This last weekend I was in Austin, Texas for the World Horror Convention. I arrived on Wednesday, relishing the heat after our record cold April, and was picked up by Portland author Camille Alexa, former resident of Austin. We were meeting up with Boyd Harris, publisher of Cutting Block Press and one of the committee members for the convention. Since Camille was off to her own meetings Boyd pretty much did two round trips from the hotel to the restaurant to get fourteen people together for dinner.
Now Texas is the land of tequila and barbecue; oh and Tex Mex so we ate at Polvos, a Mexican restaurant, with pitchers of tangy Margaritas. There were many people including Bailey Hunter, of the retired Dark Recesses magazine and cover artist for some (maybe all) of the Cutting Block covers, R.J. Cavender, editor with Cutting Block; Brett Savory and Sandra Kasturi of Chizine Publications and many other people. I ate camerons diablos, or spicy prawns. I would say it was pretty good but a couple of my prawns were off and with such a crowd I couldn’t get the waiter. After a seafood poisoning experience in Baltimore at a World Fantasy Con I decided not to eat the suspicious prawn. The salad that Camille had was pretty bland and unimaginative. She had to ask for salad dressing; what kind of salad has no dressing. That’s just rabbit food.
Afterward, many people went back to the hotel but Boyd dropped Bailey, Rena and me off at an Irish looking pub called Il Fado. I felt like I was in Lord of the Rings with its organic, meandering interior, polished trees crawling up the walls to the ceiling and various Viking art and plaques. Boyd and R.J. joined us after the two trips for dropping people off. By the time we got back to Boyd’s to sleep that night, and more talking it was about 4am, a typical start to a convention.
The next day we went off to the Crown and Anchor for lunch. In Austin, whose logo is “Keep Austin Weird” food and well-drinks can be very cheap with beer and hard alcohol only costing around $3. Wines are more on the average of $6-$8. Crown and Anchors food was pub food. My chicken sandwich was standard fare. Then we hit the Doubletree Austin, a nice and airy hotel with a central courtyard consisting of trees and fountains an a swimming pool on the second floor.
I missed the opening ceremonies, as I always seem to do and ended up spending most of the time in the bar, drinking and chatting with people. Friend and past editor (of a story of mine) Claude Lalumiere, an excellent writer, also met up with us. We walked down the street (Austin has a ring road/highway that encircles the downtown and it’s busy) to a little Japanese restaurant. I ate light since I’d had a late lunch. Friday truly began the convention.
I began with a pitch workshop. This is something unique to any con I’ve attended. Kudos to the WHC folks and Rhodi Hawk for putting together the workshop, and letting us practice how we would pitch our novels to agents or editors. I had to really work mine out as it’s a complex storyline so this truly helped. In the afternoon I interviewed Brett Savory and Sandra Kasturi, editors and owners of Chizine Publications. The hour-long interview covered Brett and Sandra’s writing careers and reasons for getting into dark fiction, as well as publishing. When I asked Brett, why dark fiction, his answer was “Why am I bald?” It’s that inherent to him. Sandra read a piece of Brett’s work and two of her poems, then we talked about the evolution of the magazine, the style of printing they do as well as where CZP is going and the bumps along the way. I hope to publish the full interview at some point in the near future.
After that I checked out the dealers’ room. Dark fiction has a lot of independent presses and there were publishers from the US, Canada and Britain. I might be biased since I edit for Chizine but by far the covers on CZP books are more imaginative and the best compared to the others. Edge Publications is getting better covers too. There are far too many red, bloody, skull-covered books in horror writing. CZP goes farther with great design and concepts. I’m going to do a cover art review of the books I brought home with me at some point soon.
The evening wound up…or began…with the art reception, which was small but had some stellar art, the Damnation Books launch party and then the Chizine launch party. Here we chatted, drank margaritas and wine, ate hot dogs (for those who dared like Dave Nickle and Peter Straub) and looked at the goods. A few people read excerpts from their stories so it was a great way to sample the merchandise and the hospitality. I met so many people, which to me is the sign of a good con, that I can’t remember them all. I met the minotaur guys who are working on a full length animation. I chatted with a writer who is slow on submitting, and I sampled wine and margaritas, Texas style. Most attendees are writers, editors and publishers but there was also the magician Jonathon Frost who’s interested it putting a dark slant to his prestidigitation. I should also mention that I got to put faces to all of the CZP staff since I’d only talked with them through email before the weekend.
The night was still young at 2 am but since I was fighting a cold I chose to go to bed and not be completely insane. This post will be continued in the next day or two with the rest of the convention.