DragonCon: At Con Tips

Every Labor Day weekend since 2010, my hubby and I have gone to Atlanta, GA, for DragonCon! It was the first convention I ever went to, which still amazes many people. But, it took me a while to figure out what to take, what to leave home, and how to effectively enjoy the con. Some of that came from blog posts like this: people who have been going that share their wisdom and knowledge. Here are some of the things I have learned over the years to have fun at this massive convention.

STAY HYDRATED!!!! WITH WATER!! I know you are going to drink other things, but make sure you drink water. There is no substitute for it. Especially if you give blood. Alcohol can wait until the next day.

Getting around. Be ready for a lot of walking. This con happens in five different hotels and the America’s Mart. Also, Atlanta is not flat. There is a massive hill between the Sheraton and the Westin. It’s downhill from the Westin, but it’s uphill from the Sheraton. Be ready for exercise.
The Hyatt, Marriott, and Hilton are connected by skywalks. Because they are along a hill, the entrances in the Marriott do not exist on the same floor. While they have started to police the flow so things keep moving, they are not the most effective ways of moving between the hotels on Saturday and Sunday. Honestly, I highly recommend simply going outside when you are able to.
No matter where you are walking, think of the way before you as a road (in the US). Stay to the right! The skywalks/”habitrails” are generally policed that way, but the sidewalks aren’t. We’re all trying to get somewhere. Be ready to walk single-file or two-by-two so others can get through.

Elevators. Yes, there are elevators to get you from one floor to another. In my experience, the Westin is the only venue where you could use them to get to the programming you’re heading for. But they also have stairs and escalators. I highly recommend using those and leaving the elevators for people who need them to get from floor to floor, as well as for the people who need to get up to the rooms.
Also, please DO NO “GO DOWN TO GO UP! Getting on an empty elevator going down in order to end up going up is simply rude. If you are that desperate for an elevator, get on at the lowest floor. I get so pissed seeing an elevator get filled up, go down one floor, return and be full of the exact same people, before moving up. It’s just rude!

Lines. Officially, DragonCon does not allow lines to form more than an hour before the panel starts. There are two ways to approach this. First, ask the volunteer at the location of the panel where the line for your panel is and they will direct you if the line has started. If you are polite and out of the way, sometimes they will let you hang around in the area until they are allowed to start the line, and you get to be at the beginning (this is how I got to be as far up as allowed in the center of the row for Peter Davison and Sylvester McCoy in 2013). The other approach is to ask people in line what they are in line for. If it’s the line you’re looking for, follow it back to the end. Please don’t start unofficial lines, it doesn’t go well.

Photos. Tons of people wear costumes to DragonCon (but not everyone, so don’t feel pressured to if you don’t want to!). Whether you’re taking the photo or are being photographed, make sure you’re out of the flow of traffic. Also, as you’re walking around, make sure you’re not walking through a photo. If you’re interested in taking photos, be able to take them quickly so you don’t hold up the subject too long, and to get out of the way. Don’t be afraid to ask for a photo, but be ready to hear they can’t. Sometimes they’re heading somewhere and really can’t stop.

DCTV. DragonCon TV or DCTV is broadcast in all the host hotels throughout the con. They have also made a “Streaming Membership” available through the store so anyone can watch from anywhere. DCTV can be so useful! There have been numerous occasions when I go to get in line and have been told the line has been capped. Yes, they will count people in line for bigger panels to cap the line before they start allowing people in. Depending on the panel, I have gone back to the room to watch the panel on DCTV. It’s also a great way to watch big events like The Masquerade on Sunday and the Friday Night Costuming Contest from the comfort of your room. You can have a party with friends while you watch.

The Dealers Room and Artist Alley. Be ready for a maze of dealers, artists, and a ton of people. My only advice, be patient and hope you hit a quiet point. This is another place where DragonCon has started policing populations. They try to maintain a specific population inside. Both are located in the America’s Mart buildings, along with some programming tracks. There is a skybridge from the Westin to the America’s Mart, but I don’t know how that works now that they are tracking people. The outside entrances may be the only entrances, at least for the Dealers Room and Artist Alley.

The Daily Dragon. This is going to tell you about changes to the schedule. They do update it in the app, but it’s good to have the heads up. They have physical copies around the con and it’s on the app, but I’ve linked their website so you can check from the room before you head out and find out your panel was moved or cancelled.

