DragonCon Celebrates 40 Years
DragonCon is the annual science fiction and fantasy convention held in Matboard and More’s hometown of Atlanta, GA. Started in 1987, Dragon Con celebrated its 40th year this past Labor Day. Coming from humble beginnings, the convention kicks off Thursday night and lasts till Monday afternoon. It spans across several of Atlanta’s most iconic hotels, including the Hilton, the Marriott, and the Hyatt. Covering everything from Star Wars to the War of the Five Kings, along with everything in between, sideways, and all the other directions as well, there is more to DragonCon than meets the eye.
Like its West Coast cousin ComicCon, DragonCon always has a large number of celebrity guests. Guests have included contemporary stars from DC TV Universe, Harry Potter, and Game of Thrones, along with classic stars from older series like Star Trek and Star Wars. Previous years have seen William Shatner and Patrick Stewart on stage at the same time. The guests typically share a few stories, then answer questions either from the audience. Fans will line up for hours to make it to the first row, or for a chance at an autograph. DragonCon also always boasts a large number of authors as gusts, both to discuss their own work, and to discuss other works.
Discussion panels are a big part of the convention, and where the truth depth of the convention shows. I’ve mentioned the bigger shows and moves, but you will see discussion panels for less popular things like Fringe, Wheel of Time, Stargate, Army of Darkness, Primer, and more. Professionals and knowledgeable fans will lead hour long discussions about these things. Fans will discuss things liked and didn’t like, speculate about ongoing shows and series, and lament the ones that end too soon.
It’s not all sci-fi and fantasy. DragonCon has a number of more “real world” tracks for discussions of science, space, and skepticism. I’ve been to panels on hacking, political activism, cracking secret codes, and more. There are writers’ panels where professional authors share their techniques, and even weekend long writing workshops for professionals and aspiring professionals.
Writing isn’t the only artistic endeavor at DragonCon. Perhaps the most visible example would be the costuming, or “cosplaying,” to give the official title. You can see costuming of all levels during the course of DragonCon, from those assembled from thrift store finds to officially licensed costumes, along with plenty of unofficial cosplayers with professional quality costumes. Some cosplayers will dye and style their hair, or add makeup to create scars. Others even create prosthetics to get closer to the character they emulate. And, just as with writing, there are panels and workshops for cosplaying as well.
Nowhere is the cosplaying more prevalent than during the DragonCon parade. Held on Saturday and lasting well over an hour, thousands of people crowd into the heart of downtown Atlanta to view it every year. Elves will follow Stormtroopers, who follows Deadpool, who follows Anna and Elsa from Frozen and so on. You can also see vehicle costumes- the DeLorean from Back to the Future and the Ghostmobile being only two examples.
Yet all this is only scratching the surface of what DragonCon can offer.