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 1: Providence

It’s been a busy summer.  At the end of June, the Honey Badger and I drove up to Providence to take part in a reading sponsored by the Lovecraft Arts & Sciences bookstore alongside the crepuscular Michael Cisco.  On the way, we stopped in to visit Phil Gelatt and Vicki Dalpe, with whom we had such a good time that we were almost late for a quick dinner at the Red Fez restaurant with Cisco, Farah Rose Smith, Matt Bartlett, and Ritchie Tenorio.  (By the way, the Red Fez’s take on poutine is amazing.)  The reading was standing room only, and hosted by the redoubtable S.J. Bagley, whose questions to Laird, myself, and Cisco were typically insightful.  (He’s the first person to have asked me about the significance of time in my fiction, which I greatly appreciated.)  Sadly, Laird and I had to head back to New York not long after the reading finished, but there was still time for conversation with some of the splendid people who came to see us, including NeCon Matt and Laura (which is how I think of them), Cat Grant, Ed Kurtz and Gam Bepko, and Michael Sherman (who very generously gifted me with the first volume of Alan Moore’s Providence).  And Errick Nunnally’s family very graciously tolerated him popping in for a visit.

(photo courtesy of Catherine Grant) Image may contain: 1 person, beard

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!

After Readercon

This past weekend I spent in Burlington, MA, at the 26th annual Readercon.  It’s probably the convention I most look forward to each year, because it’s the one the largest percentage of my writing friends attend.  This year was no exception:  I roomed with Paul Tremblay, and spent time with a raft of people including S.J. Bagley, Michael Cisco, Brett Cox, Joann Cox, Ellen Datlow, Gemma Files, John Foster, Mike Griffin, Liz Hand, Jack Haringa, Stephen Graham Jones, Sandra Kasturi and Brett Savory, Nick Kaufmann and Alexa Antopol, Mike and Caroline Kelly, Sarah Langan, Rob Shearman, Justin Steele, Simon Strantzas, Peter Straub, Jeffrey Thomas, and plenty more whose names I apologize for forgetting.  Highlights of the convention included fiction readings by Mike Cisco, Gemma Files, Rob Shearman, and Paul, as well as this year’s Shirley Jackson Awards, which I mc’d for the first time without embarrassing myself or the awards too badly.  I read from my own work twice, first as part of a group reading for The Monstrous, Ellen Datlow’s newest anthology, in which my new story, “Corpsemouth,” appears, and then on my own on Sunday afternoon, after the Jackson Awards, to a surprisingly large audience, to whom I managed to read all of my story, “The Savage Angela in:  The Beast in the Tunnels” (forthcoming in Jesse Bullington and Molly Tanzer’s Swords v. Cthulhu).  In the midst of the convention came the awful news that Tom Piccirilli had lost his brave fight with brain cancer, and we raised a glass in his honor and memory that night.  There was flatbread pizza, and there was Korean barbecue.  Then the weekend was over, so fast I still can’t believe it, and it was time for the annual drive back west accompanied by Michael Cisco.  As ever, thanks to the Readercon crew for putting on such a great convention.  The Good Lord willing and the creek don’t rise, I’ll see you next year.

Readercon–The Aftermath

This past weekend, I attended Readercon for the first time in a couple of years.  I had a blast.

I have to admit, I’m tempted to leave things there.  So much happens over the course of a convention that it’s difficult to know how much of it to describe in what amount of detail.  I suppose the principle reason for me to attend an event such as Readercon is to meet readers, and to connect with writing friends old and new.  I had a chance to do the former a number of times, signing more books than I have before and talking to a number of younger writers who told me they had read and even analyzed my stories (this last produced in me the disquieting revelation that I am no longer the new writer I still think of myself as).  As for the latter:  the weekend was an embarrassment of riches, from rooming with my old pal, Paul Tremblay, to hanging out with Paul and the other board members of the Shirley Jackson Awards, to spending time with the charming Glen Hirshberg, whom I’d met before but never had the chance to talk so much with.  And this isn’t even mentioning brief discussions with folks like Michael Rowe, Jeffrey Thomas, Mike Griffin, Justin Steele, Shawn Bagley, and Sean Moreland.

In the midst of all of this informal talking, there were panels, one on ghosts I attended and one on zombies I took part in, both of which sparked so many ideas I had to scribble them down on the nearest available surface.  There were also some spectacular readings:  Gemma Files’s dazzling reading/performance of her story in the new Fearful Symmetries anthology; Michael Cisco walking an intellectual tightrope with ease and grace as he read an excerpt from his novel-in-a-workbook about unlanguage; Glen Hirshberg giving a magisterial reading of a late chapter from his new novel, Good Girls.  There were good meals sprinkled throughout, perhaps none better than the Friday night dinner at the local Thai restaurant that’s become something of a Readercon tradition–at one point, I looked at the long table of eighteen people associated with horror and dark fantasy, and thought, If this were the con, with maybe a couple of additions, I’d be quite pleased.  Sunday morning brought the annual Shirley Jackson Awards, whose winners reacted with joy and grace.

Then it was back home, but even there, Michael Cisco joined me for a drive/conversation that took in Robert Aickman’s stories, Thomas Ligotti’s anti-natalism, Roberto Bolano’s fiction, and the pros and cons of owning a house in the  mid-Hudson Valley.

There were folks who weren’t at the con that I wish had been, especially the Three Musketeers of Toronto, Richard Gavin, Ian Rogers, and Simon Strantzas.  I also wish I’d found a way to spend more time with Peter Straub, and Livia Llewellyn and Robert Levy.  Overall, though, I can’t complain.

So that’s Readercon 2014.  Did I mention I had a blast?