What Happened Years Ago:
Several years ago, while I was on the GEnie network, "Misty" (as she's nicknamed) mentioned in her authors' topic that she'd be traveling around the country, just making the rounds and seeing friends in their huge RV. She invited people to inquire locally about arranging bookstore signing stops for her. This was at a time just before Misty had any hardbound books out, so when I approached Oxford Books here about arranging an autographing, they politely demurred ("We'd prefer -known- authors with hardbacks in print.")
As it happened, a medium-sized Star Trek convention, Dixie Trek, was being staged in Atlanta the same weekend that Misty and her husband Larry Dixon would be passing through. At the time, Dixie Trek was being temporarily operated (and funded) by Dragon*Con, since a few problem years for Dixie Trek had brought it to the financial edge. I asked Misty if she'd like to drop by the convention in lieu of a bookstore signing, and she agreed; I asked Ed Kramer, in operating control of the con, if he'd mind if Misty dropped by.
So it was agreed that Misty could do a panel, set up some tables in the public area -- at no charge -- to sell merchandise, and sign autographs. I also arranged an outside autographing at the Science Fiction and Mystery Bookshop in town so that fans need not purchase a convention membership if they just wanted a book signed. Since it was quite close to the convention when I worked this out, Misty only appeared on the very last flyer the convention published. Misty also said that, since they were in town partly to see friends, she would only appear at the convention on Saturday.
Meanwhile I had been chatting with Misty via e-mail (and once by phone) regarding finding an RV park in the Atlanta area for them to park their RV at. The nearest RV park to the convention was up in Kennesaw, GA, c. 12 miles north of the hotel on the interstate, but since Misty was in town partly to see friends (and not just for the con), she and Larry said the location might not be all that distant.
The convention rolls around, and Misty and Larry do, too. At about 9:30 on Thursday evening they pull up in their RV at the hotel. Very casually -- too casually, to my discerning eye -- they decided "Well, since it's so late, we'll just see if we can find a room here at the hotel." The hotel was able to oblige, and they parked their RV and got a room.
Misty appeared, as promised, on Saturday, and she and Larry set up their tables in the concourse area that day, selling stuff at a pretty good clip from what I could see. She also did her panel and autographing. I'd estimate between 10 and 20 Misty fans knew about her appearance (no doubt mostly through GEnie) and stopped by.
Sunday morning rolls around, and Misty is "holding court" in the couple's $80,000 RV out front (we knew how much it was because Larry had been gloating about getting a good deal on it, since he and Misty were able to pay in cash). Meanwhile, in a performance worthy of an Academy Award, Larry is jumping down the throats of the convention organizers inside, demanding that the convention pay for their hotel room. "A writer of Misty's stature is accustomed to having her way paid at a convention," he declaims, and "We'd hate to have to go to the pages of Locus Magazine with this!"
I suggested off-camera that the convention offer them one room-night -- instead of all three -- in payment for the one day that Misty actually appeared at the con, but Pat Henry, treasurer of Dragon*Con (and Dixie Trek at the time), doesn't take too kindly to threats.... --And frankly, I wouldn't have either.
The convention declined to pay for the room, since Misty and Larry had been able to set up tables at the con for free -- regular dealers, of course, had to pay the usual fee. Also, since they were already traveling cross-country, Misty and Larry would have had to get either a hotel room or an RV parking space somewhere, our view was that Misty and Larry were just trying to bully the convention into covering a vacation expense that would have been theirs to pay in any eventuality.
Misty and Larry did not -- to my knowledge -- go to Locus with their complaint (or if they did, Charles N. Brown declined to print it). They did go to Misty's public author topic on GEnie, however, to slag the convention and all involved with it (producing, among other things, a fascinating and embarassing diatribe from Worldcon '86 board member Kurt Cagle, but that's another story).
Now, at no time during any of my contacts with Misty -- mostly via email -- was any form of recompense mentioned. After all, they were already traveling cross-country on vacation; I merely arranged an autographing appearance (and a chance to sell merchandise at a convention for free, when other dealers weren't so lucky). To this day, I regard their attempt to cadge three room-nights out of the convention -- effectively tricking the convention into paying for a sizeable slice of their vacation -- to be, well, pretty shameful.
