For the last few years, I’ve been asked the question: “Was this the best Dragon*Con ever?” My response was usually a shrug. It’s always difficult to top the first of course, back in 1996…or the one in 2003 when–after a 5 year hiatus–Kit and I dropped everything and decided two days before to get tickets and a hotel room and the stars kind of aligned.
But THIS, this was the first Dragon*Con where everything was about ME. Or, rather, where I didn’t spend the whole time worrying about what everyone else was doing, or what I needed to pick up for boyfriends who couldn’t be bothered to make it, or what I was going to wear on what day. I knew the lay of the land, I had my priorities, and all my friends had my cell number. Best of all, I wasn’t afraid — of anyone or anything.
So yeah. Apart from wishing I had taken more pictures, I think maybe this was the best Dragon*Con ever. Without further ado, I bring you Lee’s Top Ten List of Things That Happened at the Best Dragon*Con Ever.
10. Family Reunions Are Like That. It wouldn’t be a convention without being able to reconnect with friends like family and fans around the world. When the attendance is upwards of 60,000, the chances of running into someone you’ve known forever go up significantly. I wouldn’t have been the same without: Eric, Edmund, Stephen (the man I would follow into traffic…and have), Mike, Janet, Lillie, Chuck, Chesya, Liz, Derek, Mike, Kit, Jen, Jim, Sabrina, Jeremy, John Ringo, Miriam, Dave, Bob, John Scalzi, Toby, Sherri, Eddie, Judy, Erin, Penny, Judi, Tina, Amy, Sherry, Marie, Leslie, Kimi, Audie, Kevin, Rebecca, Stephanie, Gray, Fred, Jackie, Brian, Toni, John Everson (I suddenly know WAY too many Johns), Tjuana, April, Katie, Destiny (was it you who yelled my name out the car window?), Lisa, Julie, Heather, Carol, Sam(!), Jeff, Dekker…I could go on. And should. But like I said…60,000 people…and I love them all.
9. Look Both Ways Before Crossing the Universe. So a bunch of us are on our way to the infamous Rainbow Frog Party, and we’re waiting for the light to turn so we don’t get hit by crazy Atlanta driver. Eric James Stone is facing me…and doing funky things with his eyes. He raises his eyebrows, looks at me like a deer in headlights, and then looks to his left. Okay. Someone Of Note is obviously standing behind me. Mike Lee is now looking over my shoulder like he’s swallowed said rainbow frog. Crap! How do I pull this off? I subtly turn and look back up at the skyline like I’m checking hotel location and HOWDY there is Edward James Olmos. Admiral Adama is crossing the street with us. Yeah, we’re rock stars.
8. The Dark-Hunter Companion. After two years of participating, I maintain that the best way to see the Dragon*Con parade is to be in it. When you walk in the parade, you want to carry as little on your person as possible. And when you’re dolled up like a super-cute Goth Chick, there’s really no place to put stuff anyway. I shoved my room key and a credit card in my right boot and made my way over to the Marriott to meet with the Dark-Hunter contingent…but first things first. Starbucks. And as I’m gliding along the down escalator, I curse. STANDING RIGHT THERE is the Doctor Who brigade, looking as fabulous as they did in the parade last year…when I didn’t have my camera. *SOB* Only…is that Eddie standing in the Starbucks line? Eddie who wears pants with lots of handy pockets, and who keeps his camera on his person at all times? I walked up to the middle David Tennant and (blushing mightily) said, “Could I please get my picture with the Doctors?”
“Of course!” he exclaimed, then turned to his party and shouted, “Doctors, assemble!” I’ve never seen anything like it. All the Doctors lined up in formation and instantly whipped out their sonic screwdrivers. It was so perfect I had to laugh…and then realized that about 50 people had pulled out their cameras to take pictures. So I played my part as the Hottest Companion Ever. We look FAN-TASTIC. Steven Moffat, I’ll be waiting for your call. Eddie, you’re my hero.
7. Dancing Queen. Several years ago, Janet & Mike Lee got me to dance in public. It was a White Wolf party back in the heyday of Justin’s mad DJ skillz. Mike handed me a drink that was possibly vodka and orange food coloring and said, “Drink this.” I took a healthy (gross!) swig. “Now go dance,” he instructed. I looked at the people dancing in front of the stage, took another swig (blech!!) and ran after Janet. I felt self-conscious until I realized I was sandwiched in the dark between a guy in leather and a fairy. When I finally emerged it was two hours later, and I realized that I LIKE dancing. And one day I’ll get over myself enough to do it outside Dragon*Con.
