Tales From the Con: Balticon 53

Hey all! So as you probably know from my other posts, I spent all of last weekend (and then some) at a four day local SFF convention, Balticon. Now, I’m no stranger to cons, I’ve been to our local anime convention many times and last year I even made it out to World Fantasy Con when it was in town, but this was my first ever Balticon (for some reason I’ve never gone until now!) and it sure was an experience. It definitely won’t be my last, I’m already planning on going again next year. πŸ™‚

Guests of Honor this year were Scott Lynch and Elizabeth Bear, with Artist Guest of Honor, Charles Vess. Also Attending, R.F. Kuang, winner of this year’s Compton Crook award, and Nicky Drayden, last year’s winner. There were a ton of other more local authors such as Sarah Pinsker, K.M. Szpara, Arkady Martine, Vivian Shaw, Sherri Cook Woosley, Gwendolyn Clare, Ruthanna Emrys, Leah Cypess, Scott Edelman, and many others.

My husband went with me (a large part of why I finally decided to go–I needed a buffer to bring down my anxiety) and he had a great time too. There’s a ton of different types of programming for all sorts of SFF fans, everything from RPGs to table top gaming, to panels, movies, book signings, music, etc. They also had a bunch of kaffeeklatsch’s but I didn’t go to any of them this time around–I’m not so sure I’d do good at sitting and chatting with authors, I get terribly awkward at small talk with people I don’t really know (this is something I’m trying to get better at!).


Sarah Pinsker’s Concert

On Friday night we went to check out Sarah Pinsker’s concert. Fun times! Sarah’s music is fantastic. I’m a little sad it was only half an hour. Mostly Friday was spent getting our bearings and scheduling out the things we wanted to do during the rest of the weekend. After Sarah’s concert we headed home for the night.

Saturday morning I went to a panel, But I’m Not a YA Author: Women Authors in SpecFic, which was pretty interesting. I usually pick panels based on authors I want to see who are on the panels, or if the subject interests me. This one was both. I thought the discussion of how women author’s works are sometimes viewed or mis-categorized pretty fascinating.


Elizabeth Bear being interviewed by Arkady Martine

Other things I did on Saturday:

  • Elizabeth Bear GoH Interview
  • Sarah Pinsker, Elizabeth Bear, and Scott Lynch book signings
  • Podcasting on the cheap panel
  • Reading from Vivian Shaw, Arkady Martine, and Karen Osborne
  • Best New Novels panel
  • Duke and Duchess Podcast Live recording
  • Weird Tales and the Problematic panel

Vivian Shaw, Arkady Martine, and Karen Osborne


Weird Tales and the Problematic panel

I think one of the most fun things we did on Saturday was the Duke and Duchess Live Podcast, which was something I hadn’t even had planned to go to but Liz Dukes was at the Best New Novels panel and mentioned the topic would be conspiracy theories around the Kingkiller Chronicles and I couldn’t resist. It was great. They gave us all tin foil hats to wear and a pouch of capri sun. The Best New Novels panel was pretty fun too, even though I did already hear of / read most of the books that were mentioned, I still wrote down a few titles that were new to me. πŸ™‚





The worst thing on Saturday was the podcasting panel I went to. I thought this would be an informative panel, and it was, the panelists were great, but it really got off to a rough start. The moderator was terrible. He had moderated another panel we went to on Friday and both times he would go way off topic, contradict the panelists, didn’t really direct the conversation, did way too much talking himself. I don’t think it was intentional, he just seemed enthusiastic? But then on Saturday’s panel when the discussion wasn’t being driven at all, one of the panelists decided to step up and asked the audience a question to get an idea of what would be useful to discuss and the moderator snapped at her really awful, accusing her of trying to take his job. It was super awkward and really, really, really unprofessional imo. Honestly, I hope someone reported that guy to con ops (and I kind of feel bad that I didn’t but I’m trying to step away from my ‘tattle tale’ ways and I don’t know if it was really my place? or maybe I blew things out of proportion? Maybe I should still send an email?). I don’t know. But either way I decided NOT to attend the other podcasting panel on Sunday because I think he was also scheduled to moderate that one and at that point I wasn’t going to anymore panels he was moderating. But, after that incident things did get, for the most part, back on track and the other panelists were true pros and had lots of great info to pass on. I took lots of notes!

