Memorial Day weekend is Balticon weekend. Unlike most science fiction conventions, Balticon lasts four days instead of three, beginning the Friday before Memorial Day and extending through the Monday holiday — this year, Friday, May 22 through Monday, May 25. Each day has a full range of activities. In fact, so much is going on each day that few attendees get enough sleep. I try to get as much sleep as possible, but three days of convention activities is my limit, so I headed home on Sunday evening and missed out on Mondays events.
I missed several panels I wanted to see Friday afternoon and evening because traffic problems delayed my arrival and registration problems delayed entry into the convention. I always register for a convention early because it’s cheaper and because the convention badge is ready and waiting upon arrival, making entry to the convention quicker. Unfortunately, Balticon’s new registration process had a lot of kinks in it that delayed entry to the convention Friday evening. The badges for those who had registered and paid early had not been printed prior to the convention, so everyone — including authors and other panelists who usually pick up their badges separately — had to wait in a very long line to check in, after which there was another long wait for your number to be called (in random order) for you to pick up your badge. In all fairness, a new system often produces glitches and the convention staff is well aware of the problems and intends to make sure this holdup will not happen again.
This year’s line-up of special guests included Guest of Honor Jo Walton, Artist Guest of Honor Ruth Anderson (whose beautiful work graced the Balticon program, including some color pull-outs in the center), Music Guest of Honor Erica Neely, 2015 Compton Crook Award Winner Alexandra Duncan, 2015 Heinlein Award Winner Jack McDevitt, 2014 Compton Crook Award Winner Charles E. Gannon, Special Science Guest Edie Stern, Author Ghost of Honor CJ Henderson, and Fan Ghost of Honor Joe Mayhew. Balticon also sponsors a young writers’ contest and a poetry contest.
Balticon’s activities included on-going video and anime programs; gaming; author readings and signings; the art show; the charity auction; the dealers’ room; the trivia contest; the masquerade; the hall costume contest; concerts; a magic show; the Swing Dance; the Time-Travelers’ Ball; the Teen to Twenty-five Dance; the Medieval Dance; Balticon Beats II — The Two Tables, a dance party/mixer; Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog; a musical performed by The Usual Suspects — “My Fan … Lady?”; the Baen Traveling Roadshow; memorials for CJ Henderson, Leonard Nimoy, and Peggy Rae; book launch parties; and kaffeeklatsches with individual guests of honor.
Balticon also provided a variety of workshops and panels for attendees. Here is a sampling of the panels offered:
- Acting: Dynamic Voice Acting; Vocal Warmups and Relaxation Techniques; Makeup for the Stage
- Anime: Anime Gone Mainstream; Anime After Dark
- Art: Dryer Lint Art with Heidi Hooper; Intro to Scratchboard with Ruth Sanderson; Watercolor Demonstration with Alan Beck
- Children: Active Victorian Games for Children; Learn Carolingian Minuscule; Children’s Filk Concert; Fandongo Puppets with Mark MacDicken; Why Science Matters [for teens]
- Conventions: How to Be a First-Rate Moderator
- Crafts: Electric Origami; Decorating Miniature Hats; Make a Dragon in Scratchboard; Intro to Leather Working; Silk Scrap Magic; Weaving a Bag with Eta Hack; Anyone Can Sew
- Costuming: Where to Find Inspiration for Your Costume; Kamikaze Kostuming; Costuming from Your Closet; Tech for Costumers; 1870s Victorian Hairstyles; Costuming First Aid; Molding and Casting Small Objects
- Diversity: Being Out in Fandom; Diversity in Popular Culture — Fad or New Normal?
- Editing: The Art of Series Editing; Tips for the Freelance Editor; Judging an Editor’s Work; Editing for Magazines; Editors’ Pet Peeves
- Fantasy: Crowns and Swords: The Intertwined Worlds of Fantasy and Monarchy
- Gaming: Wargaming 101; Boardgaming; Cooperative Games; RPG with a Fantasy Theme; How to Be a Better Roleplayer; From Idea to Game — How to Design Games; Cowboy/Western Games
- Health: Healthcare and Phylogenetics; Your Brain — Breathing, Sleep Apnea, and Stroke
- Media: Women in Film and Media; How to Turn Your Short Story or Novel into a Film; Learn How to Make Your Own Movie; Writing for TV vs. Web Series vs. Film; Budget Film Making; DC Comics on the Small Screen
- Music: Open Filk; Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Filk * But Were Afraid to Ask; The Big Score — The Soundtrack of Science Fiction; Adding Variety to Guitar Strumming
- Mythology and Folklore: Exploring the Lore of Celtic and Norse Mythical Figure; Retelling Fairy-Tales Across Media; Working with Others’ Myths; Music and Myth; Tea and Tarot; Ancient Greece in SF and Fantasy
- Paranormal: What’s So Great about the Undead?
- Podcasting: Podcasting 101; Way of the Buffalo Podcast; Podcaster Improv; All You Have Is Audio; In Search of New Podcasts
- Publishing: Starting Your Own Small Press; Self-Publishing 101; How to Get Attention for Your Self-Published Books When Everyone Is Self-Publishing
- Reading: Reading Outside Your Genre for SF/F Writers; Reading as a Writer
- Science: Space Shuttle First Flights; Mirrors of Nature — The Animal World; Flags on the Moon; Women of Science — A History; Blood, Sweat, and Fears — Infectious Outbreaks Among Us; Celebrating 25 Years of Discovery with the Hubble Space Telescope; How Many Universes Are There Anyway?; Weather Happens; Aurora on Jupiter; Herbicide Resistance in Plants
- Science Fiction: Privilege, Privacy, and Civil Liberties in Science Fiction; Soft Science in Hard SF; Gadgets in Fiction — How Do You Work Technology into Your Story?; Writing Crime Novels in a Science Fiction or Fantasy Universe; Physics for SF Authors; Future Militaries
- Screenplays: Dialogue Is All You Get
- Writing: How to Start Writing; What Genre Is This Anyway?; Researching Your Alternate History; Writing Diverse Characters — Archetypes vs. Stereotypes; Don’t Forget Your Subplots; Treading Lightly — Writing Troublesome Things; Fiction Writing for Gamemasters; What Can We Learn from Bad Writing?; How to Incorporate Critique; How to Keep Writing After the Workshop; Point of View and Narrator Swapping; Bars, Inns, and Taverns — Fiction and Reality; Handling the Unavoidable Info-dump
- The Writing Business: A Glimpse Behind the Curtain — The Business Side of Writing; Targeting Submissions — The Pitch; Tales From the Slush Pile; Putting a Pretty Face on Small Press; How to Do a Blog Tour; WordPress 101
- World Building: How Alien is Too Alien: World Building with Character and Culture Development; How to Build a Meal for Your Invented World
- Young Adult: Long YA, Short YA; Tropes in Young Adult SF/F
Attendees could also participate in a variety of workshops: Fantasy Drawing Workshop; Balticon Writer’s Workshop; Descriptive Prose Workshop; Character Workshop with Jo Walton; Kumihime Workshop; Chainmail Jewelry Workshop; and the Stretch and Sketch Art Workshop, offered both Sunday and Monday mornings.
Next year will be the convention’s 50th anniversary and the celebration will feature Guest of Honor George R. R. Martin, Artist Guest of Honor John Picacio, Filk Guests of Honor Bill and Gretchen Roper, 2015 Compton Crook Award Winner Alexandra Duncan, and more. The convention will be held May 27 – 30, 2016 and will move to a new location — the Renaissance Hotel, Baltimore Harborplace Hotel. It should be an exciting event. Maybe I’ll see you there.