Fantasy Worlds Festival

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Name: Fantasy Worlds Festival
Dates: 1980-1998 (born out of Darkovercon in 1979)
Organization: Fantasy, Darkover
Founder: Friends of Darkover
Founding Date:
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Fantasy Worlds Festival was held in California and founded by Marion Zimmer Bradley.

The first one was Darkover-centric and sponsored by Friends of Darkover. This con was January 1979 California.

Fan Comments

The very first convention I attended, before I had any professional story publication credits, was Fantasy Worlds Festival in Berkeley, put on by Marion Zimmer Bradley and her staff. Around 1980, I'd written her a fan letter and she'd written back. Knowing that I studied martial arts, she invited me and my sparring partner to work security (and also give a demonstration) for her convention. I knew nothing of conventions, so I had visions of staying up all night, dealing with one crisis after another, and was relieved to find everyone friendly and well-mannered, at least in the public areas. I had no idea of the delights of thoughtful, lively panel discussions, a dealer's room full of books, jewelry, and music, and the wonderful costumes, not to mention a whole weekend spent with kindred spirits and fellow book lovers. Not long after that, I made my first professional sale to Marion for the first Sword & Sorceress (DAW, 1984) and began taking this writing business seriously.[1]


The first con in this series was Darkover Grand Council Meeting.


The second con in this series was now officially called "Fantasy Worlds Festival," and was sort of the same con as January 1978 California. While they don't call it the "second con," they do infer that it is when they billed the one in 1981 as the "third" one.

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.[2]

Fans later could get a transcript of one of the speeches:

THE SPEECH BY ANDRE NORTON, taped for the Fantasy Worlds Festival, turned out to be insufficient for the size of the hall; despite the rigidly-enforced silence in the hall, many people found it hard to hear. The speech has now been transcribed and printed; if you were at Fantasy Worlds festival, send us a stamped self-addressed #10 (legal) envelope and we will send you one by return mail. If you were NOT at Fantasy Worlds Festival and would like a copy of Andre Norton's speech, send us 50c (to cover printing costs) PLUS a stamped self-addressed envelope and we will send you a copy; it's a wonderful speech and we know you'll all want to hear it; and we are happy to share it with you, as Ms. Norton kindly shared her thoughts with us.[3]

1980: Con Reports

[The complete con report includes a lengthy description of this fan visiting Katherine Kurtz at her home the weekend before and learning some dances, much about staying at Marion Zimmer Bradley's house the night before the con and finishing up Bradley's costume for the con.]

Several members of our Council had originally planned lo attend, but the inclement weather prevented the attendance of everyone except myself and Cindy McQuillin. Even Katherine Kurtz, who was to have been a special guest at the convention, got fogged in Friday night and couldn't get out of the city in time for the convention.


Saturday morning, the cars were loaded down with our costumes and boxes of Thendara House publications for sale in the Dealers' Room, and we went to the Finnish Brotherhood Hall to start the convention. Things went very well, and sales were brisk, which I was glad of since the Thendara House Sales Table was my responsibility. I had also brought many samples of my efforts at lace making, and these were displayed as a special exhibit (definitely NOT FOR SALE) in the Art Show Room. I got very many nice compliments, which pleased me, of course, and my example apparently served as an impetus to several other people, because when I was in Berkeley for the Friends of the English Regency Convention March 8. I found several of the Friends of Darkover (who are also Friends of the English Regency) had started taking lessons in Lace Making.

Cindy was sitting at the Thendara House Sales Table, keeping me company, when some friends of hers finally arrived. As we were talking about the progress of the Convention. I mentioned that we had been forced to cancel the dancing because we didn't have any music [due to Katherine Kurtz's absence]. Phil, one of Cindy's friend, asked what kind of music we needed, and when I told him the name of the rhythm, he said he knew some music to that rhythm, and could play it on his tin whistle, which he then proceeded to demonstrate. It sounded good enough for dancing to me. so I went upstairs, and told Marion to go ahead and announce the dance practice as scheduled. I was very surprised at the turnout for the practice. There were 18 people who wanted to learn. We only had an hour to practice however, and most of the people were eager, but not skilled at picking up a dance quickly, so I only had time to work on one of the dances, the one Kathcrine had christened Hastur's Fancy. Also, at the end of the practice time. I felt that if there was going to be a demonstration of the dance later that night, as planned, there had better be another rehearsal, which I made arrangements for.