Anywho. Sunday! My husband went off to play a game of Traveller and I went to the From Fanfic to Pro panel. This was quite a fun panel and it was interesting to see how


Arkady Martine and Sarah Pinsker

some authors started honing their craft first with fanfiction or even started writing fanfic after writing original fiction first. Part of the reason I loved this panel was that it took me back to my fanfic days (ah, I miss the old fandoms I was part of back in the day), so there was a nostalgia factor.

The other really fun thing I did on Sunday was go to Sarah Pinsker and Arkady Martine’s joint book launch party. They each did a short reading from their works and then everyone had snacks and just hung out and chatted for a bit. It was very informal and just a fun little party.

Other things I did on Sunday:

  • Love Stories in Genre Fiction panel (romance, yessssss!)
  • Recent Trends in YA panel
  • Reading from Leah Cypess, Sherri Cook Woosley, and Ruthanna Emrys

Trends in YA panel

I was going to go to Charles Vess’ signing but then I ran into him and Sarah Pinsker in the bar (they had an event together where Sarah read one of her stories and Charles illustrated it while she read) and when I stopped over to take a look at the drawing (he was still finishing it up) he said he’d sign my book for me then. Such a nice guy! Also, I loved all the readings I went to, but I was especially glad to get to hear Sherri read again because she’s so great at readings! If you ever get the opportunity to listen to Sherri Cook Woosley do a reading, I highly recommend you go. πŸ™‚

By Sunday evening I was super tired and we left a little earlier and then we headed back on Monday for three things.

  • Discovering the Works of the Queen of Space Opera panel (about Leigh Brackett)
  • 30th Anniversary of Sandman panel
  • Arkady Martine signing

Discovering the Works of the Queen of Space Opera panel

Overall, Balticon was an excellent time and I got to see a lot of people that I only see once or twice a year at these types of events. It was fun hanging out with other fans of SFF for a weekend! I’ll definitely be back.

Here are the books I bought at the con:



Here are the books that I brought with me and got signed:



Books I bought at the con and then had signed:



My copy of Stardust that Charles Vess signed:




Some other signatures for your viewing pleasure:




And, that’s a wrap! I think my next con is not until the fall, near DC, Capclave. If you’re in the area, definitely consider checking that one out–Martha Wells is going to be a guest of honor this year. Can’t wait!

33 thoughts on “Tales From the Con: Balticon 53

  1. Tammy says:

    This is so cool!! I love that you got The Poppy War signed! And I love when artists doodle in books, that’s pretty special that Charles Vess did a drawing for you. Such fun, I’m going to Comic Con in July and now you’ve got me even more excited😁

  2. Goddess in the Stacks says:

    Oh man. I helped a friend vend at Balticon once and had a less-than-stellar experience, so I haven’t been back as an attendee, but I didn’t realize RF Kuang was going to be there! That might have been enough to get me to go. I’ll pay more attention to it next year. Glad you had fun, and I’m off to look up the DC con you mentioned!

  3. Morgan Hazelwood says:

    I think the only panel we both attended was the “But I’m Not a YA Author”, despite your stack of panels and mine (24+).

    I actually thought that the panelists were good — but they didn’t have enough content to FILL the hour and only one of them actually had experience with the issue.

    Re: The Moderator in Question — he was NOT the moderator for the Sunday panel (or the Monday one), and I’ll (eventually) be sharing my notes on that panel. (and the rest of mine) πŸ™‚

    • waytoofantasy says:

      I think that happened with a few panels I went to where there was ‘extra time’, sometimes discussions on the topic at hand just seemed to wrap up quickly.

      That’s good to know he wasn’t the moderator of Sunday’s panel, that experience Saturday was unpleasant to say the least. Looking forward to your own notes!

      • waytoofantasy says:

        Perhaps someone did report him then, I really hope that is the case. I may still send a follow up email to the con chair anyway, just in case it was someone else as I don’t think this person should be moderating any panels in the future.

