Dragon Con 2018
dragon con op-ed

Dragon-Chronicles Pt. 1: 10 Tips From 10 Years

Happy pre-con week, y’all! Pre-con is a term I just made up that encapsulates the one week period occurring directly before a major sci-fi/horror/movie convention ie. Star Wars Celebration, Spooky Empire, SDCC, and most prominently- DRAGON CON (or if you’re costume-mash-up-guy running around in a dragon mask and a Star Trek Captain’s Uniform “DRAGON KHAAN!!!”). It’s basically crunch week for us costumed dudes and dudettes who love things like Star Wars, Jurassic Park, and Ghostbusters (even the Reboot) so much that we spend almost half our year’s salary meticulously piecing together screen accurate “cosplays” (yes I’m going to use that word a few times, get used to it), booking hard to get rooms at host hotels, asking for time off from our day jobs, and socking away side cash to blow at the merch booths and inside the artist alley.

It’s kind of a big deal.

If you’re new to con, it can also be extremely stressful and overwhelming. (This is the part where I explain to you that everyone refers to Dragon Con simply as “Con” as in “Hey! Have a great con!” “Is this your first con?” “Gotta go up to go down at con!” I’ll explain that one later in when I get to tip #8). I’ve called Dragon Con a submarine time-machine in past write ups and I still feel this way. It’s all encompassing. It is magic. I’m not religious but when I go to Dragon Con I convert, not to theism but to humanity (humanism?). Dragon Con is the one weekend out of the year where I see people connecting, loving, welcoming, and laughing the way every dystopian cyberpunk society wanted things to go before it all went south. It’s like walking into Westworld, but only in the first episode, during the really fun parts, without all the murder. Or buying a four day ticket to Jurassic Park with a guarantee that no dinosaurs or humans will be harmed during your stay. It’s Ready Player One but IRL. MARTA (Atlanta’s attempt at public transit) becomes the Hogwarts Express. Peachtree Street flickers in the light to reveal the pathway to Rivendell. The food court under the Hyatt transforms into the mess hall from every Alien movie but absolutely nothing bursts out of anyone’s chest and all the food is delicious.

That’s why I’m here to help you. I’ve been going to this great big ol’ shindig for the last nine years. This year I will be earning by Ten Year Tenure (this is also a name I have come up with on the spot and I like it very much congrats to me). I wish they made a special badge for the occasion, or maybe a commemorative pin. You know what? I’m going to make myself one, because that’s the beauty of Dragon Con. In a nutshell- your wildest fantasies, imaginings, and cock-eyed creations that stay locked inside your head 361 days a year are able to pop out into tactile reality and stretch their wings. It’s absolutely inspiring.

This is where I step in and drop some knowledge. These are essentially a few lessons I’ve learned over the last almost decade of attending this massive convention in Atlanta, Georgia.  I consider the following tips to be universal truths to hold onto while attending this heavily trafficked event (They’re expecting 85,000 people this year). Hang onto these tips like little life rafts of wisdom, during rocky waters, if you will.

Whether you’re a seasoned vet when it comes to convention weekends and you’ve literally already packed both your suitcases (I know these people exist, I will be one the day I figure out how to pack everything into only two suitcases) or you just bought your first Saturday Only Badge, these tips will apply to you. There are just some facts about Dragon Con that are undeniable; there are thousands of people, the sprawl covers 2-5 miles of boiling hot Atlanta concrete, long lines can lead to madness, food can be hard to find, and there are literally five hundred amazing things happening all at once. Whether you’ve got full blown OCD like me or you’re fucking Splinter from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and can somehow maneuver through sardine-can crowds without having a major meltdown- these tips still apply to everyone. So soak ‘em up, and enjoy!

Here goes!

Tip #1 Bring a backpack!

(Maintain order and routine as much as possible.)

I just mentioned it above but I’ll repeat it for everyone, mainly because repeating things out loud is one of things Obsessive Compulsive Disorder makes you do- Guys, I have OCD.  It’s not the fun kind of OCD that people refer to having that affects their interior design leanings like “Oh I’m so OCD I need all my books to face the same direction!” It’s the kind that prevents me from leaving  my house sometimes because I’m stuck repeating cleaning and grooming rituals, looking for an article of clothing, or obsessing over not being able to find something I think I need in order to start my day. Oh sure it can be fun when I’m taking perfectly aligned photos for my Instagram or organizing my work desk for Yes Have Some Podcast, but most of the time OCD is a duplicitous little stinker.

If you have any levels of this disorder in your life (like a lot of creative people do) and you’re also going to be attending Dragon Con this coming weekend (especially if you’re staying in a hotel) please remember to bring a sturdy backpack. Also, please remember to pack said backpack with everything you could possibly need.

It doesn’t have to be fancy but sure why not stick some buttons and pins that reflect how deeply you feel about the cancelation of Firefly or your dissatisfaction with The Last Jedi on whatever satchel you’ve selected? Your bag is your everything this weekend. It’s an extension of your personality as well as a space to keep everything you’ll need while trekking through busy walkways and standing in long lines, often outdoors in high temperatures. Use your chosen bag to hold all the things that you need before walking out of your hotel room. Pack it tight the night before, so you can get out early and see the morning sights and sounds of con, because they only happen once a year.

Always Remember:

  1. Wallet
  2. Room Key
  3. Phone
  4. Dragon Con Badge
  5. Snacks (stay tuned for more on this)
  6. Jacket (it gets cold and it rains sometimes)
  7. Phone charger (things die)
  8. Sharpie (you never know when you’ll run into the author you just got so into or the star of that thing you can’t stop watching)
  9. Deodorant/mini febreeze bottle/baby powder (this one might just be for me but seriously, things get stanky)
  10. Advil (you’re dogs gon’ be barkin’)

Feel free to make your own variations on my list here. If you need an inhaler (which by the way, I think is so cool because it’s like you’re always doing low-key Eddie Kaspbrak cosplay) bring that, and any other meds you require, along with you too.  Because once you leave your room you may be gone all day. What I’m basically saying here is Dragon Con is a big sprawling, constant flowing current of people and activities. For you Georgia natives, I’ll liken it to the Little Hooch at White Water, a looping river inner tube ride at a local park I frequented all throughout childhood. I used to ride it all day. This is what I know about the Little Hooch- Once you step a toe in, the current is gonna move you. Go with it, don’t fight it or you’ll fall down. Find a friend on a tube, latch on, and let the current take you.  

The same exact rules apply at Dragon Con. Allow the costumed cavalcade of characters to carry you away, just make sure you’ve packed everything you need  in your backpack, before venturing out into the glorious unknown. Got it? Dope, dudes.

Thanks for tuning into this first installment of the YHS Dragon-Chronicles! I have nine more vital tips to roll out over the next nine days so stay tuned if you’re ready to win Dragon Con 2018 with me, oh yeah and Stay Stressed, y’all!

-Abigail Gardner

@Splash_Mommy – Instagram

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