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Monday, March 12, 2018

StokerCon 2018 Report

Horror legend Ramsey Campbell
and editor Don D'Auria
in the hotel lobby
I spent 2/28-3/4 in Providence at StokerCon 2018 in the Biltmore Hotel. I was the organizer of Librarians’ Day on 3/1, so that took most of my time. In this post I will report in detail about that day and then I have a few other comments about the rest of my time.

However, before I begin, I would like to make an overall comment about StokerCon. This is now my second time attending, but my first as one of the organizers. I have both attended and organized a wide variety of library conferences in my time and I have to say, even though StokerCon is fairly new, they do a wonderful job. The Con is extremely well run but more importantly, the attendees were all happy to be there and excited to be networking and learning with and from each other. For example, I saw huge names like Ramsey Campbell, Victor LaValle, or F Paul Wilson on a panel with new writers and the established authors were not only kind to the newbies, but they also learned from them.

I loved every minute I was at StokerCon and I have these men in the photo to thank. From left to right: Kevin Wetmore, Brad Hodson, Brian Matthews, and Jim Chambers. They were the ones doing the bulk of the organizing of SotkerCon. They did a wonderful job.

On Thursday 3/1 though, I was in charge, and after months of planning, Librarians’ Day went off without a hitch.  I would like to once again thank Kristi Chadwick for all her help coordinating this event with me. Her work with the publishers, doing local promotion [we had an amazing turn out with over 60 people in the room at one point!], and handling any logistical questions from the attendees before the event was invaluable.

Below is a brief overview [with pictures] of what was discussed that day and over the entire weekend.

The day began with Dacre Stoker [pic- right] talking about how his great-granduncle’s masterpiece, Dracula, has remained revelent in pop culture. It was a fascinating and broad look at the influence of the text over time.

He also talked about the October release of the first Stroker estate sanctioned prequel to Dracula entitled Dracul written by Dacre Stoker with J.D. Barker. From Goodreads:
It is 1868, and a 22-year-old Bram Stoker has locked himself inside an abbey's tower to face off against a vile and ungodly beast. He is armed with mirrors and crucifixes and holy water and a gun - and is kept company by a bottle of plum brandy. His fervent prayer is that he will survive this one night - a night that will prove to be the longest of his life. Desperate to leave a record of what he has witnessed, the young man scribbles out the events that brought him to this point - a childhood illness, a mysterious nanny, and stories once thought to be fables now proven true.  
A riveting novel of Gothic suspense, Dracul reveals not only the true origins of Dracula himself, but also of his creator, Bram Stoker . . . and of the elusive, enigmatic woman who connects them.
Place your orders now. Besides the Dracula connection Barker, the co-author here is becoming a big name in thriller, suspense, and horror himself.

The next panel was moderated by me and was entitled, “Why Horror Matters: A Conversation with Experts on the Genre and Its Practitioners.” It featured Christopher Geissler [the head archivist from the John Hay Library which holds the papers of H.P. Lovecraft among other horror legends], Andy Davidson, Me, Grady Hendrix, Les Klinger and Eric Guignard. A few interning points that came up in our conversation:
  • I talked about how in times of difficulty some people gravitate toward horror to feel better. When things are bad, they look for something worse to help them feel better.
  • Someone mentioned that everyone is scared of something.
  • Grady talked at length about what a large part women have played in horror and its history.
  • Eric talked about his series of printers on writing by short dark fiction, by living authors. Click here for more detail on that.
  • Les talked about what he has learned annotating great works like those by Lovecraft and Shelley.
  • Andy talked about how he mixes genre and why he gravitates to horror as the anchor to his work.
  • Christopher talked about the archive, what they are preserving there, who uses it, and why it is important.
It was a great way to get the real conversation about horror going for the day. Dacre got us excited and then this panel made us focus on purpose.

L to R: Morgan, Stephen, Mary, Nadia
The final morning panel was moderated by Bram Stoker Nominated author Mary SanGiovanni. Entitled, “A Panel of Fresh Voices for Your Collections. This panel gathered newer authors who many library workers may not have heard of before, including Nadia Bulkin, Stephen Kozeniewski, and Morgan Sylvia.