I didn't get to too many of the talks, that day, being too busy running around talking to friends, but one of the talks I did hear was on animals in stories, what to think about when creating a new critter, or a new civilization of which this critter is a part. If you're going to create a nomadic civilization who's beast of burden is a carnivore, you better think real hard about how to feed this critter, and what is required of a civilization that uses such an animal as a beast of burden. Why were they forced to use a carnivore for this task if there arc herbivores around? What are all the ramifications of this facet of the civilization?

During the dinner break, the second dance practice session took place. This time it was much more manageable, with only seven people plus myself to dance (and I was really glad to be able to dance myself. I hadn't been able to earlier because there were so many people), plus two musicians. Phil had managed to find a girl who played '"The Bones." The practice went very well, we went through the dance about a dozen times, and we all felt pretty confident about being able to give a demonstration later.

The first activity that evening was the Costume show. Marion had a Priestess of Evanda robe which she had planned to have Katherine wear, but Katherine wasn't there, and Lisa suggested that I might be able to wear it. Since it was a loose robe gathered at the waist. almost anyone could have worn it, except it was made for a rather tall person, as Katherine is and I am. But even one else already had at least one costume (Dorothy Marion's daughter, had two), and I didn't, so I was very pleased to have something for the Costume Show. The next thing on the program was the dance demonstration, and although we made some mistakes that we the dancers, knew about, the audience didn't seem to notice and were quite generous in their applause. The last thing that evening was a staging of the Free Amazons of Ghor. Tracy was just great as Mz. B. and the show was a great success. After which, we all went home and crashed.

Sunday the Dealers' Room was closed, so I got to sit in on all the panels. There was a very interesting one by three women, two of whom, Adrienne and Tracy, are agents for other writers, and the last Don Wolheim's wife. Elsie, is (obviously) very high in the Publishing Buisiness. They discussed what women are doing in publishing, now that they are not just secretaries. Marion interviewed Don Wolheim about the Publisher's end of the Publishing Business, and then there was the lunch break, to be followed immediately by the playing of the tape from Andre Norton, and Cindy McQuillin interviewing Don Wolheim on his long friendship with Andre. Unfortunately, it took Phil and I so long to get our and Cindy's lunch at the local taco stand, that the tape had already been started when we got back to the hall and they weren't letting anyone in because the tape was so quiet that any interruption would have been very upsetting. Cindy told me recently that there is a transcript available of the tape and I should be able to get a copy from Marion. Maybe next meeting I'll have it to pass around for everyone to read. Wc heard many interesting things about Andre during the interview, and then, it was over. Time to pack up and go home.

Monday morning. Marion drove me to the airport, and it was really all over, for another year. But we are already making plans for next year, and I hope that more of you will be able to go next year.[4]


February 27-March 1, 1981.

from Darkover Newsletter, a flyer for #3, 1981

It was billed as the third con in this series, but is the second in the "Fantasy Worlds Festival."

Amber, Darkover, Deryni, Chronicles of Tornor, etc.

Guests of Honor: Elizabeth A. Lynn, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Katherine Kurtz, Diana Paxson

There was a "specially catered medieval banquet."

Don Simpson presented a slide show. The toastmaster was Jon de Cles.

The COSTUME CONTEST will be stage-managed by Marion Zimmer Bradley. Prizes will be given (but we don't know yet just what they will be) for the best Darkovan and Deryni costumes, and possibly other categories. Prizes will NOT be impressive -- we like the idea of people making costumes because they LOVE making costumes, and the theme of the Costume Ball/Masquerade will be "Come as your favorite fantasy character" not "design a costume for a fantasy movie." SPECIAL PRIZE FOR ENTRANTS UNDER THIRTEEN.

The ART SHOW is in the capable hands of Anodea Judith, Artis and muralist in the Bay Area. If you will to enter the ART SHOW, send a stamped self-addressed enveloped and mark it ART SHOW RULES; they will send it to you at once.

DEALER'S TABLES are somewhat limited, so items sold at the table should have some relevance to the Fantasy Worlds theme of the convention -- no Star Trek or movie-media items, please. Jewelry, art work, books and fanzines are appropriate, as are costume items. Send SASE for details.

