DragonCon 2010

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DragonCon is an annual 3.5 day convention during Labor Day weekend in Atlanta, with a diverse program for enthusiasts of: 

Alternate History (notably Steampunk) Paranormal activity
American Sci-Fi Classics Skeptics (opposite of above)

Animation, Anime/Manga

Podcasting
Anne McCaffery’s Worlds (fantasy book series) Author Reading sessions
Apocalypse Rising (end of the world speculation) Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time (fantasy book series)
The Armory Robotics (build and fight)
Art Showcase Sci-Fi & Fantasy Lit
British Sci-Fi Media Science
Comics and Pop Art Asian Cinema & Culture
Costuming Space – astronomy
Dark Fantasy (Vampires, Goth) Star Wars, StarGate, Star Trek
Electronic Frontiers Tolkien’s Middle Earth
Filking (like folk singing, but it’s not) Whedon Universe (Buffy, Angel, DollHouse, Firefly)
Gaming (board, console, internet, live action role play) Writer’s Track (how to)
Independent Films X-Track

Following is a recap of my experiences at this year’s Con.

Registration.  3 painful hours.  The blur should not convey any sense of motion. DCon, there’s got to be a better way.

Friday:

I Dream of Jeannie - I’m not sure how this fits into the overall theme of DragonCon, but I suppose there is an element of fantasy to it that warrants inclusion in the “American Sci-Fi Classics” track.  Barbara Eden sounds as effervescent as she did on the TV show, and from a distance, retains her genie looks.  Bill Daily (Roger Healey) used to be funny but, at 83, adult jokes just don’t sell.  And, Larry Hagman…, well, he seemed to enjoy himself and is certainly warm to the memories.  No J.R. Ewing in evidence, here.  Comment of note:  The genie bottles were Jim Bean decanters sold at Christmas, painted for the show.  Eden still has the genie bottle from the final episode, safely stored in her bank.

Barbara Eden, Bill Daily, Larry Hagman

Battlestar Galactica – Edward James Olmos ranked as Admiral onboard the ship, and he his acting peers offer the same deference on guest panels.  Olmos appears deeply affected by the overall arc of the philosophical reaches of the show (racism, religion, etc.).  He commented on the book, The Singularity is Near, which I may try out at some point.  He’s obviously a deep thinker, and I wonder if he will find as rewarding a role.   Richard Hatch can be entertaining, but on this day, he pontificated far too long.  Mark Sheppard, who played attorney Romo Lampkin, managed to insert himself into the conversation long enough for an entertaining perspective on his entry to the series.  Aaron Douglas said as little as possible. Give the man a beer.

BSG Panel

Shops – You can buy anything at DragonCon – that is, anything related to the subject matter.  Games, toys, comic books, posters, T-shirts, dice, autographed photos, jewelry, costume clothing and accessories… 

IMG_3455 IMG_3461

Eureka – Erica Cerra (Jo Lupo on the show) was solo on this panel, as Colin Ferguson (Sheriff Jack Carter) arrived too late.  The crowd was large and disappointed initially, but Cerra quickly took control and answered as many questions as possible.  She was animated, engaging, and likable – no doubt she won some fans for those who weren’t familiar with her or the show.

Erica Cerra

Quantum Leap – This was the best panel of the day, with Scott Bakula and Dean Stockwell on hand.  Bakula obviously remains very fond of the show and retains excellent recall of episodes and the overall experience.  The challenge of playing a different character each week was heightened as he did not receive the script until the day before filming was to begin.  Why so late? The producer didn’t want the studio to have time to read and edit the scripts.

Scott Bakula & Dean Stockwell

Simon and Kaylee Reunited – These characters would only be known to fans of Firefly, a very good series with a special cast that lasted only one year.  Actress Jewel Staite seems one of the most genuine and endearing “celebrities” that I’ve seen on these panels. 

Unfortunately, Sean Maher, who played Simon, is one of those actors that presents himself best when he has a script.  Fortunately, Nathan Fillion (currently on Castle and formerly Malcolm Reynolds on Firefly) stole the show by calling their cell phones, adding his “never turned off” humor as a foil to Staite.  “I’m sorry that I can’t be with you all, but I have to say, Sean is a poor substitute!”  Spot on.

That said, Firefly continues to draw very large crowds, ample evidence that Fox made a huge mistake cancelling the show.

Sean Maher & Jewel Staite

Saturday:

DragonCon Parade – see forthcoming post.

Art show – This was not as good as last year, but it included the expected variety of fantasy themed art.  I preferred the comic art section – I don’t read these any longer, but the imagery is great.

Solar Telescope – This was refreshing in that we could view the telescope with no waiting, as celebrity panels involve waiting in line from 30 minutes to an hour or more.  A hydrogen alpha telescope showed the sun as a red surface, and some detail – slow swirling perhaps – could be seen around the edges.  Another telescope was wired to a computer for an easier view.  I didn’t learn much (white on one telescope showed Calcium being burned, of which there is little), but, hey, I can say I looked through a telescope at the sun.

