I could use a second DragonCon, is all I'm saying.
I mean, to be fair, I could also use a week's work of sleep, but...details.
DragonCon was amazing, as DragonCon is always amazing, though this year had a bit of an extra boost for a couple reasons. One, the triumphant return of one of my faves, Kacey Ezell! Two, just the best interactions with attendees. Three, we're all a little (lot) feral, and getting real time with awesome fellow nerds was just exactly the right thing.
This year I was in Atlanta Wednesday - Tuesday, and while DragonCon is technically a Friday-Monday con (with some things Thursday night), there was a FULL complement of people around by Wednesday evening. Not gonna lie to you - I see a Tuesday - Tuesday trip in my future, someday not too long from now...
Before I get into the rambling, semi-delirious, both delighted-and-over-stimulated-and-sleepy report, a few notes:
The people who pull this off - Regina Kirby, who manages alllll the everything, track directors who run incredible programming like Sue Phillips, Cisca Small, Kellen-Kelly Harkins, Shannon Chestnut, Charles McFall, and Jennifer Liang, track volunteers who keep everything going (including some folks who decided to volunteer for their first ever DragonCon, those rockstars) - are out of this world phenomenal. Seriously. I'm so thankful for everything they do, and that they let me come nerd out on their panels.
If I got to chat with you (or passed like ships in the night/pre-dawn) and didn't mention you here, please know it's not because you weren't a phenomenal highlight of my con. It's because my brain is tapped out, and also this is already going to be very long, and also also I never remember to ask in advance if folks are cool being mentioned, so sometimes I default to vaguery. That is totally a word.
Everything was awesome, I had SO MUCH FUN, and if that doesn't come across here, blame post-DragonCon exhaustion.
Travel went smoothly, and even better that meant a group of us got to the airport around the same time. I met up with Kacey, Leah (maaaaan, have you met Leah? You should, she's a rockstar - volunteered her first DragonCon, retired Air Force, biker chick, nerd - she's so, so awesome, and also was my DC roommate this year), Kacey's husband EZ, and EZ's best friend Seth. This crew was an absolute highlight of con for me - between our group chat, our random meetups, our various cheer-each-other-on-at-panels, meals, chatting til 3 am...y'all. Get you a hilarious-awesome-amazing-fabulous ride or die group for DragonCon, and watch that con experience shoot up to ELEVEN.
So: airport meetup, rideshare to hotel, immediate visit to Meehan's for the traditional mac and cheese, and then attempted hotel-bar-crawl turned 'but y'all it's Wednesday and the Marriott is packed' hangout and then a relatively early bedtime.
A relatively low key day - got our badges, ate some food, ran into amazing friends, did a little business (not a euphemism), made it over to the Westin and realized I knew like 90% of the people there. I mean, I think I averaged talking to each person for like .5 seconds, because then 'omg, I know them!' took over and really...really some authors need to be socialized more than others. I am in that category, and it showed all of DragonCon, but that night in particular. I was just so dang happy to see each and every person there, I think I ended up turning in circles and just grinning like a terribly happy puppy.
And then there was a delicious, delicious dinner at Ray's with incredible company, hosted by the incomparable Kim Schoeffel and his delightful, about-to-be-married-and-yet-completely-calm-and-chill offspring, and I know I managed to stay upright and get things done after that, but honestly it's a bit of a meat-coma blur.
The con-ening began!
My panel-ing started promptly at 10am, and let me tell you - 10am sounded completely reasonable in looking at my schedule ahead of con, but whew did I feel it that morning. Bright side, my fellow panelists on the Stargirl panel were delightful and also understood the feeling, and we came up with a DragonCon specific coffee rating system. To wit, at DragonCon:
0 coffees = negative caffeination
1 coffee = caffeine neutral
2 coffees = you've had one caffeinated beverage
3 coffees = you are probably functional
4 coffees = you might vibrate off into space
Insert your own caffeinated drink of choice there, if you - like many of us on that panel - require caffeine for life.
Also, my fellow panelists and the audience were a delight (this is true of ALL of my panels, seriously what a win), and it was especially delightful when the two cast members of Stargirl swung by the panel to nerd out over our nerding out over them.
