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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Trying to stay sane!

This summer has been an experience. Where to start.

Well, I took two classes over 12 weeks. Each class was 6-weeks long and covered a typical semester – 15-weeks. It was a lot of information in a short period of time. Also, the first class was online, which I haven’t done at the grad level. It was also a mixed class with grad and undergrad (seniors) students. Thankfully the information was the same from one of my master’s classes, just from a different perspective, so it wasn’t as overwhelming as it could have been. Looking at international communication and international popular culture don’t seem to be too different after all.

The other class, Intro to Media and Comm, did meet in person once a week and I think was trying to kill me. The professor is great, and I’m looking forward to taking another class with him in the fall. There was so much to read and write every week, it was a struggle at times to get through it. But I did, and I’m glad I took the class. It’s given me a different perspective on a lot of what I learned during my master’s, but not the same information. It solidified my decision to go with a Media & Comm secondary focus and certificate.

During those twelve weeks I was also a tutor for two different classes. The first session I tutored some football players for Psych 101. It’s been so long, but it was an online class, so all the lectures were online. It was helpful for me in having the professor’s exact definitions available, but it was a ton of information squished into 6 weeks. It was intense. I was not jealous of those guys. The second 6 weeks were Sociology 101 with a group of football players. This was a little harder to help them with because it was in-person, and I had to look stuff up at times. And, it was a lot of information thrown at them in 6 weeks. But it was fun and a great learning experience for me.

But, with all of that going on, I didn’t have time for my own research. During the beginning of the summer I was trying to fit it in, but my class work suffered. I put my full focus on the second class, dropping my own stuff. Now I’m in the middle of my actual summer break, all three weeks of it, and I’m finally able to turn my attention to the paper/presentation I need to have done by the end of the month (you can read more about that here). I’m actually getting a lot done. It’s probably because I actually want to work on it and I’m in complete control of it. I’ve found that tends to help.

But, the end of the month marks the beginning of the school year. I’ll be taking three classes, working a 20-hour a week assistantship, and working another 6 hours as a tutor. Somewhere in there I need to keep working on research for my dissertation. Thankfully, one class should allow my final paper to contribute to my dissertation in some way. I’m trying to figure out how to bring it into another. I’ve heard the third class involves taking an existing paper and reworking it so it can be published. That may end up being my paper from spring that I’m presenting in October that I’m already working on reworking. It would help with that, as well as being a piece toward my dissertation, despite a few other papers I would love to do that to for class. But, the dissertation comes first. So far I’ve taken 6 classes and written 1 paper related to my dissertation. I know it’s possible to use class papers to work on my dissertation, I just need the opportunities.

Now, I’m focusing on getting ready for DragonCon and CPAC. I’ve decided not to pack any costumes this year, which I wrote about over here. That means less stuff to fit into the car and get into and out of the hotel. I’ll probably post something here soon about basics of packing for something as big as DragonCon, which can easily be adapted to any con. This year I’m able to spend more time thinking about those little things that I know I’ve been letting slip through the cracks in past years.

It’ll be an interesting break during that first week of class. But I know it will charge me up for the school year!

Oh duh!

One of the joys of being an academic is the academic conference. It’s a great place to present papers and get feedback from a wide variety of people that you would probably not see otherwise. The problem is figuring out what you want to present by the time the submissions are due.

Since 2015, I have been attending the Comics and Popular Arts Conference (CPAC) that is held at DragonCon every year. Since 2016, I have also been a presenter at the conference. CPAC is a great conference to present at because it is open to all at DragonCon to attend. So not only am I presenting to academics and scholars, but to fans and individuals who may not have thought they could be scholars as well. It’s great for getting feedback, especially in regards to accessibility of your work to the general public.

Just last week I had submitted papers to three conferences that are happening in the Spring. But, I forgot that CPAC’s deadline is next Friday. I was going “What am I going to present? I don’t have any idea what I’m going to write for classes next semester. I’ve submitted my paper for this class to a Spring conference. I don’t want to represent a paper, even if it is a different conference.” I was panicking. Then I remembered, I have a whole list of paper ideas I’ve come up with while working on the paper for class. When you have 8-10 pages, you need to focus. I am so glad I did that.

It’s a good habit to have as an academic and as a student. You’re never going to be able to fit everything into one paper. Keep track of the things you want to talk about, makes notes on them, make note of authors you’d use for that paper. You never know when it will come in handy!

DragonCon Day 1

Things definitely got better. I think that’s the longest I have spent away from the room in years. Usually I come back at some point in the day to either watch a panel on DCTV because I couldn’t get in or just to take a break.

