This past weekend Geekykool Contributors Ashley Grant and I(Jon Tessler) attended DragonCon 2023 which is held annually in Downtown Atlanta GA. This was the first time that Geekykool has attended the Con as an Official Press Company. When our approvals were all sorted out, and we got the official notification, Ashley and I were STOKED. I last attended DragonCon back in 1994, and back then it was all held in the Marriott Hotel. This years event was held in 5 separate hotels, and the Vendors/Dealers/Comic Artist area was set up in “Americas Mart” and comprised 3 complete floors. About 2 weeks prior to the Con we received our submission forms to list which actors/writers/scientists etc that we wanted to have the opportunity to interview. Out of 30 interview requests, GeekyKool was approved for approximately 15 interview slots. Talking to other media outlets, we definitely got lucky as some only have 5 – 7 approved requests.
Ashley and I drove down to Atlanta, and we actually stayed at a hotel located about 10 minutes drive from the convention site. For all the talk about Atlanta traffic, we did not run into much traffic congestion on any of the days. It was actually nice to stay away from the convention as it gave us a place to relax, and be away from the madness. I had prepaid for parking in the city, a couple of blocks from the Hyatt Hotel which was where a lot of interviews were taking place, so every morning we drove in, parked in the lot we chose, and went to the Con. The first order of business was going down to the Media Relations Room which was located on the bottom level of the Hyatt and picking up our Badges. We signed paperwork saying that we understood the media rules regarding locations we could and could not take video or photos, which were in place for safety reasons. There were so many “tracks” going on at the same time, that all 5 hotels were a constant hub of activity. We went to the Vendors Mart the first day, and browsed around, we bought some items, and met up with a lot of artists that we have seen in the past.
On Friday, I had both a 1 on 1 interview with Claudia Christian, and then a Press Conference style interview with Jason Marsden, Omri Kratz and Vinessa Shaw(the Children from the movie Hocus Pocus). Now since the WGA and SAG-AFTRA Strikes are still going on, we were required to follow the guidelines and not ask an questions about “Struck work, past or present”. This made for some interesting interviews with Actors, as I got to ask questions I normally wouldn’t ask. You will see what I mean when I post the transcript of Claudia’s interview. In the Press Conference interview, with the cast from Hocus Pocus, I asked how the strike was affecting each actor, and Jason made the Faux Pax of talking about Hocus Pocus 2, so it was kinda funny to watch Vinessa slap him on the leg while saying “you can’t talk about that”
On Saturday Dragoncon held their annual parade. Neither Ashley or myself could attend due to having interviews set up. I had 3 interviews, the first was a 1 on 1 interview with SFX Expert Russ Adams, who is not a member of SAG so we could actually talk about movies he worked on. Then I had a 1 on 1 interview with Les Johnson, a NASA scientist. Later I had a press Conference interview with JPL scientist Trina Ray alongside “The Cigar Nerds” podcast and Daddy Mojo, which is a blog site. Normally every interview was limited to 10 minutes, but we were allowed 15 minutes, and some really good questions were asked by everyone, and I cannot wait to bring you that interview.
On Sunday, I had 4 interviews lined up The first with Mohammed Noor, who is a professor at Duke University, along with a Technical advisor to Star Trek. This was another Press Conference interview with The Cigar Nerds, and it was again a fun one. Next I had a Press Conference interview with Daddy Mojo and we talked to JPL Engineer/Scientist Sara Milkovich. My 3rd Interview of the day, was with Kim Steadman who is a Systems Engineer at JPL and both The Cigar Nerds and Daddy Mojo sat in on this one(if you notice a theme, your aren’t mistaken). My last interview of the day was with noted author and editor Bill Fawcett, and this was a 1 on 1 interview. At the end of this interview I showed Bill the cover to Ashley Grant’s new book “Empty Cargo, A Renfield story”, Bill immediately called the assistant to noted horror author, and Dracula expert Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, and set up a meeting between Ashley and Quinn. This meeting took place after she finished a writers panel, and she and Ashley have a good talk about writing styles, and other things that I am sure Ashley will expand upon when she does her articles. I also did a quick interview with Bill Fawcett’s “bodyguard” Kevin Dockery who is the unofficial historian of the US Navy Seals, and will share that here as well.
So from my side of things you will be seeing at least 8 to 10 articles in the next week or so, and you will see at least 4 or 5 from Ashley.
I can not express how much this Convention enriched both of us, and how helpful and generous the staff at DragonCon were to both of us. We definitely look forward to returning next year, and having an even better time covering this massive event.