I have been in fandom for 21 years. My first con, unofficially, was Constellation, the Worldcon in Baltimore, 1984. I didn’t pay, and I was brought by a friend who left me under the stairs with overweight, bearded filkers for a several hours, singing diddys about driving through New Jersey, workers on the Death Star when it blew up, and something about Star Trek, but I don’t remember what about. I was scared out of my wits, not because the filkers were mean or anything, no, in fact, it was their futile attempts to befriend me that scared me because I was a shy antisocial freak. My friend later apologized about the incident, stating he really did mean to come right back, but then got sidetracked, lost, and then he almost forgot about me altogether. He didn’t really add that last part, I have always just assumed it. I have since forgiven him, of course.
My first paid con was Evecon 2. I had no idea how that would change my life, but that’s for some future post, and it wasn’t until a few months before Evecon 4 (I was invited to their Last Chance Panic Meeting at their old house in Hyattsville) that I even met Bruce or Cheryl. I didn’t even stay at a hotel room that weekend, and I only went for 2 days, and didn’t have that good a time (I got sucked into a game with a terrible DM). So I have always thought that Balticon 19 was my first, “real” convention. Hunt Valley Marriot.
I still have the program book. It’s manila-colored, with a typewriter-like brown font, and a pen drawing on the cover of someone with a mandolin. I don’t remember much else about it, and it’s in a box somewhere, and I don’t want to go looking for it. The con was many firsts.
- First convention away from home, and second official event away from my parents since camp
- First time I met someone I knew was gay
- First time I saw a girl topless, a fellow teen, who didn’t care I saw her topless
- First convention backrub circle
- First time I kept movie promo freebie memorabilia (Short Circuit and Cocoon)
- First time I slept in a hotel room with 12-13 people (and we had to disguise that fact)
- First time in a hotel lobby, conversing with total strangers about science fiction
- First time I saw real, full-length anime (Captain Harlock, I believe)
- First time I saw “Kentucky Fried Movie” (I laughed my ASS off)
- First time I saw Rocky Horror with a convention crowd (before, it was with Georgetown folks)
- First time I understood the concept of Rocky Horror (before, it simply confused and scared me)
- First time I heard Clam Chowder (I almost cried during “Waltzing Matilda”)
Balticon was the first time I ever thought, “I have found my people...” So I have always had a soft spot for them. Hell, I even met my future wife at Balticon. I think it was #23, whichever one was over April Fool's weekend in 1988. Yes, BSFS has made enemies. No, they aren’t perfect. But the fact I am doing panels at Balticon, and when Marty Gear paid me complements, I have to say... I feel like I have “made it” more than anything else.