Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Dragon*Con 2009

This past Labor Day weekend was my very first time attending Dragon*Con as a publishing professional, and really my first "real" time at all. I say first "real" time because I went three years ago for a single day to see Jetse de Vries, who was there at the time with Interzone. I spent most of it with him at his table, watching the crowd pass him by for the guy next to him installing vampire teeth (at $60 a pair, using the same dental instrument and, seemingly, not bothering to clean it between applications). I left with the (mistaken) impression that it was a weird goth con with nothing to offer the book trade. I came back when Mike Resnick and others kept telling me that I had it wrong, and what's more, the percentage of people there aware of and interested in books was growing every year, both in the demographics of the attendees and among the organizers.

So I was there with a specific agenda, which was to see if it was a place that Pyr books needs to be in future.

So in that light: Forget the 30,000-40,000 plus attendees or whatever the head count ends up being. I was personally most impressed by the number of publishing professionals there. Authors like Kevin J Anderson, Michael Stackpole, Gene Wolfe, Walter Jon Williams, Eric Flint, John Ringo, Alan Dean Foster, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Mike Resnick, Aleathea Kontis, Todd McCaffrey, Scott Sigler, Josepha Sherman, James Maxey, Catherine Asaro, Gail Z Martin, SM Stirling. And many more I didn't run into, such as Peter S Beagle, JF Lewis, Jody Lynn Nye, Christopher Golden, Diana Gabaldon, Charlaine Harris, Cherie Priest, Susan Sizemore, CL Wilson, Janny Wurts, Timothy Zahn, and Lois McMaster Bujold. (I'm leaving people out too, but the sheer number of famous/award-winning/best-selling authors in this list makes it comparable to a major literary con already.)

Then there was the art show - in a HUGE and very HIGH CEILING-ED space, and featuring artists like Bob Eggleton, Don Maitz, Rick Sternbach, and William Stout.

And then the publishers that were there - Editors like Ginger Buchanan (Ace/Roc), Pablo Defendini (Tor.com), Stacy Hague Hill (Tor), Paul Stevens (Tor), Jennifer Heddle (Pocket), Toni Weisskopf (Baen), Steven H Segal (Weird Tales), Jason M Watlz (Rogue Blades), and of course Yours Truly representing Pyr books.

As to how all these publishing folk were being received, I myself spoke on three panels and did one live podcast (thanks, Mur!). The smallest panel had over 60 people in the audience, the largest around 120, and the podcast was standing room only with about 60 people. What's more, they weren't the same people all weekend. And lots of people came up to me and shook my hand and told me how they really appreciated what I said on my panels.

Personal highlights were hanging out with Mike & Carol Resnick, Jennifer Heddle, Mur Lafferty, Madelynn Martiniere, Pablo Defendini, Stacy Hague-Hill, James Maxey, Jason M Waltz, Rich Sternbach. Was great to meet Scott Sigler and the folks from steampunk costumers Brute Force Studios. Really loved the Baen books party Friday night (and Toni Weisskopf is rapidly becoming one of my favorite people.) Also loved meeting the folks from the Inner Worlds book discussion group too.

My assessment: This feels very much like the place to be, and if it isn't yet, it's going to be soon. Probably very similar in vibe to the San Diego Comic Con when it was smaller, before Hollywood became the driving engine. The other thing I noticed at Dragon*Con verses Comic Con is that, though it has that crucial young demographic, there seems more interaction between the age groups. You saw children, teens, 20/30 somethings, parents with small children, and old folks, all hanging out together, rather than all there and then peeling off to hang separately. I liked that a lot. For the writer looking to do business as well as meet with fans, it's probably not there yet in the former category, but will be as more publishing professionals choose to attend in future. And in terms of the attitude of the con to publishing, both the organizers and the audience certainly communicated that they were interested in books in general and Yours Truly in specific. I felt appreciated, welcome, and productive. I felt something slightly different when the near-naked, 300 pound guy with a mohawk and fangs grabbed my ass on the elevator.

But hey, it was Dragon*Con, after all! At least some of my first impressions weren't mistaken.


Christian Berntsen said...

I've only been once, four or so years ago. It was a sight to behold, costume wise. I was working a table for part of the time, so I didn't get to roam all that much, but did get to meet Nathan Fillion from Firefly who was signing across the way and in that 30 second interaction I got the impression that he was one of the nicest guys. Someday I'll get back and make a point to see more. Glad it was a good time for you.

Gray Rinehart said...

It was good to meet you! Enjoyed your thoughts on the prospects for SF going forward. Best,
Gray Rinehart

Jeff said...

I was in the art show being a good booth monkey for my lovely and talented wife Veronica V. Jones. I was impressed that DragonCon had more of a publishing presence that most "literary" conventions I've ever attended. It was a great time all around!

James Enge said...

Great report on what looks like a fun con. Maybe more evidence that cons can build attendance by staying in one place?

Gary Farber said...

"Maybe more evidence that cons can build attendance by staying in one place?"

Has anyone ever argued otherwise?

Bill Ward said...

"I felt something slightly different when the near-naked, 300 pound guy with a mohawk and fangs grabbed my ass on the elevator."

Let's not forget you were described as 'the cute one,' so that sort of thing is probably unavoidable.

Nice report and it was great meeting you, Lou. And, James, hope to see you down there in Atlanta on a panel one of these years!

Kevin Standlee said...


Nobody has said otherwise. Of course if you stay in one place and use the same committee every year and pursue a growth strategy, you're more likely to grow than if you hold the event in a different place every year put on by a different group of people.

But, to make it specific, if you held the World Science Fiction Convention in Atlanta every year, could you really say it was a World Science Fiction Convention with a straight face? What would you say to all of the people in the rest of the world -- including the rest of the USA not within easy reach of Atlanta.

One of the reasons Worldcon moves around is so that some years it is relatively close to people who can't afford to travel all over the world -- or even across the country -- to attend it.

Tara McClendon said...

This sounds interesting. I'm glad you gave it another chance.

Lou Anders said...

So am I!

Jason M. Waltz said...

Good assessment, Lou - and great hanging with you. Between you, Maxey, Joe Crowe, half the other names you've listed and numerous others, it was a helluva grand time.

Look forward to doing it again next year - and seeing you, Enge, et al at the Pyr party.

Lou Anders said...

Enge should be there next year, shouldn't he? Let's work on that !

Scott Sigler said...

Nice meeting you, Lou. Really great listening to your insights on that writers round-table panel. Looking forward to talking to you again soon.

Lou Anders said...

Same here, Scott! Very much so.

Gail Z. Martin said...

Great to see you, Lou! DragonCon is always a great mix of fun and business. Fun because I'm a fan first and always and I geek out about it just like everyone else. And business because I always come back having made connections, heard industry news and often, been invited into collaborations. It was, as always, an awesome weekend!

Lou Anders said...

Gail, it was wonderful to see you too. And I had a fantastic time. It was my first, and I was very pleasantly surprised by it. I'll be back next year, for sure.

J. L. Mulvihill said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
J. L. Mulvihill said...

Mr. Anders,

I had the pleasure of attending the Writer’s Round Table at Dragon*Con last weekend. Though I did not get a chance to speak with you, I wanted to thank you for sharing your insight and knowledge. It was a very interesting and informative panel and was able to take a great many useful notes. I just wanted to tell you that I appreciate you taking the time to share your professional opinion. Thank you,
"J L Mulvihill"

Lou Anders said...

thank you very much for saying so. For all the people I hear (who have never been) saying that Dragon*Con is too big for intimate/meaningful interactions between guests and attendees, I've sure been impressed by the warmth of everyone I met there.