Dragon*Con—or, as my friend Mike calls it, Nerdi Gras. It bills itself as the largest pop culture convention in the universe and, considering that fifty two thousand nerds descended on Atlanta last weekend, I believe it. I’ve been going since I was in high school, and it’s kind of bittersweet that this may have been my last Dragon*Con for a while—I don’t know where I’ll be come next Labor Day, so I can’t plan for it. Usually, I try and hit up a book-related panel and cover that for the blog, but so many amazing things happened last weekend that I can’t contain myself to just one.
Myself as Fili and writer Christina Nelson as a hobbit lass
Friday boasted one of my favorite events of any Dragon*Con—An Evening in Bree, the Tolkien Track party. Dragon*Con organizes itself into different tracks to keep things straight, and the Tolkien Track works closely with TheOneRing.Net, which livestreamed pretty much the entire convention, plus Cliff Broadway’s efforts to get back home to LA. (I think I startled the poor man when I just shouted “HI YOU’RE AWESOME” when he walked by the line for the Mighty Boosh panel. Sorry, Cliff!) Music was provided by Emerald Rose, and it’s a fantastic atmosphere that’s so different from most of the other parties I tentatively go to. My friend Natalya and I have already determined that we’ll be attending the midnight premieres of The Hobbit as Ori and Fili, respectively, so I decided to finish the costume early to compete in the costume contest. I didn’t place, but TheOneRing.Net did give me a tote bag in recognition of the fact I was the only one in a costume from the new films!
From left to right: Larry D. Curtis, Sylvester McCoy, Craig Parker, John Rhys-Davies
Saturday saw the big The Lord of the Rings panel (Sylvester McCoy, Craig Parker, Billy Boyd, and John Rhys-Davies), which was, of course, amazing; I managed to think up a not awful question to ask them all, so I was pretty happy with that. I also felt like a huge impostor poking around the American Sci-fi Classics track and Star Wars track in my wrap dress and karate t-shirt Jedi costume (I didn’t even have the right boots!). But I think the most relevant panel to the blog was the panel “Have We Lost the Future?”, which my friends and I went to after confessing that we really didn’t want to go to any parties.
The panel’s main focus was on science fiction’s role in science; the accessible science of golden age science fiction versus the sci-fi that’s more visible today, such as steampunk. I was getting my con crud by that point, so I was a little hazy, but I found it fascinating. The essential conclusion by the panel seemed to be that science has progressed so much so that it’s hard for the average lay person to understand the science around her—I mean, I can’t tell you how an iPhone works—so the popularity of steampunk may be due to stepping back to a point where we can. On the way back to the room, my friend Elle and I started talking about how steampunk can be a vehicle for social allegory (Claire Eddy made a wonderful point about how a lot of the politics in steampunk novels reflect contemporary politics) and might be more effective for social change that way rather than in the sense of actual, hard science.
Sunday started off with a bang, as my friend Anna and I went to go fetch my Billy Boyd autograph. I kind of wanted to get John Rhys-Davies’ as well, but he’s so grand and magnificent that I was intimidated! Plus, I’d only budgeted for one autograph. Boyd was just as funny and sweet as you think he’d be; I secured an apology for that one time a friend of mine cut him off in traffic. After some morning shopping (I got that issue of Harley Quinn where she declares Jimmy Olsen her mortal enemy—ah, the good old days), I staggered over to the Sheraton to hop in line for the Reading Rainbow panel.
I’ve heard LeVar Burton talk about his commitment to literacy and the making of the show before; I direct you to this Nerdist podcast if you’re interested. (Chris Hardwick was apparently at Dragon*Con, but none of us saw him. Boo.) He’s so thoughtful, warm, kind, and witty, so he’s become a bit of a role model for me over the past few months. I didn’t have my notebook with me, so I didn’t take any notes. (I know, I know; bad blogger! Very bad blogger!). When the audience was allowed to ask questions, one woman asked what Burton looked for in a book. He answered that he looks for “a book I can meet with all of myself”, which floored me so much that I broke protocol and took out my phone to write that down. This happens to me with books all the time; I happily dart up to it, only to realize the book is excluding me because I’m female or queer or French or whatever. I can’t bring my whole self to it, because it won’t let me. Brilliant.
I sent the rest of the day trying to keep my strength up, because despite my awful shoes (I need better shoes for my Dr. Quinzel costume) and getting sick, there was a late The Mighty Boosh panel I wanted to hit, so I ended up going to the “The Status of Women in Mainstream Comics” panel instead of something at another hotel. I am so glad I did, because it was amazing; within five seconds of sitting down, I got into a great conversation with the people next to me about how Harley’s updated origin story makes her a passive victim. I met a lot of awesome people in that panel, including Aja Romano! (Who graciously quoted me in her con round-up!)
The panel hit a lot of good points—a brief history of women in comics, the current state of female creators in comics, how to buy your comics so comic book companies know that you are part of the audience, what titles are good, how to deal with problematic issues, what titles to give young girls, and, of course, a good deal of groaning over DC’s current treatment of its female characters. It was also a more academically focused panel, which I appreciated, and the panelists were trying to raise support for more panels like that next year, which I immediately signed. I know my notes on this panel are very brief, but I can’t tell you how wonderful it was to be in a room with people from all walks of life who would groan with me over how Superman and Wonder Woman pairing up is awful and talk about why. Brilliant.
This report, of course, does not covering meeting a very sweet older gentleman literally named Howard Moon, dinner with my writing group, Joan Jett Wonder Woman, and the fact that seeing Dean Cain makes me go “OH MY GOD IT’S SUPERMAN GUYS IT’S ACTUALLY SUPERMAN”.
This week has been devoted to getting over my con crud and the first week of school. I have hit the ground running, as they say. I’ve managed to get through Telegraph Avenue, Level Up, and Clotel, which is a relief, and I’m knee-deep in The Encyclopedia of New Wave, which is very informative in my current musical studies. Still, Book Blogger Appreciation Week comes at a very necessary time for my buffer every year, so I’m looking forward to that this week.
The Baen Free Library is full of free downloads, including The Shadow of the Lion and On Basilisk Station. Night Shade Books is offering Butcher Bird and Grey as free downloads at the moment. Vertigo Comics is offering free downloads of the first issue of several series, including Fables, The Unwritten, and Y: The Last Man. (And you will go download The Unwritten.) Small Beer Press offers several of their books as free downloads, including Kelly Link’s Magic for Beginners. If I’ve missed your giveaway or freebie, drop me a line!
How was your Labor Day weekend?