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DragonCon: Packing List

Every Labor Day weekend since 2010, my hubby and I have gone to Atlanta, GA, for DragonCon! It was the first convention I ever went to, which still amazes many people. But, it took me a while to figure out what to take, what to leave home, and how to effectively enjoy the con. Some of that came from blog posts like this: people who have been going that share their wisdom and knowledge. Here’s my packing plan for this year:

Registration Postcard. This is the most important thing to bring! It is why registration moves so quickly now. You don’t want to be the person holding up the line!

My phone. Phones have become an essential tool for DragonCon. They have an app with the schedule, maps, and tons of info on it. Also, thanks to Digital Photo Mentor, I’m going to use it instead of packing my DSLR to take pictures this year. But, because there are, most likely, 80,000+ other people there with their phones, it won’t be used much to communicate. At least quickly.

Con wallet. Since early on, my hubby takes only what he needs and leaves the rest at home in his wallet. At first, I just took what I didn’t need out of my wallet, but for a few years now I’ve had what I call my con wallet. I bought a geeky wallet from Think Geek that I simply put what I need into for conventions. It’s bright and easier to spot in case I somehow drop it (which hasn’t happened yet, fingers crossed!). I like it because it makes it easier to find what you need, and, should you need medical assistance, it is less for a good Samaritan to go through to find your driver’s licence and insurance info.

Bag of Holding – Con Survival Edition. After the success of the original Bag of Holding, Think Geek came out with a smaller bag for use at conventions. It holds a lot, has space for pins and a Velcro front for patches, and is small. Small is important when there are so many others around. In it, I tend to have:
– Flashlight
– Mini First Aid Kit
– Pads and liners (This is more for the ladies out there, but pads can be a useful addition to a first aid kit. They are built to absorb a lot. Also, you never know when someone might need one.
– Rain gear (Either a pocket umbrella or poncho will save you if it rains)
– Stuff to do (I keep my Kindle on me as well as a deck of cards and an iPod)
Portable chargers
Cords and wall adapter
– Snacks
– Business cards

Clothing. Whether or not you cosplay or wear costumes, you always want to pack clothes. I tend to follow the +2 rule. I pack at least 2 more of what I know I will be wearing on a daily basis. Socks and underwear always get this. When I’m not taking costumes, I take an extra 2 t-shirts for options as well as back-up. You never know what could happen over the course of a day to cause you to need to change something. Bras, bottoms, and shoes tend to be the exception to this. I’ll take 2 bras, maybe an extra pair of jeans, and a pair of sneakers and flip flops. Of course, if you’re costuming or cosplaying, you need to have everything for your costumes – including socks! I also tend to take enough t-shirts to cover the con and a pair of jeans. You never know when you might need civvies!

Bathroom. Don’t forget all the stuff you need in the bathroom. You may want to get as many travel sized items as possible and/or repack things in smaller containers, depending on how many of you are sharing the bathroom. Another thing is, again depending on how many of you are in the room, bringing your own distinctive towel and washcloth. Most of the time there’s just four of us in the room, so we don’t pack extra towels. But we have in the past and it really helps with knowing whose towel or washcloth is whose.

Food. This varies from person to person. Some people bring Crock Pots and rice cookers and go grocery shopping after unloading the car into the room. Others just eat from the food court, food trucks, and restaurants. I fall in the middle. I try to take portable snacks that can combine to sustain me through the day so I can buy dinner at the end. I tend to pack things like jerky, Larabars, and something sweet like fig bars. I like it because I can just graze through the day and not have to worry about getting to the food court between panels.
There’s also packing food for in the room. We like to have snack foods to munch on while we drink in the evenings because we tend to stay in the room to watch the Friday Night Costuming Contest and the Masquerade. But I am also a big tea drinker and I have two electric kettles: one for home and one for the office. Since I currently don’t have an office, I’m taking the extra kettle, along with some teas and the other stuff to make myself a mug or three every night.

