DragonCon 2015: An Endurance Event
Labor Day Weekend is a big deal in Atlanta. Dragon Con is the biggest attraction among other things going on, so that’s where this geek girl spends her holiday weekend, for the eleventh year in a row now.
The Con organizers have realized that people are so eager to get the festivities started that they’re showing up as early as Tuesday for a con that doesn’t officially begin until Friday! There are, as a result a lot of semi-official and un-official pre-con events available on Thursday evening.
I have to treat Dragon Con like an endurance event — because it is. If I slack off on my exercise, I do not have the stamina to do all the walking the con requires. The year I joined the Guinness Book of World Records attempt for the most people doing the Thriller dance, my Fitbit said that I’d walked at least five miles before I even started dancing. I can tell what kind of shape I’m in by how many times I have to stop and rest between the Sheraton (where the badges are picked up) and the Hyatt (first of the five core hotels). Two years ago, I couldn’t even make it all the way across the Courtland Garage skybridge to the Peachtree Food Court. This year, I made it from the Sheraton all the way to the panel I was going to in the Hyatt without pause. Measurable improvement!
Unfortunately, that made me a little too confident. I took on the Dealers Room in the Americas Mart for two hours without remembering to wrap my ankles first. Two hours on those unpadded concrete floors completely wrecked my ankles, knees and back, and left me lying down for the rest of Saturday. I was so out of spoons that even ibuprofen, water and a lie down didn’t help. So I didn’t see as much as I’d planned. Important note for Dragon Con visitors, even veterans like me: PACE YOURSELF! Even having gotten more exercise, I do still have a bad back and I didn’t take that into consideration in my excitement. But the upshot was that we went to the dealers room immediately after the famous Dragon Con parade, so the room was a bit crowded, but nowhere near as badly as if we’d gone later in the day. We usually save it to Monday to get deals on stuff nobody wants to pack up, but the crowds forced a change in our methodology.
Panels, Cosplay and Meetups
The two panels I most wanted to see were back to back on Friday, so I spent most of my afternoon in the Hyatt.
The first panel was the fascinating Comics, Trauma and Psychiatric Disorders. A. Hendricks & K. Storia, panelists.
The panel was cis and white, but there were women, and they were given the larger share of the time to speak. The panel was filled to capacity so I had to wait for a seat to open up; that’s a great thing to see, because it meant people were interested in the topic. What it boiled down to is nothing we don’t already know: those whose experiences are considered most valid are cis white men. Anyone else has a label already slapped on them by their intersectionality. Women, black, gay, trans, etc. Those labels bring with them their own negative reasons to dismiss the trauma of such a person: Women are emotional, oversensitive, hysterical. Black people are angry, savage, unintelligent, and so forth. The panelists were very sensitive to these intersectional issues when they came up as the result of an audience question. The crowd reacted strongly to these labels and that they are used to diminish the trauma of such people as less valid than that of a white man. This was illustrated through the story of a character called Headcase in the comic Incorruptible. Doing a favor and wearing a hero costume for a day resulted in a traumatic experience for her. But not as traumatic as the guy hero’s. His trauma became his origin. Her trauma meant she was just engaging in “an unhealthy coping method”. The panel ended on a hopeful note; change is happening. There’s resistance of course, but we have to keep the pressure on to keep the change moving forward.
The second panel I attended was A Safe Space for Female Readers. That one was immediately after the panel above, so I got a good close seat. One of the reporters for the Daily Dragon, Dragon Con’s news and update newsletter, was also there. Gwenda Bond (Lois Lane: Fallout) and Laurenn McCubbin were lively, animated, and gave their no holds barred opinions on dudebro culture, objectification of women, and what women can do to make safer space for each other. Lauren McCubbin, when asked to name some of her favorite pro-woman creatrix, named WWAC favorites Mikki Kendall (Swords of Sorrow) and C. Spike Trotman (Smut Peddler, Templar Arizona) , to a lively ovation from the audience. Spike got a second ovation as Ms. McCubbin strongly praised her for making sure that every graphic novel she crowdfunds and sells, the writers and artists get paid first and foremost before pouring money into her next project. The subject of paying your creators came up a number of times and Ms. McCubbin placed strong emphasis on it each time it came up. This is a subject Spike Trotman feels strongly about as well.
