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» Friday, August 30, 2019
DragonCon, Day 1 (Or "What Time Does the Orville Dock?")

The most difficult part of DragonCon is Friday.

Not only do we have to get downtown early to pick up our membership badges, so we can then eat, and go thence to a 10 a.m. panel, but we have to drive in rush hour traffic. So the first day is always the worst. However, after we'd remembered to tuck our chicken sandwiches into the already otherwise packed backpack, loaded up the power chair, and head toward the freeway, we discovered the traffic wasn't as frenetic as we'd feared and we made it to the Courtland Garage unscathed.

As we arrived at the Sheraton, it was just eight o'clock and time for registration to open, with the regular line already around the hotel, so we got into the Disability Services line, expecting the door to open any minute, but instead it took twenty, and it turned out the DS people were wondering where everyone was—someone had neglected to unlock the doors! We had our stickers in about twenty minutes, and then went to a remodeled Peachtree Center for breakfast at our restaurant of choice, Café Momo, which is a buffet of goodies. I try for a mix: French toast, potatoes, fruit, oatmeal always, and, for a treat, bacon. This is like the once or twice a year I eat bacon unless it's at a party. Peachtree Center! white! now. They cleared a lot out, and some con favorite eating places, like Subway, were gone, but they put a wheelchair ramp up to the other level from the second concourse, which is a real help. As we left, waved at Ken Spivey from his seat behind us.

James was off to the Westin at quarter to ten, I was off to the Marriott to see how long the line was for the David Tennant panel at 11:30. The seats in the "seat in line" area weren't full, so I went to check out a portion of Rick Goldschmitt's Rankin-Bass panel. Rick is the author of several books about the Rankin-Bass "animagic" productions, including The Making of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and is the guru of all things RB. He was showing a partial video of a special called The Enchanted World of Danny Kaye, which has him narrating and appearing as a a voice in The Emperor's New Clothes. It only reminds me how much I miss Danny Kaye!

Alas, I tarried too long. Hurrying back to the Tennant site 50 minutes before the panel was to start, they'd already loaded the disability folks and weren't letting anymore DS folks in. I went to wait up against the wall where they'd told the other latecomer DS people to congregate. We might could get in after the crowd in the line finished loading, but there were so many people in line they had to turn them away as well. My bad. I would get there early tomorrow.

Good thing I usually have several panels picked for each hour: instead I walked (or rather limped after 20 minutes of standing) to the Hyatt to the Sci-Fi Lit track panel "Being a Fan." Aubrey Spivey was on this panel, and I sat next to Alice (her mom) on one side and Phyllis Boros on the other, with Ken in the back of us. I love the smaller panels just as much as the larger ones, and we had a nice discussion about what makes a fan and how fandom has changed with the internet (loss of fanzines, but much more communication with other fans). Even addressed negative aspects: how some fans think you aren't a "real fan" if you don't know every detail about the comic or book series or the television show or movie; toxic fans who write hate mail to show creators because they don't like where their favorite characters ended up, etc.).

I can't remember where I intended to go next, but Alice said she was going to see The Orville cast. Really, I don't keep track of who's attending the con, unless it's been announced as a big deal, as David Tennant was, so I had no idea anyone from The Orville series was coming to the con. So...hey, Orville, and attending with a friend—a no brainer, and a very fun panel: the guests were Peter Macon (Bortus), Chad Coleman (Klyden), Mark Jackson (Isaac), and J. Lee (John Lamarr). The latter, Alice observed and I had to agree, is pretty much playing himself in space! He has a very dry sense of humor and wry outlook. Macon looked tired (he said to excuse him; he has small children 😉 ) and Coleman was very "up." Jackson comes, of course, with a very pleasing British accent. Someone asked him if he can see out of the Isaac mask and he said in the pilot he couldn't, but now it is painted with a special paint which enables him to see out, but you really can't see in, unless the camera is very close and the light is shining in the right direction. His actual eyes are located under Isaac's "electric" eyes in the mask. They all agree that, no matter what director, this is Seth McFarlane's baby and he has the last word on everything. So if the director says it's good and Seth says it's not, they do it again. There were no hints about what's up for next season, but with their move from Fox to Hulu, they will be able to "push the edge of the envelope" even more.

