Disclaimer: While I’m a former senior executive at Anime USA and current worker at Katsucon, nothing I say here should be taken as official policy of either convention. Or, for that matter, seriously.
This was, quite frankly, the most amateur-hour con that I have ever been to...and it was particularly damning, given that it was Balticon's 50th year.
- Programming was in shambles. Panels were cancelled, redirected without warning and anything not attached to priority (read: the guests or dancing) got shoved into a corner. For example, our How to Draw Manga panel usually gets placed on a Saturday because it's a big draw. We got shoved to Monday morning, well after most people had left the con (additionally, we didn't get the support or materials we requested.) We were scheduled for readings. Great if you're a novelist (I don't have my book out yet), bad if you're in A VISUAL MEDIUM LIKE COMICS (I should note this happened to the Foglios of Girl Genius as well, and they were guests!) I overheard two creative types say they were leaving on Saturday and were never coming back. This is not how you treat people who could be your guests a few years down the line.
Oh, and to add insult to injury, the programming director quit Sunday night so she wouldn't have to face the music at the feedback panel on Monday.
- The hotel security acted like Gestapo towards cosplayers, to the point that one of my friends (won't name her for her sake) probably has a good legal case against the hotel. but it was worse for cosplayers of color. Basically, if you were pretty, young and white, you got treated the best - and best is an arguable term here.
- The hotel in general. At first, I wondered why the hell Balticon picked this place. It's a tourist trap, not a convention hotel. But then I heard their charter limits them to Baltimore county, not the Baltimore area. That needs to be changed.
- Con leadership in general. Tying to the previous, it's sad when two of the worst-run cons I've ever seen are more professional than this one. And that all ties to the "Old Guard", four people who have been with the con for decades and refuse to modernize their ways. From paper badges to first-gen computer software and insisting on borrowing things from a sci-fi con in Boston when contacting the anime con in town might get you better equipment. It's sad, just sad.
Fortunately, I think I made my point: when I told them that as a creative, I might never come back to the con and that went the same for others, one of the presumed old guard widened his eyes. I don't know if that was an affront or realization, but if it takes a shock to the system, so be it.