2014 Apocalypse Rising Track Staff (left to right): Billy McKinney, Michael Front, Samantha Zuniga, Lauren Groont, Kelly Brewer, Drew Husky, Emily Yang

2014 Apocalypse Rising Track Staff (left to right): Billy McKinney, Michael Front, Samantha Zuniga, Shannon Chesnut, Lauren Groont, Kelly Brewer, Drew Husky, Emily Yang

Per Matt
Perish the thought, but if there’s ever a global disaster taking place in the near future, how would you react to the end of the world? Get survivalism tips, learn how to react to natural disasters, prepare for dystopian societies, meet the actors from various genre TV shows and movies and attend the ever-popular Zombie Walk and Zombie Prom at the 2015 Dragon Con.

From September 4th to 7th, Dragon Con unofficially takes over downtown Atlanta. There will be many events taking place throughout the convention, so don’t be surprised if you see more than a few undead creatures roaming around. In our interview, Apocalypse Rising Track Director Shannon Chesnut prepares for post-apocalyptic panels, late-night programming and the upcoming Zombie Apocalypse at this year’s convention.

As the Track Director, please describe some of your job responsibilities.
– “I’m responsible for developing the apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic programming for all four days of Dragon Con. With the help of my AWESOME team, I create panels, coordinate panelists and guests, oversee special events (Zombie Walk and Zombie Prom), etc. and then run around like a chicken with its head cut off during Dragon Con, trying to make everything run smoothly.”

How would you describe the overall track to a first-time attendee?
– “It’s the end of the world — either by natural disaster or Zombie invasion — and you have no idea what to do. That’s where we come in! We offer panels that cover both the practical (first aid, survivalism, weaponry, etc.) and the fantastical (Zombies, giant meteors, TV shows/movies, etc.), and meld them together to both inform and entertain attendees.”

The 2012 Dragon Con Apocalypse Rising crew courtesy of Josh Ilitzky Photography

The 2012 Dragon Con Apocalypse Rising staff courtesy of Josh Ilitzky Photography

How did you initially get involved working at Dragon Con?
– “I started out about 13 years ago as your average newbie attendee, arriving at Dragon Con to see the cast of a little known post-apocalyptic show called The Tribe. I fell in love with Dragon Con and wanted to be more involved. I came back the next year as a volunteer, and haven’t ever looked back. I love it!”

What led you to Apocalypse Rising?
– “I’ve always loved dystopian societies. I find them fascinating, especially when you start looking at how people think and act in imperfect scenarios. It started out with just books, but eventually my interest increased to include TV, movies, survivalism, etc.”

What is it about Georgia that seems to attract the undead?
– “The Southern hospitality!”

Will the undead be a primary topic of the track?
– “Actually, that’s a common misconception about the Apocalypse Rising Track. Whereas we definitely cover — and love — Zombies and the Zombie Apocalypse, we’re also the home to so much other content. We have big panels planned that will cover first-aid, disaster preparedness and Mad Max. Not to mention the genre TV shows… The 100, Defiance, Falling Skies, Dominion, 12 Monkeys, The Last Ship, and Z Nation (to name a few). That being said, we do have some big Zombie events such as the Zombie Walk, Zombie Prom, and our panel on the science of Zombism.”

Please preview this year’s Zombie Walk and Zombie Prom.
– “This year both events will be on Friday evening. The Zombie Walk will launch from the Apocalypse Rising Track Room (Chastain I-II) in the Westin at about 9:00 PM. It will last about an hour, taking a route that goes outside and around most of the host hotels, and will then end up at the Zombie Prom in the Sheraton Grand Ballroom right around 10 PM. This year we have DJ Marc J. Cubs spinning for us, and it’s going to be amazing! Our costume contest for King and Queen will be back again, and the night is just going to be a lot of crazy Zombie fun!”

Do you have any Do’s and Don’ts for possible Zombie Walk attendees?
– “I’d say the main rule is to have fun with it. Don’t stress yourself out with how much — or how little — you know how to do or are able to accomplish. A little fake blood and a great shamble go a long way! Also, keep in mind the heat and humidity of Atlanta. Those factors can really affect your makeup job, so be sure to do some research first if you’re going for a more complex makeup.”

Photo Courtesy of Dragon Con

Photo Courtesy of Dragon Con

What were some of the most-talked about topics for the track last year?
– “Some of our hits last year were our Survivalism for Dummies panel, which had a great range of panelists that talked about the basics of surviving a disaster (or apocalypse). Also, Talk the Walk: The Zombies of The Walking Dead was one of our most packed panels! Zombies from the hit show stopped by and shared stories from the show, as well as how they got involved in acting and being a zombie. It was a great time!”

What aspect are you most looking forward to within the Apocalypse Rising Track this year?
– “Getting to meet all the attendees that come to our panels. Honestly, they’re why I do what I do. I love the topics we cover, but more than that, I love giving other fans of the genre as best of an experience as I can. And I love seeing their enthusiasm, and hearing their comments. It’s so rewarding!”

Who are some of the planned Apocalypse Rising guests who will highlight the track this year?
– “Really, we don’t have just one guest who stands out. All of the guests and professionals that participate in our track are amazing, generous, knowledgeable people. We’re really lucky in that aspect, that we have both former and new panelists that really bring a lot to the panels they’re on.”

What can we expect from your track’s late-night programming, this year?
– “This year, in addition to the Zombie Walk and Zombie Prom on Friday, we’re also going to have a Mad Max panel on Saturday that will be geared more towards mature audiences. It will be a candid look at and discussion of the stories and themes in the Mad Max universe.”

How do you foresee the end of the world? Will attendees of your track be prepared to survive?
– “I honestly don’t know how the world is going to end. To be completely honest, nowadays there are just so many ways it could happen — both naturally and man made. But our track definitely does its best to provide practical skills to help anyone in case of a disaster. From first aid to weaponry to what to eat, we try to cover it all.”

How do you normally spend your time at Dragon Con?
– “You can almost always find me in my track room. I try to get out to see at least one panel that really interests me, as well as to spend some time in the vendor hall, but I’m generally never too far away from our track room in the Westin.”

Do you ever host panels? If so, will you be hosting any this year?
– “I host panels from time-to-time, though I’m really more of a behind the scenes kind of gal. But this year, I am stepping up to moderate several of our TV fan discussion panels. You can catch me discussing The 100, Falling Skies, and the shows of SyFy.”

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