Solar Telescope

The Towers of Midnight – This is a looooooooooong running fantasy series that may or may not be the best ever, but it’s definitely the wordiest.  At 14 books upon its completion, it makes Tolkien’s trilogy seem succinct. Unfortunately, Robert Jordan, the author, passed away due to cancer in 2007.  He selected another author, Brandon Sanderson, to complete it, bequeathing major plot points and partially completed scenes.  The second of Sanderson’s final three books to this series is due out in November, from which he read two selections.  These involved familiar characters and gave absolutely nothing away as to what might happen in the story.

In the Q&A that followed, it was clear that Sanderson was legally doomed should he say too much about the upcoming book.  Sanderson is fairly young, well spoken, and has a very assured sense of himself (in a good way).  As he was reading, he confessed that he did not know how some of the names were supposed to be pronounced – as he did not invent the characters or places.  Jordan’s widow seems to have final say on these.  I’m looking forward to the book.

Stan Lee – Lee is the co-creator of many comic heroes, including Spiderman, Fantastic Four, Iron Man, Hulk, and others.  He’s appeared in cameo roles in many of the Marvel movies.  Rather than solely Q&A, a well informed and experienced host directed the conversation interestingly through the span of Lee’s career.  Interesting points made:

  • Lee didn’t plan or think about his characters in advance.  The publisher would say he needed a new character, and Lee would just do it.  There was no indication of writer’s block, just prompt delivery. He did, however, move the characters beyond the cookie cutter hero mold into storylines that delved deeper into their secret identities – very much the reason that made his characters, and those that followed, successful.
  • Someone asked what he thought about the development of his characters after all of these years.  Lee admitted that he lost track of them years ago.  He’s been too busy.
  • Lee harped on the selection of “Marvel Comics” as a formidable marketing brand, and did not spare DC Comics, the competitor of the day, ridicule for a name that was essentially dead weight.

Lee left the stage with a rousing, “Excelsior!" – the phrase that he used in his letters to the fan community included in his comics.

Stan Lee

Questions for Q – this would be a panel with John de Lancie, who played an outrageously funny (and powerful) being in Star Trek: The Next Generation.  Unfortunately, he was booked in an undersized hall, and I was unable to attend.  This would be repeated the following day with Data (Brent Spiner), with the wait line closed a full hour before the start.  This was the first evidence I had seen of poor planning on the convention’s part (other than registration), as larger rooms were available at those times.

Sunday:

Writers Workshop:  There were two writers’ workshops presented over the weekend by different authors.  This session was on plotting and was led by Michael Stackpole, a much published sci-fi author.  He presented concepts that apply to all types of fiction with excellent examples, and… I’m tempted to forego some celebrity panels next year to hear more. 

Light, Sound & Special Effects – This was part of the costuming track, and I only attended in that I thought there might be something bloggable.  Costuming is huge at DragonCon, and effects take a costume to a higher level. The panel amounted to three experienced costumers explaining the secrets to their success:  Google and repetition.  If I were seriously interested in adding pizzazz to a costume, I’d probably have been disappointed here.  General remarks included cannibalizing toys, model train lights, EL (electroluminescent) wire, inverters, “tiny little thingies you see in radios” (resistors) - “you need them - not sure why,” silicone adhesives, preplanning where the battery pack will mount inside the costume, voice projection units, and sewable LED Lights.  Overall, some helpful information was probably offered but not in a fashion that would resemble instructions or confidence.   www.hackaday.com was probably my most interesting note.

Ask a Wikipedia Admin -  To be posted on separately.

DNA in Forensic Crime Investigation – This was led by a subject matter expert and Ohio State professor.  Hey, I’ve seen CSI.  Why not learn a little bit more? The intriguing aspect of this was Wheat Germ Sample, strands within clearer portion of liquida “hands on” approach where we added wheat germ (which has lots of DNA) to a vial of water, added liquid soap to break down the cells, baking soda to increase the pH and release proteins, meat tenderizer to kill enzymes that would kill the cells, and isopropyl alcohol to isolate and suspend a strand of… stuff, said to be DNA.  No centrifuges were available, so the “shake and let gravity do the work” method worked well enough.

What followed was a discussion of the nature of personal rights to DNA and potential ethical issues around the retention of DNA samples by the government – should DNA data be kept and put into a database when a person is cleared of a crime?  Etc.  This was an informative session that was more practical and introductory than exhaustive.

Was it worth it? I’m already pre-paid to stand in the 3 hour line next year!

2 comments :

  1. Man, I was at the Simon/Kaylee panel too...and the main cast one (with it's massive line...barely got in...I did have to miss the Tam panel which I was bummed about). And Sean Maher was hilarious all on his own. They are all at their when they have each other to play off of though. Mad chemistry among that cast.

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  2. I told you to see the Klingons Gowron & Martok. Best humor they had to offer and easier to get into as well! I too am mad at having missed Delancey & Spiner.

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