Saturday, May 7, 2011

WHC 2011 Postmortem - Day Minus-One (Wednesday)

Well, I'm back. My weekend didn't exactly turn out like my previously-posted programming schedule, which I guess is good even though I planned on that jump from the roof going into the pool, which as we all know would have allowed me to survive unharmed, just kinda wet.

I'm doing this to serve two purposes - first, since I think some people who read this will be interested to hear about who I met, etc, and it's also my chance to write my thoughts about meeting them. Maybe I should email/facebook message them all personally but damn that's a lot of emailing to people who may or may not even remember me. I think for that I'll stick to the ones that I'm sure remember me because they either jointlocked me or got harangued by me or I bought their book. The second is that this con was a big one for me learning about conventions and how to work them as a writer. Before I left I futilely researched the internet for advice on what to do at a convention. But it was all the usual crap I'd read a million times before back when my mom bought me a subscription to Writer's Digest magazine for my 13th birthday. So even though some people might think I'm spilling secrets here, I figure between the fact that not a whole lotta people read this blog, and my philosophy that dumbasses are impervious to information and thus the wise man will always be one step ahead of them, forget that attitude. Besides, I think writing it down will help cement what I learned and I'll remember it better.

I know, maybe I'm talking a bit big with just one con under my belt as a "pro" and only a couple as an amateur. But after talking with people, listening and observing I came to the conclusion that what I learned at WHC is generally applicable to most conventions.

1. Add between one to one and a half extra days to your planned con schedule. This is not to allow for travel time. Remember that this is the tips you can't find anywhere else, you should already know it's a bad idea to arrive at the con hotel right off the road. No, I'm talking about the actual official con schedule. Most cons run Friday through Sunday. World Horror, I guess because they're in a higher weight class, was officially Thursday through Sunday. BUT the action actually got started Wednesday night - and ran all the way through until the "Dead Dog Party" at 1700 on Sunday evening! Maybe this is just because it was the World Horror Con, and every con is different. This is why I say between one and one and a half. I'd say for most cons, since they tend to be fan cons, you can figure something will be going on the night before but probably not anything Sunday evening.

Most cons kick off a day earlier as many people arrive at the con hotel early to be sure they are settled and ready to go for the con instead of rushing to shower and eat something before heading right out. So you can generally be sure that there will be some Thursday night action, either hotel parties or just at the hotel bar. The crowd is not usually as big but tends to feature the "regulars", the pros, those who know what is up and generally know each other as well. It can get a little clique-y but generally you can hang. Interestingly sometimes you will catch people off guard as they figure that the day before is the day before all the rubes show up.

Wednesday night was actually my only chance to catch the famous mass-market author - ah, I can't say it. Maybe he doesn't really think that about the rubes. But he's not really the type, it seems, who likes to get out and meet people. He had his whole crew that he hung out with and that was about it. You almost never saw him at parties or anywhere. All I know is this guy was harder to find than the mysterious white buffalo. In fact I think I will just refer to him at White Buffalo for a while, that's pretty funny to me.

Anyway, if I'd have known that this was my one shot at the White Buffalo's powerful medicine maybe I would've gone for it. But on Day -1 I was pretty shaky, convinced that I couldn't do it. I went down to the lobby just to check and see if there was any action. On my way out of the elevator I held the door for Joe Hill as he went up to his room to I guess get to bed early, he seemed pretty tired and it was only 2200. Just by the way, I think he shoulda never told anyone about his dad. But then I guess it would've been impossible to hide forever. It took some dude months of careful investigation to prove that Richard Bachman was really Stephen King, these days it probably would've taken an afternoon.

Moving forward through the lobby, I saw a huge crowd of people at the bar, people I recognized even, and I started having palpitations. I even had a minute where I had some kinda hysterical blindness. I'm not kidding. You know in pulps or dramatic books, not just old ones, even today, how sometimes people will talk about how their "vision swam" or some other such thing to indicate that momentarily they are so freaked out they literally cannot fucking see anything? Yeah, that happened to me. For just a second I thought I had a stroke.

I ain't proud but I thought maybe if I talked a little bit about what I went through it might help some other people. I don't know how much, since people telling me rational shit never helps me. Kind of like when I tell my wife that most spiders are totally harmless, or that bats actually want to avoid getting tangled in your hair, she never believes me.

But just in case...

2. Really, people are just folks. This isn't high school anymore. Even if you make a huge ass of yourself - as I did a couple of times - people will generally give you a pass. It helps if you have some tics, then they'll take pity on you and think you have some kind of crippling neurological disorder like Tourette's or Cerebral Palsy. I myself had an occasional stutter that I've never had before for the first two days. Like Porky Pig, where I would be like "a-beh, a-beh, a-beh" and have to calm myself down and start over. That shit has never happened to me before, but I'm glad it did. When I was a kid and got really nervous, I would usually wise off, and I'm talking unfiltered hardcore shit that you never say to anyone, just the first thing that would pop into my head. Or sometimes I would do crazy shit, like try to hit people. No one ever believed me that I didn't mean to do it. I just did. So I'm glad that now people just think I forgot to take my Seraquil or something instead of thinking I was a total psycho like they must've used to. Thank god I grew up in the 80s before anyone ever heard of Ritalin.

