Sunday, July 26, 2009

HORRORFIND (horror convention report) 2002

(I'm sure this was posted somewhere on the net but I can't find it, so here it is from the biography of an invented persona THE LIFE AND DEATH OF HERTZAN CHIMERA)

Here’s a demonstration of my dissatisfaction with the horror scene, in fact genre writing in general, as illustrated by my report of the Horrorfind2002 Convention, in Baltimore, USA. The report was done in the third person, intriguing in itself:

Hertzan Chimera sees the bustling queues as his steaming Super Shuttle pulls up at the BWI Airport Marriot just outside of Baltimore, in Lecter country. They are a colourful bunch, dressed in the multi-flavoured uniform of horror-conformity. All sorts of interpretations of the standard black T-shirt theme from the pasty-faced goths to the shiny faced rednecks and everything in between. These are the crazy-painted students, the devoted family units, the long-hours-patiently-waiting-in-line autograph-hunting freaks of cinematic and literary horror.

It is 7pm on Friday the 23rd of August, 2002. A 7½ hour flight London to Washington DC is followed by a “very interesting” 35 mile snaking trek up to Baltimore which took three hours due to the diverse Door To Door locations of the passengers of the Super Shuttle and rush-hour congestion on the I-95 headed north. Hertzan Chimera checks into his hotel room, freshens up after the journey and heads to the jam-packed convention area that has just opened for the first night of fun.

Horrorfind is a three day convention of all things horror, organised by Brian Keene and Mike Roden (owner of the Horrorfind website), compiler of the Jobs In Hell newsletter, head honcho of the Washington Chapter of the HWA and horror author in his own right (like where does this human dynamo get all this time?). Structurally, the convention is split into the three staple foodstuffs; writers, movies and superstars. Linda Blair is there signing autographs, as is ‘Pinhead’ Doug Bradley, Tom Savini and a rocking raft of other stars, major and minor. At the Fancy Dress Competition late on Saturday night crammed with a reputed 5,000 horror fans, Bruce Campbell holds centre stage with all the theatrical swagger of an old circus master of years gone by.

The dealer room is massive, in it are all the usual horror vendors; the T-shirt sellers; the banned or foreign import video & dvd peddlers; well respected horror publishers like amazing CEMETARY DANCE and ravenous slaverdogs like GAUNTLET PRESS, MEDIUM RARE BOOKS and NECRO PUBLICATIONS; living legends like Edward Lee and Jack Ketchum and the soon-to-be-ousted president of the HWA (horror writers association) David Niall Wilson and the soon-to-be-elected president of the HWA Joe Nassise; the comic artists; the prosthetic fx makers; the B-movie archivists; the jewellery makers, the antique sword sellers; the hills have eyes; even a Black Sabbath tribute band have a stall, but that’s already way too much publicity for them.

Hertzan Chimera isn’t too interested in the horror movie convention side of things – who wants to see a load of old movies? But it is a well attended slice of the horror pie and a worthy addition for the sheer number of delighted horror fans it serviced. And Keene ends up in a fight outside one of the viewings but this reporter is too busy schmoozing like a whoooooooore (well done for losing the photos, Kodak) to be in all places at all times.

Most of Hertzan Chimera’s time at the show is spent listening to the many and varied author readings the convention has to offer. There is a horror fiction reading on the hour almost every hour. It is clear that there are many interpretations of HORROR out there in the market from the slightly spooky to the downright grotesque and, to tell you the truth, in the majority of cases, this listener is bored, unshocked, let down by what he hears. There are truly not many writers there thinking outside the little patented ‘horror’ box. Be it romance, erotica or, yes, even horror it is all too evident that most writers are just filling in the blanks for their agents and publishers. No one is really trying to ‘horrify’ anyone. You wonder if they even enjoy what they write, it is so lack lustre at times.

