When I returned from the World Fantasy Convention in Washington last November, the first thing I did was write about all the great discoveries I made in the Dealer’s Room.
I’m not just talking about rare and wonderful old books (although those were pretty damn cool, too.) I mean the smorgasbord of small press publishers who’d come from far and wide to display an incredible bevy of treasures, piled high on table after table after table. Seriously, it was like walking through Aladdin’s Cave of Wonders, except air conditioned and with decent carpeting.
One of the great discoveries I made was Hippocampus Press, a small publisher founded by Derrick Hussey in New York City in 1999. Their table was groaning under the weight of dozens of fabulous collections, horror anthologies, entertaining and informative journals, and stranger and more marvelous things. They specialize in classic horror and science fiction, with an “emphasis on the works of H. P. Lovecraft and other pulp writers of the 1920s and 1930s,” as well as critical studies of folks like Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, and William Hope Hodgson.
I brought home a copy of their 2014 Simon Strantzas collection, Burnt Black Suns, and told you about it here. Today I’d like to take a few moments to re-create what it was like to stand in front of the Hippocampus table and take in their extraordinary output, the product of over a decade of tireless dedication to classic weird tales (and great cover design.)
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I was at the Windycon 42 website yesterday, checking to see if the Guest-of-Honor interview I did with author Christopher Moore has been posted yet (it wasn’t). The theme of the convention is The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and the website has the friendly words Don’t Panic posted right at the top. As long as I was there I poked around a bit, and I was surprised to find a link for “Infocom Game” in the navigation bar.
Now, I’m a huge fan of Infocom’s text-based computer games. Infocom was one of the most acclaimed computer gaming companies of all time, with classic titles like Zork (1980), Enchanter (1983), Planetfall (1983), and the groundbreaking BattleTech game The Crescent Hawk’s Inception. In 1984, legendary Infocom designer Steve Meretzky teamed with Douglas Adams to create The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, one of the most popular games the company ever produced.
Well, that’s all the enticement I needed. I clicked on the link, and lo and behold, I was transported to the BBC Radio website, where the BBC has posted a complete Java-based port of the 30th Anniversary Edition of Infocom’s classic The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. You can play right in your browser! And so I did:
This is well worth checking out yourself. Take a step into the past (and then, uh, into the future) and play the computer gaming classic The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy here.
Graham… comes up with his scenarios while striding the Yorkshire Dales like a Bronte hero.
…tables for GMS…. the boys quietly slotted in
“OMG! You’re the Rosemary Sutcliff of the roleplaying world!”
I was at Conpulsion 2015, Edinburgh’s tabletop gaming convention and talking to Graham Bottley, founder of Arion Games, and the man behind Maelstrom Domesday (like Robin of Sherwood but better grounded in history).
Graham lives in a farmhouse in Yorkshire, keeps sheep, can see a castle out of his window, and a short walk takes him to a Roman camp.
Listening to him, you can see the woods and fields, feel the depth of the history beneath each bump in the ground. He should be a lyrical Historical novelist in the mode of Rosemary Sutcliff. Instead he’s a successful roleplaying game designer and publisher.
He GM’d for the gamer boys last year, and they liked it so much that DeeM bought the book and became our local games master.
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For the fifteenth year, Transworld invited Black Gate back to cover one of the largest horror industry trade expos in the US; the Halloween and Attractions Show (“HAA”) in St. Louis, MO.
If you’ve ever wondered where the movie special effects guys go when they aren’t slinging gore for the latest scream-fest, then I can safely report that I know – they’re cooking up crazy makeup, animatronics and other visual gross-outs for the professional haunt industry.
The HAA is a “trade only” event, meaning the general public isn’t invited, but that didn’t stop a perpetual crowd from standing around outside the main entrance to the America’s Convention Center in order to get a glimpse of the attendees.
And as always, there is quite a lot to glimpse.
Over 250 exhibitors, some with what were essentially full-scale, mobile attractions, filled the cavernous convention space displaying everything from fog machines (with realistic “scents” – let’s just say yuck right here) to audio backgrounds and latex makeup elements to $15K+ robotic effects. As one attendee put it, “This is Christmas in March for everyone in the horror industry.”
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Last weekend I had the good fortune to attend Dysprosium, the 66th Eastercon, in London. It was only my second big convention and I was impressed by the number of people, dealers, panels, and events. Big cons are definitely my thing!
The convention was held at The Park Inn at Heathrow Airport, which is appropriately decorated with images of aviation and space pioneers. The elevators have glowing plastic panels that change colors and made me feel like I was in an Italian science fiction movie from the 1960s. The con was stretched out. Two large common rooms were connected by a long corridor. This meant that there was no main dealers room. Instead, each dealer had their own room and they took advantage of this by hosting their own events. Elsewhen Press gets my vote for friendliest dealer for offering plenty of friendly chatter, UFO-shaped candies, and several readings. Another dealer hosted a fascinating talk on Malaysian folklore. This worked out well for the guests but I heard more than one dealer complain they felt isolated from other dealers.
