What better way to kick off my second year living in Atlanta than with a second trip to the giant fandom convention and cosplayer-paradise known as DragonCon? With partner in crime, Bex and some fellow nerds from Word of the Nerd along for the ride, this year’s con was even more rewarding than last year in spite of a less-spectacular line up of guests.
If you are unfamiliar with DragonCon, click here for my review of last year’s con, complete with an introduction to the basics such as panels, tracks, the Walk of Fame and the infamous costumes.
Ready? OK, without further ado, I present: How I Spent My DragonCon, by Rachel Proffitt (with a decent chance of guerrilla comments thrown in the mix from Bex). (Woot woot! That’s me, in the purple – Bex)
Here’s an outline of what to expect from this loooong post.
I. The Hotel (“Bex and Proffitt watch DragonCon TV, drink wine, and giggle helplessly about silly things”) (With fiber- yes, we brought healthy snacks.)
II. The Panels (“The Walking Dead Children Charm, Simon and Kaylee Giggle While Jayne Scowls, Cap’n Jack Drops Trou, Alcide Growls and Jane Espenson Makes Us All Feel Better About Life”).
III. The Walk of Fame (“Bex Sagely Advises Proffitt NOT to Smell the Actors”) (But later it is confirmed that John Barrowman smells really good by Kai Owen while watching a panel on Dragon*Con TV).
IV. The Parties (“That Vodka was a Bad Idea”) (That party in general was a bad idea.)
V. The Costumes (“Bow Ties are Cool”) (And Boba Fetts and Umbrella squads in black.)
VI. The Nerds and the City (“They grow ‘em tall in the Geek-verse”)
VI. Epilogue – The Advice
Perhaps the best decision we made about attending this year’s con was to stay in a hotel rather than take MARTA back and forth daily. We just got lucky that we ended up in what I consider the best of the hotels, The Westin – all of the other “Big Four” (Marriot, Hilton and Sheraton) sold out within hours of the rooms being made available. The Westin is a bit further removed from the Con, but only by two blocks. The benefit of this is that it is less crowded, yet still decidedly part of the action. While we often had to wait for elevators, we didn’t have to wait nearly as long as those at the Hilton or Marriot, if the reports from fellow con-goers can be believed.
Also, it is a beautiful hotel, the staff is friendly even when they are at full capacity with fully outfitted geeks are roaming their halls.
Best of all, staying at a hotel means two things. 1) When we were too wiped out from roaming, waiting in line, watching panels and stalking John Borrowman to leave the room, we could snack on the various provisions we were wise enough to bring (water, wine, granola, ginger snaps) and watch DragonCon TV. Mostly, this means funny commercials, skits, and music videos, but it also means watching some of the panels we couldn’t make or weren’t inclined to wait in line for. This is how we saw Stan Lee charm the pants off of the crowd, and Billy Boyd speak in the most amazing Scottish accent I have ever heard at the Lord of the Rings panel. (We tracked Billy down at the Walk of Fame and just made him talk for us – he willingly obliged and even came off of a break to do so.) 2) You know Bex and I can’t contain our giggle-fits when left alone in a hotel room. Sometimes, we had wine. More often, we were drunk on exhaustion. While there were no “towel boyfriends” like last time, I assure you there was plenty of hilarity, particularly as we navigated the twists and turns, falling plaster, and broken door-handles of our hotel staircases in our attempt to outsmart the Westin Elevators. We succeeded, by the way – see right.
True Blood, Friday 2:30 PM; Joe Manganiello (Alcide), Carrie Preston (Arlene) and Sam Trammell (Sam). Time in line: about 1 hour. Seated: about halfway back in a huge ballroom. View: good; could make out faces and everything. Also had great views of screens, but didn’t need them. Crowd: huge, decent questions, no real awkward moments.
