Guests of Honor

Writer Guest of Honor: L.E. Modesitt, Jr.

LE Modesitt, Jr headshot black and white

L.E. Modesitt, Jr. is a very popular and prolific author, with over 75 novels so far. He is best known for his Saga of Recluse fantasy series which has 23 books (including one that gives a science fiction origin to this fantasy world). His Imager Portfolio series has 12 books, the Corean Chronicles has eight, the Spellsong Cycle has five, and his new series the Grand Illusion only has three (but growing).


In addition to fantasy, he also writes science fiction. His SF work includes The Ecolitan Matter (4 books), Ghosts of Columbia (4 books) the Forever Hero (3 books), and Timegod’s World (2 books) as well as many standalones. His first publication, the short story “The Great American Economy” was published in Analog in 1973. His first novel, The Fires of Paratime (which was revised into The Timegod) was published in 1982. Modesitt’s writing is often philosophical, with his characters having to study the metaphysics of magic and the philosophy of how to use their powers. While many authors have wars between Order and Chaos, Modesitt’s Recluse series links order with creation and chaos with destruction, but shows how order powers can still cause great devastation even though such use has effects on the magic user. As a former economist, he puts more thought into making his worlds real than do many other fantasy writers. Modesitt is a former resident of the Baltimore-Washington area. After a career in the Navy he worked in government as legislative director and staff director for Congresspeople in D.C. He also served as head of Legislation and Congressional Relations at the U.S. EPA. He went to his first convention, a Balticon, at age 42. Readers new to Modesitt can get a taste through his story collection Viewpoints Critical. Or, they could begin his best known series with The Magic of Recluse or start a more recent (and shorter) one with Imager. Or for his science fiction, you could start with The Forever Hero or Timegods’ World.

Editor Guest of Honor: Sheila Williams

Sheila Williams head shot

Sheila Williams is the two-time Hugo Award winning Editor (in 2011 and 2012) of Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, which has won the Locus Award for Best Magazine multiple times.
Shelia started off as a fan from a young age. Her interest in science fiction began in her early years in western Massachusetts, when her father read Edgar Rice Burroughs books to her as a child.

She once said, “My father had a membership in the Science Fiction Book Club, so books would come every month. I read everything we had, and everything in the library. After a while I discovered that, in the library, everything I loved had spaceships on the spines – what I loved was mostly science fiction.” She recently wrote, “It’s been said that the Golden Age of Science Fiction is twelve. It is certainly true that the stories that I read in my tweens and teens by writers like Ursula K. Le Guin, Samuel R. Delany, Arthur C. Clarke, Roger Zelazny, Isaac Asimov, Kurt Vonnegut, James Tiptree, Jr., Norman Spinrad, and many others left deep imprints on my psyche.”

She began working at Asimov’s as an editorial assistant in June 1982 and quickly was promoted to managing editor. She worked with Isaac Asimov for ten years. In 2004, after the retirement of long-time editor Gardner Dozois, she became the editor of the magazine.

In addition to her editorial stewardship of the magazine, Sheila Williams is the editor/co-editor of more than two dozen best-selling science fiction anthologies including co-editing A Woman’s Liberation: A Choice of Futures by and About Women (2001) with Connie Willis.

One of Sheila’s proudest accomplishments is co-founding, with Rick Wilber in 1993, the Dell Magazines Award for Undergraduate Excellence in Science Fiction and Fantasy Writing, co-sponsored by Dell Magazines and The International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts. The Award – with its cash prize, conference appearance, and in-depth consultation with Sheila and other established authors – encourages young writers and helps them form lasting relationships with other aspiring writers. Many of these finalists go on to become published authors.

Shelia Williams was born 1956 in Springfield, Massachusetts. Sheila graduated from Elmira College, New York, studying at the London School of Economics junior year, and received her Master’s in Philosophy from Washington University in St. Louis in 1982.


Music Guest of Honor: Rhiannon’s Lark

Alyssa Yeager headshot

Have you ever wanted to hear a Disney princess singing about the things you love…board games, ninjas, and krakens? Rhiannon’s Lark is happy to make your wish come true. This geek-goddess-girl tackles everything from T-Rexes to moral dilemmas with insightful lyrics, gorgeous vocals, and gentle humor.

Alyssa Yeager is known for her magickal, mystical story-telling. She weaves a tapestry of personal tales, myths, and moral choices in a chaotic world with her folk style and instrumentation.

Creator Alyssa Yeager is both a professional musician and practicing music therapist. In 2007, she released her first album, an all-original children’s album, Normal is Boring, inspired by her work at Rainbow Babies and Children’s hospital in Cleveland, OH. Later that year, she joined up with world class drummer Sue Balaschak to form the duo “Telling Point” with their unique brand of tribal rock.

In 2013, Alyssa’s solo project “Rhiannon’s Lark” was born, bringing together her unique perspective on nerdery, spirituality, and moral choices in a chaotic world. Over the next several years, Rhiannon’s Lark made appearances at sci-fi, fantasy, and gaming conventions as well as pagan-centered events. Her first EP under the new project, “Initiative” showcased exactly what you can expect from a Rhiannon’s Lark show: a deep-dive into board games and general geekery, some sweet personal stories, and a questioning look at society’s current values.

