I began my first day at Dragon*Con 2014 on Atlanta’s metro system, MARTA, where I met Sre and Lena, a lovely couple headed downtown for the festivities. Sre was dressed as Zero Moustafa, the lobby boy and protagonist from Wes Anderson’s recent film, The Grand Budapest Hotel, and Lena was dressed as herself, as was I. We made our way downtown to watch the Dragon*Con parade together. (Sre and Lena even shared their water with me! What class acts . . . )
If you’ve never been to Dragon*Con, the Saturday parade has become a local event. Several streets in downtown Atlanta are shut down on Saturday morning, and Atlantans hang out of apartment windows and peep over the edge of parking garages to watch the spectacle. It’s like Mardi Gras for nerds. It’s like a better, more fun Disney parade. If Dragon*Con were highschool, this parade would be Homecoming, the Spartans would be the football players, and the steampunk girls would be the cheerleaders. (This metaphor could continue indefinitely, but I’ll let you guys do that in the comments.)
After the parade, I got my pass and headed to the Marriott, where I was chanting “keep it together, Lechler,” hoping to see Patrick Stewart and Gates McFadden. Alas, I read the schedule wrong and headed to the Walk of Fame instead of their Trek event. (As my cousin consoled me later, “I guess it just wasn’t the right moment for you and Patrick to meet; it’ll happen.”) At the Walk of Fame, my friend Scott and I took a quick turn about the room and saw actors from The Hobbit, Firefly, Once Upon a Time, Lord of the Rings, Battlestar Galactica, and (my favorite) Emma Caulfield who played Anya in Buffy. (She did not have a rabbit.)
While it was great fun to walk around and gawk at the celebrities and the costumes, actually getting anywhere in the Marriott was a huge hassle. It was like the Labyrinth in its profusion of weird creatures who needed to get the eff out of my way and let me save Baby Toby/see Patrick Stewart.
Things were a bit less crazed at the Hyatt, where most of the Fantasy Literature, Science Fiction, and Writing Track events were held. Scott and I walked around the artist’s gallery and then went to a panel by Bell Bridge Books, hosted by Debra Davis, John G. Hartness, and Anthony Francis, on what writers hoping to publish should expect out of the process and from their publisher. I had heard a lot of this information before, but I enjoyed the conversation about the size of fantasy novels. While explaining that smaller presses will take chances on smaller books, Hartness coined the term “a Sanderson,” which is apparently now a unit of book measurement.
Then I visited the “Beasties” panel, hosted by Naomi Novik, Jaym Gates, and Jody Nye. These authors discussed how to write animals, specifically supernatural or mythical animals such as unicorns and dragons, effectively. When asked about the appeal of dragons, Gates supposed that the ability to gentle and command fierce power and magic was very alluring. Some of their favorite magical beasts were Alice in Wonderland’s Cheshire Cat (“doesn’t cooperate, just like a cat”), the Companions from Mercedes Lackey’s VALDEMAR series, and The Last Unicorn. They ended by talking about using animals as antagonists, asking “What do you most fear?” as a starting point.
Finally, I made my way back to Decatur, where I spent 20 minutes looking for my car in the rain in what turned out to be the wrong MARTA parking lot, before heading home to watch The Grand Budapest Hotel (you inspired me, Sre). Day 2 of Dragon*Con to follow . . .