There will be a Costume Swap room where you may sell or swap an old costume which you have outgrown, which no longer fits, or which you have worn so often that you cannot look at it without some queasiness. Costumes brought for sale or swap must be in wearable condition; medievals, Renaissance or fantasy-science fiction costumes are OK. Dorothy Breen will be in charge of the costume shop.

NEW THIS YEAR: There will be a specially catered Banquet of Darkovan foods by Adrienne Martine Barnes, who created several of the Duke's Dinners in the Bay Area, as well as some Regency Breakfasts, and a number of small but exciting wedding breakfasts and teas. Adrienne is known locally as a fabulous cook and caterer and this banquet should really be something special. NOW HEAR THIS! If you wish to attend the banquet, you MUST have your reservations in BEFORE February 10th. Price is not yet fully determined, but will begin the vicinity of $10 (and well worth it) and there will be NO FREE TICKETS -- not even to committee members. A small number of tickets t reduced pierce may be available to Serving Wenches in return for doing donkey-work in preparing and serving during the banquet. Write IMMEDIATELY if you can do this to Adrienne [address redacted].

ENTERTAINMENT: We will have a brand new musical THE KEEPER'S VICE, by Phillip Wayne, Cindy McQuillin, Marion Zimmer Bradley, and Gilbert and Sullivan. In addition, we would like to showcase the talents of local fans and musicians at the special Pre-Registration Party on Friday night, open ONLY to pre-registrants; no tickets will be mailed this year, but per-registrants can come Friday night to the party, get tickets and door prizes, and hear the special entertainment, as well as meeting our guests of honor. Your badges will be given out then.



April 16–18, 1982, Travelodge Motel near the Oakland Airport.

from Darkover Newsletter, a flyer for #4, 1982

This was the fourth con.

Guest of Honor was C.J. Cherryh. Fan guest of honor was M.R. "Hide" Hildebrand. Also Katherine Kurtz, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Adrienne Martin Barnes, Diana Paxson, Paul Edwin Zimmer, Jon de Cles, Millea Kenin.

There was a "no-host bar" reception where fans could meet the authors, panels, discussions, readings, speeches, an art show, a dealers' room, and "by popular demand, a Bardic Revel, and a revival of [the skit] Free Amazons of Gor, directed by Dorothy Breen who created the role of the Shmaiden. Also socializing and an all-night hospitality and (shudder) folksinging room." [5]


March 18–20, 1983 at the Oakland Airport Hyatt.

The hotel: Oakland Airport Hyatt. They have offered us a very good convention rate, and guaranteed that they will not engage In the kind of remodeling which, last year, split our big convention programming room into two smaller rooms! The Dealer's Room Is bigger than last year's and we will not have to walk through the coffee-shop, or anywhere else, to get to it. And by popular demand, this year we are supplying not only a filk-singlng room, but a room for those who are interested In wargaming/D&D.

THE COMMITTEE, those hardy souls who make this thing possible every year; LISA WATERS Is In charge of pre-registratlon, and Is also the convention's treasurer —such Is her dedication that this devoted backstage worker went out and took a course in accounting! DOROTHY McCARTY is again consenting to handle publicity, and since we are starting our preparations earlier this year, we may be publicized in more and better places! The Masquerade will again be in the capable hands and Imagination of ADRIENNE MARTINE BARNES. Badges and the like will be designed by WALTER BREEN, while the program book will be made up by DIANA PAXSON. This year the Dealer's Room will be handled by ANN SHARP, and the Art Show will be in charge of HAL HEYDT. Hotel Liaison and Security will be in charge of CYNDI N'HA JUNE and her staff of Free Amazons, and MARION ZIMMER BRADLEY will do Guest Liaison and Program Scheduling.

GUESTS: At this writing, OCTAVIA BUTLER, author of Kindred, Wild Seed, and other unusual and fine science fiction, has consented to be our Guest of Honor. We have Invited ALICIA AUSTIN as Artist Guest of Honor, and PATRICIA MATHEWS as fan guest of honor, though they have not yet definitely consented. PAULA CRIST, stunt woman in Hollywood, dancer, actress, and creator of highly unusual alien/nonhuman characterizations, has agreed In principle to come providing the date does not conflict with other engagements. KATHERINE KURTZ has promised that she will try to be with us again—we all missed her last year! And then we will have the usual crowd, whom you have met here before...we hope you're not getting tired of us (joke) because we intend to keep coming; DIANA PAXSON, MARION ZIMMER BRADLEY, PAUL EDWIN ZIMMER, RAY NELSON, and hopefully all the well-known writers and little-known writers in this rich area for science fiction and fantasy....the San Francisco Bay Area has more writers than any other part of the Science Fiction world except New York, and with true California chauvinism, we say, who needs to go to New York?

