I’ve never been so afraid to feel at home.
As I walked among the cosplayers dressed as slasher idols and evil deadites, the people wearing death metal or obscure B-horror t-shirts, one thought kept going through my mind: These are my people.
For all of the fascination with murder and the macabre and the gore make-up, I don’t know if I’ve ever been to a place where there was more kinship and acceptance, where it didn’t matter who or what you were, just that you shared similar passions. Everyone had come for a single, unified purpose: to have a great time.
Cosplayers were already sweeping through the crowd as I stood before the doors of the Made In Texas room, awaiting permission to enter the exhibition hall where my publisher, Permuted Press, had reserved an entire aisle of booths for its authors. A horde of horror fans had gathered, and with all of the excitement and anticipation, I was surprised no one was pounding on the doors. The show coordinators shouted a countdown, and then hands waved above our heads like air traffic controllers, signalling the doors to open.
The current swept me away. The crowd dispersed into the Made in Texas room, and I spotted Permuted Press immediately. They had locked down the aisle opposite the cast of Nightmare on Elm Street 2.
Neil Cohen, author of Exit Zero, had saved a spot for me, and we shared a table for the second weekend in a row (the prior weekend, we shared a table at a small book festival in Kensington, Md.). Beside us to the right, Jessica Meigs, author of the Becoming series had a space to share with Brad Munson, author of the recent WolfCop: Fleshmob, a new entry in the cult film franchise (which is available on Netflix right now). Shortly after I arrived, Jason Bovberg, author of the Blood series, moved in to my left.
On the other side of Jason, Winlock Press was making its convention debut. Winlock is a Permuted imprint led by Monique Happy, and in less than a year, she’s taken it from concept to commanding presence of three prominent authors—David Lund (no relation to Carrier’s Stellan), Kya Aliana, and David Aslin—at the country’s biggest horror convention.
I was pleased to see Felicia Sullivan again.
Felicia is a go-to editor for Permuted, and she made Carrier shine.
Of course, Permuted Actual was there, too. It was great to see President Michael Wilson and Katie Dornan again, both of whom I’d met last fall at their HQ in Nashville. I also got to meet Hannah Yancey, Permuted’s new managing editor.
I don’t mean to name drop here. I include all of this so that, when I write Permuted “had reserved an entire aisle of booths for its authors,” you understand I’m not being figurative. We later affectionately dubbed it the “Author Gauntlet.”
But wait! There’s more! Timothy Long, Eloise Knapp, and Peter Clines were also there, just a couple aisles over. I had a chance to finally meet these talented and experienced authors. In perhaps my biggest regret for the weekend, I didn’t get the opportunity to hang out with them as much as I would have liked. Hopefully, there will be a next time.
Being my first big convention, it was odd for me to be on the other side of the table. I’d been the attendee, never the guy trying to sell people things. It was interesting to see people trying to avoid eye contact with me, and I quickly learned to decipher who might actually be interested and how to greet them.
They say authors these days have to be outgoing to sell and be successful. If my experience at Frightmare is any indication, that’s at least somewhat true, but to those few brave souls who saw something intriguing in me or my work and had the courage to approach on their own, I’m grateful just to be able to talk and share that time.
And for me, that was the draw of Frightmare: I’m beginning to understand the dynamic of an author/reader relationship, and it’s something I am coming to cherish.
The first day of the convention ended at 11 p.m. local time. It was midnight for my East Coast clock, and while the beast inside many of the attendees was just awakening, mine agreed that it was time to get some sleep. After an exhausting day of travel and vying for people’s attention, we authors retreated to our hotel rooms.
During the first day, Neil postulated that most people were scouting and that they would be more interested and active on the second day. He wasn’t wrong. For a few hours on the second day, it seemed no one feared the Author Gauntlet. Many attendees ran the whole thing, talking to each of us along the way. I remember a few of these brave souls fondly. Instead of listening to my pitch out of a sense of obligation, these people actually showed interest in my work and wanted to just hang out. I appreciated that. I can’t speak for other authors, but I don’t enjoy feeling like some people avoided me because they were afraid that I was going to try to sell them something. Money shouldn’t be a barrier between ideas, so to those of you who smashed through it, I thank you.
The second day flew by in a whirlwind of jaw-dropping cosplay. I’d never before stood in one spot and seen so much cool stuff walk by. It was better than a parade. There was a Marylin Manson so convincing that people were asking him for autographs. There was the most amazing Pennywise ever.
There was some bionic zombie thing.
There was a family of freaks led by an accordion player. There was a super good Joker, and a Michael Myers that sealed the package with a convincing gait. And of course, Father Evil was there to bless the event.
But what’s truly exceptional about these people is their dedication to making the event more fun. They’re entertainers with a level of commitment that their costumes and performances demonstrate.
Before I knew it, time was running out on the second day. There were only a couple of hours left, and since it was my last, I had to get away from the table and see the rest of the con.
Malcolm McDowell. Marshall Bell. Sid Haig. Elvira. Skeet Ulrich. Brad Douriff. Tom Savini. I saw them all … from a safe distance. I’m a fan who feels comfortable just seeing the people I admire, and I’m too cheap to pay for an autograph and/or photograph.
Of course, at the end of the second day, with the aisles becoming quiet and desolate, Marshall Bell was a mere 20 feet away, and I decided to go out on a limb. “Mr. Bell,” I said as meek as a mouse, “I’m a sci-fi author, and I know you from some of my favorite sci-fi films. Would you mind taking a picture with me while holding my book?”
A look of grave concern crossed his face. He looked to a woman who might have been a manager.
“It’s merchandise, right? That’s okay?” he said.
She nodded, and he pulled me in close. We snapped the picture. And then he took my book from me.
“This is mine, right?”
“Uh…Yes, of course!” If a celebrity smiles wide and takes something from you, it’s always theirs. It’s just the way of the world.
Shortly thereafter, I left the exhibition hall and went to get Tex-Mex with the Permuted and Winlock crew. In a flurry of margaritas and cervezas, we closed the place down, and then everyone departed.
The worst part about the weekend for me was that it was over too quickly. I had an early flight the following day that made it impossible for me to be there for day three, and as I watched my friends leave, I envied them for that third day that I would miss.
The best part about the weekend? It left me wanting more. I’ll be back next year, and I hope to see you there.