Wayward Musings #3

Some Thoughts on Dragoncon '99

By Kim F. Holec

For those of you who aren't familiar with the con scene in GA, Dragoncon is the big summer free-for-all that passes for a science fiction con in these parts. It's been held every summer for several years, and I have been attending it off-and-on, more off than on. We had not gone to some of the early '90's ones, but started back into going a few years ago when the con was graced by the presence of Charles Vess (my favorite fantasy illustrator, Neil Gaiman, and the (alas) little known folk duo, the Flash Girls, comprised of the Fabulous Lorraine on violin and the writer Emma Bull on guitar.

In past years, the con had spread out over two official hotels, and certain other facilities, such as the InfoForum, the Apparel Mart, and the Merchandise Mart. This year there was only one official hotel, the downtown Hyatt, with all the programming space and registration on the hotel site. The Art Show was hidden in the Merchandise Mart, home in past years to the fan track programming, such as B5 and Trek. The InfoForum was not used, thank goodness, as it is too far to walk, whether one braves the high temps of the outside, or gerbil tubes along. (BTW, there are many connecting walkways above street level for the various hotels, office buildings, and the afore-mentioned marts in downtown Atlanta; upon first using them, we were struck by the HabitTrail effect, and immediately started to refer to our progression amongst the tubes as "gerbiling".) The huge Dealer's room was once again to be found in the Apparel Mart, one block closer to the Hyatt than the InfoForum, a fact appreciated by all and sundry.

Highlights of the convention for me were numerous. As an old and dear friend once stated, "We pay for cons to see our friends." It is true that there are folk I only see once a year at Dragoncon, and some of them actually live in the area, but the local sf club scene is in a decline, so this is a good chance to see them. Other friends come from out-of-town, and there are always new friends! Rob and I made friends with a couple waiting in the early registration line on Wednesday night; they were from Houston, TX, and we all felt sure that perhaps we had met at some con before; we ran into each other all week and attended some events together.

Seeing Anne McCaffrey once again (I saw her at Istacon, a Pern con held here in Atlanta in '84; Michael Whelan was also in attendance at that con, and MORETA had just been published in hb--my how time flies!) was a great pleasure. However, the sound quality of the first panel I saw her at was not very good; and the bleed over from the main ballroom/programming's sound system did not help things at all. I did get to talk to her son, Todd, who is quite funny and informative. His biography of his mother, to be published in the fall/winter, will prove to be quite a treat to all her fans.

Talking to Ann Crispin, one of my favorite Young Adult sf writers, and a great Trek author (YESTERDAY'S SON and TIME FOR YESTERDAY are two favorites of hers), was certainly a pleasure. I first ran into her at her Trek panel. Later on, I saw her on a panel with Steve Donaldson, Fred Saberhagen, and others, discussing how future generations might look at our times and fictional reading habits. I took the opportunity of shaking Saberhagen's hand and telling him how much his Dracula books were liked by myself and other friends. He looks likes such a sweet, dear old gentleman with a twinkle in his eye, and Santa Claus-white hair and rosy checks--hard to belive that this is the man who invented Berserkers and re-invented the Count! (Dracula, that is.)

One of the unexpected pleasures of the con involved the Highlander track, which had been a tad bit unorganized last year. This year, I am happy to report, things moved smoothly along (a fact that seemed to hold for the entire con--quick, knock on wood!), and the track had some great guests. The lady who penned the Highlander companion book was present, with some lovely insights into the working of the show, and some hilarious blooper reels as well! But the guest who did us in, so to speak, was F. Braun McAsh, who was the Swordmaster from the second season on. He was amazing and talented! What he doesn't know abt swords, weapons, the like, what one can do with them, the choreography of the fights, fighting techniques, whatever about bright sharp pointy things is not worth knowing! He enthralled all his panels (and he did a bunch, unlike some people who might deign to show themselves at one panel a day, and don't have an excuse like age or health to prevent them from doing more). Braun is intelligent, handsome (dark hair and sleepy eyes), and is in great shape without being a body-building freak. He told the best stories about the show, and what a struggle the cast and crew had to do to get the show done anywhere near what they envisioned. For those of you who read THE MAKING OF STAR TREK, by Roddenberry and Whitfield, about the old Star Trek cast and crew, a lot of the same good feelings amongst the cast and crew came across in the tales McAsh told of his days on the set. If you are at all a fan of the Highlander tv show, and/or like sword-fighting, I urge you not to miss a chance to hear this gentleman speak. I know he will be at the DC Highlander con next April, and myself and others urged the Highlander track director for Dragoncon to bring him back next year. Did I mention that Braun is modest, too, and didn't understand why we wanted his autograph? There is only one problem, ladies, he is happily married, alas.

