Dragon Con, the annual event that takes over downtown Atlanta every Labor Day Weekend, officially kicks off the festivities this year on August 29. For those of you who have never heard of Dragon Con or for those of you who have but don’t know that much about it because you wrote it off as anime, cosplay, and all the other the less horrific worlds of genre fiction, let’s look at why it’s a great convention for horror lovers everywhere to attend.
The horror genre is not usually the first thing that people bring up when discussing Dragon Con. Unfortunately, it’s not often even in the top five or top ten things people bring up when discussing Dragon Con. However, don’t think for even one minute that this is because Dragon Con doesn’t have a lot of horror-related offerings for those of us who love the genre. It’s simply a matter of there being so much else there that, a bit like most other areas of popular culture, the horror gets overlooked. As a result, Dragon Con doesn’t see the buzz around it in the horror community that many horror specific conventions get.
This needs to change. If the horror community at large would embrace the dark, horror-related corners of Dragon Con, it would find there is already a lot there to offer horror seeking convention attendees. Moreover, if more of the horror community would embrace and attend Dragon Con with a little more gore-filled gusto, they would find that the convention is large enough to have the resources to offer even more such things down the road in response to the increased demand.
Admittedly, unfortunately, Dragon Con’s history with horror is a bit messy. My first time at Dragon Con, I initially didn’t think they had a track dedicated to horror. Then, doing a more thorough search through the pocket guide, I started finding the horror topics I was looking for. They were almost all located in what was then called the Goth Track. Back then, that wasn’t exactly the first thing I would have looked for when thinking of horror.
Sure, Goth stuff can fit in horror and gothic things are a classic staple of the genre, but “Goth” didn’t exactly scream horror to me. Apparently, the Powers That Be at Dragon Con had a similar thought as a short time later the Goth Track went to the great beyond and found itself replaced by the twins of evil, the Urban Fantasy Track and the Horror Track. Well, actually, there were a few additional steps of evolution in there and it’s spread out a bit more, but aspects of that are a story best told by others. See here-
50 Days Of Dragon Con – Derek-Stein’s Monster – The Unique Geek – Aug 14, 2017
When you go looking for horror panels and events at Dragon Con, you have to look towards not only the Urban Fantasy Track and the Horror Track, but towards the Apocalypse Rising Track and the Paranormal Track.
Additionally, depending on a property’s target audience or how much another genre was blended into a property, you can find things you might think of as horror in the Young Adult Literature Track, the American Sci-Fi Classics Track, the Puppetry Track, the X Track, or others.
This has- or at least I’ve thought so for some time now -made it a little bit harder for the casual horror fan or the hardcore horror fan who has never attended Dragon Con to look at what’s available to them online and see the full range of horror offerings Dragon Con delivers to horror fandom every year. Sure, Romero would be found in the Horror Track, but other hot zombie properties would be found in Apocalypse Rising. Shows like The X-Files or Stranger Things have their home in the X Track. Twilight, which absolutely doesn’t belong in the Horror Track, is not, however, in Urban Fantasy with other similar properties as one might initially think. It is (or has been in the past) a part of the Young Adult Literature Track.
Some of this has to do with the size of the event. Dragon Con is a huge event with a giant footprint in downtown Atlanta.
One of the things many people have said about Dragon Con relating to that size is that it’s not one single convention. They refer to it as 36 separate conventions existing at the same time under one banner. That’s not entirely an inaccurate observation.
Every one of the tracks I’ve mentioned here as well as every other track of programming at Dragon Con could easily be a smaller weekend convention anywhere else if broken off from the main convention. The sheer size of the various tracks with horror offerings under their banner would be quite impressive and more than a tad difficult to handle for some convention heads if they were all just one track or one con. The idea was (in part) to keep the track from growing too large and unwieldy, but the division of “horror” across multiple tracks, some with less than horror sounding names, can cause you to miss a few things if you don’t know where it is you have to go looking.