Went back downstairs to Sci-Fi Lit with Alice for "Why We Read." Well, because it's like breathing, isn't it? How can you not? But there were many answers: one person I know, with a terrible job, said "escape" (which I expected), others read to learn, or for research, or to encounter an opinion different from their own. It was a lively discussion and a very short hour, after which I decamped from the Hyatt and strung my way outside toward the Westin. Of course it was crowded with thousands of congoers, so many in costume, plus downtown workers, and the sidewalks were "bumper to bumper." However, I arrived at the hotel in just a few minutes for the Babylon 5 anniversary panel, where James joined me. The main panelist was John Hudgens, known so long ago online as "Fenn Shysa," the guy who made a Babylon 5 video and sent it to creator Joe Straczynski and was then asked to make more (and get paid for them!) to use in promoting the series! He asked if anyone wanted to see any of them and I immediately popped up with "Holding Out for a Hero," the (mainly) Michael Garibaldi video. So that lead off the panel, to my delight.

But much other talk, including how TNT picked up the show for its fifth season and then was disappointed that it didn't garner the wrestling crowd, and the novelty of the "five-year-novel-for-television" format back then (and how incidental events in a first season plot suddenly made sense two seasons later). There was much chatter about Straczynski's new autobiography and how hard it was to get through the first quarter of the book due to his horrible childhood; have Amazon points and must think about ordering it. [Later: I did, and gave it to James to look at. He read it in two days, and was agog at the terrible facts it revealed.]

James went off elsewhere afterwards, while I traipsed to the Marriott for the Earth Station One podcast folks' panel celebrating the 20th anniversary (already?!) of Galaxy Quest. This was truly fun because what we mostly did was recall all the best lines and all the best scenes, from the convention scenes to the earnest but daffy Thermians to the running gags about Guy getting killed and how chill Fred Kwan was to the really sinister aspect of villain Sarris to the fannish kids who saved the day. There were two cosplayers in the audience as well, one guy dressed as a Thermian, and the other as Dr. Lazarus carrying "a miner/minor." And of course we mourned the fact that a sequel was never made while Alan Rickman was still with us, and ended the panel in unison with the Galaxy Quest motto, "Never give up! Never surrender!"

And suddenly the day was over and I was reuniting with James at the Hyatt Centennial I ballroom for tonight's Atlanta Radio Theatre Company performance. They were doing three humorous pieces tonight. The first was about the reaction of fans and authorities when a flying saucer lands in Centennial Olympic Park and everyone waits to see what the aliens want. Of course, they are here to attend DragonCon! This was very funny.

The second piece was a new installment of Ron Butler's spoof of 1950s kids' space dramas, Rory Rammer, Space Marshall. In this tale, Rory and his young sidekick "Skip" Sagan must rescue a young reporter named Kyrie Eleison, who is determined to prove there are space pirates, and who has been kidnapped by men posing as space pirates to get a ransom from her uncle. Skip's renegade uncle and some pirate robots figure in her rescue.

The third piece was funny but overlong; a spoof of The Maltese Falcon called The Maltese Omelet, with the supporting characters all nursery rhyme characters (Humpty Dumpty, of course, still takes the great fall). The first two acts elicited many chuckles, but the last needed picking up a bit.

Then we headed home to perambulate the puppy and get ready for Saturday.

Rick Goldschmidt, Rankin-Bass guru

"Being a Fan" panel (Aubrey Spivey at left)

Peter Macon (Bortus on The Orville)

Chad Coleman (Klyden on The Orville)

John Hudgens (Babylon 5 anniversary panel)

Babylon 5 cosplayers (Earth uniform, Delenn after transformation, Kosh the Vorlon)

Galaxy Quest cosplayers

David Benedict and Billy Barefoot as Rory Rammer and Skip Sagan in the newest "Rory Rammer" radio adventure

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