So, I finished my Friday post having finished Camp Nanowrimo and just about to rush off for my first day of Dragon*Con panels for this year, right? 🙂
First, a little Dragon*Con 101, to help you understand what I’m talking about, and maybe give you a feel for what going is like. Dragon*Con is organized into dozens of fan tracks like WeyrFest, Whedon Universe, BritTrack, and American Sci-Fi Media – those are the ones that I’ve been mostly following. Each track has a ‘home room’ in one of the hotels, where the smaller panels and events will be held, and will reserve a larger ballroom for bigger events, like when they have a celebrity guest Q&A. Often the larger room will be in the same hotel as the home room.
Whedon Universe and BritTrack are very ‘big’ tracks, with a lot of people attending at least a few of their events; bigger rooms, longer lines, and bigger stars, which often does mean bigger fun. Weyrfest is a lot smaller, and doesn’t often leave the Vinings room on the lowest conference level of the Hyatt hotel.
The second thing you need to understand is about the schedule. Each track sets its own schedule, and though there are exceptions, generally the schedules are synchronized on a pattern of one hour for an event, then half an hour for people to get to their next event. So you have panels from 10am to eleven, and then the next panels start at 11:30, and so on through the day until 8:30pm, and then 10pm. Each track generally runs one item in each time slot, though occasionally they’ll have a gap or two choices at the same time, and they each make their own decisions about how early they start or late they go on a particular day. There are often some late parties that run longer than an hour.
Finally, a map! I never found the maps they have in the DragonCon program to be too easy to understand, and sort of learned the layout by trial and error last year. Here’s my own map, not to scale, but it clearly shows everything important, and also gives a few street names:
So, we’ve got the five hotels shown here:
- Westin Peachtree, where I’m staying this year, home of the Whedonverse track, with their homeroom close to the Peachtree street entrance in International D-E, and their big events up on the eighth floor ballroom. They have a weird floor numbering system – the doors off Peachtree street go to the sixth floor, and the Accessible entrance off Andrew Young leads to the lobby on the fifth floor. And my room is on the fifty-first floor, so I get to ride the express elevator a lot.
- The Hyatt has the Weyrfest track, as I mentioned, and also the comics show.
- The Mariott Marquis has the dealer’s room, and the American Sci-Fi Media home room. They also host some of the larger BritTrack events.
- The Hilton is where the Walk of Fame is, where most of the big stars sign autographs.
- The Sheraton is where everybody goes to register and get their badge. The BritTrack home room is here.
I’ve also marked the food court where a lot of people grab food, and some of the important skybridges between buildings. This part of Atlanta slopes from high on the left (east) side of the map, to lower on the right (west.) So if you’re getting to the food court from Peachtree street near the Westin, you have to go down an escalator, whereas from Andrew Young there’s a street entrance at the same level, and to the north and west there are skybridges a flight above street level.
That’s enough background, so let me tell you about Friday. I went to two introductory Weyrfest panels first – Welcome to WeyrFest and Pern 101. They were a great way to get acclimatized, and the WeyrFest staff were really friendly.
Between those two panels, I took advantage of an opportunity to go find the writer’s track, which I actually haven’t spent much time with, though I’m really excited about one panel for this afternoon. But Dr. Burt from the Critters workshop sent me some flyers about critters and his Reanimus Books press, so I dropped them off on a flyers table in the writing track home room.
After those panels, I had an open spot on my schedule, so I went to check out the Hall of Fame. Most of the guests that I was interested weren’t set up in the Hall of Fame yet, since it was so early in the weekend. I also went through the dealer’s room, particularly looking for Amber Benson’s book or one of the comics that she’s written for, but I didn’t find anything there.
Then back to the Peachtree Westin, the hotel I’m staying at and the home of the Whedon Universe track, to wait in line for the Big Damn Heroes panel. Now, since I missed the chance to hear the Buffy panel with Eliza Dushku last year, I’d decided that there were certain ‘must-see’ events that I was willing to line up at least an hour early for, just to make sure that I got in; panels that I could really picture enough people showing up for that they might close the room off. Some of them I probably didn’t need to line up so early for just to get in, but I don’t really have any regrets because I’ve gotten pretty good seats with this strategy, and sitting in line can be very relaxing compared to rushing hither and yon through the crowds.
