Overheard on an Atlanta street corner:
“Look at that person with blue hair.”
“No, over there.”
“Oh, I see.”
“Cool, isn’t it?”
“Yeah. What other place can you say, ‘No, the other person with blue hair.”
The “place,” of course, was DragonCon. September 2-5. I have been for the last six years, but this year was special: the 30th anniversary. It started in two downtown hotels, Hyatt and Marriott. The Hilton was added later, then the Sheraton and Westin. When five hotels were not enough space, the vendors were moved into the AmericasMart, a four-building, seven-million-square-foot trade show monolith. This year, AmericasMart became the new home of two other DragonCon mainstays, tabletop gaming (formerly in the Hilton) and Comic and Pop Artist Alley (neé the Hyatt)—evidence that DragonCon, despite its venerability, is still figuring things out. Perhaps that is how it became venerable: refusing to be complacent.
And more growth is on the way. Some programming was held on Thursday this year, and according to media director Dan Carroll, we will see Thursday “full-time real soon.” My colleague Michaela McPherson has written about shifts in the Saturday morning parade. This was the inaugural year for the Dragon Awards, a fan-driven awards program to “recognize the creators of science fiction and fantasy in books, comic books, games and filmed entertainment,” according to a press release. (Awards results are located here.) Attendance grew this year as it does every year, with over 77,000 showing up–and, in some cases, suiting up–for the weekend. These attendees walked (Walk to End Lupus Now), gave blood (about 6,000 units), raised money ($98,000 for the Atlanta Center for Self-Sufficiency through auctions, karaoke, a lip-synch battle, and other events), and enjoyed the 400+ actors, artists, writers, and other guests who formed the convention’s foundation.
I was excited about one guest I had never seen at DragonCon, or any convention: Christopher Paolini, author of the four-volume Inheritance Cycle. Paolini wrote the first volume, Eragon, the story of a farm boy who protects a dragon egg from an evil king, when he was a teenager. His parents self-published the book, and for a year, Paolini promoted it himself at libraries, book shows, and other events. In 2002, the book came to the attention of the publisher Alfred A. Knopf, which re-released the book a year later. This led to three other books, the last one appearing in 2011.
On Friday night, Paolini was one of several panelists for a discussion of self-publishing. The other panelists were freelance writer/editor Jaym Gates, editor Dayna Linton, Baen Books publisher Toni Weisskopf, writer Chris Kennedy, and Todd McCaffrey, son of Anne McCaffrey and custodian of her Pern universe, to which he has contributed several volumes. Some highlights from the panel:
- McCaffrey: The biggest mistake in self-publishing is to “think you can do everything yourself.”
- Eragon was a family project. Paolini’s father, who had press experience, designed the book. Paolini drew the cover and the maps. They borrowed money to finance the printing (the first 50 copies were cut wrong). He dressed in medieval costume and made presentations to schools, libraries, and bookstores. Sold maybe 15 books at a time. Two chain bookstores rejected him, saying the novel was “not commercially viable.”
- Gates: “Readers and writers have different ideas of what works.” This led to a vigorous discussion of the value of editing. It’s the biggest difference between professional publishing and self-publishing (a view echoed by this Slate article). Writers know their own story, but editors are storehouses of stories. They understand the market, and what will appeal to readers. Thus, they can guide the author, helping to bring out his/her voice. As Gates said, “it is the editor’s job to help the writer say what he/she wants to say in the best way.”
- Paolini was skeptical of the wisdom of a beginning writer paying for editorial services, but the other panelists–I won’t say they shouted him down, but they were unified in saying that it would be money well spent. Paolini did agree on the worth of an editor, saying an editor “can fix bad writing. They can’t fix a bad story.” Bottom line: the author has a job, and the editor has a job. Good books result when each person does their job.
- McCaffrey talked about “hybrid authors”–authors who write for traditional publishers and do some self-publishing. Here is a good discussion of this type of writer. The panel agreed that the hybrid approach is the best, blending the advantages of self-publishing (speed; flexibility; more profit per sale) with the comfort of traditional publishing (editorial, design, and marketing services; bulk sales; multi-book deals; advances against royalties). More authors are taking this approach, which is new in the history of publishing. According to Weisskopf, the “received wisdom” used to be that, if you self-publish, you’ve “tainted the waters and will never get a traditional contract.” The panel agreed that this is no longer the case.
- On traditional contracts: beware the predators. Gates brought up two blog posts by John Scalzi (here and here), who has always been an advocate of authorial self-interest, about Hydra, an imprint of Random House with shockingly bad contract terms. The panel’s message: don’t be so desperate to publish that you’ll sign anything.
All the growth in DragonCon has brought some irritation. At 2:30 on Friday afternoon, the vendor room in the AmericasMart reached capacity and was shut down. I have never experienced that at a convention (I read about it happening a couple of years ago at the Rhode Island Comic-Con). The room was open an hour or so later, I think–I didn’t wait around to find out–so it wasn’t a disastrous inconvenience. But I did find myself wondering, is there no building in Atlanta large enough to handle DragonCon?
The lines in the hotels were certainly longer than ever. I waited nearly two hours to buy Saturday-only badges for members of my party. (It is useless to buy these in advance because DragonCon mails you a card that you have to redeem on-site for a badge.) There may be no space to do this, but I would love to see registration expanded. Or split into two buildings. Why do one-day badges have to be claimed on site? Why can’t they be mailed? One thing is for sure: a single ballroom in the basement of the Sheraton is inadequate for the thousands upon thousands of people who opt for one-day badges.
