This Thursday through Sunday I’ll be at ReaderCon, a convention I first attended in 2014 and enjoyed so much I’ve been back every year since.
Here’s a photo from that first visit, with Paul Tremblay, Justin Steele and Michael Cisco. Jeffrey Thomas is in the room too, taking the photo with my camera.
This year I’ll be rooming with Justin Steele and Michael Wehunt. Last year, we stayed at a different hotel a few miles away, and while that worked OK, I’m very relieved to be staying in the con hotel itself again this year. I look forward to seeing many good friends, and meeting some of you for the first time!
In the late part of the year, I haven’t been blogging as much due to distractions relating to preparing a house to sell, then actually selling it, buying another, and preparing to move a mountain of stuff (and what remains after months of purging, cleaning and culling is still a mountain). In just a few days we’ll be moved into our new place in North Portland, after more than a decade spent in outer SE, and it will be a very good thing.
Here is a summary of my 2016 publications:
My debut collection The Lure of Devouring Light was published by Word Horde.
My novella An Ideal Retreat was published by Dim Shores.
My debut novel Hieroglyphs of Blood and Bone was accepted for publication by JournalStone, coming in February 2017.
“The Smoke Lodge” in Autumn Cthulhu, edited by Mike Davis, published by Lovecraft eZine Press
“The Carnival Arrives in Darkness” in Nightscript 2, edited by CM Muller
“The Human Alchemy” in Eternal Frankenstein, edited by Ross E. Lockhart (Word Horde)
“Endure Within a Dying Frame” in Lovecraft eZine #38
“The Insomniac Who Slept Forever” in The Madness of Dr. Caligari, edited by Joseph S. Pulver Sr. (Fedogan & Bremer)
Stories that appeared in The Lure of Devouring Light included:
“The Lure of Devouring Light” (first appeared in Apex magazine)
“Dreaming Awake in the Tree of the World”
“Far From Streets” (novella, first appeared as Dunhams Manor Press chapbook)
“The Book of Shattered Mornings”
“Arches and Pillars” (first appeared in Black Static magazine)
“Diamond Dust” (first appeared in The Grimscribe’s Puppets)
“The Accident of Survival”
“No Mask to Conceal Her Voice” (first appeared in Lovecraft eZine)
“The Jewel in the Eye”
“The Need to Desire” (first appeared in Phantasmagorium)
“The Black Vein Runs Deep”
That’s quite a lot for one year! I look forward to returning to productivity and focus as soon as we finish moving.
Still in the middle of a busy couple of weeks here, between BizarroCon last weekend, the Cthulhu Fhtagn! reading at Powell’s last night, and Living Dead Horror Con this weekend.
I’ll have more to say on some of these matters too, but for now I’ll just link to Scott Nicolay’s The Outer Dark podcast, a recent episode of which featured a recording of the Varieties of Weirdness Panel at BizarroCon 2015. I was on that panel along with moderator Ross E. Lockhart, Rios de la Luz, G. Arthur Brown and Garrett Cook.
The panel discussion began just minutes after those of us in the room heard the news that Scott Nicolay had won the World Fantasy Award. Congrats to Scott for the huge honor, and thanks for featuring “Varieties of Weirdness” on The Outer Dark.
I’ve been to several different conventions – NecronomiCon, Readercon, BizarroCon – but nearest to my heart is the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival & CthulhuCon here in Portland, Oregon.
It’s my hometown convention, the first convention I ever attended, and the one I’ve attended most of all (maybe 6-7 times now). It’s the first convention that ever featured me as a guest, the first place I did a public reading of my work, and the first place I sat on a panel discussion.
Usually we spend a lot of time wandering around, talking with people on sidewalks and in the dealer room and in bars. Actually, we usually spend most of our time in Columbia River Brewing and that held true again this year, though we also passed some hours in Sam’s Billiards on the same block.
