Summer 2018 Part 3: Quincy

The weekend of July 12-15 brought me back to Quincy, MA for Readercon 29.  With Boskone, Readercon is one of the conventions I try my darnedest not to miss, and it was great fun to re-connect with friends from Readercons past, as well as to meet new ones.  Probably the weirdest thing about the convention for me was the absence of several of my usual co-conspirators:  Laird Barron, Jack Haringa, and Paul Tremblay in particular.  But this was made up for by the chance to meet and spend time with a number of newer writers, from Nadia Bulkin to Teri Clarke to Mike Griffin to Gwendolyn Kiste to Farah Rose Smith to Justin Steele to Marcus Tsong to Brookelynne Warra.  Not to mention, more time with the terrific Alexa Antopol, Matt Bartlett, Brett Cox, JoAnn Cox, Ellen Datlow, Gemma Files, Karen Heuler, Nick Kaufmann, Veronica Schanoes, and Chandler Klang Smith and Eric, her pet halibut.  Oh, and who could forget Michael Cisco literally stepping out of an angle, cup of coffee in hand?  (Not me, no matter how hard I might try.)

Highlights of the convention included my Thursday night reading, which was smack-dab in the middle of a sequence beginning with Karen Heuler, continuing to me, then moving on to Brett Cox and finishing with Scott Edelman.

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(photo courtesy of Michael Griffin)

Despite the opening-night-scheduling, there was a substantial audience in attendance, as there was for my coffee-klatch the next day.  I had the great good fortune there to sit at a table with a number of up-and-comers, from Teri Clarke to Stephen Mazur to Marcus Tsong, and to engage in conversation that I found fascinating and rewarding.  Also on Friday, I participated in two scheduled panels, one each on Seabury Quinn and E.S. Nesbit.  (On Sunday, I also took part in a panel to which I was added later-than-last-minute, on endings in horror fiction, and  managed to try the collective patience of my fellow-panelists by complaining at length about the idea that horror narratives are supposed to impart some kind of lesson or moral to their audience.  Oy:  sorry about that, folks.)  Saturday took me to Tony’s Clam Shop, there to be interviewed by Scott Edelman for his Eating the Fantastic podcast.  (Which, I have to admit, was a bucket-list item of mine.)  The only other scheduled event I took part in was Sunday’s Shirley Jackson awards, where my introductory duties included the sad task of briefly memorializing both Kit Reed and Jack Ketchum, friends to the award and fine writers both.  Possibly the highlight of the award ceremony was Michael Kelly’s emotional win in the anthology category.

A good part of the weekend consisted of meals and conversations with various groups of people, a couple of them held at the Royal Hot Pot restaurant, which I highly recommend.  Chandler Klang Smith is frighteningly smart, and we had a brief but appreciative discussion of Dan Chaon’s Ill Will.  I also had the opportunity to listen to Nadia Bulkin discussing Michael Cisco’s theory of weird fiction with him, while I nodded sagely and acted as if I was keeping up with them.  Phil Gelatt and Vicki Dalpe attended their first Readercon, and solidified my judgement that Vicki is one of the funniest people, ever; but I also got to listen to Vicki discussing Experimental Film with Gemma Files, particularly its treatment of motherhood, and to hear Gemma talk about what she’s working on for her follow-up novel.

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Royal Hotpot!

(photo courtesy of Nick Kaufmann)

Once the con was done, I drove Michael Cisco and Farah Rose Smith to the train station in Beacon, enjoying the usual blend of intelligence and sheer ridiculousness I’ve come to expect from him on these yearly jaunts.  Cisco also came up with a story that I am not at liberty to speak about, but that I expect will be appearing soon.  Indeed, I would bet my ass on it.

 

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Summer 2018 Part 2: North Bennington

The afternoon of June 30th, I drove up to North Bennington, Vermont to take part in this year’s Shirley Jackson Day festivities.  It’s been about a quarter of a century since I’ve visited the Green Mountain state, and I forgot how lovely  a place it is, and immediately regretted that I would be there for only a few hours.  Somewhat ominously, when I tried to call home to let my wife know I’d arrived at my destination safely, my cell didn’t have service.  Not at all like the beginning of a Shirley Jackson story…

The event was held at the Left Bank, a lovely open space hung with art by local artists done mostly in a weird vein.  Before the reading, Brett Cox, Sam Miller, Sam’s husband Juancy, and I had a nice meal across the street, and then we joined Matt Bartlett in reading from Jackson’s and our own work to a packed house.  In a pleasant surprise, local author John Goodrich came to the event, and we had a fine time chatting afterward.  Many thanks to the fabulous Jennifer Rozycki, director of the John G. McCullough Free Library, for making all of this happen.

