Dragon*Con

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Convention
Name: Dragon*Con
Dates: 1987-present
Frequency: annual
Location: Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.A.
Type: ?
Focus: science fiction and fantasy, comics, gaming, anime, etc.
Organization:
Founder:
Founding Date: 1987
URL: http://www.dragoncon.org/
1998 con program cover
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Dragon*Con is the largest multi-media, popular culture convention focusing on science fiction and fantasy, gaming, comics, literature, art, music, and film in the world. This massive media convention is held yearly over Labor Day weekend in Atlanta, Georgia.

History

Dragon*Con began in 1987 as an organization of fans who wanted to continue an Atlanta convention after their city hosted WorldCon in 1986. In 1989, it became much bigger with 2,400 members, thanks to hosting Anne McCaffrey. Until 2013[1] the convention maintained a Pern-track called 'Weyrfest'- making it one of the only conventions to do Dragonriders of Pern programming. In 1990 the con doubled in size, having Tom Clancy as guest and also adding the Atlanta Comic Expo to its attractions. Dragon*Con eventually dropped the Expo from its name, but it's still part of the convention.[2] From there, the con kept growing year by year, with the organizers planning for a 15% increase in membership each year. Now it's one of the bigger media conventions in America, frequently mentioned in the same breath as San Diego Comic-Con. Attendance in 2012 was over 52,000.[3]

Programming

The largest single section of Dragon*Con programming consists of the fan tracks, each of which has a dedicated room and is organized by a separate team of volunteers. Some tracks are devoted to single shows or franchises, such as the Trek track and the Stargate: Multiverse track. Other tracks cover broader genres, for instance American Sci-Fi Classics or Horror. There are sometimes more specialized tracks with topics that pertain to that year's particular guests. There are also tracks geared towards professionals, including writers, artists, and film-makers. Many of the artist and writer guests are on panels that give advice to budding professionals, and a lot of the artists have hours in the Artist's Alley where they make themselves available to con members. Because of the way the tracks are organized, each track is almost like a mini-convention in itself, with continuous programming from morning to evening.

Another big focus of the convention is gaming. There are organized tournaments for card games, and a huge open gaming area. The convention's Exhibition Hall, where companies display or debut new products, can be heavily skewed toward new gaming products. Several popular games, such as Pokemon and Magic: The Gathering, have given away special Dragon*Con cards, made for and distributed exclusively to con members. The gaming tournaments and panels have grown to the point that gaming now has its own program guide.

1988 Flyer, page 1 announcing Anne McCaffrey as guest. Click to see larger version.
1988 Flyer page 2.

Apart from all the usual fannish attractions, the night life at Dragon*Con is extensive and goes on, quite literally, all night. In the bigger venues, panels start giving way to bands in the evening hours, and there are dozens of room parties of varying sizes every night. The 2013 version of the website states that "We will again offer late-night DJ'd dances Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evenings, beginning after the last concert and lasting until dawn."[4]. There's also all-night filking.[5]

Awards

Some Notable Happenings

Beginning in 2002, the convention began to host a yearly parade down Peachtree Street. In recent years--with 1,800 participants in 2011 and 3,000 in 2012--it's grown to become the largest parade in the city of Atlanta.[6]

Fan Memories

A 1998 con report:
What can I say? It's fun! Just like the conventions I used to go to in the early 80's when media and book fans mingled, and everybody, including the guests, had a good time.

It's huge! So big that the Hyatt Regency couldn't hold it all. Main programming such as The Masquerade, Dawn Look-A-like contest, Art show, and rock music shows filled the hotel, and fan programming and dealers rooms spilled over into the Apparel Mart a few blocks away.

Guests included Harlan Ellison, Forrest J. Ackerman, Ray Bradbury, Ray Harryhausen, C.J. Cherryh, Patricia Tallman, Jonathan Harris, Anthony Daniels, and Star Wars authors Kevin J Anderson and Rebecca Modesta.

Jonathan Harris was an unexpected treasure. I had so many things to choose from in that time slot. Frustration, indeed. It was awful. I decided to sit down and listen for a little while, and stayed for the whole hour. Mr. Harris told us stories about his acting career and how it all started. He faked his resume. We learned about Irwin Allen's finger. Mr. Harris resisted biting it off. You could hear Dr. Smith in his voice. He got a standing ovation when he came in, and after he finished.

The Atlanta Radio Theatre Company performed two live radio plays on stage, The Man Who Traveled in Elephants by Ray Bradbury, and The Passion of Frankenstein by Thomas E. Fuller Both performances were wonderful.

