Musings for Dragoncon 2018
The time has come once again; Labor Day weekend is upon us. And if you're a nerd who lives in the Southeastern US, that should mean one and only one thing to you:
For me, it's a big deal. I've been going for a decade, and even in the past 10 years I've seen massive growth in the convention, which was already pretty big deal when I started attending. Last year saw over 80,000 attendees, which is still smaller than the big guys like the Comic Cons in San Diego and New York, but you wouldn't know it to be there. Dragoncon takes up several whole blocks of downtown Atlanta, and yet it is still very 'intimate', which is a nicer way of saying 'squished in'.
It's crowded, yes. But crowded in a wonderful, vital way. Personally, I'm someone who doesn't enjoy crowds 99% of the time, and yet nothing makes me happier than mingling among thousands of like-minded geeks at Dragoncon for 5 days. In the end, the key there is 'like-minded'.
As I've said before, going to Dragoncon is an extremely rewarding experience for nerds, because it's a space of acceptance and celebration. For a group of people who have often felt marginalized because of the way they act or dress or speak, that's a really important thing to have in your life. I really wish that I had been able to attend when I was much younger, back in the old days when being a nerd wasn't quite as chic as it is today (though whether or not our hobbies are genuinely accepted is a debate worth having--I won't claim nerds aren't picked on today like they used to be). But, even if I didn't get to have the escape and affirmation when I was younger, I get to revel in it now.
And of course, when you're younger, it's hard to enjoy the nightlife at Dragoncon! It has a reputation, well-deserved, as a 'party con'. There is music, drinking, noise, revelry, and activity all night long starting Thursday night right up into Monday afternoon. It is a madhouse...but it's our madhouse, and that's what matters.
There are still sometimes problems. Last year, a couple of guests were injured when chairs were thrown from a balcony. A couple of years ago, two non-attendees in the area made waves in the national media for doing a 'cosplay' of the September 11th attacks. Harassment and other issues occur, especially among female cosplayers. Terrible people exist at Dragoncon, just like they do elsewhere.
But at Dragoncon, the fans rally past the bad. If you attend, or have attended, or are going to attend, you are part of a community. Maybe even something beyond that--part of a family. There is a huge amount of respect, love, and charity on display every year. It is remarkable to me that a group of 80,000 drunken people can, at the same time, party so hard and be so positive and wonderful. Its a testament to all of the positives of nerd culture.
This is why we can have nice things, folks.
Be excellent to each other!