DragonCon 2011 – Day 1

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DragonCon’s 25th offering started Friday, September 3rd.  It’s a 4 day convention in Atlanta that brings together many elements of popular culture, primarily from the sci-fi/fantasy aspect, but with many others:  Science, writing, costuming (of any type), gaming, skepticism, art, tracks devoted to certain book series, etc.

First, Kudos to D*C for moving to the 21st century, first with a spiffy smart-phone App and, more importantly, an improved registration process.  Although the system wasn’t working for 95% of the time I spent in Shatnerline (2 hours), the line practically ran when they got their system up.

First stop Friday was the William Shatner panel.  This is 2nd time I’ve seen him speak here, but this time without Leonard Nimoy, who not only cancelled but apparently has retired.  No insult intended, but I don’t think anyone will ever confuse Shatner as a “great actor.”  Anyone who has paid attention since Priceline.com came along should be well aware that he is a great entertainer.  And so he was this time, at 80 years old very personable, affable, and practiced at interacting with fans.  You never know what you’ll get from Shatner, but lengthy answers should be expected.  From lunchtime bicycle hi-jinx with Nimoy to a failed attempt to bring Kirk back frombacktothefuture the dead to his  love of riding horses, I don’t think anyone left disappointed.

From there, it was a dash to see Christopher Lloyd (“Doc”) and James Tolken (Principal Strickland), on a Back to the Future panel.  Lea Thompson (Marty’s mother) failed to show, but the prospects of Doc stories appealed, as Christopher Lloyd seems the type of person to have all sorts of interesting tales.  Sadly, his stoner act seems not to be such an act.  Lacking interest, we exited and got in the lengthy line already formed for the next panel, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”

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This was a very attractive panel.  It’s a shame several were hardly seen due to vampire makeup.  Nicholas Brendan (Zander) was a bit off put by a rude questioner who dismissed him as a whiner.  This threw off the tone for the remainder of the discussion, which should have been better moderated.  Still, upon reflection, the questioner was rude, but not necessarily wrong.  Elisha Dushku (Faith) and Julie Benz (Darla) were particularly likeable (or just gorgeous?) and Felicia Day (Vi) continued to make the most out of a small role.  The gist of this, and most, panels, is that the actors are very appreciative of their roles and the fans’ response.

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A hurried lunch and a number of snapshots later, we went to join what we expected to be a lengthy “Stargate: Universe” line.   Disappointingly, there was hardly a line at all, which might give some cause as to why the show was (prematurely) cancelled.  Nevertheless, several of the cast were on hand to talk about their roles, challenges, and unfulfilled expectations for their characters.  They showed great chemistry and obviously had fun themselves. Interesting tidbits were their most memorable scenes and the “who gotArtist Panel 1 what” of leftover SGU set materials, the majority of which were auctioned on eBay.

Following that, we went to an Art track panel featuring general Q&A with three noted artists in the illustration field, primarily for book covers.  These were Michael Whelan, Don Maitz, and artist/writer Janny Wurts.  Discussion included the expected “how did you get your start,” but evolved to more interesting opinions on following another artist’s established renditions of characters to the future of the profession given the increasing demand of e-books and the expected decline in physical books.  Wurts tackled the latter more cataclysmically than “just” the lack of learning of the traditional painting methods.  Given the increasing scarcity of many of the rare elements required for many computer devices (implying that the digital world may not be Artist Panel2as long lasting as many would seem), she viewed the quick transition to digital art as “not building the future but burying the present.”  Whelan was more forgiving, and, as it turns out, each artist’s “analog” painting becomes digitized when sent to the publisher – and is often revised digitally as well. 

<—It didn’t quite keep everyone’s attention. 

The only troubling aspect of Friday was the heavy crowd.  Saturday is by far the worst, and the number of people on Friday seemed much higher than in previous years.  It was listed as a 30,000 person gathering not too long ago, and today’s newspaper indicated 45,000.  Now expanded to 5 hotels, there’s still not enough room for that many people through all of the choke points (aka escalators, doors, steps) between venues.  We didn’t even attempt any of the Star Trek panels at the Sheraton, as rooms there are routinely undersized for numbers wanting to attend.  Following are a few additional pictures taken from Friday:

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