Thursday at Dragon Con is a liminal space, a time of in between. It begins in harsh reality, sweating through a maze of ticket lines at the Sheraton, but igniting in the evening, morphing into a colorful dreamscape of leather, fur and feathers.

The crackle and buzz of potential fills the air as I wade through the crowd. There’s a sense of something building, as if thousands of collaborators were all working together to create a living and breathing piece of art.

This is the kind of event where each individual’s path is unique and packed with surprises. Ducking through a doorway, I found a bar overflowing with arcade games from the 80s. Every play is free, and people of all ages crowd the machines laughing and cursing in equal measure.

Next I find myself in a sea of voices, warbling along to tv theme songs, Saturday morning cartoons, and more. It’s a great way to end the evening, belting out past frustrations to the tune of “Under Pressure” to open room for fun.

Friday begins with puppets. Where else but Dragon Con could you enjoy a Stargate/Dr. Who masshup brought to life by molded foam and thread? The puppeteers are cheerfully energetic with an obvious love for their craft and more than willing to meet with people afterward. It’s a good start to what will turn out to be a long but brilliant day.

Wandering from the Westin to the Marriott, I head for the “Legends of Tomorrow” panel with Arthur Darville and Olivia Swann. The crowd is surprisingly sparse, with no line to get in. Mr. Darville and Ms. Swann are both charming and seem to genuinely enjoy interacting with the fans. They gleefully answer questions and tell stores about the show, gently teasing each other, and generally having a good time.

After taking a break for lunch I head down to the Hilton to people watch. The level of cosplay on display is awe-inspiring, showcasing incredible skill and effort in creating convincing characters. The crowd is beginning to build, but there’s a different vibe to earlier Dragon Cons I’ve been to. It’s not bad, but perhaps a bit cautious, as if everyone is waiting for this opportunity to once again be taken away from us. There’s an underlying current of deep appreciation, we are all grateful to be here.

Next up is the Earth Station Who panel, generously sponsored by the BritTrack. The turnout is wonderful, with a highly engaged audience eager to discuss the ups and downs of Series 13. Chris Chibnall’s ears might be on fire. The next Doctor Who panel I was invited on is a more lighthearted romp through all the Doctor Who actors who also appeared in British comedies. It dissolves into cheerful chaos, as we attempt to name every Doctor Who actor there ever was and associate them with their other projects.

After that, I decide I’m finally going to take the time to learn a few habitrails. The pride I feel at successfully navigating from the Hilton to the Peachtree Center Food court entirely by skybridge feels like a Dragon Con rite of passage. I’m ultimately headed for the Westin, where I’m excited to appear on a Sandman panel for the Urban Fantasy track.

Sandman is a project people care deeply about. The level of passion in the room makes this feel like a gathering of close friends sharing an experience that touched them in a way only a few series achieve. The questions are thoughtful and engaging and the panel turns into a highly enjoyable conversation on the subject of Dream and how he reacts to humanity, and in turn how humanity relates to him.

After another hour of so of meandering through the crowd, marveling at the incredible creativity on display, I head back to the hotel, exhausted but so happy to be back among my tribe. A brilliant day is coming to a close, and I can’t wait to start the next one.

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