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Dragon*Con 2013 After Action Report

 Dragon*Con 2013 was a mixed bag for me.  I suppose this is not a surprise.  I had more baggage this summer than the car full of cosplay gear I loaded up for Atlanta, between the finishing of the move, the financial juggling that moving in and financing the new place, and the hoops of joining a new Reserve service and unit put me in need of a vacation, but not in the best place to excel while there.
In the interest of trying to create the best terrain for successful cons, I'm going to lay out what worked, what didn't and what themes I need to ponder for D*C 2014.
The Good:
The trip down and back - I love the ability to see a bit of the country and travel without hard deadlines.  Warping straight from work to con is a bit jarring.
This year I was able to visit a couple of battlefields (Kings Mountain and Alamance Battleground) and get in a good "stretch of the leg."  I hopefully will get a chance to do this in the winter for Arisia and well as next year's D*C.  In the future I'll try to be better about timing.  I could have used more time at King's Mountain - I got there an hour before close - and Alamance could have been better timed to break up the travel day, but both were enjoyable and very useful from both an Ingress (a smartphone/GPS based game which let me exercise my mind) and from a physical break standpoint.
Taking extra days - This year I continued my schedule of traveling (I keep wanting to spell that with 2 "l"s) down on Wed and back on Tue.  This allows me to have a low impact day before the con to hang out or take care of last minute tasks before D*C heats up.  Driving after work on Tue means I'm away from the house, which lowers stress because I've "crossed the Rubicon," packing-wise, and that the Wed drive has more time for breaks.  Driving home on Tue means I can hang out on Monday night with a few people, as well as avoid the Monday checking out craziness.  Unfortunately, being free this particular Thursday also left me open for being the Fire Brigade to another person's crisis (see below).
Giving blood - this was the first time I gave blood since before Afghanistan.  I gave to the local donation center that works with D*C.  I was a little worried because I was giving on Monday when I was pretty well run down, but it all came out OK.  I hope to get back in the ARC swing in the spring (since I gave double red using the machine, I won't be eligible until XMas so I will probably give next at Arisia to one of the Boston blood banks associated with the con).
Parade - I think of the parade, along with the Dr Horrible shadowcast, as my major "work" for the con.  This year I spent most of the parade making sure that we stepped off in the right order, that people got their water and parade tags and that transfers on and off the parade float were as safe as we could make them.  Our group seems to get bigger every year, which makes organization a problem.  The new parade route and our early post in the parade made this an especially challenging endeavor.  I may invest in a bigger megaphone next year.
Garrett Wang - We failed in our attempt to beat the most people assembled in Star Trek costume this year.  What could have been an ugly bureaucratic mess (they wanted us to sit in the chairs for enumeration purposes for an hour plus, with nothing but Voyager (with bad sound) for company) was made quite quite the enjoyable experience by track leader Garrett Wang's (yes, of Voyager fame - he's not just a fan, he's part of the franchise!) off the cuff reminisces and Q&A from the crowd.  He also does a kick butt George Takei impression.  I later got to thank him and he said that they will probably hold off a year or two to try for the record.  There's a lot of moving parts to getting an attempt to work - I think they may have been enough Trekkies at the con in costume at the time to push us over the top, but they didn't know when and where or even that we were doing this.
Connectivity hell - I have no idea why it was so difficult to get wifi or cel service, esp. after the business types went home for the weekend.  This not only made staying in touch with people at the con difficult, but led to a feeling of dislocation in general, which didn't help things.
Smokers and e-cigs - The hassle that is the smokescreens around every entry to every building is the cross eyed bear of many conventions, but I think D*C just has more of it.  Adding to that is the new wrinkle that is e-cigs.  Since it's not "smoking," the addicts of this latest vice seem to have no compunction to indulging anywhere, indoors or out.  While there isn't the nasty smell that gets onto everything, they have no real idea what they're putting into their lungs or my air.  I suspect they will have to start sending these folks outside too.
Missing connections - Dragon*Con is big...REALLY big!  There were a few people that I would have liked to spend time with that I never saw. Those that I did have commo with, schedules never really lined up the right way.  Unfortunately, there's little to do to this problem, other than try to reach out to as many friends as possible so some connections work out.
Parade float - This was the bane of my existence this year.  The float was a great idea that suffered for a number of organizational and project management issues.  The float was built in FL and by the Thursday before the con parked outside the city where it had been worked on that week.  I was asked to come help "for a few hours to finish up the work."  Unfortunately, that was a rather optimistic opinion of the state of the float.  Since the float had to be ready on Saturday morning (Sylvester McCoy - the seventh Doctor - was riding on it) the three of us there worked all day and the other two worked more Sat morning to get the float to the parade in a safe and useable status.  We, or rather they (Grey and Counce literally did the heavy lifting on Saturday while I herded the scarved and fez topped cats of the marching group) got the float operational and successfully through the parade.  Unfortunately, the success came at the cost of most of the spoons I had for the con.  While it is not the root of all my con negativities, I think getting behind the power curve before things started made the reverses worse.
"Missed opportunities" - This is a very subjective measure but since we're dealing with a very subjective standard (my feelings) it seems legit to include.  Near the end, it seemed I got to be a witness to other people's successes but didn't have many successes on my own.  While I was happy that other people's plans were working out, the fact that mine didn't made me a bit grumpy.  It hasn't helped that I've run into people congratulating me on their stuff:  "Hey!  Joss Whedon tweeted about you!  Congrats!"  "Tweeted about _them_ actually - I didn't have anything to do with that."  Whee.
Dislocation - I guess this is what it all comes back to.  For the last few months I've been head down in the maneuvers that was negotiating the "passage of forces" that changed the house from B to me.  While I finished moving stuff to the house the weekend before, the house still looks like Warehouse 13.  So while I didn't leave with major deadlines looming, I was nowhere near the footloose and fancy free type that can really enjoy the holiday.
I guess while I'm at the convention my major problem is that I never seem comfortable in whatever group I'm in.  I'm close to all of the people I share a room with at the con, but I also feel a little cramped spending a lot of time with them,  Part is just the room - none of the hotels are good for 4 people and all their cosplay - but part is just wanderlust/indecisiveness.  D*C can be a vast smorgasbord and I sometimes feel like I'm wandering about with an empty plate because there's nothing I like.
The nut I haven't cracked yet is figuring out how to make enough plans and linkages pre-con so I have other groups to see and hang with and events I really want to do.  it would also help if I had any flashes of costuming brilliance.  My last inspiration was cosplaying the Brig and convincing the group to do UNIT at the parade.  The sad thing is most of us are so busy running the parade group we don't do a lot of fun at the parade and afterwards we're unlikely to want to put the sodden uniforms back on.  Looking for that "killer app" for a fifty-ish, non-washboarded, face for radio and voice for newspapers cosplayer.
The Future (some of it, anyway):

