Escape from Baltimore

Written by on May 25, 2011 in Featured, Neighborhood News - No comments

The image of the giant squid attacking a streamlined underwater craft is this year’s art on the Balticon website.

Oh, how appropriate.

The concept of the giant squid has been around a long time — early enthusiasts devoured stories of it in Moby Dick, and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and it has continued to fascinate scientists, up to and including today’s professionals who go out looking for examples of such a creature. And it’s an example of hard science fiction — so termed because the science in the story is considered to be accurate.

And that, says Dale Arnold of the Highlandtown-based Baltimore Science Fiction Society (BSFS) is something attendees at Balticon, the annual convention of all things sci-fi and fantasy, can look forward to.

Balticon will be presented over the course of the Memorial Day weekend, May 27-30, at the Marriott’s Hunt Valley Inn.

In fact, the guest of honor and one of the keynote speakers at the convention is Dr. Benjamin Bova, a premier writer of hard science fiction. Bova is the author of more than 100 futuristic novels and nonfiction books. His novels tend to focus on the human race’s expansion through the solar system.

In Bova’s books, says Arnold, “all the science is perfect throughout the story.”

(Note for those who want to enrich their vocabulary: the other side of sci-fi literature, in which the science is less, well, scientific, is known as ‘soft’ science fiction).

But as Arnold notes, when it comes to writing sci-fi, “there are different ways of playing the game. Some writers go strictly within the rules and some are more flexible.”

Another guest at Balticon known for hard sci-fi is Paolo Bacigalupi whose debut novels The Windup Girl and Ship Breaker have garnered not only critical acclaim but the respect of environmentalists.

Other guests of honor at Balticon include artist Vincent de Fate, musicians Bill and Brenda Sutton and new media guest of honor Philippa Ballentine. Local comic book dealer Steve Geppi is also due to make an appearance.

Arnold notes that programming at Balticon runs 24 hours a day “although things tend to drop off after 4 a.m.”

Want quirky and imaginative? There’s LARP (live action role playing, for those who need a translator), this year in a Star Wars theme. There is one social event that uses period clothing and dances from the Medieval era, and another that focuses on the 1800s. There’s also the big Masquerade Ball on Saturday night that is a highlight of the con.

The there’s the programming, which is the heart and soul of the event.

“We have 26 hours of actual science programming,” says Arnold. “There will be panels going on all over the place.”

Panels and workshops will cover topics on anime, art, costuming, fan, film and TV, gaming, music, new media, writing and more. There is programming for children, and some for young adults as well. There is an art show and a dealer’s room.

Complete details about the programming, registration and more can be found at

And at a time when other convention registrations are down because of the economy, Arnold says Balticon’s is at an all-time high. Over 800 people are presently registered, and more are coming in every day.

In fact, says Arnold, he expects more than 2,000 people to descend on the convention.
“This is higher than it’s ever been,” he says, sounding happy.

For years, Balticon was presented in city hotels, but eventually it outgrew those and has moved to the county. The BSFS headquarters remains a fixture at 3310 E. Baltimore Street, and its meetings are open to the public. It also has a free lending library of sci-fi and fantasy totaling 10,860 volumes.

BSFS remains popular, and its meetings still get new visitors. And Balticon just keeps packing them in.

It’s not just the element of escapism, either, Arnold notes. BSFS has worked to build up Balticon through the years, and as a result, its reputation has grown, with attendees coming from up and down the eastern seaboard.

“People might not come to another show because of the economy, but they’ll come to ours,” he says. “Science fiction conventions are strangely resistant to the economy.”

Note: Balticon, the annual convention of the Baltimore Science Fiction Society, will be presented over the course of the Memorial Day weekend, May 27-30, at the Marriott’s Hunt Valley Inn. Information can be obtained at Information on the Baltimore Science Fiction Society is available at

Can’t get enough? Read on.
Another conference for the fantasy-minded, the Baltimore Comic-Con, makes its appearance at the Baltimore Convention Center on Saturday, Aug. 20 and Sunday, Aug. 21.

Hours are 10 a.m.-6 p.m. on Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. on Sunday.

Information on special guests, scheduling, registration prices and more, is available at the con’s website,

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