Dragoncon, Day Two

Unbeknownst to me, there was an emergency in the night. Sean’s wife was rushed to the emergency room with what turned out to be a ruptured appendix. I woke up and everyone was gone, so I packed up my stuff and did the zombie nails, unknowing.
And Sean still managed to come back mid-morning to take me to the train station so I could still make the convention. Major friend points, folks. Sean, unfortunately, never made it to the show. Lisa had emergency surgery that night, and then made it home, where I understand she is recovering nicely. Any blame for this must fall directly on my ghost, who apparently followed me to Atlanta…
Back to the train for me, and I wrassled Monstro to the Hilton. See, I had had a reservation at the Castleberry Inn, which was two train stops away from the show and only $69 a night. I was to share with my friend and fellow author Jay Smith, whom I had known for eons online but never met in person. Jay is the creator and lead writer of HG World, a zombocalypse radio drama issued by podcast, and if you have a fondness for zombies, radio shows or good fiction, you absolutely must listen to his show.
In the days leading up to Dragoncon, Jay and I were faced with a slight problem: The Castleberry’s idea of a double room is one bed. This is a touch awkward for a married man and an engaged woman. We’re all grownups, and Jay’s wife fortunately had a giggle fit over it. But we were thrilled when Keith DeCandido and Wrenn Simms offered to share their room with us in a host hotel. A room with multiple beds.
This led to a momentous occasion: I met Keith DeCandido. See, Keith and I have been friends for years online; maybe as much as a decade, I think. And we have been at the same convention a number of times, but we had never met. At one Dragoncon, we were scheduled for readings at the same time, directly across the hall from each other, and still managed not to meet.
That’s just as well, because that was the infamous moment when the string broke on my pants right after the reading and they fell to my knees. In a crowded hallway full of my fans. Sigh.
So when I showed up at the room, Keith shouted, “We meet!” I replied that at any moment the earth would reverse its gravitational pull, because clearly we had violated the laws of physics.
It turns out that Keith, Wrenn, Jay and I made a great team. I had a feeling it would be fine, since we’d all known each other for so long. But that’s online, and as all of us know, online friendship does not always hold up in what we laughingly call The Real World.
But the four of us really clicked, and I spent half the trip laughing. We laughed about apples, and the Freddie Krueger colors on the bedspreads, and the fact that both Keith and I owe HG World scripts to Jay. I laughed like a madwoman all weekend. It was wonderful.
Finally it was time for my first panel: 2012. Again. I wonder what the Apocalypse Rising track will call this panel next year, after Dec. 21, 2012 passes and we’re all still alive, surviving on the carrot-based economy. (Ducking Selina Rosen; that’s a story from 2010…)
The other panelists were all scientists, disaster experts and authors. We had a good laugh that four of the six were from St. Louis, disaster capital of the nation. Seriously, I love St. Louis as much as anyone, but we have floods, tornadoes, earthquakes and sometimes we get the tail end of a hurricane. All we need is a brushfire or tsunami and we have all the major disasters this earth can give us.
So imagine my state of mind when beepers and phones keep going off among my emergency-management co-panelists, because there are tornadoes in St. Louis. And my son is there at home.
As soon as the panel was over, I was on the phone. Of course, the boy didn’t answer. Fortunately I had planned ahead and asked my neighbor to be on call for him while I was gone and Jimmy was at work. Bless her, she went over to our house and woke up the boy – nothing but shouting awakens the Great Sleeping Teenager. He spent the evening with the neighbors, just in case of badness.
I am so blessed in friendship.
Jay and I then wandered the show for a while. We visited the VIP consuite, then meandered through the art show – which had some really great pieces. My philosophy on fantasy art is simple: I search for artists who can draw a female figure that is not an eroticized lingerie warrior or an ethereal untouchable goddess. Nearly all fantasy art falls into one or the other. Women either kick ass in a G-string and high heels, or they’re so improbably beautiful and perfect that no one could touch them, with supermodel figures to boot.
It is rare to find art that seems based on real women, and when I find one, I pocket the card to recommend to my publishers. There’s also the usual creepy art, which is usually an expression of someone’s really serious mental problems or issues with women – some of that was blatant this year. But there were some really nice pieces as well, and the raised-paper designs I’ve drooled on for years. There was one image of ghoulish faces reflected in a shovel that I really wish I’d picked up when I had the chance, or at least noted the artist so I could pick it up later. (Anyone remember who that was?)
I briefly lost Jay in the massive crowd that fills the Marriott. If you haven’t experienced Dragoncon, you might not be familiar with this. On the main levels of the Marriott, the central hotel of the show, you will find a constant sea of humanity in every possible costume. It used to be the Hyatt’s job to host this gigantic undulating mass, but the fire marshal put his foot down about the crowds and the dangers in that smaller space, and somehow the vast majority emigrated to the Marriott.
The plus side of this is that if you want to do some of the best people-watching in the nation and/or spy some really fantastic costumes, the best place in the world is the Marriott Marquis in Atlanta. The downside is that getting across the Marriott any evening at Dragoncon is like swimming upstream through a tsunami.
Finally, Jay and I ended up visiting a panel about killing characters, a subject near and dear to our hearts. Thus I fulfilled my goal to attend at least one panel I was not on, often a difficult task at Dragoncon.
By walking in the door, I ended up on two more panels; Nancy Knight asks and I obey, because her panels are always thoughtful and the audiences intelligent. I really love the panels at Dragoncon, and I wonder if all those folks waiting endless hours in line to see celebrities trade jokes in a ballroom know what they’re missing. I remember the days when there was a large ballroom set aside for a writer to speak, and it was full. (Harlan Ellison, in case you were wondering.)
That panel Friday night was filled to bursting with people standing in the back and sitting on the floor, including me. Dragoncon may be mostly a media con at this point, but there is still a strong and lively contingent that’s there for the books. Bless them all.
Jay and I had just returned to the room when we heard from Keith and Wrenn that they were in the hotel bar. Never one to turn down a drink, we joined them. It was loud, but we were happy and oh, the laughter. I said before that the four of us really clicked, and that’s when it happened. I laughed so much my throat hurt. Our personalities just meshed that well.
Which is a good thing, since we were sharing a room for four days.


  1. I need to point out to you that we DID have a brush fire - well actually a forest fire this past summer due to the heat and dryness. It was in the Mark Twain Forest near Bixby. http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/metro/mark-twain-forest-fire-partly-contained/article_6662bf78-c20e-11e1-9586-0019bb30f31a.html

    Let's pass on the Tsunami though!


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