The coverage live from the World Horror Convention continues, faithful readers
The second day of the World Horror Convention 2012 in Salt Lake City, Utah was so eventful that I don’t even know where to begin. From the panels to the parties to the wicked awesome Gross Out readings, it was an eventful day with lots and lots going on. It’s always a difficult choice at conventions to decide which panels to attend over others, and the World Horror Convention is no exception. This morning, I started out by attending the Humorous Horror panel featuring Tim Marquitz, Jeff Strand, Jaleta Clegg, and Scott Allie.
They mentioned several interesting things during the panel, including the fact that we are seeing more parody and satire in the horror genre, and it’s becoming increasingly popular. When asked why, Jaleta replied, “Either you can laugh or you can cry…and laughter is more fun.” Humour in horror also works because of the element of surprise, and because it’s so unexpected. Horror funnyman Jeff Strand, also the emcee for this year’s Stoker Awards banquet, cited Evil Dead as one of the best examples of combining humour and horror consciously, and said that these types of works usually come out in a cycle. Marquitz weighed in by adding that movies draw more on humour than television shows. People need humour to let out their fears, Allie suggested.
Good humour will last, Jaleta added, citing the longevity of the Three Stooges, a comedy act that audiences today continue to be familiar with. The humour has to have a genre to tack onto, and Joe Lansdale is one of the few genuinely funny horror writers out there, according to Strand. For some authors, it’s harder to sustain the humour over the course of an entire novel, so the short forms are what they often choose to explore. For Strand, genuine menace with real threats have to be juxtaposed with the humour, which can make it easier to carry over to the horror aspects of a book. Humour can help an audience empathize with a character more, but the panelists all agreed that there has to be a transition and pacing that leads in to the main characters encountering horror or humour. Strand cited Benjamin’s Parasite as his grossest work to date, and the audience offered some interesting observations as well as advice, mentioning Ghostbusters as a prime example of horror and humour mixing.
Next, I attended a panel about short fiction and why it’s still so popular. The panelists were Ellen Datlow, Stan Swanson (Dark Moon Digest), John Skipp, Gene O’Neill, and Darren O. Godfrey. Gene started off by saying that short stories are one of the toughest forms to write, to which Datlow added that short stories are the lifeblood of the horror field. There were a few disagreements early on and a lot of strong opinions on the panel about the subject of short fiction in horror, which made this one of the livelier panels. Skipp called short stories “compressed and beautiful,” and discussed the fact that not everyone can write both novels and short stories. Gene O’Neill brought up an interesting point about short stories and how they used to be a rite of passage for horror writers, who first had to get their work published in magazines before approaching publishers about their novels, and the panelists touched on incorporating autobiographical elements into one’s work. One of the authors in the crowd also joined the conversation from the audience, mentioning the fact that she still injects many of her characters with her own opinions and beliefs.
There was a great overall positive vibe on the panel that came about when Gene mentioned that he thinks there has recently been an explosion of good young horror writers, which are the measure of the health of a genre, and Datlow went as far as calling our time the “golden age of horror fiction.” There are more online markets to be aware of, and relationships with editors is important as they may be at a small press magazine one day but may get promoted, and chances are will remember your work and be more likely to publish it. Prices and pay rates have always been on the lower end, the panelists affirmed, and Datlow added a great point about the reputation of a certain magazine being just as important to a writer’s career for acquiring publication credits versus the pay rate. One of the other interesting points brought up during the panel was the idea that short stories are now branching out into podcast and other audio formats and finding a new readership that way. Datlow wants to see more audio versions of anthologies in particular. Tales of Terror, a horror show out of Chicago, was cited as being a cool venue that really invests a lot of time and energy into producing its adaptations of short stories, for lack of a better term.
I then went off to the panel on the Art of Mike Mignola, creator of the amazing Hellboy graphic novel series, and artist extraordinaire; artist John Picacio interviewed Mike with very insightful questions not only about the Hellboy series, but also about his other works, including Joe Golem, Batman, and Amazing Screw on Head, which is one of his lesser known but most amazing works to date, and one that he cites as his favourite to work on, as it’s completely a world of his own invention.
Picacio chose to display images of Mignola’s work in an excellent AV presentation on the wall, and based his questions off of certain panels and other iconic images. He started off by mentioning that famed Watchmen creator Alan Moore described Mignola’s work as “German Expressionism meets Jack Kirby,” which was definitely interesting, and Picacio mentioned seeing silent film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari as something that must have been an influence on Mignola, but oddly enough, Mignola admitted to never having seen the film, but added that he was a big fan of the film The Golem. Architecture influenced Mignola’s work a great deal, because he hated drawing buildings at first, but after he moved to New York, started to like doing those types of drawings. John showed an image from German painter Caspar David Friedrich, famous for his landscapes of solemn ruins, which Mignola used as inspiration when doing some artwork for the first Hellboy film, directed by Guillermo del Toro.
