Editor’s Note: Ladies and gents, please give a welcome to Big Dub, who decided to bestow his first bit of presence on that site by giving us his report on properly losing his DragonCon virginity.
Being that I recently changed careers from a weekday production manager at a potted meat factory to a field that permits such mythical things as “Days Off” and an “Actual 9-5 Workday,” I recently successfully completed my first full Dragon*Con. And by full, I am talking taking in all the Thursday to Monday action. So after eighteen panels, ten MARTA (the Atlanta public transit system–more on them shortly) trips and one birthday celebration, I am ready to reflect on the difference between the full experience I have had versus the Dragon*Con Lite I’ve had to be satisfied with in the past.
[ad#longpost]Initially, the most striking difference I noticed was how much the crowd fluctuates. Obviously, on Thursday and Monday, there are far fewer people. Friday, however, was where it was most obvious. While most major panelists were kicking off their presence at the Con–including several that only had one other panel the entire time–the event was essentially at about 60% capacity. Now, that being said, there were still a crapload of people–many of whom went for the au naturale scent of hygiene products. The dealer rooms were much more manageable and getting to the major panels was pretty easy. For those who are new to Dragon*Con, and still have the desire to see Shatner or that type of panel, I would highly recommend coming on Friday and knocking that stuff out. If you wait until Saturday, you will be in line most of your day.
Another easily noticeable characteristic is that the costumes get significantly better as the weekend continues, but then drop off the map on Monday. Saturday and Sunday are the days to see the quality costumes. This makes logical sense, of course, because that is when the contests and parade are. Monday can be attributed to the sheer inane fog of Con, which apparently can make you believe that moose antlers, a wife beater and tight jean shorts make you a great Storm Trooper. So great a Trooper in fact that the Rebel Alliance is chasing you throughout the lobby of the Hyatt. What you fail to realize, though: you currently match the description of Buck, the escaped convict who was put in prison for Goat Play and the Rebel Alliance is actually the State Troopers. Again, all easily explained by the haze of Monday at Con. On Thursday and Friday, though, most costume creators have just arrived and should be ready to put their best foot forward. That being said, this is where I saw a costume of a man in a beige body suit who was holding a stuffed ostrich. And…that was it. What realm of Con this comes from, I don’t know, but it was in no way impressive. At least the ostrich had the sense to look embarrassed.
Additionally, I learned that the more time you have at Dragon*Con, the better panels you can find. While I did enjoy the “celebrities” that I saw, my favorite panels were done by more ordinary folk. Dr. Kris Sperry’s panels on all things forensically gory are especially good, as are Father Bryan Small’s discussions of religion crossing into sci-fi. Both of these are found in the premiere track IMO, the X-Track. I would advise to pick the one or two major panels you want to see, and then just explore your interests. Visit different tracks and see what people have to say. You will find them much more engaging, as well as the people are approachable and not immediately whisked off stage to pose as a goat in a picture with Buck that he paid an additional $90 for if he could include his “Rod of Enlightenment” in the photo.
For the evenings, since I did not stay actually at the Con, I was limited by the accursed public transit we have in this city. Being at the MARTA by 1am so you can make it home does not lend itself to late night events within Con. This problem makes karaoke, various balls (though a different sort can sometimes be seen if you’re not careful during daylight hours) and concerts not fathomable. This will be resolved with the hotel reservations that will be put in place for next year the first minute it’s possible to do so, because I want to take all of that in as well. I do heavily advise to go to anything that our esteemed Need Coffee site does. Hilarity ensues throughout the Fun Fest and Bad Men Panels which you can’t quite find anywhere else. Plus, you will win a prize at some point in the proceedings. This, you will not regret, and will be the most fun you have at Con. (Editor’s Note: we didn’t pay him to say that part.)
So with the ending of Dragon*Con 2011, I am quite sad. Moreso than in years past because of how much fun I had taking it all in (though not from Buck). Two biggest things I will change for next year: Stay in a hotel at Con, so that I too can enter the Con-Fog and stumble around at all hours. Second, I will be taking off not just the Friday of Con, but the Wednesday and Thursday before it and the Tuesday after it, as I am currently at work for the Man, and the Man is abusing me with his tactics which is making me consider summoning my new friend Sheol to come and destroy him. Oh wait, no, that was Mighty Bill I was thinking of. Whoops.