We watched a few movies, including several blocks of shorts. The highlight was seeing Reanimator introduced by our guest Pete Rawlik, and followed by a Q&A with Jeffrey Combs who told funny, smart and interesting stories.
Combs also did a dramatic reading of Lovecraft’s story “The Outsider” to a packed room, and talked briefly after. He was an excellent Special Guest, and everyone seemed to enjoy having a chance to see him speak.
I read the beginning of my story “The Slipping of Stones,” which appeared in last month’s issue of Strange Aeons, in a reading block with Scott Nicolay and Peter Rawlik. I also moderated a panel on “Mythos and Music,” sort of a sequel to a panel held at CthulhuCon in April, but with several different panelists.
Last and most surprising, at the film awards ceremony (where they usually give prizes for best feature, best short film, best screenplay and so on), this year they had 2 special awards for “Patron of the Arts.” The first went to long-time HPLFF volunteer Greg Lowney and the other went to me and Lena Griffin.
Our award was for hosting many visiting guests at our home over the years. Of course this was not quite as altruistic as it might sound, since all the people who stayed with us were friends, so it was fun for us. Still, we really appreciated the recognition!
If you care to zoom back-weird through time and read my preview of NecronomiCon Providence 2015, zoom HERE.
So, now it’s over, in fact it’s been over for a month already!
I used to write a lengthy and extremely detailed report after every convention. While I love reading posts like that, and they’re actually fun to write, they’re just too time consuming.
So instead, how ’bout a photo or two, and a brief rundown of highlights?
NecronomiCon 2015 in Providence seemed to be the big 2015 convention most people were anticipating with excitement. The 2013 event was a lot of fun for everybody I spoke with. It was the last opportunity I had to meet some of my favorite writers like Laird Barron and Richard Gavin, who don’t attend a lot of events. I heard from several people who said they may not make it to any other conventions in 2015, but they were definitely not going to miss NecronomiCon.
At the 2013 NecronomiCon, almost everyone stayed at the Biltmore Hotel, where most of the panels and readings were held. This time, though, many of us stayed at the Omni Hotel, on the other side of the road destruction between the two main hotels. We were pleasantly surprised at our room — big and modern and clean!
The bathroom (not pictured) was almost as big as the rest of our room, and included not only a huge stone tile walk-in shower, but also a giant tub. If I ever need to stay in Providence for weeks on end, this is the room I want. As it turned out, we were so busy on this short trip, we didn’t spend much time here.
An interesting thing about the Omni is that the rooms are primarily split into two towers (secretly code-named Barad-dur and Orthanc), and each tower’s elevators require a room key card. But the key cards from one tower are compatible only with the one elevator, not the other. This created a situation where we wanted to meet up with friends who were staying in the very same hotel, but we couldn’t take the elevator up to get to each other’s rooms, and had to text each other and meet up down in the lobby. I can’t think of a great reason why your room key gets you access to half the Omni’s zillion rooms, but not the other half.
Speaking of the Omni’s lobby, it had the most interesting glass sculpture hanging overhead. Everyone who saw the photos compared it to a shoggoth, so the shoggoth sculpture it will forever be named.
A few people had gifts for Joe Pulver (photo above) since his birthday was the month before, and mailing gifts to Germany is all insane-crazy expensive.
Our first dinner was in a big group at the Viva Mexico Cantina. The food was pretty good, but down at the end of the bar, the music was loud and TV sports blared, creating a pretty awful cacophony which left even those of us with perfect hearing unable to follow conversations happening only a few feet away.
Every time I go to a convention, one of the main things I come away with is a determination that next time I will avoid large group meals in noisy venues!
Late at night, after at least one of us had a successful business meeting, my wife Lena and I had a drink with Joe Pulver and his wife Kat to toast Joe’s brand-new contract with publisher Fedogan and Bremer for an anthology in tribute to The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.
