Friday, September 7, 2012

Dragon*Con 2012, Continued

(Read part 1 here, if you haven't already!)

We didn't bring the zoom lens to the Eureka panel, so even though we were less than half the distance from the stage as at The Guild's, my pics are blurry messes:
Blech. Sorry.

Colin Ferguson made the panel a non-stop laugh riot, though, and this was easily my favorite event of the whole con. If you ever get the chance to see him in person, GO. He's hysterical.  (Niall & Tembe are wonderful, too; just not as funny.)

At one point this elegantly dressed older lady stood up and thanked Tembe for setting such a wonderful example for other women, and women of color at that, by playing such a strong, intelligent character. Tia then immediately started talking about Nichelle Nichols (Uhura) and what an inspiration *she* had been. It was a beautiful moment, and I know I wasn't the only one choked up by it.

Friday night we took my parents to Pittypatt's Porch, this fabulous Southern restaurant across the street from the Westin (try the pickled watermelon rind! Really!), and by some crazy random happenstance we walked in exactly one minute after the entire cast of The Guild. (!!) So, yeah, I may have spent the whole meal staring three tables over and being told by John to stop staring. Hee.

Saturday I decided to sleep in and skip the parade, while John went out and took pictures. I later learned he had a miserable time of it, though, since he emerged from the hotel into a solid wall of humanity, and it took over 45 minutes for him to navigate two block to the Press area - and once there he still couldn't see much, and then the Parade stopped moving for over 15 minutes while it backed up, and finally John admitted defeat and left. 

My parents also had a rough time: they arrived a full hour early to stake out a good spot, and at the last minute a big group of people elbowed their way in front of my parents so they couldn't see a thing.  >.<

Stuff like that makes me so sad and disgusted with people. I can only hope the rude ones were locals or other tourists, and not Dragon*Con attendees. Considering that most D*C folk are always amazingly polite, I really think that must be the case.
You can see from these pics just had crazy the parade crowds are. It's hard to tell where the parade stops and the onlookers begin!

I think from now on we're swearing off the parade, unless we stand at the very tail end by the Marriott - we've had luck there in years past.

In happier news, on Saturday I got a tattoo!!
Ok, so it's a Sharpie tattoo, but still.

This is the work of artist Jason Thomas of Red Rocket Farms, who I contacted ahead of time to demand/request one. I'm not sure he did any others the whole con, either, so here I am looking smug:
The rocket ship was my idea, but Jason came up with a second tattoo design on his own. I think you can tell he designed it just for me:

Actually, this is just an in-process shot; somehow we neglected to take a finished picture until that night when it'd started to fade (oops!):

A robot and cake - perfect, right? (Have I mentioned that Jason is a fan?)

As you can see, Jason's art and daily comics have an adorably twisted and often morbid sense of humor, so I'm pretty sure you guys will like 'em. ;) 

Plus Saturday night we got to see the premier of his new cartoon, Cradle Me, Sky, which looks pretty amazing. The fates conspired against Jason & his partner Jennifer that night, though, with a room change, disappearing equipment, and a host of other problems, until the delayed premier was to a much smaller crowd than they'd hoped. So do me a favor and go check out the nine minute premier. I, for one, can't wait to see the next chapters.

Also on Saturday we attended the Gadgeteer's Showcase, where steampunk builders and enthusiasts show off everything from jetpacks to giant wings to weaponry. Needless to say, it's awesome.

That's the builder/creator in the cap. He rode this...erm...vehicle? through the whole parade! And I overheard him saying he's worked for Disney for years as a prop builder. Makes sense, right?

 I still don't see how the giant wheel didn't scrape his head. o.0

This group was there showing off their awesome Avengers steampunkery:
I like Thor's hat.

Also there were the Apparition Abolishers, a steampunk Ghostbusters group kind of similar to The  League of Steam. And as luck would have it, I got a photo of the lady Abolisher who would go on to win Best In Show in the big D*C Masquerade costume contest:

 This is Leah, aka "Chloe Seachord," and the secret to her costume's success is all in those wings!

