Darkover Grand Council Meeting

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Name: Darkover Grand Council Meeting (also called "Darkovercon" and "DarkoverCon")
Dates: 1978-2013
Location: the first two were in New York City, the rest in Maryland
Type: fan-run fan con
Focus: Darkover and Science Fiction
Organization: Armida Council
Founder: Judy Gerjuoy (Jaelle of Armida)
Founding Date:
URL: Darkovercon
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The Darkover Grand Council Meeting was a long-running Darkover and Science Fiction convention. The title was used interchangeably with "Darkovercon" and DarkoverCon," which (at least early on) were combined with regional titles, such as "West Coast Midwinter Festival."

In the beginning, there were several cons and they were held in different places, such as California and New York City. Sometimes there was more than one "Darkovercon" in a year. As the fandom became more robust and organized, the con took place once a year in Maryland and in November.

From a March 1978 announcement: "Judy Kopman, Armida Council [address redacted] is contemplating a one-day Midsummer Festival Grand Council, one Sunday in July 1978. Space would be limited, so SASE to Judy for information IMMEDIATELY." -- Darkover Newsletter #11

Following the death of longtime showrunner Judy Gerjuoy (known as Jaelle of Armida) in March 2013, a final DarkoverCon was held.

ChessieCon inherited the weekend and staff for the "Darkover Grand Council Meetings".[1]

This con had the premiere of the skit Free Amazons of Ghor.

Named by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Jacqueline Lichtenberg claims ownership of the name "Darkover Grand Council Meeting":

I won the contest to name that convention. At the time, I was running Keeper's Tower, "keeping" the list of names of the clubs of Darkover fans that had sprung up around the country so there would not be two of the same name. Katie Filipowicz, one of the more active Sime~Gen fans, and Judy Gerjuoy who sometimes came to collate Ambrov Zeor, had decided it was time to hold a Darkover convention. Katie and Anne Pinzow provided seed money and the three of them worked up a flyer and a program, and decided to hold a contest to name the convention. And they desperately needed at least one confirmed professional Guest before they could announce the con. At the time, they weren't sure if they could get MZB, so they twisted my arm and I said yes. In the end, MZB did come and there were almost a hundred people at that first convention held in an unair-conditioned hall in Brooklyn, N.Y. in July. We suffered dehydration, particularly Katie who needed medical treatment for it, but we had a great time! I particularly remember doing a panel on runes and soothsaying with Jane Sibley where I learned a lot. And Darkover Grand Council became an annual event which continued to attract a number of Sime~Gen fans, which is why it's now our annual gathering spot. Through Darkover I met Roberta Mendelson, who came up with the idea for Esotericon - the first of the sf-style conventions specifically for students and practioners of the occult arts. I was the GoH at the first Esotericon and continued to be a Guest thereafter - meeting some of those who spun off other esoterically oriented conventions from that group.[2]

A photo of Lichtenberg and Bradley, taken in the mid-1980s, is here: Jacqueline Lichtenberg (left) and Marion Zimmer Bradley in the mid 1980's, Archived version.

1978: 1

There was only one con in 1978, and it was the very first one.

July 1978 New York: 1

Darkover Grand Council Meeting 1 (also called "Darkover Con East") was held in Brooklyn, New York and was headed by Judy Gerjuoy. It was held July 9, 1978 at Brooklyn, NY at Borough Park YMHA, and the guest of honor was Jacqueline Lichtenberg. Marion Zimmer Bradley also attended.

Fan programs:

  • Midwife Panel: Childbirth on Darkover
  • Devra Langsam: Free Amazons
  • Debate: Should the Terrans Interfere on Darkover?
  • Darkover Trivia Contest
  • Costume Contest: Both Darkovan and Other
  • Beginners' Dungeons & Dragons Game
  • Laran Panel/Tarot Workshop
  • Women SF Writers Panel

See some photos here: Pictures from Darkovercon 1978 thumbnails, Archived version photo 1; photo 2; photo 3; photo 4; photo 5; photo 6 -- pictured are Marion Zimmer Bradley, Jacqueline Lichtenberg, Katie Filipowitz, Nancy Dell, Devra Langsam, and members of the Ardais Clan.

There is an announcement in Darkover Newsletter #12 (May 1978) about the first Darkover Grand Council Meeting:

Guest of Honor is Jacqueline Lichtenberg, though the possibility is that MZB may show up (nothing is defined as yet about her schedule). Already on the program: panels on Free Amazons, Women SF Writers, laran, vampires & the Undead, midwifery (including two specialists from Arlinn Guild House Council), 'a lecture by a well known futurist,' a debates on the merits (if any) of Terran interference on Darkover, Tarot workshops, games, trivia contest, costume contest. Registration fees in advance $2.50, or $3.50 at the door, huckster tables $8 (cheap!), payable to ARMIDA COUNCIL. Prime mover is Judy Kopman but we suspect that no matter how much of a live wire she is, the con would not become a reality without "a little help from the Friends" at least in Armida Council. We hear that people have already been registering from many outlying states. Profits, if any, will go to the Friends; frankly, we aren't expecting anything much -- except a lot of fun, and a vote of thanks to Armida Council

July 1978 New York: A Description of Its Creation

In spring of 1979, likely April or May, Judy Gerjouy gave a detailed and exuberant description of this con's conception, the things and people who went into getting it off the ground, and her experiences at it. These comments were published in Darkover Newsletter #17/18 and titled: "Darkover Con East July 1978."

