While we all love and miss cons, they aren’t always easy, especially given that a good percentage of authors are introverts. Our good friend, A.L. Kaplan shares one of the more uncofortable moments in her con memory.

Panic at the Con

By A.L. Kaplan

One of my most memorable con stories happened just a few years ago at Balticon 50. I know some of you are already shaking your head, but its not that, honestly. For Balticon’s 50th anniversary, BSFS got George R R Martin as the guest of honor. They also invited every living past GOH they’d ever had. A good portion of them came. There were thousands of people that year.


One of my poems won an honorable mention in the BSFS poetry contest, so I made my way to the opening ceremonies for the official announcement.

The room was packed, lights down in the audience. I was cool with that. My other half was off working another part of the con, so I all alone.

Most people who know me know that I’m a shy introvert and don’t do well with crowds. But the speeches were nice. Everyone was introduced. The usual volunteer need you talk. Finally, it was time to announce the poetry winners. They called my name and I dutifully walked down the center isle from my seat in the back and ascended the stage.

I had to note, I hadn’t donned a costume yet, and was now staring at a packed and fully darkened room, knowing that almost all our superstar guests were staring back at me. The MC proceeded to call the other winners one by one, finally reaching the money prizes. Each time he scanned the audience, searching for the winner running up. I waited, trying in my eyes feeling the pressure of past writers scrutinizing me as I began to squirm.

The MC was told that at least the first-place winner was there. He called the name and waited, watching someone make their way along the side toward the front, but sat down and waved him off.

By now, I’d been standing there for a full minute. It may not seem like much time, but it is when hundreds of eyes are staring at you expectantly. When it was clear that none of the other winners were there, the MC ‘s shoulders lifted and lowered with an audible sigh. Then he shoved a giant bright red mic in my face and said, “Oh well, you want to say something?”

My brain went into total panic mode. So, with most of our special guests and guest of honor watching, I squeaked “Nope” and flew from the stage. There is some vague recollection of my pausing on the steps to mumble about me writing so I don’t have to speak.

A moment later, I flopped in my seat, hitting my self for not speaking and for fleeing.  A few kind folks tried to reassure me I did fine. Panic took over. Sweaty palm racing heart. I now I made and absolute fool out of myself. There was nothing that would change me flying off the stage in front of the biggest collection of super writers I’d ever seen.

Oh, banging your head on a seat just gives you a headache. Now I know.

I did run into my Martin in the elevator a few days later. I smiled and introduced myself as the girl who flew off the stage at opening ceremonies. As soon as the door opened next, he stepped out. I can only hope it was the floor he wanted and didn’t just exit just to get away from the crazy panic lady. At least he smiled and nodded.

On a lighter note, while attending Media West Con a number of years ago, I had the audacity to ask for a pencil sharpener while at a MacGyver viewing party. All twelve people handed me their swiss army knives. Duh. I mumbled an embarrassed thanks, and then pulled out mine.

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