World Horror Con 2014

On Thursday I flew up to Portland to attend the 2014 World Horror Con.

Portland. I’ve said before that as much as I understand that Portlandia is just a TV show, for some reason I can’t convince myself that Kyle Machlachlan isn’t the mayor. There’s something about the city, it’s bizarre layout of one way streets and it’s special bike/bus/train/unicycle lanes, that make it seem like it’s been designed by a committee of sketch characters. Anyway I’ve always liked Portland, and not just because I think Agent Cooper is in charge of the city. The weather is nice and cool and wet instead of the awful all seasons are late summer that we’ve been experiencing this year in L.A. When I used to live in Seattle, I went to Portland for pretty much any excuse to shop at Powells, and I was lucky enough on this trip to start the weekend at Powells (by way of Henry’s Tavern, so all the better).

The convention was excellent. I attended panels on Short Stories, Lovecraft, whether it’s best to write for yourself or your audience, and Research for Horror Writing. I also got to listen to John Shirley read and then answer questions in an interview. John Shirley has been one of my favorites ever since his “Song Called Youth” trilogy came out in the 80s. “A Song Called Youth,” helped save me from depression then. Before I read it, I was depressed and angry. After I read it, I was still pretty much depressed and angry, but I at least felt like someone saw things the same way, and felt not so alone. It was great to listen to one of my literary heroes, first read from a new work, and then answer questions about the things that shaped his outlook. As was true of much of the con, I came out of that session with a list of books to read, starting with Everything Is Broken. If "A Song Called Youth" was the perfect comment on the politics of the 80s, it sounds like Everything Is Broken is a perfect commentary on today’s troubles. David Agranoff did a fine job with the interview, letting Shirley talk for the most part, but providing prompts when necessary. I haven’t read Agranoff’s work, but I’ve added it to my to-read list as a result.

In addition to listening to John Shirley read, I was lucky enough to get to attend readings from Lisa Morton and Joe McKinney, both of which were excellent. One of the highlights of last year’s World Horror Con in New Orleans had been McKinney’s emotional reading of a story he wrote for a friend that he lost. He said going into his reading this year, that his hope was to make us laugh this time. Achievement unlocked. McKinney’s essay wasn’t just funny it was also intriguing and somewhat horrific all at once. I’ve personally never been that interested in Jack the Ripper. I’ve enjoyed stories about the Ripper. Alan Moore’s From Hell. Ross E. Lockhart’s anthology had some excellent stories. But the history of the events is not something I’d really cared for. (I’ve also never been into the true crime books, I think I prefer my evil with the safety of being able to tell myself it’s not real.) McKinney’s reading of his essay was riveting. It struck me that it takes a special talent to put someone on the edge of their seat with a subject matter that they could normally take or leave.

My chief disappointment at the con was that I missed some of the readings I’d planned on catching. Getting lost when I went out for lunch resulted in missing Ross E Lockhart’s and Cody Goodfellow’s readings, as well as me getting soaked when the sky opened up above. I eventually had to wait it out under a parking garage as the torrent turned to hail.

For me, the odd part about cons is that as an introvert I get a little overwhelmed with all the people, which is sort of a problem when you’re largely there for the purpose of meeting people. Fortunately as Chuck Wendig wrote in The Kick-Ass Writer, “Horror writers tend to be very nice.” Everyone I did get up the nerve to talk to was incredibly nice, and at the Deadite Press Party on Friday night, a few people were nice enough to pick out my introvert in the headlights glazed expression and start up conversations. There were kegs of beer at this party, including a really nice IPA. An extra thanks to Rose O’Keefe and Jeff Burke not just for throwing the party, but also for their work on the con.

I once was lucky enough to drive down to UCI to see Tim Powers, Gregory Benford, and James Blaylock talk about their relationship with Philip K Dick. That’s a separate blog post in itself, but one thing that applies here is that Tim Powers said that, and I’m paraphrasing wildly, that “I was lucky to meet Phil before I knew who he was. Whenever I meet authors that I like I get so bottled up that I stammer and don’t get out much more than my name.” A few years later I met Tim Powers at a book signing at Dark Delicacies, and I was so nervous I did little more than squeak out my name. He seemed nice, if confused by why the middle aged man he was talking to was squeaking like a nervous teen. The reason I mention this story here, is that all of the authors I met at the con were so nice and so approachable. I was just as nervous as I was when I met Tim Powers, but everyone seemed so at ease at the con that… I would be lying to say they put me at ease (some feats are not possible) but they did put me on that road enough that I could eke out English sentences.

One lesson I learned: never fly from Portland to Orange County on a Sunday morning. The flight was like 85% children aged 2-8 on their way to Disneyland. And for some reason their parents kept shoveling sugar down their throats.

I’m home now, a little sad that it’s over. But I’ve got lots of books to read, and have lots of advice to apply to my writing. So the sadness gives way to the inspiration and the desire to finish a lot more before Atlanta next year.
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Published on May 14, 2014 09:16 • 492 views
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message 1: by Pete (new)

Pete Aldin I love the idea around some corners of the media these days that parents who "shovel sugar" down the throats of little ones should be arrested for child abuse. Not that I truly feel that judgmental but as you say, a flight full of the results of that (or a typical day living next to my current neighbors!) will certainly give supporting evidence to the concept. :)

Glad you had such a blast. I love the way that trilogy fed your mind and heart as a teenager. Writing is powerful. Great writers can change lives. Glad you made time for yourself, Ian.

message 2: by Ian (new)

Ian Welke Pete wrote: "I love the idea around some corners of the media these days that parents who "shovel sugar" down the throats of little ones should be arrested for child abuse. Not that I truly feel that judgmental..."

Thanks! Yeah that flight was weird. That flight could've been it's own post.

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