1979: 2

January 1979 California

There was also a "Darkovercon" (also called "West Coast Midwinter Festival" and "Darkovercon West") was held in Berkeley, California on January 27, 1979 in the Finnish Brotherhood Hall. It does not appear to have an official number in the series.

Katherine Kurtz was the Guest of Honor. Randall Garrett and Vicki Heydron presented the musical skit, Cindy McQuillin sang Darkovan filks, Adrienne Martine headed up the costume workshop, Diana Paxson was there, as was Marion Zimmer Bradley, Walter Breen, Christopher Gilson, Judy Gurjoy, Randall Garrett, and other Bay Area writers, including Donald Wollheim. The owner of "Pennyfarthing Press" also attended in order to give fans an update on the Darkover Concordance.

flyer for the January 1979 gathering at the Finnish Brotherhood Hall in California
the "Midwinter Ceremony" -- script printed in Darkover Newsletter #17/18
A flyer for the panels and the plays that had been recorded on audio cassette by Hourglass Productions. See below

It was announced in December 1978:

The big news this issue is the Darkovercon, which will be held in Berkeley, California, January 27, 1979, in the Finnish Brotherhood Hall. Katherine Kurtz has kindly consented to be our Guest of Honor; Randall Garrett and Vicki Heydron will present a musical skit about Darkover, Cindy McQuillin will entertain us with Darkovan filk songs, Adrienne Martine will host the Costume Work shop and display with Diana Paxson, who wrote our Costume book, and MZB, in addition to reading from a work in progress, has promised to exhibit her own collection of Darkover artwork and (February [3] weather and her voice permitting) will sing the songs from DARKOVER LANDFALL. We will also have with us Judy Gerjuoy, who presented the FIRST Darkovercon in Brooklyn last July. Other goodies in store for us are Christopher Gilson and Walter Breen on Darkovan Languages, an autograph session with many Bay Area writers, dance workshops and much more. Inside this issue you will find a full page of information about how to register and attend. But don't delay; the hall is small and when registrations reach 300, we will CUT THEM OFF; in any case, NO ADMISSIONS WILL BE SOLD AFTER 10 A.M. on the morning of the 27th. If you have a prepaid registration number you will be let in, otherwise not, so REGISTER NOW. Send $2.50 to AMBRIA RIDENOW, [address redacted] ...and make your check payable to the FRIENDS OF DARKOVER, not to Ambria or MZB or any other entity. If you wish to display or sell art work, write (as soon as humanly feasible) to AMY FALKOWITZ.[4]

About the skit: It was called "Free Amazons of Ghor":

.. a musical comedy written in 1979 by Randall Garrett, a science fiction writer and close friend of MZB, and Vicki Ann Heyrdon, his wife, also a writer. At the time, MZB and John Norman were DAW's two best-selling authors, so the premise of the play is that their fictionalized alter egos, Ms. Bee and Norman Gorman, agree to collaborate on a book, to 'rope in both your fans.' "Both our fans? Are you implying that we have only one fan each?" Randall wrote the words, and Vicki wrote the music. It was performed at one of the early Darkover Grand Council Meetings on the east coast as well was several Fantasy Worlds Festivals in California... I [Elisabeth Waters] checked with Randall's agent, Tracy Blackstone, who tells me that 'Free Amazons of Ghor' was never published anywhere. Sorry, but those are the breaks. And before anyone tries to persuade us to publish it, permit me to point out that we don't own the rights.[5]

A company called "Hourglass Productions" offered audio cassette recordings of five panel talks, and the con skit Free Amazons of Ghor (spelled incorrectly as "Gor" on the ad.) Each tape was $4.98, plus six percent sales tax. "5% of the proceeds from tapes made of panels, talks, etc at Darkover Con [sic] will be donated to the Friends of Darkover|." An advance ticket for the con itself had only been $2.50.

See photos here, click them to enlarge: Pictures from Darkovercon 1979, Archived version

January 1979 California: Con Reports

We arrived early, and the first thing that happened was that we were told that we couldn't park in the Finnish Brotherhood Hall parking lot --"Committee members only." While we can see why they did it, it meant we had to drive around a series of grubby little streets looking for somewhere to put the van. We got there just a moment too late for the beginning of the opening ceremonies, while members of--I suppose-- the local Thendara Council were processing on to the stage with lighted candles, and didn't quite understand for a minute or two what was going on; but we quickly realized it was a re-enactment of a Midwinter Ceremony from (I understood) unpublished Darkover novel, with members in costume performing the parts of the Four Gods symbolizing the Four Elements. Someone whispered to me that the small woman in a glittery black robe was MZB, whom I had never met, lighting a central candle as Avarra; two men in gorgeously elaborate capes lined with fur and embroidered (later they were in program as Kelson, the costumer, and Christopher Gilson, an amateur linguist) sooke in the name of Aldones and Zandru; and a redheaded girl in green, introduced to me later as Jaida, for Evanda. What I could hear of the ceremony sounded beautiful and impressive. Unfortunately the acoustics of the hall were not that good and only Marion was able to speak well enough to be heard at the back where I was.

