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Participants

Chessiecon 2021 participant biographies. Thank you for being so generous with your time.

as of 27/11/2021 11:23:22.

Danielle Ackley-McPhail headshotDanielle Ackley-McPhail Award-winning author, editor, and publisher Danielle Ackley-McPhail has worked both sides of the industry for longer than she cares to admit. Her published works include seven novels, eight solo collections, and three non-fiction writers' guides, the newest being Daire's Devils. Her publishing company, eSpec Books, has just celebrated seven years in operation.

Linda Adams was probably the least likely person to be in the Army—even the Army thought so! She was an enlisted soldier and served for twelve years and was one of the women who deployed to Desert Storm. But she’d much prefer her adventures to be in books. She is the author of the military-based GALCOM Universe series, including the novels Crying Planet and Lonely Planet. She’s also received three honorable mentions in the Writers of the Future contest and an honorable mention in Alfred Hitchcock Magazine’s contest. Find out more about Linda Maye Adams on her website at http://www.lindamayeadams.com.

D H Aire has walked the ramparts of the Old City of Jerusalem and through an escape tunnel of a Crusader fortress that Richard the Lionheart once called home, experiences that have found expression in his writing of his epic fantasy/sci fi Highmage's Plight and Hands of the Highmage Series. His latest books are Knight of the Broken Table (Book 1, Knights Tower) and Lessers Not Losers (Book 1, Bred in Captivity), and Nowhere to Go But Mars (a novella). Follow him at: Twitter @DHAire15, Facebook (Dare 2 Believe), and www.DHAire.net.

Tom with Don SakersThomas Atkinson has been making costumes since shortly after his birth (his "Baby With Bib and Carrots" was voted "Best Use of Roots and Tubers" at GerberCon '64). He attended his first con in 1976 and has been a permanent fixture since. His costumes include "The Empire State Building," "Chernobyl Clean-Up Crew," "2010 Pajamas," "Winter's End (Potted Plant)," "Spaceman Spiff," "Fridays at Ten," and a score of re-creation outfits including Star Wars and Star Trek. Thomas is one of the world's greatest Star Wars fans. He started collecting Star Wars toys and memorabilia when the first movie came out in 1977, and he has not stopped since. His collection forms the basis of The Star Toys Museum, of which Thomas is Curator.Thomas lives at Meerkat Meade, until recently with his spouse, writer and regular Chessicon participant Don Sakers, until Don's tragic death earlier this year.

Fred Blonder at the helmFred Blonder has always been fascinated by ancient technologies, and was into Steampunk long before it had a name. He regularly rows in the crew of a replica Viking Longship, and has been in the crew of the Trireme, Olympias, the largest (170 oars) oar-powered vessel in the world, designs and builds sundials, and teaches English Country Dance. He recently became a published Science Fiction author, with the publication of his short story, The First Law.

Mitchell Burnside Clapp

TJ  Burnside Clapp TJ and Mitchell Burnside Clapp have, between them, over 80 years of filking experience. TJ belonged to the filk trio Technical Difficulties before marrying Mitchell in 1989, and since then the two have been Pegasus Award winners, filk GoHs, toastmasters, and performers at Chessiecon and too many other conventions to name.

Elizabeth Corrigan is the author of several science fiction and fantasy novels. She has degrees in English and psychology and has spent several years working as a data analyst in various branches of the healthcare industry. When she's not hard at work on her next novel, Elizabeth enjoys watching Korean television and playing board games. She refuses to watch most internet videos and is pathologically afraid of bees. She lives in Maryland with two cats and a very fancy smartphone.

Beth Chandler headshotBeth Chandler has been living the fandom life ever since watching Gigantor as a preschooler. After an early career in the lower echelons of publishing, she earned her master’s degree in library and information studies. A public librarian for fifteen years, Beth currently selects library materials for her employer including computer titles, consumer-health books, and graphic novels. The highlight of her science-fiction-writing career to date is winning third place in the first Turkey Award contest at ChessieCon. Her other interests range from needlecrafts to world religions. Beth lives on the Maryland side of the DC suburbs with her nerdy husband and fanboy cat, Lord Ivan Vorcatril.

Harrison Demchick headshotHarrison Demchick Developmental editor Harrison Demchick came up in the world of small press publishing, working along the way on more than eighty published novels and memoirs. He's also the author of 2012 literary horror novel The Listeners and short stories including "Tailgating" (Tales to Terrify, 2020) and "The Yesterday House" (Aurealis, 2020), and as a screenwriter his first film Ape Canyon was released in April 2021. Harrison is currently accepting new clients in fiction and memoir at the Writer's Ally (https://thewritersally.com/).

