There is a certain form of tangible energy when a large gathering of people start to descend upon a single location, an element of anticipation and excitement that collects and rises in a wave that distorts time. With each new cluster of arrivals, the throng grows in intensity and volume, punctuated with shrieks of welcome, the clap of embraces, and the chatter that turns all individual conversations into an increasing fun, devoid of individual words, but uniform in a tone of giddiness and freedom to be anything one can imagine.
Welcome to the host hotel floors at DragonCon 2014, Arrival Day.
The hotel staff works amicably and efficiently to see people to their rooms, toting luggage carts full of the strangest assortment of trunks, boxes, mannequin parts and loose weaponry that would leave employees of smaller-town establishments wondering what apocalyptic cult practices were about to take place.Not a worry, sirs and madams.
This is Atlanta, and as the billboards at the airport state, they consider DC to be the reason why Labor Day weekend is the city’s most popular point on the calendar.
We’re checked in at the Marriott, also known as PARTY CENTRAL among the five interconnected high-rise hotels that try to hold the tens of thousands of attendees. It’s not even noon on a Thursday, and I’m already seeingcosplay from more shows and graphic novels than I can identify, weaving to and fro around clusters of excited nerds, andgaggles of geeks playing various card games and RPGs on the (fascinatingly patterned) carpet. It’s enough to make a grown dork cry. I need a strong, bracing drink.
There’s something inherently wonderful about fan-run conventions like DragonCon that differs widely from the industry-hosted events like PAX or ComicCon. You may not get the sneak previews or other “bonuses” that marketing teams want to lure you with, but because this is as described, a FAN run organization, where the writers, artists, actors, directors and other panelists are invited by those who follow and love their work, there’s an atmosphere of adoration that runs through every aspect of the weekend.
Major names like Sir Patrick Stewart and Keith Urban are uttered by excited fans who line up an hour early for grand ballroom panels (and no more than an hour, because the volunteer staff will disperse early ‘campers’), but even if you opted to follow a less popular track, there’s a schedule of available panels, demonstrations, live music performances, artists and vendor’s galleries to leave any good Whovian wishing for a time-extension device. Four days is clearly not enough, and that’s taking into account that (a) you won’t be sleeping, and (b) there’s going to be a lot of partying when you’re not racing to the next panel.
I had the good fortune to catch a number of both celebrity host panels (SirPatStew, Terry Gilliam, the cast of Warehouse 13, and others), but in addition, sat in on a number of great fan-run talks like the “Science of Avengers and SHIELD” (including an astronomer, an operations manager for a regenerative medicine clinic, and a female cargo freighter pilot), and a brilliant discussion on the missing Hartnell/Troughton Doctor Who episodes — which, fingers crossed, may not all be missing for much longer.
Through it all, we met and chatted with dozens of like-minded folks having a great time, enjoyed a lot of unhealthy food and questionable drinks, and saw some of the most impressive and innovative cosplay imaginable. Whovians were in great form, ranging from the “classic” Doctors, companions and villains, to the most recent — even a participant in the downtown cosplay parade who was wearing Clara’s classroom outfit from the episode that had not even yet aired that night. Building your cosplay around a few promo photos and a 30-second trailer? That’s dedication to detail, folks.
And speaking of that episode, with the collaborative efforts of BBC America and Xfinity, Whovians who were wise enough to line up in time at the Sheraton Ballroom were treated to a screening of Into the Dalek two hours before the east-coast premiere. For those of you who enjoyed seeing either the 50th anniversary episode, or perhaps Deep Breath in a cinema, imagine the energy of seeing a DW program aired in front of over 2,500 Whovians who have been amped up to eleven…or in this case, twelve. *snicker*
By Monday, or as Wil Wheaton dubbed it, “Second Sunday”, the crowds were slightly thinner, but the schedule was still packed with opportunities to see, hear, and do all the things that one’s little Gallifreyan hearts desired. And with that, we sallied forth, got an early position in line (at the Sheraton, once again), armed with a voice recorder, a bottle of water (HYDRATE! HYDRATE!), and a cup of fresh fruit to pretend we were being healthy, we ended up in the front of the Colin Baker panel. I’m not going to lie — I adore the Sixth Doctor for all his unabashed bravado and strength of character. Mr. Baker was, is, and continues to be “Old Sixie”, and during his Q&A session, he addressed that symbiotic relationship, along with discussing the Five(ish) Doctors, touring with Paul McGann, and answering my personal question (squee!) about his ongoing work with Big Finish audio productions. I couldn’t have been happier. That is, until his moderator mentioned that since there was a full-scale TARDIS just outside the ballroom entrance, and Colin would never shy away from a photo opportunity…
If you’ve attended conventions before, you’ve hopefully gotten at least glimpses of the childlike enjoyment that so many people take from the freedoms these events allow. DC is a rarity in that the energy remains so positive throughout, countless fandoms intertwine and build upon one another in such creative ways, and even the “muggles” in the greater Atlanta area seem happy and entertained by the amiable freakshow. No jostling, no grousing over schedules, lines or crowds, everything seems to be taken in stride. For this Whovian, spending days wandering the sights and sounds was something that rejuvenates — or daresay, regenerates — the soul.