Dragon*Con 2010

Stories from Dragon*Con

September 3–6, 2010 • Atlanta, Georgia

report and transcriptions by Marguerite Krause
(originally printed in the January 2011 issue of the ORACLE newsletter)

What can I say about Dragon*Con?

Let me put it this way. I’ve been involved in fandom—both science fiction fandom in general and Star Trek fandom in particular—since the mid-1970s. And over the years, I’ve gone to all sorts conventions. They’ve varied in size and scope from one of the first big, professionally run Star Trek cons, celebrating the 10th anniversary of the premiere of the Original Series in a big hotel ballroom in downtown Chicago, with cast members giving talks and David Gerrold himself selling tribbles in the dealer’s room….to locally run events where 70 fans get together for a day and a half to trade fanzines, put on skits, and sing filksongs…to huge autograph conventions where two hundred celebrities from all across the popular culture spectrum sit behind tables lining every wall of a convention center or shopping mall, signing photos for thousands of fans…to tiny cons with a couple of guests doing Q&A sessions that are more like casual conversations with less than a hundred fans…and everything in between.

You’d think that, with all that experience, I’d be prepared for anything. But Dragon*Con overwhelmed me. It’s not that it was unlike any other convention I’d ever attended: it was as if *every* convention I’ve ever attended had been combined into a single, incredibly busy weekend!

I have friends who’ve been going to Dragon*Con for years, and they tried to prepare me for what to expect. It didn’t help. Yes, I knew there would be a lot of people, spread across a lot of hotels. Yes, I knew a lot of fans who attend Dragon*Con enjoy dressing in costume. Yes, I knew that Dragon*Con welcomes fans of every fandom you can think of, and then some: TV and film, literary SF, horror, comic books, manga, anime, and on and on. I knew that guests include writers, actors, filmmakers, comic book artists, and other creators of the fantastic.

All of that turned out to be absolutely true. But hearing someone talk about Dragon*Con (or reading a report like this one) provides only the sketchiest overview of what it’s like to actually be there.

For starters, one of the first (and perhaps most important) things I learned is that there’s actually no such thing as “Dragon*Con”, singular. Instead, because there’s so much going on in so many different buildings at just about every hour of the day and night, each one of the 50,000+ people present is, in a way, attending his or her own unique, never-to-be-duplicated convention. It’s possible to spend the entire weekend in just one hotel, attending panel discussions on a single subject, such as Anne McCaffrey’s series of Pern books or the Twilight films. Some fans spend their whole weekend standing in line for a few popular Q&A sessions. Others concentrate on collecting autographs. Still other fans seem to spend most of each day displaying their skills at making and wearing costumes…and another subset of fans devotes their time to taking photos of the costume-wearers!

The good thing about Dragon*Con is that if you have any interest in any kind of science fiction or fantasy books, TV, or film, you’re sure to find events on the schedule to entertain you, and meet other people who share your interests. You may be the only person in your school, work place, or neighborhood who is enthusiastic about Odo, Spiderman, The Princess Bride, and Night Gallery…but at Dragon*Con, it’s certain that you’ll find other people who share your interests and enthusiasm.

Having given you that background, here’s a little bit of what Dragon*Con 2010 was like for René and the small team of ORACLE members who hung around together at the con.

René’s major activities at Dragon*Con were signing autographs in the big room set aside for that purpose, called the “Walk of Fame”; participating in panel discussions; and doing photo ops with fans who signed up for that. His schedule for the weekend looked something like this::

  • Friday: Walk of Fame 1:00–7:00 p.m.,
  • DS9 panel at 2:30, photo session at 5:00
  • Saturday: Walk of Fame 10:00 a.m.–7:00 p.m.,
  • photos at 1:00, Warehouse 13 panel at 2:30
  • Sunday: Walk of Fame 10:00 a.m.–7:00 p.m.,
  • photos at 1:00, Trek pageant at 4:00
  • Monday: DS9 panel at 10:00 a.m.,
  • Walk of Fame 10:00–3:00 p.m.

