I chose to go to DragonCon 2014 less than a month and a half before DragonCon. My friend Barbara (Drescher) has always told me how good DragonCon it is, and once again suggested I go this year as well. Once the idea was put in my head this year, I couldn’t let it go, and I started envisioning a second con for myself this year. While changes to the JREF are only being announced now, I knew at TAM that things were going to change. I felt it was time that I look at new cons to call “home”.
I won’t talk about the details of getting to DragonCon, or my hotel situation, but suffice to say, I was able to take care of all those details pretty easily and all I had to worry about DragonCon was what I was going to do there. I starred a bunch of things in the DragonCon app, but gave myself plenty of time to walk around. I also left enough time to see some old college friends of mine who I hadn’t seen in person in years. My plan was to just go with the flow, find things that interest me, and see what DragonCon was all about (as well as anyone can do in four days).
Instead of even talking about specific panels, I want to describe the vibe I felt when I was there. This is the first event I’d ever been where the person in the plain red tee shirt (me) kind of sticks out as the “weirdo”. I really loved the fact that so many people were dressed up and not a single person would care. The only time I ever heard a comment was when a model cosplaying as a Victoria Secrets angel was showing a banner with her Instagram account, and people near me said she was “marketing poorly”. It wasn’t mean, it was just matter of factly about the whole thing. If I were inspired by any sort of costume, I would feel completely comfortable at DragonCon doing so. When I was doing the parade, as I wrote about previously, I actually was comfortable wearing a monkey mask in front of tens of thousands of people carrying a sign. After that, what else should phase me?
I normally consider myself an extreme introvert, shy with people, and someone who mumbles their words to strangers. For DragonCon, though, everyone was so friendly. I never got the condescending “excuse me big guy” I often get in crowded places. People were polite in tight spaces. After I ran from my hotel to the Hilton during a quick rainstorm, I was standing in the foyer catching some wind to dry off. I said to the guy next to me, “Excuse me, I’m just trying to dry off a little.”. His response to me, in almost Dude like fashion was “Hey man, we’re all trying to dry off, just stand and enjoy the wind.” Seriously, if not for his steampunk outfit, I would have assumed he was cosplaying as the Dude.
I stayed mostly with the Skeptrack panels this year, but if I go again, I will definitely branch out more. This year was new for me, and for panels, I mainly stuck close to home so to speak. The panels, which would run an hour, in a smaller-than-TAM room were really good though. The feel of the room was different than what I was used to. The stage was small, and the speakers sat down, so the talks had a really intimate feel. I was at the first TAM which had less people than some of the panels I saw, and it still felt bigger. There was no echo in the room. This totally new feel for me was awesome. I now prefer it to the large open air, echo filled talks I saw at TAM (This is not a slight against what I’ve seen at TAM previously, this is all relative). I can see why people really like the track system at DragonCon.
So, by the end of DragonCon I started to take stock in the experience, and it was pretty awesome. I only touched the surface of DragonCon. Looking back, DragonCon actually covers overall my interests better than any conference I’ve ever thought of going to. I’m more than just a skeptic. I like science, I like science fiction, and technology. I like the feeling of being some place where there is little to no judgement on appearance. There may be clique’s within DragonCon but in an event that large and varied they doesn’t matter.
In closing, I’d like to thank a few people. Thanks to Travis for suggesting the High Roller in Vegas, because while that seems like such a small thing, ever since then, I’ve felt like pushing beyond my comfort zone. Thanks to Derek and Swoopy for putting on a wonderful Skeptrack. Thanks to Margaret for putting together a wonderful Skeptrack parade unit. Thanks to Angie, Ani, and Reza for making me feel like I’d known them for years. Thanks to my old college friends Dave and Jeannie for hanging out for the first time in many fourteen or fifteen years. Thanks to Barbara for suggesting over the years that I go to DragonCon, for the room, and for nudging me to do the DragonCon parade. And lastly, thanks to my wife Kelly who was supportive of me going to another con so quickly after TAM. She has always supported me going to these various things, and I can’t thank her enough. In fact, I need to find a con for her. 🙂