The wizard of Dragon*Con stands trial 

The force behind Atlanta's largest sci-fi convention finds himself in his own world of darkness

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In the months following Kramer's arrest, Collins has copied and posted online hundreds of pages of court documents that walk the curious through various bond hearings, search warrants and indictments.

She's pumped Kramer acquaintances for incriminating tidbits about his background and spent long nights scouring Internet chat rooms for postings about Kramer or herself. Every new shred of information she turns up is passed on to Gwinnett prosecutors or any reporter who seems interested.

Her motives are the source of wild speculation; Collins has been accused both of carrying out a mysterious vendetta and of engineering Kramer's fall in order to score a book deal. (She pitched the book idea to a local publisher early on but says she has abandoned that effort.)

What's clear, however, is that she views herself as the self-appointed conscience of the Dragon*Con community.

"For these people, a convention is more important than children," she says. "The con geeks don't take it seriously and now they whine that this scandal makes fandom look bad. It does, but the cover-up makes it look worse. Some of these people knew Ed for 15 years and didn't say anything."

Of course, no one would mistake Christ and Collins for Ozzie and Harriet. Collins' splatter-punk stories are replete with evisceration and severed heads, while Christ boasts of making films that are almost unwatchably grotesque. Their decorating sense (the living room is anchored by a fetal pig in a jar) and taste in literature would have gotten them burned at the stake in colonial Salem and several modern-day Kansas school districts. Even around their apartment they wear solid black.

Collins attributes her fanaticism over Kramer to a sense of personal betrayal -- she says he often asked to take her young stepson on caving trips -- but it seems somewhat more complicated than that. Part of her zeal possibly stems from the guilty sting of having spent years feeling beholden to a fickle benefactor who has now been charged with a crime.

As any zealot might, she views every new detail about Kramer through the lens of her own convictions. She can rattle off a list of the friends she's lost over her crusade. She was dropped by her literary agent. She has been forced to publicly retract allegations she made against a Kramer associate. Yet Collins feels her efforts will be rewarded by the jury's verdict.

When she met Kramer through the convention circuit in the early '90s, Collins was working in New York as the writer of the Swamp Thing comic book series and had gained a modest following as the author of Sunglasses After Dark, a neo-gothic vampire novel.

Kramer booked her and Christ as guests at Dragon*Con, a non-paying honor that would allow her to plug her books and make industry contacts. They began to collaborate on editing collections of erotic horror stories.

Although he had limited writing background of his own, Kramer had discovered that his Dragon-connections to best-selling authors such as Ray Bradbury, Piers Anthony and Anne McCaffrey made it easy to find stories he could package into anthologies and market to publishers. He and Collins hit pay dirt when they landed a Stephen King story for their second collection, Dark Love.

Beginning in 1990, Kramer also used his connections to help out a local role-playing game maker. He hooked the fledgling White Wolf up with writers -- including Collins -- and edited books for the company's publishing arm.

The next year, White Wolf made gaming history when it concocted the hugely successful "Vampire: The Masquerade" franchise. Thereafter, it became a major Dragon*Con vendor, renting a sizable chunk of the dealer space.

But now, White Wolf co-founder Steve Wieck says Kramer is suing the company to recover several years' worth of royalties and agent's fees; Wieck says checks were dutifully mailed to Kramer, but, mysteriously, he never cashed them.

"For whatever reason, he saw fit to sue us over money we're trying to pay him anyway," says Wieck, adding that Kramer has yet to explain his quarrel with the company.

Kramer has had many other irons in the fire, including a handful of Internet-related corporations he set up, then dissolved, as well as several film projects whose choice of subject matter has reinforced suspicions among some of his doubters.

In one scene of the direct-to-Internet splatter film Terror at Tate Manor, which Kramer co-wrote, a 14-year-old boy walks in on a woman who's masturbating.

Most recently, he had been working on Little Savages, described on its website as "Lord of the Flies in space" and featuring a crew of shirtless urchins, as well as such bigger-name actors as Gary Busey and Timothy Bottoms. The middling-budget project's now in turnaround, film-speak for "limbo."

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