Here they are in action:

Amazing, right? She's using an iPhone to control the wings mechanism. Hit the Abolishers link up there to see lots of information on how the group built it all.

Sunday night was the big night: the Mechanical Masquerade, and time for me to step out once again as Lady Vadore.

I was so nervous I had John loosen my corset twice, and even then I had to pace around the room a bit and take half a Xanax before I could don the mask and goggles. Once we left the room we discovered another problem, though: the dreaded elevator wait.

As anyone who's been to D*C knows, every host hotel has a LOT of floors, and the wait for elevators gets insane. At one point we talked to people on the 37th floor of the Westin who were stranded for over an hour, because every elevator that stopped was full. Even worse, the Westin forbade the use of stairs. Yes, really: an alarm would go off. (But we took the stairs anyway on checkout day with another large group. If we hadn't, I think we'd still be there!)

Elevators are another thing that trigger my anxiety; every time the doors close I have to suppress a moment of panic that we'll be trapped. When we checked in we initially were assigned the 40th floor, but after one shaky elevator trip up I made John get us a lower room. We ended up on the 16th floor, which was a vast improvement, but that meant getting down to the lobby could be a challenge: every elevator going down was already full. (There were 72 floors total.) So...we waited. And I paced. And we waited some more.

 Fortunately after only 10 or 15 minutes we were able to cram into an elevator and get downstairs. (Phew!)

As soon as people saw us and started asking for pictures, my nerves evaporated. Like most things, it's the waiting that's the hardest part. I think my parents were surprised by how many people wanted all of our photos, not just mine, but I was delighted each time to wave them over beside me. (John wore a cap, vest, and goggles, but still managed to duck out of most pictures.)

The Masquerade was getting a late start, though, so rather than stand around at the Westin we decided to trek down to the Marriott - you know, that pace where you have to trade places with people to move? - and wander around a bit.

 (There's that lack of peripheral vision again: could I....BE any closer? Ha!)

If ever there was a test for crowd anxiety, this was it. It was the most crowded night at the most crowded hotel, and I quickly discovered that the lack of movement (due to both the crowd & photo requests) caused my goggles to fog up. When I walk the cooler air gets in on the sides, so I hadn't noticed this problem before. My already limited vision got worse the longer we stood in one place, until I had to cling to John's sleeve to lead me through the thickest areas.

(See how much brighter my mask is here? That was after a quick battery change.)

I'm sure this sounds like some people's worst nightmare, but somehow the crowds at D*C don't really bother me. (Well, there was one point when we got caught right outside the main ballroom just as the Masquerade let out, and we literally couldn't move for about three solid minutes. That made me a bit antsy - but eventually we shuffled along to a slightly clearer spot, and all was well.) There's just so much to see, and overall you do keep moving. If I didn't have John, though, I could see it getting too much too fast.

And, surprise surprise, a LOT of readers found me in costume! Some were too shy to stop me, instead choosing to yell to the person next to them, "THAT'S JEN. FROM CAKE WRECKS!" Most stopped to grab a photo or chat (or attempt to chat, at least) for a few minutes, though.

Here's my favorite photo from that night:

Someone said they saw more kids in costume than ever this year, which baffled me, because I saw almost none! I guess that's because I skipped the parade and was mostly out in the later afternoons and evenings, but I was still pretty bummed I didn't see more. Anyway, aren't these two girls great? When they asked for a picture, I made sure John grabbed one with our camera, too.

After an hour or so we made our way back to the Westin, where we met a bunch more readers, including Little Girl Spock (aka Bryden)'s mom, Rachel! Check out how snazzy she and her guy Wade looked, too:

You can't really tell in this picture, but they're both wearing the coolest steampunked Star Trek insignias. Plus, Rachel was carrying the first steampunk prop I've ever seen that reduced me to a squealing fangirl. I WANT ONE SO MUCH, you guys:

 It's a steampunk tricorder. (!!) Wade made it himself! And it has switches! And different colored lights! AND I REALLY REALLY WANT ONE. (Oh, Joo-ooohn...)