I love this movie, and know how long this project has been a dream of Joe’s, so it’s wonderful that it has the support of an excellent publisher. Many great writers have already agreed to participate. I’m sure we’ll hear more information from Joe and F&B soon about this very promising book.
… and speaking of Joe, AKA Joseph S. Pulver Sr., one of my first priorities upon arriving in Providence was to get my hands on copies of The Doom That Came to Providence, the round robin project Joe edited as a special treat related to this event. All the stories relate to the “Water Fire” event from the 2013 con, with everybody taking a different angle on strange happenings that may or may not have gone down that night. The books turned out great – check out the beautiful cover art by Nick Gucker!
Here I am reading my story “I’m Looking for Nick Cowan or Cody Steele from The Doom That Came to Providence. I thought the reading went pretty well, and a very good crowd attended. I read along with Scott Thomas, David Neilsen and Peter Rawlik.
Above photo by Matthew Carpenter.
Speaking of the audience for my reading, I snapped a couple of pictures of those assembled. Above you see the kind of wild and crazy folks who show up to events like this. That’s the reclusive genius Michael Cisco on the left and darling Nikki Guerlain on the right. See, public readings of weird fiction inspire folks to all kinds of public displays of affection, and the crowd was generally draped all over one another!
Above photo is a treatment by Nikki Guerlain of my original photo.
The other programming I participated in was the panel discuss, “The Future of Weird Fiction,” moderated by SJ Bagley and with fellow panelists Simon Strantzas, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Justin Steele and Joe Pulver.
The panel was well attended, and the discussion was a very good one, with lots of interesting talk about the state of weird fiction, how it’s changed since the old days. Most interesting was the section in which each of us suggested writers (or in a few cases, editors or publishing venues) we thought likely to be part of the vital future of our subgenre.
One disappointing aspect of the panel is that I had offered to help Scott Nicolay record the audio of the panel, which Scott hoped to feature on his interview podcast The Outer Dark. Unfortunately, we must have fumbled the handoff of my digital voice recorder, and we only captured the first few seconds of preliminary murmuring, and none of the good stuff. My apologies! This would have been an interesting recording to revisit later.
Above photo is by Scott Nicolay.
Speaking of Scott and The Outer Dark (note my t-shirt), here we are after breakfast at Viva Mexico Cantina.
All these photographs of readings and panels and other such events might lead one to believe the convention experience to be something formal or at least organized. This is not true. The most important aspect of the convention experience is the informal meeting with friends and associates we meet in hotel lobbies, on the sidewalk, in various bars, or in that most honored off-schedule event, the room party.
I photographed these bottles of Lagavulin in John Langan’s room party. I brought the bottle of Lagavulin 16 in honor of the 2013 Langan/Barron room party, where both Michael Cisco and I brought a bottle of the same, without advance planning.
This is the kind of thing you might get when you come to these conventions. Remember, kids, when the writing pros say “conventions are important for networking,” what they really mean is good Scotch whisky.
Room parties are great, but I also mentioned hanging around in bars. Here’s a photo of me in the McCormick’s bar. At this event, I met for the first time (in person) my wonderful friend, the excellent writer Damien Angelica Walters. She was drinking many, many of these light, fragrant and sort of flowery beverages, the Prosecco sangria. I told her these were eroding her talent and weakening her writerly fortitude, and that she’d be much better off to drink good, brown Scotch and bourbon.
She convinced me to try one of these. Look, I’m drinking it! I tried to make the most insipid face I could for this photo, but I don’t look appreciably more or less silly than usual. What conclusions should be taken from this, I remain uncertain.
The drink sure did smell pretty, though. All herbs and sugar and spice and flower petals and unbearable lightness.
Speaking of Damien, here she is alongside Silvia Moreno-Garcia, who was a Guest of Honor at the event, as well as my co-panelist on the Future of Weird Fiction panel (see above).
It’s a wonderful and unusual thing to see convention attendees wearing something other than black t-shirts with pictures of tentacle things!