A small panel, without a lot of hi-jinx or hilarity, but really nice. It was nice to hear Sam Trammell acknowledge that he spent pretty much the last three episodes of the season naked. The high-point for Bex was Joe Manganiello’s growl. For me, it was probably the patience and quick wit Carrie Preston demonstrated when the disturbingly vague “Warning! Warning! An alarm has been sounded” alarm went off during the panel…about a dozen times.
Doctor Who 2013: A look into next year’s Anniversary, Friday 4PM. Rob Levy and Ken Spivey. This was a fan lead panel, but believe me when I tell you these panelists knew their stuff. Lots of fun was had as audience members asked questions, shared theories and enjoyed the air-conditioning and good cheer. Time in line: none. Seats: in back. View: good! No screens, smaller space. Crowd: decent size for a fan-panel. (And a rookie mistake was made by someone in the crowd – NOT us- who asked about a Supernatural / Doctor Who crossover. It’s hard to explain why that isn’t appropriate, but it isn’t. Supernatural just doesn’t have the nerd cred that Doctor Who has.)
A Conversation with Jane Espenson, Saturday 11:30 AM; Jane Espenson (writer for Buffy, Torchwood, BSG, OUAT, Husbands), Brad Bell (co-writer/creator/star of Husbands-(HE IS CHEEKS! Not Brad) and Sean Hemeon (co-star, Husbands). Time in line: maybe 20 minutes. Seats: second row. View: good! Smaller space, no screens needed. Crowd: medium sized, very well behaved, great questions.
My favorite panel by far, Ms. Espenson shared the stage with Hemeon and Bell, but firmly held control of the panel and the attention of the audience. She is funny and she is wise. I wish I could remember everything she said, but rest assured that many fans of Battlestar Galactica would agree with her about that whole Starbuck thing in the finale (vague to avoid spoilers, although, I gotta say, the statute of limitations is running out on BSG-Spoiler-Alerts). (Ms. Espenson is amazing and an inspiration. And quite the stylie dresser! I got goosebumps. And afterwards we had a run in with Cheeks on the street who was kind enough to direct us to the Sheraton.)
John Barrowman Live!, Saturday 4PM; John Barrowman, best known for playing Captain Jack on Torchwood and Doctor Who. Time in line: an hour or more. Seats: about halfway back in a huge ballroom. View: OK. Had to use the screens for much of the show just to avoid craning neck around too much. Crowd: huge, fun, along for the ride.
Barrowman essentially charmed the crowd for an hour, sometimes answering questions seriously, sometimes not. He was a lot of fun, so no complaints here. He also brought his husband Scott on stage with him for a while and they told some really sweet (and raunchy) stories. All in all, a show worth the wait for fans of Captain Jack. (What- no mention of what happened? He dropped his pants and encouraged his husband to do the same. John wore Superman briefs and turned to wiggle his, um, assets; Scott wore Batman briefs. I told my gay friend about it later who snappily replied “I wish I could have seen the Dark Knight rise.”)
Big Damn Heroes – Firefly Panel, Sunday 1PM; Adam Baldwin (Jayne), Sean Maher (Simon) and Jewel Staite (Kaylee). Time in line: a little over an hour. Seats: fantastic, second row on balcony in Westin ballroom. Crowd: huge, all devoted fans, some social awkwardness, but the crowd policed itself with sometimes frightening vigor. (And another rookie mistake- someone asked Adam Baldwin about his conservative politics in a mostly liberal environment. Baldwin’s elegant response was something everyone should take to heart -”Will Wheaton has a rule – don’t be a dick at work. Dude abides.” Nicely handled Mr. Baldwin.)
Fun, fun, fun. That’s all I can say. I want to go to dinner with this panel.
Slim Chances – The Walking Dead Q&A, Sunday 4PM; Madison Lintz (Sophia), James Allen McCune (Jimmy), Chandler Riggs (Carl), Steven Yeun (Glenn) and Emily Kinney (Beth). Time in line: an hour. Seats: another score, balcony in Westin. Crowd: well, aside from the A-holes next to us, they were great. Big, enthusiastic and good questions. (For realz, if you want to carry on full volume conversations with your friends, why did you bother to attend the panel?)