So there I was at the Ego Likeness concert, way past my bedtime (1:30 is early for Dragon*Con!), and standing beside Stephen Segal as he watched the table and sold CDs for the band. I had sent a text to Janet that said, “This band is fun! Come dance with me!” but had no response. I was still too chicken to go up there by myself. So when the girl from Hellblinki walked past and said, “Okay, who wants to dance?” I said “Me!” before she even finished asking the question. I lost her in the crowd, and felt self-conscious…until I realized I was dancing in the dark between a storm trooper and a huge robot. I laughed, and got over myself.
6. Remove! Remove! There is nothing like people-watching at Dragon*Con. There is really nothing like being perched on the balcony at the Hyatt Bar with Janet & Mike & Stephen, commenting on costumes and yelling out impromptu scripts for Dalek porn. Observe the Geek in her natural habitat.
5. Moved to Tears. When Eric James Stone offered to share his reading with another author, I jumped at the chance to be his plus-one. I had enjoyed the juxtaposition of Mary Robinette Kowal and John Scalzi at WorldCon so much…there need to be more tag-team readoffs like that. By all accounts, Eric and I did a fantastic job, to an audience of more than twenty people I had guilted into showing up. Turns out, thanks to Sherri, I am now able to speak to crowds of thousands without an ounce of anxiety or preparation. When I’m reading my own fiction, however, I still blush terribly. My face was on fire by the end of that hour. But Lillie said I almost made her cry twice…a compliment that made it all worth it.
4. Hugging Lex Luthor. Dave and Bob said they didn’t know how to make it up to me when I got them passes for Saturday that didn’t require them having to wait in line. I gave them what I thought was adequate recompense — I wanted them to introduce me to their old friend Rosie, a.k.a. Michael Rosenbaum, the actor who made Smallville worth watching. We stood in line at the Walk of Fame until Rosie looked up and yelled, “Ziegler? Oh my GOD!” and came running around the table. He hugged Bob, and Dave, and then stopped right before he swept me up too. “Aw, hell, you get a hug,” I said as Dave introduced us. I still haven’t written that Lex Luthor essay I’ve been meaning to get down…but now I have an even more unique perspective on it. Score.
3. All the Lonely People Come From Isengard. The first day of the Con, Eric and I walked through the three main hotels so that we might get our bearings…and check out who had made an early arrival on the Walk of Fame. I saw Nathan Fillion and Sean Astin — all I ever did see of them that weekend. We did one loop around the room, and then headed back down the stairs to the dulcet sounds of a lovely piano sonata. My three favorite instruments are the piano, the violin, and the muted trumpet. I know how to play none of these, of course, but I admire anyone who does. And some talented convention goer had taken it upon himself to commandeer the piano in the hall. The piece? The Beatles’ “Hey Jude.” The pianist? Saruman.
You just can’t purchase this kind of exquisite irony.
2. Hi, Samantha! Chesya Burke and I were standing in the food court waiting on Eric to get his shake at the Dairy Queen, and I smiled at the beautiful young person in a lovely red kimono next to us. She took one look at my face, glanced at my badge, and exclaimed, “Oh my god! I LOVE you!”
How else does one respond to that? “I love you too,” I said. “What’s your name?” The badge read: Samantha. Well hell, my sister’s name is Sami, and everyone thinks she’s Samantha (instead of Soteria). Finally! A fan name I could remember! We chatted about Dark-Hunters for a little while, and when Eric got served we said our farewells. I was on cloud nine. Having a perfect stranger tell you they love you in the food court can hardly be a bad thing for one’s ego.
Fast forward to the “Hour with Sherrilyn Kenyon” panel, as ever MCd by yours truly. A hand goes up in the back, and I point. The inquirer stands up. I smile like an idiot. “Hi, Samantha!” I yell. It’s always good to see a familiar face. It’s also fun to make that face the third most popular person in the room. What’s the point of fame if you can’t share it?
!. Dancing Queen, redux. …but before I danced with the Hellblinki girl, I danced with John Scalzi. I’m not sure what took the Machines of the Universe so long to throw the two of us together, but I’m glad it finally happened. Yes, there was a Rainbow Frog Party. Yes, there was an incident involving bacon-flavored jellybeans, a conga line, and a room full of sweaty gay men. And yes, I take full responsibility. But you’re not getting any more than that out of me. No, sirree.
Dragon*Con Rules: You have to go down to go up. Don’t drink the blue stuff. And what happens at Dragon*Con stays at Dragon*Con.