The Mechanical Masquerade itself was nice, but held in a giant dark room that made photos almost impossible:

Plus the music combined with my mask made conversation extra impossible. So after making the circuit through the room once or twice to make sure we met all the readers who were looking for us, we headed back to the Marriott.

In the end we stayed out 'til 2AM in costume - a new record! - and John and I were both nearly crippled from all the walking. Ha! Not to mention the gouges on my face from the mask & goggles took nearly two days to fade completely.


Ben Franklin, Cat Woman & Harley, and a steampunk lady Vader - only at Dragon*Con.

Speaking as a cosplayer (and who knew I'd ever be able to say that?), I have to say I preferred Star Wars Celebration to D*C, even though I had my photo taken far more at D*C. Less crowds actually means more people can see - and therefore appreciate - your costume. As John pointed out, I'm so short that many people never saw me in the masses until I was right next to them. Plus the teeming crowds pushed people past so fast that often they'd only have time for a quick picture; no time to stop and chat. In fact, I think part of the reason Dragon*Con is known for the big spectacle costumes is just because that's the only way you can guarantee people will see you. You know, like this:

I guess it's just a quality-time thing for me; I'd rather have the option of chatting with the person who freaks out over my costume, instead of standing stock still while a steady stream of people file past and snap pics along the way. But that could be just me. (And it was still fun, so don't think I'm complaining!)

Now, speaking as a cosplay photographer, I'll take Dragon*Con over any other con all day, any day. You just can't beat it. Wait'll you see my next posts - you'll see what I mean!

And now, my friends, I will end this insanely long post, because it really is getting insanely long. If you're still reading this, thanks for making it this far! I hope you've been able to enjoy Dragon*Con vicariously through my ramblings. 

Next, stay tuned for the best Dragon*Con costumes! (And watch my Flickr account for all the pics I don't post here on the blog; I'll be updating it as each post goes up!)


  1. If you have an issue with elevators (I do too), call the hotel a couple weeks before and request a low floor. You don't have to explain why, unless you want to. Nine times out of ten I've gotten a low floor when requested. I've stayed on the second floor of the Sheraton for the past 3 Dragon*Cons and never used an elevator. The Sheraton also has many fewer floors than the other hotels.

  2. I seriously admire your bravery, Jen- not to mention your endurance and general geeky awesomeness. And OHMAHGOSHTRICORDERENVY. After reading about your epic Con adventures, I've decided to bring out the Steampunk costume that's been hiding in my closet and head to a convention near my college. I'll probably be going alone, and it'll be an epic adventure. Thanks for being your oh-so-inspiring self!

  3. I love the long posts! i told my mom i was exctatic to hear that "Jen was posting twice today!!" which resulted in "who's Jen?" a sigh and a "you know, from epbot!" and my mom oooohhhhing your basically a celebrity at my house! love epbot keep it up!

  4. Great story - but tell me more about Pittypats PLEASE?? I was in ATL for a conference this summer and wanted to go there. But I was conference organizer - so I wasn't actually allowed to leave the hotel. :-)

    I SOOOO love your Vadore costume, and I'm so glad it's turned out so well for you.

  5. I was in the Westin as well... the elevators weren't as MUCH of a mess if you were on a lower floor.

    My kid was in costume! If you do a Google image search for Sweetie Belle Dragoncon and look for the fat girl in a purple wig and corset with the little girl in a lavender wig, that's us (we were my little ponies). She was also a Phoenix at one point, and she wore an adorable purple steam punk gown to the mechanical masquerade (you can see that one on Michael Blitch's photography website).