Marc Drexler

Scott Edelman headshotScott Edelman has published 100+ short stories in magazines such as Analog, Postscripts, The Twilight Zone, and Dark Discoveries, and in anthologies such as Why New Yorkers Smoke, Crossroads: Southern Tales of the Fantastic, and MetaHorror. His most recent collections include Tell Me Like You Done Before: and Other Stories Written on the Shoulders of Giants (Lethe Press, 2018) and Things That Never Happened (Cemetery Dance, 2020). His collection of zombie fiction, What Will Come After (PS Publishing, 2010) was a finalist for the Shirley Jackson Memorial Award. He has been a four-time Hugo Award finalist for Best Editor.

Gary Ehrlich A mild-mannered structural engineer by day, Gary stalks the stages and filk rooms of Northeast conventions, singing of space flight, lunar colonies and hyperspace hotels. Gary helps run NEFilk's Conterpoint incarnation, and is Balticon's Director of Filk and Other Musical Mayhem. Gary was a 2012 Filk Hall of Fame inductee.

Bob Esty

Bob and Sue Esty with instrumentsSue Esty Sue and Bob Esty met making music over three decades ago and never stopped. They are long-time performers at the Maryland Renaissance Festival. Bob was also involved with some mollusks a while back. Using voice, harp, guitar, and mandolin, they will perform older and offbeat songs they enjoy.

Harold Feld has been a filker and storyteller for over 25 years. That's a lot.

John L French is a retired Baltimore CSI. He writes in a variety of genres but prefers crime, pulp, and urban fantasy. His most recent books are Mortal Sins, Frankenstein: Monsters of the Abyss (with Patrick Thomas), Chessie at Bay (yes, that Chessie) and the anthology Devilish and Devine which he edited with Danielle Ackley-McPhail. His books may be found on Amazon and he can be found on Facebook and at jfrenchfam@aol.com.

C.S. Friedman headshotC.S. Friedman is a best-selling author of fantasy and science fiction, as well as an accomplished costume designer. Critics have acclaimed her complex and compelling characters, richly textured worlds, and keen insight into the shadows and twists of human nature. She has published eight science fiction and fantasy novels to date, including the acclaimed Coldfire Trilogy. Her works have been translated into German, French, Italian, Dutch, Russian, and Polish.

Sonya Gross

Yakira Heistand headshotYakira Heistand wears a lot of hats, hand-knit of course. As an avid crafter, Yakira has dabbled in everything from soap and cosmetics to wool and fiber, and everything in between. Cake decorating, however, escapes her. She can't make an icing rose to save her life. At the age of nine her father found her reading Stranger in a Strange Land and handed her Triplanetary instead. That's when she decided she wanted to be a Lensman. (She did get to finish SiaS, but not until high school.) She launched her writing career at age sixteen when she and her best friend decided to make a book out of their latest AD&D campaign. If only Hickman and Weis hadn't gotten there first. Active in SMOF, Yakira has her hands in more cons than she ought. She also owns more wool, fabric, spinning wheels, and sewing machines than she ought, but that's not really a problem, per se.

Cathy Hird headshotCathy Hird lives in a forest on the shores of Georgian Bay. Cathy weaves tapestries and scarves, and she tells stories that pull together the threads of ancient myth and modern questions. Cathy has published two trilogies, the first set in ancient Greece and the second a contemporary story drawing on Celtic mythology. Cathy writes a weekly spirituality column for the online news magazine OwenSoundHub.org. Cathy is an avid reader of fantasy and Science Fiction with Ursula Le Guin, Guy Gavriel Kay and J. R. R. Tolkien among her favorite writers. Her upcoming novel is a near future story where Toronto is run by AIs and magic plays a role.  

Merav Hoffman wears many hats, including singer/songwriter, author, poet, editor, activist, archivist, con runner, SMOF, and crafter. She lives in New Jersey with her family and a lot of house plants.

Randy Hoffman For his day job, Randy Hoffman is an editor and business analyst for a State Department contractor. In fannish life, he's a Pegasus-Award-nominated a cappella singer/songwriter who has been writing filk songs for almost 30 years and has been running the music track at Confluence in Pittsburgh for almost as long.