With that, I've thought about costumes for next year.  With the home front mostly nailed down, I should have the chance do work on some more ambitious projects for next year.  I'm aiming for stuff I'll like and if they catch the public's imagination, great but if not I'll still like the costume. Admittedly, I've said this before but we'll see:

(Always interested in hearing costume suggestions, though I cannot guarantee I'll follow them)
More Brig - Finally going to put together the #2 Dress uniform for the Brig. This way I'll have the jumper version for the parade and also have a Brig outfit that hasn't been loaded with sweat for D*C walkabout.
Colonel West from Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country - I've been debating a ST Movie outfit for the longest time. I think doing Colonel West cosplay would be a good fit for my body/facial hair type. Also, it would give me another outfit I could wear with a kilt...
Vacc Suit from Traveller - When I was in SoCal, I picked up an 5.11 TDU Tactical Jumpsuit and have been wanting to do something Traveller-esqe with it. With a full-face motorcycle helmet, backpack/powerpack, laser carbine and maybe some hard armor work, this might be the year...


( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 11th, 2013 01:36 pm (UTC)
I don't follow D*C* & am only faintly familiar with some of the things my friends do related to it. I was aware of having seen you in Squat Squad photos in the past, so on hearing of this year's SS success, I lobbed a congrats at you with only the best of intentions. Sorry to find I was picking at a scab.
Sep. 11th, 2013 05:03 pm (UTC)
I thought i posted a comment but I don't see it.


