Balticon 23

(Don - 59nd)(Thomas - 53nd)

1989: March or April

Omni Hotel, Baltimore, MD

GOH: C. J. Cherryh
Featured Artist: Stephen Hickman

Don went to Balticon this year (under an assumed badge name) for two reasons only. First, The Leaves of October, which had been published the year before, was eligible for the Compton Crook Award, which was presented at Balticon. (Instead of contacting Don directly, BSFS used a diplomatic intermediary to assure that Don would accept the award, if the book won.) Don agreed to attend.

Well, he need not have bothered. According to the gossip he heard later, the anti-Sakers elements in BSFS campaigned heavily against The Leaves of October, and the Compton Crook Award went to a very deserving Elizabeth Moon.

The second reason Don went to Balticon 23 was to help deliver on a fantasy. Esther Friesner, it turns out, had always wanted to be paraded around a con on a sedan chair carried by half-naked slave boys. With the help of Thomas, Renfield, Will Burnham, and The Nameless One, he made Esther's dream come true.


Above: Esther Friesner being carried in her sedan chair, and looking like someone who deserves it.


Of course, this being a con, they had to do things a little differently: one of the slave boys (Renfield) was painted green. Amanda Allen had graciously offered her room for the boys to change. Now, Amanda's mundane friend Ann was staying with her; this was Ann's first con. Of course, Amanda mentioned that some friends would be visiting and changing clothes -- it never dawned on her to give particulars.

So here is Ann, sitting there in the hotel room, recovering from sensory overload by reading a book, when in burst five young men, who immediately strip to their underwear and begin tying turbans and tossing harem pants this way and that. After a few minutes, out comes the body paint, and various hands (including Amanda's) start slathering paint over intimate bits of Renfield's anatomy, all of this as if it were the most natural thing in the world (which, to fans, it was).

All at once, beneath the babble of conversation and the squishing of makeup sponges, we became aware of a tiny little sound, almost a whimpering, as if some poor animal were caught in a trap and given over to despair. We looked around to locate the source of the sound and saw Ann, her chair pushed into the furthest corner of the room, her body curled up in fetal position, her face an odd mix of existential terror and incipient catatonia.

When we returned to the room after Esther had been sufficiently paraded about, Ann was nowhere to be seen. Amanda told us that she had crawled down to the lobby, called her mother, and begged for an immediate ride home. Ann subsequently went on to marry a Midshipman, and is now living somewhere in the Pacific Northwest, as far as she can get from us while still remaining in the contiguous United States.

There's a moral in there somewhere . . . .

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