Tom Holtz at a digThomas R Holtz is a dinosaur paleontologist specializing in the origin, evolution, adaptations, and behavior of carnivorous dinosaurs (especially the Tyrannosauridae: T. rex and its kin). He is Principal Lecturer in Vertebrate Paleontology in the Department of Geology at the University of Maryland, where he also teaches courses in historical geology, general paleontology, evolutionary biology, and global change, and where he directs the Science & Global Change living-learning program. He is also a Research Associate at the Department of Paleobiology at the National Museum of Natural History (Smithsonian Institution) and a member of the Scientific Council of the Maryland Science Center. In addition to numerous technical publications, he is author of several general audience books (including Dinosaurs: The Most Complete Up-To-Date Encyclopedia for Dinosaur Lovers of All Ages (Random House)), has been a featured expert on many TV documentaries, and has been a consultant for several museum exhibits around the world. Michael Swanwick killed him off in the 2003 short short story “Proving Dr. Tom’s Hypothesis” (yes, that’s a spoiler, but the story is only one page long…). Dr. Holtz lives with his wife (costumer C Sue Shambaugh), three cats, and the Inland bearded dragon Osborn in Upper Marlboro, MD.

Miriam Winder Kelly has been reading SF/F since 3rd grade. She is a retired civil engineer, a Life member of the Baltimore Science Fiction Society (BSFS.org), has been scheduling the Science Track for Balticon since 2004 and is treasurer for Baltimore's Congregation Beit Tikvah, believed to be the only synagogue started by science fiction fans.

Khanani headshotIntisar Khanani grew up a nomad and world traveler. Born in Wisconsin, she has lived in five different states as well as in Jeddah on the coast of the Red Sea. She first remembers seeing snow on a wintry street in Zurich, Switzerland, and vaguely recollects having breakfast with the orangutans at the Singapore Zoo when she was five. She currently resides in Cincinnati, Ohio, with her husband and two young daughters. Until recently, Intisar wrote grants and developed projects to address community health with the Cincinnati Health Department, which was as close as she could get to saving the world. Now she focuses her time on her two passions: raising her family and writing fantasy. Intisar’s debut novel, Thorn, was picked up by HarperTeen and will be re-released in Winter 2020. In the meantime, she’s hard at work on the remaining books of The Sunbolt Chronicles.

Josh  Kronenberg

John Monahan is a writer, and science teacher. He is the author of They Called Me Mad: Genius, Madness and the Scientists Who Pushed the Outer Limits of Knowledge. His newest book is Babbage & Lovelace: The Victorian Computer Wizard and the Enchantress of Numbers. His blog is at mad4science.wordpress.com.

Jessica Morán is a tarot reader, spirit kindred communicator, and Nekromanteian priestess. A student of history with practical experience in both archaeological interpretation and historical context analysis, she applies this knowledge to her understanding of our interactions with Deity and Spirit.

Lisa Padol

Aleksandr Poryshkin One of the numerous pseudonyms of this particular entity, he has been involved in fandom far longer than he cares to admit. And in some capacity or another, involved in running way more conventions than he cares to admit. He is the Chessiecon 2021 chair.

Gwendolyn portraitGwendolyn Reece is a Witch, Philhellene and friend of the Theoi, Theosophist, and seeker of wisdom. Gwendolyn is especially devoted to Apollon and Athena and serves Them within the nation’s capitol as a priestess of the Theophania Temple. She has been practicing since the mid-1980s and is now a priestess of the Assembly of the Sacred Wheel and graduated from Caroline Kenner’s shamanic apprenticeship program. She lectured extensively for the Theosophical Society for 16 years and held multiple leadership positions within the society. Gwendolyn is on the faculty of American University. In addition to her work as a practitioner, she conducts academic research on contemporary Paganism.

Roberta Rogow writes mysteries, set in strange and unusual times and places. Her most recent book, Eyes of Lorr, follows Independent Eye Pola Drach as she pursues a killer in the City of Lorr. Roberta also writes and performs filk, and was inducted into the Filk Hall of Fame in 2013. In her Mundane life, Roberta is a retired children's librarian, living in New Jersey.

Schechter headshotElizabeth Schechter Elizabeth Schechter has been called one of the top erotica and alternative sexuality writers in the world. Her writing credits include the award-winning steampunk erotic romance House of Sable Locks, the Celtic fantasy Princes of Air, and 2021 VIVIAN finalist Written in Water, the first book of the Heir to the Firstborn serial She was born in New York at some point in the past. She is officially old enough to know better, but refuses to grow up. She lives in Central Florida with her husband and son. Elizabeth can be found online at http://elizabethschechterwrites.com, or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Elizabeth.A.Schechter. You can also find her on Patreon, at https://www.patreon.com/EASchechter. Subscribe to Elizabeth's newsletter at https://www.subscribepage.com/k4u7k2

Melissa Scott black and whiteMelissa Scott is from Little Rock, Arkansas, and studied history at Harvard College and Brandeis University, where she earned her PhD in the Comparative History program. She is the author of more than thirty original science fiction and fantasy novels as well as authorized tie-ins for Star Trek: DS9, Star Trek: Voyager, Stargate SG-1, Stargate Atlantis, Star Wars Rebels, and the anime series gen:LOCK. She has won Lambda Literary Awards for Trouble and Her Friends, Shadow Man, Point of Dreams (written with her late partner, Lisa A. Barnett), and Death By Silver, with Amy Griswold. She has also won Spectrum Awards for Shadow Man, Fairs’ Point, Death By Silver, and for the short story “The Rocky Side of the Sky” (Periphery, Lethe Press) as well as the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. Her most recent solo novel, Water Horse, came out this year, and she is currently at work on Fallen, the sequel to her novel Finders.

