Okay, since Dragon*Con 2011 has been over for a week now, it’s probably well past time for my report on the annual gathering that I like to call “Geekstock.” As usual, it was an incredible time, and it seemed to go even faster this year than in others. Not sure why that was; every con I’ve been to has been crammed to the gills with panels, meetups with friends, concerts, etc. But this one felt like — BAM! It’s over.
Rather than flying out of Rochester, as is my usual custom, I set out very, very early on Thursday morning for Boston. My oldest son has just moved there for law school, and my charge was to deliver a car trunk full of his stuff upon my return. Fearful of Boston traffic and unexpected roadwork delays resulting from Tropical Storm Irene (NOTE: Compared to what other people suffered from the storm, my problem was very minor), I hit the road just prior to 6 AM. The trip actually was very smooth, and I parked my car at Logan Airport more than two hours before my 1:25 PM flight. The flight itself was a piece of cake, and I was at the Atlanta Hilton and meeting my roommate Justin by 5 or so.
Last year, Dragon*Con’s registration process was a nightmare. I spent three hours in line coaxing a little more battery life out of my iPod. This year, they made some changes, and I’m happy to say the changes worked. I was in and out of there in about 15 minutes. My compliments to the staff and leadership — it was a much better experience this time.
Thursday night brought the first of three concerts I attended by the amazing Pandora Celtica. If you like Celtic music and/or you love tight harmonies, you owe it to yourself to give this group a listen. They are a five-part a capella group from Denver (it’s kind of ironic that so many of their songs are about the sea and they’re thousands of miles from the Atlantic Ocean.) I first heard them last year and bought one of their CD’s on the spot, then requested and got another for Christmas. Stalking them was one of my missions for the weekend, one that I’m happy to say I fulfilled. I bought their other two CD’s, got to meet them all, and collected a few autographs on the CD’s. As terrific as they are as musicians, they’re even nicer people. I hope they return to Dragon*Con every year.
Friday brought my one and only workout of the con, the arrival of the eternally awesome Christiana Ellis, and the kickoff of the podcasting track. John Lenahan, the author of two podiobooks but one who has actually gotten said books into print, was one of the panelists. As the author of two not-yet-in-print podiobooks, I was curious as to what he did that I did not, and he very generously gave me a big chunk of his time after the panel ended. He didn’t know me from Adam, and I really appreciated him taking the time with me. I then attended a couple of panels by game designers (game designing is a subject that’s started to interest me — stay tuned for a future blog post); a reading by best-selling fantasy author and writing instructor Tracy Hickman; another Pandora Celtica concert; dinner with Starla and Scott Huchton and their friends Jamie and Chris (who get my vote as the cutest couple I’ve met this year); and a special reading by Scott Sigler of brand new material. I ended up at a small party in Alex White’s room with a bunch of people I’d never met before, hung out with them for a bit, then finished the night in the Hilton bar with P.G. Holyfield and crew.
Saturday: Settled into my ritual of dropping off CD’s of Purgatory and business cards on the freebie table and got caught in the Dragon*Con parade while trying to get to Starbucks. Once I had coffee in hand, I went to a reading by mighty Mur Lafferty, where I heard excerpts of a piece she’s written for Scott Sigler, an excerpt from a new unreleased novel, and something from her forthcoming sequel to Playing For Keeps. Every con, I try to spend a little time with Mur because I love her I Should Be Writing podcast and she gives voice to so many of my writing anxieties. However, whether she recognizes it or not, she’s also something of a rock star, making it tough to get too much of her time, but I was glad for the time I was able to get.
Next were a couple of writing panels, including one where I met up with Abby Hilton and listened to Aaron Allston and Michael Stackpole discuss plotting. The high point of the day was the Parsec Awards, which honor excellence in podcasting. I put on a black suit for the occasion and went in style (practicing for the day when I might actually be a finalist for a Parsec; a guy can dream, right?). Several of my favorites won awards, including The Drabblecast, Nathan Lowell and Scott Sigler. A short party followed the ceremony, after which a small army of us descended on a Thai restaurant. No one left hungry.
Sunday: A good panel on writing in a world that another author has created, followed by a podcast writers roundtable. I had thought that I would be a panelist for this and was a bit disappointed that I wasn’t. However, within five minutes it became apparent that I would have been out of place. Every panelist had at least one book in print, and I don’t. It would have been awkward, so I’m glad it worked out the way it did. The discussion was excellent, and I’m looking forward to the release of the recording as a podcast so I can listen a second time.
I then jumped between a panel of best-selling authors (Kevin J. Anderson, Terry Brooks, Charlaine Harris, etal.) and a panel on favorite books, which gave me ideas for even more books that I will buy or borrow and not have time to read. Another Pandora Celtica concert preceded a panel on game design, leading up to a return performance by Scott Sigler in the role of his cousin Frankie in “Let’s Get Pissed With the FDO”. His interview victim was Dr. Pamela Gay, who gave as good as she got. As usual with these events, the true winner was Tuaca.
During all this, Starla was frantically tweeting about the amazing night she was having. When I returned to the Hilton, I saw her and Scott and immediately demanded to know what was going on. “Follow me,” was the coy answer. In a nutshell: Colin Ferguson, star of the SyFy Channel’s Eureka, Misha Collins of Supernatural and Nicole de Boer of Stephen King’s Dead Zone had ended up in Alex White’s room to record some episodes of his podcast Disasterpiece Theatre. Starla, Scott, Jamie and Chris had been among the lucky throng who attended the recording. However, that was not the end of the night. The three actors and a battalion of hangers-on joined us out on the street, whereupon we went back inside and joined the karaoke party taking place in the lobby (see Starla’s blog for all the details.) I didn’t actually get to meet Colin, but he seemed very personable and down-to-earth, and he clearly knows how to have a good time.
The evening (uh, early morning) concluded with a 4 AM breakfast with Starla, Scott, Jamie, Chris, P.G. and me at the Metro Diner.
Five short hours of sleep later, I was back in the game for the last day. I did some souvenir shopping (didn’t buy anything) and went to a writing panel featuring Terry Brooks, Mercedes Lackey, Timothy Zahn and Mark Van Name. I had every intention of returning to the hotel to say goodbye to Christiana and others, but I dropped by two more writing panels and was quite glad I did. I got to meet and talk e-publishing with Ridan Publishing’s Robin Sullivan and self-published author John Hartness. I learned a lot from the discussion, and it’s got me seriously considering self-publishing ebooks.
Promptly at 5 PM, the con ended. Within a couple of hours, the hotels were ghost towns. The 40,000 geeks were mostly gone. It was really quite a forlorn sight. Had I not saved $130 on airfare by staying until Tuesday, I would have regretted staying through Monday.
Tuesday was for packing up, bidding adieu to Justin, and flying back to Boston and checking out my son’s estate in a comfortable neighborhood straddling Brookline and Brighton. Okay, it’s really a studio apartment, but he likes it, and it befits a first-year law student. I delivered his stuff, we went out to dinner, and then I drove the five hours back to Syracuse.
Was it a good con? Put it this way: I’m already thinking about next year.