 

Brett Cox, Sam Miller, Matt Bartlett, and myself under the watchful gaze of Brown Thomas, the Goat with a Thousand Siblings.

(photo courtesy of Matt’s long-suffering wife, Katie)

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HPLFF Recap

This past weekend, the Honey Badger and I drove to Providence, RI to take part in their inaugural H.P. Lovecraft Film Fest.  The idea is for Providence to have its own version of the film festival held in Portland, OR every year; though I imagine Providence’s will be every other year, between Necronomicons.  There was a fine turnout on Saturday at the Providence Public Library for a raft of Lovecraft-inspired and -inflected films, and also on Sunday at the Providence Arcade, which was transformed into the Mall of Cthulhu and where Laird, myself, and Paul Tremblay gave a reading.  I had the pleasure of hanging out with Matthew Warren Ritchie, Matthew Bartlett, Phil Gelatt, Jack Haringa, Barry Lee Dejasu and Cat Grant at a number of fine eating establishments; I also met and signed books for a host of lovely people.Thanks so much to everyone involved in making the weekend happen, especially Niels and Carmen at the Lovecraft Arts & Sciences, and Mr. S.J. Bagley, who proved himself a fine host and MC.

HPLFF 2016 Poster

Matthew Bartlett’s Gateways to Abomination and Rangel

I had been reading about Matthew Bartlett’s collection, Gateways to Abomination, in my friends’ Facebook posts for several months, but it wasn’t until this past Necronomicon Providence that I picked it up, along with Rangel, a chapbook published by Dim Shores .  One of the dangers of social media is its echo-chamber effect:  if a few of your friends and acquaintances are saying the same thing and liking and re-posting one another’s remarks concerning that thing, it can foster the illusion that whatever is being discussed is of more worth and consequence than, in fact, may be the case.  Happily, this was not true of both Gateways to Abomination and Rangel; indeed, as the year winds down and I look back over what I’ve read during the last twelve months, Matthew Bartlett’s fiction stands out as among my two or three real discoveries in that time.

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In Gateways to Abomination, he gives you what I first took to be a series of pieces of horror flash-fiction, one- and two- and three-page radio broadcasts, vignettes, brief narratives.  From the start, his prose style is strong, elegant and macabre in a way that reminds me of some of Thomas Ligotti’s early stories.  There’s a deliberate off-kilter quality to the way the pieces move from the mundane to the bizarre that I found very effective.  The further you progress in the book–and it is one who contents I would recommend reading in order–the more clear it becomes that these assorted shorter pieces are adding up to something more, a kind of fractal treatment of the part of Massachusetts about which he’s writing.  It’s one of those books I became more excited about the further I read in it and the more I realized what Bartlett was up to.

Rangel

Rangel occurs in the same geography as Gateways, and encompasses some of the same details as the earlier book, but it tells a longer story about its narrator’s encounter with a strange and awful civic event, one that appears to connect to his long-lost sister.  I wasn’t sure how Bartlett would handle the transition from the shorter pieces in Gateways to what must be Rangel‘s novelette length, but I needn’t have worried.  It’s as weird as the earlier book, with an added resonance that makes its end truly disturbing.  My only regret is that it appears to have sold out; perhaps an electronic copy might be released?

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I met Matthew Bartlett and his lovely wife this past Necronomicon; he was gentle and witty.  I look forward–eagerly–to what he writes next.  If you haven’t read him yet, I strongly recommend searching out Gateways to Abomination.

 

Necronomicon Providence 2015–Four Weeks On

I returned from the 2015 Necronomicon Providence with my older son and his family about to visit, and with my younger son and I about to test for our next promotions in Tang Soo Do.  As a result, it’s taken me a little while to sit down and set down my thoughts on the second of these conventions.  The short version is that I had an even better time at the 2015 Necronomicon than I did at the 2013 one, which I’m not sure I would have predicted possible.  I was very busy with programming, participating in a couple of readings and a number of panels.  There were also room parties.   In between, I spent time with a host of friends, signed numerous books, and wandered the dealers’ room.  I think I saw the convention developing in interesting directions.  The 2013 con focused more on Lovecraft and his set, with attention given to some contemporary horror writers (mostly those who fit best with HPL’s legacy).  The 2015 con seemed more evenly divided between HPL and his set and more recent horror writers.  It’ll be interesting to see what happens in 2017.

So:  some highlights from this convention:

–Thursday evening dinner with Brian Evenson, Paul Tremblay, Michael Cisco, Nikki Guerlain, Simon Strantzas, and Richard Gavin at a swanky restaurant whose name I’ve forgotten, but whose food was top-notch.  There was a great deal of laughter, and I received some good advice about a minor publishing quandary.  Afterwards, Cisco and Nikki and I wandered the streets of Providence until we came to a restaurant with outdoor seating, where we sat and discussed Gemma Files and Mike Griffin (which is to say, Cisco analyzed their fiction while I nodded and tried to keep up).

