September was another long, weird month that seemed to drag so much more than the summer. (I’m still constantly thinking it’s the end of July or August.) But the slog of September also brought my usual escape from the stress and frustration of the year: DragonCon.
DragonCon was of course a virtual experience for 2020, and despite attending several successful virtual conventions earlier in the year, I was a little worried about what it would be like. Others have done the work experimenting with formats and troubleshooting technology, and attending social events virtually is now a well-rehearsed skillset, so I wasn’t concerned about them pulling off DragonCon. I was concerned about whether or not it would feel like DragonCon.
DragonCon is a special brand of weird. It’s wandering the lobbies of the Marriott and Hilton and freezing in place while a conga line of Deadpools circles. It’s hugging friends, celebrities, and strangers you’ve been queueing with for an hour. It’s admiring the growing shrine to FedEx Jon on the walkway to the food court and celebrating when you find an enamel pin of the Marriott carpet tucked inside a planter. It’s following up a season recap panel for your favorite show with one about queerness in Batman or how artificial intelligence in science fiction traces back to Frankenstein.
It is being surrounded by nerds celebrating being nerds in a thousand different ways.
And I was concerned it wouldn’t fully translate to an online format.
(I was also concerned about my waning tolerance for video meetings, but that’s a secondary issue.)
My friends and I banded together for group chats during live panels, met for the parade Saturday morning (a mix of submitted footage/photos and parade video from previous years), and even had “lunch” together for a final hurrah on Monday. We had spontaneous video chats with whomever was available, catching up on what panels we went to and which ones were worth watching later (virtual convention means you can rewatch some of the content!), and we introduced each other to new shows and memes. We talked until bedtime every night and were frequently the first people we communicated with in the morning—not unlike con at all.
I watched panels about steampunk, Victorian death customs, and the pyramids of Giza. I moderated a season recap panel about The Umbrella Academy. I watched Q&As with present and past guests like John Romita Jr., Richard Dean Anderson, and Carrie Fisher. I stumbled into unexpectedly hilarious panels like Bar’d Talk, which was a combination of Whose Line and Shakespeare. I shared stories and photos from past DragonCons with my friends (I’ve been going since 2003, I have a lot to share). And I got to step away from the stress of 2020 for a weekend and just… breathe.
Maybe I had to work a little harder this year to feel immersed in DragonCon—I certainly exercised my imagination every time my friends and I joked about saving each other seats in panels or going to the food court when breaking for lunch—but I still got to celebrate being a nerd with other nerds. When it comes to DragonCon, that’s all I really need.
(Well, that and the name of that Peter B. Parker cosplayer from 2019. I really should have proposed marriage.)
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