Then the Language Panel caome on, with Walter Breen (a patriarch in a long robe, and Christopner Gilson) and I went down to see what was in the huckster room, picking up a copy of THE SURVIVORS, a new novel by MZB and her brother Paul; unfortunately it was not a Darkover novel. I also bought some copies of STARSTONE, and was introduced to Katherine Kurtz (of the Deryni books) who turned out to be tall, blonde and beautiful, in a costume which could have been SCA Medievals, Darkovan or Deryni; according to MZB (whom I met a little later) there's not that much distance, costume-wise. MZB was also wearing costume, a beautiful dress of turquoise silk with a copper belt and trim; she is small, plump, gives the impression of being blonde even though her hair is really quite dark, and seems very motherly toward her whole fan group ...though I admit I might have had that impression because she seemed to spend much of the day surrounded by hordes of children, only one or two of whom were hers, and young teenagers. She was quite pleasant when introduced, confessed she miqht not recognize me again since she is both short-sighted and absent-minded. She seemed extremely harried and pressured; people kept rushing up to her and demanding that she make a decision about something.

I attended two of the panels; a panel on animals and telepathy chaired by T'Pat, whom I gather to be a Star Trek fan (I never did get it quite clear what she was doing here, but she seemed to know an enormous amount about horses and other animals) ana a costume seminar with half a dozen local costumers who seemed mostly to belong to the SCA; it was fascinating, and MZB who was sitting near the front really should have been on the platform, as she contributed a good deal to the discussion and seemed to know almost as much about costume as the professionals. She actually appeared on only one panel , with Katherine Kurtz and Randall Garrett; they told many stories about psi in real life, and appeared to be believers, too. Mr. Garrett spent most of his time making outrageous puns, but MZ8 told a story purporting to prove that he had demonstrable ESP. However, they did all talk quite intelligently about the relationship between religion and magic. Later MZB spoke briskly, and read aloud a short story about Free Amazons, which interested me because I had always been fascinated bv Kindra in SHATTERED CHAIN and wondered a lot about her early life.

Downstairs thev were selling bread and cheese and fruit; they had other food there which looked and smelled good, but we were told had been brought for committee members only, I hope this can be remedied next year, since some of the recipes were supposedly from the Darkover Cook Book and it would be fun to taste them. There was a table of HOURGLASS TAPES at which I bought a tape of MZB and one of Katherine Kurtz, then got extravagant and bought one of Fritz Leiber too.

We went out for supper, hunted around for a cheap restaurant and wound up with hot dogs at a Dairy Freeze because we didn't want to get in tne van and lose our parking place. When we got back the chairs had been set up again for the play and costume display and in the women's lounge all the participants --including MZB -- were dressing and making each other up. There were two teenage girls in the most beautiful costumes I ever saw, one with cloudy blue veils and red hair, later introduced as the same "Jaida" who had figured as Evanda in the opening ceremonies, and the costume was a Darkovar wedding gown; another with a fancy braided coiffure and exquisite blue over-gown embroidered with pearls, supposedly the gown Dorilys in STORMQUEEN wore at her handfasting. The girl who wore it was Marion's daughter or niece or something but I never did get it straight which was which. Both of Marion's sons were there at some time during the day, as were a lot of children who seemed to be her nephews and nieces. The costumes were beautiful, and the presentation by Diana Paxson was intelligent; there had been some talk of prizes, but none were awarded and there was no judging. I talked for a few minutes to a little grey-haired lady who was wearing a costume and who turned out to be Marion's mother (and Paul's). She seemed proud of her talented duo.

Cynthia MacQuillin sang some Darkovan songs to the guitar; later, very informally, Marion Bradley sat on the stage and sang a few of the songs from DARKOVER LANDFALL. She is obviously a well-trained singer, and her presentation was interesting but her voice seemed tired --which was no surprise to anyone by that time. It would be a good idea, I should think, for the HOURGLASS people to record all these songs, as well as the Tolkien songs MZB has supposedly written but which nobody has ever heard. (The few who have heard them in private or at parties all say they are very beautiful and that Marion is a fine singer when her voice is in good condition; I have been told that she had some sickness a few years ago which made it unreliable and that she consequently very shy about singing in public, which is a shame because she-sounds better than most of the people who DO sing and never worry about how they sound. Besides, I like Tolkien songs.

After this came the play FREE AMAZONS OF GHOR. Since I have NOT read John Norman's "Gor" novels, a lot of the jokes went over my head, but it was hilarious anyhow; it had to do with MZB and John Norman collaborating on a novel, with characters acting out the various scenes they thought up, after which one or the other of the authors would get up and scream with rage. Paul Zimmer, half naked in a loincloth and shield (and nothing else) was a Typical Barbarian Hero; there were two Free Amazons, rather on the chubby side; two Assistant Barbarians, who were big blonde teenage boys about fifteen (making it extra funny, as the Amazons were both obviously in their thirties) and Randall Garrett making bad jokes as an Editor and singing a long patter-song which went halfway between Gilbert and Sullivan and Tom Lehrer. Well, at least it wasn't U.S.S. Trek-a-Star! About the best acting was done by Paul Zimmer, who glowered and slammed the women around very realistically, (earlier he had done a demonstration of swordnlay) and by Dorothy Breen, who was wearing a typical pulp-magazine-cover as a costume (or almost wearing it) and they had some monstrous and rib-tickling horseplay; the whole thing was written by Mr. Garrett and was an obvious spoof on ALL sword-and-sorcery novels not just Darkover and GOR.

That was the windup to the day: a girl in a black blessed us all and we went home. I hope they do it again.[6]

July 1979 New York: 2

Darkover Grand Council Meeting II was held in July 13–15, 1979 in New York City. This was called the second con in the series.


