Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Dragon*Con 2009

As my friend Lillian stated often over this last weekend, "There's too much to do!"

Dragon*Con boasts the largest science fiction/fantasy/gamer/writing/paranormal romance/comic book/video game/movie convention in North America. After four days of running (in some cases literally) between four very large hotels in downtown Atlanta, rushing to meet some of our favorite authors, actors, and entertainers, at the same time dodging and admiring the costumes of thousands of other attendees, I see no reason to dispute that claim.

We arrived relatively early in Atlanta on the morning of the 4th. Our first task, after finding a parking space in the middle of an invasion of rental cars, was to get our badges for the convention. Just standing in line was a bit of an adventure. The line had the feel of an amusement park line; a little frustrating, but in that "so close, yet so far away" sense of the word. My travel companion was soon enchanted by the many costumed characters around us, and began taking the first of many pictures and videos.

(A little side note, here: when selecting a digital camera for ... well, for anything, make sure you pick one that doesn't draw a great deal of energy; or make sure you carry a double handful of spare batteries with you at all times.)

By the time we got our badges, the convention was already under way. We missed a rare joint appearance by Star Trek legends William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy, the kickoff event of the convention. However, we were able to meet and even schmooze a little with some of our favorite stars and authors. Dragon*Con has a Walk of Fame practically crammed with celebrities. We met some of the biggest names in science fiction and fantasy, gathering not a few autographs for ourselves and our friends and families.

For two aspiring authors like ourselves, this convention was something of a dream come true. Lillian, a budding romance author, rubbed elbows and even had a few drinks with some of her favorites in the field, networking as well as gathering several autographs. I'm not much of an "autograph guy", myself, but I did get a signature from one of my favorite authors, Timothy Zahn. His Thrawn trilogy is widely acknowledged as the greatest Star Wars trilogy since the original. I've often thought that he should have been contracted to write the screenplays for Episodes I, II, and III.

In addition, we attended a twelve-part seminar on writing offered by two more giants in the Star Wars universe: Michael Stackpole and Aaron Allston. The topics ranged from developing important skills and habits before you begin writing, to exercises that will prepare you to write your novel, to improving your manuscript once it's written, to what you can expect the writing world to resemble in the "post-paper era". Their advice is available on their own websites, so I won't try to recreate it here.

It wasn't strictly a nerd- or geekfest, though. You might look at the convention as an event that has something for everyone. The guest list for this year, I conservatively estimate, had over four hundred names on it. They ranged from Star Wars and Star Trek alumni to Robert Jordan and J.R.R. Tolkien panelists. Video gamers, board gamers, LARP and RPG aficionados each had their own venues to frequent. Artists and authors all had space to display the fruits of their labors. Dealer and exhibitor booths peppered the hotels, with musicians playing in every hotel.

And the costumes. What can I say about the costumes? They were, no pun intended, fantastic! To be sure, there were plenty of people in the traditional sci-fi/fantasy/comic book costumes. There were elves, Vulcans, robots, X-Men, jedi, Halo Master Chiefs, and a fair number of Ghostbusters. However, there were also many people dressed in original costumes. Skeletons and pirates, literary figures both classic and modern, World of Warcraft characters and, of course, every kind of vampire were all in attendance.

I didn't dress up this year, but if I go next year, then I may go in "steampunk". A subgenre that has gained a significant amount of ground in the sci-fi community over the last couple of decades, steampunk centers around Victorian-era settings in which modern-day and even future innovations already exist in the form of brass-encased, steam-powered inventions. Think the original "Time Machine" novel by H.G. Wells, or the more recent collaboration "The Difference Engine", by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling. I found the steampunk costumes to be very visually interesting; they were my favorite of all.

If there's too much to do at Dragon*Con, then there's also far too much to say about it. I knew before I even agreed to go that I wouldn't be prepared for everything that I'd want to do, or have time for it if I was. I frequently caught myself thinking, "This is my Dragon*Con dry run. Next year, I'll be much better prepared." I haven't actually decided whether or not I will go next year, but I can tell you that it's more likely than not.

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