Every year around June, Rachael and I start talking about a thing. We’ve done this consistently for at least the last five years now, and so far there’s a little less than a fifty percent success rate.
The thing is deciding whether or not to go to DragonCon.
Generally we don’t mind missing DragonCon, especially since it’s always held over Labor Day weekend, which means it coincides with the beginning of the academic year when we’re both under stress from the resumption of work and class. Additionally, we’ve been trying for years to figure out how to do the convention thing with varying levels of success, and the general feeling of utter exhaustion that comes after leaving a con is a major impediment to doing it all again. The unique nature of DragonCon further contributes to this exhaustion, since neither of us belong to any diehard fandoms, and the one segment of nerdery that Rachael does have a strong foothold in, progressive speculative fiction, just isn’t as well represented at DragonCon as elsewhere; it’s a humongous party geared towards a lot of things in which we don’t have huge personal investments. It’s usually a lot of work for minimal payoff.
The recent years when we have made it out to DragonCon have happened mostly because we have friends who are also going, and we enjoy having opportunities to hang out with them. These experiences are great, but they’re often proportionally small in comparison to how time is spent over the course of the whole day (we have yet to do any convention on a multi-day basis, mostly because we just haven’t had time to spare, even on the long Labor Day weekend). If you were to make a pie chart distributing the amount of time we devote to attending DragonCon (and this includes travel time, because it’s absurd not to account for that in your planning) at least half of any given day is spent on trying to get to the convention.
This year our attendance was based on some unusual circumstances. Rachael was asked to be a judge on the panel that selected the recipient of the first Eugie Foster Award, and so she was invited to attend the Guest of Honor banquet where the award was given out. I got to be her plus one, so we made plans to go to DragonCon on Saturday and make a day of it. Now, while our tickets to the banquet and Rachael’s day pass were taken care of, I still had to purchase my badge. This meant that after stopping at the VIP member pickup for Rachael, we then had to spend an additional two hours waiting in line for me to buy my day-of pass. This extensive waiting in line is a thing that happens every year we’ve gone to DragonCon, and it’s always incredibly draining. Typically the acquisition of the badges is followed by exhausted collapse somewhere not too far from the badge room just to gather mental resources before deciding where to go next. It’s not a good feeling to realize you’re tired before you’ve even done anything fun at a convention.
Once we both had our badges, we had to cope with the fact that we were in the hotel farthest from most of the events (they place regular badge pickup far, far away from DragonCon’s epicenter), and even after perusing the program for ideas of how to kill time until the banquet, we were kind of at a loss as to what to do. Rachael suggested we go to a panel on dystopian fiction, which I was down with, and so we hiked a couple blocks to another hotel. The panel was a lot of fun (my biggest complaint with it was that there seemed to be some conflation between post-apocalyptia and dystopia, which have always struck me as distinctly different speculative subgenres), and it provided some time to genuinely rest before going to check out other things.
We wandered through the dealer room for a couple hours, though we’ve learned that in the age of the internet, neither I nor Rachael have a burning need to buy anything we see and think is cool right on the spot (for my part, I think I’m also just at a point in my life where I don’t want things that are going to take up shelf space). We hit the artists’ alley, because that’s one thing I distinctly remember enjoying immensely in years past, and perused the pop art. I was a little disappointed this year, mostly because I didn’t see anything that jumped out at me as stuff that I absolutely needed to have on my wall. So many of the comics artists present didn’t have styles that struck me as especially unique (Art Adams had a table, and I didn’t think his work was particularly more interesting than anyone else’s stuff, and he’s freakin’ Art Adams). On the bright side, I did pass by Peter David’s table, which meant I got to see Peter David (on a scale of significance as an X-Men writer, I’m inclined to put Peter David near the top for his work on all the various incarnations of X-Factor; in a genre that’s relentlessly melodramatic and bubblegumish like superheroes, I’ve consistently found his stuff to go deeper than that of other writers). That was pretty cool.
What was really cool was getting to the banquet and finding that Peter David was also there to present an award to Bryan Henson. After I had a minor freak out, Rachael suggested I go say hello, which ended with me awkwardly listening to Peter David telling stories about his various encounters with William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy and silently noting that he was wearing an Incredible Hulk tie. It was probably the first time I’ve ever been genuinely star-struck.
On the bright side, it resulted in this picture:
So that was pretty good, I guess.