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Category: Convention Report

Goth Chick News: And Then We Went to the Midwest Haunters Convention…

Goth Chick News: And Then We Went to the Midwest Haunters Convention…

Last week I told you all about the adventures Black Gate photog Chris Z and I had on the Haunted House Bus Tour which was the appetizer for the Midwest Haunters Convention. The MHC, held in Chicago in early June, is the largest Halloween show of its kind in the US, targeted at haunt actors, attraction owners, home haunters and Halloween enthusiasts, making it the place to be for all aficionados of scary stuff.

Unlike a lot of shows we cover for Black Gate, the MCH is open to the public and we met attendees from all over North America, which helped explain why my favorite season is a $10B+ annual money spinner.

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Goth Chick News: Midwest Haunters Bus Tour – Because Its Only 130 Days Until Halloween

Goth Chick News: Midwest Haunters Bus Tour – Because Its Only 130 Days Until Halloween

I’m going to go ahead and say it, because I know you’re thinking it. Yes, its only June and yes, there are a solid four months until Halloween.

But all the spooky wonderfulness that pops up in the month of October doesn’t materialize overnight. Nope, it requires months of planning, therefore making it necessary for Black Gate Photog Chris Z and I tool around the Midwest wracking up enormous expense reports to bring you news from this incredible unseen world; a world which is moving year-round, and ultimately generates $10B plus annually in the US alone (NRF, 2021).

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A Mecca for Book Hunters: The Chicago Windy City Pulp & Paper Convention, 2022

A Mecca for Book Hunters: The Chicago Windy City Pulp & Paper Convention, 2022

A few $1 magazines in near-mint condition I purchased today at Windy City Pulp & Paper

I just returned from Doug Ellis’s Windy City Pulp & Paper Convention, exhausted but happy.

I’ve been attending Windy City here in Chicago for nearly 20 years. It’s the premier show in the country for pulp and paperback collectors, and the main Exhibit Hall is an inexhaustible Cave of Wonders for anyone who loves vintage books, comics, artwork, pulps, science fiction and fantasy, new pulp, old DVDs, collectibles of all kinds — or just hanging out and talking with like-minded collectors and enthusiasts.

Over the years Windy City has become my favorite local convention. It’s a wonderful place to connect with friends and fellow Black Gate contributors, folks like Rich Horton, Howard Andrew Jones, Steven H. Silver, Bob Byrne, Doug Ellis. E.E. Knight, John C. Hocking, Barbara Barrett, and many others. But the main draw is that marvelous Exhibit Hall, where you can find almost anything you want, no matter how rare or unusual. And if what you love is book bargains (or to, say, literally carpet your entire kitchen floor with dollar books), then you are definitely in luck.

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Goth Chick News: Kicking Off the 2022 “Season” With the Halloween & Attractions Show

Goth Chick News: Kicking Off the 2022 “Season” With the Halloween & Attractions Show

Given that I absolutely refuse to believe I am older than, say, 27 – it’s even harder to believe that we here at Goth Chick News have been covering Transworld’s Halloween and Attractions show for nineteen glorious years. But as Black Gate photog Chris Z and I once again headed south from Chicago at 5 a.m. toward St. Louis, I can’t help recall that this was the time I used to be headed home from somewhere…

But as we motored through darkened cornfields dodging various small animals and quoting the movie Motel Hell (“It takes all kinds of critters to make Farmer Vincent’s fritters!”), it dawned on me how many “firsts” this show represents in my Black Gate career; first trade show covered, first interview and first article in the top 50, though back then I think it was top 20.

Needless to say, not only does the H&A loom large professionally, the people we’ve met along the way mean it has an extra special place in my little black heart.

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Goth Chick News: A Year of Weird; Hitting the Road with Goth Chick News

Goth Chick News: A Year of Weird; Hitting the Road with Goth Chick News

You’d think that, as we approach the 2-year anniversary of the division between “BC” (before Covid) and everything else, nothing would seem strange anymore. Yet here we are less than 8 weeks into the new year, and 2022 is shaping up to be a doozy. We’ve already experienced cars that can change colors, exercise bikes in McDonalds, French-fry-scented perfume, and a once-in-a-millennium palindrome day, and we’re not even through February yet.

In this brave new world where pillow-fighting has become a legit combat sport, it might be easy for Black Gate photog Chris Z and I to decide to remain in our subterranean offices until October. I mean, covering the horror industry might seem scary until you consider that this is the year that avatars of the group ABBA will be in concert in London for six months and the event is basically sold out.

Seriously. WTF?

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Watch the Windycon Sword & Sorcery Panel with Mike Penkas, David C. Smith, Adrian Simmons, and John O’Neill

Watch the Windycon Sword & Sorcery Panel with Mike Penkas, David C. Smith, Adrian Simmons, and John O’Neill

Mike Penkas moderates the Sword & Sorcery panel at Windycon 47

Windycon 47 was held in Lombard, IL from November 12-14. I was a guest of the convention, with a reading and several panels, and it was an absolute delight to attend an in-person convention again. Carlos Hernandez was the Author Guest of Honor, and his wife Claire Suzanne Elizabeth Cooney (former Managing Editor of Black Gate) was the Poetry G.O.H. In addition to their other activities, the two conducted a public demo of their new card-based role playing game Negocios Infernales, and it was a ton of fun to participate. It was also great to meet up with so many other friends of BG, including Rich Horton, Steven H. Silver, Arin Komins, Rich Warren, Tina Jens, Brendan Detzner, Richard Chwedyk, and many others.

