Saturday I made the trip to the big convention in Hunt Valley, Maryland sponsored by the website Horrorfind. Miss L was kind enough to journey with me on this odd little trip, so I put her in charge of driving and directions.
"I can't remember if it's exit 20-A or 20-B," Miss L said.
We looked over to the lane of traffic taking exit 20-A, saw the line of cars with bumper stickers for the Misfits and White Zombie, and figured that was the way to go. We followed the flow to a nice, mid-priced Marriott hotel packed full of people. Most of the attendees wandering around were decked out in pretty standard rock/metal gear. Black t-shirts, jeans, metal chain running to the keys and wallet, lots of piercings. But a few came really committed in vampire and zombie gear. I really enjoyed the guy with the lizard face makeup, as well as the zombiefied 10-year old girl.
The ground floor of the hotel held a small convention room just for meeting and getting autographs from the celebrities. These were mostly actors, writers and directors involved with various horror and shock cinema flicks over the years, like Don Coscarelli director of Phantasm and Bubba Ho-Tep, and Eugene Clark who played the lead zombie in George Romero's Land of the Dead. Highlights for me in that room were Julie Benz (Darla from the t.v. show Angel) and Count Gore de Vol. Ms. Benz is just about one of the tiniest women I've ever seen, but she looks pretty much like she does on t.v. The good count appeared quite dashing and strident in his vampire outfit. Actor/author/director Bruce Campbell was there as well, but he had some secret room all to himself. Although I would have liked to have met him, I'm not really an autograph hound so $20 for the autograph along with a 2-hour wait wasn't worth it for me.
The basement featured a much larger conference room for dealers, a movie screening room, a small haunted house, and mini-conference rooms for readings. The dealer room brought back memories of comic conventions from my youth. A couple of authors like Brian Lumley had tables there giving autographs and selling their books amidst all the rows and rows and rows of shop owners selling posters, action figures, paintings, books, lunch boxes, masks, movies, and more. A few small presses like Raw Dog Screaming Press and Borderlands were there, but Cemetery Dance Magazine was strangely absent (especially strange since their offices are in Maryland). A small number of indie-film makers were there as well, pushing their ultra-violent films that looked like they were shot on a standard VHS camera. Strangely, there were two or three women there billing themselves as "film stars", but were really just porn actresses. I have nothing against it, so stop fooling yourselves, ladies. If you're naked in all your movies and you're copping overly dramatized seductive poses, I don't care if you're dressed like a vampire or holding a skull between your legs. It's still porn.
The haunted house was fun, though. I was expecting cheezy animatronics covered in foam and latex, but they mixed in live actors with creepy backdrops. None of it really made me jump out of my skin, but I enjoyed more than I thought I would. Personal faves for me were the woman with a butcher knife screaming to leave her doll alone and the ten year old boy at the end. He would jump out of the wall, scream, and then open the exit for you. He really committed on the scream, though, and looked like he was having a great time shocking the hell out of people.
After a quick lunch break, we finally wandered into one of the reading rooms to hear John E. Lawson and Michael Arnzen. Lawson, a rather tall chap with long, curly hair, read some poetry. It was mostly comedic verses describing zombies, vampires, etc., and I chuckled once or twice despite myself. Michael Arnzen read a story titled "To The Lighthouse", which was basically an extension of an unfinished story by Edgar Allan Poe. He did a pretty good job emulating Poe with his special penchant for bizarre, prolonged deaths. Two things I realized sitting there at the reading:
1. A lot of the descriptions in horror writing seem based around the physical human body, even when describing something else (ie the scaffolding supported the tower like ligaments to a skeleton). Once or twice would be one thing, but it seemed a continual pattern with both writers. Not surprising, I suppose, considering so much of horror revolves around the destruction of the body. I’ll have to pay attention and see if it’s common in horror in general.
2. Although I think I could pen a horror piece from time to time, perhaps even a novel at some point, I don't think I'd ever commit a full 100% to that world. My head just couldn't live in that space all the time, for the rest of my life.
If you want pics of the convention, I went sans camera. But check out Strix N. Stones. She has some nice ones up.
My main reason for going was to check out some other markets for short fiction, and that was kind of a bust. The only presses and mags there were ones I was already aware of. So I doubt I'd go again unless it was to see someone specific, but I had a good time. If I was really, really into horror and took advantage of the movie screenings, the costume contests, etc, I’m sure it would be quite a blast. But it was definitely worth the short trip for a one-time thing.