Dragon Con is also one of those cons that makes you wish you could duplicate yourself like Jamie Madrox; too many things happening at one time for me to see them all. But Friday night had one can’t miss event for me: the Blerds Tweet Up at the Joystix Bar in Atlanta, organized by Black Girl Nerds. That was such an empowering couple of hours — because although Dragon Con is in Atlanta, a city with a fairly high black population, we’re still a tiny minority at the Con itself. Hundreds of us — maybe as many as a couple thousand — as compared to tens of thousands of white people. In prior years I’ve been told at Dragon Con that “black people don’t like sci-fi and fantasy.” Many people at the tweet up had had the same experience, so it was like a little oasis to spend time together.
To my dismay, I saw that Yale Stewart was one of the guests at the con. I simply avoided going anywhere near him.
I ended up watching most of the Flash and Sleepy Hollow content on DragonConTV — which is a lifesaver when you have issues that prevent you from going as actively into the Con events as you’d like. When my foray to the dealer’s room wiped out my spoons, I was very dismayed until I remembered I could turn on the TV and still feel part of things. Best of all, they have a YouTube channel with a lot of their bumpers and skits, and many of the panels posted after the con is over!
Dragon Con tries hard to be a disabled friendly con as well, and they improve a little bit every year with their sensitivity messages to con-goers. I posted a snapshot of their conduct policy on Twitter for people to see as well. It’s not perfect, but the important thing is that they’re constantly working to do better every single year.
I didn’t get to do as much paneling as I’d planned for this weekend, but I did get to go to more than one meetup. In addition to Black Nerds, I also went to Steven Falls Over, the triple fandom gathering for fans of Steven Universe, Gravity Falls, and Over The Garden Wall. The poor young lady cosplaying Mabel did not expect the turnout she got! I’ve got a cosplay article coming up going into greater detail about the Rose Quartz costume I wore to the event.
If you’re a fan of Cosplay, you’re going to need a good lens and a spot to stake out, because due to how crowded Dragon Con can get, the staff and security are quite strict (and reasonably so) about where you’re allowed to stop and take photographs. But if you arrive early in the week, you’ll see some amazing cosplay just walking the streets and in the hotels. Moms with new babies love to get into the act. I couldn’t get many of those because I’m not heartless enough to disturb a sleeping little child, but the tiniest Lumpy Space Princess (age 6 months) I hope grows up to be famous. In the back, letting baby Felicity have all the limelight is her mom Shar. The Kaleidoscope kids’ track also interviewed Felicity and her mom.
Post-Con depression took longer to set in this year thanks to Twitter, but now I have to look forward to what costume I’m going to put together for next year (Amethyst from Steven Universe perhaps). The few photos my boyfriend and I took this year are on my Instagram. You can click on the #DragonCon2015 hashtag to see other people’s.
The Power of Community
Ending on a bittersweet note, unfortunately Dragon Con has, in recent years, had to share its city and its hotel space with college football fans. This has resulted in people who don’t understand or care about the concept that “cosplay is not consent.” Dragon Con responded by working with the core five hotels to beef up security. They also increased the presence of the Atlanta Police Department, and instituted badge and room key checks so no one without one or the other would be permitted entry. But unfortunately, for the first time in a few years, there was a sexual assault. However, the sense of community that Dragon Con fosters resulted in the suspect’s photo getting Tweeted, Facebooked, and passed around so much that the APD got flooded with information that allowed them to apprehend the assailant. That’s how seriously Dragon Con and its family of geeks takes having a good time safely.
Looking Forward to Next Year
I had the fun I always have, I saw the family and friends I most looked forward to seeing, and I will just have to remember to pace myself next year! Of course I got my tickets at the con! They’re $80 until Tuesday, September 15, and then they go up so get cracking if you want them at the best rate! I also updated a Dragon Con fan wiki, so if you’re thinking of venturing south to Dragon Con next year, you’ll want to fave that link to get setup in advance to have the easiest time possible.
See you in 2016!