Monday, April 20, 2009

Fangoria Weekend of Horrors 2009

(Sorry for the picture quality. Junky camera.)

Biggest lesson learned at the convention: if you're going to go to a seminar by an artist who has worked in a variety of media, don't do it in LA. The bulk of the questions from the audience will be about breaking into the industry. That's totally fine, everyone has hoop dreams, but the seminar was titled writing horror.

I keep alluding to this for I am the lord of allusions, but Clive Barker is one of my heroes. I love his versatility, I love the beauty of his prose, and I love how friendly and accessible he is to his fans. When I heard he was hosting a panel for aspiring horror writers, I booked my seminar ticket and flight immediately. It wasn't the urbane, tea-sipping conversation on the finer points of literature. It was still worth every cent I spent.

The seminar took place in a small, cheerless gray room. The Fangoria movie prop auction was going on next door, and we kept hearing amplified auctioneers and the cheering of crowds through the wall. Clive's voice was strained and raspy, even through the microphone, so he invited us to gather around him. It made for a really nice intimate conversation.

At one point in the seminar, the topic of working in television came up, specifically the limitations a creative person suffers when he's surrounded by 20 people telling him he's wrong. The conversation swung to the shows Heroes and Lost. I mentioned that the problem with the shows is that they mistake poor story control for deliberate enigma. He smiled and asked me to repeat it into his microphone, and continued on the topic using my humble contribution. It was definitely a high point. I got to ask my two questions, I got a bunch of memorable quotes, and I left feeling inspired and energized. It was an incredible experience.

It's a good thing that I had that, because there honestly wasn't a whole lot to do.

I've been to dozens of conventions in my life. I go to four or five a year. They're always a blast, but the ones I tend to go to are either pop culture shows with large crowds and tons of events (Wondercon, San Diego Comic Con) or gaming conventions (Kublacon) where there's always a pick-up game going on somewhere. Here, the panels I cared about were few and far between, I didn't necessarily feel like spending the con in the movie room, and one can only wander through the dealer room so many times. It probably didn't help that the show was held at the LA Convention Center. The sheer size of the place dwarfed the convention, so you always felt like it was a tiny show.

I did get to meet a ton of awesome people. Most of you are reading this now, so give me a shout out. I tried tracking down fellow horror blogger Dragonmanes but no one in the booths I haunted knew who he was. Sorry, brother.

Anyway, there was a big push by Anchor Bay for their upcoming slasher flick Laid To Rest, the 20th anniversary box set release of Hellraiser, and an upcoming movie by director Paul Solet called Grace. The idea, on first pass, could wander into the blighted land of the distasteful, but the stuff I've seen was remarkably well-shot and engaging. I'm cautiously optimistic this one.

The dealer room was nice enough, but I didn't get nearly the amount of schwag I planned on coming home with. There were tons of generic goth-y type spooky merch and endless variations on the witty-zombie tee-shirt thing, both items I'm kinda sick of. The one piece of memorabilia I desperately wanted to pick up was a Lament Configuration. I figured this wouldn't be a challenge, considering the Hellraiser 20th Anniversary panel was going on, but none of the vendors had one. Come on, guys. This was a no-brainer.

The dealer room's stuff also tended to emphasize the more extreme end of the horror spectrum, where suspense and subtlety takes a backseat to vomit and ropes of intestines uncurling from a wound. I see stuff like that and sometimes I wonder just how well I actually fit in with the horror community. When it comes to my friends and the people I work with, I come off like the Marquis De Sade, but I read stuff like this and I feel positively genteel and dainty. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for a good mischievous cackle, but ugly for ugly's sake quickly becomes unpleasant. If I want to raise my falutin' high, I'd say I'm keen on the macabre and not the grotesque.

Anyway, burnout aside, I got a chance to meet writers, bloggers, editors, actors, directors, documentarians, and other people I promised to keep in contact with. For those of you reading this and wondering why I haven't written to you, I apologize. I work for Major Video Game Publisher and their Big New Game is running up to an important deadline. I have to do all my blogging in times that aren't as readily available these days. Give me a weekend and I'll get back to all of y'alls.

