could: camera, hotel room, drinks and snacks to carry around.
I was not ready for this.
There are hundreds of panels. Dozens of celebrities, writers, and artists. Parties, meet-ups, dances, all-night gaming, and cosplay. So. Many. Costumes. Movies, TV, comics, anime, memes, podcasts, the most obscure deep cuts of pop-culture, all of it represented in every amalgamation and iteration and alteration imaginable. A lot of it was impressive, and a few were... questionable? Let's go with questionable. But cosplay was everywhere, permeating the seven-plus buildings of the convention and making fools like myself feel shame, SHAME, for not dressing up. Trying to traverse the treacherous hotel landscape from one end of the con to the other (or even going outside in the Georgia heat) is like crossing the Sahara, in that it needs time, preparation, and a few minutes to gird your loins and psyche yourself up to fight through crowds of Harley Quinns and Steampunks.
I don't think one enjoys DragonCon as much as one survives it. Of course I did enjoy myself, but I came back exhausted, my voice cracked and faltering. It's the Friday after and I'm still tired. DragonCon is a force to be reckoned with. I hit up a lot of panels and events I wanted to see and missed a lot more that I told myself I was going to. Standing in line for Q&A's, playing games, and waiting for signatures gave me a lot of time to talk to some very interesting people who I hope to see later on. I don't really rate conventions in the same way I'd rate media, but for this I would have to give it a 5/5.
A few highlights from the weekend:
- I was able to attend the convention as a volunteer in the Board Games section. I hosted King of Tokyo and King of New York tournaments on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. While the tournaments were fun, getting to work behind the table for a bit helping people new to gaming with suggestions or teaching them how to play was the highlight of that experience.
- I was able to attend a panel on Rifftrax with Bill Corbett, who is hilarious in person. I had overheard a panelist telling a story of sharing a shuttle with him and thinking "Man this guy is hysterical" and not realizing who he was until he stopped looking at him.
- Speaking of hilarious, there was no way I was going to a convention with Jim Butcher attending and not see him at least once. He is an incredibly funny individual, and it showed during his fantastic Q&A panel and the hilarious "Celebrity Gaming with Pathfinder" panel.
- I also had a book signed by him (Small Favors) for some friends. I feel for the poor man. I was on line for an hour and he was signing his name and writing messages the entire time.
- Got a Funko of Dana Scully signed by Gillian Anderson for my wife. I was not allowed back into our home without it.
- Finally played the hit game Codenames and taught some other players Scythe.
- Attended the panel "Everything Old is New Again (Idea-wise)" with one of my favorite authors (Myke Cole), which, because of the small turnout size, turned into more of an informal discussion on science-fiction themes and tropes.
- The two most popular cosplays were Harley Quinn (approximately 105% of all con-goers were dressed as some version of her) and myself. That's right, me. Go ahead. Try not to spot a large bald guy with glasses, beard, and a graphic tee. I'm everywhere.
There were three floors of vendors at DragonCon, and way too many for me to talk about all of then. But I wanted to give a couple of shout-outs from businesses and artists that I told to shut up and take my money.
- The top floor of the vendor hall held most of the comic book illustrators and artists. But the one that struck me the most was the gorgeous artwork of Newsha Ghasemi. I purchased a set a book marks printed with her Flower Series. I also grabbed these three prints (the last one of which is a collaboration with Fernanda Suarez).
- Kori Ann Designs created one of the coolest paper creations I had ever seen. They were paper-cutouts, all colorful and detailed, depicting everything from super heroes to Hogwarts to gorgeous designs and patterns, and they all fit into a standard greeting card.
- Purchased two signed books about pirates set in the Pathfinder RPG universe from author Chris A. Jackson who hosted the "Everything Old is New Again" panel.
- CoolStuffInc, board game and card game vendor out of Florida, had some amazing deals on games and were kind enough to hand out free tote bags to all convention goers, regardless of whether they were shopping there or not. I grabbed a couple of titles I'd been looking for (and will most likely review in the future).