But the highlight of the convention for me was Sunday’s Sword & Sorcery panel, a lively discussion of S&S past and present. Michael Penkas moderated, and the speakers were Adrian Simmons (distinguished editor of Heroic Fantasy Quarterly magazine), author David C. Smith (Red Sonja, Oron, Coven House, and Robert E. Howard: A Literary Biography), and yours truly.

The discussion ranged far and wide — the golden age of the S&S in the pulps, Sword & Soul, Howard Andrew Jones’ groundbreaking Hanuvar stories, the work of James Enge, the Red Sonja comics of the 70s, the artist Frank Thorne, S&S in video games and RPGs, the new S&S boom in magazines like Tales From the Magician’s Skull and Heroic Fantasy Quarterly, Andre Norton and The Beastmaster, and much more. The SMOF masters of Windycon recorded the entire thing, and you can listen to it in its entirety here (the panel kicks off right around the 2:04:00 mark).

Goth Chick News: Days of the Dead – Season Greetings from Our Family to Yours

Goth Chick News: Days of the Dead – Season Greetings from Our Family to Yours

That time of year has once again rolled around. “The Season” is officially over. Black Gate photog Chris Z has thrown a tarp over the Hummer and sent his kilt to the dry cleaners. We’ve emptied the final airplane-sized bottles of Fireball, and filed our last expense report with BG’s financial fun police. Because on the weekend before Thanksgiving we attended the final convention of our annual show circuit, Days of the Dead.

It certainly doesn’t feel like nearly ten years since we attended our first DotD convention at its sophomore outing in the Chicago suburbs. I readily admit that Chicago isn’t Los Angeles or even New Orleans when it comes to sub-cultures, though the elements that do exist are certainly worth wading into — if you know where to look. But when DotD came to Chicago for the first time in 2011, its home was the Schaumburg Marriot of all places.

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Starfinder: Galaxy Exploration Guide and Tech Revolution

Starfinder: Galaxy Exploration Guide and Tech Revolution

Back in September, I made it back to Gen Con. It was different in so many ways after the year off from last year. First, and perhaps least significant, it was in mid-September instead of the beginning of August. On the personal level, it was extremely different because I was there as a game designer, playtesting my new card game design, Eureka Science Academy, in the First Exposure Playtest Hall (a profoundly unfortunately-named place to hang out during a global pandemic). Normally, I’m there on a press pass, and my goal is to get exposed to as much new material as I can to share with the Black Gate readership.

On top of all of that, though, it was profoundly different because most of my favorite game companies weren’t even there. No Paizo. No Privateer Press. No Fantasy Flight Games. No Asmodee. No Looney Labs. No IELLO. Instead, these companies took their Gen Con presence online this year, and Paizo had a particularly robust selection of online content.

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Goth Chick News: The New World That Is Wizard World Chicago

Goth Chick News: The New World That Is Wizard World Chicago

As life cautiously assumes a stance something close to, if not entirely, “normal,” some of the most anticipated events are finally sliding back into the Goth Chick News calendar.

It’s no surprise that pop-culture conventions took an especially hard hit in 2020, which saw large, in-person events cancelled across the globe. Wizard World put on some of the biggest conventions in the US, hosting annual cons in six cities; Chicago, Philadelphia, New Orleans, Portland, Cleveland, and St. Louis. This year, Wizard World Chicago was back, albeit later that its usual September dates, but with another significant change. Fan Expo, which already runs almost a dozen events across North America, has just acquired the rights to Wizard World conventions.

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GOTH CHICK NEWS: ON THE ROAD TO THE HALLOWEEN & ATTRACTIONS SHOW

GOTH CHICK NEWS: ON THE ROAD TO THE HALLOWEEN & ATTRACTIONS SHOW

Frankly, 2020 didn’t look all that different when viewed from the basement of the Black Gate office, which is home to Goth Chick News. The unisex bathroom walls are still plastered with Heavy Metal magazine covers from the 1980’s. The hallways smell like a combination of microwave pizza and Axe, and the furniture… I can’t. As most of my coworkers never got out much anyway, the quarantine was just the legit excuse everyone gave their spouses for hanging around John O’s D&D marathon. Black Gate photog Chris Z. went off to busy himself with whatever it is he does when he’s not sneaking pics of nearly naked cosplayers at our various events, and I hunkered down to write for a long, and frustrating year. The glaring difference of 2020, is that none of these activities were broken by GCN road trips to roughly a dozen conventions, tours and trade shows, which comprise the seasonal run up to the greatest holiday ever – Halloween.

Like you, we where all here and nowhere else – and it sucked.

Bad.

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