September 4–7, 2009
I attended Dragon*Con, in Atlanta, Georgia, from September 4th to 7th, 2009. Dragon*Con is one of the largest media-focused conventions in the country, with an estimated attendance of 30,000. While the convention is media heavy, with many top-tier media guests—this year including William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Patrick Stewart and Kate Mulgrew—they also have several other tracks incorporating many aspects of fandom, and including a strong literary track. The convention featured a full weekend of writing workshops taught by writers Michael Stackpole and Aaron Allston. There were numerous other writer guests, with Charlaine Harris and Sherrilyn Kenyon attracting particularly large audiences and autograph lines.
Although Dragon*Con is a large convention, they choose not to host their events in a convention center; rather, they use all available event space in the four official convention hotels. Although there are several main events, their diverse tracks are generally located in one specific area of one hotel. Thus, while this is a very large convention, if you are primarily interested in one of the smaller tracks, it may feel like a smaller convention to you. At least until you attempt to go to a different track or event, and have to make your way through a crowd of thousands to get there. Dragon*Con is a very challenging convention logistically, and sometimes it’s almost impossible to get from one end of the convention to the other in a reasonable amount of time. Luckily, Dragon*ConTV broadcasts many of the con’s main events, which you can enjoy in the comfort of your room rather than having to fight your way to the end of a line just to wait a few hours in the hope of getting a seat.
Dragon*Con is often called Mardi Gras for geeks, and definitely, one of the main attractions at Dragon*Con is people watching. Every night in each of the main hotels, but particularly the Mariott, the lobby/bar areas were filled with throngs of people taking and posing for pictures. Costumes were from all aspects of fandom, including comic book heroes, video game characters, literary figures, “ren fest” outfits and TV/movie characters. Costuming is so important to this convention that Dragon*Con has at least one costume contest every night. The definite “trend” for costuming this year was Steampunk, and that genre had a large showing in the Dragon*Con parade, which takes place Saturday morning on the downtown streets of Atlanta.
In sum, while I don’t necessarily recommend Dragon*Con to a beginning con goer, and while it can be very trying at times and logistically challenging, this convention absolutely has something for everyone, and I think everyone should try this convention at least once.