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Dragon*Con, Part One

Last Thursday I flew to Atlanta for Dragon*Con. I used my flight time to do the final proofreading of my new book, Dinosaur Discoveries (it’s coming out from Flesk Publications this December in both adult and kids versions).

Atlanta’s Dragon*Con takes place each Labor Day weekend and is the biggest convention in the South. It draws about 35,000 fans and takes over four major downtown hotels. It is unique amongst other large conventions in that it celebrates writers (over artists). That’s because there is still a strong literary tradition in the South, the South being one of the last places in the country where people still READ! It’s also one of the last places in the United States where people still have manners. I love it there.

Atlanta has the largest gay population of any big city in the South and, actually, one of the biggest gay populations of any American city. So, not surprisingly, beautiful and elaborate costumes are a very popular tradition at Dragon*Con.

Dragon*Con is one of the best run conventions in the country. Pat and Sherry Henry do an amazing job of making the organization of this huge show look effortless. I know that to do so requires an enormous amount of work. Their staff is absolutely first rate; friendly, cheerful, knowledgeable and great at their individual jobs.

I used to come as a guest to Dragon*Con about every three years. Then, I won a contest they have called the Iron Artist. I returned the following year to defend my crown. And then the next year…and the next. Through repeatedly winning the Iron Artist competition I happily became a Dragon*Con “regular” and met lots of people there, many of whom have become some of my closest friends.

Their guest list is always amazing. I had a nice surprise on Friday morning when I looked up from breakfast and saw director Terry Gilliam. I hadn’t seen Terry since Harvey Kurtzman had us both over for dinner in Harvey’s daughter’s SoHo loft/apartment. Terry lit up upon seeing me. We had a great chat and catch-up over breakfast (the following morning, too). It was a great way to start the show. Terry was there to promote his new movie, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. The film stars Heath Ledger (who died during its filming), as well as Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell, Christopher Plummer, Jude Law and Tom Waits. Depp and Law play different transformations of Ledger’s character. I’m sure it will be amazing!

And congratulations (and commiserations) to Terry’s stunning daughter Amy on becoming a full-fledged producer with this show. Just remember, Amy: although it’s hard to get into the film business, it’s even harder to get out.

My first night (Thursday) in Atlanta I happened to run into the Conrad family, my favorite Dragon*Con family. They are true art lovers and share my passion for protecting wildlife and the environment. And Rick Conrad loves dinosaurs. Best of all, though, they’re some of the nicest people you’d ever want to meet. I always look forward to seeing them and learning of their current endeavors and passions, as well as what their kids (“kids?” — they’re all pretty much grown up now. I feel lucky to have known them since they were kids) are doing.

I usually stay at the Marriott but this year Dragon*Con booked me into the Hilton. I have to say that the service at the Hilton was first rate — truly superb. They were excellent at anticipating my needs. I’d be very happy to continue staying there at future Dragon*Cons.

One of the secret kicks I get at Dragon*Con is seeing my art everywhere….and I mean, literally, EVERYWHERE! That’s because I designed the Dragon*Con lettering and logo image. The Dragon*Con staff never fails to come up with new variations on my logo each year. I’ve even got an award that has my logo beautifully executed in mother of pearl!

Upon arriving at my regular tables in the Dealers Room I was sad to learn the artist (and my friend) Rowena wouldn’t be joining me this year but was happy to discover her table space next to me was going to be occupied by Peter Beagle, author of The Last Unicorn, whom I met at this year’s Mega-Con….

More to follow…

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