Mary talked to them about their writing, what the publishing landscape is like today, how they get the word out about their books, and what they are working on next. I should note, I have featured all of these authors here on the blog [or in Nadia's case I will soon]. These are authors you should know about and add to your collections.

This panel was fascinating  because rarely do we library workers get to hear from the smaller authors, those who are just starting to break in with work that is being noticed. These authors are on small presses now, but they will all be working with larger publishers soon. For example, in the bottom right corner of that picture, feverishly taking notes, is Rick Chillot a senior editor from Quirk Books.

Speaking of Rick...

After a fun lunch where panelists, authors, and attendees all got to mingle and chat with one and other, we had the panel everyone was most excited about-- “Horror Programming at Your Library,” moderated by J.G. Faherty, the Library and Literacy Coordinator for HWA and featuring 2 pairs of people who have worked to do just what the title says. Liz Rieur, librarian from Haverhill [MA] Public Library who organizes the extremely popular Merrimack Valley Halloween Book Festival with best selling and Bram Stoker Award winning author Christopher Golden, who appeared wit her on the panel as well as Grady Hendrix and his editor Rick Chillot from Quirk Books.

As you can imagine, there were many questions from the library workers in the audience, especially for Liz, on how to do programming around horror. Faherty also talked about how the HWA can help connect us with local authors to start planning our own programming.

On a side note, on Saturday I spoke on this same topic to the authors in a program entitled, "Promoting Your Book To Bookstores and Libraries." On the left you can see a picture of our panel featuring [L to R] Jeff Strand, Me, J.H. Moncrieff, and Grady Hendrix. This was also moderated by Faherty. I was very popular. The authors want to know how libraries work and are often surprised when I begin by saying, "The first thing you need to know is that libraries are giant bureaucracies, even the little ones." I am always happy to share how libraries work with authors.

Finally we ended the day with Book Buzzes from publihsers and my Mass Library System book talk on Lovecraft inspired titles from 2016 [when in Rome]. The details and links to the slides were originally posted here on 3/1/18.

That evening, Les Klinger took me on a little a trip up the hill to go to Brown University to visit Christopher Geissler at the Hay where Paul La Farge, author of The Night Ocean, gave a lecture about Lovecraft's friend, the enigmatic [to say the least] Robert Barlow. It was fascinating. Also, in a bit of irony, I read La Farge's novel on my trip to StokerCon 2017.

L to R: Chambers, LaValle, Addison, Weller
That was Thursday. I was still around for 2 more full days, but they went by in a whirlwind. I attended panels, had fun at all three late night events-- A dramatic reading of Lovecraft's only play, the Final Frame Film Festival, and a hilarious battle of monsters, pictured here on the right. There were two teams. The team you see featured Victor LaValle, Linda Addison, and Sam Weller. The teams would each pull a monster out of the pumpkin and then Jim would have someone from the audience pull a location. The authors had to then tell a story of how their monster would beat the other monster in that place. There were judges to the side to comment on their stories, but we the audience had the final say. Some of the monsters who battled were the Blob, the Creature from the Black Lagoon, Valdemort, Medusa, Godzilla and more.

Me and Linda
Over the weekend I made new friends with the people behind Raw Dog Screaming Press, Flame Tree Press, and Eraserhead Press. I book talked some of the titles for sale by the Con bookseller so that they got a few extra sales. I got to catch up with many old friends, like Linda Addison who received the Lifetime Achievement Award [an honor I am proud to have played a part in] and meet a whole slew of new and interesting writers, many of whom I have already been in touch with since.

And finally, the Con ended for me with the Stoker Awards Banquet where I got to sit next to horror legend, Ramsey Campbell and his wife during dinner and the ceremony. I am happy to report he is one of the nicest people I have ever met. I could chat with him and his wife all day.

Official program for the
awards ceremony
For the second year in a row, I had the honor of presenting the award for Superior Achievement in Nonfiction wit Les Klinger, and we got to give that award to Grady Hendrix for Paperbacks from Hell. It was so great to give the award to a friend and be there when he received it.

Here is the link to my post with all of the nominees and winners.

That's the summary of what happened. I can't wait t start planning Librarians' Day for StokerCon 2019 in Grand Rapids. 

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