The Sicko Side of the Sci-Fi Circuit

Greed is a weakness that leads man down the road to sin. Most often it leads to the sin of omission: silence in the face of evil when that evil is a benefactor whose favor is needed to satisfy one’s greed. Too often we hear of people who metaphorically sell their souls to those who have the power and influence to help them succeed and too often we find that those people in power use others’ greed to satisfy their own deviant desires.

Ed Kramer, founder of the highly influential Dragon*Con, is one such person. From his humble beginnings in a Miami Orthodox Jewish community, Kramer used his vision, charisma, and the force of his personality to become the kingmaker in sci-fi fandom. In 1987, Kramer and several partners launched the first DragonCon as an attack on the staid and boring, family-oriented sci-fi convention industry that dominated at the time. That first convention was a rousing success, featuring big names in the industry like Michael Moorcock and Dungeons and Dragons inventor Gary Gygax. The formula Kramer had created for DragonCon’s success was simple: other conventions were where people went to meet their favorite celebrities, Dragon*Con was where you went to party with them.

But in this sci-fi carnival atmosphere, Kramer used his rapidly increasing influence to turn the party into a nightmare.

From the beginning rumors followed Kramer as he began to appear in public with a harem of young male sci-fi fans and those appearances made people uncomfortable. In a 2002 interview, Mike Dillson, the head of Dragon*Con’s operations and security for nine years, admitted that he had seen many instances of inappropriate behavior involving Kramer and young boys. One of those instances left no doubt in his mind as to what was going on:

Early one morning, Dillson recalls, he called Kramer in his hotel room to come down right away to sort out a snafu in the dealers' hall. "He came from the shower dripping wet and so was the little boy he had with him." Later, he says, he refused Kramer's request to take his young son on a caving trip.

It should be noted that Dillson didn’t alert authorities. In fact, for more than a decade Dragon*Con participants, from the celebrity guests to his fellow founders, witnessed increasingly obvious predatory behavior from Kramer toward young boys. But instead of a scandal, Kramer’s peculiarities became an inside joke:

The stories about Kramer, the sidelong glances and eye-rolling, the snickering behind his back were there almost from the start. What chum is to sharks, fantasy conventions are to teenagers, especially those who consider themselves misfits. Youngsters fill the gaming halls at Dragon*Con and are underfoot anywhere Magic cards are being traded. But for many that didn't explain why Kramer had a constant coterie of boys seemingly wherever he went."You'd go up to his suite to get passes or to talk to him and the room would always be filled with pre-pubescent boys," Johnston recalls.

Mike Dillson, who served as Dragon*Con's head of operations and security for nine years and oversaw a volunteer staff of 135, says Kramer "always had a legion of little boys following him around. 'Ed's boys' -- that's what we called them."

But while the rumors attained near-ubiquity, most people laughed them off or kept their suspicions to themselves rather than risk angering the master of Dragon*Con.

And Ed Kramer was the master. While he was one of a group of genre fans who founded Dragon*Con, Kramer was the most outgoing and confident, thus he became the leader. Kramer booked the acts, decided who got tables at the event, and was the gatekeeper everyone had to pass before being admitted to the wild, wonderful, and profitable kingdom. And that was enough to keep people quiet for over 15 years as Kramer allegedly molested children in their midst.

Illustrations: Aaron Rutten / Shutterstock and Paul B. Moore / Shutterstock