In the room. Remember, you are going to be spending some time in your room. Even if it’s just to sleep. There are things you can pack that will make that time easier. We bring at least one power strip, extra trash bags, games, and a streaming stick. The power strip(s) make it easier to recharge devices at the end of the day. Trash can pile up quickly, so being able to contain it outside of those little trashcans is really helpful. And, while we do stay in host hotels and have DCTV, it doesn’t mean they’ve always got something we want to watch on. It’s easier to have access to our Nexflix, Hulu, Amazon, and CBS All-Access than flip through channels. And, it’s DragonCon, of course we are going to bring games to play with our friends!

I think that covers packing. I’ll be posting again with at the con tips soon.

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The Next Chapter, aka 2018

While I have technically been an American Culture Studies (ACS) Ph. D. student for a semester, now I really feel like it. I am really looking forward to starting this new chapter of my life. And a new chapter it will be.

I’m going to be taking three classes this semester. Back to full time student!! I’ve got Geneology of American Culture, Critical Approaches in Film Studies, and Global Popular Music. This is going to be so much fun! The first class is required for all ACS students, MA and Ph. D. The second is required for the Media concentration in the Ph. D. program. The third is my choice for the Media track. I am really looking forward to having more than one class. Hopefully I’ll do better at getting the readings done and being able to contribute consistently in class. I’ve been working on it.

We are also working on moving closer to school. Which means no more long drives – especially since I’ll be in class three days a week. We’re trying to find a bigger place as well. More changes. More new. More excitement.

I’m going to be going to BroadwayCon in a few weeks. I’ll also be seeing Hamilton, again, the night before. Then, of course, there’s Marcon in May and DragonCon in September. I’m hoping to be attending/presenting at 3 conferences this semester, 1 over the summer, and 1 in the fall. At two of those conferences, I’ll be presenting chapters of my thesis. I’m hoping to get useful feedback on how to better expand/explain/polish the information. And the rest are looking deeper at topics I’ve written about before. Conferences are a great way to figure out if you’re headed in the right direction, or if you’re just indulging your own interests. So far, it’s been the former. I hope I continue that way.

Hopefully I’ll be able to take 2 classes over the summer. That way when I take my 3 classes in the fall, I’ll be almost caught up. One of my fall classes is one that I should technically have taken this semester, but was told by the professor who teaches it that I could put it off a year so I could focus on Theory and getting the comps passed.

It’s going to be a year of seeing old friends, making new; making new professional connections; adding more to my knowledge bank, and putting it all to use; and so much more that I don’t know about. This is going to be a great year!

Reflections on 2017

Well, the year is almost over. It’s that time of year when we take the time to look back and think about what has happened over the past 365 days. For me, it has been quite the rollercoaster.

Mostly it has been focused around school and classes. I started out the year with a rough draft of one chapter of my thesis done.  A thesis that needed to be completed, approved by my committee, and uploaded by April. Yeah, no pressure at all. But I also was taking a class about the superhero genre in comic books. Yay! I was also studying so I could pass the two parts of the comprehensive exam I would be retaking so I could graduate in the spring. All while continuing to serve as the president of the student organization for Popular Culture scholars and helping to organize our yearly academic conference. There was just a little stress going on.

I buckled down and got my thesis finished. Is it the final product? No. But it is a thesis that satisfied my committee, which was the most important part at the time. Hopefully, I’ll be able to start picking away at revising and expanding it so it does reach that final product and I can start looking at getting it published. I went to another graduate student run conference at Wayne State University in Detroit, MI. I got to present my paper on “my descent into Hamilton fandom” and make new friends. I presented my first paper on the intentional representation of Deafness in comics at the Ray Browne Conference on Cultural and Critical Studies, which I had quite the hand in organizing and it went off successfully!

I managed to pass one part of the comps, but still failed the other. I was given one last chance to pass it, and managed to fail again. The bottom dropped away from me. I had worked so hard to get my thesis finished and I wasn’t going to be graduating? How would I start in the fall as a Ph.D. student? I could not take another year off. I had taken so much time off already, I wanted to keep the knowledge coming in. Things finally settled and the fall was laid out for me: I would retake the entire comprehensive exam again in the fall (all three parts), I would also start the American Culture Studies Ph. D. program, I would be able to continue in the spring providing I passed the comps in their entirety. In order to prepare for the comps, it was suggested that I only take 1 class in the fall: theory. I also worked with a wonderful professor over the summer to better prepare for the comps.

