Debrief: Dragon Con 2021
Atlanta, GA – September 2 through September 6, 2021
Just like that, Dragon Con 2021 is in the books! And, wow, it was a weird year.
Attendance was reported at 42,000 and you could definitely feel it. Thanks to the pandemic precautions – proof of vaccination or negative COVID-19 test along with a 100 percent masking requirement – and attendance caps (including limits on daily sales), the crowds were significantly thinner. Let me tell you, though, I could get used to an attendance cap at Dragon Con. Maybe 65,000 to 70,000 in normal times?
Despite the smaller crowds, we did a lot of good work this year for the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metro Atlanta, raising $120,000 for that charity. That’s $10,000 more than we pulled together in 2019 with just over double the weekend crowd.
It was also a getaway that I really needed. With everything that’s been going on recently, I needed to see the geek family and get my mind orbiting around a lot of fun and creative things. I mean, let’s face it, I’ve missed these people.
It’s important to note that the Marriott and Hyatt were flooded with partiers at night who weren’t wearing face masks. It seemed that, once the sun went down, enforcement went out the window. Since I’m seeing several reports of attendees popping positive for COVID-19, panelists who refused to wear masks on panels, and vendors who went unmasked at their booths, I wholeheartedly recommend that everyone get tested for COVID-19 (both rapid and PCR if you can) and limit the spread as much as possible in the meantime.
There were a lot of naked respiratory orifices at Dragon Con 2021. Far. Too. Many.
On to the discussion.
First things first, I want to thank the track directors and their volunteer staffs for welcoming me into their homes for the weekend and offering a chance to talk on their stages.
- Joe Crowe and Gary Mitchel (American Science Fiction Classics)
- Kellen Harkins (American Science Fiction and Fantasy Media)
- Karen Henson (Military Sci-Fi Media)
- Caro McCully Tidwell (BritTrack)
- Garrett Wang and Leo Visentin (Trek Track)
- Charles McFall (Digital Media Track)
Second thing second, but by no means any less important, I’d like to thank the volunteers. There are so many who help bring this convention to life every year – in fact, the vast majority of the hundreds who work the con are volunteers – but my deepest gratitude goes out to those who kept the tracks I worked moving. Like I said last year, these folks push the limits and innovate to keep this show moving. Your hard work does not go unnoticed.
Third things third, I’d like to thank the convention for having me back as an Attending Professional. This was my thirteenth Dragon Con and my sixth as an Attending Pro. I appreciate them having faith in my abilities to both participate and moderate programing events, and really enjoy spending the weekend having fun, catching up with my geek family, and meeting new people.
It’s a tradition at this point, so the weekend started with the Dragon Con Newbies walking tours and Q&A sessions. We started earlier this year in anticipation of larger crowds, but some snafus in the Registration side of the house left us with a few hundred newbies that trickled in slowly over four hours. We had an empty room a couple of times as a result, but we agreed that even one newbie helped is a success for our group.
It sounds trite, but it’s true: Sue Kisenwether, Kim McGibony, and Kevin Bachelder are just fantastic to work with. I also want to give thanks to all of our tour leaders and wranglers for volunteering their time and knowledge, as well as to our new team of moderators in the Facebook group.
After the Friday morning Newbies Q&A, I wandered over to the Digital Media Track to talk with Mike Faber, Tyra A. Burton, Matthew Charles Malis, and Sean McKay to discuss how you (yes, you) can get started in digital media. The panel was well-attended and the audience had a lot of well-thought out questions.
After that, I moved over to the Marriott for a two-hour session about the Disney Afternoon on the American Science Fiction Classics Track. I joined Sue Kisenwether, Bethany Kesler, Denise Lhamon, and new friend Amy Chandler as we spent an hour on the non-duck properties, an hour on the duck-related shows, and the break between panels watching an episode of Darkwing Duck.
After the panels, we took a picture of all of the Disney Afternoon cosplayers in attendance.
One of the funniest things to come out of the All-Duck Edition was a Bethany’s concept for a new spinoff movie: “Now I want to see Three Ducks and a Gosling.”
I had some time to kill, so a group of us went for dinner. I joined up with Sue Kisenwether at the BritTrack’s celebration of The Weakest Link and ended up on stage as one of the contestants. I was the first voted off, not because I was the weakest link but because of where I was seated. It was easier to remember my name, so two people voted for me. I laughed so hard about that.
The night ended with a Classics Track screening of Howard the Duck. Despite the movie getting a bad rap in most circles, the panel and the pretty substantial audience agreed that it wasn’t that bad. It’s not an Oscar contender, but it’s not nearly as terrible as everyone says.
Also, given the events of recent Marvel entries, probably canon (in one form or another) in the MCU. Think about it. Seriously.
Saturday started with a discussion about the Doctor Who television movie. It’s 25 years old, and the crew from Earth Station Who (Mike Faber, Michael Gordon, Sue Kisenwether, Felicity Kusinitz, and I) spent an hour talking all about it. I stuck around for another discussion right after that, this time on the classic era of Doctor Who. I joined R Alan Siler and the BritTrack’s own Rob in the Hat for this one.
Afterward, I donated blood and wandered the vendors area for a bit before returning to the Classics Track for another screening of Mac & Me. I thought I was done after 2019, but…
That rewatch was preceded by a panel with Gary Mitchel, JC De La Torre, Rita De La Torre, Chris Cummins, and me. The entire audience also sang happy birthday to JC with our hands in the air like a Mac & Me alien. Because that’s what you do on a Mac & Me panel.
Sunday started off with a discussion on modern sci-fi shows reinventing their teams after “jumping the shark”. When our panelists arrived, we only had three people in the audience, so we made it a room fireside chat instead. M. Haynes, Beth Verant, Jeni Green, and AmSFFM staffer Raster had a fun time.
Next up was a return to the Military Sci-Fi Media Track as Van Allen Plexico, John Hudgens, and I joined MilSF staffers James Henson and Wiccy to talk about collecting. It was a wide-ranging discussion complete with great advice on how to start collecting, how to focus a collection, and (most importantly) how to budget for a collection.
I swung back over to the American Science Fiction and Fantasy Media Track for a discussion on the Black Widow film. I joined forces with Jenna Johnson and Brandy Blanton to discuss this film, its implications on the MCU, and how it connects into real-world discussions on women and human trafficking with a jam-packed room.
Finally, I ended my Dragon Con 2021 paneling experience with my debut on the Trek Track. Sue Kisenwether invited Jessa Phillips and me to join her in a discussion on how Star Trek has never been subtle about social justice and politics. It was a great discussion with another full room, and the discussion continued afterward as the audience told us how much they appreciated the message.
After that, I took in a little Classic Sci-Fi Court (complete with an hour of laughs and fun) before calling it a night.
Monday involved some last minute packing and a bunch of goodbyes. It was a lot harder to leave this con because we hadn’t seen each other in person for such a long time, but it had to be done.
We hit the road, brought the boys home, and started some laundry before calling Dragon Con 2020 done.
There are some other smaller (but cool/interesting, nevertheless) items to note:
Second: The Dragon Con Exercise Program.
Five days at Dragon Con resulted in 59,798 steps and 27.19 miles. In comparison with 2019’s stats, that’s a bit lower than usual but expected based on the ease of movement around the con and the back-to-back panels on my schedule.
Third: The LifeSouth blood drive.
This post won me a prize in the random drawing.
Fourth: This cosplay.
Finally: Ralphth the Dragon, Jr.
If you want to join us, the next Dragon Con will be held from September 1 to 5, 2022. Memberships (badges/tickets) are on sale now, and hotels will be available soon.