Keep your eye on DragonCon this weekend


Happy Labor Day weekend. Maybe you have a camping trip or some other getaway planned; maybe just a three-day homebound celebration of laziness. One thing I know you're not doing, however, is going to DragonCon because if you were, you'd be too busy partying it up in Atlanta to be reading this.

DragonCon isn't the biggest Con in the country (63,000 attended last year) but it is one of the most rewarding if you fit into its attendee base. For that reason, I advise all SDCC hopefuls - and we're all hopeful at this point, not one of us has a 2016 badge yet - to look over the DragonCon coverage this weekend and figure out if this might be a home for them next year.

First let me address the objections I hear.

There's no serious movie star presence there. That used to be the case but there are plenty of movie/TV celebrities afoot these days. Cast members from Game of Thrones, Battlestar Galactica, American Horror Story, Arrow, Defiance, Lost Girl and other shows will be there this year.

It's in Atlanta. So what? Atlanta is fun. And if you've never been to that part of the country before out of some knee-jerk "The South is so backwards" stance, you should go and experience it for yourself. Extend your trip and drive up to Savannah and Charleston, 2 of the most beautiful cities in America. I lived briefly in Charleston and Folly Beach and I promise you that between the surfing, the antebellum architecture and the Southern food, it is a languorous dream of a trip.

It's weird. Well, yeah, that's a selling point. If you think a weekend spent among costumed eccentrics, aging goths and socially awkward science fiction fans is a bad thing, I can't help you. DragonCon's creative, free-thinking attendees are why so many nerds love this Con above all others.

Onto the good stuff.

Music. You'll have your choice of performers like the Cruxshadows, Voltaire and Rasputina. Yes, there's a theme here. This probably isn't for Taylor Swift fans. But the mix of local bands and national acts makes for some appealing entertainment options.

Diverse events. Puppet slams, burlesque shows, wrestling, DJs, a night at the local aquarium - you'll find something you like.

Paranormal offerings. The cast of Ghost Hunters has shown up at SDCC before (and they'll be here too) but by and large, San Diego skips over the paranormal side of life. And it's a big draw with many Con attendees, which is why smaller Cons often feature ghost hunts, paranormal panels and occult authors. DragonCon dishes up paranormal reality show celebrities and topics for people who want that at their Con.

Alternative communities. Emerald City is progressive, LGBTQA-friendly and had a few panels on kink last year, but I've found that DragonCon tends to have a more entrenched/experienced poly-kinkster demographic. That's not to say this Con is one big play party or that you'll even notice this element if you don't look for it. But it's there if you want to socialize in that way or just feel comfortable bringing your poly family to an event. In general, DragonCon attendees have a range of lifestyles and it's pretty easy to meet like-minded friends if you're part of a religious, sexual or gender minority.

Deep, serious science fiction. "But that's at so many Cons," you say. To which I say: "Not so much." Just take a look at their fan tracks and you'll see separate categories for fantasy, urban fantasy, classic sci-fi, science, sci-fi media, Star Wars, Star Trek and more. DragonCon was birthed in a blaze of science fiction glory and it continues to offer the panels and creators fans want to see. It's especially great for readers who want to see both legends in the field and newer writers.

Nerd intelligentsia. Other Cons often present panels with interesting content but a heart of promotion. There are hundreds of smart people sitting in one room, but there's no real dialogue. DragonCon has thinkers and conversations about technology, AI, surveillance culture, STEM, space exploration, skeptics, robotics, the future. There's no shame in wanting to meet and talk to other people who share your scientific and intellectual interests - and DragonCon is a great place for that.

I didn't talk about cosplay and comic books and gaming but yes, they're here too. And the very set-up of the Con - it takes place within a group of neighboring hotels - tends to foster a more social experience than SDCC and other behemoth Cons. Tie all that together, and you may have the Con of your dreams.

But you don't have to decide that now. Keep on eye on the photos and articles and posts that flow out of DragonCon this weekend and see if it feels like a good destination for you next summer should you not get an SDCC badge. Or maybe you'll be intrigued enough that you'll end up doing both.

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