Monday, August 4, 2014

Dragon Con 2014: Phantom's Preview

I really need Dragon Con this year.
I’m not going to bitch about my job. Lord knows I do that enough. I just spent half of an otherwise great episode of Shauncastic doing it. But this has been a rough year and I need a break.
Granted, it might be more beneficial if that break was actually a break and I wasn’t going to be on a bunch of panels at Dragon Con, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. More on those panels later.
This is the part where I point out that Dragon Con is just a few short weeks away! I have no idea what I’m covering on the site yet. I’ve been to focused on what I’m actually doing at Con to think too much about it. I have podcasts lined up, but I can’t guarantee every day of the two weeks leading up to Dragon Con will be Con-centric posts.
Fortunately I have help this year. Beth V will be covering the Con in an Official capacity, so for the first time ever there will be TEAM COVERAGE OF DRAGON CON. I’m really excited about the fact that Needless Things will be offering different perspectives on the event this year. Heck, she might even get some interviews!
Of course, we also have our talented pool of writers. I know R.T. Ewell has something special in store for you guys and I’m sure we’ll be seeing Con-related posts from some of our other regulars.
Dragon Con is always scheduled for Labor Day Weekend, which this year stretches from August 29th to September 1st. Except that now Dragon Con has gotten so big and people love it so much that it officially starts on Thursday night with something reminiscent of a New Year’s Eve party in the Marriott. But people are now starting to party on Wednesday. And Tuesday, if rumors can be believed.
A Thursday night start will be good enough for me, thank you very much. I handled the extra day far better last year than I did in 2012 and learned the value of not having a hangover your first day at Con. In a somewhat surprising move, the madmen behind my home track – American Sci-Fi Classics – have actually scheduled panels on Thursday night. I always wonder what it will take for Dragon Con to officially start on Thursday morning.
In case you’re not already familiar with it, Dragon Con takes place across five hotels (FIVE! – Hyatt Regency Atlanta, Atlanta Marriot Marquis, Hilton Atlanta, Sheraton Atlanta, and the Westin Peachtree Plaza) within walking distance of one another in Downtown Atlanta. Because of this, you need to plan your schedule beforehand and allow at least thirty minutes of travel time between events. Also, buy a large water bottle and keep it with you at all times. Most hotels have water coolers scattered about, so you can stay filled up all day and night. If you’re not peeing once an hour you’re getting dehydrated.
In order to plan your schedule, download the Dragon Con app from iTunes or the Play Store. You’re still going to want to have a hard copy of the trusty Pocket Program, but the app will make your life a whole lot easier, as it contains everything you need to know about Dragon Con and updates constantly throughout the weekend. You’ll even receive alerts if an event you have placed in your personal schedule is changed.
If you’re staying in a host hotel, be sure to find out what channel is carrying Dragon Con TV. This is the network run by a bunch of crazy Dragon Con volunteers. It provides original content, music videos, comedy sketches, short films, and also broadcasts many of the guest panels. It’s the best television channel I’ve ever seen and I look forward to seeing it every year. I just leave my TV tuned to it and on all weekend.
Also, I am in one of the comedy sketches this year. Keep an eye out for something about a telethon.
Track” is the term used in reference to all of the events involved in a particular genre or field of interest. For example, the Trek Track encompasses all things Star Trek. There are panels featuring celebrity guests, genre experts, and fans. There are also parties and events such as the Miss Star Trek Universe Pageant, which involves costuming as various species from the Star Trek universe. So to make things easy, you simply find the Track that represents your area (or areas) of interest and look for that schedule. Typically most or all of the events for one Track will take place in the same hotel and even the same general group of rooms. It all depends on the size of the Track.

Alternate History – Basically Steampunk – think Jules Verne
American Sci-Fi and Fantasy Media – Modern and current genre programs and movies. This has undergone a name change since last year.
American Sci-Fi Classics – Celebrating science fiction movies and TV of the past
Animation
Anime-Manga
Apocalypse Rising – Media dealing with the many different ways that civilization could end, as well as what happens afterward
BritTrack – This one focuses on the many genre and entertainment contributions of Great Britain. It used to be called British Science Fiction, so I wonder if maybe they’re expanding to account for the current popularity of other British media.
Costuming
Electronic Frontiers Forums – Internet, law, technology and their impact on society
Fantasy Literature
Filk Singing – Folk music about genre topics
Film Track – This used to be “Independent Film and Festival”. It appears to have been expanded to include more of a focus on filmmaking.
Horror Track
Independent Film & Festival
Kaleidoscope – Focused on entertainment for kids and young teens
Paranormal
Podcasting: Now and Beyond
Puppetry – This is actually one of the most expansive and all-genre-encompassing tracks at Con. The more panels I attend, the more surprised I am at just how many different forms of media utilize and even rely on puppetry and puppeteers.
