Archive | September, 2013

Severely Out-Nerded at Dragon*con 2013

5 Sep

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Steampunk Tigger. Muppet Stormtroopers. Zombie Village People performing the “YMCA” all march down Peachtree Street during the Dragon*Con parade, waving to the sea of humanity on either side of the street.

Every Labor Day weekend since 1987, fans converge upon downtown Atlanta for Dragon*con, what is now the world’s largest science fiction and fantasy convention. The estimates for this year’s con exceed 50,000 attendees and last weekend I was one of the tens of thousand of people milling around four Atlanta hotels, soaking in the sights, sounds, smells and spectacular display of cosplaying conveners.

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This picture does not do justice to the CROWD

I lost count of how many people dressed as the Doctor from “Dr. Who” and his trusty Tardis; the number of Star Fleet cadets and captains was staggering and every superhero in comic history was represented in multiple incarnations.

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The Doctor and his time-traveling apparatus, personified

I went into Dragon*Con with no idea of what to expect and no agenda and I found that several hours of the day spent there were dedicated to swimming through the crowd and waiting in line: for badges, for the ATM, for George Takei’s autograph, for a Star Trek: Next Generation panel, to get into the Last Party of Alderan lightsaber-lit dance party….fortunately the bathroom was the only place I didn’t ever find any city block-length lines.

Before one of the panels, a screen flashed different videos, instructions for how to behave during panels and fun facts. One of the screens pointed out how “mainstream” nerd culture has become, referencing the worldwide popularity in the last decade of superhero films, the LOTR movies and the entire Harry Potter franchise, as well as shows like “The Big Bang Theory” and other popular media that makes geek kind of chic

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There were, however, plenty of characters represented and celebrities present that I had never heard of. A host of people dressed as real-life video game and role-play game personages, anime and manga characters and there was an entire track dedicated to “filking,” a fan-created musical genre that is essentially folk music with a sci-fi or fantasy theme.

I went with a good friend and his brother, and my friend’s brother described Dragon*Con as everyone’s opportunity to be who they really are or who they really wanted to be. Attendees shed their 9-5s and their responsibilities (though there were plenty of full families present), donning costumes they had worked on for months ¬†and having the opportunity to interact with others who share their passion.

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During a costuming panel, I spoke to the man seated beside me who had traveled all the way from Maine for the weekend. Waiting in line for a late night panel, the man behind us told us stories about his first Dragon*Con in ’89, and how he has seen it grow over the years.

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We only spent one full day at the con and only experienced about .05 percent of what it had to offer, but I’m confident that I’ll go back. After all, I’m already planning my costume: Steampunk Michael Jackson.

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