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION, including reservations cards for the hotel and fees for convention membership, send a stamped, self-addressed envelope to: LISA WATERS, Box 72, Berkeley CA 94701.

If you need Information about Art Show Rules, dealer's room fees, etc, Include an Inquiry. This year we are completing the separation of the Fantasy Worlds Festival from the Friends of Darkover (though local Friends will still, we hope, continue their Interest and help in the convention we started, even though it is no longer Darkover-centred) and we may very well be able to open a new bank account and accept checks made out to the convention—which will lighten Lisa's bookkeeping tasks considerably since she won't have to run everything through the Friends bank account.

This year we intend special programming for D & D enthusiasts, costume nuts, filksong freaks. Free Amazons, and even Berserkers! Let us know what you'd like to see on the program! [6]



It was held at the Hyatt Hotel in Oakland, CA on April 19–21, 1985.


From a blurb in the newly-ressurected Darkover Newsletter, issue #31: "The Fantasy Worlds Festival will be held at the Oakland Airport Hyatt Hotel on February 7,8, and 9, 1986. Diane Duane will be the Guest of Honor and MZB the hostess, with many other authors and fans, an interesting hucksters' room, games, video, and some very interesting programs. Please come...."


from Darkover Newsletter, a flyer for 1994

The con was to be/held at the The Berkeley Marina Marriott April 22–24, 1994.

The convention had a dealer's room, filking, and dance, but no formal masquerade or art show.

Guests of honor were Larry Dixon and Mercedes Lackey. Other guests were Marion Zimmer Bradley, Cynthia McQuillin, Diana Paxson, Dr. Jane Robinson, Deborah Wheeler, Elisabeth Waters, and Paul Edwin Zimmer.

Elisabeth Waters talked about this con in 1993:

I have... been asked what it is we do at the Fantasy Worlds Festival. It's a reasonably standard s-f convention (insomuch as anything in fandom is standard): we have panels where we talk about books, writing, music, magic, the care and feeding of exotic pests (excuse me, that should be pets...), and any other interesting subjects we can think of, or that anyone suggests, and we can find panelists for... We also have a Meet the Guests party on Friday; we're hoping to stage 'Free Amazons of Ghor' on Saturday night... and we may even have a filk concert. MZB always says that filksing should be done in private between consenting adults... but she agrees that a convention qualifies. The hotel has been warned that the programming rooms are to be open for filking all night after the scheduled programming is over. We will have a dealer's room. We probably will not have either an art show or a formal masquerade since we're just starting up again after not having done this for many years, we have only a small concom and are planning to stick with things we do fairly well, rather than overextend ourselves and make a mess of things. We're hoping to have some of the SCA people come in and do demos, and we certainly encourage hall costumes (although this should comply with local laws regarding indecent exposure and carrying of weapons). The hotel has said they will allow weapons as long as they are peacebonded, but they will not allow pets. So please do not smuggle your pet rat stuffed down the front of your blouse, or wear your snake as a necklace. Misty and Larry, our guests of honor, have agreed to leave their menagerie at home, please follow their example. The convention starts with the party Friday evening at about 7:00 and will run until about 4:00 Sunday.[7]

Marion Zimmer Bradley touted this con in June 1993:

In the Bay Area, of course, we have more writers per square mile than anywhere else in the world, and our guest of honor will be Mercedes Lackey, who made her debut as a writer in one of the Darkover anthologies, and now is a very well thought of writer of her own work. We also feature big and little name writers and artists so you can buttonhole your favorite professional in a small social setting; this is what conventions started out to be before they got so big and commercial. Naturally at a Star Trek convention with twenty thousand people, you're not too likely to find Bill Shatner sitting around looking lonely at midnight, or, as I did at my first convention, Fritz Leiber alone in the coffeeshop at 5 a.m. for a nearly lonely breakfast. I did, and it changed my life —turned out to be one of the great peak experiences. So find out about this one—who knows? You might meet one of your favorite young or old professionals and find the peak experiences of your life.[8]

1994: Con Reports

Programming: Great, especially the Free Amazons of Ghor (I was too young the first time around!) and the GoH reading (Misty and Larry carried it off great with their sense of humor. The lack of an art show: I forgive you for not being ready for it, but with Larry an artist it was a real shame.