Robotics and Maker Fan Track
Science
Science Fiction Literature
Silk Road: Asian Cinema and Culture
Skeptrack – For people with no sense of wonder. Ha ha! Just kidding! Not really!
Space
Star Wars Track
Stargate: Multiverse
Tolkien’s Middle-Earth
Trek Track
Urban Fantasy – I’m not sure how to describe this one, but some of the television shows it covers include Lost Girl, Being Human, Bitten, Supernatural, and my wife’s favorite – The Vampire Diaries.
Whedonverse – About all of the works of the Nerd King, Joss Whedon
Writer’s Track – Where writers help writers
X Track – It seems like this track focuses on cryptozoology and the paranormal as they relate to conspiracy theory. Sort of. I believe it takes its name from The X-Files, so that should clue you in.
Young Adult Literature
That’s over thirty-five Tracks covering every major aspect of genre entertainment and some straightforward real-world subjects as well – Electronic Frontiers, Science, Space, and more. Every year Dragon Con looks at its Tracks and figures out where there is a need or not so much of a need anymore. The people in charge are very good at adjusting Dragon Con to its attendees’ needs year after year.
Today I’m going to do my annual write-up of the Dragon Con Progress Report. The Progress Report is exactly what it sounds like – an update on the schedule, guests, and entertainment that will be at Dragon Con this year. It’s not the final version of anything, but it’s a good resource to start planning with, which is pretty much what I’ll do here. I’ll make notes about which guests I’m excited about and what I might need to bring, as well as outlining a preliminary schedule.
For the full Progress Report, check DragonCon.org or your Local Comic Book Shop.
Announcements
Just a few things worth noting. Some are new, some are not.
*If you already purchased your passes to Dragon Con, bring that postcard with the barcode on it that they sent you in the mail. It will make your badge pickup much faster. And if you didn’t receive it or lost it, let them know now. They can send you another one. I know this because last year I thought I hadn’t received one and I asked for another and they sent it and then after Con I found the first one.
*You will need your badge to get into the host hotels. Not just into panels and stuff – into the hotels. This policy started in earnest last year and I approve one hundred percent. I invest a lot of time and money in Dragon Con and I don’t need any freeloading jackasses bringing down the tone.
*Now through August 16th you can purchase Saturday-only passes for $50 and Sunday-only passes for $40.
*There’s always a stage set up on the pool level of the Hyatt, but now there will be a second stage on the back patio of the Hilton. These are for acoustic performances from the various musical guests.
Featured Guests
Amy Acker – I’m glad she’s coming back because I never saw her last year. I have an Illyria figure to get signed. I do have to say, though, that she’s done so much since Buffy that she’s really left that character behind. Which is a tough thing to do in genre media, so good for her.
Colin Baker – I have met, interviewed, and wrestled the Sixth Doctor. Normally that would be enough, but he was such a sweet and wonderful guy that I think I’m going to seek him out again.
Julie Benz – Such a fox. She, too has taken on more than enough roles to have overshadowed her role on Buffy. Her work on Dexter was awesome, but her role as Amanda on Defiance is outstanding. She’s getting to do a lot of things with her character of the former mayor and she’s doing them so damn well.
Grant Bowler – Oh, yeah – I fucking love Defiance. After an incredible, world-building first season I was concerned that the show would waver in its second year. It has not. As a matter of fact, it is tighter and slicker than ever, with an exciting new paradigm and lightning-fast story development. Shockingly, Grant Bowler’s Nolan is not my favorite character. He’s a great character, though, and Bowler does a fantastic job being prickly and abrasive.
Tony Curran – I still don’t understand how the same guy that plays complete dickbag Datak Tarr on Defiance (which I love, by the way) also played the tortured artist Vincent Van Gogh (Van Goff) on Doctor Who in an episode I shouldn’t have liked but ended up loving. Like, teary-eyed loving.
Ron Glass – Always a delight on panels. I look forward to catching him on Dragon Con TV.
Tricia Helfer – Number Six from Battlestar Galactica. I would like to get a picture with her. She also inspired the best cosplay mash-up I’ve ever seen:

Michael Hogan – So tough.
Rick Howland – Trick from Lost Girl! I dig the show and I love his character. I do need to catch up, though.
George Perez – A truly delightful human being, Perez typically spends his days at Dragon Con sketching for charity. Find him.
Jesse Rath – Another Defiance guest! This guy has the challenging role of Datak’s son. I don’t envy him. He kind of doesn’t get to be cool and badass because he’s supposed to be bucking his father’s criminal ways. Which are pretty cool and badass.
Saul Rubinek – Mr. Rubinek has been in everything and is one of my favorite faces to see in film or on TV.