It was DragonCon inception, the absolute cutest, and if I didn't already adore Beth Chapel + Mike Dugan (Anjelika Washington and Trae Romano, respectively), that would have resulted in fangirling. But since I did already adore them, I just...fangirled more? Anyway: adorbs, and really kicked of my panels at the level of fabulousness required.
I had a break between panels so I went and sat in on Kacey's panel, 'Portraying Accurate Military in SF' and cheering on that awesomeness, then I probably ate? It's already blurry. Off to the next panel, on Upload (suuuuch a good dystopian-but-current-reality-adjacent show, I strongly recommend), where we had a great conversation and more wonderful audience input.
From there, I got to catch up with Leah and my awesome friend Brandy, we went and had dinner with more super cool folks - oh and also dinner was amaaaaaaaaazing, please add Atalian to your Atlanta dining needs - and then after dinner Brandy and I chatted and people watched at the Hilton until the first of my DragonCon After Dark panels (10pm, for "mature" audiences).
Sinful Scifi, y'all. Sinful. Scifi. This is Jeff Burns' brain child, and was so successful last year we got upgraded to a ballroom. Which we almost filled, and daaaang. Jeff, Kacey, Griffin Barber, and I took audience suggestions, channeled our dirty-minded best, and created a tale so good, so sinful, so scifi...
I laughed so hard my face hurt, I made Griffin blush (this is a huge achievement, I regret nothing!!), and overall had such a good time with an incredible audience and my dirty, dirty co-panelists that I legit can't wait to do it again (and oh, don't worry, we'll be on SuperGeeked up 9/7 to...do it again, mwa ha haaa).
Seriously, that audience though - they were always ready with the suggestions, and the energy in that room! I could have done it every night (#thatswhatshesaid #yesthatsexactlywhatitwaslike).
I know more happened after that - the most important thing is it involved that amazing Kacey-EZ-Leah-Seth group so it was fabulous aaaaand also details are probably best left off the internet (this sounds better than 'I know it was awesome but also my brain is fuzz').
I didn't have anywhere to be til 1, so I semi-reluctantly decided to skip the parade and lounge about in bed. But my wonderful friend Cisca suggested breakfast, and given her level of busy at the con meant this was likely my only opportunity to hang out, I forced myself functional and got some delicious Hyatt breakfast buffet and fun friend time.
Then I still had time until my first panel, so I went to one of my absolute favorite parts of DragonCon - the Art Show.
Now as my husband regularly reminds me, we live in an RV, and I'm not allowed to buy more art (#poorJeremy). But I eyeballed the amazingess in the Art Show (it's all so, so good), and when I came to this amazing artist's booth, it was all over. I splurged on a ring and the world's coolest shark tooth necklace (megladon fossil, amazing, she dives for them, I cannot with how cool she is), and I would have bought more but RV/budget/etc. AAAAAAA but check out Studio Hibernacula and treat yourself.
Right, ok, post art show = found Kacey, found Leah, off to our next panel - Science Fiction Noir, and more amazing conversation. Kacey moderated (she's excellent at that, as with everything), and we talked tropes, our favorite examples of noir, what we'd love to redo as a noir (Casablanca, please!), and then we got to make up the shape of a noir story, with audience suggestions. Talk about fabulous co-panelists - Griffin, Jon Osborne, Stuart Jaffe, John Hartness, and I came up with a great one, that I'd actually like to read, so someone should probably write it...
Also I got to share the first line of my noir story that I owe to Kacey for her + Larry Correia's third noir anthology with Baen - "A film of peace lay over the city like the scum that collected on standing water." Mmmmmm, noir-y. That won't be ready to read for a bit, but in the meantime - check out the first anthology, Noir Fatale, and the second one, No Game for Knights, to sate your noir-needs. Also if you haven't already read Griffin, Jon, John, and Stuart...you totally should. They rock.