Guests: Super kudos to both GoHs .... while too busy for many cons they both showed they do care for their fans. Misty attended the Queens Own meeting; I saw Larry giving chat/encouragement to a couple *good* fan artists attending the con - I admire it when a pro takes the time to do that; may the recipients and the giver both fly! Thank them both for me! *sigh* too bad they can only make time for about one con every two yean or so now!

All the other guests were great too. Like a family gathering where you know everyone - very local oriented. Say hi to Cindy and Jane.

Hotel: at least it wasn't fan hostile but its tourist orientation kept it from being as fan friendly as it might have been. They flat out refused to extend checkout which is why I missed the 11 a.m.

Sun. panel on "Exotic Pests" which I had desperately wanted to see for the insight into life in the High Flight household! (Check with some of the smof types like Mary Kay Kare on, say the Radisson Plaza San Jose which has hosted the Consonance filkcons? if you do it again I mean. They could be persuaded to adopt fan-friendly checkout times.) Also there wasn't any really inexpensive food close by.

The meeting areas were quite adequate (more than) but the layout didn't seem to allow for a lot of socializing.

Lisa, big congratulations on -Changing Fate-. I'll buy it at or before Baycon. See ya then.[9]


The dead dog party for this con was held at "The Other Change of Hobbit," a famous bookstore in San Francisco. It began at 5:00 pm on Sunday, March 12, 1995; in attendance were C.J. Cherryh, Deborah Wheeler, Jane Fancher, Marion Zimmer Bradley and many other special guests hob-nobbed after the convention.

1995: Con Reports

I just wanted to let you know how much I appreciate all the hard work, enthusiasm, and joy that went into creating and running the '95 Fantasy Worlds Festival. The GOH's were delightful, the panels and panelists were terrific, the entertainment funny and entrancing, and the entire atmosphere very welcoming. This was the first con I'd ever attended, and I wasn't quite sure what to expect. Elisabeth did an amazing job of keeping everything running. Stephanie's program helped me figure everything out, and toastmistress Dr. Jane kept me laughing. I loved the performance of "Slave Boys of Dimover" and Moira's concert, and enjoyed the chance to finally meet the people attached to names I've admired for years. I had a wonderful time, and am looking forward to next year's event. You have a group of wonderfully creative and helpful people working with and for you, and I greatly envy your getting to spend time with them all year long. Thanks again for the wonderful weekend! [Bradley replies: "I do indeed appreciate the crew here—Moira's a great entertainer. I missed Slave Boys of Dimover— lost my way in the hotel—and it was one thing I especially wanted to see."] [10]


"As part of the Fantasy Worlds Festival in 1998, the last convention Marion organized, Marion and Rachel E. Holmen edited MARION ZIMMER BRADLEY'S FANTASY WORLDS, an anthology of stories by "MZB's Writers." It contains stories by Robin Wayne Bailey, Jessie D. Eaker, India Edghill, Rosemary Edghill, Dorothy J. Heydt, Heather Rose Jones, Cynthia McQuillin, Syne Mitchell, Diana L. Paxson, Steven Piziks, Raul S. Reyes, Deborah J. Ross, Dave Smeds, Michael Spence, Laura J. Underwood, Cynthia L. Ward, Elisabeth Waters, Lawrence Watt-Evans, and Paul Edwin Zimmer."


  1. ^ by Deborah J. Ross who went on to take over writing for Darkover after (and presumably before, Marion Zimmer Bradley's death): Deborah J. Ross: Loscon: Some General Thoughts on Conventions, Archived version 2011
  2. ^ from Darkover Newsletter #19/20
  3. ^ from Darkover Newsletter #21
  4. ^ by Cheryl Chapman in Darkover Newsletter #21, reprinted from the Chieri Council newsletter.
  5. ^ from a flyer
  6. ^ from Darkover Newsletter #26 (August 1982)
  7. ^ from Darkover Newsletter #61
  8. ^ from Darkover Newsletter #61
  9. ^ from a fan in Darkover Newsletter #65
  10. ^ from Darkover Newsletter #68 (March 1995)