Skip to main content /US /US

Headline News

DragonCon: All hope abandon, ye who enter here

Visitors to the 2001 DragonCon gathering make the event a dress-up affair.
Visitors to the 2001 DragonCon gathering make the event a dress-up affair.  

By Christine Boese
CNN Headline News

(CNN) -- Once a year, the largest science fiction, fantasy, and cult media convention in the United States takes over Atlanta. About 20,000 fans will transform the downtown into a parallel universe when DragonCon appears August 30-September 2.

Only at DragonCon can one cross the street with a crowd of "Star Wars" Storm Troopers, blue-skinned "Farscape" babes, and women wearing far less than the over-proportioned characters in adult comic books.

Some think sci-fi conventions, or "Cons," are only for people like the Lone Gunmen of the "X-Files."

But if I can be your "Virgil," we can descend the levels of DragonCon just as Dante went into the depths of hell in his "Inferno." In this dramatic world, cult media fans construct a temporary "Hellmouth," not in "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," but in the blisteringly hot Atlanta summer.

Escalators from the hotel lobby take you down to registration. Don't worry if Darth Maul or other demons pass riding the up escalator. They are probably just looking to scare up some lunch.

The primary level is the "Main Stage," where the Cult of Minor Celebrity holds forth. No one I know spends more than 10 minutes here. The real DragonCon is elsewhere. There are far better ways to interact and even party with the semi-famous of the sci-fi set, but first you must go down to the next level.

Near aisles of comic book bins, not far from sword and sorcery merchants, is the "Walk of Fame." It must be savored, talking to each guest, taking care to speak only Klingon when Klingon officers are present.

Serious discussions on "Star Trek," "Star Wars," "X-Files," "Buffy," "Xena & Hercules" are held throughout the complex, as well as sessions for aspiring writers or hackers.

Further descent

Although 10-year-olds skillfully demonstrating the use of specialty knives and Gothic torture devices, or a woman drenched in blood as Stephen King's "Carrie" may seem freaky, the most dedicated DragonCon participants find their niches in the deeper levels.

Next is a ballroom of gaming tables for Dungeons & Dragons, as well as elaborate miniature model worlds. A hall leads to ongoing multiple-user computer gaming. During busy times there is a line for open seats.

You may think, "It can't get any more bizarre than this." And then it does.

At the lowest level, games feature live-action role-playing in full costume. Not Paintball. Not Society for Creative Anachronism. Not even your friendly neighborhood Civil War Re-enactment. These are dark games, like "Everhate," set in the world of the undead.

In Dante's "Inferno," the center of hell is also the way out. Virgil carries Dante down between the hairy legs of the Devil to emerge in a bright opposite place. DragonCon has a similar exit. At the lowest level, amid potted plants and restrooms, glass doors open into a very ordinary... parking garage. You are once again blinking into a "normal" world.

But do you really want to go out that way? Wouldn't you rather take the Up escalator with Darth Maul and the demons and try to scare up some lunch?

To pre-register or check the program schedule, go to




Back to the top