Building on this introduction, Alyssa released her first full length Rhiannon’s Lark album in 2016, “Sky Full of Phoenix”. This was an ambitious undertaking that allowed Alyssa to create much fuller arrangements of her repertoire and perform on a variety of instruments in the studio: guitar, bass, ukulele, percussion, harmonica, jeans, and corduroy (yes, she played pants). Her song, “Birds of Rhiannon”, explains how Alyssa chose the name “Rhiannon’s Lark” based on the Welsh legend of the Goddess Rhiannon.

2020 shifted Alyssa’s focus from live performance and touring to livestreaming and virtual connection! Rhiannon’s Lark performed at virtual festivals and conventions ranging from the Ninefold Festival and Sirius Rising at Home to DragonCon and GenCon. Late in 2020, Alyssa ran her first Kickstarter and funded her newest album in less than 48 hours. The album “The Long Road” features collaborations with numerous musicians and an exploration of how we move forward in this chaotic time with purpose and hope.

Her albums include: The Long Road, Sugar and Spice and Dinosaurs, Meditations for Geeks, Sky Full of Phoenix, Initiative, and Normal is Boring.

Artist Guest of Honor: Omar Rayyan

Black and white photo of Omar Rayyan wearing a hooded jacket, holding a wine glass, seated in a peacock-style wicker chair, black cat in background

Upon graduating from the Rhode Island School of Design many years ago, Omar Rayyan settled on the island of Martha’s Vineyard. The bucolic surroundings compliment and help inspire his “old world” aesthetic toward painting. He enjoys looking to the past for inspiration and guidance from the great oil painters of the Northern Renaissance and the Romantic and Symbolist painters of the 19th century.

In the past, he created illustrations for many publishers, including Simon & Schuster, Random House and Hyperion/Disney. His market was mainly geared towards children’s and young adult’s magazines and books, doing cover and interior illustrations. He also illustrated several children’s picture books.

In 2016, Omar published an illustrated book, “Goblin Market”. It was the culmination of many years of work, a personal project based on the narrative poem by Christina Rossetti. A successful Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign helped the project come to fruition, and the result was a beautiful hardcover book packed with over 100 full-color watercolor paintings.

Nowadays, Omar is concentrating more on doing personal works and commissions for collectors. Paintings of whim and fantasy made to indulge his own personal tastes and humors and to hopefully entertain and please the viewing public.

2024 Heinlein Award: Tom Doherty

Tom Doherty, head shot with bookshelf in background

Tom Doherty is the founder and Chairman of Tor Publishing Group, the largest publisher of science fiction and fantasy in the United States.

Photo Credit: Robert Davis

He began his career as a salesman for Pocket Books and rose to be Division Sales Manager. From there, he went to Simon and Schuster as National Sales Manager, then became publisher of Tempo Books. He was Publisher and General Manager of the Ace and Tempo divisions of Grossett & Dunlap before founding his own company in 1980, publishing under the name Tor Books.

In the over forty plus years since its founding, Tor Publishing Group has been at the forefront of the science fiction and fantasy genre for decades and has won every major award in the SFF field.

Mr. Doherty has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the Skylark, awarded by the New England Science Fiction Association for outstanding contributions to the field of science fiction; the Silver Bullet Award from the International Thriller Writers; and the Raymond Z. Gallun Award for outstanding contribution to the genre of science fiction; and the Lauriet Award from the Western Writers of America for contribution to literacy. He was also honored with a proclamation from Charles B. Rangel, the Chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means of the House of Representatives of the United States Congress, for outstanding leadership to enhance and provide literacy programs throughout the nation. 

Mr. Doherty has also received a “Lifetime Achievement Award” from the World Fantasy Convention; the Solstice Award from the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America for his significant impact on the science fiction and fantasy landscape; and the Thriller Legend Award from the International Thriller Writers, an award honoring an icon in the industry.

The Robert A. Heinlein Award is bestowed by the Baltimore Science Fiction Society for outstanding published works in science fiction and technical writings that inspire the human exploration of space. See the BSFS website for more information about the Robert A. Heinlein Award, including past winners.

2024 Compton Crook Award Winner: Kemi Ashing-Giwa


Kemi Ashing-Giwa studied organismic & evolutionary biology and astrophysics at Harvard, and is now pursuing a PhD in the Earth & Planetary Sciences department at Stanford. She has a novella, “This World Is Not Yours” scheduled for September 2024 from Tor Nightfire and a novel, The King Must Die scheduled for 2025 from Saga Press.

She won the Compton Crook award for her novel The Splinter in the Sky.

Kemi will be attending Balticon 58 in person.

Find out more about the author on her website.

The Compton Crook Award is presented to the best of each year’s English language first novel by an author in the field of science fiction, fantasy, or horror. See the page on the Compton Crook Award for more info on the award.

2023 Compton Crook Award Winner: Alex Jennings​

Alex Jennings headshot

Alex Jennings’ writing has appeared in Current Affairs Magazine, podcastle, Strange Horizons, and New Suns, volumes 1 and 2. He is the Director of DreamFoundry’s Con or Bust Program and an instructor of Popular Fiction at the Stonecoast MFA program. His debut novel, The Ballad of Perilous Graves, was released by Orbit/Redhook last summer. Born in Germany, he trotted the globe until settling in New Orleans. Before the pandemic, he MCed a literary readings series called Dogfish.

Photo credit: Nkechi Chibueze.

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