Still, I was crushed. I wasn’t graduating with the rest of my cohort, my friends. I had to pass this exam that has been kicking my ass repeatedly in order to graduate and continue my studies. I wouldn’t have a job on campus since I was only part-time. Also, it made sense to simply live at home and just drive up for class once a week. That was great for my budget and for being at home with the hubby. But it also meant only seeing my new cohort/classmates/friends once a week. It sucked.

But as the semester went on, things got better. I gave successful presentations at CPAC and MPCA. I finally passed the comprehensive exams and graduated a few weeks ago. I successfully completed my first semester as a Ph. D. student. I have begun a new research project that I can continue to pick away at in addition to my dissertation work, and has been suggested as the topic of my dissertation, if I didn’t already have one.

There were also the more leisure-fun times. Soon after the year started, I had my adventure in NYC. I went to my first (the second ever) BroadwayCon! I got to be in the same room as so many talented legends, learn so much about Broadway, both in front of and behind the scenes, and enjoy being with fellow fans. And, thanks to giving in to an impulse, I finally went to see Hamilton. It is an experience I will never forget. To really experience the show, you need to see it performed. It truly is a combination of music, acting, choreography, staging, lighting, words… Knowing only one aspect does not paint the entire picture.

Which is part of why I went and saw it in Chicago in September. That and gathering more observations on the audience and the performance. It was completely different and completely the same. That cast has really made it their own. I only wish I could see the tour’s Angelica company in LA.

I had so much fun being on panels and just being at Marcon in May. I got three new costumes together for DragonCon in September. If only I had taken the time to make sure the one fit before calling it finished I could have worn all three! I had a blast at DragonCon, making more friends/professional connections. I even managed to amaze someone that a scholar they highly respect – with very good reason – was on my thesis committee. I watched many cool movies (including seeing Star Wars twice!), and even went to see Doctor Who: Twice Upon a Time in the theater. I have met many new people and made many new friends. I have added many books to my shelves – both academic and for fun. I have added so much to my knowledge bank. I have so much more to learn.

I am grateful for all my experiences this year, from the very exciting to the extremely depressing. I am looking forward to everything that next year is bringing. But I’ll save that for another post. For now, thank you 2017 for quite the ride. Bring it on, 2018!

Introvert in an Extroverted family

Yesterday I went to my cousin’s wedding. I had an absolute blast! There are a couple of reasons for it. But the main reason was a personal realization. My gut always says “It’s okay to sit or stand to the side and watch the fun!” My training always says “Why aren’t you out there with the rest of your family?!” I said that last night to my hubby early in the reception.

I am so glad I did. Saying it out loud helped me to realize that by observing, watching my family celebrating, I am participating in my own, comfortable way. It also helped that this was a much more informal reception where no tables were assigned and we never sat down. We found spaces that worked for us to stand and be out of the path of traffic, but still be a part of things. We sang along with the music. We even danced to a few songs.

It felt so good finally finding my place in a big party/celebration like that. It allowed me to be a part of things instead of trying to maintain my walls and worry about what people are saying because I’m not out there like everyone else. I came home just as, if not more, energized than when I arrived! No introvert hangover this morning!

This is really going to help me out at DragonCon this year. It’s another place where being an introvert can be draining. But if I just remember that I’m there for the same reason as everyone else – DragonCon – I’ll be just fine!

DragonCon Prep: Learning from the past

Every time I go to a convention, DragonCon particularly, I realize how much I’ve learned from the past year. That really is the important thing when going to any convention. When you are preparing to go to your first convention, many, including myself, go to the Internet to see how others prepare for conventions. But honestly, after that, you should pay attention to what works and what doesn’t.

I was just commenting to my hubby how much we took with us that first year. We took a ton of food and drink. I took a ton of costumes and spent a bunch of time walking back and forth between our hotel and the convention to change. We ended up bringing at least half of the food back with us.

Every year it’s different. I’m usually down to 4 costumes at most. Lately I’ve been taking 3 since Monday is also the day we head out, I’m not always in the mood to be in a full costume when driving home. This year I’m only taking 2: my Star Trek science officer uniform from the original series and Osgood from Doctor Who. I’m taking every other piece of Star Trek clothing I own with me to wear, and, of course, something professional to wear for my presentation at the conference.