  6. Again, Kudos on the going into the throng thing, and I got SO excited... There was a *comic-con* RIGHT NEAR ME! I thought "surely one all the way up here can't be too crowded." Then I looked at the website and realized that this was Not the con I was looking for. The kids and I were pretty disappointed. The only attendee they were even remotely interested to see was the actor that voiced Brock in Pokemon. Turns out it was an anime con, and their advertising was really off. Oh well, I guess I'll have to wait a bit longer to see if I can hack it. (:

  7. @ Maggie - Ahh, Pittypats is amazing! It's gorgeous inside - all brick walls and antique furniture, and the staff are SO NICE. You've got to go. Get the porkchops with peanut sauce. :)

    @ Tara/Bunny - You're right about it being a lot better on the lower floors; that one night (and check out day, of course) were the only real problem times we had using the elevators, and it was nice to always be the first ones off going up. (The lowest floor with rooms on it is 15, crazily enough!)

  8. My secret to full elevators is to call one going up and then ride it down. Works at Otakon!

  9. Jen, I'm totally not trying to be the one to be snippy, but I just wanted to draw your attention the fact that "crippled" is a really ableist term. We in the disabled community really prefer that able-bodied people don't use it, both about us and themselves. It's been used against us as a slur for years. While I love you to death and am absolutely sure you didn't mean it like that, I just wanted to point out to you that is has a long history. Love you! <3

  10. @ Got Apples - Eek, I was certainly aware that using the term as a noun was offensive, but I've never heard of the verb being a problem - since it just means "to make someone unable to move/walk." Since it's not a label, I'm surprised anyone would take offense - but I'm glad you know I didn't mean anything hurtful by it!

  11. I like how you tilt your head in photos- it makes lady Vader very cute!

  12. OMG I want that vehicle! Desperately.

    Well done on the whole convention, Jen. It sounds like a weird thing to say about something that's fun, but just because something's fun doesn't mean it can't be hard work, and I think you've done so well. I'd have crashed after one afternoon!

  13. Oh, for the love of Bowie, it's a LEGITIMATE WORD that you used in a PROPER CONTEXT, not as a slur, much less a NOUN. Pick your battles, don't *look* for them.

    I don't mean to sound like the nerdy fox crap-taking the geeky grapes, but the more I see/hear about what a logistical nightmare D*C is, the less I burn to go to it. It's more of a smoulder now; if I wanted to be stuck in crowds for ages at a time, I'd still be doing Comic Con. What's the use of coming all that way to see and be seen in costumes if one can't see them? And the Nerd Parade is easily half the reason I wanted to go!

    I've known a lot of people who have spent tons of money to go to it, only to be unable to see/attend what they came for, and dozens of folk who have had shows/events they were conducting that were completely screwed up/over by the Programming staff (shows late as hell, or cancelled altogether). And isn't it against the LAW to prevent people from using the stairs in a hotel?!

    But I'm glad you had a good time, girl, and I hope to meet you at a Celebration someday!

    I'm going to a con here in San Diego in October called Comic Fest; it's being thrown by/for the people who started San Diego Comic Con ("Comic Con International" can bite my shiny metal ass!) and old-timers like me. It's gonna be less than 5,000 people, but it's gonna be more like a high school/family reunion than a regular Con. People I haven't seen in YEARS will be there, some as guests! Oh yeah, K'Lannagh WILL be making her Klingon presence known! ;)

    Cheers, thanks a lot,


  14. Jen, I believe the inner ring of the steam punk vehicle does not rotate. But the whole contraption reminds me of dream finder's flying machine from journey into imagination.

  15. Love your long posts and pictures!!! Can't wait for more!

  16. Love it! Oh, and the creepy lady with the feathers is my friend Tracy. She Also works for Netherworld, the big haunted house in Atlanta.

  17. We disappeared off of Google image! I can send a pic if you want, she really was adorable as a pony. She's a big fan of cake wrecks, too, I wish we had run into you at some point. Unfortunately, con kind of overwhelmed her, and we spent a lot of time in the room watching DragonCon TV. Next year I am in the Hilton, and I am bringing my (totally not a geek) mom to babysit.

    Have you heard the rumors about the Westin? The fire Marshall saw the dealer rooms and had a total fit, so they have to move the dealer rooms to America's Mart next year, which might not be such a bad thing. I'd love to shop without needing a healthy dose of Valium first. But now that they'll have so much more space in the Marriott, rumor has it that the Westin won't be a con hotel anymore.