More loitering and tomfoolery in hotel lobbies. Here Paul Tremblay and John Langan gather to stroke the sultry facial hair of noted Canadian beardist, Simon Strantzas.
This takes place in the lobby of the Biltmore hotel, a classy joint, despite the presence of persons such as the ones shown here.
Speaking of disreputable types, here we have Charles (left) and Sean (right) of Miskatonic Musings podcast, with my wife Lena in the dealer room. I should have spent more time in the dealer room this year! It was a wonderful thing.
Also in the dealer room, here we have Matthew Warren Richey in his excellent shoggoth costume, carrying the Word Horde Banner. This costume is the boss of all costumes. Good job, Matthew!
From what I was able to tell, at the Word Horde vendor table Ross Lockhart sold out everything, and his table-mate Scott R Jones did as well. I also know Sam Cowan was happy with how sales went at the Dim Shores table. I love to hear of vendors doing well, because it means publishers and sellers of books are moving lots of the things, and that readers are eager to grab them up.
Here a large group of us dared to leave the immediate circle of the Omni and Biltmore, and ventured across Providence in search of food. I love a good walk, and it was nice to see a different part of town.
Everyone wanted to stop by this creepy old horror house (sorry if you live there and are offended by this characterization, but it can’t be helped — a bunch of visiting weirdos wanted to be photographed in front of your place for a reason) just down the street from the restaurant.
Pictured here (L-R) we have Lena Griffin, Erin Jane Laroue, Nathan Carson, Ross E Lockhart, Scott Dwyer, Heidi Ash, Justin Steele and Tom Lynch. I was also present, behind the camera, and will forever regret not appearing in this photograph.
At every horror-centric convention, it’s best to expect to rub shoulders on at least one occasion with true horror.
Here I am in conversation with the nightmare demon who had taken the form of John Langan just moments before.
All good things come to an end… don’t they?
Deliriously happy yet exhausted, we made our way to the airport for our return home. But the convention was not yet over! Right behind us in line, who should appear but artist extraordinaire and all-round top fellow Nick Gucker, cover artists of The Doom That Came to Providence (see above).
Nick was carrying some excellent reading material for the flight, one of my very favorite short story collections of the past half-decade or so, AT FEAR’S ALTAR by Richard Gavin.
You see, even when you think the time of your life is done, it’s not really over. See you next time!
Wow, it’s almost time! Wednesday night, Lena and I will fly to Providence, Rhode Island for the 2015 NecronomiCon event.
I’m looking forward to seeing friends and taking in all the amusements on offer. Also, I’m a guest of the convention, and will be participating in a group reading and a panel discussion. You can see the entire schedule HERE.
Friday 2:30 – 3:45 PM
AUTHOR READINGS – L’Apogee, Biltmore 17th Floor
Michael Griffin, David Neilsen, Peter Rawlik, Scott Thomas
Sunday – 10:30-11:45am
FUTURE OF WEIRD FICTION – Grand Ballroom, Biltmore 17th Floor
What is the future of weird fiction? Is it chained too strongly to the ghost of Lovecraft or can it still explore new vistas of horror? This panel discusses the current state of weird fiction today and where it might go in the future. Or, is there NO future?
Panelists: Laird Barron, Mike Griffin, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Joe Pulver, Simon Strantzas
Moderator: s.j. bagley
If you see me around, feel free to come up and say hello. If you’ve got a copy of a book in which my work appears, I’ll be glad to sign it.
Everybody had such a great time at the last NecronomiCon in 2013, and this one promises to be even bigger and better. Hope to see you there!
This coming weekend (actually Thursday through Sunday) I’ll be at ReaderCon in Burlington, MA.
Last year’s ReaderCon was my first, and I had a great time. It seems to be a less “fannish” convention than most. Almost everyone I met was a writer, editor, publisher, reviewer. I’m not attending as a guest, though, and won’t be part of any programming, though I plan to check out a few readings and panels. I’ll probably spend a lot of time in the bar, and take plenty of pictures.