The Dealers's room was wonderful and vast, and as always, I bought too much stuff, and still could have gone back for more. I did not see as much jewelry selection as I would have wished for; and there are never enough book dealers, and always too many comix books tables. We did pick up some old first-edition AD&D items for a fair price, and I added to my once-again growing book collection with some wonderful used paperbacks. I only purchased one tee-shirt this year, the new Methos shirt from the company that brings us the Highlander cards. (Now, if Dragoncon could just get Peter Wingfield, the actor who played Methos, to attend, that would be grand!)

I only went to one night of filking, being way too tired to be present for the other nights. However, the concerts on Saturday night were excellent; Bill and Brenda Sutton, the GOH's, were in rare form (which means even better than their usual great!); and the out-of-town filking group, the Boogie Knights, were absolutely hilarious! The BK's do lots of SCA and medieval-oriented parodies, and are not to be missed. They mostly do cons on the East coast; this was the first trip down South, but not, I venture, their last! The open filk had tons of talent on stage, among them a weyr harper; and the audience got in the act, as well. Teri, late of Timewinds, led the crowd in a thunderous venison of Odin's Call that some of us danced to in the aisles!

As always, there were many panels I wanted to attend and couldn't fit into a busy schedule. I did see Bob Trebor walking around, but never got a chance to attend any of his many Hercules/Xena panels. I did see Josphea Sherman, who ghost wrote the Gabby book about all she needed to know in life she had learned form Xena. The Herc/Xena room was graced with large posters from the show; I was particularly taken by one of Iolaus, grinning; the Golden Hunter is probably my favorite character on the two shows, although Bruce Campbell's thief, Autolycus, follows close behind--the King of Thieves is a fascinating character. Went to two Trek panels, the afore-mentioned one with Ann Crispin, and the filking panel with Dave McConnell, of the late Timewinds group. I was touched to see that the Trek people had honored the late DeForest Kelly by using his great publicity shot from the TOS days as the cover of their in-track programming booklet. I was able to only attend one Buffy the Vampire Slayer panel on relationships, but hope next year to fit in more BtVS.

The highlight of the con as a whole, for me, had to be the MRAP production. The MRAP players started out years ago, doing Dr Who skits, and moved along as the years went by into Batman and Star Trek, and beyond. One year, they performed a great crossover of TNG and Parker Lewis Can't Lose, titled Wesley Crusher Can't Lose; last year, they did another wonderful crossover, this time between Buffy and Xena. But for this year's production, they out did anything that has come before. Certain writer members of the production group, after seeing the film, "Shakespeare in Love" earlier this year, embarked upon a most wicked jolly deed: they decided to write the forgotten Shakespearean musical "Romeo, and Ethel, the Pirate's Daughter", in the style of Gilbert and Sullivan! There are video tapes available and even a soundtrack! The audience paid the ultimate tribute of laughing so hard, that some of the actors' lines were almost stomped on. If you ever attend a Dragoncon, do not miss the MRAP performance, unless you don't care about laughter!

All in all, I had a wonderful time at Dragoncon; as always, it didn't last long enough! And I will be there next year , I am sure.

For further info on the con , visit http://www.dragoncon.org .

© 1999 Kim F. Holec

Kim F. Holec is too many things to count. She was born under the sign of the Twins, so you figure it out. Even while she is at work, she is a part-time writer, editor and poet. She is owned by four cats, and some say she is herself a cat in disguise. She thinks of herself as a renaissance woman, because she is interested in many things, thus the changeable nature and topics of her writings.
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