This week, a few of ScienceFiction.com’s writers are heading down to Atlanta, Georgia for this year’s Dragon*Con, a multigenre convention that takes over the city’s downtown area. While these correspondents have been to their fair share of cons in the past, neither have ever been to this one, so to help them out, we spoke to the Director of Media Relations, Dan Carroll, to give us some helpful hints and tips for any and all attendees of this year’s event, plus some cool things for us to check out.
SF: What are some of the coolest things that guests can expect from Dragon Con this year as opposed to other years?
Dan Carroll (DC): This is going to be an amazing year at Dragon*Con. We’ve gone through so much growth in the past few years. We’ve made some changes to the 2013 con to make it even more amazing than what we’ve been presenting in the past. One of the things that we’re doing is taking the vending area, which was seven football fields worth of space, and moving it to a larger facility over at AmericasMart, which is just a couple blocks from our host hotels. Then, we’re moving the Walk of Fame, our celebrity autograph area, to the Marriott Hotel and expanding it to include 20-25 more signing tables.
SF: Who are some of the guests that you’re most excited to bring to the fans this year?
DC: We’re always excited for our ‘Star Trek’ guests (because of the con’s history with the franchise) and this year with William Shatner and George Takei together at Dragon*Con, it’s going to be an amazing one two punch of classic ‘Star Trek: The Original Series’. Also, along the same lines, we have Marina Sirtis and Michael Dorn from ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’ and a lot of guests from ‘Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’ because we’re celebrating the 20th anniversary of the show.
We’ve got two other anniversaries that we’re celebrating with a bunch of enthusiasm this year as well. One is the 30th anniversary of Fraggle Rock. We’re bringing two of the original Fraggles, the actual puppets with Jim Henson engineers. Some of the voice cast will be attending as part of our Puppetry Track. The other is ‘Doctor Who’, which recently announced the newest Doctor. We won’t have him, but we’ll have Peter Davison and Sylvester McCoy with us.
SF: You’ve mentioned these “tracks” and one Dragon*Con attendee can have a very different experience from another one because of them. Can you talk a little bit about the diverse programming offered because of all these different tracks?
DC: Absolutely! It’s like that meme that says that no two people watch the same show. You could be watching a show about this amazing girl who kills vampires, but the person on the couch next to you is watching a show about a witch whose friend happens to be a vampire slayer. That’s the way Dragon*Con works. There are 55,000 different Dragon*Con experiences.
So what is a track? It’s an individual programming area set up for a specific purpose. We have over 35 tracks this year that cover everything from Alternate History all the way to zombies. Not all of our tracks are about fandoms either. Some of them are about activities in the geek community like a space track and a science track. For those, we’ll have some scientific advisors for ‘Battlestar Galactica’ and ‘Stargate’.
SF: Joss Whedon even has his own track.
DC: He does! When you take a look at his work, you’re looking at 12 years of ‘Buffy’ and ‘Angel’. You’re looking at the impact of ‘Firefly’ being the largest selling DVD to date when it was released. You’re looking at his works in comics, which a lot of people tend to forget. And then we look at his work with ‘The Avengers’. With all his work, he deserves his own track.
SF: I also noticed that some tracks have balls or dances associated with them. That’s an interesting thing to include in a con.
DC: We have dances every night and it’s a lot of fun. Dragon*Con is a family friendly event all through the day and in the evening it’s a place for adults to relax and enjoy some beverages while mingling and getting wild a little bit. One of my favorites is the Heroes and Villains Ball, but an excellent new addition this year is a ball to commemorate the 50th anniversary of ‘Doctor Who’. I’m willing to bet that a lot of the ‘Torchwood’ folks will be there just enjoying themselves. There will be DJs, cash bars, and just an amazing night all around.
SF: Do you have any con survival tips for someone who is attending Dragon*Con for the first time?
DC: Well, anybody going to a convention in Atlanta at the end of August has to understand one thing: When it tells you that the high will be 95, that’s the temperature it will be at 9 o’clock in the morning. I grew up in New Jersey and it would say that the high is 95, but at 11:30am, it was still 78. It would get really hot, then cool off real fast. Not in Atlanta. Please dress for warm weather. Dress for comfort. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Camelbacks, water bottles, and whatever else it takes to keep you hydrated.
The other thing is to remember the three convention musts: You must sleep six hours a day. You must shower once a day. And you must eat at meal times. I have seen someone taken away by an ambulance at 11:45pm because she ate “a couple of hours ago” at 2:00pm. When you’re at Dragon*Con, it’s an immersive experience and there is time dilation. You literally don’t have to see outside if you don’t want to, but be mindful of the musts.
SF: A lot of great cons are built around great cities. What are some of the advantages of having Dragon*Con in Atlanta?
DC: There are a couple of things. First off, Atlanta is a city that does things. It’s built with a strong work ethic. It was also built as a transportation hub, therefore it’s easy to get to Atlanta. Finally, we’re inviting our Dragon*Con attendees into an environment filled with Southern Hospitality.
SF: So I hear that there’s a parade that’s part of Dragon*Con. Can you tell me a little about that?
DC: Our parade is the largest parade in Atlanta and the second largest in the state of Georgia. Considering that the largest parade is the second largest in America, we’re doing pretty well with that. Last year we had a few hundred marchers approximately with 80,000+ spectators watching the parade that goes through downtown Atlanta. Probably the thing that’s going to be most interesting to so many people is at the end of the parade, my friends Lawrence and Melissa will be getting married dressed at Mr. & Mrs. Darth Vader. Darth Vader tux, dress, helmets, and all. Dragon*Con’s own Steampunk Boba Fett will be performing the ceremony. The parade is on Saturday, August 31 at 10:00am, but you can find more information on that including the route on our website.
SF: Finally, there are a ton of amazing conventions around the country all year round. What makes Dragon*Con stand out from the rest?
DC: Every convention has something to offer, but Dragon*Con has things that you’re not going to find anywhere else. We’ve got an amazing costume community here. It’s estimated that 70+ percent of the people at Dragon*Con wear a costume at some point in the weekend.
Another thing is that Dragon*Con is a hotel convention that allows people to take breaks and go to their hotel rooms and relax before coming back down since we don’t close at 7:00pm. We stay open 24 hours a day. Sometimes it can be so packed at 2:30 in the morning that you’d have to elbow your way through the main concourse. That 24-hour atmosphere is definitely a part of the appeal.
It certainly sounds like a ton of fun is awaiting our little crew at this year’s Dragon*Con. Are you planning on attending too? Are there any tracks that you plan on taking part in? What cosplays are you bringing along? What balls do you plan on attending? If you’re planning on being in Atlanta this week, tell us all about your plans and what you’re most excited about.
And don’t forget to check back to see what our correspondents are getting into as they report back right here on ScienceFiction.com!
Dragon*Con 2013 takes place August 30 – September 2, and will be hosted in 5 hotels: the Hyatt Regency Atlanta, Atlanta Hilton, Sheraton Atlanta, Atlanta Marriott Marquis, and the Westin Peachtree Plaza Hotel, all located in downtown Atlanta, Georgia.