When I met Dan Wells at Mary Robinette Kowal’s reading, I was carrying a hardcover copy of Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson. I had planned to get it autographed earlier in the day, but missed the signing, so the title page was still sadly devoid of a signature. When Dan saw it, he immediately asked if he could sign it instead, which led to an amusing reaction from Brandon when I caught up with him (with Dan’s help) later Friday evening. (And yes, the squiggly line at the bottom is Brandon’s signature. He’s definitely mastered the art of the speedy autograph.)
By then it was about midnight, and the Dragon*Con party was in full swing. I was still feeling a bit like an outsider, though. The only people I knew well were off doing their own thing, and weren’t really into the party scene anyway. So I walked around for a bit, taking pictures of the cool costumes and mainly just people watching. I thought about joining in on the drinking, but the crowd around the Marriott bar was rather large and intimidating at that point, so feeling a bit discouraged and more than a bit tired, I called it an early night.
When Saturday evening rolled around, I kicked it off by going to a late-night panel on writing sexy science fiction. Dragon*Con panels tend to get more interesting around 10 pm, but this one continued a trend of somewhat-disappointing writing panels at the con. The trend had been started on Friday when a somewhat-interesting panel on Let’s Build a Story in an Hour! turned into Let’s Build a Story out of Tired Crime Drama Cliches! Now, in the author’s defense, he was trying to construct a serious story by taking audience suggestions… but the audience was really only useful for silly suggestions, as is wont to happen during that sort of thing. Trying to build a serious murder mystery when the starting concept is a bagel is not easy.
Anyway, for some reason– call me crazy, but I suspect it was because the panelists were mostly female– the Writing Sexy Science Fiction panel turned into a discussion on why men don’t share their feelings these days. (To which I reply: duh, that’s what blogs are for!) So, somewhat disappointed at not having learned how to better write steamy sci-fi sex scenes– I suppose I’ll have to rely on reading Heinlein novels for that– I skipped out early. And with my trusty camera at the ready, I headed out into the general chaos of Saturday night Dragon*Con.
A quick lesson in Dragon*Con geography, for those who have not personally experienced it: the convention spans five large host hotels in downtown Atlanta. The Sheraton and the Westin are a little bit out of the way, but the other three, the Hilton, Marriott, and the Hyatt, are all in a line and connected by sky bridges. This is where the big party happens: it’s essentially a mix-and-mingle party that spans three city blocks and numerous bars scattered across the hotels. From what I’ve seen, the Hyatt is where the heaviest drinking happens (not that it doesn’t happen elsewhere, it’s just heavier at the Hyatt), while the Marriott, with its wide open lobby spanning three spacious floors, is the best place to show off and admire costumes. The Hilton’s main attraction is a karaoke bar, for those who are into that sort of thing… and it’s a little less crowded, for those looking to escape the claustrophobia-inducing conditions at the Hyatt and Marriott. There are also a myriad of concerts and themed parties in the hotel ballrooms that stretch until the wee hours of the morning, and plenty of lesser-known, more exclusive parties for those with the right connections (i.e. connections better than mine).
I made my way through the crowds, stopping frequently to take pictures, and having a few drinks of my own. By 2 am I was feeling pretty good, so I moseyed back on over to the Hilton and listened to karaoke for a bit. The crowd was really friendly to the singers, even to the ones that couldn’t carry a tune with both hands and a bucket, so with alcohol-fueled courage I weaved my way up to the front to sign up for a song. But, alas, foiled! Karaoke was so popular they had cut off sign-ups. I stayed to listened for a bit over one last rum and coke, and called it a night about 3 am.
Sunday evening: the last night at Dragon*Con. I still felt like I hadn’t really experienced the party. Sure, I had had some drinks and taken some pictures, but not really talked to anyone or done anything. And this was the last night of the con! Clearly, something needed to change.
I decided what I needed was something to help me feel more at home with the crowd: I needed a costume. But I didn’t want something flashy or flamboyant; I just wanted something subtle, a little reminder that I wasn’t just out to take pictures.
But what to do? I’ve avoided costuming at cons so far, not because it doesn’t appeal to me, but mainly because I haven’t had anyone to do with. Well, I thought, to heck with that… I’m going to do it anyway. But when it comes to cosplay, simply dressing up in unusual clothing doesn’t interest me so much as the idea of transforming, of becoming someone or something else. (Insert psychology thesis here about how this relates to my various neuroses.)
I passed a little booth that was selling latex prosthetics, and an idea hit me: devil horns! Not the fabric ones that clip onto your hair; actual latex horns glued on with spirit gum. It would be subtle, but not too subtle. And as those were being painted to match my skin, I mulled the collection of pointed ears and, well, what’s a demon-fae-creature-thing without pointed ears? So sporting horns and pointed ears, and feeling just “different” enough to blend in with the crowd, I made my last stop: a facepainting booth, where I let Natalie of Doozers Workshop have her way with my face. End result:
I actually think the horns blended better with my face than it looks, but they also reflected the flash better. Here’s another pic of me and Brandon Sanderson, when I ran across him in the Dealer’s Room signing books:
I wasn’t feeling the need for a wardrobe change; pretty much the only concession I made to my “devil-ized” face was to put on a red t-shirt. And to be honest, I sort of liked the mix of strange face and street clothing. It wasn’t exactly going all out, but I had done what I wanted: join, in both mind and appearance, the ranks of the weird.
I still didn’t know anybody out party-surfing, but dammit, I was going to party anyway. That night I made my way up to the bar, hung out and downed drinks with the best of them. I tried for karaoke, but once again did not get there early enough to sign up… geeks and karaoke are apparently a potent combo. Oh, I still took pictures (who couldn’t!), but for the first time, I felt like I was part of the crowd, not just observing it from the other side of a camera lens. I even talked with a few people, although I never really found anyone to hang out with for long. This was probably why I made my way to the Hyatt around 2 am to attend a Cruxshadows concert. (Cruxshadows is a gothic rock band with a big presence at Dragon*Con and some rather sexy dancers.) The interesting thing about this is that I don’t actually remember attending the concert, but I must have, because I found pictures of it on my camera:
It was a good party.
Afterward I do remember throwing up outside the Hyatt and falling asleep in a corner of the hotel patio, then getting woken up a short while later by a trio of concerned-looking EMTs. Man, I remember thinking as they helped me to my feet… that’s gotta be a sucky job. Wandering around Dragon*Con at 3:30 am, checking passed-out drunks for signs of life?
Puking up most of the alcohol had apparently saved me, as I was able to walk with only a minor wobble, and eventually they let me go and I made my way back to the Hilton. Karaoke had long since ended, so I hung out for a while and chatted with some equally-out-of-it members of the Dragon*Con skeptics track. Like everybody else at con, they were awesome. It wasn’t until the clock was getting on toward 5 am that I gave into reality and made my way up to the room.
Yup. Definitely a good party.
Part 4 here.