Sunday, September 19, 2010

Dragon*Con--The Experience

I've returned from Dragon*Con, courtesy of PYR Books, and I have to say, it was a memorable experience.

It began with an uneventful plane ride, thank goodness. I hate to fly, and leave nail marks in my poor husband's arm with every bounce of turbulence. He's wonderful about it, though, and endures the torture without complaint.

Upon our arrival in Atlanta, we took the Marta train downtown. Very efficient transportation system they have there. Round trip, twenty minutes each way, cost the two of us nine dollars combined.

We checked into the Westin, where my con badge was awaiting me at the front desk, and went to our gorgeous room on the 34th floor, overlooking the city. It is important to note that I had my badge, and my husband did not. His was at will-call at the Hilton, several blocks away.

We strolled to the Hilton, pleasant enough despite the heat, and came upon the will-call line which wrapped around the building. This was the only major failing of the convention. Dragon*Con has no idea how to manage crowds. Imagine thousands of people, many of whom wore heavy costumes, standing in ninety degrees for two and a half hours to get their admission badges! Their excuse for not mailing the badges was fear of counterfeiting. I'm sorry. They ticked off a huge number of people, many of whom vowed not to return in future years. If you wanted to simply buy a ticket, you could walk right to the front, but if you'd given them your money beforehand, you were at their mercy. I could go in the air conditioning, since I had a badge, and I ended up doing water runs for strangers in line about to pass out from the heat.

After that, though, everything went well. We missed a couple of panels we'd hoped to attend, but managed to make it to the PYR presentation panel. There I met editor Lou Anders and the authors with whom I would be dining later that evening. At the opening of the panel, Lou explained the contest I'd won, and then presented me to the crowd, so I got to stand and do my little princess wave. Very cool. The hardest thing about the panel was wishing I could be on the authors' side of the table. Well, hopefully someday.

From there, we proceeded to dinner at Sear, a fabulous steakhouse in the Marriott. I sat between my husband and author Mike Resnick. Also present were Lou Anders, publicity expert extraordinaire Jill Maxick, authors Sam Sykes, James Enge, Jon Sprunk, and Mike Resnick's wife and James's daughter.

Though I was a bit nervous at first, once the conversation got started, it never stopped. Lou and Jill were wonderful about making us feel welcome. I'd read books by three of the authors present, so I could ask questions. And it turned out, I'd read two books by Mike Resnick's daughter, so we had that to discuss as well. The food was excellent. I had filet mignon, mushrooms, and sweet potatoes. By the time we left, we were delightfully full.

The rest of the con is a blur of panels and insane crowds. I got to hear readings by Laura Anne Gilman and Mary Robinette Kowal. I also got to meet several editors looking at my manuscript, so those were nice connections to make. At the PYR booth, I ran across Ari Marmell, an agent cousin, and had him sign my copy of his book. I also snagged (thanks to Jill) an ARC of Clay and Susan Griffith's upcoming novel THE GREYFRIAR (which I've since finished. Fantastic thrill ride of a read).

Evenings were spent wandering between the Hyatt and the Marriott lobbies, admiring the variety of costumes and styles. Imagine a two-sectioned space station in a far off galaxy connected by a transparent tube. Then picture every possible species of alien life promenading through those sections. That was nightlife at Dragon*Con. I did experience a few pangs of regret that I hadn't brought costume wear of my own, but as an aspiring author, I needed to maintain a more professional appearance.

Leaving was painful as well. It meant a return to reality. Not that I mind my reality, but escapism is my writing stock and trade, and the longer I can live within that world, the better. Well, there's always next year . . .