Basically, whenever René wasn’t doing anything else, he was at his table in the Walk of Fame room, signing autographs and chatting with fans. During those hours, one of our team of “Odo’s Minions” (Mary, Mike, Talia, Miri, and I) sat beside him at his table, collecting money and explaining to fans about René’s charity fundraising and what an “Odo’s Bucket” cartoon was. René also posed for photos there at the table for anyone who was willing to donate to Doctors Without Borders, and whichever of us was on duty usually took those photos; we all became proficient at handling lots of different types of cameras!

Rene, Miri, Mar, and Mary
Rene, Miri, Mar, Mary at DragonCon

René was seated in a row of tables with Armin to his left and J. G. Hertzler to his right; they and a dozen other actors were all represented at Dragon*Con by the same agency, which provided general support staff and assistants for each actor, made sure they had enough photos to sell, and kept everyone’s money safe each night. Whenever René went to participate in a panel (always in a different hotel from the one where the Walk of Fame was located), it required some fast walking (and fast talking!) to ensure that our ORACLE group would be able to hear him. Large crowds were common at the panels, so several of us who weren’t working at the autograph table would line up at the room well before the panel’s scheduled start time and try to save seats for the others. The convention organizers arranged for cars to take the actors from the Walk of Fame to their panel appearances, but usually did not have room for “groupies” like us to ride along. Therefore, as soon as René was whisked away by the Dragon*Con staff, whoever was on duty at the table would hand René’s money to one of the agency’s staff members (often the nice woman who was assisting Armin) and high-tail it for the panel location. Because of the shoulder-to-shoulder crowds everywhere inside the hotels—in the corridors and lobbies, on the escalators, and on the walkways that linked one hotel to the next—we quickly got in the habit of getting out of the hotel as fast as possible and jogging along the sidewalks outside to our destination! Fortunately, though it was warm in Atlanta that weekend, it wasn’t unbearably oppressive (or pouring rain!) so it really wasn’t that bad going outside…and it did provide a nice break from the constant press of people indoors.

It’s always fun to sit with René at his autograph table, and all of us who helped out enjoyed the experience. At Dragon*Con, it seemed that most of the people who came to get his autograph were meeting him for the first time, and all were excited and happy to be able to say “hello” and tell him how much they enjoyed his work. Many began by saying “I’ve been a fan of yours since Benson,” or “…since M*A*S*H”, and others mentioned specific roles of his that they loved, from Odo to Paul Lewiston to computer game or cartoon voices. However, one group in particular stands out in my mind. A quartet of young people (in their mid-20s?), three women and a man, came toward René’s table. Three of them hung back while one of the women approached and very shyly said “hello” and started to tell René how glad she was to meet him…and then she noticed the picture of Chef Louis from The Little Mermaid that he had on the table. She said, “You were Chef Louis?” and, when René admitted that he was, she gave a squeal of delight and started babbling about how that was her favorite movie of all time. René began to softly sing “Les Poisson”, and she literally bounced up and down with delight. As soon as he finished, she dashed back to her friends and dragged them all up to the table, explaining that René was the voice of Chef Louis and telling him that her friend simply had to hear the song…and so René patiently started singing again, and this time the whole group became giddy with glee, jumping up and down with little exclamations of “oh my god!” There was no doubt that René had absolutely made their day.

The three panel discussions that René participated in were highly entertaining. (The fourth event, the “Miss Trek Universe Pageant” on Sunday, was less thrilling—a combination beauty and talent “contest” for people dressed as Klingons, Seven of Nine, and a green Orion dancing girl, among other costumes. René and several other Trek actors served as judges of the contest, but none of them spoke from the stage during the event; they simply sat on the sidelines, conferred with one another, and chose the award winners.) Mike and I recorded René at his Q&A panels, and Armin at one of his events, and transcriptions of three of those talks appear on the following pages. For the sake of space, the transcription of the final DS9 panel will appear in the April issue of ORACLE.

All in all, I’m very glad that I attended Dragon*Con. It was great to spend time with René and with my family and friends, surrounded by other lovers of SF and fantasy. Mind-boggling and exhausting…but great!

Read on for transcriptions of several of the Q&A panels:

Right margin photo by Kelly Rowles, The Convention Fans Blog
Photo of autograph table by Mike Krause