So, you can see where- if you’ve never attended and explored the convention and only looked from the outside in -you might have missed more than a few horror-related things on the schedule. However, hopefully, in the age of convention apps, interactive websites, better search functionality, and more and more podcasts publishing convention panels the podcasters were a part of, it will be easier for you to find these things and see exactly how much horror is there to be found at Dragon Con.
Or, you know, you can take my word for it and just go ahead and attend one year.
But, actually, don’t just take my word for it. Check out the Grue Crew of Horror News Radio discussing their thoughts of their first Dragon Con back in 2016 and their involvement with the Horror Track.
Horror News Radio Episode 179 — Dragon Con (2016)
Also, see here-
You can also head over to the website of The Unique Geek and look for the episodes from 2017 and 2018 focusing on the tracks I’ve discussed here. Also, keep an eye out for this year’s episodes focusing on horror-related tracks as the 50 Days of Dragon Con episodes drop almost daily in between now and Dragon Con.
Also, you can check out a few past Horror Track panels in podcast form.
Near Dark (1987) – Decades Of Horror 1980s [Live From DragonCon 2017]
However, the best thing you can do right now is to just head over to the Dragon Con website and look at the page that covers the programming tracks and the page that updates you on the guests. The 2019 schedule and full events lists aren’t out yet and you won’t see them until roughly eight to ten days before the convention, and the guest list is not finished when it comes to general updates and additions either. But you can get a pretty good idea what this year will have to offer by checking out the Dragon Con website as well as following some of the links to the various tracks’ websites and social media pages.
But I can also give you a small taste of who you’ll see there right here.
That’s not even scratching the surface of it all, but you can see that what’s there (and all the other names listed over on the Dragon Con website so far) represent a nice mix of horror, dark fantasy, and urban fantasy across multiple mediums. That’s not even getting into the paranormal track and the entirely different types of horror found in that.
There really is a lot of horror to be found at Dragon Con and the forms it takes range from classic horror literature to the newest television and film offerings and all points in between. It spans the entire genre to cover everything from introductory level works for the younger set to the darker and more sinister worlds in horror that the more hardcore gorehounds love. The people representing it and bringing it to you take the form of writers, artists, actors, musicians, spoken word performers, podcasters, and more.
Horror may not be one of the bigger things Dragon Con is known for, but it’s there. It’s even always found there in very visible and big ways as a part of one of Dragon Con’s most highly visible events.
Can it be bigger? Can it offer more? Sure, of course it can. But there’s a bit of a chicken or the egg thing with it. We horror hounds have to show up and support it and ask for more in order to get more. That’s how every other track and event and offering at Dragon Con has grown over the years. This also involves giving feedback on the official app, so, yeah, extra work. But extra work that’s worth it.
If you’re a horror fan who already goes to Dragon Con but you’re not seeking out these tracks and these events as much as you are the ones that tickle your other geek sweet spots, you need to change that at least a little bit. If you’re a horror fan who doesn’t go to Dragon Con because you’ve never seen anything that made you think there was a thriving horror fandom there, you need to rectify this by going and seeing what’s actually there. It might be too late to get in for this year’s con, but next year is a great time to start going. The tracks are growing and changing and there may be more changes coming in the next few years that create even more horror offerings.
But, either way, there’s a lot there for any horror fan to see. Start getting yourself set up and ready to go see it.
The Horror Track
Urban Fantasy Track
Apocalypse Rising Track
Jerry Chandler is a lifelong geek who, while enjoying most everything fandom has to offer, finds himself most at home in the horror, dark fantasy, and science fiction genres. He has in the past contributed to websites like Needless Things, Nerdy Minds Magazine, Gruesome Magazine, and others while occasionally remembering to put up the odd musings on his own blog. He’s been a guest on several podcasts from the ESO Network, on Decades of Horror, and on the Nerdy Laser. He is also a regular co-host on The Assignment: Horror Podcast as well as the primary writer for its affiliated blog.