Not today.

Once Nathan Fillion’s amazing panel was over, I started my loop of the hotels. First, it was over to the Hilton for “Brit TV Classics You Should Be Watching”. It kind of evolved into “Brit TV You Should Be Watching”, but I’m not complaining. I have a new list of shows to find! Then I had a gap between panels, but the next one was still in the Hilton, so I found a great place to hang out near the front doors. They’ve added a bunch of benches with outlets for people to relax in near the front doors. It was so comfy. I even made a friend!

After that, it was panel to panel to panel. First, “Doctor Who Series 10: In Focus”. So much fun spending an hour talking about this past season. It was a little funny. Everyone said that this was Peter’s best season and it felt like they finally figured out how to write Twelve, but they weren’t beyond critiquing the episodes overall. They’re right, Twelve and Bill and Nardole were awesome, but the episodes could have been better.

I left and pretty much immediately got in line for the “Star Trek: The Next Generation Guests”. Despite the long line, I got a fairly decent seat. I also got to ask the second question of the panel! I asked what it was like working with Howie Seago in the amazing episode “Louder Than a Whisper”. Brent said he was amazing to work with. He talked about how he had to learn to sign and got a little goofy about it, but I could tell there was truth in there and told him he did do really well with his signs. It was awesome to ask them that question!!!!

Then, another long line for “Wig Out: Synthetic Wig Styling”. Dax Exclamationpoint, who competed on season 8 of RuPaul’s Drag Race, was one of the panelists!!! They simply fielded questions for an hour instead of possibly telling us what we already know. I don’t know if I picked up anything new, but it was a great panel to be in. If anything, it reinforced much of what I’ve looked up online.

Finally, I went to my first panel of the Comics and Popular Arts Conference, CPAC, “Racial Representation in Marvel”. A friend of mine from grad school was on the panel, so I had to be there. It was awesome. He presented on the differences between the comic and portrayal on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. of Robbie Reyes. It really has me wanting to do two things. First, read that run of Ghost Rider. Second, start working on a paper about the differences in portrayal from the comic to the series of Daredevil and The Defenders. That may be what I’ll present at PCA in the spring!

Now, I’m in the room, enjoying the Friday Night Costuming Contest on DCTV. I want to say one of these days I’ll actually go to it. But it’s kind of become tradition to watch it in the room, same with the masquerade. Yeah, the costumes typically look better in person. But the video gets closer than I could. And we will sit and comment as it goes. Granted, hubby’s not here…yet. When I mentioned that Gigi Edgley was hosting – in basically a bikini top – I got a text that might indicate he’s coming back soon.

There is another CPAC panel I wanted to go to. But it starts in 15 minutes and 1) the costuming contest is still going, and 2) the day is catching up and I’m getting tired. Since I have to get up early to do my make-up and get into costume, I should probably stay here so I can crash easily.

Tomorrow is going to be so much fun!

Hello from DragonCon!

This has been a rocky start to the con. We got here with no problems yesterday, but it took around 3 hours for me to be able to give blood. They were working so hard, there were just soooooo many people there to donate! But last night was kind of quiet since, sadly, our usual roommates couldn’t make it this year. We did get some awesome food from one of the food trucks at the Sheraton. I’ll make note of which one to make sure they get the credit they so wonderfully deserve.

This morning has not gone to plan at all. I put on the skirt of my Star Trek Fangirl and it doesn’t fit the way I needed it to fit. I’m trying to make it work and it just won’t. This is what happens when you put off working on your costumes and you just want to get them done so you don’t take the time to wear the whole thing to make sure it works. Now I have to figure out how to bring the skirt in without ruining it. This is going to be a pain.

But, after pulling out jeans and my Darkwing Duck t-shirt, hubby and I headed out to, hopefully, get in to the Nathan Fillion panel. 40 minutes before the panel and it was already full. Grrrr. So I come back to the room to watch the live feed on DCTV. After 15 minutes, the feed dies. It turns out that DCTV lost main power (thank goodness for Facebook or else I would have just been pissed). Thankfully, it came back for the last 20 minutes. An hour of Nathan Fillion just asking questions from fans. Today’s the only day he’s here, and that makes me love him even more.

I hope the rest of the con goes better than this. Something else major goes wrong – especially with a costume – and I’m going to be very upset.

It’s been one week

…since the end of DragonCon. It’s interesting going on Facebook. So many people are lamenting the fact that DragonCon is over. Granted, that happened right after the con was done, but it’s picked back up.