  • Judy Gerjuoy, Chairman, Darkover Grand Council II
  • Mitchell Botwin, Vice Chairman and Hotel Liason
  • Michael Grossberg, Security
  • Dennis Jarog, Publicity
  • Devra Langsam, Art Show
  • Cinhil MacAran, Headquarters Room
  • Kathleen Morrison, Staff
  • Miriam Schlinger, Film Program
  • Andrew Sigel, Registration and Progress Report
  • Elisabeth Waters, Writer's Workshop and Play "Free Amazons of Ghor"

There was a dust-up regarding some fans regarding cash/credit cards, dealers' tables, territory, and the sale of the zine Jumeaux. In a letter to Darkover Newsletter #19/20, the con committee began with this statement:

In the seventh issue of JUMEAUX, a fanzine edited and published by Lynn Holdom, the editorial contained the following incorrect and highly misleading sentences regarding Darkover Grand Council II:

"I went to the DarkoverCon where the hotel branded me as unAmerican for not having credit cards, I was also considered unethical in trying to sell JUMEAUX in the huxter's room even though at last year's con, the same person was permitted to sell it for me. Jus think you are reading a zine that was banned by the head of the DarkoverCon committee."


There was a table in the Dealer's Room donated to the Friends of Darkover and Caer Deryni Publications, staffed by volunteers, for the sale of their various publications. Other people and organizations paid a fee of twenty dollars per table to sell their merchandise. At the previous convention, a special arrangement was made in advance whereby Ms. Holdom could have copies of her zine sold for her at a similarly donated and staffed table. Ms. Holdom made no arrangement at all with any member of the convention committee this year, so, when she placed copies of her zine at the table, the con chairman had them removed. Ms. Holdom

was not prevented in any way from selling her zine personally, but it was not deemed fair that she receive special treatment at the expense of the other dealers, the Friends of Darkover volunteers, and other fanzine publishers.

This con had a 24-page program book with pictorial wrappers. It includes "An Appreciation of Marion Zimmer Bradley" by Katherine Kurtz. It also has a first printing of a story by Bradley that takes place in an alternate Darkover called "Ten Minutes or So" which was later in Contes di Cottman IV #7 and Sternenkristall #1: ("It took place in an alternate universe where Dyan decided not to pursue Danilo, but instead responded to the loneliness of Regis Hastur. Regis was a boy struggling with his gayness and unable to recover from an earlier gay relationship. It was clear that Dyan could give Regis the reassurance he needed to banish the guilt and establish a positive identity. Dyan also needed Regis badly. At last, here was a boy who would love Dyan in return. In "Ten Minutes or So" we get a glimpse of Dyan at his best.") [7]

July 1979 New York: Con Reports

First of all, I simply want to say that everyone involved in planning, organizing, and carrying on this year's "Darkovercon-East" (Grand Council Meeting, NY) deserves the heartfelt thanks and praise of everyone attending. Judging by my experience, a grand and glorious time was had by all. This is not meant to be an "official" report- I'm sure more "in the know" fen have sent or provided you some very nice informative pieces. For me, as I'm sure it was for everyone there, simply getting the chance to meet and talk with Marion Bradley was fantastic. When Jacqueline Lichtenberg, Katherine Kurtz, Hal Clement, Walter Breen are added to the cast of celebrities, the experience becomes almost "too much heaven" for a very ordinary neo to tolerate. Of course, the programming, including Randall Garrett's FREE AMAZONS OF GHOR, a gorgeous costume show/contest, sparkled. And there were two unexpected touches that made this con a special delight: perhaps the most moving for me, the "marriage" di catenas by Marion of two young SCA couples. I was astounded at the intelligence, warmth, and range of talents the many fans I met invariably displayed, I have never heard so much beautiful singing at any con, from the Arilinn Tower "chorale" through the individual filksingers who regaled us with song and mirth at any given moment. I carried away with me an impression of spending an all too short time ecstatically stoned (did someone drop kirian in the wine?) in full rapport with some pretty wonderful people, in a nirvana-land that just may have been the planet Darkover. Leaving I felt rather like the child sent protesting to bed after a particularly glorious birthday. Judy Gerjuoy, Mitch Botwin, Armida Council, all their coworkers and friends deserve a big round of applause for providing us all with this rare and exciting op portunity—(Now, if some enterprising Council in the Midwest would organize a similar program, so less well-heeled fans living between the two coasts could attend—well; I won't hold my breath waiting; still, it's a lovely possibility to dream on—)...[8]

1980: 3

February 1980 California (Fantasy Worlds Festival)

This February 16–17, 1980 con does not appear to have an official number in this con series. The November one is called the third one.

Guests were to be Marion Zimmer Bradley, Katherine Kurtz (could not attend due to poor weather), Diana Paxson, Andre Norton, and Anji Valenza. Poul Anderson was the guest of honor (oddly, no con reports mention him, but Bradley comments on his presence in a Letter from MZB).

NOTE: This con is the same con as Fantasy Worlds Festival and is where the "Darkover Grand Council Meetings" begin to diverge. Many of the same fans were involved in "Fantasy Worlds Festival," but it was no longer completely Darkover-centric.

See Fantasy Worlds Festival more much more.

