The twenty-fifth annual Dragon*Con was held this past weekend in Atlanta, Georgia, and my wife Ann VanderMeer and I attended as guests of the convention. We’d been to Comic-Con in San Diego, which is vast and attracts hundreds of thousands of people, so we were ready for Dragon*Con...or so we thought. Wrong!
Although smaller than Comic-Con, Dragon*Con has events spread across four or five hotels instead of one central venue. Add in the crush of people at pinch-points like the walkways, elevators, escalators, and corridors, and Dragon*Con felt larger and more crowded than Comic-Con. The same Mardi Gras atmosphere prevails, though, in terms of the convention highlighting a kaleidoscopic assortment of amazing costumes and geek subcultures.
Not a lot of breaking news comes out of Dragon*Con, but the convention definitely appeals to movie, TV, and comics buffs, with guests including Wil Wheaton, William Shatner, and Peter David (from Doctor Who). Indeed, one of the more surreal moments for us was watching a stooped but spry Shatner walking through the hospitality suite of one of the hotels--that and learning that Ernest Borgnine was also in attendance.
At the time we saw Shatner, Ann and I were talking to Stephen H. Segal and Natania Barron, both of whom exemplify the attraction of Dragon*Con for creators, if for totally different reasons. Segal, an editor with Quirk Books, was promoting Geek Wisdom, a collection of over 200 memorable quotes that cut across dozens of geek subcultures...while Raleigh-Durham-based author Barron has a first novel, Pilgrim of the Sky, due out in December. Both of them were finding Dragon*Con an ideal place to talk about their books. Segal was practically being mobbed at times, although perhaps this was in part due to his Doctor Who costume. Barron, meanwhile, said that she enjoyed not having to engage in the “101 discussions”: “You don’t have to explain Steampunk to people here,” Barron said. “There’s not that initial barrier of having to define your subgenre, and that makes it a lot easier.”