The Shirley Jackson Awards are on the final day of ReaderCon. Last year, I was very pleased to accept the “Best Edited Anthology” SJA for Joseph S. Pulver Sr. for The Grimscribe’s Puppets. In that same category this year, I’ll be rooting for The Children of Old Leech, edited by Ross E. Lockhart, and my roommate at ReaderCon, Justin Steele.
As with any convention, the aspect I’m most anticipating is reconnecting with friends, and meeting new ones. If you’re attending, I’ll see you there!
I’m looking forward to CthulhuCon this weekend, here in Portland. In previous years, CthulhuCon and the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival have been a combined event. This year, due to a schedule shift to accommodate the HPLFF’s anniversary in October, the organizers set up CthulhuCon as its own event in a new location to tide people over between April 2014 and October 2015 (the date of the next HPLFF).
I’ll be part of a reading on Saturday at 2PM with Wilum Pugmire and David Barker.
On Sunday at 1PM I’ll be moderating the Mythos and Music panel with Nathan Carson, Mike Dalager, K.L. Young, Dan Clore and Edward Morris.
Generally it seems that the more reviews I’m writing, the less reading I’m doing. Lately I’ve focused on reading a lot, and left reviewing as a secondary consideration. Time to catch up a bit, and if not write reviews, then at least summarize recent reads. I’ll have to break this into three or four parts.
Even lesser work by Cormac McCarthy exhibits numerous moments of greatness. No Country for Old Men seems to be the story of Llewelyn Moss finding millions of dollars in cash at the scene of a drug deal gone bad in the desert, but it’s really the story of Ed Tom Bell, a sheriff approaching retirement and watching his county disintegrate into madness and violence. Anton Chigurgh, the psychopathic hitman memorably portrayed by Javier Bardem in the film version of the book, is reminiscent at times of the Judge in Blood Meridian, in seeming to represent a deeper, wider-ranging force than mere human malevolence.
The title hints at an almost reactionary conservative outlook on the part of Sheriff Bell, as the book ends with Bell’s observations that society has deteriorated in many irreparable ways, starting from the loss of manners and civility and culminating in a near-complete breakdown of respect for life and law. Most of McCarthy’s work feels less narrowly focused on a given time period and locale, more timeless and universal. In comparison, this book is tied-down in a way that is very specific and contemporary (though not quite present-day), and in that sense No Country for Old Men feels smaller, less consequential. Still it’s powerful work, well worth reading, especially for those who can’t get enough Cormac McCarthy
Halfway through this book, I mentioned to friends that contrary to what I’d been told, “Suttree is not lesser Cormac McCarthy.” Having finished the book, I’d call it a profound achievement, maybe only half a step beneath the level of Blood Meridian, though of an entirely different flavor. The biggest difference is that Suttree is funnier and often more absurd, full of self-defeat and futility, along with with the usual McCarthy obsession on death and the hostility of humankind to itself. I’ll come back to Suttree again and again, and highly recommend it
It’s long, and might be exhausting for some readers, but I loved this book’s intimate point of view and lush detail. The Goldfinch is much more interesting at length than in summary, but basically it’s the life of a teenage boy Theo after he finds himself in the middle of a terrorist bombing. My favorite aspect of The Goldfinch is the vividly rendered, slightly strange cast of characters. Every person in this story seems quirky and interesting, even relatively minor ones like Xandra, and I loved Theo’s friends Andy and especially Boris.
An amazing achievement of creative invention, full of philosophy and adventure and encyclopedia detail. You can find a thousand essays or analyses if you want to know what it’s about, or what Melville was trying to do, so I won’t bother going into that. I’ll just say, I loved this book so much, and I look forward to reading it again.
Aside from The Goldfinch, a new book which I believe will stand the test of time, this has been a great year for catching up for major novels of the past.