One of the highlights of the convention was the horror website panel, where representatives from Dread Central, Arrow in the Head, FearNet, Fangoria, and other sites all sat down for a round table discussions on the ins and outs of internet horror journalism. Aside from being a hilariously inspiring, martini-soaked chat about horror fandom, the panel taught me a lesson worth a grand to learn: don't get too close to your subject matter.

The nice thing about being a geek is that you have access to your idols, and that's doubly true in the horror world. If you like an author or an actor or a director you will likely have an opportunity to meet them face-to-face at a convention. On one hand it's tremendously inspirational, but it can also be a burden when you're trying to evaluate the merit of a new genre work. The line between creator and audience is very thin in horror and a lot of the people on the panel spoke of how difficult it was to write fair reviews against people they came to regard as friends.

I'm not a big fan of internet forum negativity. Even when I don't like a work, I recognize the effort and enthusiasm it took to produce it. I feel artists should be encouraged and, with a few exceptions, I do my best not to bully or trash a person's work. However, I need to be honest about my opinions and perceptions and I can't do that if I have any kind of relationship with the creators of the work. I met a bunch of people at the con who had projects coming out. I got to hang out with them and absorb their enthusiasm by osmosis. Do you think I want to then go and write a bad review?

People go to the major blogs for scoops on upcoming projects, and publicists don't like giving exclusives to people who trash their work. I'm not bloody-disgusting. I don't have access to publicists and studio marketing reps. Alls I have is my love, my fished-from-the-internet, and my little typey-typey words. I'll whip those ingredients into a tasty stew if you're willing to give my cooking a try.

Anyway, it was a damn fun con. I got some other neat stories, like paying for Doug Bradley and Ashley Lawrence's breakfast, the surreal experience of arriving in the middle of a Britney Spears show, standing in the entry line behind deceased serial killer Ed Gein, winning a Masters of Horror director chair, seeing TCM's Marilyn Burns and TCM2's Caroline Williams having a private moment long after the show ended, watching Clive Barker and Ashley Williams pretend to fall asleep at the Hellraiser panel as Doug Bradley talked at length about his upcoming projects. Lotta good stuff there, but this has already run waaaaaay too long. As for me, I've got some other good stuff in the works coming up. Thank you for reading my humble efforts. You guys remind me my life ain't just about going to work.

Oh, also, if you decide you're going to the convention and you're planning on getting the fancy schmancy gold pass in order to get into the Vampire Ball, don't bother. The stars were only there for a few minutes, I was one of four people in costume, and they closed the private room early and everyone migrated to the adjacent bar that anyone could get into. If it wasn't for the pleasantly strong whiskey sours and the lovely company, I'd have had half a mind to complain.


Carl (ILHM) said...

I blame the convention center, cant wait til they bring it back to a hotel next year. I was busy rushing upstairs, down, in, out, all over the place trying to meet everyone and cruise the vendors room but I definitely kept an eye out the entire time. Mental note: next year, I need to remember to give out my cell number lol..

Glad to hear you had an awesome time man, still jealous about the Barker seminar!

Penh said...

"Urbane"! You used my synonym!!

Creature said...

Penh: "Urbane" is one of my favorites. I'll give it back to you, but you should know I kept it warm.

Carl: I had a great time. The seminar was totally rad, even factoring in the off-topicness of the whole thing. If I felt like dragging my post ad infinitum, I would have said that I felt the convention was kinda mismanaged. There were too many volunteers and not enough professionals so no one could give me accurate information, events were never on time, equipment seldom worked correctly, and the Byzantinian rules around celebrity interaction got quickly irritating.

I don't want to trash the company that ran the con. I had serious problems with a cash transaction and they helped me out in a professional manner, but they definitely needed more control on the information.