This is the first of two posts I’ll be doing about this year’s Dragon*Con in Atlanta, GA. How, exactly, I plan to fit the other three days into a single post, I’m not quite sure, but this post contains commentary on the three major panels I went to, which were all on the first day. The rest of the con, well, we’ll get there.
So, the true beginning of Dragon*Con 2011 for me was Thursday night, when numerous pre-parties and pre-con dinners were going on. I attended, as is my wont, the Wheel of Time pre-dinner and then the TarValon.net pre-con opening ceremony, mainly because the vast majority of my con-friends are there. I also managed to pick up my press badge, which I will say was infinitely easier than getting a “normal” badge last year. Although, this year Dragon*Con did massively upgrade their pre-registration badge distribution system, and as I understand what had been 4-5 hours waits were cut down to 1-2 hour waits.
Friday morning I went to bed at 4 AM and woke up at 6 AM, because I’m crazy and hyped up on a convention adrenalin rush. I then went to the first panel of the show, which was William Shatner’s “hour.” The panel was still packed regardless of how many people were still stuck at Registration, or just not there.
I saw Shatner two years ago when he was here with Nimoy, and at that time he played the snarky joker to Nimoy’s straight man. This year, by himself, I saw a completely different side of Shatner. He was somber and very heartfelt as he reminisced over his work on Star Trek TOS. He also discussed his new documentary The Captains and how amazing it was to really get to know each of the other actors who has played a Star Trek captain. He then went on to comment about the wonder he felt at how science fiction and fantasy created fandoms that bring people together. As he put it, we were not at the con to see him, or to see any of the other guests or entertainers, we were at the con to see each other.
He also talked some about how he came to write the post-Kirk’s-death Star Trek spinoff books, and what he wanted to do with the character and story arcs, not to mention the themes he wanted to play with. (Such as how would a person like Kirk handle aging.) I have to say, his enthusiasm for the books actually makes me want to read them. On the whole, it was an amazingly enlightening, and as I already said, showed me a side to Shatner I had never seen before.
After that, I trekked (get it?) over to another hotel and saw the Back to the Future panel, which featured Christopher Lloyd and James Tolkan (Principal Strickland). Three things (of many) I learned:
- Both of them prefer to act on stage, although they do enjoy movies, too.
- Lloyd never even finished high school.
- When Lloyd was mailed the script to Back to the Future, he initially threw it away without even looking at it. He only did look at it after he had a friend remind him that he was a starving actor and needed to leave no stone unturned.
The next and final major panel I went to was a bit of an oddball for me, featuring an hour-long Q&A with Sean Patrick Flannery and Norman Reedus of Boondock Saints fame. Now, I don’t really know how Boondock Saints falls into the Dragon*Con scope of things beyond being a cult movie with a geek-like fandom, but it was still an amazing panel to attend, especially since I am a fan of Boondock Saints and recently rewatched it. I would just like to say, those boys seem to not have been playing characters in the movies so much as living out their dreams. They both revealed that they felt the characters of the Saints were truly heroes for what they did and espoused much of the same philosophy of the movie (although they fortunately did actually stop short of inciting the crowd to actually try and live the movie out themselves).
And that was just the first day, and I didn’t come close to seeing all of the large panels with authors such as Sherrilyn Kenyon, media stars such as Wil Wheaton, musicians such as Jonathan Coulton, and the like. Each of the four days had these large “Main Programming” events, and while I limited myself to only the first day for these, that didn’t mean only the good ones were on Friday. I’ll just admit that I typically don’t go for the whole “Giant Ballroom” type panel. In fact, stay tuned soon for what might end up a slightly longer post as I talk about what is, to me, the other half of Dragon*Con: The Fan Tracks.
Richard Fife is a writer, blogger, and not planning on sleeping much this weekend. He was written an illustrated serialized steampunk trilogy called “The Tijervyn Chronicles” that you can read for free on his website and will be starting Volume Two: Meister of the Secret on September 9th. You can also follow him on Facebook and Twitter.