Ksenia Solo – She’s my favorite character on Lost Girl – Kenzi. There are no Lost Girl action figures, though (oh, if only this were 2001 there would be), so I have nothing for her to sign. Sometimes I feel kind of creepy getting pictures with the younger ladies.
Michael Stackpole – Mr. Stackpole has done so much more than just write Star Wars tie-ins, but to me he will always be a key component of my beloved Expanded Universe (regardless of where it stands in current canon, which I wrote about).
Patrick Stewart – I’ve never approached Mr. Stewart, despite the fact that he’s been at Dragon Con several times. Quite frankly, he intimidates me. He’s one of those people that’s sort of overwhelmingly great to me. But now I have this whole batch of TNG toys and I’d love to have a signed Locutus.
William Stout – He isn’t actually listed yet, but I know that William Stout is supposed to be here this year because I GET TO DO ANOTHER PANEL WITH HIM! Last year’s Masters of the Universe panel was fantastic and I can’t wait to talk Conan the Destroyer with him this year. Should be a great one!
Karl Urban – Total badass. I love his take on Leonard McCoy and he is Judge Dredd. I wish so bad that that movie had done well because it was fucking awesome.
Peter Weller – Peter Weller. PETER WELLER. PETER FUCKING WELLER. This man is one of my childhood heroes. Man, all of his roles… ALL OF THEM. He’s one of those people whose career I’ve followed regardless of what they were in. I just… Damn. If I can talk to three different Doctors, I can talk to him. I just hope I have time. I really want to have him sign my copy of Naked Lunch. And a RoboCop figure. And Buckaroo Banzai. PETER WELLER. If I could pick only one guest to meet and get a picture with or whatever, this would be him.
Sam Witwer – Witwer is super nice and absolutely wonderful on panels. Go to one of his panels. He’s humble and funny and seems genuinely amused by his fame.
Additional Featured Guests
Davey Beauchamp – Of Amazing Pulp Adventures and Gallifrey Pirate Radio.
Bob Burden – Creator of the Flaming Carrot and the Mystery Men, which I have a recently rekindled respect for thanks to the movie.
Kathleen O’Shea David – A talented puppeteer and incredibly sweet lady, I can’t wait to see what she has in store for the Puppet Slam this year.
Mike Faber – The progenitor and Director of Earth Station One and an inspiration to me, personally.
Tom Feister – My favorite artist of the modern GI Joe era. Definitely go and buy some prints or get a sketch.
Gil Gerard – BUCK. ROGERS. But, more importantly, host of the incredible Match Game on the American Sci-Fi Classics Track.
Michael Gordon – Co-host of Earth Station One and Earth Station Who, this Fan-Tiki-Tastic man is a truly regular fantastic human being. Be sure to catch him on a panel or four I always have a great time talking to this guy.
Chris Gore – I just like Chris Gore. I wish we could attract some more G4 alumni. But I guess they don’t like to party. Chris Gore does:
Annalee Newitz – Now, this is kind of cool. As much as I bag on i09 for being elitist jerks, I really do love the website. I mean, they gave that lout Rob Bricken a home, so they can’t be all bad, right?
Van Allen Plexico – Showrunner of the White Rocket Podcast and owner of the coolest name I have ever heard in my life.
Andy Runton – Creator of Owly, the best all-ages comic around.
Dr. Scott Viguié – One of the smartest people I have ever spoken with.
Dexter Vines – A tracer who wants to get with my wife. (Kidding, I’m kidding. About the tracer part. Thanks to this guy and that giant black guy from The Walking Dead Mrs. Troublemaker isn’t allowed at Dragon Con anymore)
Kelly Yates – Comic book illustrator, best known (to me) for his work on IDW’s Doctor Who. We had him on Earth Station Who recently and he was really cool.
Attending Professionals
Talloolah Love – The queen of Alternate History sass and burlesque!
Anya Martin – A talented writer and a fixture of Atlanta’s pop culture scene.
Bobby Nash – Co-host of Earth Station One and award-winning author. Bobby will be a on a lot of panels, so be sure to check him out.
Anthony Taylor – This guy is a great writer with a very sharp mind for sci-fi and observation of pop culture. My conversations with him usually consist of me nodding, goggle-eyed. Of course, I think I’m usually drunk…
The Sci-Fi Janitors – I don’t care who the Guest of Honor is, who Grand Marshalls the parade, or who lays the most pipe at the Marriott on Saturday night – Bob and Carl are the Kings of Dragon Con.
Phantom Troublemaker – Some goofball in a mask. According to the Director of Trek Track he is “Hard to take seriously”. I agree. Absolutely DO NOT take this man seriously.