After dealing with Larry on Sunday morning, I felt unclean; I literally wanted to take a shower. From that day to this, I have not bought any hardback book by Ms. Lackey.
What Happened at Dragon*Con
In view of the foregoing, it was with mixed feelings that I heard Misty might be attending Dragon*Con in 1997. My advice to Ed Kramer and Pat Henry? "Get EVERYTHING in writing beforehand."
They did, but the results were....well, fascinating.
Misty had apparently received some death-threats from a group of
readers based in Virginia, at Virginia Tech, and because of this,
she placed some strictures on her attendance at Dragon*Con. The
exact text of the original agreement was placed on the newsgroup
alt.fandom.cons by Ed, so I won't go deeply into it; she
basically insisted that the con pay for, among other things, a
professional bodyguard for her, hotel rooms on a secured floor, etc.
A contract was executed. Meanwhile, Dragon*Con presented Misty's
evidence regarding the death threats to law enforcement agencies,
including the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. The GBI declined to
become involved, citing a lack of evidence.
Then, not too long before the convention, and after we had advertised Misty's upcoming appearance in good faith, Ed got a fax from Misty, cancelling her appearance. In Misty's words, the level of risk to them and to "uninformed fans" nearby was too great.
Some hasty phone calls resulted. One was to Harlan Ellison, who was able to convince Misty not to cancel out and deprive her fans of her appearance at the con: since Dragon*Con had already hosted a Misty-related track of programming for several years, many of her fans had made elaborate and expensive plans to attend. Three cheers for Harlan and two for Misty.
Ed has already gone into the mechanics of what happened at the convention. A series of misunderstandings caused in part by Misty's release of her own "nonprofessional" bodyguard (with whom the original security agreement was struck), rooms that weren't up to Misty's new requirements for security (across from a service elevator "that could be used by assassins"), etc. A request to have the crowded public areas of the convention center cleared whenever Misty walked through was declined by Dragon*Con security. Misty and Larry continued to wear body-armor at all times, though. The convention paid for bodyguard service from StarGuard, a firm specializing in such operations, and continued to do so even after Misty cancelled her public appearances at the con.
--Yes, in view of all the problems getting "safe and secure" hotel rooms for her and her entourage, Misty elected to turn in her badge and not do public appearances or autographings at the con, and only do events in her smaller fan-club room. Needless to say, quite a few fans, not knowing that Misty was still appearing at her fan club room, or not knowing that the room wasn't just for club members, were a bit miffed.
--Did I say "turn in" her badge? Sorry, she threw it, in the VIP Services office, and apparently the ricochet hit a young Dragon*Con staffer in the face; this while making a huge scene in front of the staff.
The tale gets even more....interesting.
Reports have surfaced on
alt.fandom.cons that, late on
Saturday night, Misty's bring-along "nonprofessional" bodyguard, Pony
White (not his real name), was allegedly approached in the Hyatt lobby
by two gentlemen wearing all-black "convention costumes" who allegedly
started beating him with sticks after asking him if he was Pony
White. The report then says that Pony was able to fight off his
attackers after suffering only a few bruised ribs through his Kevlar
body armor, heroically shackling one to a railing (the other perp
supposedly made good his escape). The City of Atlanta Police were then
called, so the story goes, and supposedly took the mysterious assailant
to jail. Whew! Judging from these allegations it would seem that
Misty's fears of death-threats and such were well-warranted, right?
Well, not exactly....
These are serious offences and charges, and we lost no time at all checking out the details. (It helps that one Dragon*Con director is also a 26-year Atlanta Police veteran.) The following facts were determined:
The general conclusion from fans following this on
alt.fandom.cons is that
the alleged assault never happened; after all, no-one has been found
to corroborate it. I can only leave it to you, dear reader, to wonder
why such an event might have been contrived. I have a few hypotheses,
but I'll not post them. I will say that, since these events
happened back in June, I have not and will not ever buy a new book by
Ms. Lackey again.
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