Day 2 of the convention was already jam-packed with lots of fantastic and informative panels, events, parties, and a broad range of activities to tickle one’s fancy, and Saturday was also quite a full day. The first panel of the day was dedicated to the topic of women in horror, called “Sisters Are Doing it for Themselves,” and actually I thought that novelist Yvonne Navarro had a very interesting response in a recent issue of Dark Discoveries Magazine, which if you haven’t had a chance to read it, you should consider tracking down as part of her new column for the publication. At the same time there was also a panel on the rules of the horror genre, followed by an interview with Poet Guest of Honor Bruce Boston.
For those seeking pointers on the pitching sessions later on in the day, there was the Pre-Pitch Panel, which provided some general good advice that we’ve all heard before about do’s and don’ts of pitching editors and agents, mainly to relax and not to be nervous and to realize that the people taking pitches weren’t there to grill us with trick questions or to try to make us trip up, but rather because they were genuinely interested in finding new works from authors.
Next I attended an Guest of Honor interview with acclaimed novelist Jonathan Maberry, interviewed by equally as acclaimed novelist Joe McKinney, which was so interesting that I couldn’t stop scribbling notes in my notepad. For those who don’t know, Maberry had a very challenging childhood and grew up in a rough neighborhood. He used martial arts as a way to get out, but also understood the importance of a good education, which he also made sure to equip himself with. One of the most interesting points was his discussion about how he uses folklore as an inspiration for many of his stories, something I think is part of what makes his stories so creative and interesting.
Fantasist Clive Barker, one of my writing idols and heros, who would later in the evening be awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award along with fellow novelist Robert R. McCammon, had a panel dedicated to him called “Clive Barker: An Appreciation,” which was also full of interesting insights and stories, and at one point his biographer, Douglas E. Winter who was on hand for the festivities said “Is there anyone who has a story about how this man is not good?” followed by laughter, because Barker is of course well known for his generosity of spirit and warmth. I was very sad that he couldn’t attend, as were many con attendees, but we all wish him the best in his recovery from the recent health issues he has encountered.
Fellow Brit and Guest of Honor Ramsey Campbell, had his interview next, which was not only interesting but also devastatingly funny. He says he learned to read at 18 months old and was “hideously precocious” for it, discussed the influence of M.R. James, H.P. Lovecraft, Shirley Jackson, as well as some discussion on his writing process and how he outlines now versus how he did when he was starting out. He’s more of a pantser with his novels (as opposed to a plotter, who compulsively outlines), and discussed his love of Salvador Dali and surrealism in paintings. He mentioned not following trends too much, and likes writing novels when he can’t specifically see the end because he likes the fun of figuring out how it all wraps up.
Another panel that’s frequently a staple of horror conventions is at least one on vampires, and what’s going on with them, what’s going to happen to them, etc, and this year’s was “Reclaiming the Vampire,” moderated by Canadian author and editor Nancy Kilpatrick, featuring Carl Alves, James Dorr, Leslie S. Klinger, and Jim Gavin. Les usually brings up many interesting points, and although this one got off to a bit of a slow start, the conversation got better by the end, but it also has to do with the fact that vampires are laying a bit dormant at the moment and the post-Twilight wave has been at a bit of a standstill. The panelists also brought up the good point that many novelists resent Twilight because of its success, but that as long as it continues to encourage people to read and to find more books, that it can have a positive effect. We’re waiting for the next vampire uprising cycle in publishing, and when it will come is anybody’s guess
Following this and again interspersed with readings and kaffeeklatsches, there was a panel on young adult literature in horror, and another panel called “Are You Ready for an Agent?” which presented a mixture of authors and agents as panelists, and provided some interesting insights into the fact that agents are still a valuable asset for those writers wishing to break into the big markets and that although many find success in the small to mid-sized presses without one, ultimately there are things an agent can do that and gates they can unlock that authors normally can’t by themselves. Agents are also taking on more of an editorial role with authors in preparing submissions and doing rewrites with them, which is a recent phenomenon, as well, and the writers on the panel expressed their relief that they could focus on writing and if they wanted to, separate small press projects on their own, but that for the major stuff, the agent made sure to take care of things that they it’s difficult for an author to do without a pool of resources like an agent has.
There was also a panel about films, “Horror Movies from Both Sides of the Screen” exploring adaptations of novels and short stories to the big screen, but the main highlight of the evening was of course the Bram Stoker Awards Banquet, sponsored by Samhain Publishing. I was live tweeting the results from the event, and overall things went smoothly.
For a full list of the winners, please click here.
In particular, the acceptance speeches for HWA’s Lifetime Achievement Award winners this year, Clive Barker and Robert R. McCammon were infused with emotion and very touching.
Funnyman Jeff Strand was as funny as ever, but Ramsey Campbell, when co-presenting for an award, stole the show a bit in a hilarious speech that saw him speaking to a future generation of 50 years from now, explaining what books used to be. This had everyone in stitches, and following that, there was an after-party in the Iberville Room, which many folks attended, as well.
Unfortunately I couldn’t attend programming on Day 4 (Sunday) due to scheduling issues, but there were panels on advice for new writers, estate planning, a workshop on writing narrative for video games, a discussion on how to write good dialogue, as well as small press publishing and the future of writing, capped off by a party in the Iberville Suite to close things off with Dead Dog Press.
Overall, it was a fantastic weekend filled to the brim with great panels, readings, kaffeeklatches, guest of honor interviews, a wonderful awards ceremony, great reactions from people attending the con, and everyone had a blast in New Orleans, including yours truly. There were great vibes in the air, and it was a not-to-be-missed event that set the bar very high for future World Horror Conventions. It’ll be a tough act to follow indeed.