Readercon 25

I attended Readercon 25 this past weekend, and as always I had a blast. The programming is outstanding — there’s always something happening that you’re likely to want to see — but for me the real attraction is always getting to see friends I usually only get see once or twice a year: John Langan, Paul Tremblay, Jack Haringa, F. Brett Cox, Chesya Burke, Michael Cisco (who lives in New York but whom I usually only see outside of it for some reason), Duncan Eagleson, Shawn Bagley, Brett Savory, Sandra Kasturi, and a host of others. This year my friends Lee Thomas and Nate Southard made the trip up from Austin, too. It was a rare treat seeing them.

I hosted my first-ever kaffeeklatsch on Friday afternoon. I was nervous. I don’t enjoy talking about myself or my work, so I figured it would just be a bunch of people sitting in silence for an hour, staring at each other. If anyone bothered coming at all. In the end, the reality was much nicer. We had a nice-sized group and the conversation flowed freely and organically. I wound up sharing an unexpected number of “Tales from Retail” about my time as a B&N department manager and an independent bookstore owner, and also related the “Unfortunate Tale of the Dying Is My Business Misprint,” which is much easier for me to handle in hindsight than it was at the time. I would call the kaffeeklatsch a success and would happily do one again next year.

My reading Friday night was much better attended than last year’s, despite being scheduled during prime dinner time again. I read an excerpt from Die and Stay Dead, the same excerpt I read at the Hi-Fi Bar earlier this year. I think I flubbed all the funny lines, but otherwise it was well received. (Apparently, there’s a photo of me reading on Jack Haringa’s Facebook page, but I can’t nab it because I’m not on Facebook.) I stuck around afterward for John Langan and Glen Hirshberg’s readings, which were phenomenal. Indeed, one of the highlights of the convention was finally getting to meet and interact with Glen, whom I found delightful and look forward to spending time with again soon.

The Shirley Jackson Awards on Sunday was another treat. You can see who won here. Big congrats to my dear friend Veronica Schanoes on winning for Burning Girls, and to my friends Robert Jackson Bennett, Nathan Ballingrud, and Joseph Pulver on their wins as well!

My one panel appearance came right after the awards with “Horror for Diverse Audiences.” Moderator John Langan and fellow panelists Gemma Files, Shira Lipkin, Jennifer Pelland (who is also a belly dancer!), and Shveta Thakrar were all amazing. I think I did all right. I mentioned during the panel that as a white, heterosexual, cisgender (a word I only just learned recently!) male, I am not among the marginalized or the ignored. People on book covers tend to look like me. Even if the people in the book don’t, people on book covers tend to look like me! I talked about how I have to remain ever-vigilant in my own writing not to make use of the troublesome or insulting racial and sexual tropes that I’ve absorbed from our society and pop culture over the course of forty-plus years. I used the example of a demonic entity that I would be tempted to give jet-black skin to show how evil it is, and how I have to be self-aware enough to not do that and instead choose some other way that would not leave a bad taste in the mouth of my black readers. It was definitely the kind of topic that could have filled two hours, not just one. I especially wish we could have talked a little more about how hard it can be to separate the artist from the art when the artist has disturbing opinions about Jews or blacks or what have you, and how much easier it is to do so when the artist is no longer alive. Lovecraft is a perfect example of this. It strikes me as a fruitful discussion to have someday.

The ChiZine gang had a table in the book shop and nearly sold out of copies of Chasing the Dragon, much to my delight (and my surprise — the book is almost four years old now!). Unfortunately, none of the booksellers had copies of Dying Is My Business, though one, surprisingly, did have several copies of Hunt at World’s End, which, though it’s a reprint, is technically my most recent release. And speaking of the book shop, I managed to leave Readercon with a mere six books this time and no need to take out a second mortgage. Go me!

It’s always bittersweet to leave Readercon. It’s hard to part with such good friends and good conversations. But I’ll be back next year. I consider Readercon a not-to-be-missed experience, and I’m always very happy to be a part of their programming.

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