THE BIG NEWS this time is that we have set the date for the Midwinter Festival in 1980, We're hosting it again in the Finnish Brotherhood Hall in Berkeley, but we will have more space this year—not only the auditorium and downstairs kitchen/cafeteria area, but the Ski Room for an art show, and the Lodge Room for special workshops. We are sponsoring a Banner Contest, an art show with prizes for the best Darkover illustration (and other categories— write to our Art Show Director for particulars) and the best part is that if you register NOW, before December 1, you can have a membership for both days for $5, We're trying to get special convention rates at two local motels, and we'll keep you posted. Fan Guest of Honor is Anji Valenza, and there will be a special filmstrip/slide show of TO KEEP THE OATH, the Free Amazon story of Kindra's youth. We're combining this one with Deryni, Witch World and maybe Amber fandom, so those of you who are associated with those Fantasy Worlds, plan to come to our Fantasy Worlds Festival—which is what we're calling it this year. No, we're not going commercial, but we will have dealers tables available in case someone wants to provide our guests with some service or related book materials.[9]

Bradley wrote about this con in one of her Letters from MZB, see Fantasy Worlds Festival Dead Dog Party Incident.

November 1980 Maryland: 3

November 28–30, 1980, Baltimore, Maryland at the Hunt Valley Inn.

Guests were Katherine Kurtz, Marion Zimmer Bradley, and Jack Chalker.

1981: 4

November 27–29, 1981, Wilmington, DE at the Radisson Wilmington Hotel.

Guest of Honor: C.J. Cherryh. Other guests: Marion Zimmer Bradley, Katherine Kurtz, Paul Edwin Zimmer. Artist guest of honor: Mark "Samurai Cat" Rogers.

Con chair was Jaelle. The writers workshop was led by Elisabeth Waters. The art show was led by Rick Jacobs. The huckster room was headed by Kathy Sands.

1982: 5

cover of the 1984 program book

From the program book cover's artist:

This program for DarkoverCon 5 (or "V" Roman) dates from 1982. I was Artist Guest of Honor that year and the Writer Guest was the late Jo Clayton... This piece was done in the "Scottish Art Nouveau" style. Art Nouveau and Pre-Raphaelitism were styles and artistic movements which I found appropriate for the Celtic-inspired Darkover world. Ink on illustration board, 5 1/2" x 8 1/2", fall 1982.[10]

1983: 6

1984: 7

1985: 8

cover by Hannah Shapero of the 1985 program book

From the program book artist:

During thee 1980s I did most of the covers for the DarkoverCon program books. In 1985 the literary Guest of Honor was British author Diana Wynne Jones, who was a good friend and whose books I greatly enjoyed. I chose the cover image to illustrate Wynne Jones' "The Spellcoats," which takes place in an analog of Bronze Age northern Europe. The main character, depicted in the drawing, can weave magical spells into textiles and I depicted the program titles as woven spell-words.

Diana was mainly a "young adult" writer but "Y.A." stories are now considered appropriate reading for all ages. They are a welcome break from mainstream "adult" writing steeped in explicit sex and brutal violence.

Image is black ink on illustration board, about 7" x 10", August 1985.[11]

1986: 9

cover of the 1986 program book

Regarding the cover:

I used to do the cover for the DarkoverCon program book every year. In 1986 a major fantasy author, the Dragon Lady herself Anne McCaffrey was guest of honor so I did a cover in which flying dragons and riders were converging on a Darkovan castle lit by the great red sun. I have added the red color with Photoshop. We didn't have the resources to do a two-color cover, just black and white. Over the years I have done many renderings of the red sun of Darkover. Author M.Z. Bradley never specified just what kind of star this was although it was most probably a red giant. Red giants are unstable, so Darkovans are lucky that the planet wasn't fried before sentient life evolved.... Ink on illustration board, 6" x 10", October 1986.[12]

1987: 10

Jacqueline Lichtenberg and Marion Zimmer Bradley at the 1987 gathering
cover of the 1987 con, artist is Pyracantha

From the program book artist:

I used to be the "artist in residence" at DarkoverCon. I would do the program book cover and the little logo which was used in the convention badge. Each cover illustration had a Darkovan theme. This one was done after my trip to England in the fall of 1987 where I viewed Stonehenge. This image is Stonehenge on Darkover, hence the giant sun and the four moons rising through the upright stones. Author Marion Zimmer Bradley included lost pre-human races of beings on Darkover, so they probably put up these stones. DarkoverCon and to a large extent Darkover itself has faded out of existence. What happens when an imaginary world is no longer imagined?

Ink on illustration board, 8" x 10", fall 1987.[13]

1988: 11

cover of the 1988 con, artist is Pyracantha

Comments by the program book's artist:

I moved to the Metro DC area in 1988. DarkoverCon, in its eleventh year, also moved, to the location north of Baltimore that it still inhabits even under its current name, "ChessieCon." I was still doing the program covers and this is the one for 1988. It shows a left-handed swordsman waiting for his enemy to come out of hiding. I vaguely remember that the author MZ Bradley made her Darkovan humans left-hand dominant rather than Earth's right-hand majority. The architecture is taken from a photograph of an Italian mountain village.[14]

1989: 12

1990: 13


Friday 6PM "My feminist Hebrew Grimmoir" Sanctification of the Moon. Jacqueline Lichtenberg. This group may continue in another time slot Sunday.

Friday 8PM Adjourn to the Costume contest. There is a Sime/Gen entry!

Saturday 10AM Lichtenberg 101: an intro to the universes of J. Lichtenberg. Kerry Lindemann-Schaefer Donell Meadows, Linda Whitten and Bruce Adams.

Saturday 1PM Tarot Workshop with Jacqueline Lichtenberg. Subject open. Bring your Tarot decks to offer Demonstration readings. Beginners will be supervised by experienced ones. We haven't done readings in a few years now, so it's time.

