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DragonCon 2016: Horror and Alt History Recap

DragonCon 2016: Horror and Alt History Recap

It’s tough to believe yet another DragonCon has come and gone. This was my sixth year attending, and though I felt this year was a bit low energy compared to previous DragonCons, I still had an amazing time. As usual, I stuck with the Alternate History and Horror tracks, run by Enrique Velazquez (or DJ Doctor Q), and Derek Tatum, respectively. Both programming tracks are conveniently location in the Westin hotel, which meant I didn’t have to brave the muggy Atlanta heat. Since I wasn’t speaking on panels this year, I got to enjoy a relaxing, zero-responsibility con.

Friday was a bit on the lackluster side, though, with only two panels I wanted to see. I attended “Faces of the Tarot: Penny Dreadful’s Monsters and Magic.” I think by now we all know how I feel about this show. It’s like someone scooped out Little Meghan’s brain and crafted the content from everything she’s ever wanted. Added bonus: my dear friend Leanna Renee Hieber and newly acquired friend Cherie Priest were on the panel, along with Corvis Nocturnum. Basically, they all gushed about the show, and if there had been a physical Gothic mic drop, it belonged to Leanna. Leanna’s made her life and career from Victoriana and gaslamp fiction, and if anyone’s an expert, it’d be her.

The panelists touched on the repetition of tarot imagery throughout the show, the subversion of the trope of the Victorian woman (much like my article on Lily from earlier this year), and the ways in which show writer John Logan incorporates these famous fictional characters into the world he’s crafted. Cherie brought up the fact that in addition to the tropes it displays, Penny Dreadful fails the reverse Bechdel Test. Every time you see two men together, they’re always talking about a woman.

Unfortunately, I was not able to get in to the “Hannibal Fannibals” panel, but I was assured there were flower crowns present. They gave away a signed script, and I imagine everyone freaked out about the series finale, and what the after credits scene could mean. I don’t want to spoil anything for those of you who haven’t seen it, but I’m freaking out, too.

As far as finales go, if this is it for Hannibal, I’ll be fine. I feel like I have the closure I need, but the door is open for future possibilities. This year, Team Sassy Science, Brian Zeller (Aaron Abrams) and Jimmy Price (Scott Thompson) from the show had their own panels. Which I also could not get in to see. This was the first year we’ve had guests from Hannibal, and hopefully, they’ll be back next year.

I did, however, relearn a very important lesson: No matter how cute they are, do not wear T-strap wedges to DragonCon.

On Saturday, I underestimated the number of sports fans in Atlanta.

I arrived late and missed my friend’s reading, but I was on time to wait in line for “American Horror Story: Freak Show.” Thank goodness the line was inside. I actually had a pretty good seat. I was toward the back of the room, but dead center. When American Horror Story started four years ago, Derek started a fan panel where we voiced our theories and grievances (I’m looking at you, Asylum), but we’d never had guests.

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Left to right: Daniel Griffith (Moderator), Naomi Grossman, Rose Siggins, Erika Ervin, Mat Fraser.

Naomi Grossman (Pepper), Rose Siggins (Legless Suzy), Erika Ervin (Amazon Eve), and Mat Fraser (Paul the Illustrated Seal Boy) spoke about their first impressions of each other, what it was like on set, and what they have going now that Freak Show is over. I would love to quote some them, but the panel was largely NC-17. Of course, they couldn’t reveal anything about the shows fifth installment, Hotel, coming in October.

And yes, I attended the second Penny Dreadful panel, which was not as dynamic as the first, but still opened a great discussion on the meaning of “monster” within the show and setting of late Victorian England and what being on the cusp of the Industrial Revolution means for the characters. Afterward, I had the opportunity to tour this year’s Artifice Club Steampunk Museum of Curiosities. The Artifice Club was also founded by Doctor Q, and for the last two years, members have set up their personal steampunk items for display. The exhibit ranged from “medical” kits, to deep-sea helmets, and smaller, personal items, as well as fully functioning wings and other various mechanical devices.

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Left to Right: L. Andrew Cooper, Kenneth Mark Hoover, Leanna Renee Hieber, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, Jeff Carroll.

“Historical Horror” kicked off my last day at DragonCon. It’s always interesting to hear the ways authors incorporate historical elements into their books and what drives them to choose certain aspects of history. It reminded me of the “Uses of History” panel I had at AnachroCon back in February. I tend to haunt the Victorian era, specifically focusing on medical history and all the weird (and occasionally stupid) ways we tried to fix the human body.

The final panel was “Dreadpunk: The Gothic Horror Revival.” If I had to choose a personal theme for this DragonCon, it was “Here are all the things you love, finally back in the scene.” Dreadpunk is a term coined by Derek to describe the Gothic revival in the Steampunk subculture. I mean Gothic in its literary sense; Gothic horror, kicking it old school with Bram Stoker and Mary Shelley.

For a while, those of us interested in Victoriana melded with the Steampunk crowd because that’s where we found corsets and giant skirts and mechanized technological advances, but it didn’t give us an identity fitting enough with our aesthetic. With Dreadpunk, we finally have a home. I’m very excited about the future for Dreadpunk, brining back… well, dread. The creeping sensation of never knowing if the monster is just around the corner.

The Horror and Alternate History tracks overlapped this year, I’m delighted it happened. There is so much room for crossover, especially now that horror is branching out and more welcome in other sub genres. Sadly, I missed the Mechanical Masquerade, but there’s always next year. Over all, I had a wonderful time talking about things I love, and seeing and spending time my friends.

DragonCon 2016 will take place over Labor Day Weekend.

Let the countdown begin. Again.

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Meghan Harker
Meghan Harker is a Horror writer for Girls in Capes. She’s currently working on her own Gothic novel and hosts the Courting Casualties podcast. When not writing, she’s either drawing, reading, hunting antiques, or lamenting that she wasn’t born in the 1800s. If you follow her on Twitter (@ExquisitelyOdd), you might get the chance to play Guess Who’s Dead!, her favorite post-mortem photography game (no one else likes to play.)
Meghan Harker
Written by Meghan Harker

Meghan Harker is a Horror writer for Girls in Capes. She’s currently working on her own Gothic novel and hosts the Courting Casualties podcast. When not writing, she’s either drawing, reading, hunting antiques, or lamenting that she wasn’t born in the 1800s. If you follow her on Twitter (@ExquisitelyOdd), you might get the chance to play Guess Who’s Dead!, her favorite post-mortem photography game (no one else likes to play.)