The big difference I’m personally noticing this year is food. This is our 7th time going to DragonCon. It’s at least my 13th convention overall. I’ve figured out what food I need to take with me and what can be bought there. I’m taking enough snacks so I can snack my way to dinner, which will be something from the food court taken back to the room. I’m going to just have one of each with me each day instead of taking multiples. It’s going to save space in my bag, make the bag lighter, and help me have a steady supply of energy throughout the con.

I’m also planning to go do my academic shopping on Friday. That way I don’t have to worry about saving money for it later. This is going to be so much fun!!! I just hope I have enough money… Who am I kidding? I don’t think that’s possible when it comes to DragonCon.

The Annual DragonCon Prep has begun!

It’s that time of year! The packing list has begun. The schedule is out and I have to choose what I want to go to and what is backup. But this year I have something else I need to do: prepare my presentation.

Yes. Yours truly will be presenting at the Comics and Popular Arts Conference (CPAC) at DragonCon! I am going to be presenting Saturday night on a panel about disability and trauma in comics. I am so excited! I just found out that this conference existed last year and now I’m presenting at it. It’s going to be great to meet the other scholars and hear what they have been working on.

But, it’s also going to be so much fun going to DragonCon again! This year is going to be our 7th DC. It’s always fun to be there among all those other geeks/nerds/fans and to see friends we only see at DC. It’s also fun to go to fan panels with a room full of other fans. While I am an introvert, there’s something about DC that isn’t draining. If anything, it can be recharging. Of course I’m going armed with my trusty bottle of St. John’s Wort to take the edge off of the anxiety so I can truly kick back and relax.

I am hoping to be able to post daily from the con about what I’ve done for the day. This is going to be so much fun!

Okay, back to prepping…

Marcon Influences

Every time I go to convention, I always end up into something new afterwards. Marcon is no exception.

First there’s the fabric. It’s on my mind even more since I’m working around it all day long. But it has to stay there because there are more important thing the paychecks need to go to right now.

Second, there’s Seanan. I’ve been a fan of hers for a while now. But I’ve been kind of limited as to what I’ve read. The Newsflesh series (which she writes as Mira Grant), the October Daye series, and Indexing. She’s got a lot of other works out there. I just hadn’t gotten around to them. Until now. I checked out Sparrow Hill Road for my Kindle from the library. It is awesome! Not that I expected anything else, but it’s making me look forward to getting into the InCryptid series and Velveteen.

And of course, there’s the lists. One of British shows and one of sci-fi/fantasy. I’m so glad I went to that panel. Because of, well, both panels, really, I have a huge list of shows to get into. I’ve started on the list with Daredevil. This show is amazing! If you like Marvel and you have Netflix, go watch it! I’m not done with it yet, but I’m loving it! I’ll be posting about it over at Ianto’s Black Book once I do.

Unfortunately since the British list isn’t the most recent, I may be relying on the magical pixel faeries to watch some of those shows. I can’t wait to get started on it!

I just love that post-con geek high. I’ve got shows to watch, books to read, resources for costumes, and a burning desire to get more done. I love it!

Marcon 50: Saturday and Sunday

Saturday I was ready and raring to go! First I went to a panel about reboots and we ended up spending about 1/3 of it determining what is a reboot vs a remake. Even then it was still muddy at times. The thing that really got on my nerves was they kept referring to Doctor Who returning as a reboot. It is definitely not a reboot or a remake; it’s a revival and continuation of the series.

From there I went and listened to lots of fans sharing their love of Babylon 5 before going to a panel celebrating the 10th anniversary of the return of Doctor Who. Sadly half of it ended up being people insisting on talking about the 20th century Who instead of the 21st or complaining about how different it is now. I wanted to point out how with the Twelfth Doctor, I feel a lot more 20th century Who having an influence. But I couldn’t get a word in edgewise, so I bit my tongue and tried to focus on the positives. It really was a good panel, it just strayed a little, which happens in the best of panels.

After a few interesting panels, it was time for my moderating debut. British TV Addicts. I had suggested it because I figured if DragonCon can have an entire track of paneling devoted to British media, we can have one panel. It was a huge success! Well, I thought so and my fellow panelists seemed to agree. It mostly consisted of someone throwing out a show and everyone gushing over it. I’ve got a list of shows I want to watch and that only covers about half of what we talked about that I haven’t seen. It was so much fun. And, the Jaffa Cakes went over quite well. Part of that was due to the fact that one panelist is British and so is the husband of another panelist. They descended on them like they hadn’t seen them in years. It was great!

