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This week’s Five by Friday takes a look back at Dragon Con 2014. We’re doing two lists–the five best things about Dragon Con 2014, and the five worst. We had a blast, but there are definitely things that could have been done differently.
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The Five Best Things About Dragon Con 2014
1. The YA Lit Track. Every year, this track gets better and better, and this year was a blast! So many incredibly authors took the time to bounce back and forth between Decatur Book Festival and Dragon Con in order to give time to as many readers as possible. Our favorite parts included Princess Alethea’s Traveling Sideshow and the LGBTQA in YA Panel.
2. Meeting Kelly Sue DeConnick. Kelly Sue was the guest whose attendance at Con we have been most excited about ever since she was announced over the summer, and we made sure to get to her signing table as soon as we could on Friday. She was happy to chat with us about comics, our website, and the general awesomeness of Carol before we all gathered together for a duckface selfie. Later on in the weekend we also managed to snag some of the last open seats for a panel featuring Kelly Sue discussing superheroes, and it was absolutely as epic as it sounds.
3. EU Legends: The Star Wars Authors. This years Star Wars Author panel was host to Michael Stackpole, Paul Wolverton, Kevin J. Anderson, Rebecca Moesta, and Timothy Zahn. While most of these have not yet been invited to play in the new Star Wars sandbox, it doesn’t take away from the joy of listening to them talk about their favorite characters, plot lines, and the what-if stories they never had the chance to write. And while they happily reflect on previous works, there were some sad moments when they took the time to reflect on authors Aaron Allston and A.C Crispin, who both passed away this year. They were incredible additions to the Star Wars community and it was clear that they will be missed by peers and fans alike.
4. The Science of Mass Effect Panel. This panel was an absolute joy. The first part was Dr. Eric Spana discussing the biology of Mass Effect, and his findings were really amusing. The BioWare team did a fantastic job representing all kinds of species in space — insectoids, reptiles, mammals, and “other” (what the crap are Vorcha, exactly?). But the best part was his takedown of the Hanar as disgusting space jellyfish in whose Embassy you should never touch anything, thanks to the way jellyfish reproduce. He had on the panel with him a delightful lady astrophysicist who went into the questions surrounding dark matter and whether or not mass effect relays would even work, and some of the questions asked by the audience were truly enlightening. There was a Q&A segment on Quarians that was absolutely delightful, and the inclusion of James Vega in the “mammals have boobs” section was a riot. There were quite a few “The Science of [Fandom]” panels this weekend, and after seeing the Mass Effect one, it’s a disappointment we didn’t get to more of them.
5. Friday Morning Safe Space Gathering. We kicked Dragon Con 2014 off with a Ladies-Only Coffee and Donuts breakfast in our hotel room for our close Con friends. It was such a treat to be able to relax in relative quiet with a group of our kickass lady friends from all over the country. Dragon Con is typically the only times we all get to spend together, but it can be hard to pinpoint where everyone is during the din of Con. So this year we planned ahead of time and made sure that some of our limited time together was spent not having to yell over the crowds at the Avengers Ball in order to be heard. Friends, laughter, and donuts. What more can you ask for?
The Five Worst Things About Dragon Con 2014
1. Saturday Overcrowding. Hands down the worst day of Dragon Con was Saturday, when the clear oversale of Saturday passes made it practically impossible to get anywhere and do anything in a timely manner. As veterans of this convention, we know what “crowded Con” looks like, and Saturday was ridiculous. It’s hard to believe the fire marshal was even in attendance this year, considering the crowds on the Mariott Atrium Level. We hope Dragon Con takes a page from the SDCC book and stops selling single-day passes for its most popular day–at this point, if you want to be there Saturday, you really need to shell out for the full pass.
2. Vandalism and Drunken Stupidity. The Dragon Con groups and message boards this year were flooded after Saturday with stories of people taking their fun way too far and becoming absolutely, uncontrollably drunk. People blacking out and making themselves sick is already bad enough, but the real trouble comes when the drunkenness leads to vandalism and behavior that could seriously endanger others. There were multiple stories this year of people dropping beer bottles and other items from the upper floors of the Mariott into the lobby below, and a walk through the Mariott on Sunday morning showed signs of serious wear. Signage around the hotel was broken and on the floor, there were stains on walls near the bathrooms, and there’s even a photo of a damaged railing going around, a result of a direct hit from a bottle falling from above. This is reckless, criminal, and idiotic. It has to stop.
3. Harassment. Another constant presence on Dragon Con groups and message boards was that of the harassment call-out. There is a pervasive, alarming problem with people disrespecting the personal boundaries of others, touching people without their consent, and being disgusting and intimidating to others. Thankfully, Congoers in general seem to have found their voice in the past few years, but this is only step one. Dragon Con security has made great attempts in recent years to make it easier to find them and to report incidents to them, but the fact of the matter is that there simply aren’t enough volunteers for the size of the crowd anymore. Congoers need to step in and call out inappropriate behavior when they see it, and stand up for one another–and show people who violate others that their crap will not be tolerated.
4. The Dealer Rooms in AmericasMart. This year’s setup was basically the same as last year’s setup, which drew a lot of criticism. Moving the Dealer Rooms out of the host hotels is a good idea–it was far too crowded when they were all over the Mariott–but the way the AmericasMart situation has been organized thus far has been less than stellar. Accessing AmericasMart through the front door on Peachtree Street was incredibly hard, the lower level dealer rooms were almost impossible to get into (let alone move around in), and it was very easy to get turned around and lost upstairs. Next year, the Con is expanding these into a second section of the AmericasMart, and we look forward to what we hope is a great improvement in the Dealer Rooms experience.
5. General Assbaggery. All over Con this past weekend were people acting with a serious case of Special Snowflake Syndrome. Pushing in front of others at elevator banks, shoving past people in the dealer room without so much as an “excuse me,” acting as though they were too good to stand in line with everyone else, and generally being terrible to their fellow congoers. Courtesy and kindness go a long way, but even the kindest people had given up all the fucks they had to give by Sunday night. Statements like “being nice just means you end up waiting forever” were a constant at elevator banks, and passive-aggressively sniping at others and getting supportive nods from everyone in earshot seems to be a Con tradition at this point. Something has got to change.