Saturday 8PM Faith Day Ceremony: taken from the Sime/Gen books & adapted for Ancients, this is a celebration of the unity of human kind. It will be explained for newcomers.

Saturday After Ceremony Shiltpron Party with Trin tea and singing. Featuring Nova Serafino and Donald Combs at the keyboard. There is a Sime/Gen filk book which will be Available.

Sunday 10AM The truth about vampires: Panel with Anne Pinzow, Margaret Carter, Donell Meadows, and others.

Sunday 12Noon "What is Ecumenicon?" With Charles Butler.


Costume Contest:

The Sime/Gen entry in the costume contest is the costume that I am working on for Donald and myself. We will be doing Ferris Channel and companion. Instead of trying to do characters right out of the books we have decided to portray Trygon personas.

I don't know if I can enter them in the recreation category since we aren't doing characters out of the book, but perhaps we can go in for workmanship.

Shiltpron Parlor:

We will doing a Shiltpron parlor from the Sime/Gen books, with a few minor changes.

Our Shiltpron will be Donald's keyboard. He has been working on each song in the Sime/Gen filkbook. He has gotten his keyboard to sound somewhat like what we think a shiltpron should sound. It's hard when you have no examples, or simes to play them for you.

For trin tea we will be using rose hips tea with some spices added. I managed to bribe someone from my office to lend me her large coffee urn for the affair.

The porstan will be replaced by my mead, effervescent, of course. My ginger mead, and lilac mead will be taking the place of porstan.

The mead will be given out in moderation to adult Sime/Gen fans. I will be keeping the bottles out of sight, and serving it myself.[16]

Con Reports: 1990

[from a Sime~Gen fan]:


Well, I must say it was an interesting convention. I just wish we could have seen more of it! You see, we (my friend Nova and myself, I'm not being royal) made the mistake, er, decision, to participate in the masquerade AND run the Shiltpron parlor. We did get to see a few interesting panels and meet some very nice new friends, though. Perhaps I'd best just tell you about the two events which took up most of our time and energy. ...

The masquerade was a lot of fun. (At the time, I wouldn't have believed I'd be saying this, but I am.)

In the Ready Room, there was this cute little girl going around practicing throwing her pixie-dust around. It's a good thing that adults don't have to compete with children - we'd never win anything!

We were lined up outside the ballroom only a little late. As we waited our turns, we listened to the entries before us and talked to our fellow costumers. It was comforting to find out that we weren't the only first-timers there. It was even more comforting to find out that most of those gorgeous, elaborate costumes were being entered by Masters and therefore not in competition with us. Whew! (I must admit that some of the Beginners' costumes weren't half bad, either. <Modest cough>)

While we were waiting in the hallway to go on stage, Nova looked to the judges table and said "There's Susan! I know her from the costumers guild!! <Evil grin> Zlin her in our skit! This is perfect!"

Then it was our turn. My Companion and I walked on stage to the simple introduction, "From the Sime-Gen book series - a Farris Channel and his Companion." Everyone applauded politely when they thought it was just another walk-on of two people in pseudo-medieval costumes, ho-hum.

Then I slipped out from under the cape my Companion conveniently happened to have been holding and went over to zlin the judges' clerk (Susan) with my tentacles! That got a reaction from the crowd (it better have, we worked on the bloody-shen things for long enough)! Even better was the reaction from the poor judges clerk (get away from me, I don't know these people, er, things ...).

Of course, I couldn't just get away with that, so my Companion nager-whipped me off the stage. Let me recap it for those of you who weren't there:

Nova looks angrily at me holding the empty cape.

Me: (Jumping slightly) "DA! You crazy Gen! What are you doing!? I was just zlinning her nager!"

Nova: "Oh! Zlinning her nager?? Examining her life force?? So you say??" Looks at Susan while I nod. "And a lovely set of nager on this lady, they look like a 36C TO ME!!!"

Me: "OW!!"

Nova: (pointing offstage) "Let's move Hajene Farris."

Me: (Sloshing angrily off stage) "Uppity Gen! Sometimes I wish I'd never bought you!"

Nova: (Declares to the audience when I'm gone) "I wear the nager in the household."

Exit to the audience's laughter and applause.

Next came the photography area. There were the standard photos of me, my Companion, the two of us together, etc., etc.

Lots of people wanted to see how the heck we made moving tentacles for the stage. When we showed them (jointed plastic snakes glued to flexible plastic vambraces/fake forearms (sic) a near-universal reaction was, "Oh, that's so simple!"

Then one of our friends took some photos of us, asking us to pose in "transfer position". He then kept fumbling with the camera, keeping us posed for the longest time. My Companion remarked to him after an especially long posing, "Do this again and I'm going to slip him some tongue!"

Promises, promises.

The next day (Saturday) came the Faith Day ceremony. Very solemn and serious. Nova wouldn't even let me have our pledge include the phrase "unto Trygon forever or 50,000 miles, whichever comes first". Surely they know by now that Trygon is not a solemn and serious Household. Oh, well ...

After the Faith Day ceremony came the Shiltpron Parlor Party. That also turned out to be a much bigger success than I thought it was going to be.

Nova brought along her various home-made meads to be the "porstan". While I didn't try it (not liking the taste of alcohol), I was assured by all that they were very good. Nova also took care of providing copies of the songbook and most of the non-alcoholic refreshments.

