Every Labor Day weekend in September, legions of fans in nearly every genre you could think of descend upon Atlanta, Georgia to attend Dragon*Con. Though technically four days long - Friday through Monday - the party typically starts Thursday afternoon and lasts well until the final bleary-eyed stragglers slink quietly towards the airport to head back to waiting reality. But conventions of this sort happen everywhere, right? They’re a dime a dozen. So why should horror fans care, when there are other such cons with a strictly horror focus? Should Dragon*Con really matter to horror fans?
The answer is YES, it should. And I’m going to tell you why. But first, some background.
What Is Dragon*Con?
Dragon*Con is the largest multi-media, popular culture convention focung on science fiction and fantasy, gaming, comics, literature, art, muc, and film in the universe - or at least that is how they describe themselves. Those of us who attend sometimes refer to it by a different name: Nerdy Gras; four days for us all to come together, to geek, drink and be dorky.
Unlike many cons that focus on a ngle topic or are primarily comprised of dealer halls, D*C is multi-platformed and features everything from live muc and fan panels to seminars and autograph gnings, and everything in between. Guests range from costume and special effects degners, to actors and actresses, authors and screenwriters, pop culture celebrities and literally thousands of amateur degners and costumers.
Why Does It Matter to Horror Fans?
Though not explicitly stated in their self-description, horror is a BIG part of D*C. Several fan tracks - a fan track being a particular genre of programming - feature elements of horror, including the Dark Fantasy track (sponsored by Netherworld, a local haunted house), Apocalypse Ring (aka the Zombie track), the Paranormal track (real life applications of everything that goes bump in the night), the Whedonverse track, Independent Film (featuring nightly film festivals) and the X-track (tv and film of the paranormal with a touch of wacky conspiracy). Even the Costuming track touches on special effects make-up.
Every night, costumers roam the lobbies and convention halls of the five host hotels. Though there are a fair bit of comic and sci-fi costumers, there are also loads of horror costumers. Vampires, werewolves, demons, dragons and zombies of every way shape and form stalk the night among the requite half-naked women and Star Wars Stormtroopers. They even blend and blur the lines of fandom: zombified Star Trek red-shirts, newly mangled Scooby Gangs, vampire comic heroes are just as likely as the cadres of Slave Leia’s. The Apocalypse Ring track even throws a yearly party: the Zombie Prom!
A quick peek at this past con’s programming schedule makes clear that horror fans would (and should) be interested in Dragon*Con. The Horror Icons panel featured Robert Englund and Tony Todd, both of whom were available outde of their panels for photo ops and autograph gnings. Previous guests on this same panel were Kane Hodder and Doug Bradley. Here is just a sampling of panels and discusons that would tempt the horror fan:
Sell Your Own Damn Movie
Lloyd Kaufman will talk about his own experiences in the 40 years he has been selling his own movies.
UFO’s Invade Hollywood
The fascination of alien invaon is explored, with a close-up look at the films of the ‘50’s.
Books vs Movies
From the pages of some of literature’s greatest stories, to their translation to the lver screen.
A little cheeze with your Syfy?
Start out the con with some cheese! Do you love the strange movies Syfy puts out there? Or do you HATE them? Now’s the time to talk about it.
Pimp My Zombie
FX experts (feat. a The Walking Dead make-up artist) discuss the creation of the undead, and offer make-up application to prepare you for the Zombie Walk/Prom.
Q&A with some of horror’s most legendary film stars! T. Todd, L. Henriksen, R. Englund, J. Anderson.
The Magic of Halloween
An exploration of the lore, the mysteries, and the customs of October 31st.
State of Fear
The current state of horror fiction and speculation as to what will be next.
Beyond that, there’s the Independent Film track and festival. Nightly showings of independent films - most of them horror or sci-fi - and panel after panel on every topic a new filmmaker would need, from costuming and make-up to producing, filming and casting. Coupled with dozens of chances to meet-up and network with prospective filmmakers and writers from around the world, Dragon*Con can me great things for the horror genre.
We’ve all had a chance here and there to whine about the stagnating horror genre, rife with remakes, reboots and really bad sequels. The genre has blown open on more than one occaon with the introduction of a low-budget film (a la Blair Witch) breathing some new life into a stagnating pool of retreads. With a yearly chance to network and screen new films, Dragon*Con can be a horror fan’s dream.
Have Fun & Don’t Be a Dick
Want to come? Great! We’d love to have you. But, there are a few things you should remember.
Are you a hardcore horror fan? Yes? Then guess what? You’re a geek. Deny it all you want, but you are. Film posters, props, masks, collecting obscure titles on DVD and attending midnight screenings of clasc films, doung yourself in stage blood and zombifying with make-up and masks: all gns of utter geekdom. Just because your chosen fandom is a little darker and a little bloodier than most, it means precisely dick to the D*C crowds. You are a geek and you are one of us.
There is no hierarchy among the geeky masses. We may not all dig the same things but we understand each other to a certain degree. We love what we love and we just want to have fun and celebrate it in a fun, crazy and occaonally drunk sort of way. So don’t be a dick. Don’t hassle the Trekkies, don’t leer at the Leias or eye the Ivys, don’t talk shit to the Browncoats and don’t start a fight with the 501st. Have fun and relax; we’re all there to have fun and geek out in our own little ways.
Make friends, make contacts, and make Dragon*Con a little darker than it has been in the past. If you’re ready to come on down, go for it. I’ll be the one in the Camp Crystal Lake t-shirt, drinking out of the coffin-shaped flask and hanging out at the Troma table in the dealer’s hall. I’ll meet you there, with fangs on!