I guess the point is that there is no reason to be terrified talking to people, because usually what happens will not be a life-defining experience in either a good or bad way, and even if they don't like you, you will probably not become their mortal enemy. Unless you randomly slap them or something. As I get older I find I'm getting better at this kind of thing so I think next con I will not need anyone to come to my rescue and deliberately talk to me as a way of helping out an obviously deeply mentally crippled man. We'll see. Anyway, I choked and missed my shot at the White Buffalo, who probably would've just blown me off. And that wouldn't have been great, but not so bad.

I keep wanting to name-drop people I met on here and not being sure about it. These blog entries get pretty crazy and maybe I make the other people in my world too much like characters instead of real people. I don't know how they'd take it. That and as I've told you I have kind of a thing about accidentally saying stuff that will offend people to the point that they'd do the Osama dance if they found out you were dead. So for now I will keep up my thing of not using names until I've had a bit to think about it. Anyway, the stories vary, but somehow a writer that I will call The Most Interesting Writer in the World, or just Mr. World for short, discovered that we had a mutual friend and proceeded to introduce me to a bunch of people. It turned out that he had a book out from my publisher and we ran into each other a lot throughout the con. He had been hanging out with the White Buffalo earlier and this is what I mean by just missing that majestic creature. Anyway I was kind of an ass to Mr. World at first as I opened with my "one question" theory of being interesting to people who get asked questions a lot ...

3. Come up with one good question that no one has thought to ask about something that really interests you and the person you're talking to. This strategy worked great for me most of the time, though my pressing Mr. World on the one part of his book that I didn't like seemed to tick him off a bit. But like most men of action, or at least retired men of action, he brushed it off considering even if I hadn't been drunk he could've twisted me into a pretzel. Hey, sorry, I love to hear people talk about how much they like my book, too, but I figure it has to get old at some point (not for me, yet, it's a goal of mine though). I figure it's more interesting to ask about why they made certain choices and even challenge them a bit on why they did this or that. I think it's also a great way to determine if the person you're talking to is an asshole who's not worth your time. But if you want to avoid this kind of thing you can just ask writers about their personal interests or other things. If you want to be a pro you have to be observant, I think, and I like to be the guy that notices things and asks about them even if they seem trivial just because people get sick of answering the same questions all the time.

Anyway, we're hanging out there and I got a chance to meet ... oh fuck it. I can't keep it up with the fake names. Sorry, it's just goddamn taxing and stupid because really I'm not saying anything here that no one will appreciate. Except White Buffalo, maybe. I'll stick with that one. If I can get that to be that guy's unofficial nickname I will deserve a goddamn bronze plaque somewhere. Anyway I met Rose O'Keefe and Carlton Mellick III (I kept wanting to call him "Trip" but figured he might hit me and he is a largish man), thanks to Weston Oche's introduction (he's the Most Interesting Writer in the World, at least of those I've met so far). Rose is the publisher of Eraserhead Press and a real nice girl and excellent hostess. Mellick, of course should probably be considered the Asimov of the young "bizarro" genre, not least because of his sideburns. I told her I have been getting into bizarro in a big way and so far had really enjoyed some of it and she told me that Andersen Prunty had decided to come to the con at the last minute. I marked out like she'd told me the Macho Man had just entered the building by dropkicking "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan through the front doors. Sure, the drinks had something to do with it but it was such a surprise and I've enjoyed Prunty's books so much and he seems like such a mensch on the Internet I was just excited to meet him. So we went upstairs to the Eraserhead party.

There I got to meet Jeff Burk, Cameron Pierce, Kevin Donihe, Prunty of course, and a bunch of other people that my wife would remember better than I could. I'm not great at remembering people I've met anyway and really I only remember all the above names because I saw them so much over the weekend. Looking back on it I'm not sure what they thought of me but I figure if they didn't 86 me I was at least considered harmless if not cool. In this as in many other things I rely on my wife for a lot of help to the point where I'm not sure I could do a con solo. Maybe in a few years but I have my doubts.

The rest of the night passed uneventfully as I enjoyed a great party and talking with many people. I couldn't be relied upon to remember everything we talked about, not without prompting at least, but it was still pretty good. I rolled back to my room with a sailor's gait, walking around the inside balcony of the hotel's hacienda-style courtyard, smoking and wanting to sing an old drinking song at the top of my lungs ("Show Me the Way to Go Home" is one of the few I know some words to, sadly). I didn't, of course, being far too conscientious sometimes compared to the legendary raconteur I am in my own mind if not the minds of my fans.

And that was Wednesday night. Stay tuned for more blog entries for the succeeding days and you might want to mark your damn calendar as this thing looks like it may end up longer than the Divine Comedy. But, you know, actually ha-ha funny, not ironically considering the fate of man funny.

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