I finished off the night by being on the Urban Fantasy panel. I have not felt so out of place before! My fellow panelists were all authors. Two of which have been successfully doing so for years! I mostly sat back and chimed in where I felt I could add something. One thing we did was try to come up with a definition of “urban fantasy”. We settled on two things. First, “urban fantasy” refers to any fantasy that takes place in an urban setting. Second, “contemporary fantasy” is a more accurate term for most of the books that are being labeled “urban fantasy”. A book can be one, the other, or both. Like The Dresden Files; it is a contemporary urban fantasy. The Sookie Stackhouse series is a contemporary fantasy since it doesn’t take place in an urban setting.

The other great part of that panel was the end. We went down the line and suggested an author or series that hadn’t been mentioned yet. Seeing as one of my fellow panelists had talked quite a bit about Jim and The Dresden Files, and Tanya Huff and the Blood Books, I figured I’d mention the other urban fantasy author I love to read: Seanan McGuire. That got a chorus of “How did I forget about Seanan?!” from the panelists. It made me feel so good to know that the three main urban fantasy authors I enjoy are held in high regard by their fellow authors. It also inspired me to check out Sparrow Hill Road from the library.

I was going to go to a couple of events, but I ran into a couple of friends I hadn’t seen for a while and ended up talking to them for around 2 hours. So I went up to the room, got as much packed as possible to assist my check out Sunday morning, and crashed into bed.

After getting everything to the car and a quick group photo, I went to the last panel I was on for the weekend: The Dresden Files panel. I had been looking forward to it all weekend, mostly because I was going dressed as Harry. I thought it added a nice touch to the panel. I am so glad I was on it this year. It was so much more fun being on it than just attending it. We had an absolute blast talking and theorizing about the series.

I was going to go to a panel about patterns, but a friend convinced me to go to the panel he was on instead. I’m so glad I did. The panel was called “Do You Watch What I Watch?” Pretty much it was a chance to talk about the stuff we enjoy watching that no one outside of the convention seems to be watching. I came away from it with a long list of stuff to watch. Thanks to that panel I’ve started watching Daredevil on Netflix and I’m starting the process of re-watching and getting caught up on Grimm.

It was an amazing weekend and I’m eagerly looking forward to next year! I can’t wait!

Marcon 50: Friday

I figure since it’s been a week, I should write up a post or two about Marcon 50.

It. Was. A. Blast!

This was only my second time attending, but it has become my favorite convention. I still love DragonCon, but there’s something wonderful about Marcon. Part of it is being around fellow geeks for the weekend. Part of it is the more relaxed and less crowded nature of the con. Part of it is having friends to chat with, be on panels with, and attend panels they’re on. And it’s great knowing that the convention is why I know them.

But I digress. The panels were so much fun this year. Only one time did I go to my room instead of a panel. And that was because I needed food and a break from the chest binder. I wrote a bit about a couple panels over at Cosplay Notes. But they’re only the tip of the iceberg.

After the two costuming related panels, I was going to go to the panel about religion in science fiction. But as I passed the room where the Star Wars Episode VII was setting up, I noticed who was on the panel and decided to go to that instead. Totally worth it! We watched trailers. We talked about all the movies. We talked about why the original trilogy was awesome and the prequel trilogy sucked. One thing that was brought up in regards to that really hit me. In the original trilogy, the world was worn: things were scarred and scuffed and dusty and dirty and used. In the prequel trilogy, the world was shiny and clean; everything was neat and clean and polished. There was no dust or dirt or wear and tear. That is what keeps throwing me off with that set of movies. Aside from the other problems, but that’s for another time.

I tried going to a make-up panel, but I didn’t learn anything new. Then I was on my first panel ever. All my worries and jitters vanished as soon as I saw one of my fellow panelists was also dressed as Dr. Abbey from the Newsflesh series. After that I went to my second panel ever where we ate Twinkies and talked about zombies. Well all the zombies out there that aren’t in the worlds of Romero or The Walking Dead. It was great!