First time Dragon Conner
Dragon Con 2018 is unlike any convention you’ll ever go to. It differs from other cons in that it is a completely fan-organized convention. This allows it to be more reflexive to attendees needs. It’s also, from my point of view, made it more efficient than other cons. The organizers put on a fantastic show with an incredible array of events.
Because it does not take place in a single convention center, it is unique among conventions. Attendees descend upon Atlanta annually, filling streets, stores, and hotels in their cosplay and nerd merchandise. We crowded everywhere, creating essentially all day and night parties in the Marriott and Hilton hotels. In effect, downtown Atlanta becomes the con, with nerds as the main residents.
From Twitter to IRL
But the best part of Dragon Con was meeting online friends in real life. I value my friendships via Twitter and social media greatly, and it was so rewarding to meet them in person. Being able to talk about things discussed only online previously was cathartic.
The ability to use Twitter and other forms of social media to find people with your same passionate interests is invaluable. But it will never replace the joy of making these friends in a real, non-digital setting. Expressing our passions for our fandoms with each other verbally, instead of via screen, was incredibly rewarding.
Insight From Panels
I spoke on two panels: one on Crime & Politics in Star Wars, and one on addressing the widespread problem of fandom toxicity. Both, from my viewpoint, went very well with sizable attendance. You can find audio from the first of these panels on my podcast, Beltway Banthas.
I spent most of my time at Star Wars Track panels. However, I was able to attend an animation writers panel that included the legendary Gail Simone (of Batgirl and too many things to count), Rodney Barnes of The Boondocks, and Henry Gilroy of Star Wars animation. Hearing their experiences as writers for popular series was enriching.
Getting to ask them about the balance between writing for children and us adults who love these series was particularly intriguing. Gail Simone and Rodney Barnes talked at length about how they geared individual stories for different age demographics, while writing some stories for all demographics. Henry Gilroy firmly stated that the stories he writes are simply Star Wars stories for all to enjoy.
The writers also spoke at length on the importance of diversity and inclusion in the media they create. They demonstrated a fundamental understanding of the intricacies of these issues, with Rodney and Gail recounting personal stories to the audience. Both writers said they were particularly cognizant of writing characters of color and women carefully and deliberately, and that far more work is needed.
Over 85,000 people were in attendance this year. Attending four hotels in Atlanta, fans descended en masse on the city. Cosplayers filled the streets in their various costumes. Seeing all these heroes and villains in the streets was like a childhood fantasy come to life.
The visual stimuli from seeing all the cosplayers, events, art, and all around geekiness was amazing, but at times overwhelming. The con inundates you with so much information, more so than at other cons I’ve attended. I usually do take breaks at cons, but taking breaks at Dragon Con 2018 felt especially necessary. Even for a natural extrovert like myself, it was crucial to take downtime to get ready to dive back in again. It is just that intense, in the best way possible. Next time I may not do all five days of the con due to this overwhelming aspect.
Dragon Con 2018 was legitimately one of the best cons I’ve ever been to. I would personally very much like to go again, but I’ll have to wait and see how plans unfold. If you have the opportunity to go, I highly recommend it.