Con Review: Dragon*Con 2003

DragonCon2003by Rob Balder


August 29 – Sept. 1, 2003
Atlanta, Georgia

The world’s biggest Geekcchanal grew even bigger this year, as Dragon*Con boasted a huge jump in attendance over the already staggering 20,000 it had attracted in ’01 and ’02 (no surprise with Worldcon being held in Canada). I heard estimates of the attendance ranging from 22,000 to wildly speculative numbers like 36,000. We should be hearing an official number before too long, but it’s really just a footnote. This party was record-breaking by any measure.

Once again, I am left in awe of the sheer competence of those brave and dedicated souls who make this thing happen. The potential for disaster in such a gathering staggers the imagination. Yet we saw no fights, no injuries, no accidents, no arrests, no fires… nothing to ruin the fun. As last year, Dragon*Con was brilliantly planned and executed. If you didn’t have an incredible time, it was your own bloody fault.

Having said that, there were some growing pains associated with this larger crowd. Most programming panels at the Hyatt were standing room only (the ones at the Marriott seemed to be smaller… reason unknown). The elevator situation—bad last year—was absolutely miserable. You could count on a ten-minute delay every time you went between floors. Between the packed-solid conference rooms and sardine elevators, the pungent odor of my fellow geeks became a buzzkill. “Aren’t you glad you use Dial?” I kept thinking, “Don’t you wish Dragon*Con did?”

But these problems were tertiary and there wasn’t much that could reasonably be done about them. They did not appreciably detract from the insane amount of stuff available for a con-goer’s amusement. As it always will, what we didn’t get to do dwarfs what we did. We missed the Klingon Beauty Pageant AGAIN, dangit. We never got to any concert, not even Cruxshadows or Voltaire. We barely met any celebs (our fault—they were totally accessible on the Walk of Fame) except Gil Gerard, who I sought out to ask if he would submit some poetry to Nth Degree. He said he’d consider it. We missed the Masquerade, but it was available afterward on the Hyatt closed-circuit channel and I caught most of it. I dunno who won, but the Pac-Man skit was my pick.

What did we do? Well, I for one could have been satisfied doing nothing but Writer’s Track programming. And that’s just what is so great about Dragon*Con. It has full tracks for everything… enough to fill an entire themed con around each. People come and do mainly Buffy programming, or British Sci-Fi, or Comics, or Tolkien. There was an entire track for Pern, and Anne McCaffery or her son were personally involved in most of it! It made me realize that there is a level of fandom honor above mere GoH—if they have a full programming track or a complete con just for your stuff, then you have reached a new level.

So what else did we do? I performed in the Trek Trak filk-sing and it was an absolute train wreck. The less said about that, the better. If you really want the details, the whole Charlie Foxtrot is available on video, so that future generations may mock my plight even long after I am dead.

I went to an X-Track panel on cryonics, hosted by some folks from Alcor. I learned some interesting details about how to get frozen and had some of my long-standing questions answered.

I sat on a webcomics panel that had to be about the best one I’ve ever done. The chemistry among the five of us was great, the room was electric, I got cheered twice for saying I quit my job, and the panel got a standing ovation… a first! There was a second webcomics panel that I was not on, but most of the people who were had been in the audience at the previous one. I made a lot of new friends in the field.

The ’zines went like crazy. We put out four of the five boxes right away, and then followed up with the final box as a reserve. Probably we could have put out another three or four boxes. Nth Degree’s name recognition is really growing, based on some conversations I had.

The hallway costumes were amazing, again. They should rename the Lower Lobby the Cleavage Mile. The costumes were heavily tilted toward LotR this year, with Uruk-Hai and orcs very nearly outnumbering Imperial Stormtroopers, even with the 501st there in… uh, force. And where we saw ten Spider-Men last year, we saw about that many Lara Crofts this year (and no Spider-Men). Again, we saw only one Borg… a different Borg than last year. Collective, my ass. “No Face” from Spirited Away loomed large and spooky over the crowd almost all the time.

Many more things happened, many bottles were drained, many hangovers were suffered, many unique personal experiences were experienced, and a car was totalled. But these should be told at future con parties. Next year’s Dragon*Con will be held September 3-6. For photos from this year and more info on next year, visit


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