–Speaking of Paul:  Stephen King had just tweeted a very kind notice of Paul’s novel, A Head Full of Ghosts, that weekend, and all of us who love and respect Paul spent every available moment teasing him mercilessly about it.  He didn’t care, nor should he have.  It was nice to be able to spend time with one of your friends after he’s received some much-deserved praise from one of his heroes.  (Which reminds me:  have you read A Head Full of Ghosts?  If you have, good.  If not, what are you waiting for?)

–Speaking of Simon and Richard:  in addition to participating in panels and readings together, we had a nice, quiet dinner together on Saturday night at the local Mexican restaurant, where the waiter began our meal by expressing his regret over the news that actor Steven Seagal had just died (which, as it turned out, was not true).

–Then there were the room parties…  With my roommates, Bob Waugh and Eddy Eder, I had rented a suite at the convention hotel.  We invited a few people to stop by on Friday and Saturday nights.  They did.  They brought some more people, and also some very fine alcohol.  There was much good conversation.  I’m told the air in the room was at one point ninety-five percent Scotch, but I believe that’s an exaggeration; it couldn’t have been more than seventy-five, eighty percent, tops.  What I do know is that I can still stay up till four in the morning, if it’s to listen to Matthew Warren Richey read an excerpt from an autobiographically-inflected story and discuss the apocryphal Mormon view of Bigfoot.  I also know that, if you have to liberate extra glasses from somewhere in your hotel, Michael Cisco is the man for the job.

–Speaking of Eddy:  this was his second convention since beginning to focus on his weird artwork.  He was warmly and graciously received by the artistic community at the convention, who made room for him to display and sell prints of his work on one of their tables in the dealers’ room.  He also made contacts with some of the publishers who were there.  I was very happy for him.

–Speaking of artists:  I finally had a chance to meet and shake the hand of the uber-talented Michael Bukowski, who gifted me with an absolutely gorgeous compendium of his Nyarlathotep illustrations.  I was as bowled-over by his generosity as I was his talent, and that’s saying something.

–Speaking of publishers:  I had good conversations with both Derrick Hussey of Hippocampus Press, about my third collection, forthcoming in early 2016, and Ross Lockhart, of Word Horde Press, about possible future projects.

–And I met and spoke to so many talented writers, I don’t know where to begin.  I had the chance to hang out and have lunch with Dave Zeltserman, whose The Caretaker of Lorne Field is a recent favorite.  We talked about the joys of martial arts for the aging male body.  Anya Martin made me a gift of one of her late father’s books, which was very moving and for which I’m very grateful.  Scott Nicolay gave me a copy of his beautifully-designed chapbook, After.  Marc Fitch gave me a copy of his novel, Paradise Burns, with a very flattering inscription.  I was able to purchase copies of Matthew Bartlett’s latest collection and chapbook, and to spend some time talking with him and his wife.  I was able to get the ferociously-talented David Nickel to sign copies of his books for me, and to talk with him about the joys of writing fiction that’s too literary for the genre imprints, and too genre for the literary imprints.  I talked to Mike Griffin about his upcoming collection.  Justin Steele and I cursed each other out.  The Miskatonic Musings guys caught up with me for a brief interview.  Joe Pulver took me aside to talk to me.  Cisco had me convinced to spend a lot of money at one table in the dealers’ room, and I would have, if that bookseller had taken credit cards.

–What else?  Jack Haringa, floating in a cloud of nicotine, snark, and Scotch.  Matt Burke, whose art I like a great deal.  Michael Wehunt, who’s a very interesting writer.  Jeff Thomas, signing my books.  Ramsey Campbell, always at one end of a line of people waiting for him to sign their books.  Michael Marshall Smith, glimpsed across a room but, sadly, not spoken to.  Cody Goodfellow looking like Moses.  Or Karl Marx.  Or that guy in The Professor and the Madman.  The madman.  Getting to shake Henrik Moller’s hand and tell him how much I enjoyed his short film, Inviting the Demon.  (Really, it’s very good:  go check it out on YouTube.)  Watching Leeman Kessler chase his young daughter, and imagining for a moment it’s Lovecraft playing with his child.

So, well done, all those responsible for and involved with the staging of this convention.  I haven’t been to a better one this year.

ETA:  And shortly after I post this report, I realize I forgot to mention meeting the ferociously talented Damien Angelica Walters, and Phil Gelatt, and Jason Brock, and Mike Davis, and Steve Mariconda, and Alex Houston, and Dan Mills, and I also forgot to mention signing books for any number of folks who were kind and gracious enough to ask me to.  Sorry about that, folks!