Posted on September 6, 2011 (Subscribe to Blog)
My wife and I spent the weekend in Atlanta at Dragon*Con. For those who don't know, Dragon*Con is an annual convention for fans of anything sci-fi, fantasy, horror, and downright weird. On September 2nd-5th, fifty thousand people descended on a few blocks around the Peachtree Center, swarming the Marriott, Hyatt, Hilton, Sheraton and Westin hotels. There were zombies, stormtroopers, Whovians, Trekkies, and just about everything else you can think of, plus lots of scantily clad Wonder Women. Or should that be Wonder Womans? And in case you're wondering why my wife allowed me to stare at Wonder Woman, it's because she was too busy gazing at muscle-bound gladiators to notice.
But apart from people-watching and costume-admiring, we spent a lot of time sitting in on panels where actors, writers, or otherwise professional types discussed things and answered questions. Does this sound nerdy and boring? Well, it wasn't, so there. And if it was... well, deal with it.
On the TV and movie front, we sat in with some of the cast from Battlestar Galactic including Edward James Olmos (Admiral Adama), Michael Hogan (Colonel Saul Tigh), Tricia Helfer (Cylon Number Six), Richard Hatch (Tom Zarek, and also Apollo from the original 1970s series), and Tahmoh Penikett (Captain Karl 'Helo' Agathon).
Then onto a Torchwood panel with Nana Visitor (best known as Major Kira in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine), and a Walking Dead panel with Jon Bernthal (Shane Walsh, the cop's so-called best friend), and Laurie Holden (Andrea, the one who shot her zombie sister in the head).
The True Blood panel included the author Charlaine Harris herself along with Kristin Bauer (Vampire Pam), Joe Manganiello (Werewolf Alcide), Jim Parrack (Human Hoyt), and Denis O'Hare (Russell Edgington, the late Vampire King of Mississippi). I can't think why Joe got so many cheers from adoring females. What IS it about him?
We also sat in on a V panel with Joel Gretsch (Father Jack Landry) and Laura Vandervoort (Lisa). Being the daughter of the alien queen Anna, Laura said she spent most of her time on the mothership, so was in an empty room with green screens. Joel said he spent most his time on the fathership.
I walked right past Sylvester McCoy, the 6th Doctor. And in the Saturday morning costume parade we saw the original Scotty from Star Trek dressed as... well, Scotty from Star Trek. (Edit: My bad – that actor died in 2005.) I just missed seeing Martin Landau, which was a shame, because I loved that old Space 1999 series.
The second biggest audience was for Tom Felton, aka Draco Malfoy in the Harry Potter movies. He was really good, but then, he's English. :-)
But the biggest audience, not surprisingly, was for Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia from Star Wars, in case you live under a rock). She's just not very princess-like, though. Or maybe having her home planet of Alderaan blown up by the Death Star has made her cynical and irreverent. But she was a lot of fun.
On the author front, we saw Charlaine Harris again on one of a few author panels, as well as the legendary Terry Brooks, Jonathen Maberry, Mercedes Lackey, Timothy Zahn, Elizabeth Donald, Kevin J Anderson, S M Stirling, Scott Sigler, and Michael Z Williams.
Author panels are different to actor panels. With actors, it's fun to see them in the flesh and see what they're like in real life, but I find the audience questions very same-y; I've lost count of the number of times actors have said how much they liked working together on set and how they felt like one big family... but there were some funny stories as well, and you come away wanting to see them on TV again so you can say, "I met him/her!" Okay, "met" isn't really the right word. The only big actor I've really "met" is Edward James Olmos at last year's convention; he was washing his hands at the next sink along in the restroom, and we talked for a minute. You see how I mingle with the stars?
With authors, it's interesting to learn how they do things and how they got where they are today. Sci-fi writer Kevin J Anderson writes his novels using a digital recorder as he takes walks through the woods. Terry Brooks' classic Sword of Shannara was a massive bestseller, but the sequel was rejected by his editor, who tore it apart and suggested Brooks rewrite 400 pages (which he eventually did). Unlike most authors, Mercedes Lackey had no rejections at all for her novels. But then again, she "knew" people.
By the way, it turns out that Terry Brooks' Shannara series is pronounced "SHANNER-rah" and not "Sha-NAR-rah" as I thought. But I'm not the only one. Many, many people in the audience were muttering, "Is that how Terry pronounces it? Really?" I think the general consensus is that the author is wrong.
I've come away from all these panels with a new (or maybe just a more solidified) direction. I'll continue self-publishing my Island of Fog books and not bother trying to submit it to publishers or agents. But I won't self-publish anything else until I've tried and tried to find a publisher. I've heard this before, but it's always a nice reminder to hear when super-famous authors are rejected numerous times before striking it lucky. I've only had a few rejections for Island of Fog, and I self-published even before those; I really didn't give it a chance with traditional publishers at all.
So, as they say in all the good sci-fi shows: Never give up, never surrender, so say we all, and long live the Doctor!
Excellent post Husband! Now I don't have to do a post of my own... I can just direct everyone to yours! I agree that the most notable difference between the celebrity panels and the author panels was the intelligence of the audience and the rapport the guests built up with them. I enjoyed the author panels more mainly because they felt more like a conversation with an engaging and witty friend and less like an episode of Entertainment Tonight.
.....There were Wonder Women there....?
Er... no, I didn't see any Wonder Women at all. No, siree, none. There were no busty brunettes with long legs and — I mean, not that I... er...
You didn't get me Tahmoh's number? GEEZ!
Oh, Lisamin, you should have said in advance! Tahmoh came up to me and asked if I knew any eligible ladies that might want to go out with him, and I said, "No, sorry, I don't." He walked away disappointed.
Keith, I want to murder you, I am so jealous!! I agree with you (and the audience) that Sha-NAR-ah sounds much better and classier than Shanner-ah. Did you and Wifey dress up too? Sounds like you had a wonderful time.
We didn't dress up, Ming, although we promised ourselves we would. Next year, though... We're thinking of taking Lily and we'll join in the parade. :-) Wifey will be a zombie, Lily probably a miniature Darth Vader, and I'll no doubt be a cyberman (the classic 1960s style as that costume is probably easier to make!).
Being a die-hard Doctor Who fan for 32 years (I'm not that old! I started watching the series when I was two years old. So for how old I am now, that should be an easy math to do!), I hate to be pedant, but Sylvester McCoy was the 7th Doctor, not the sixth. :)
I enjoy reading your post about the con. I've only been to one con years ago - a Doctor Who one. Unfortunately, it was an awkward experience for me being the only deaf person wandering through this huge hotel with all these people milling around and they'd not provide an ASL interpreter. Perhaps I should attend one again sometimes soon. Thanks for sharing!
Conrad, you're right, McCoy was #7. Shame on me!! I, too, have been a Whovian for a long time - since the late 1970s with Tom Baker but mainly since Peter Davison took over. It was already on the decline by then, but I collected about 110 books (every book available at the time). Fave Doc? Probably Jon Pertwee in print, but Tom Baker on screen.
I met Peter Davison at the Longleat convention, and spoke for ages with Janet Fielding (Tegan) when she visited a bookstore in my home town!
My favorite Doctor will always be Tom Baker. I don't think anyone could beat him... ever! I used to collect every Doctor Who book, including the ones during the time the series was off-screen. I've sold a lot of them (still got some left - selling isn't an easy task!). The only books in print I kept and continue to buy are the non-fiction/reference ones.
The only Who actors I've met were Mark Strickson, Sarah Sutton, Bonnie Langford, and Sylvester McCoy. Met with them very briefly as I doubt very much any of them would be willing to sit down and write back and forth with me.