The panel was great – it was Adam Baldwin, (who people were really excited to see because he’s had to cancel Dragon*Con a couple times, including last year,) Jewel Staite, and Sean Maher. Incidentally, at some point I’d gotten the names confused and thought that Summer Glau would be at Dragon*Con this year, but she’s not. Which is a little disappointing, because I’d have loved to get a photo op with both Jewel and Summer, but oh well. 😀
Even though I lined up fairly early, my seat was near the back of the center section, and I got up right away to line up to ask a question, which meant that I couldn’t see much, because you can’t stand in line and get in the way of the people seated behind you, and I can’t kneel comfortably for a long time, so I was sitting on the floor and trying to see over people seated in chairs. But it was really fun to hear the byplay. I think either Adam or all three of them had arranged to call Nathan Fillion on a cell phone when they got a good question, and Adam pulled the trigger after a question was asked about if they’d like to play other characters on Firefly. Nathan’s answer? “Inara, but only if I get to wear her dresses.” 😉 Nathan ended up calling everybody on the panel, badgering Jewel to go with him to the Much Ado About Nothing premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, and Jewel had already agreed to go with Sean.
I got to ask my question, the last of the entire session, (after Nathan took up a lot of time without really answering questions.) I asked my old standby about what they think happened to their characters after the ‘Serenity’ movie, which got Jewel and Sean joking about how many kids Kaylee and Simon would have, and if Jayne would go to the Companion’s training school. Shiny.
After that Q&A, I grabbed some lunch and went back to the Hall of Fame, got an Angel comic signed by J August Richards, and waited through two line sections for Jewel. They had volunteers organizing overflow lines in an out-of-the-way part of the room for anybody who was really popular, so I waited through the overflow line, and then the line to talk to the handler, tell her what you want signed and pay for it.
Now, I’ve already got several things signed by Jewel Staite, and the only reason I was there was because I hoped to get a glossy photo of Kaylee in the cupcake dress from the episode ‘Shindig’ signed by both her and Jane Espenson, since Jane wrote that episode. But they didn’t have that photo at Jewel’s table in the Hall of Fame, and the handler suggested that I try in the dealer’s room. I did go and look, but had no luck, and decided to give up on the idea.
Next, I dropped in on a ‘Once upon a Time’ panel with the American Sci-fi Media track, (same hotel as the Dealer’s room,) but I wasn’t really following the nicknames they were using for the characters, and went back to the Westin. Just as the Doctor Horrible Rocky Horror performance was supposed to be let into the ballroom, I asked a volunteer if they were definitely going to clear the room between Doctor Horrible and the Buffy Rocky Horror show, because I knew that they didn’t last year so I had good seats for both.
“Yes. If you’re waiting for Buffy, you can’t hang around on the eighth floor.”
So there was an amusing period where I and several other Buffy fans were hanging around waiting for the Buffy line to start. I think that whoever was in the ballroom before Doctor Horrible was late letting out, and they didn’t have room to start two lines at the same time. At one point, the volunteer told us that there was a sort of line starting down on six, and we went down to six but nobody seemed to know about it. Went back up to eight to ask where, specifically, on six.
“Just go down these stairs and hover near the stairs on six.”
So we went, and we hovered as best we could, and a volunteer came by to make sure we understood that there couldn’t be an official line down on six as far as the hotel or the volunteers knew. A few minutes later we all charged back up to eight, and found out that the Doctor Horrible people had gone inside, and a few minutes later the official line started.
I enjoyed the Buffy show as much as last year, singing my heart out and recording video of every number on my camera, even though I was off to the right and not sure how well it came out. By the time the show was over, it was eleven thirty, so I headed straight back up to my hotel room.