Another production deserves mention here. Attention Xena and Buffy fans (and even those who aren't). Buffy, Warrior Princess was the best live musical performance I have ever seen in fandom. The actors could sing, dance, do stunts, and fight! Buffy was true to both shows and never insulted your intelligence. I won't go into detail here because it will be available on video! Thanks to Cosmic Video Productions, those who couldn't get there will be able to enjoy it.

DragonCon had so many program tracks. There was no way I could get to all of them. I list a few here ... Star Trek, Babylon 5, British SF and TV, artists, comics, computers, first fandom, gaming, Pern, Highlander, Xena, Hercules, Sliders, and more.

I Spent an hour or two on the Star Wars programming. Mr. Anderson and Ms. Modesta were terrific guests. They seemed to have as much fun as we did, especially during those epic lightsabre duels between Anderson, Modesta, Darth Vader and fans. I would have loved to see the Star Wars Masquerade Ball, but it was up against the Guest of Honor Banquet. I have mixed feelings about that event. It started off well enough with good food, and a speech by Harlan Ellison about freedom to publish, but after that first hour, it was tough to sit through. Maybe I was a little too tired.

Yes Virginia, there was a Hospitality Suite. I dropped in twice. Did I mention rock and roll bands, dance parties, miscellaneous theater groups, and other performers? Didn't see most of them, either. Too overwhelmed by the end of the day (2:00 AM) and not in the mood. Other bits are blurry. I saw one of the South Park creators at a live on line video conference. Yes, a South Park movie is in the planning stages. That's all I can remember. The event was moved to a different room and pushed back two hours later than scheduled. Oh well, you expect some problems at an event this big, anyway.

I loved every frantic minute and had few complaints. The only thing that didn't impress me was the two level dealer's room. Explanation time folks. I've been told that the dealers were very unhappy. Not being a dealer myself, I'll comment from the fan and potential buyer's point of view. The basic layout was as follows: The Walk of Fame (autograph area) , comic publishers and other big name companies occupied the top level of the Apparel Mart and everyone else had tables below. Simple, right? WRONG! You shouldn't have to hunt for a dealer's room, of all things.

It was an access problem. Those nice big obvious doors by the Apparel Mart entrance downstairs were blocked off as an exit, so you couldn't go in! You had to ride up one escalator, which meant a wait in line at peak hours, walk all the way around to your left or right, and then find the only working escalator down (maybe) It was well hidden with no helpful signs that I could see. I must have passed by that sucker a dozen times. Circling the huge room over and over frustrated me so much that I wasn't in a buying mood. At least The Decipher booth was good. I learned a little more about the SW card game from helpful staff.

With that unpleasant business out of the way, on to the good stuff. Yes! Masquerade time! We saw Star Trek costumes, a Sailor Moon group, historical costumes, Gandolf from Lord of the Rings, Vampirella, Dawn, and so much more. Dawn had her own look-a-like contest the night before. I was at the Banquet and missed it. Sigh. I kept hearing about how wonderful it was. And now, a few words about the Master of Ceremonies-- Anthony Daniels, a fearless man who works with children and Ewoks--and fans. I first leaned about DragonCon through his infamous Star Wars Insider Wonder Column. This is all his fault! Mr. Daniels was everywhere-at Opening Ceremonies, The Man Who Traveled in Elephants radio drama, The Dawn Look-a-like Contest, and Masquerade (as MC) in a gold and black jacket. He dared to walk into the audience while judges were deliberating, and picked out people with interesting costumes, especially women with interesting costumes, and stood them up on chairs for all to see. There was a moment on stage with Vampirella.....

If you ever get a chance to see Mr. Daniels in person at one of his question and answer talks, don't miss it, but beware. You might get dragged on stage to breathe like Darth Vader, imitate the Fox Fanfare, or read his introduction off of an index card, in front of the gods and everybody. If he asks "Who knows the Star Wars theme?" and you don't want to be singled out for humiliation---keep your mouth shut. Content yourself with humming the Star Wars theme through your nose like everyone else. And if all this wasn't enough for one human being to manage, he spent the rest of his time signing autographs. Where does he get his energy? I get tired just watching him! [7]

Program Books


References

  1. Fantasy Literature Track, (Accessed September 30, 2013).
  2. Dragon*Con History, (Accessed September 30, 2013).
  3. Dragon*Con History, (Accessed September 30, 2013).
  4. Live Performances and DJs, (Accessed September 30, 2013).
  5. Live Performances and DJs, (Accessed September 30, 2013).
  6. Dragon*Con History, (Accessed September 30, 2013).
  7. Dragon Con 1998 by Margaret McNickle, Archived version
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