Like last year’s Worldcon, which I reported on here, diversity and inclusion was a central theme. Several of the panels reflected this, such as one on Fencing for Writers, in which two women demonstrated various ways to slash and skewer your opponent. They gave several anecdotes about female swashbucklers in the Renaissance. One French lesbian fought numerous duels with men over women and even saved her lover from a nunnery by burning the place down! That’s just begging to be made into a novel. The presenters made the telling point that, “Historians have dismissed these women as exceptions, but when you look at the sources, there are an awful lots of exceptions.”
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Norman Reedus at Wizard World’s Fan Fest
If you’re the kind of person who gets misty-eyed with nostalgia when you hear sitcom titles like Growing Pains, The Fresh Prince of Bel Air and Married With Children, then Wizard World’s Fan Fest which took place March 7-8 in Chicago would have been just the place for you.
And if you’re considering possible explanations for how the heck I ended up there (dragging BG photog Chris Z along for fun), the answer is no – I did not have a fever or a head injury.
There is a darn good explanation actually.
Fan Fest came to be when Bruce Campbell, the cult-favorite TV and movie actor, had to cancel his appearance at the Bruce Campbell Horror Fest because of a television commitment. The horror fest was scheduled to take place that weekend and Goth Chick News had been invited to attend.
“We knew we couldn’t continue to hold the Bruce Campbell Horror Fest without Bruce Campbell!” said Jerry Milani of Wizard Entertainment. “But it also seemed a shame to let the weekend go to waste, since we already had the date and the venue.”
And so, the idea of Fan Fest was born. Organizers quickly secured a lineup of actors along with celebrities from the comic-book and pro-wrestling worlds. (The Bruce Campbell event has been rescheduled to take place in August with Wizard World’s Chicago Comic Con.)
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Gen Con has threatened to move out of Indiana if Republican Governor Mike Pence signs a controversial anti-gay law into effect.
Gen Con, the largest gaming convention in North America, began in Gary Gygax’s home in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, in 1967; from 1985 to 2002 it was held in Milwaukee, and in 2003 it moved to its current home in Indianapolis, Indiana. Attendance last year was more than 56,000, making it the largest convention of any kind in the state.
The bill in question, Senate Bill 101 (SB101), has already passed the state legislature and is expected to be signed by Pence soon. It allows business owners to refuse to serve same-sex couples if they have religious objections, in the same manner that white business owners once were legally permitted to refuse to serve black customers in many southern states.
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And so this happened last week…
John O (the big cheese): People probably imagined you lot (Photog Chris Z and I presumably – GC) are just hunkered down there in the subterranean offices of Black Gate sequestered with a blender, several bottles of adult beverages and the Roku horror channels.
John O: So – that’s not the image we want to portray here at Black Gate.
Me: We have an image…?
John O: OF COURSE WE HAVE AN IMAGE! Why can’t you be more like Scott Taylor?
Me: Who? Oh…you mean Art. Right. Wait, what was that first thing again?
John O: [insert unpublishable adult language] Would you please just go be visible somewhere? Be a reporter – get out in the field and report. That’s what Scott Taylor does. He reports… on art… for Black Gate.
Me: The ice machine is broken again.
John O: ARG! [insert more adult language and stomping up the stairs]
What John O doesn’t know but what — and I’m just guessing here — he wants to know, is the following.
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Zombies continue their relentless, feet-shuffling domination of all things pop culture – proof (we continue to hope) that sparkly, angsty, Seattle vampires with sappy theme songs are staked for good.
One of many indications that our infectious love of the undead shows no signs of a cure is the proliferation of Walker Stalker Con, a convention spawned by and primarily dedicated to, AMC’s hit TV show The Walking Dead.
What started in Atlanta, GA (near where the show films) as a small fan convention organized by fanboy pod-casters James Frazier and Eric Nordhoff, then spread to Chicago in 2014 and has now grown to a seven-city tour.
Walker Stalker Con is more than a standard fan convention. In the two Chicago events we have attended, Frazier and Nordhoff have managed to secure a sizable chunk of the cumulative cast of the show’s five seasons and space for “the talent” accounts for more than half of the convention floor.
In addition, the organizers strive to ensure all guests “come away feeling like they’ve had an amazing experience and became part of a greater community of zombie lovers!”
Is this great or what?
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While I was at the World Fantasy Convention last November, I kept being irresistibly sucked into the Dealers Room. Seriously, the place was like a giant supermarket for fantasy fans. There were thousands of new and used books on display from dozens of vendors — books piled high on tables, books crammed into bookshelves, books being pressed into your hands by enthusiastic sellers.
When I came home I moped around for a few days, and then mocked up some HTML pages with dozens of thumbnail jpegs of books so I could pretend I was still at the convention. I waved a crisp twenty dollar bill in front of my computer screen and said things like, “I’ll take the new Moorcock collection, my good man.” I even haggled over the price of The Treasury of the Fantastic. Truly, it felt like I was there.
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