And my part in all this? I was the shiltpron player! There were two departures from authenticity - I didn't use tentacles (not even I am that crazy) and we used my electronic keyboard for a shiltpron.

One thing that bothered me: after months of practice, I STILL kept flubbing the @%^$%^& songs! Nova assured me that, since everybody was singing in the key of OFF, I matched the group quite well. Thanks, Nova.

Let's have three cheers for Filthy Pierre, aka Erwin Straus! He wandered into the Parlor when the group was singing a song I couldn't even find, let alone practice, and took over for a couple of songs. Merci beaucoup, Filthy! It was embarrassing, though, when I flubbed Greensleeves afterwards right in front of him. I hope he doesn't have me drubbed out of the Filkers' Union!

All in all, I'd have to say that it was well worth the trip. Come on down to Darkover next year and get a free transfer from house Trygon!


At costume con Don and I were treated to a special entry into the future fashion show.

Before I go on let me explain how the future fashion show works. Long before the convention, costumers, artist, and people with any type of interest submit drawings, descriptions of costumes, and what category of costume it is. For Costume con 9 I counted twenty seven categories. They range from sports wear, ceremonial, heavy worlders and movies to name a few.

It seems the same Susan who was zlinned unmercifully from the stage by Don is also a Sime/Gen fan, and a master costumer to boot.

She and Jennifer Tifft sent in an entry into formal wear which had gotten second place. They entitled it GEMINI, but it is really Sime/Gen formal wear.

They entitled it GEMINI for simplicity's sake. It saved them to have to explain the Sime/Gen series to a lot of people who would have not read the series.

They reserved the design, which means that if it won and made it into the Future Fashion Folio book they wanted to be the ones to make and model it.

Many costumers will send in designs and not make them, others will see a design in the Folio and request to make it for the fashion show, and some costumes won't be made at all, if no costumers want to reserve it.

Their entry was gorgeous. I must have taken 10 pictures of them, just to be safe.

As Murphy would have it, my cheap camera decided that at costume con it would stop advancing the film. Out of 48 pictures I have 4, NONE of which are of Susan and Jennifer modeling their Sime/Gen costume. <GGGRRRRR!!> [17]

1991: 14

1992: 15

The Darkover Grand Council will be meeting in Timonium, MD on November 27-29 at the Holiday Inn, Timonium. The cost for the weekend is $24 per person until November 1, and then it goes up to $28.

Guests will include Janet Kagan, Marion Zimmer Bradely (health permitting), and Katherine Kurtz. Other guest authors/artists include Julia Ecklar, Diana Paxson, Don Sakers, Lisa Barnett, and Jaqueline Lichtenburg.

Katherine Kurtz usually holds services for any Michaelines present.

There will be various workshops, art show, bardic circle, costume contest, and a Regency Ball (Regency dress strongly encouraged, but not required).[18]

1992: 15: Con Reports

This show is a walk-in art show, but they don't mind if you're not attending. They don't want to mind small pieces of jewelry, as they have a fear of little things walking off (I don't understand why, I have heard of no trouble they have had). They also want representational things, and seem to be getting a little tired of 'craft' items. As you can see, they have a few odd ways of looking at things. However, the sales are good. I showed 9 and sold 7. They seem to like pretty boys and pagan pieces here (although, I'm sure Nancy and Tom could talk about the show's interests better than I). Sales are often very good, but the art show's a tad odd. Getting a break down of your sales is like puiling teeth. Pretty boys and fantasy sell well.[19]

Well, I got my check from the Darkover people. At least, I think it was the Darkover check. There was no paper-work or indication enclosed in the envelope. As I sent work down to friends who still have the returns, I can't say how many I sold. Heather sent 13 and is in the same boat I am.[20]

1993: 16

The Convention:

Darkover Grand Council Meeting XVI November 26–28, 1993

At the Holiday Inn in Timonium, MD membership is $25.00 until November 1 After that & at door $30.00 with only 600 being sold. Room Rates: $62.00/night (plus 12% room tax) with no additional charge for up to four people in a room.

Guests (that I know of):

  • Marion Zimmer Bradley
  • Elizabeth Moon
  • Lisa Barnett
  • Julia Eckler
  • Jacqueline Lichtenberg
  • Diana Paxson
There is a hucksters room, selling a lot of different things. Art auction, filking, a pool, jacuzzi, bardic circle, a regency ball, video room, kids activities and various other things.[21]

Con Reports: 1993

1994: 17

1995: 18


NOVEMBER 24 - 26, 1995



Regular memberships are $25.00 each until November 1, 1995. After that, and at the door they will be $30.00. Make checks payable to Armida Council (PO Box 7203, Silver Spring, MD 20907). We will sell only 600 regular memberships. If you wish membership confirmation, please include a Self Addressed Stamped Postcard [not an envelope].


The Holiday Inn, Timonium in Timonium, Maryland. It has 250 rooms on five floors with four elevators, an indoor pool and hot tub. Room rates are $62.00 a night (plus a 12% room tax). There is no additional charge for up to four people in a room.


Our Guest of Honor is: To Be Announced. Our Special Guests are: MARION ZIMMER BRADLEY (if her health permits), and KATHERINE KURTZ. Other author/artist guests include: Lisa Barnett, Christie Golden, Jacqueline Lichtenberg, Nancy Janda, Don Sakers, Melissa Scott and Hannah Shapero. Musical guests include: Bob and Sue Esty, John Huff, Myfanwy, On the Mark, Peregrynne, and Ed and Kathy Sobansky.