From there I ran right off to the next panel - One True Pairing, an improv comedy where the following happens:
panelists break into two teams of 2
audience members suggest one awesome character per scrap of paper
papers are collected in a fun hat
each team gets a character
a third paper is pulled with a third character
the teams argue why their character is the One True Pairing for the third (for instance, Thor and Loki battle for the love of the Simpson's Comic Book Guy)
the audience gets involved in the debate
It is SO much dang fun, and though I know the track will need to mix up the panelists on this incredible panel....man I love that panel. Full shenanigans, enthusiasm on all fronts, and just the best time. #freepikachu #jarjarbinksdeserveslove
That wasn't even half my Saturday. I had another fabulous panel full of awesome discussions (The Evolution of the Badguy Hero), then a break that included cheering on Kacey and Griffin at their signing in the dealer hall, dinner, and maybe some dealer hall shopping? Fun and shenanigans with the crew, and then an absolutely phenomenal sci fi panel - Women Writing Fighting.
Griffin moderated this one as our 'token male' and my fellow ladies on the panel were AMAAAAAAAZING. Stunt person, military, pro wrestling, multiple blackbelts, authors, all around delights...whew, I loved this panel, the conversation, and all the new reading I have to do. Also, I think we were pretty agreed - Teela and He-Man in the latest He-man reboot were both done dirty in different ways. BOO.
And Saturday was still going! I ran over to the Westin for Zombies v Aliens - more debating/shenanigan-y goodness - our moderator supplies the panel (and our victim-volunteer scorekeeper) with homemade pie of the alcoholic variety, and also the crew of shenaniganators brought me a bucket of rum, and there was absolute chaos, of the fun, arguing, mayhem-inducing variety, because my fellow panelists are a delight and also homemade alcohol was on display.
Back to the Westin bar, though Leah and I called it semi-early compared to others, found a few hundred dollars in fake cash, and managed to sleep by 2 a.m.
The day did not start early, though I meant to attend both a friend's reading and another friend's panel. Instead I lazed about in bed, wrote a few hundred words, and shook my fist a little at rum buckets and homemade liquor and, more importantly, how old I had gotten.
I didn't have panels until 7pm (glorious), so I went dealer-halling - where my awesome friend Tara helped me procure a tiara, I bought a ton of fun makeup thanks to an audience-member's fantabulous recommendation (Surreal Makeup, I am a huge fan now), and I also got the best-for-me t-shirt thanks to Kacey's catching it (I am, as a matter of fact, a F****** delight, thank you shirt), among other purchases - food-eating, hang-outing, and then panel one: Multiverses in High Fantasy (that was soooooo much fun to talk about, and also my reading list got a bit longer, again some more!).
After panel one, there was cake - well, more importantly, there was Celebrating Kacey and her retirement with cake, during which I got to catch up with a bunch more friends and also eat cake and hang with the cool kids. I had to leave before too long because I had one more late night panel - Sex Work in High Fantasy, which I also got to moderate.
Packed, packed room - and such a fun discussion. The audience - I mean, WOW, so thoughtful and wonderful and engaged/engaging. This seriously was a theme all weekend, and I will never get tired of it - the energy of a crowd can totally change the way a panel goes, and this crowd was fabulous. I'm not just saying that because one adorable trio told me after the panel they raced over because they saw my name on the panel list...but it was that kind of wonderful energy, is the point.
I did not go to bed until after 3 am. Definitely was not ready for DragonCon to end.
One more panel! As much time with the people I adore as possible. A liiiittle more people watching.
We talked a little more MCU - The Impact of the Darkholde - which was an awesome conversation with yet another fabulous set of panelists and audience members, and a great way to close out DragonCon.
After getting a little more hangout time with Kacey, EZ, and Seth (sadly Leah had left first thing in the morning, though she was present through our worlds-best-group-chat), I ran off to Mel Todd's house with her and Doug Burbey, where we lessened the impact of DC-to-real-world with cheese and meat and cheese and fresh tomatoes and cheese.
Then we slept.
Mel sent us off Tuesday with caffeine and our own take-home-cheese (she is a faaabulous hostess, as you may imagine), I returned to my awesome husband and some very happy puppers, and now I have all the work to do.
Ok, maybe after a nap. Or five...