  19. Just to encourage people who think they can't put together a costume, the lady in the creepy black-feathered headdress costume was on one of the Costuming Track panels that I attended. (I have her name in my notes...somewhere). Anyway, she says she doesn't sew. If you notice the shiny gold bustle that you can just see in Jen's photo, this is actually the skirt to a girl's fancy dress....and the lady is wearing the *whole* dress, with price tag still attached! The arms of the dress are tied around her waist and tucked under her corset. Don't be afraid to go to thrift stores and mash together clothes to make and outfit! Jen, it was great to meet you briefly; wish I could've caught you on a day when I was Novice Hame instead of a 13th cent. Welshwoman, and you could've seen my son's robot costume in person. Love the buttons, though. Thanks! Oh, as for seeing kids-- we left each night around 8pm, since D*C gets a little less kid-friendly after dark (and we had to drive home each night). I bet most kids were winding down in the evening and not so visible.

  20. Man, see, I have this intense aversion to both casinos and conference centers, so I can't even imagine spending so much time there! I find that I want someone to design a place for cons in the middle of nowhere, full of space and rooms with perfect lighting, set up the wazoo as far as tech goes. And no nauseating carpet! You should work on this, Jen - architect to the sci fi world. :)

  21. Please, please don't stop the rambling and pics! As someone who, due to health problems, will never be able to attend something like this, your personal perspective makes it *so* much fun for me! I can picture what it would be like to be there! So, please, if you want to change your posts, make them longer and add more pics! :-)

  22. @ Tara - Oooh, really? I hadn't heard those rumors! But really, anything that clears out more space in the Marriott would be welcome, even if it means they don't use the Westin anymore!

  23. The elevators are just one of the fabulous things about staying at the Sheraton- it's more spread out so you may walk down some really long hallways, but I've never seen a full elevator (other than people checking in/out with tons of stuff) and it's only a few floors so not so long crammed in the elevator.

    Seriously, the Sheraton is amazing. I almost hate to talk about it for fear I'll never be able to get a room there again if everyone else finds out how great it is. The staff are phenomenal, and I'm going to stop before I sound like a commercial.

    The parade... I don't know what can be done about it, but as one of the participants I agree the last few years it's gotten out of hand. Some areas the crowd spills in the street so much there's barely room for the parade vehicles to pass, and I've heard many tales of people who got there early being blocked at the last minute, like your parents. It was a strangely unenthusiastic crowd this year, too. Normally being in the parade is highlight of my weekend, but it just felt like walking past 60,000 quiet, unsmiling strangers this year. By Marriott is not great, you see everyone when they're tired, sweaty, only the goal of end of parade in sight... and some grumpy costumers who can't get to our reward of boy scouts with cold water bottles and indoors to air conditioning because of crowds blocking us.

  24. The parade crowds were pretty crazy this year. My group (Captain America USO girls) was right near the front of the parade and we still came to a standstill near the end, because so many spectators had crowded the back of the Marriott and basically made it a single-file exit. As a participant, it was still great fun, but I felt bad for the later groups who had to wait around much longer than we did.

    It's become progressively less fun to costume at D*C as the crowds have gotten more and more intense. Nights were always crazy, but now you can't wander around in a daytime costume like you used to be able to-- it's just too crowded.

    That said, I still had an awesome time this year, and I'm bummed I never found you!

  25. Count me as one of those people who was looking for ya, but never found you. Maybe because I'm only about an inch taller than you?

  26. Hi Jen--I wanted to say thanks, as you stopped to pose for a picture for me and my neighbor even though you were on your way to change out your batteries and defog your mask. The costume was gorgeous in person (and so was your Mom's.)

  27. That robot in a cake costume sharpie tattoo made me squeal. Too adorable.

    And I'm always happy to read your D*C coverage, regardless of how long the posts are. Maybe some day I'll get to go to a convention too.

