Thursday, September 08, 2011

Dragon*Con 2011 - Anatomy of the Con

This year was the 25th anniversary of Dragon*Con, a multigenre, multimedia convention celebrating science-fiction, fantasy, horror, comics, and gaming. I attended the convention for the first time recently, and thought it'd be fun to share some of what I saw...

For most people in the southeastern U.S., getting to D*C requires a road trip. Before you even get to Atlanta proper, you'll run into some interesting sights; here, my friend Ziggyzeitgeist points out a surreal ad showing Billy Dee Williams (Lando Calrissian himself) hawking some awful concoction.

Packing for D*C requires some advance planning, too. If you decide to wear a costume, it might be difficult fitting your plastic swords and Airsoft guns into conventional luggage:

Staying at one of the con hotels is highly recommended - it's a real hassle to drive in and find parking downtown otherwise. Unfortunately, rooms fill up fast and are sold out months in advance, despite the enormous size of most of the host hotels:

The con hotels are tall. It's not fun getting up to your room, but the views are often spectacular:

Dragon*Con is both larger and smaller than you think. In terms of raw attendance, it isn't as big as other conventions (the legendary San Diego Comic-Con boasts three times the number of attendees, for instance). At the same time, however, D*C encompasses more areas of fan interest than almost any other con - this is a place where you can dress up as Fred Flintstone, Darth Vader, or Super Mario, and no one would bat an eyelash.

More than 45,000 people buy tickets for D*C, and, in years past, it could take hours to get your admission badge.

This year, the process was massively streamlined with a computerized barcode system. From start to finish, getting our membership badges took about half an hour. We didn't even know what to do with the rest of the morning.

Random geek stuff abounds at D*C. Aside from the ever-present cosplay, there are haunted house props, goth bands, and even the odd Time And Relative Dimension In Space:

Because of the sheer amount of people attending, the convention generally occupies block after block of the downtown area. The Mall at Peachtree Center isn't an official part of D*C, for example, but it's still packed to the gills with con goers (some of that comes from the fact that the food inside the actual con is overpriced and undercooked):

One of the few decent places to eat within walking distance of D*C is the Hard Rock Cafe. The food is too expensive, but the service was quite friendly. They also have some interesting stuff to see - who ever thought guns, geekery, and rock and roll could go together so cleanly?

It wouldn't be a convention without merch. If it's even remotely related to sci-fi, fantasy, or gaming, you'll find it at D*C's dealer and exhibitor halls. There's a steampunk weapons booth, a fantasy leatherworks vendor, and several action figure stalls, among other things. The crowds get particularly thick in here, though:

D*C features dozens of comic book artists, some established, some up-and-coming. You can buy prints, sculpture, postcards, original works...

Here are the rules for a silent auction in the sci-fi/fantasy art show:

By day, D*C turns five major downtown Atlanta hotels - the Hilton, Marriott Marquis, Hyatt Regency, Sheraton, and Westin Peachtree - into teeming masses of mostly-costumed humanity:

Nightfall doesn't really thin the herd, but the crowd generally skews older, drunker, and louder. Late nights at D*C are notorious for drunken debauchery, with dancing, carousing, room parties, and other such revelry lasting into the early morn:

That's it for now. I'll talk more about what to do and where to go in D*C next post...


At 11:29 PM, Anonymous Brian in Florida said...

WOW it's like looking for Waldo, my neices attended so I looked close but holy crap shoot Batman. LOL Glad you had fun.

At 12:35 PM, Blogger Mulliga said...

Finding people at the con from random photos is basically impossible, unless you know they were at a specific event or something. There's 50,000 people there, after all. It's like Burning Man, but with less commercialism.


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