If you’ve never been to Dragon*Con, Atlanta’s annual sci-fi and fantasy fest that draws around 30,000 folks from all over, this is the year to get in on the action. The convention spans five downtown hotels—the Hyatt Regency, the Marriot Marquis, the Hilton, the Westin Peachtree Plaza and the Sheraton. It’s the south’s version of Comic-Con, but it’s no down-home shindig. You can dance at late-night parties, get celebrity autographs, watch film screenings and, best of all, see incredibly devoted fans of sci-fi, fantasy and all things fictional donning outrageous costumes. At the door, you’ll be given a hefty schedule for the weekend. But for now, check out these highlights to get yourself pumped.
SCHEDULE OF EVENTS
Atlanta Radio Theatre Company
Get spooked by “The House Across the Way,” an audio drama by Kelley S. Ceccato about a trio of sisters—one of them dead—vying for a male neighbor’s affection. Plus, you’ll hear “The Proper Thing to Do” too, the story of a surprisingly friendly alien invasion, written by Brad Linaweaver and William Allen Ritch.
7 p.m. at the Hyatt
Watch Mikal Judas, Ace Rockwell and Shadow Jackson go to battle in extreme wrestling. The event takes place on the pool level of the Hyatt.
Annual Dragon*Con Parade
Don’t miss this march through downtown—it’s the convention’s greatest spectacle. Expect to see elaborately costumed pirates, ghouls, zombies, aliens, comic book heroes and, of course, a bevy of storm troopers flood the streets by foot and aboard larger-than-life floats. The out-of-this-world display is outside the hotels, so anyone’s free to watch it, including non-ticketholders.
Guest of Honor Awards Banquet
7 p.m. at the Hyatt Regency’s VI-VII ballrooms
Tickets are $50, but you’ll get to see DragonCon’s biggest stars in one room. Get your pass online at http://www. dragoncon.org.
7 p.m., Westin Peachtree Ballroom
This independent sci-fi film is a jump-off from Firefly, a space western television series created by Joss Whedon, the brains behind Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. Proceeds from the movie benefit five charities: Equality Now, Kids Need to Read, Marine Corps Law Enforcement Foundation, the Al Wooten Jr. Heritage Center and the Dyslexia Foundation. Attend the special screening, and meet members of the cast and crew at the Dealer’s Room during the convention.
Night at the Georgia Aquarium
7 p.m.-11 p.m., $17 per person
Experience the aquarium after dark with other DragonCon fans. All five of the aquarium’s main exhibits will be open, footage from conventions past will be projected in the atrium and signature Dragon Con cocktails will be available at a cash bar. Shuttle buses from the participating hotels will be offered.
Atlanta Radio Theatre Company
Immerse yourself in the classic H.P. Lovecraft tale, “At the Mountains of Madness,” adapted for audio by Brad Strickland, supplemented by a performance by Atlanta-based experimental instrumental band The Ghosts Project. The second story is “Time and Time Again” by H. Beam Piper and adapted for audio by Ron N. Butler. Piper’s tale involves time travel—as a result of a nuclear bomb.
Watch robots brawl at Robot Battles 39, held at 10 a.m. on Sunday (ant and beetle weight categories) and at noon on Monday (12 and 30-pound robots fighting sumo-style).
Hyatt Regency, Centennial Ballroom
Cheer or jeer for amateur acts at DragonCon Has Talent, the convention’s newest event. Judges will determine a winner in multiple categories, and the honored few will receive cash prizes.
Celebrity guests and live music
More than 400 guests and bands are confirmed for this year’s fest, and the full lineup is available on the convention’s website. Lou Ferrigno, professional bodybuilder and the original Hulk in the ‘70s CBS program based on the Marvel comic, will be there, along with Tyson Houseman and Daniel Cudmore from the Twilight series. The Wookiee Chewbacca in four Star Wars films, Peter Mayhew, will also make an appearance. Sean Astin (Mikey of The Goonies and Samwise Gamgee in Lord of the Rings), Stan Lee (former Marvel Comics president and chairman, and co-creator of the Fantastic Four, X-Men, the Avengers, Iron Man and the Hulk), Scott Adsit (Pete Hornberger on NBC’s 30 Rock), writers and founders of Mystery Science Theatre 3000 and a slew of bestselling authors, television authors, revered makeup artists and more are also scheduled to appear.
Music acts slated to perform include local electronic dance-rock outfit Attention System, Ego Likeness (a female-fronted dark electronic band), Leslie Fish (filk singer) and Cruxshadows, a dark-wave band that’s always a big hit with the Dragon*Con crowd.
Belly Dancing 101
Ever wanted to try getting that seductive tummy undulation down? Dragon*Con is the perfect chance—hour-long classes will be hosted by Phoenicia, a master belly dancer with more than 20 years experience.
Dealers Room and Exhibit Hall
Peruse original crafts, Silver and Golden Age comics, Japanese animation merchandise and unique books, plus medieval arms, artifacts, posters, models, games and accessories in the Dealers Room. Head to the exhibit halls (Imperial and Marquis ballrooms) for the latest releases in gaming, comics and books—and maybe even chat with creators and publishers. On Friday, these attractions are open at 1 p.m. and closed at 7 p.m. Saturday through Monday, you can check them out as early as 10 a.m. until 7 p.m., with the exception of Monday (they close at 5 p.m.).
Band and Fan Tables, Concourses
Fan and freebie tables will be at the Hyatt Regency (outside the Grand Hall) and the Sheraton. Performers and bands will have tables at the Marriot Marquis’ convention level. There’s acoustic/ambient tunes outside the Hyatt’s Centennial ballroom and one floor below the lobby.
Walk of Fame
The Hilton hosts most of the autograph signings in its Grand Ballroom. Some of the media guests might charge for autographs.
Have you ever danced alongside a storm trooper? Or shimmied with Spider-Man? At Dragon*Con’s nightly parties, both scenarios are possible. There will be DJs starting late in the evening until dawn from Friday through Sunday, but don’t forget to check out filk-singing at some point. The folk-based, acoustic jamming is a tradition at SF conventions. And, of course, there will be plenty of impromptu drum circles that last for hours.
Not a hardcore sci-fi fan? Here are some helpful tips:
1. Don’t say sci-fi. Fans of the genre prefer SF instead.
2. If someone says, “So long, and thanks for all the fish,” they’re referencing a cult favorite, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and they really just mean “goodbye.” In the Douglas Adams book series, earth is demolished to make room for a hyperspatial express route. The line is a message left by dolphins, who escape the planet before it’s destroyed. Side note: Don’t bother mentioning that you’ve seen the movie to a SF fan unless you’ve read the print stories.
3. If someone says “the ‘verse,” they mean “the universe.”
4. Take care of yourself while you’re there. Bring your own drinking water. There’s free water all over the place, but it runs out quickly. Pack a snack, too.
5. Get ready to be shocked, enlightened, wowed and appalled—all in one holiday weekend.