Mark Zoran – I’m not actually sure what this fella does, but he sounds like a James Bond villain. And that’s awesome.
Performers
Atlanta Radio Theater Company – Although I have never actually seen these guys perform, I have a soft spot in my heart for radio plays. My Papaw and my dad both introduced me to stuff like The Shadow and Amos and Andy and I really appreciate the differences in audio and visual storytelling. I have a great respect (and envy) of people who do voice work.
Nerf Herder – These guys are a cool Dragon Con acquisition. I’ll definitely go to their gig.
The Gekkos – I missed this nerd rock band last year. I’d like to try and check them out this time.
I feel like Dragon Con has taken a bad direction with the music. Well, maybe not bad. Just not to my taste. An awful lot of the acts seem very similar and regardless of your musical taste that isn’t a good thing. There’s a certain type of flavor of music that seems to dominate, and because of that I just don’t have much interest in the bands. I’d like to see a lot more variety next year.
For the full list of guests and performers, go to DragonCon.org.
Obviously you can’t just base an event of this magnitude on guests. They’re important and all, but there has to be stuff going on. Dragon Con has more stuff going on than you would be able to do in a month, let alone in four days. Here’s just a little sample of the scheduled events (once again – the stuff I care about):
Events
13th Annual Dragon Con Parade – If you’ve never seen the parade, you must see the parade. Even though I will be on panels that conflict with the parade, I have to recommend the parade if you haven’t seen it. There’s just nothing else like it. No Hollywood movie can compare to the spectacle of hundreds of costumed nerds/dorks/geeks/superheroes/knights/wizards/zombies/paranormal investigators/Hobbits/spacemen/etc. marching through downtown Atlanta. It’s breathtaking.
The Armory – And exhibit of weapons throughout the ages, sometimes accompanied by Kevin Dockery and various other authors and experts.
Art Show – The Art Show is right next to Comic Artist Alley and has a huge assortment of various types of handmade media. It’s really, really cool and I recommend you take the time to walk through. It’s on the lower levels of the Hyatt.
Celebrity Photos– This is kind of tricky. Some guests do photo ops, some don’t. Some guests charge for photos, some don’t. Some just do them at their table in the guest hall, some go through a complicated process that involves a third-party photographer. Sometimes there’s no indication of where the guest stands on any of this, so don’t be afraid to ask. Chances are if it’s a bigger name guest they are going through the photographer.
Charity Auction – This year’s auctions are to benefit the Atlanta Community Food Bank.
Comics and Pop Art – Right next to the Art Show. This is where the coolest of Dragon Conners hang out – the creators. Comic and pop artists from around the world gather here to hang out and sell awesome art.
Dragon Con Burlesque – I always mean to go to this and there’s always a conflict.
Bob & Carl: Sci-Fi Janitors Present The Late Night Puppet Slam – This is the greatest and best thing at Dragon Con that isn’t wrestling. I cannot possibly express to you how strongly I feel you should attend. They should build a Bob and Carl amphitheater behind the Hyatt just so that everybody at Dragon Con can attend the Puppet Slam.
Night at the Georgia AquariumDJ Spider will be spinning her magic web of music at one of the coolest locales to ever host a costume party. I have conflicts and can’t go, but I’d love to see the Aquarium full of costumes and set up to celebrate Dragon Con. I just really hope Spider got her usual late, late DJ spot as well.
And finally…
DC FRAKKIN’ W! – This is what I look forward to all year. It’s not just the best wrestling show, it’s not just the best live event, it’s not just the best gathering of friends and lunatics a luchadork could ask for – it’s absolute fucking insanity. I have never seen such an unpredictable event and I don’t know that I’ve enjoyed anything in my life as much as I do DCW. Dragon Con Wrestling defies words. It’s exciting, it’s dangerous, and there’s just nothing like it.
In addition to all of that, Dragon Con has contests, pageants, and workshops on writing, dancing, self defense and more.
Finally – though this is far from a comprehensive listing – there is the gaming.
I don’t do gaming, but it is at Dragon Con and it is huge and fucking intense. Me and the rest of the Hooligans make a point of walking through the gaming rooms every year and I can’t even comprehend what’s going on in there. There’s this whole other society that doesn’t give one tiny little fuck about the rest of Dragon Con. It’s like when the Fraggles went to the Doozer part of the Rock, except we don’t eat the Monster Manuals.
That’s it, folks. I strongly encourage you to visit DragonCon.org, download the app, and go listen to all of the Earth Station One Dragon Con Reports for the best information available.
The Needless Things gang will start our official coverage of Dragon Con on August 18th. This coverage will continue daily until probably two weeks after Con, though it’s entirely possible the week directly following Con will be sparse. My schedule is pretty tricky around then and I may not have a whole lot of time to write. I’m looking at options.


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