Monday, August 13, 2007

Horrorfind 2007

Horrorfind 2007 was certainly a mixed bag, but still an overwhelmingly positive experience, thanks to the time I spent with friends.

First, my gal pal Nanci Kalanta was a blast as usual. From organizing a trip to Baltimore’s Inner Harbor on Saturday when we realized there was nothing to do at the con for five or six hours, to her “five minute bottle” contest Saturday night, a good time was had by anyone within her sphere of influence.

One of the highlights of the con is spending time with Erik and Laurie Alkenbrack, two of the nicest people I know. It’s always a pleasure to talk horror and politics with them. This year I was converted into an honorary Canadian by their gifts of socks, wristbands, a pin and hockey jersey all adorned with the maple leaf. On top of that, Laurie brought me homemade cookies and butter tarts that induced mouthgasms in everyone who sampled them. And it wouldn’t be Horrorfind without Laurie’s White Russians.

My reading on Friday was in doubt thanks to my voice problem, but on the drive up with my brother the voice got a little better. Two hours in the hotel bar prior to the reading seemed to patch up my vocal chords enough to get me through the story, though the presence of the legendary Tom Monteleone in the small audience nearly iced me. The whole thing was captured by Nanci’s video camera. She’s threatening to post it somewhere.

I shared my reading with Erik Tomblin, a fine writer who did a great job on a spooky little tale.

After the reading, I managed to sell the few copies of Deadneck Hootenanny I had brought with me.

Speaking of Tom, his reading followed mine and the man is simply the master. He read his story from Taverns of the Dead, totally enthralling the packed house. Amazingly, Tom can play broad and still maintain an intimate connection with every audience member. Anyone who plans to make any public appearance or reading should seek him out. He’s definitely the gold standard. He’s a helluva writer, too, but I figure you already know that.

I also ran into several fans of Pod of Horror.

I got a chance to speak with old pal Mark Seiber a couple of times. We share a common love of Doc Savage, horror and movies, though Mark is the more experienced cinefile. He has so much enthusiasm for the horror genre and its writers that a few minutes around gets me even more jazzed about the books and films.

Another fine reading was the hour split between Norman Prentiss and Bill “C-Word” Carl. Their two stories couldn’t have been more different, yet each was fascinating and the performances were top notch.

I know I’ll forget a few names but it was good to speak to Beth Massie, Steve Wedel, Marcy and G Italiano, Ron Dickie, Douglas F. Warrick, Tomo, Matt and Deena Warner, Beth Blue, KelliwithanI and her sister and...several more folks who would have been mentioned here if it weren’t for Laurie Alk’s White Russians.

Special thanks must be given to Tomo and Matt Warner, whose careful observation alerted me to a faulty zipper situation on Friday night. Thanks for looking, boys!

The trip to the Inner Harbor was a lot of fun. Baltimore’s Light Rail is a comfortable and inexpensive way to travel. A nightmare. Instead, we were able to ride in comfort. The Harbor was as busy as Disneyworld on the Fourth of July and it was pretty friggin’ hot. The place had changed so much since my last visit there, twelve or fifteen years ago. Still, it was good to get away from the hotel for a while.

Jimster made his usual Saturday night appearance in the hotel lobby to hand out free horror, SF and fantasy books. His generosity is enormous and he’s one of the greatest ambassadors the genre has. Thanks to Jim, I scored a copy of the western novel The Lawmen by Lee Davis Willoughby, a pen name for Richard Laymon. It was a book I never expected to find, and one I can’t wait to read. Jim also gave me Sherlock Holmes’s War of the Worlds by Manly Wade Wellman and Wade Wellman. I saw this book when it came out in 1975. At the time I only had the money for one paperback and I chose the latest Doc Savage reprint. When I went back to the store the next week with money in hand, the book was gone. I had forgotten about it until Jim dug it out of his box on Saturday night.

Jim actually had more books than any dealer at this year’s Horrorfind, which leads to the mixed bag” mentioned at the beginning. When I attended my first HF several years ago the balance between books and movies was nearly even. Every year since it had tilted toward the cinema end of the spectrum. I love movies, but I first came to Horrorfind for the authors and the publishers, so it’s a little sad to see so much less emphasis on the written word. I realize that the convention certainly makes far more money off the movie fan, but it would be nice to feel that horror fiction wasn’t the red-headed stepchild of the con. From the comments many of the attendees made, it wouldn’t surprise anyone to see the readings phased out in the next couple of years.

There were also fewer dealers in the big room. The rumor mill said it was due to an increase in table rates. It was certainly easier to get around in there this year. It took maybe fifteen minutes to check out everything in the room.

The best part of the con was seeing old friends, and that’s the way it should be. If I go next year, that will be the only reason. Still, it would be nice it the convention organizers reversed their current trend and made books once more an important part of Horrorfind.


Erik said...

Mark, we always look forward to spending time with you. (And your brother Dave). It just wouldn't be Horrorfind without you there, and when the rumour started that you were sick and wouldn't be coming we were SO disappointed. After all, we had all those plans to make you a Canadian. Had a great time.

Mark Justice said...

Thanks, Erik.

Please tell Laurie that Norma wants that butter tart recipe.

*I* want her to have that butter tart recipe. :^)

Spike B. Spazz said...

Haha. That bat creature your hanging with in the picture at the top is me.
You coming to this August's HFW?

Spike B. Spazz