  28. Jen, thank you SO MUCH for sharing your experiences. And John's of course. (Hi, John!) LOVE the pics, and your parents are, I am sure you know, aMAZing!! I'm so proud of you for going outside your comfort zone and having FUN with it! I'm really enjoying the posts,and I also have serious envy over than utterly fantastic Steampunk Tricorder!!!! I hope you are feeling better?

  29. Just before I read this, my sister sent an email letting me know Colin Ferguson will be in Orlando next month.

  30. I don't live near any big cons, so I love reading about your experiences. It sounds like so much fun and maybe one year I'll make a trip to a big con. There was a small one here this year, but I chickened out on going because I couldn't find anyone else to go with me.

    I love that your parents go too and enjoy it, that is so awesome! Your mom's costumes are so pretty too. She does a great job. Can't wait for the next post!

  31. I am going to second what trulymadlygeekly said about the Sheraton. I stayed at the Hilton my first year at Con because it was the only hotel I could get a room at booking so late, and it wasn't even at the Con rate (luckily I was in a room with 4 other people--that was also the last time I did that!). Ever since then I have stayed at the Sheraton and I don't think I will ever go anywhere else. I've never had to wait more than 2-5 minutes for an elevator going up or down. The staff is awesome and enthusiastic, and they dress up! There is always fun music playing in the lobby. It is not too crowded. The rooms are fine. Stuff was always clean when I wanted it to be. And the way the hotel is organized keeps all the crowds for panels/registrations/parties out of the way of people who are just there trying to get to their rooms. My only complaint this year was that they had changed their photography policies in their GORGEOUS central courtyard/pool area, so a few photoshoots I was in got borked, but as a guest of the hotel I was zero complaints. Also they do a "soft release" of D*Con rooms EARLY (like, I booked my 2013 room for them in July), so it rewards people (like me) who like to plan ahead and be aware of things, and who do not like to wait for the Passkey insanity.

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  33. Jenjenjenjen! The Paralympics closing ceremony! You have to get hold of footage of the steampunky epicness! Sorry for overexcitement, but I'm seeing it on TV right now...

  34. Someone beat me to it, but you DO have to check out the closing ceremony for the Paralympics - I SO now want a giant grasshopper that was made from a VW Beetle....and I want a scrap metal horse...and the giant fish and the giant sailing ship........and a huge dragonfly on top of a bicycle - it was brilliant!

  35. I hate when people muscle their way in front of you when you've staked out a parade viewing location.

    We saw the Electric Lights parade in Disney World back in April. We got there early, got a seat right up front. The floats would be mere feet from us. Then these kids came up and pushed in front of my kids so they couldn't see. I tried being nice and accommodating them but every time they'd move to let me kids see, they'd move back 30 seconds later.

    We finally figured out who their parents were. They were a few feet down not caring where their kids had gotten off to. My wife asked the kids' parents to please take them away since we were there first and their kids were obstructing our kids' view. The women (reluctantly I'm sure) obliged.

    It was really hard not to let the actions of some inconsiderate folks ruin the magical parade that Disney put on.

  36. On the dealer's room/Westin plans for next year, here's what the staff told us dealers:

    All three dealer areas (2 exhibit halls a 1 dealer room) are moving to the america's mart. They'll take up 2 floors there. That building is connected to the westin by skybridge, and is 1 block from the hyatt.

    They also plan for there to be *more* programming in the westin next year.

  37. My six year old son, who is a huge fan of all things Star Wars, wandered in while I was reading hits. He gives you costume his official stamp of approval, noting only that you ought to have a red light saber. I think your costume is amazing! I love to marvel at the creativity of others - sometimes it even encourages my own.

  38. The lady in the "Creeeepy" costume is Paige, she ran the "Desperate Steampunk" panel on Sunday. It was AMAZING to see how they made their costumes and gadgets.



  40. I was one of the shy people... I saw you in your Lady Vadore costume and was soooo nervous to say hi. My friend shoved me to you after I said "There's Jen!!!" and I'm glad he did. The awkward conversation was totally worth it. I was more nervous to meet you than any of the Celebrity guests!


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