A Few Observations from DragonCon

As one does over a Labor Day weekend, I made the pilgrimage to Atlanta to participate in DragonCon–the largest cosplay, gaming, comic, anime, movie, art, vending, writing insanity in the Southeast. around eighty thousand nerds–pardon me, intellectual badasses–convene to revel in our mutual geekdom. Made a few interesting observations this year:
1) Cosplay (dressing up like your favorite movie, TV, comic, book, or anime character) was down this year. Way down. In addition, the elaborate professional costumes of past years were practically nonexistent. Whether this was a statement on the economy, the current political atmosphere, or something else, I don’t know. But very few people seemed to want to try hard this year at their cosplay. The up side of this: Less truly unfortunate displays of people wearing spandex or fishnet who really, really, should reconsider their fashion choices.
2) Gender bending costuming was everywhere. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen a six-foot-three hairy, bearded, male slave Leia. (As in Princess Leia. Star Wars. Chained to Jabba the Hut.) Female Ironmans, Male Wonder Women, and for some reason, dozens of guys in belly dancing costumes. Did I miss some movement in the belly dancing business to dare men to wear our costumes in public?
3) In past years, hundreds of nubile young ladies ran around mostly naked in slave Leia costumes. I only saw two this year, and one of them was the guy from #2. Saw MANY General Leia Organa’s however. (Princess Leia in the last film as a mature woman leading the rebel army.) Clearly an homage to the passing of Carrie Fisher. Classy stuff. Way to go, gamer girls everywhere.
4) While on the subject of gamer girls, I saw no less than a hundred handmaids–women in red, 19th century style dresses with deep, white bonnets that hid their faces. It’s a reference to THE HANDMAID’S TALE by Margaret Atwood, a dystopian novel published in 1985, and a chilling read in light of current events in this country. Also a Hulu original TV series seriously worth watching.
5) Went to multiple panels of Big 5 publishing editors. First time I’ve ever heard editors state outright that they no longer attempt to chase industry trends. Ever since I’ve been publishing (a long time, now) editors have been known to make pronouncements over what’s IN and what’s OUT. Things like, “Epic fantasy is dead.” “Historical’s out.” “Vampires are done.” “Paranormal is hot.”
Not this year. This year, multiple editors said, “The market now moves so fast, and so much of EVERYTHING is available all the time [a clear reference to indy and self publishing], that it’s no longer possible to identify and chase trends of any kind in a timely manner.”
The obvious follow-up question: what ARE editors looking for?
Answer: Great stories that involve readers, evoke powerful emotions, and tell personal stories with universal appeal.
That’s a mouthful to unpack…I’ll give you a second to re-read it.
Bottom line: For the first time in my publishing career, I as an author can feel free to write the story of my heart without particularly worrying about the capricious tastes of the publishing industry.
One editor went so far as to suggest we’ve entered a golden age of publishing where great stories of any kind can and will be embraced. Lord, I hope she’s right.

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