I’ve just returned from Dragon*Con 2010 (I still prefer the name “Geekstock” for this event, but no one’s listening to me on this.) This was my third one, and they seem to get better every year. I have a lot of thoughts on the convention that I’ll address in coming posts, but for today, operating as I am on extremely little sleep, I’ll talk about the two broad categories of people who attend.
I have concluded that there are two types of people who attend: Those who seize those four days every Labor Day weekend to cast their inhibitions to the wind, put on the costume of their choice, and become someone else; and people who don’t, people whose idea of dressing up is a T-shirt with a funny logo on it.
Certainly, the costuming is a major part of the Dragon*Con experience, whether you are the costume wearer or an observer. Some of the costumes left me shaking my head at the time, expense, and creativity that went into their creation. I saw characters from Halo, blue people from Avatar, Green Lanterns, robots from Futurama, Batmen, Batgirls, storm troopers, more Star Trek uniforms than I could count, and dozens of Hogwarts students. The makeup on some of these costumes (particular the characters from Avatar) must take forever to apply.
Many people merely dress in wild colors or outfits that are, ahem, attention-grabbing. This event by itself keeps the fishnet stocking industry in business; some of the skirts were short enough to be illusory. Then there was the woman I saw outside the Hyatt on Sunday. She was topless, with two strategically placed stickers containing slogans about starting a revolution. I don’t exactly remember the slogans; in this case, the old adage about the medium being the message was never more true.
I think it would be interesting to ask a few dozen of the costumers about what motivates them. Certainly many of them must just love dressing as someone else for a time; they probably love Halloween for the same reason. It’s undeniably fun to dress up as a character. The ones I wonder about are the ones who push the limits of propriety, however defined, beyond extremes, such as the aforementioned revolutionary. I’m not speaking here as a prude or as some moral guardian; as someone said on Twitter during the con, “If you’re easily offended, why are you at Dragon*Con?” No, speaking as someone who is introverted by nature, I’m genuinely curious as to why someone would appear in front of thousands of people (I’m not exaggerating here) essentially naked. I know, in practice it’s not different than what actors often do in movies and on HBO, but this is live and in-person. I can’t fathom doing that myself; that others can feel comfortable doing it is a mystery to me.
Maybe this says something about my level of comfort with my own body; maybe it has to do with values instilled in me when I was young, as opposed to the values others grew up with (I’m not saying my values are correct and theirs are not; just saying they may be different.) Or maybe, just maybe, men and women who dress this way at Dragon*Con are saying nothing more than, “Hey, check me out!”
There are of course thousands of people at Dragon*Con like me who are there for attractions other than the chance to wear a cool costume. For me, it’s a chance to hang out with other writers, some of whom have titles in print, and to meet lots of cool people. I come armed with business cards and a resolve to shake off my innate shyness and introduce myself to people. I met Paul Cooley, Meg from the Brilliant Gameologists, Sam Chupp, Gail Z. Martin, and others whose names I never got but with whom I struck up conversations at writing workshops. I saw Tom Smith perform a filk concert, discovered an excellent a capella Celtic music group named Pandora Celtica (I bought one of their CD’s and loved it on first listen as I drove home from the airport today), talked writing and podcasting with my roomies Christiana Ellis and P.G. Holyfield, and played guitar as backup to the sweet voices of Starla Huchton and Kim the Comic Book Goddess.
It’s the opportunity to learn and spend time with creative people that brings me back to Atlanta on Labor Day weekend each year. Every year, as the time approaches, I agonize about whether I should spend the money (it’s not an inexpensive excursion) or stuff happening with life (last year, an illness in the family; this year, a dog who suffered an injury a few weeks ago that caused lameness.) I’ll probably play Hamlet again next summer, and I’ll probably decide to go at the last minute again, thus preventing me from getting the lowest airfare. I’m at the point now where I would feel a definite void if I didn’t go.
But you won’t see me there dressed in a loincloth or a kilt.