19 April 1987
Balticon 21 Committee
Baltimore, MD 21203
ATTN: Con-celebrant Services
I'm sorry to sound like a tempermental writer, but I must protest the treament I received as a con-celebrant at Balticon 21.
To begin with, although I signed up (at the invitation of Marty Gear) at last year's Balticon, I received no communication from the committee until March 14, 1987, when I got a letter from Ms. Wheeler. This letter instructed me to call the Omni to make reservations before March 16 to get the convention rate (you can see that a two more days' delay would have left me stranded). Ms. Wheeler also enclosed a schedule of events, on which she "tried to schedule you in accordance with your expressed wishes." Since I was never given a chance to express wishes, it is not surprising that I was scheduled for only one panel -- and that one on the almost-totally uninteresting topic of "Does Criticism Matter?"
My return letter to Ms. Wheeler, asking to be put on a few other panels, was never acknowledged, and certainly my wishes were completely ignored.
Upon arriving at the convention, I went to the Lincoln Room (as instructed) to pick up my ID badge and packet. Ms. Wheeler, unable to find the materials and apparently completely unconcerned, handed me a mug and sent me to registration. There, I very carefully said "I have just come from the Lincoln Room, where I was told to come here. I am a program participant and they can't find my materials."
The fellow at the desk belligerently replied, "Lincoln Room!" and turned to the next customer. A second staffer found my badge and thrust it at me with a program book. I asked, "Is there a place I can get a list of my panels?" -- the reply was "There's a pocket program in your packet."
On Saturday, when I re-entered the Green Room in an attempt to get something to drink and converse with fellow pros, I was accosted and almost thrown out . . . I had to produce a pocket program and point to my name in order to prove that I was a legitimate program participant. The woman who attacked me then scolded me with, "You should have a ribbon on your badge if you're on the program." When I asked her how to get such a ribbon, she shrugged and turned away.
Inspection of the program book showed that, while most Con-celebrants received a paragraph or two identifying them and their work, I received a bare listing of my name. I suppose this is because no one ever sent me a questionnaire or cared enough to call and get particulars.
On Sunday a committee member asked me "What gossip can you tell me from the writer's party last night?" I replied, "Writer's party?" and he explained, "Oh, there was a party for writers last night, but I guess you weren't invited. There's a bunch of writers that they want to keep out." The casual rudeness of this person astonishes me . . . and, as you can imagine, left me speechless and feeling about two feet tall.
Now, I have been a member of SFWA for six years, have published short fiction in ANALOG, AMAZING and a number of other magazines (including one story picked by Don Wollheim as best of the year for 1984), and have sold an sf novel to Baen Books. It's not as if I am a newcomer. However, I have received far better treatment in Boston, Atlanta and even Los Angeles than I have ever received at Balticon -- in my own home town.
As the final straw, my ID badge was made out to a form of my name ("Donald Sakers") that I never use and have not used for years. Admittedly, a small point . . . but to a professional writer, name recognition is important -- which is why I tried to make sure that my professional byline would appear on my badge. I have no idea where Balticon managed to get the archaic form that they used, but I wish that those who enter data would pay attention to the information they are given.
I suppose I should not complain unduly . . . this is the first year that I've received even the customary amenity of a complimentary membership, although I've been on panels at Balticon for five years now. And the mug is nice -- but I wish the committee had spent less money on mugs and more on postage in order to get hotel cards, questionnaires and such out promptly.
I doubt that I will receive an answer to this letter, however I feel it necessary to voice my complaints even if they do no good. Certainly I will rank Balticon far below such friendlier conventions as Boskone, Unicon, Disclave, Philcon and Worldcon.