DragonCon is a study in lines. Walking around the sidewalks, you’ll often see a line with no discernible beginning snaking into an unmarked side door. It’s like a speakeasy line. If you ask someone what they’re waiting for, they respond without confusion, but what if they’re wrong? What if the real purpose of the queue has been miscommunicated all the way down, so that someone who thinks they’re waiting for William Shatner’s photo op is actually in line for the blood bank?
It isn’t that hard to form a line, after all. My wife and I did it for Chris Paolini’s Sunday autograph session, which was scheduled for 2:30. Jim Butcher had started signing in the same room at 1:00. His line was capped at 1:30, and we knew that people looking for Paolini would start showing up soon. So we stood a few feet behind the last person for Jim Butcher and declared it the Start of the Line. Within minutes, a hundred people were standing behind us, and when a DragonCon staffer came along and legitimized us, I felt like Saul Alinsky.
If you have never been to DragonCon, you need to go. It is not the largest convention in the U.S., but it is unique, being spread across five Atlanta hotels. I have often wondered why it doesn’t move to the Georgia International Convention Center or the Georgia World Congress Center. It may need to, especially when attendance reaches 100,000, as I believe it will. But I hope DragonCon doesn’t move. I love the atmosphere of hotel-based conventions. There are other hotels in downtown Atlanta, and maybe DragonCon will incorporate those. Whatever happens, I look forward to many more years of attending this convention, which was my first and will always be one of the best.
August 23, 2016 by Joe Fauvel
Filed under Animation, Anime, Collectibles, Comic Books, Comic Strips, Convention News, Cosplay, Florida, Gaming, Horror, Manga, Movies, Science Fiction and Fantasy, Sports, Television, Video Games, Webcomics
Not that he needs much of an introduction, but you probably remember him for his pop culture parody songs and polka medleys such as “Eat It”, “White & Nerdy”, “Smells Like Nirvana”, “My Bologna”, “Like A Surgeon” and so many more.
“WEIRD AL” also has countless TV and film appearances including “UHF”, “The Simpsons”, “The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy”, “The Goldbergs”, “Adventure Time”, “Gravity Falls” and don’t forget he was in Rob Zombie’s “Halloween 2”!
Don’t miss this opportunity to meet “WEIRD AL” at Spooky Empire in Orlando, FL, October 7-9, 2016 at the Orange County Convention Center.
Tickets, VIP packages and hotel rooms are available but moving fast! Get ’em while you can.
For more info visit us at www.spookyempire.com
MAD’s first-ever Guest Editor Weird Al Yankovic and John Ficarra sign MAD Magazine #533 on Monday April 20, 2015 at 6:00 PM!
Wristbands will be available with purchase of MAD Magazine #533 beginning at 10:00 am, the day of event. Each guest will sign one additional item with purchase of magazine.
Barnes & Noble – Union Square
33 East 17th Street, New York, NY 10003
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The Simpsons is widely considered to be one of the greatest TV shows of all time – 28 Primetime Emmys®! The longest running American sitcom ever continues to thrive with its dead-on satire and razor-sharp wit. Journey from the Springfield Bowl to the Hollywood Bowl for this unprecedented event, as the orchestra accompanies your favorite scenes on the big screen. Join the celebration of a quarter century of groundbreaking creativity, with plenty of special guests and a fireworks finale.
Hollywood Bowl Orchestra
Thomas Wilkins, conductor
Hank Azaria, host
“Weird Al” Yankovic
Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles
Programs, artists, dates, prices and availability subject to change.
2301 N Highland Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90068
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Weird Al Yankovic signs at Barnes & Noble on Wednesday September 25, 2013 at 7:00 PM!
Al Yankovic will be signing copies of his children’s book My New Teacher and Me! Wristbands will be distributed starting at 9:00 am on Wednesday, September 25.
Barnes & Noble
91 Old Country Road, Carle Place, NY 11514
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Weird Al Yankovic signs his new children’s book at Barnes & Noble on Monday September 23, 2013 at 6:00 PM!
Barnes & Noble
6100 North May Ave, Oklahoma City, OK 73112
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Weird Al Yankovic signs at Quail Ridge Books on Friday, June 28, at 7:00 p.m.
If you’re thinking “Al Yankovic” sounds familiar, add “Weird” before his name. Yes, the brilliant song parodist visits Friday, June 28, at 7 p.m. with his latest children’s book, My New Teacher and Me! Young Billy returns from Al’s When I Grow Up. When the irresistible force of Billy’s unrestrained creativity meets the immovable object of Mr. Booth’s fixed worldview, one thing is obvious: someone is going to learn a lot this school year. For ages 4+.
Signing Line Ticket Event: Receive a ticket for the signing line with the purchase from us of My New Teacher and Me
Quail Ridge Books
3522 Wade Avenue, Raleigh, NC, 27607
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Weird Al Yankovic signs at Anderson’s Bookshop on Wednesday June 26th at 7:00 pm!
123 W Jefferson Ave, Naperville, IL 60540
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“Weird Al” Yankovic will discuss and sign his book MY NEW TEACHER AND ME on Monday, June 24, 2013 at 5:00 p.m.
Books provided by Blue Willow Bookshop
West Houston Community Center
725 Bateswood, Houston, TX 77079
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Weird Al Yankovic signs on Tuesday June 25, 2013 at 6:00 PM!
Please join us as we welcome Al Yankovic and his new book, My New Teacher and Me! Seating for the event is limited and on a first-come, first-served basis. A Barnes & Noble receipt with your book is required for the signing.
Barnes & Noble
Brookfield Square Mall, 95 N. Moorland Road Unit C-1, Brookfield, WI 53005