This panel was a pleasant surprise. The kids knew how to handle themselves and clearly love every minute of working on a zombie show. Yeun, Kinney and McCune were funny, but also serious about the panel, answering questions and keeping the crowd from dropping big spoilers from the comics. My second favorite panel. (And Yeun is a comic nerd. He gave props to Ed Brubaker and Image Comics. One of us!)
The Walk of Fame
You know the deal – famous people sit at tables, you walk up and talk to them, get things signed, drool. Autographs were more expensive this year than last and very few stars allowed fans to take personal pics with them for only 10$ like last year (meaning, most didn’t allow those pics at all – those who did, like Amber Benson and Jamie Bamber have my respect, in spite of the fact that I didn’t take advantage of the opportunity), but the Walk of Fame was still a pretty cool place. It’s just cool to see Lou Farigno and Erin Grey next to the cast of BSG (who sent another stellar contingent this year, making me sad I didn’t get a chance to catch one of their panels). It’s nice to have informal conversations with people, like the time I was trying to read Steven Yuen’s “pricing” sign and ended up in a conversation with Billy Boyd – the aforementioned Scottish Accent of My Dreams. It’s just nice.
Autograph-wise, I laid out the big bucks for John Barrowman, mostly because once you get close enough to him, gay or no, his magnetism pulls you in like a gravitational force. He was one of the few there for whom you had to write down your name in advance for personalized autographs (he had a line). When I reached him, I had forgotten all about the slip of paper. “Who’s this for?” he asked. “Oh shit!” I exclaimed. “’Oh shit?’ OK, I’ll make it out to Oh Shit, I guess.” Ahhh, the merriment.
Bex picked the least lascivious picture of Joe Manganiello to have signed by that giant of a man, but I’ll let her tell you about that. I was proud of her.
Some observations: Jamie Bamber is way hotter as the blond, tan, Australian he really is than as Lee Adama (So say we all, so say we all); Erin Grey looks amazing; James Marsters seems to have reverse-aged since last year (maybe he really IS a vampire) and Amber Benson is sweet as pie. Also, let me say again – last year’s Walk of Fame was much more affordable than this year for those hoping for autographs and pictures. If anyone is listening from DragonCon, if there are any steps you can take to reverse this trend, please do. (And clearer pricing and what is offered would be nice too.)
(No Reedus. Boo hoo, but understandably. It seems he was in the midst of breaking up with his girlfriend and some other issues).
OK, I’m not sure I can really write about the infamous DragonCon parties with anything even approaching expertise. My advice is to talk to as many people as you can in elevators, waiting in line for panels, etc. and get a feel for the variety of options for night life at the Con. There is just too much to sort through otherwise. We did attend the Zombie Prom on Friday night and…something or another on Saturday night. Zombie prom was fun enough, but Saturday was a dud. Maybe because you had to wait 40 minutes for a drink. Or, maybe I’m just a curmudgeon. Bex can tell you – a party person, I am not. (Second party was lame. Bad music. Boring crowd. Long drink line. Bummer. And don’t try to take up 1/2 the floor space with a hula hoop and then complain when people crowd around you. This isn’t a Phish show.)
We can consider it a mark of progress that I am now officially OK with using the word CosPlay. Not out-loud, but in writing at least. I’ve manage to break the associations that too many episodes of Real Sex on HBO ingrained in my subconscious and accept that the word “play” after a noun doesn’t have to imply lasciviousness.
It is hard to know where to start when describing the costumes at DragonCon. There were the usual suspects – Boba Fetts (Bex likes Boba), Storm Troopers, Star Trek…ship people, and the like. Anyone I couldn’t identify, I assumed was dressed as someone from a video game – the one field of geekery in which I haven’t been current since 1996 (GET OVER HERE is the last video game “in joke” I’ll ever get). The most noticeable increase in costume prominence goes to Doctor Who – bow-ties, Daleks, red wigs and short skirts, and entirely too long and heavy wool scarves for September in Atlanta – they were everywhere!