J J Smith is an Ojibwa, writer, and smart ass living in the Washington, D.C. area where he spends his daylight hours writing summaries of House and Senate hearings. However, when the sun goes down, he writes short stories that are covered in body fluids. His work has appeared in the anthologies Us/Them; and Good Southern Witches (both published in 2021); as well as in anthologies from previous years, including Blood & Blasphemy; The Big Book of Bootleg Horror Volumes I and IV; Depraved Desires Volume I; Dark Magic: Witches, Hackers & Robots; Halloween Shrieks; and Tales from the Witches Cauldron, and in the online magazine Horror Bites. He also wrote a book of haunted house lore occurring in Northern Virginia called Haunted Alexandria & Northern Virginia that was published in 2009.

Steve Southard headshotSteve Southard 's short stories appear in over a dozen anthologies including Not Far from Roswell, Re-Terrify, and Quoth the Raven. He co-edited the anthology 20,000 Leagues Remembered. An engineer and former submariner, Steve takes readers on voyages to far-off places and long-ago times aboard amazing vehicles accompanied by engaging characters.  Steve scribbles in several genres including science fiction, steampunk, clockpunk, fantasy, and horror. Set sail to stevenrsouthard.com to learn more about his fictional adventures.

Elena Stark

Filthy Pierre at the keyboardErwin Strauss (AKA Filthy Pierre) is a leading exponent of the group sing-a-long style, he's been doing such sessions in Boston and elsewhere for decades. He’s the publisher of the famous Microfilk collection of 550 filksongs (now downloadable free as a PDF). This is his second year doing a virtual Hallelujah Chorus singalong at ChessieCon.

Maria Thompson

Maugorn in performanceMaugorn The Stray (aka Maugie, aka Steve Haug) has been a Bard and thrall to the Muse for many lifetimes. His natural habitats have included: seedy dives, busy streetcorners, renaissance festivals, fairie habitats, sci fi cons, and too many etceteras to fit in just one trilogy.

B J Swain is author of Living Spirits: A Guide to Magic in a World of Spirits, and Luminarium: A Grimoire of Cunning Conjuration, and was the recipient of the 2019 Black Crozier award. BJ has been practicing magic over 25 years, worked with mentors through the A.’.A.’. and hereditary witchcraft and studied magic in practical and academic contexts. He has held positions in OTO and the Gnostic Catholic Church, and is currently a Bishop in the Church of Light and Shadow, and founding member of New Orpheum, a temple of Orphic and Dionysian mysteries. BJ runs the blog Glory of the Stars, podcast In the Company of Stars, and website The Unveiled Sky.

James Udung (aka Deillumine Ra), is the author of "Hoodoo Graveyard Sorcery" and "Hoodoo Mojo Bags and Baby Dolls" (All Published by Hadean Press under their Guides to the Underworld series.) For twenty-four years he has studied and practiced Rosicrucian Magic/Mysticism, Solomonic Magic, Traditional Christian Magic, Ifa/Orisha tradition, Voodoo/Hoodoo Magic, African Traditional Magic (of which he is a priest), Wicca and Witchcraft. You can contact him via his Facebook page, his Facebook group page at Practical Hoodoo/Solomonic Magick https://www.facebook.com/groups/311556802842218/?ref=share, his Instagram page at Deillumine Ra, or by email at Deillumine@gmail.com.

Robert Waters is a technical writer by trade, but has been a science fiction/fantasy fan all his life. He has sold over 7 novels and 80 stories to various on-line and print magazines and anthologies, including theGrantville Gazette, Eric Flint's online magazine dedicated to publishing stories set in the 1632/Ring of Fire Alternate History series.

John Weller has a background in philosophy and religion, and has studied these topics along with magic and occultism for over 20 years. A past member/volunteer at numerous local groups & conventions, he is also the past president of UMBC's Pagan Student Union, and now heads Chessiecon's Mythic Track.

Jim Williams

Batya Wittenberg Batya "the Toon" Wittenberg is, in no particular order: a successfully transplanted New Yorker, a practicing Orthodox Jew, a happily married woman since 1999, an unrepentant punster, an enthusiastic cook and foodie, a filker, a fanfic writer, a habitual online and tabletop roleplayer, and in no particular order.