Monday, October 29, 2007

Of Zombies and Acceptance Letters

I had an interesting time this past weekend. What I had built up in my mind as being a pretty mediocre afternoon actually turned out to be a lot of fun, and I met some very nice authors as well.

We were supposed to leave for Zombie Fest 2007 early on Saturday afternoon, shortly after we finished our walk and got ready. Unfortunately, we ended up spending an hour or so rearranging our plans, waiting for people who ultimately went AWOL and generally bitching and moping around the house. By the time we were ready to pick up our friends who weren’t vanishing on us, it was already 2:30 and, by that point, the $15 price of admission was too high for me to justify. Or at least it was starting to become that way. I have a tendency to get anxious if I stray from an itinerary too much, and we had already missed the first two authors’ groups that were doing readings and Q&A sessions at the convention. I was thoroughly disgusted. Still, I couldn’t just back out and let everyone else down so I resigned myself to spending way too much money for both my and Eric’s admission.

It was almost 4:00 by the time we got a quick dinner and made it to the convention, and I saw a lot of vendors set up, showcasing everything from new horror-themed board games to DVD-Rs of old sleaze films. Score. I managed to pick up Ringu: Kanzen-Ban (the original Ringu made-for-TV movie) sans subtitles, a bunch of older horror fiction and pop culture magazines and some other odds and ends without breaking the bank. Kim and Daniel, the couple Eric and I brought with us (who are wonderfully nuts) got their faces painted and wandered around talking to all the zombie movie actors.

Eric and I spent a lot of time just browsing the booths, talking to the “zombie killer” survivalists and giggling over the bootlegs of Turkish Star Wars. There were a few publishers present, including Raw Dog Screaming Press, but aside from asking them if I could take some of their brochures and whatnot I was too shy to talk to them. That’s my theme for cons, actually; go somewhere you have a great deal of interest in and then refuse to talk because you’re too self-conscious. I really need to shake off that habit, it’s fairly annoying and isn’t helpful to me at all.

I ended up talking with Edward Holsclaw II, one of the three authors left for the 6:00 reading and Q&A. I felt a bit shy still, but I tried to carry the conversation as best I could. It’s nice to get to talk to people a bit more successful than I, to get a picture of where I could be in a few years if I keep my momentum up. I think it would be pretty awesome to have a table at a convention, but it looks like it’s hard work as well.

Eventually Eric and I sat down and watched a bit of Night of the Living Dead and waited for the reading to start. I sucked on lollipops our friends over at the Kawaii Gifts table gave us as Halloween treats and read old issues of Giant Robot and Black October while Eric sat in front of me, watching the movie and trying to ignore me kicking the back of his seat every twenty to thirty seconds.

After a brief announcement the readings started. First off was Kim Paffenrath with a passage from his new novel, a sequel to his zombie tale Dying to Live. In it, a young girl living in a survivors’ encampment assists her mother in a birth that goes bad. I was touched by how raw and emotional it was and how well a male author captured three women interacting during a crisis. Once NaNo is over I’d like to pick up Dying to Live.

Second was Gary Braunbeck with his Stoker-winning short story We Now Pause for Station Identification. In brief, this is a story about a man working as a disc jockey hiding in his booth while the dead rise and return to their old lives, only to sprout vines and root themselves to the spot. This one blew me away, not only for its content but its presentation. It was like listening to an audio book live, and a quick sideways glance confirmed Eric’s attention was snagged as well. Hearing impairment be damned, he was rapt. He even wanted the audio CD at the end of the night, but neither of us had cash on hand and the ATM at the ExpoMart charges extra for withdrawals. I’d already spent enough, as well.

Coming in last was the author I’d already spoken with briefly, Edward Holsclaw II. He first read a short passage from his novel Origins: Unknown where his main character, a man searching for his family after a biological catastrophe sweeps the planet, tries to cross the country while escorting a little orphaned girl. He stops for supplies at a convenience store and finds a dead pregnant woman has given birth to a zombie child, and he now has to sadly dispatch with it. After this he read a short Native American-themed monster story from his short fiction collection Twist of Fate.

Afterwards came the Q&A, and I could feel Eric glancing over at me, nudging my leg and squeezing my hand. The only problem was that I didn’t come to the convention with any burning questions to ask, but sitting there I felt there were a few things I could learn from them with the brief time I had left before the night was over. So, due to his urging, I asked about the state of small press horror publishers compared to what it was ten years ago, and they basically told me that the publishers that vanished were short-lived to begin with. The older magazines are still around, but unfortunately (in my eyes anyway) they’re much harder to get into because of the fierce competition. Some of these magazines receive 400 unsolicited manuscripts a month, which is somewhat intimidating to me.

After my question I noticed Eric going for the microphone and I cringed a bit. He’s said some somewhat embarrassing things in public before, and while he hasn’t done anything like that recently I still have trouble getting it out of my mind. I should really give him a lot more credit than I do, because he routinely catches me off guard with questions, comments and intelligent discussions I should probably expect from him but don’t. Tonight was one of those times, and he asked them if they thought that digital or otherwise non-written mediums of horror could be considered art, and cited a recent email discussion between Roger Ebert and Clive Barker. I was pleasantly surprised by him, and a little proud. The general consensus was ‘no,’ by the way, and I’m surprised Eric wasn’t offended by that. As we left he went off to talk to Mr. Braunbeck about horror games and his story and other things, and I wandered off to find Dan and Kim. I was thoroughly beat, from the long exercise walk and the convention itself, and after a quick trip to Best Buy I went to bed. Eric went with Dan to a Halo party and apparently got thrashed. He was still delighted to go, and was practically beaming as he woke me up on his return.

The best thing about the day, however, was that I got an email from Terry D. Sheerer, the editor of Horrotica, an online horror fiction digest. I’d submitted The Woman Without to them a few weeks ago, and once they’ve done a small amount of formatting and editing they’d like to publish it. It won’t be until the issue after next, in the January-February 2008 edition. Despite being non-paying and online, this is still a big victory for me. I have one more publication under my belt, which will plump up my credentials a bit. And this story has deserved a home for years.

I don’t think I could have asked for a better weekend, really. Now I’ve got to put my nose to the grindstone, cleaning the house and outlining my NaNo plot. I’d like everything to be clean and organized before I begin, and there’s only three days left.

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