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The Dragon*Con 2002 Report

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Dragon*Con is America's largest science fiction, fantasy, and popular arts convention. Split between the Hyatt Regency Atlanta and the Atlanta Marriott Marquis hotels in Atlanta, GA, USA, the con took place over Labor Day weekend, August 30 through September 2, 2002. We had an awesome time at D*C back in 2000 (our very first con), but we missed it in 2001. (The stress of Comic-Con 2001, both physical and financial, just wouldn't allow us the second big trip in one year.) However, we weren't going to let the opportunity slide in 2002, so we once again piled into the car and drove five hours to join our fellow artists from Plan Nine Publishing to sign books, meet with fans, and have a good ol' time.

We arrived around noon on Friday, August 30, after an overnight stay in Greenville, SC. I'm happy to say we didn't even get lost this year; in fact, we hopped right off the interstate and found our hotel in no time. We dropped off the car and walked to the Hyatt and checked in. Compared to 2000, the guest registration line was incredibly short and much less stressful. Maybe that came from arriving on Friday instead of Thursday.

We then hopped over to the Marriott to find the Exhibitors' Hall and the Plan Nine booth. (Note that there was a distinction between the Exhibitors' Hall where we were and the Dealers' Hall one floor down. I'm not exactly sure what that difference was, but there was one.) When we got there, we found that we weren't allowed to enter because a leak had formed in the ceiling above several booths (just an aisle across from the Plan Nine booth, in fact). We met up with the Plan Nine folks, and when we were finally allowed to enter the hall, we found that fortunately none of our stuff was damaged. We helped finish setting up the booth, then hopped on the MARTA (Atlanta's rapid transit railway) to pick up a friend from the airport.

When we returned, several of Plan Nine's artists had shown up or were soon to follow. We greeted old pals Pete Abrams (Sluggy Freelance) and Bill Holbrook (Kevin & Kell) and were introduced to artist Elizabeth Leggett (whose prints are available through Plan Nine) and fellow Keenspotter T Campbell (Fans!). We went straight to work as the first batch of con-goers poured into the room. Many books were signed, sketches were drawn, and (of course) Sluggite bellies were signed.

Unfortunately, our water problems were far from over. The portion of the ceiling damaged by the water leak collapsed, and it wasn't long before another leak broke out only ten feet or so away. Concerned for public safety, the con and hotel staff closed the exhibitors' hall early and evacuated the room. While we escaped the direct damage again, everyone in the hall suffered some sort of loss in sales. We ended the evening by hiking up the street to the nearest Steak & Ale, where we drowned our sorrows in slabs of burnt cow flesh and complained about the extremely slow service.

Eventually, my wife, our friend, and I found our way back to the hotel, where I started working on the first day's slide show photos. Once I was done, I discovered we couldn't get a line out of the hotel; any time I tried to dial 9 to get an outside line, I would get a busy signal. So that's my excuse... you can't tell me I didn't try.

Saturday started with the first annual Dragon*Con parade... which, unfortunately, we only caught the tail end of. The grand marshal was none other than Nichelle Nichols, Star Trek's Lieutenant Uhura. The parade stretched from Centennial Park to the Marriott and was filled with lots of costumed con-goers posing for photographs.

Of all the cons we've been to, Dragon*Con is always the best for attendee designed and built costumes. While there were some interesting characters at Comic-Con, it never compares to this one. Klingons, Imperial Storm Troopers, vampire goths, fairies, elven thieves, Jedi knights... you name it, it was probably walking around somewhere. There was even a female Storm Trooper walking around. (Maybe the Empire is an equal opportunity cloner.)

At 11:30AM, I trotted off to the Dragon Signings room, where I had my first "official" third-party sanctioned (i.e., not set up by myself, Plan Nine, or Keenspot) book signing! Unfortunately... not a single person showed up. Not one. Well, I take it back. There were those three people who came in looking for someone else (neither of the other two authors showed up) and they took a GPF flyer. But that's it. Still, most of my fans knew they could find me at the Plan Nine booth, so I wasn't too disappointed. The hour did give me a few moments of peace and quiet from the bustling exhibitors' hall, and I got to talk to several con staffers and introduce them to the strip. (And I didn't see Bill Holbrook or Pete Abrams having an official Dragon Signing either, so nyeh.)

I returned to the booth while my wife and her friend did some sight-seeing and celebrity watching. Dragon*Con always attracts some pretty decent names in sci-fi and fantasy, and we have some very interesting photos in the slide show. I spent most of the day meeting and greeting fans, while sharing top-secret story ideas with my fellow artists.

The con day wrapped up with an interesting panel called "I-Pub, E-Pub, We-Pub," described as "Where do you fit into Internet publishing? How it works, and how it use it to make a buck!" I shared the panel with Lawrence Barker (author of the e-book I'll Take My Stand), Scott Humphries (editor for an online sci-fi stories site), Jana Oliver (author of the DragonFire fantasy series), and Patricia deVarennes (writer and photographer). The panel was aimed more at budding authors looking to get their prose fiction published online, and in that respect I felt a little out of place. However, I was arguably one of the most successful of the group in my little online endeavor, and I think I added some valuable insights.

The day ended with a late dinner at a nearby Mexican restaurant, where the Plan Niners quietly met to discuss world domination. But you don't want to hear about that.

Sunday was a little slower than Saturday starting out, but ended up just as busy. We had lots of fun talking with fans, and I met a lot of new faces and even some old familiar ones. Sluggy belly signing was also in full swing, and I was even drafted to help out as well. But the really interesting part came that afternoon....

While they didn't have their own signings, Pete and Bill were drafted for a special session of Whose Line Is It Anyway?, subtitled "On The Fast Babylon Freelance." It was Pete and Bill verses Jason Carter and Richard Biggs from Babylon 5 in an all-out laugh fest based on the hit British improv series. It started off slow as Mr. Carter and Mr. Biggs arrived very late, forcing Bill and Pete to stall for time with some two-person games. However, the mayhem accelerated soon after, making for an extremely memorable experience. The entire hour is very difficult to describe, but the photos in the slide show tell much of the story.

Sunday finished off with a wonderful trip to Benihana for Japanese hibachi. Pete and his minions, the Plan Nine crew, T Campbell and I clustered around the table for a noisy but delicious dinner. While I always enjoy meeting fans and seeing the sights, it's moments like this where I get to share time with kindred spirits in online comicking that are always the most fun.

Monday wasn't much to tell you guys about; we took our friend to the airport, then hopped in the car for the ride home. While the drive home wasn't bad, we did discover the next morning that one of our tires went flat, and I spent most of Tuesday (which I took off from my day job to rest and recuperate from the con) rushing around, trying to get it fixed. Oh, well... back to the daily grind....

I guess the last main thing I can think of to mention is that this marked the first time I was actually recognized outside a con floor as someone at least semi-famous. Two separate individuals spotted me--one at the City Cafe for breakfast on Saturday and the other at Benihana Sunday night--and knew who I was. If either of you two read this, you can take comfort in the fact that now my head is sufficiently swollen. I'm still having trouble fitting through doors, but I suppose it'll die down by the time I reach our next con. Thanks, guys!

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