Baltimore Club Issues Statement About Balticon 50

Dale S. Arnold, Chair of the Baltimore Science Fiction Society Board of Directors, says the club is sending out this notice to people about last weekend’s convention.

Thank you for being a member of Balticon 50. We are the Board of Directors of the Baltimore Science Fiction Society, the 501(c)(3) which operates Balticon and provides oversight of the event.

We are an all volunteer organization and we strive to provide everyone with a great experience at Balticon every year, and this year we did not always live up to that mission. We understand that we failed at some basic organizational tasks for Balticon 50 and we wanted to contact you to apologize for our deficit in these areas. We are aware of the shortcomings in this year’s planning, and want to give you our pledge that we are taking steps to fix the problems.

We also are aware of the issues that some fans experienced with the improper actions of the hotel security staff. We are working with the hotel to make improvements for next year. We hope you will continue to attend Balticon and to help us make it the outstanding fan-run Science Fiction convention that we all know it can be.

Thank you
The Board of Directors of
The Baltimore Science Fiction Society

(Dale S. Arnold, Chair BSFS BOD)

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7 thoughts on “Baltimore Club Issues Statement About Balticon 50

  1. I found that the hotel was cramped, although that could be because of all the George RR Martin fans. But the pocket program had a lot of basic mistakes. At the panel on climate change fiction, three people came in wondering what had happened to Doug Fratz, who was double booked with a panel on book reviewing that didn’t happen because Fratz couldn’t be in two panels simultaneously.

    I would hope that Mr. Arnold will issue another statement explaining what the hotel will do about their security team in the future. If, as Aaron Pound says, the hotel security enforced peculiar rules about shoes and sexually harassed women, that’s a problem that needs to be fixed–particularly since Balticon is locked into this hotel for several years (I heard numbers ranging from 2-4).

  2. I enjoyed my first BaltiCon. I wasn’t aware of the hotel security problems, but I was wearing uncool shoes and I’m not female. I’m sorry to hear of such problems. It was crowded and there were some problems with the dealers room (where I spend most of my time). But people seemed to be enjoying themselves and we even managed to get some exercise due to the fire drill on Friday. It was an ambitious leap for an old regional like BaltiCon and it came off reasonably well in my view.

  3. The double-booking of panels is entirely the fault of the programming committee. If attending fen and authors spotted the problems at once, why didn’t the programmers notice it in their final once-over? Did they at least fix it for the later days of the con?

    Hotel security they have no control over, though. At the least, they need to demand that no one who worked that con gets to work future ones, and remind the rest that sexual harassment is bad. And no shoe police.

    Private security is frequently problematic; you get too many of the ones real cops have rejected for being too power-hungry and loose cannon. Which is saying something, considering the state of policing in the US (and Baltimore).

  4. Lurkertype: all kinds of “s*** happens” happens during the run up to the con; the folks double-checking the programming might have been working off of the wrong data without realizing it, for example. Or it might have been a “one group working metric, the other working standard”.
    What I do know is that like all good con-running groups, Balticon has acknowledged the problems and will take effective measures to correct them.
    Security – apparently “something” went on, because in general (my experience), Hotel Security staff rarely takes any kind of an active role; usually they are only invited in by the con for specific things (like, watch this door while we’re unloading).
    Usually (and I’ve run security for cons and related events), there is a fair amount of discussion regarding having hotel security interact with convention security and defer to convention security in most things. (For example: if a party is too loud, rather than hopping in themselves and shutting it down, hotel security would contact their convention liaison and have them (initially) deal with the issue.
    From the descriptions I’ve read, the problem seems to me to be one of overzealous staff; someone on hotel security had a bee in their bonnet and decided they were going to make their presence felt (probably because they did not approve of what was going on – eg – someone at the top was being an ahole towards the convention. If that’s the case, someone on convention staff ought to have picked up on that vibe and addressed it well before the con.
    Every con is different and I’m not trying to Monday morning quarterback the convention staff: for all I know they were running doubletime trying to deal with this issue but just could not get a proper handle on it because of institutionalized BS, redtape, contract, whatever.
    I do know I never had an issue with hotel security at the Hunt Valley when I was doing security in the late 70s. But things, as they say, change.

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  6. The security incidents I heard about:

    The New Orleans in 2018 party was shut down on Friday night because apparently somehow parties had been blocked onto a quiet floor. I was at a San Jose party on the same floor the next night, and we were required to keep in quiet. Once we found it–no signage, since the hotel went looking for parties and shut them down. (NOLA had posted signs.)

    A costumer said on of the hotel security people “put his head into [her] crotch” to see if she was wearing shoes. Also, I heard a rumor that the hotel did not expect ballet shoes to be considered shoes.

    Other problems: the art show insisted on using software, and combining sales to members with art show sales, resulting in long lines for both buyer and artist checkout. (Yes, it took me 2 hours to check out my art.) Note the art show was pretty small–and the bidding overall was low, I don’t think many people found it.

    Dealers were limited to 1 or 2 tables, meaning Larry Smith had all his paperbacks in his hotel room, and a sign on his table to that effect. There were too many artist alley tables on the (security-less) mezzanine that made traffic…difficult. And autographing was tucked into an almost-invisible corner. There was an astounding lack of signage as well. Also, a much-touted food court suddenly closed entirely (no fault of Balticon or the hotel) a couple of weeks pre-con. On the plus side, there was plenty of good food within a block or two.

    Program was a mess. Program participants were over-programed, and the program seemed scattered across multiple floors (serviced, of course, by insufficient elevators). Participants were double-scheduled, and there were two things scheduled at once in one room! The program head blamed the software, but I rather doubt it; the software they were using was Grenadine, which is used by Worldcons and Boskone (and more). My husband had a bad feeling about the program when it wasn’t online until Wednesday pre-con. Apparently the program head quit midway through the con, and her assistant took the fall.

    My last Balticon was 20 years ago; I think I can wait another 20 until the next one.

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