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.”