Ever since Luna-C booted me, I've pretty much given up cons except for MarsCon and I might not even do that one this year. While I would like to see my friends that I only see at cons, the truth is, we don't really have anything in common except cons and so I really wouldn't see them otherwise.

For the limited amount of money and vacation time I have, I want to relax and not be on a schedule if I can help it. For the amount of money I would spend on D*C, I could spend the week in Iceland or Scotland or Nova Scotia or someplace really relaxing with NO CROWDS nor 4 people in a hotel room with all their stuff.

Reenacting currently fills my need to dress up in funny clothes and I can hang out with people there and talk to the public about interesting topics that really mattered instead of standing around while people discuss shows I don't watch or haven't watched in years. Plus there really aren't many costumes I can do as a short, fat, blonde. I used to Rose but no one recognizes it unless you are with a recognizable Doctor. Heck no one even recognized my Prisoner villager outfit and I even had the cape. Oh well. I have cool vintage 40s dresses that make me look even better and can go out in the field and shoot guns if I want to. Vive La France!

I'd seriously think about if you really want to go to D*C anymore because you really don't sound happy with it. Sure you like the costuming but you don't go to the panels, you don't get to hang out with the people you want to hang out with and you don't like being crammed in a room with 3 other people. Doesn't sound like a lot of fun to me.
Sep. 12th, 2013 01:51 am (UTC)
Good points - part of the reason I got out of living history (besides the girls, the deployments and the destruction of my marriage) was losing the sense I was doing something useful and not being a vehicle for tourists to look at weapons and watch bad street theatre. I might end up that way with cosplay as well, or at least with cons.

I haven't gotten there with most cons, though D*C is different. Any super large event - Pennsic, Burning Man, D*C - has for me the possibility of disappearing in a sea of people. That's a lot of the reason having a group of people to work with/off of is so important.

Right now I'd still say D*C is net positive, though the margin is smaller than previous years. I'll need to keep an eye out to make sure this isn't a trend instead of a simply a bad year. Another thing is to set expectations commensurate with my general mood, lest the life baggage make my expectations of con fun unreasonable.
Sep. 12th, 2013 02:43 am (UTC)
True. I kinda burned out of 1812. I just started doing WWII again and my French resistance unit is new so we are the cool kids on the block now. We linked up with the 82nd and the 101st paratroopers and do some cool scenarios that are historically based, like meeting them a drop zones, escorting them to the battle, rescuing downed airmen and the like. Until then, we stayed out of the tacticals because there was no reason for us to be in them. The maquis didn't typically get involved in the big battles until D-Day. It's a lot different reenacting WWII than 1812. I feel like I'm really part of the unit and have a distinct purpose (OSS) than just another camp-follower. But I'll stop now before I go rant on the problems with women and women's role in reenacting. ;)

You also shouldn't have to manage your expectations so much. It's a vacation. It should be fun and relatively brainless. For example, a few years ago, I went with the chicks on a beach trip. I got my own room because I don't sleep a lot at night and sleep even less in group rooms. The chicks were cool with this. We had planned times to do stuff as a big group and people texted me when they were going out to see if I wanted to come along. They were also cool with me doing my own thing. I didn't get anxious about being forgotten or left behind. It was an awesome vacation.

Contrast this with the Gathering where I have loads of friends and we're all in the same hotel at the same con. Unless I'm with Theo, because he's the cool Brit and everyone wants to hang out with him, I'm constantly left behind. I have to go along with the group and don't get a say. I can hardly get people to tell me when they are going out to dinner as a group so I can come along even though they say they'll text me when their game is over and they are ready to leave. While I liked the games and did have fun when I did hook up with people and went out, the stress of being alone and wondering if people are going to link up or not was too much. So I dumped the Gathering as well. I should haven't to lower my expectations to enjoy the Gathering, con, or vacation. It should be fun on its own. That's why it's a vacation and not a business trip.
Sep. 13th, 2013 01:40 am (UTC)
Well, I wouldn't say lower my expectations, but modify them based on mood. I think each particular event only can modify your emotional state off the current baseline. I think I was at a point where I should have conserved energy instead of burning it wholesale on Thursday. I was proud of the fact that we brought the project home, but I paid a price.
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )