FOTF Force User Brad Tracy Celebrates His Birthday in Style at DragonCon!
It started last year on a whim. Now it has become a birthday tradition for me. Each year a massive convention known as DragonCon is held in Atlanta, Georgia that regularly sees over 80,000 hardcore nerds in attendance. Whatever your niche might be, chances there is something for you at DragonCon. Doctor Who, Star Trek and of course Star Wars (among many others) all have numerous panels that bring together the most dedicated fans and celebrities alike. Spanning the course of the entire Labor Day weekend, there are discussion panels, trivia contests, dance parties and even an impressive parade.
The wonderful folks who coordinate the Star Wars track spared no expense on putting on a weekend to remember. Not only was there a “Last Party on Alderaan,” there was also charity sabacc, Star Wars Shakespeare, a costume contest and the now famous trivia competition hosted by Superfan Daniel Eisenhauer. Panels included “Arrogance of the Jedi,” “Crime and Politics in SW,” “Episode IX Speculation,” and “Clone Wars 10th Anniversary.” Henry Gilroy of Clone Wars notoriety and Timothy Zahn took part in the festivities as did some of the top names in Star Wars fandom, including: Alex and Mollie Damon of Star Wars Explained, Bria Lavorgna of Tosche Station, Matt Rushing of Aggressive Negotiations, Swara Salih of Beltway Banthas and Thomas Harper of The Legal Geeks.
One particular panel brought together many of these respected names to discuss new Star Wars canon. The panelists included host Bria Lavorgna, Nanci Schwartz, Matt Rushing, Alex Damon and Michael Morris of Cloud City Casino. The group got right to it and discussed their favorite new character in canon. If you know Bria, it should come as no surprise that she picked Inferno Squad’s fearless leader, Iden Versio (I second that notion, as did Matt Rushing). Nanci Schwartz picked an increasingly popular character from the Chuck Wendig Aftermath series, Sinjir Rath Velus. Alex, possibly taking a cue from Bria who was dressed as Dr. Aphra smartly said that Aphra was his favorite new character. As collector of Imperial artifacts myself, I was pleased that Michael chose no other than Ransolm Casterfo of Claudia Gray’s masterpiece Bloodline.
Michael stuck with Iden theme as he discussed his favorite new canon story, Battlefront II: Inferno Squad by Christie Golden. While Bria obviously agreed with that sentiment, she said her personal favorite had to be Bloodline. Claudia Gray continued to receive some love as Alex selected another one of her brilliant works, Lost Stars. Matt repeated Bloodline as a favorite, and he also mentioned Christie Golden’s poignant Clone Wars novel about Asajj Ventress and Quinlan Vos, Dark Disciple. Nanci chose Thrawn: Alliances, but she was quick to additionally give a shoutout to the Pillio mission of Luke Skywalker in Battlefront II. If you have ever played the campaign, you can imagine why.
The question then became, “How is Lucasfilm and Disney doing with handling canon now that we are a few years removed from its acquisition of Star Wars?” Nanci Schwartz pointed out that there have been significant improvements since they have brought on more diverse literary talent including Delilah Dawson and DJ Older. Upon hearing that, Bria quickly pointed out that no one puts on a pair of pants like Lando (read Older’s Last Shot if you want more details on that). To add to those thoughts, Nanci brought up the fact that the SWU has been enhanced by the cameos or mentions of various characters in different books, such as Sinjir and his husband, Condor Kyl, being mentioned in Last Shot. The panelists were in agreement that Disney seems to found its rhythm and will continue to do so as new eras become more available to explore.
Opinions varied when the discussion turned to having books as prequels to the movies, especially when the novels are released after the films. Matt Rushing felt it was “ridiculous” that these stories, which add depth to the main characters, are not released more in advance of the motion pictures. Michael and Nanci concurred that books should not be necessary in order to get a full picture of the plot and that the movies should stand on their own. Rebel Rising however was praised in the depth and development it provided to the character of Jyn Erso.
Panelists then were asked to discuss their opinions on the biggest standout characters in new canon. Nanci quickly replied with Grand Admiral Rae Sloane. Everyone agreed she should show up way more than she does now. Alex once again went back to Dr. Aphra, whose comic book series has become a fan favorite. Bria hoped that Aphra would make her way to other media, much like Aayla Secura made the jump from comics to Attack of the Clones. Nanci agreed that Hera Syndulla would be perfect for a live-action show. Michael Morris gave props to Snap Wexley, whose story spans from Aftermath to The Force Awakens and the Poe Dameron comic book series.
What story would you like to write? Well, Nancy for one would love to scribe a domestic affair turned trilling spy mission starring Sinjir and Condor Kyl. Matt Rushing would love to see more in the area of Luke’s early training of Ben Solo. Alex also would love to see that, and he would love to have more stories of Black Squadron. Michael said what many of us would like to see, and that is a backstory on the Knights of Ren. Where did they go anyway?
The panelists ended with what movie they would love to see. Michael Morris said it plainly: AHSOKA, which was met “with thunderous applause.” A Solo Underworld Trilogy was suggested by Matt Rushing. Nanci pitched a Rogue Squadron story, a movie I am sure millions of Star Wars fans would enjoy. Bria concluded with either a movie centering on Iden Versio and Del Meeko or as her cosplay screamed…Dr. Aphra.
All in all, DragonCon was an amazing time that I will not soon forget. Each panel was as immersive and intriguing as this one, and it was exhilarating to hear so many points of view. But perhaps the best part of this convention is all the people you meet for the first time and reuniting with those whom you’ve met along the years. The events are great, but it is the people that truly define DragonCon.
Oh, and did I mention there was cosplay? Enjoy! And hope to see you there next year.
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JFK historian and assassination researcher. Member of Citizens Against Political Assassinations and Assassination Archives Research Center.