John then showcased a series of Mike’s works from his work on The Hulk to Batman while Mignola delivered anecdotes about his past working as a comic book artist in New York City. We even caught a glimpse of a very early rendering of what would become Hellboy in a drawing from 1991 that Mike did for a convention program. Mike also spoke a bit about his Joe Golem series, for which Dark Horse just released a deluxe edition. Mignola’s stories and John’s AV presentation made this one of the most interesting panels to attend.
Bestselling Paranormal Romance author Sherrilyn Kenyon, one of the author guests of honour, had a Q&A sessions with fans for an hour. Instead of having a moderator to ask Sherrilyn questions then opening it up to the audience, this panel served as more of a kaffeeklatsch owing to the fact that with fewer people attending, it seemed like a more intimate environment.
Sherrilyn regaled the audience with stores of how her mother was always a huge horror fan and passed that on to her kids. Her popular Dark Hunter series started out being shelved in horror, then science fiction, then romance, and now general fiction–Kenyon explained that this is partly owing to the fact that it’s difficult to categorize her work because she crosses so many different genres. When asked what she is working on now, she responded by mentioning a book concerning the Cherokee end of the world mythology, which seemed quite interesting. Sherrilyn answered questions about how she got her start in the business, if she is a plotter or pantster (of which she is the latter), her old work, the pen name Kinley MacGregor, who some of her other favourite authors are (which included Jim Butcher, but also the classics, particularly Chaucer).
Sherrilyn then joined the rest of the ladies on the Women of Horror panel, which featured Lisa Morton, Kim Richards, P.N. Elrod, and Ellen Datlow. It was definitely interesting to hear the differing points of view on the panel, which discussed the fact that there are many problematic perceptions out there about women who want to get in the genre, including that women can’t write “real” (read: Extreme) horror, that not enough women in the genre get the recognition they deserve, etc, to which Lisa brought up the point of women authors having a harder time breaking in to smaller horror publishers, which is not always the case, but as I have also pointed out in previous blog posts and women in horror features, the fact is that there are more men writing in the genre, along with the possibility that though there many be a greater number of women horror writers out there than we think, we can’t know for sure if they’re not submitting to anthologies and publishers.
On a hilarious note, P.N. Elrod does a great impression of Marge Simpson Some of the women on the panel also mentioned some of the women in horror who have inspired them, as well as whether their families were supportive of their interest in the dark genre. Ellen mentioned that the disappearance of horror sections from bookstores could potentially be viewed as a positive thing, as putting the genre in its own category can sometimes limit the audience or inhibit them from trying new things versus if the books were in the general or sci-fi/fantasy sections.
There is also the perception, one that I believe women who write dark fiction perpetuate themselves, about feeling that unless the work is extremely graphic or brutal, that somehow it doesn’t constitute horror. That said, there are niches within the genre and dark fantasy does bleed through a bit murkily into horror at times, but as long as it creates a sense of unease, tension, and suspense in the mind of the reader, that constitutes horror. The advice that the panelists had for women trying to break into horror was to be unafraid and to take chances and not to listen to naysayers. P.N. Elrod and Ellen Datlow also highlighted writing and critique groups as something essential, as well.
I then attended a reading by Lisa Morton’s co-winner for last year’s Bram Stoker Award First Novel winner, Benjamin Kane Ethridge, who read two flash fiction pieces. He also had some lovely goodie bags at the back, and did a raffle giving away five copies of his Stoker-Winning book, Black & Orange.
After dinner, I checked out the Gross Out contest, hosted by Rain Graves, in which the object was, as you can discern from the title, to gross the audience out with a short story. It was so interesting for me to attend this for the first time not knowing what to expect–the descriptions were pretty gruesome, but there’s something to be said for the fact that the descriptions are so ridiculous that the audience actually burst out with laughter at several points, and goaded the participants to go even further with their gross tales John Skipp made a surprise appearance, at which point the audience encouraged him to go with a gross out tale of his own, and he didn’t disappoint, winning third place for his efforts.
There were also three parties going on, hosted by Dark Moon Digest, Damnation Books, and Evil Jester Press, and they each had something different to offer, but people seemed to be having a good time this evening no matter which ones they decided to go to. Two parties are happening tomorrow–the HWA post-Stoker party as well as the Chizine party, both of which are sure to be a blast!
Stay tuned for more coverage on the convention tomorrow!