  4. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum says:

    Wow, I didn’t know this was your first Balticon! I always read on your blog about your many cons, so I thought for sure this one would be on your list every year, being local. Well, awesome and congrats on your first Balticon and sounds like you had a fun time! I’ve been to two, and each time it was because the GoH was someone I couldn’t miss (Brandon Sanderson like around 5 years ago back when they still held it in Hunt Valley, and GRRM a couple years ago the first year they held it downtown). Both times I didn’t get to do much beyond grabbing autographs because I was pushing a stroller with my kids in tow, but hopefully the next time I go they will be older and won’t be so whiny about waiting in lines or sitting in conference rooms πŸ˜€

    And regarding the bad mod – definitely say something, even if it’s an email. Like you said, the guy probably didn’t do it intentionally but if he’s got some personality quirks or a lack of self-awareness, he really shouldn’t be in a moderator position if he’s causing so much unpleasantness. I know the organizers are always trying to make the Balticon experience better. I remember the first year they had it at the conference center at the inner harbor, some late night panels took place on the higher floors where the hotel rooms were, which was kind of a boneheaded idea as they started getting complaints about the noise from guests. Part of the issue is that the con’s grown so much that sometimes the organizers can’t be on top of everything, so they definitely need the feedback to know where to improve πŸ˜›

    • waytoofantasy says:

      Yeah, for some reason I’ve just never gone. It was a lot of fun though and I’ll totally be going again for sure.
      I did send and email and received a swift response from the con folks that the issue had been reported and taken care of on Saturday, which makes me feel better.

  5. Bailey says:

    Balticon sounds like it was an amazing time!! I was so sad to miss it because of work, but living vicariously through your pictures helped a little. I got to meet Sarah Pinsker at an event in DC last week and she was so nice, I bet the concert was fantastic πŸ™‚

  6. @lynnsbooks says:

    Glad you had such a good time – apart from that one incident which just sounds *awkward*.
    Lovely book swag too and lots of signatures.
    I can’t talk to authors – I just turn into a statue – it’s just downright embarrassing. Which is probably why I don’t do the whole ‘con’ thing.
    Lynn πŸ˜€

    • waytoofantasy says:

      I totally get that, I used to be the same way! Or, I mumble awkwardly. But actually going to more events and talking to more authors has helped with that. I’m only *slightly* awkward now (I think lol).

  7. ivysbooks says:

    oh wow! those signed pages look wonderful! Also, it sounds like you had an amazing time, I’m quite jealous. But then thanks to you and your con-going, I have bought tickets to Bristol Con, which I believe you were the one who told me about it (thanks!!!). This post made me very excited even if its months away. I hope there will be none of that awkward panel drama. Enjoy your new books πŸ™‚

  8. Zezee says:

    That sounded so great! I’m definitely attending next year. Cons are new to me but I plan to dive in and see if I like them. Most likely I will.

    • waytoofantasy says:

      They’re fun! Lots of stuff to do. There is a smaller con down near DC I’m going to in the Fall called Capclave. Excited for that one because Martha Wells is a guest of honor.

      • Zezee says:

        Oh, I’m going to look into that too. Since it’s in the fall, I can plan for it if it doesn’t clash with work. How do you learn about these events?

      • waytoofantasy says:

        Balticon I’ve heard about for years because of people I’ve met through NaNoWriMo, going to kick off parties and write ins, some of them talked about it. Capclave I first heard about at the Baltimore Book Festival but never went before, one of my friends talked me into it this year though! I think I may have originally heard about BBF from following an author online who was attending? I don’t really remember because it was years ago but it seems probable.
        Also, once you attend one event usually you’ll start hearing about others because there’s some overlap in attendance and sometimes cross promo (Capclave had a fan table set up at Balticon, for instance).

  9. Ola G says:

    Wow, I envy you this Charles Vess autograph! πŸ™‚ All in all, sounds like a lot of fun (except for the weird behaviour of the panel moderator) πŸ™‚

  10. theorangutanlibrarian says:

    But I’m not a YA author sounds interesting and a good discussion to have. Ooh the conspiracy theories around kingkiller chronicles sounds fun. Shame about the podcasting panel moderation. But overall it sounds like it was a great event! And what a haul!!

    • waytoofantasy says:

      The podcast about Kingkiller Chronicles was super fun. Not sure if they have the episode up yet, but I may have to give it a listen if it’s available and see how it sounds post-production as it were. πŸ˜€

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