Bex and I found ourselves wondering why on earth anyone would want to add 20 pounds of latex, rubber, felt or body makeup to their bodies and then walk around for hours a day, but we are glad some men and women do. It made for a helluva show, even while waiting in line.
Nerds in the City
On a personal note, it was one year ago at DragonCon 2012, while waiting in a line that seems impossible given how fast the registration line moved this year (seriously, DragonCon folks, BRAVO – such a vast, welcome improvement to your system), that I met Bryan “The Nerd” from Word of the Nerd. We chatted for a while, discovered we both were relatively new to the geeky-website circuit, exchanged cards and went our separate ways in the con. A few weeks later, Bryan sent a message to our e-mail, asking if Bex and I would be interesting in working together. Since then, both of us have joined the team at Word of the Nerd as editors, writers and podcasters. Bryan, co-founder Jason Padua, and Resident Canadian Sean Perreault were able to join us in Atlanta for the con and it was a joy to have them around. They made us feel safe walking around the city at night, waited for a table at the Hard Rock Café while we waited semi-patiently for an elevator to take us down 40 flights, and took our picture together so that, for once, we have some shots of us together that are not from that “holding the camera ourselves” angle. Also, on the one night I over-indulged (that vodka really was a bad idea, 40 minute wait or no), they were gentlemen enough to not make fun of the fact that I fell asleep long before we could get through the season premier of Doctor Who. Cheers, fellas. You were gents. (Truly, thank you all three.)
Epilogue: The Advice
Want to get in on the action next year? Here’s what you should do.
1. If you can get a hotel, do it. It just makes the whole thing more fun. I recommend The Westin because the last place I ever want to be is the absolute eye of the storm in situations like this, but if you’re willing to be in the middle of the madness constantly, go for the Marriot – so gorgeous in that one.
2. BE PREPARED TO WAIT FOR STUFF. For elevators, for panels, for the ATM. Get places early and bring a book, an iPhone or a friend. Talk to your neighbors. Seriously, the lines are longer than you can imagine, but you will almost always get into whatever it is you want to get into. (Proffitt got Bex hooked on Bejeweled.)
3. Bring snacks, band-aids, water, hand sanitizer and vitamin C. People get sick at these things because they forget to take care of themselves. Take care of yourself, encourage your friends to, too.
4. Don’t worry about seeing it all. Get the DragonCon app, put all the stuff your excited about in your schedule, then just feel it out. I never did make it to a BSG panel, but you know what? I’m OK with that. I did lots of fun stuff, including lounging around and make silly jokes with Bex as she turned the air-conditioning down to sub-zero temperatures and we huddled under our respective covers. See what you can, relax as much as you need to, and let the rest go.
Oh, and be on the look out for us. I’m pretty sure we’ll be back sometime within the next few years. If you see us, say hi!
Check out some bonus pictures below.
Stuff we geek out about…
- A Little Something for the Fellas (2)
- A Little Something for the Ladies (9)
- Avengers Boot Camp (9)
- Before the Movie – Trailers (13)
- Editorials and Reviews (135)
- Interviews (19)
- Miscellaneous Geekery (48)
- Nostalgia (17)
- Sandman Re-Read (11)
- Three Favorite Things (4)
What we JUST said…
- All the Posts I Meant to Write this Month, Abridged
- Hemlock Grove-A New Guilty Pleasure
- Deborah Harkness and A Discovery of Witches
- Syfy’s Defiance- Hope They Didn’t Blow the Budget on a Song
- Cover Reveal for the New Liz Long Novel Witch Hearts
- From Gen-X, To Chris Hardwick With Love
- Before the Movie: G.I. Joe Retaliation