I’m a nerd. It’s taken a lot to get to this point; to acknowledge and recognize something that was a source of embarrassment, frustration, and bullying when I was younger. Younger people don’t get it now. Looking like you’re smart or completely falling into a certain lifestyle – including the nerd life – is cool. Of course, as the hipster would say, I got comfortable with being a nerd long before it was cool. But I had not discover the multitude of nerdly wonder that is Dragon Con until 2013.
Dragon Con started in 1987 in Atlanta, Georgia and has grown from 1,200 fans to over 52,000 fans in 2012. Dragon Con covers the universe that is fandom, from video games to television, from cosplay to technological frontiers. This year, everyone I spoke to said it had the largest audience ever and you could tell. Saturday was alive with the crush of the crowd, literally and figuratively, and the costumed easily outnumbering the plain suited watcher.
I started out on Thursday with The Doctor, River Song, Rory, and Clara. They were meeting up with Amelia Pond once they got to the Sheraton, where the TARDIS was landing. This is a true story. More than 10 feet tall and a blue the shade of its name, it was almost heart stopping watching the Doctor put it together. Built by Christopher Marney of the fourintheTARDIS community, it is so accurate he has received cease and desist letters several times from the BBC. They did not believe he had built his own and thought, instead, he was using their copyrighted image. When Sexy was pieced together and the materialization sound started, it was a thing of wonder. It was the same as the excitement I feel when the opening credits of Doctor Who play; the anticipation for the episode, for the adventure, and the sense of longing for the fantasy to be real. It’s kind of hard to tamp that down when you’re standing in front of a scale accurate TARDIS.
I am a writer first of all, but I can never forget that I am also a fan. When you watch something you love over years, even the sounds from the show can embody the excitement you feel towards it. Dragon Con is like that. Images and sounds bring us back to those moments that make us recall television and film so fondly. On Saturday, we got on the elevator with a Jawa. He had found, or meticulously gathered, the sounds that Jawas made, recorded it, and played it while wearing his costume. While Jawas may evoke amusement or hatred towards themselves, especially from C-3PO, there is still something about that image that reminds us of the first time we saw A New Hope.
There is a part of me that wanted to be studious, if you can call trying to spend the majority of Dragon Con on work, whether asking questions at panels or giving my card to agents, being studious. There was a part of me that wanted to spend all day in the Writer’s Track for myself. There was also a part of me that wanted to study the costumes and openly gawk at the talent of humans. In a way, Dragon Con displays the very things that writers use when they have the Doctor exclaim over the versatility and sustainability of humans. Partying until late at night, standing (or sitting) in lines wrapped around hotels in the heat of the day, and still finding time to connect to one another on a level that they don’t normally get the chance to do. I ran into a girl dressed in normal clothes, for her. Another guest came up and asked her what she was dressed as, because he loved her outfit. She informed him that what she was wearing was what she would have chosen to wear in her normal, non-Dragon Con life. The guy had to give her a hug because he didn’t get to show his wild, albeit nerdy, side where he resides. The almost otherwordly attention to detail in costuming and storyline was amazing, showing just how important storytelling can be across all categories. Good storytelling makes a character stick in our minds and even without images, as in books, those who are attracted to that character don’t mind drawing from the book for inspiration in costume creation.
It is almost a circus like atmosphere as people move about. Some are in panels that touch on everything from Gaming to Cosplay design, how to work leather to comedic puppetry, Doctor Who marathons for the 50th to the Tax Implications of the Supreme Court DOMA Decision – yes, there’s even something for the accounting nerd. Some are drinking and gawking. Some are parading around in one of 8 costumes they brought with them for the weekend. Some are regular hotel customers that wonder just what fresh hell they walked into. I did everything but costumes. I watched nearly naked women pose for pictures and applauded them on having the guts to reveal their bodies while I delicately hid my food baby. I watched the most elaborate costumes not made on a movie set walk past me with glee. I plotted my black female sci-fi characters for next year based on the number of groups who were missing their “cast’s” black female sci-fi character. I’m coming to join you, Mal, in 2014!
At Dragon Con, especially in the panels, I did not feel like the biggest nerd in the room. I didn’t have to hold back the fact that I did know an actor’s name and every role he or she has done since 2000. I didn’t feel like an idiot for discussing the finer points of why Elementary is a far cry from Sherlock. I didn’t feel as if my love of tv was a waste of time when I was surrounded by such ardent fans. And, even though I was there to work, I couldn’t stop myself from being a fan when I saw some of my favorite characters brought lovingly to life by people who felt the same as I did about television. I was with my people and I will go back for more.
There is a sense of letting your nerd flag fly at Dragon Con, like minds gather, drinking, dancing, even romancing. If you are from a small town without a sense of nerd community, this is the place to find someone that thinks like you, that loves the things you love. A friend of mine met her late husband at Dragon Con for this very reason. It’s a testament to the things we hide from others when that community is not evident. I saw people from my home city that I didn’t expect to see. We look at each other as if to say, “You like this too?” And when we meet again outside of Dragon Con, we are closer because of the connection we made in nerd heaven. Lifelong friends are acquired on the strength of Cosplay alone. Unbreakable connections are forged as you show up to panel after panel with the same people. And it’s nice to know if that guy dressed like Dr. Venture gets out of line on the dance floor (as one tends to do when they’ve been drinking since 10am), the scary looking guy dressed like Khal Drogo will step in and tell him to cool it. The community that is Dragon Con makes the singularity of writing about television in front of my flickering screen alone not as lonely as it could be. And that’s a very good thing.