Besides main programming, alternate programming, videos and workshops, there will be a Huckster's Room, Art Show and Con Suite. We also have filking, a pool, a costume contest FRIDAY NIGHT, a jacuzzi, a Bardic Circle, a Regency Ball, and two art auctions. There will be a track of musical performances Friday, Saturday and Sunday.


There will be a Regency Ball Saturday afternoon. Regency dress is strongly encouraged, but not required. There will be Regency era dances and classes as well as waltz classes during the day.


The only pets permitted will be dogs and cats. No others are allowed. Dogs and cats are not allowed in the hucksters room or art show, no matter who owns them. Seeing eye animals are not considered pets, and are not covered under this policy.


We will have a video room running Friday evening/night, Saturday late afternoon through early Sunday morning, and Sunday during the day.


There will be a costume competition, run by Marty Gear, on FRIDAY NIGHT.


The only weapon allowed to be worn publicly during the convention, except as part of the costume competition, will be knives. All knives (and weapons used for the costume competition) must be sheathed and peace strapped at all times. We will enforce this policy, and will ask people who do not obey it to leave the convention.


or contact Jaelle [22]

1996: 19

1997: 20

1998: 21


MEMBERSHIP INFORMATION: Regular memberships are $30.00 each until November 1, 1998. After that, and at the door they will be $35.00. Make checks payable to Armida Council (PO Box 7203, Silver Spring, MD 20907). We will sell only 600 regular memberships. If you wish membership confirmation, please include a Self Addressed Stamped Postcard [not an envelope].

HOTEL: The Holiday Inn, Timonium in Timonium, Maryland. It has 250 rooms on five floors with four elevators, an indoor pool and hot tub. Room rates are $73.00 a night (plus a 13% room tax). There is no additional charge for up to four people in a room.

GUESTS: Our Guest of Honor is: ADRIENNE MARTINE-BARNES. Our Special Guests are: MARION ZIMMER BRADLEY (if her health permits) and KATHERINE KURTZ. Our Artist Guest of Honor is: HALLA. Our Musical Guests of Honor are: CLAM CHOWDER. Other author/artist guests include: Lisa Barnett, Jacqueline Lichtenberg, Nancy Janda, Scott MacMillian, Don Sakers, Melissa Scott, and Hannah Shapero. Musical guests include: Bob and Sue Esty, John Huff, Ellen James, Myfanwy, On the Mark, Peregrynne, Dr. Jane Robertson, Ed and Kathy Sobansky and Sam van Wyke.

HUCKSTERS ROOM: Our hucksters room is sold out.

ACTIVITIES: Besides main programming, alternate programming, videos and workshops, there will be a Huckster's Room, Art Show and Con Suite. We also have filking, a pool, a costume contest FRIDAY NIGHT, a jacuzzi, a Bardic Circle, a Regency Ball, and two art auctions. There will be a track of musical performances Friday, Saturday and Sunday, including a performance by Clam Chowder on Saturday. Note: you must have a convention membership to attend the concert. ART SHOW: There will be two art auctions, the first on Saturday night and the second on Sunday at 1PM. There is no hanging fee for art at the con, and we take a 10% commission on all sold pieces. For more information about the art show or art auctions, contact Laura Van Winkle, 322 4th Street, Irvin, PA 15642.

LABELS: Please check your label. The year on the label is the last year you have paid for. If it does not say 98 then we do not have you listed as paid for 1998. Please contact us in writing if you feel this is in error.

REGENCY BALL: There will be a Regency Ball Saturday afternoon. Regency dress is strongly encouraged, but not required. There will be Regency era dances and classes as well as waltz classes during the day.

CHILDREN'S ACTIVITIES: We will have children's activities on Saturday -- stories, games, etc. This is not a babysitting service; children using this service will not be stopped from leaving the programming room.

VIDEO ROOM: We will have a video room running Friday evening/night, Saturday late afternoon through early Sunday morning, and Sunday during the day.

COSTUME COMPETITION: There will be a costume competition, run by Marty Gear, on FRIDAY NIGHT.

WEAPONS POLICY: The only weapon allowed to be worn publicly during the convention, except as part of the costume competition, will be knives. All knives (and weapons used for the costume competition) must be sheathed and peace strapped at all times. We will enforce this policy, and will ask people who do not obey it to leave the convention.

VOLUNTEERS: Darkover, like all SF cons, runs on volunteer labor. We need you. We are always in great need of people to help out by guarding doors, setting up art show hangings, work at registration, etc. If you are willing to help out, either contact me, Jaelle, in advance, or at the con. Jaelle can be reached through the Armida Council PO Box (listed below), at home, 600 Cedar Street, NW, Washington, DC 20012 or (202) 726-4396. -- no calls after 11:15 PM. please or by E-mail at [email protected].

CHECK POLICY: Due to problems in the past, all returned checks will be charged a $25.00 returned check fee.


1999: 22

Con Reports: 1999

Con report: Melissa's Darkover Report

2000: 23

2001: 24

2002: 25

Con Reports: 2002

2003: 26

2004: 27

2005: 28

2006: 29

2007: 30

2008: 31

Photos: Pictures from Darkovercon 2008, Archived version

This was the 31st con.

2009: 32

This was the 32nd con.

Photos: Pictures from Darkovercon 2009, Archived version

2010: 33

2011: 34

November 25–27, 2011, Timonium, Maryland. It is the 34th con.

2012: 35

2013: 36

This was the last Darkover Grand Council Meeting.