I’m not remotely a fan of Dragon*Con. Back when I was writing Mike
Gustovich’s Justice Machine in the mid-1980s, the title’s publisher
sent Mike and I to the show to promote our book and the rest of the
company. Mike was in dragon-heaven, by which I mean he bought so
many dragons of various shapes and sizes that I almost pretended I
didn’t know him on the flight home. These days, given the baggage
fees charged by most airlines, it’d probably be cheaper to create
an actual dragon. I came away from the event thinking it was the
sleaziest convention I’d ever attended.
On my first day at that long-ago Dragon*Con, a young woman offered
me sex if I would let her stay in my hotel room. It was the most
uncomfortable elevator ride - yes, we were in an elevator and we
weren’t the only passengers - of my life. I generally relate this
tale in discreet terms and describe the offer far less explicitly
than she did. In reality, she didn’t disguise it in the slightest.
Making me more uncomfortable was her age, as in underage. Maybe 16
at best. When I declined her offer, she looked at me as if I were
One evening at the convention, looking for some of the few people
I knew or a relatively quiet party, I stumbled into an honest-to-
gosh slave auction. With slaves being pretty clearly offered for
the sexual entertainment of their buyers. Maybe it was some sort
of elaborate role-playing thing, but it creeped me out. It would
not be the last thing that creeped out that weekend. I never had
the slightest interest in returning.
Dragon*Con didn’t blip on my radar again until I learned Ed Kramer,
one of the event’s founders, had been arrested on child molestation
charges. The evidence against him seemed pretty damning, so I was
surprised when some people leapt to his defense. But, as he would
not be involved in the convention and because I had no interest in
attending the convention, I didn’t think about Dragon*Con for many
years after this initial news story.
Thirteen years in which the predatory Kramer managed to avoid going
to trial through one artifice or another. Thirteen years during
which, as a co-owner, Kramer continued to receive a huge chunk of
Dragon*Con money with the other owners of the show proclaiming they
were helpless to cut off his annual cash flow, reportedly $150,000,
which was allowing Kramer to delay his trial and, worse, continue to
attempt to prey on other youngsters. Thankfully, after his most
recent arrest, he has been denied bond and is in prison awaiting
his ridiculously overdue trial.
Up until recently, I had been vaguely aware of attempts to boycott
Dragon*Con or, at the very least, convince the co-owners to do the
right thing and end payments to Kramer by any means necessary. I
didn’t follow these attempts closely, but I knew several of those
involved in the attempts to be good and honorable people. I didn’t
get involved because I didn’t see what I could add to the efforts.
That was a mistake on my part.
On April 22, The Beat ran an update titled “Dragon*Con Founder Ed
Kramer files dozens of complaints from jail while looking extremely
creepy.” I was horrified by both the news reporting and the too-
many comments from posters who apparently didn’t see or understand
the clear moral issue at hand. My own response:
“The comments from Dragon*Con are sounding more and more like
bullshit to me. They can walk away from the show and start a new
convention. I think they want the name value of Dragon*Con. Which
means we should do everything we can to make the name Dragon*Con
synonymous with child molestation. Destroy the name value.
“That said, I can’t imagine how anyone – fan or professional – can
attend that convention knowing Kramer profits from it.
“Get a moral clue, people.”
I won’t dial back those comments a notch. I also posted them on my
Facebook page where the discourse got so insulting I felt I had to
delete the thread. In the aftermath of my Beat comments and what
I posted on Facebook, I began to get a great many private messages
and e-mails from people. Some of these thanked me for my comments
and other attacked me, usually anonymously, in the time-honored way
of the troll. After a while, I also began receiving e-mails from
people telling me of their own non-Kramer experiences at Dragon*Con
and my horror hit a new level.
I must be very clear about this. This is an opinion piece. It is
not investigative reporting. I’ve not attempted to verify what I
have been told, which is why I won’t be writing about it in detail
and why I don’t accept it as unvarnished truth. But some of these
messages I received rang true to me and, if even 10% of what I was
told is accurate, the title of today’s bloggy thing is not just a
clever play on the title of a popular movie, but my fervent wish.
I think Dragon*Con should die at the end.
Perhaps the other Dragon*Con co-owners can’t simply walk away from
the event to start a new one. But they most certainly can resign
their positions on whatever board manages the convention and their
roles in putting on the show. Being part of even a privately-owned
company, being part of a board, having a job with Dragon*Con, none
of these are slavery. You can walk away.
Yes, they would also be walking away from what I’m told are pretty
sweet jobs and profits. Yes, I understand that would be difficult
for any of us. But, to repeat what I said in my Beat post, their
efforts are enriching Kramer and have allowed him to fend off any
justice for over a dozen years and have allowed him to place other
young people in jeopardy. How can anyone remain a party to that?
Moral choices are seldom as easy as this one.
A close friend of mine took the side of the Dragon*Con co-owners in
a discussion of the matter. I don’t deny the founders might well
feel they are acting in the interest of their own families. But,
in the over a dozen years they have had this steaming pile of crap
before them, they claim there has been no way they can scoop that
poop and dispose of it properly.
In all those years, they couldn’t find attorneys with the same or
even greater skills than Kramer’s representation? I can’t buy that.
I have been told of criminal assaults and other illegal activities
at Dragon*Con and that they are not solely the acts of “outsiders.”
If anyone can document these assaults and activities, they should
come forward and do so. If anyone witnesses criminal assaults and
activities, they should report them to the proper authorities ASAP.
Dragon*Con is not its own world with its own laws. Sleaziness may
not be a crime - though it often is - but some of what was reported
to me was certainly criminal in my opinion. It also appears that
Dragon*Con’s internal security is, at best, woefully inadequate for
an event of its magnitude and, at worse, complacent or unconcerned
about such things. The show generates a great deal of profit. At
the very least, those profits should be used to make Dragon*Con a
safer environment for attendees.
I have been told of a great many celebrities (writers and artists
and actors and producers and so on) who will no longer attend the
convention. Some have gone public with their decision...and others
have not. I would urge all to go public.
Whatever you get from attending Dragon*Con, whether it be sensual
delights or good times with friends or professional advantage, it’s
not worth what else comes with the convention. It’s not worth the
continued cash flow to Kramer. It’s not worth the danger to some
attendees. It’s not worth the sleaze.
That I will not attend Dragon*Con may well be meaningless. I made
that decision over two decades ago and have not regretted it in the
least. Indeed, even what I write here today, while it will surely
anger some people and generate a few impotent threats against me,
might not have a great deal of meaning in an age when everyone with
online access can have a blog or post their opinions, informed or
otherwise, with general impunity.
What I do accomplish today is to make my stand against what I feel
is an intolerable situation. One writer making a stand. Probably
lost in the electrons that dance across your screen. Nevertheless,
something I had to do, something I believe to be the right thing to
do...and I hope I’m not alone in that.
But, maybe, just maybe, if enough others make a stand, if respected
voices in our fan and professional communities make a stand, then
maybe today’s title will prove prophetic.
Dragon*Con dies at the end.
Which is as it should be.
I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.
© 2013 Tony Isabella