It happens every year: post-con funk. Everyone has their own way of dealing with it. Mine is to treasure those four/five days that happen every year in Atlanta as the unique, fun, amazing experience that it is and look forward to next year.

Some people wish DragonCon could go on forever. For them, it’s not enough that the con goes on for four to five straight days. But I have to disagree with them. Part of what makes DragonCon the wonderful experience it is is that it does end. It is only for a short period of time, which makes us treasure it. If DragonCon went on all year, it would lose that special-ness. It would become part of everyday life. We would lose the reason to go: to escape everyday life and be ourselves for however long we are there.

I am grateful for my annual five days of geekery in Atlanta. I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Post-DragonCon Recap

Every year I go to DragonCon with specific plans. Every year I come home from DragonCon having had an amazing time without following those plans. Sometime soon I’m going to start a page of tips for conventions, not just DragonCon. There are just so many basic things that apply to any convention.

Anyway. While, thanks to someone deciding that another Star Trek convention needed to happen (and on Labor Day weekend), there were not many Trek guests, there were plenty of Trek panels. I went to at least one Trek panel per day. I think I went to more Trek panels this year than I have in all the previous years combined. It was great! There were panels that were more academic in nature, looking at economics and various sciences, and the more fan-based panels. All of the ones I attended were great. It was a lot of fun and they were quite informative.

Of course there were other panels and events. I wanted to get into the Charlie Cox panel at 10a on Friday, but between the elevator and loosing track of time, I didn’t make it. Luckily, they showed it on DCTV, and someone asked him what I was hoping to ask: how did he learn to act blind so well? He worked with a man who has been legally blind for 20 years. He observed him doing everyday things. This taught him that his eyes should not look ‘dead’, which is why he is always ‘looking’ somewhere. That made me so happy to know! I was tempted to try to get to his panel Saturday morning, but decided against it. I had my answer. While it would have been cool to be in the room, it wasn’t enough of a reason to go.

Friday afternoon I got to be in the room with two amazing people: Gigi Edgley and Brian Henson!!!! They did a Farscape panel that was a joy to be in the room for. Gigi is such a fangirl over Henson and Farscape. It was so cool to see someone who was part of the main cast fangirling out over the show. Brian said, among other things, that they are working on writing a Farscape movie, and are trying to get it right, which is why it is taking so long. When he said that, there was a feeling of relief in the room, as well as an unspoken “Take your time. We’ll wait for a good movie!”

Saturday was a lot of fun. I decided on Friday that I wasn’t going to do the parade. I have been in it for 6 straight years. It had become something that I felt I had to do instead of wanting to do. I’m glad I decided not to. I’m excited to do it again next year and to get at least one costume done for it. Hopefully I’ll have two options finished by then.

Instead of the parade, we had some fun. My hubby figured out a few years ago that the best time to go to the dealer’s room was during the parade. So many people are either in the parade, watching the parade live, watching the parade on DCTV, or asleep that not many (relatively) go to the dealer’s room. He was right. I’ve seen that room busier on a Monday than I did Saturday morning. It’s nice to know that the option is there, but I doubt I’ll be doing it too often.

After that, hubby, myself, and a friend headed down to the Artemis setup to be a part of the crew for a time. It was so much fun. We were destroyed fairly early in our first run, so they reset it and let us have another go. A few people switched places and our friend was Captain. He had done this before and it showed. Everything ran much smoother and we got a lot done. It was so much fun! Also, the three of us showed up in original series uniforms. 😀

That night was my panel where I was told by everyone that I did quite well. I felt so nervous during my presentation, but the Q&A part was a breeze. It went over quite well with the audience and I did what I always hope my work does, informed people about Deaf Culture.

Sunday was a day of fan fun. Red Dwarf, Star Trek, Doctor Who, and comic books. So many geeky discussions. It was wonderful. The geeky discussions extended into Monday. That was assisted by the fact that we did not have to check out until Tuesday. If you can afford the time and money to do so, I highly recommend it. We were able to go to every panel we wanted to. We made another trip to the dealer’s room. We took our time packing. We took a nap before heading out. The time it took for a bellhop to arrive with a cart so we could get everything to our car was minuscule. It was wonderful.

It was another wonderful DragonCon. The one thing that always makes it wonderful is seeing our friends. It’s the only time every year we are able to get together and it makes DragonCon. Even if we all go our separate ways during the day, we all end up at the room at the end of the day and have a blast sharing what we’ve done and just hanging out watching DCTV. We could probably spend the entire weekend in the room and never set foot in the con as long as it is the four of us. But I doubt that’s ever going to happen. The con is just too much fun.

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…