But as with all sewer stained beaches, there are one or two trinkets glimmering in the dung. Jack Ketchum reading a quite romantic cancer piece with elegant authority. This after Wrath James White literally stuns the audience into nervous fits of laughter, raucous roars of disgust and crazed applause with his two short offerings to the God of the psycho-sexual debauch. John Turi, Weston Ochse and David Whitman deliver a corkin’ broadcast from Redneck Radio – their pseudo play is a riot and it receives by far the best (ie loudest and most raucous) response of all the readings. Gerard Houarner reads a thumping jazzy syncopated BEAT style of story from his DEAD CAT series and this reporter is on his feet applauding the great storyteller when he is released from the thrall. Worthy of mention was Harry Shannon’s reading – a man is knocked over and left on the bonnet of his car to die as his female murderer explains why she can’t possibly help him. Stunning. Mark McLaughlin (always a joy to hear) reads out among his poems a collaboration with this reporter published in Delirium Magazine a year or two ago, blushes for UKboy having only recently taken his seat at the front and wasn’t even aware of Mark’s intended reading list.

In the reading room, there are a couple of panels THE FUTURE OF HORROR and SEX HORROR (who gives a fuck, could have been the acerbic subtitle). Again and again, Hertzan Chimera returns to the allure of a writer who is gonna certainly be a sex-horror superstar in the very near future – Wrath James White. There is a tangible musk of female arousal in the air whenever Wrath is present at either reading or panel or book signing. He is charming and vile, all with a super-confident smile.

The convention is due to close round about 5pm on Sunday but Hertzan Chimera is outta there before 2pm to catch his flight home. Horrorfind was about three times the size of last year’s convention and, as Brian Keene said in the bar late on Saturday night, in a scene reminiscent of the blood-dripping sun-refracting gas-canister-laden threat of Jaws, “We’re gonna need a bigger hotel for next year.”


Saturday, February 07, 2009


"Am I a dog that you come against me with sticks?"

In the classic Biblical tale, shepherd David’s country is in a desperate battle against the great armies of the Philistines. King Saul’s men (among them David’s brothers) are impotent in the face of this enemy. Goliath stalks to the cliff of the hill upon which the Philistine armies are camped and calls across the valley to the hill where King Saul's army are staying.

Goliath yells, "Choose a man from among you to come fight me. If he can kill me the Philistines will be your servants. If I kill him all of you will become servants of the Philistines."

This thundering giant of a man who is 9 and 3/4 feet tall strikes fear into the hearts of King Saul's soldiers. Everyone is terrified of fighting this formidable giant.

Since no other soldier seems willing to fight the giant Goliath, King Saul allows David to fight the giant. King Saul takes off his heavy iron coat and helmet and dresses David in them. But the armor are too heavy for David. He takes off the armor and carries with him only his sling. He stoops at a brook in the valley and gathers five smooth brookstones, placing them in his shepherd's pouch.

The giant Goliath curses David by his heathen gods and shouts, "Am I a dog that you come against me with sticks?"

Breathing a quick prayer David places one of the smooth stones in his sling, draws back his hand and slings the stone quickly straight into the forehead of the giant, dinting his brow deeply. The rest is history.

You can imagine that Goliath got where he was because those around him who could have prevented his pathetic political game of bullying and humiliation didn’t have the balls to stand up to him and say, “No, Goliath. Enough is enough. This is getting silly.” Brian Keene, a Bram Stoker Award winner for his first novel THE RISING and the Horrorfind’s fiction editor has a similar shallow gang of hangers on around him. He has a forthcoming book due from mass market publisher Bantam/Dell but God only knows what they’d do if they saw how he treats his peers on his Hailsaten blog and public forums like Shocklines, Horrorworld and Message Board of the Damned. You’d imagine they’d drop such an unprofessional loser like a stone.

Now Keene’s not the brightest card in the pack. Anyone who disagrees with him is in for a rough ride as Keene is the master at turning a different opinion into a personal attack. He is on the look-out for it every where, like a true paranoiac he finds enemies even among those he sucks up to. He’s a self-confessed loudmouth and he’s taken a bully-boy pop at one or two of his peers in the horror small press; writers and editors like:

writer Nancy A Collins
editor Paula Gurun
writer McClellan Falk
writer Alex Severin
writer Jeff Vandermeer
writer Nickolaus Pacione
writer Nicholas Tillemans
writer Ron Horsely

That last victim of Keene’s verbally abusive repertoire, fellow American Ron Horsely, really kicks back like a mule and it’s sorta no fun watching them slug it out because Ron is so right; Keene’s a dick and nothing can save him from his Hand-made Hell of Dickness. Horsely’s denunciation on his Midnighter’sClub blog or on forums that Keene lurks on just comes across too easily, there’s no lingering agony.

Far more fun (painful) to watch, in my humble opinion, is the ongoing war of words between Keene and writer Hertzan Chimera. It’s a cheap old side-show attraction that’s been playing itself out for the last couple of years now on the forums, so let’s give this dodgy saga fair dues and set it like one of those grossly unbalanced funfair boxing matches. Let me just get sweated up and half drunk so I can deliver this with the right amount of spitting slur:

In the red corner, published by mass market wannabes Delirium and Leisure and representing the standard mid-west diet of genre horror fiction, our Goliath hails from Pennsylvania in the American heartland. A good six-footer whose annual HORRORFIND convention is the most popular venue on the horror calendar.
Brian Keene is gifted with a big chin and a wicked temper.

In the green corner, published by small press publishers like Double Dragon Press, Massacre Publishing and Cyber Pulp and representing the out-of-this-world horrors of the surreal our David hails from Oxford across the Atlantic. A slight, bespectacled man who runs the HORROR QUARTERLY (nee Terror Tales) website.
Hertzan Chimera has a big nose and a taste for blood.

Keene at one time willingly published Chimera on his Horrorfind fiction website and gave this glowing report of Chimera, Severin & Wrath’s co-written book BROKEN (my copy is signed by Wrath):

"BROKEN broke me! Each story is like a shot to the head, and White, Severin, and Chimera deliver a full clip. You'll need a shower and perhaps several years of therapy after reading this one." Brian Keene.

Then something clicked in Keene’s brain and suddenly Chimera writes utter shit, no one should ever bother reading one of his books, ever again. Chimera, who should have ignored this attack and just got on with his writing, will goad the volatile Keene at every public opportunity – picture the wicked little David loading another smooth brookstone into his shepherd’s sling ready to counter the slavering tirade of the imposing Goliath.

There was one classic that instantly springs to mind from the Spring of this year. Keene got his feathers all fluffed up that a story he’d co-written with a gang of other writers ‘before he was famous’ was being published in a book ‘without his permission’. So, Keene comes on like a bull in a China shop on the forum saying what had happened and how angry he was and how ‘heads were gonna roll’. Chimera posts ‘heads won’t roll, just go away and deal with it professionally and come back and tell us how it went’. Keene went ballistic and even got his writing buddies to back him up in his pathetic tantrum. I’m sure I remember Keene’s literary agent turning up on the forum at one point and leaving about a page and a half of diarrhea on the relevant thread.

They both clearly have merits as writers in their own specific field, this isn’t a question of whether I’d buy a book from either of them. Keene’s mass market novels are filled with seat-of-the-pants zombie action. Chimera’s avant garde books are filled with mind-warping scenes of sexual butchery. But as a true Odd Couple their not-so-private display of insult and counter insult puts the likes of even the legendary Lemmon and Matthau to shame. As to where this ties in to the Goliath/David legend only time will tell if the Goliath falls or David is crushed.

One would hope their wretched soap of mutual hatred would continue forever because it makes for recommended reading. It’s just such a pathetic situation you gotta love it for all the wrong reasons. In conclusion it’s a brilliant farce from a quaint dancing duet of dribbling drama queens.