The Incredible Shrinking Horror Panel, and Other Tales from NASFiC/Detcon1 (Part 2)


I’m a scientist, er,

a technician I might say,

a scientist of sounds

and words —

always delightful —

to find the equation

that puts these together

in form of a poem.


Pretentious?  Or just bad?  Well, it may not be great shakes as a poem, but it came out of the other Kaffeeklatsch I attended, although this one with Deanna Sjolander and Sean Davis was actually something rather different.  Called “Poetry Corpse” — and the only poetry programming at this year’s NASFiC — the billing explained it as “[l]ike magnetic fridge Poetry. Without the fridge. Or the magnets.”  That is, there on the table was a pile of cards, each with a single word printed on it, from which we drew a “hand” and attempted to use this to inspire a poem.*  I wrote nine in all, most slight little things with perhaps some mild humor, more of which may be published on this blog (as is the first of them just above, derived from words including “scientist,” “technician,” “delightful,” “equation,” and even “er,” all picked without looking at them as I did it in order to maintain a random selection).  But the thing is, it was fun, we had a full table including non-poets, but all of whom created at least some poems and were willing to read them by the time the hour ended.**

Then there was my reading earlier Friday, sharing the hour with two other horror writers, Laura Bickle and Cath Schaff-Stump, for as far as I know the only readings that featured the dark side.  I ended up a sort of de facto moderator (I was nearest the clock, for one thing) and we read in the order our names had been listed, Laura with pages from a novel with an Amish setting which was rather interesting, I with a short story from THE TEARS OF ISIS***, and Cath who originally thought she might read from a somewhat dark-humored novel deciding, as a result of my reading’s relative intensity, to take a chance with a more serious passage from a story that included child abuse.  The session went well, albeit with an audience of only three people, including one friend of mine, some years back a member of my writing group (but no ex-girlfriend who, as noted in Part 1, either never got to the con or remained uncannily well-concealed).

And I had one Friday panel as well, this one that I think surprised us in how well it went, “Maps in Fantasy” with Shanna Swendson, Stephen Leigh, me, and moderated by Kevin J. Maroney.  We talked some of actual fantasy maps (famously the one for LORD OF THE RINGS, but also Eddison’s THE WORM OUROBOROS, etc.), some of fantasy worlds that used maps but that weren’t published with them (Fritz Leiber’s “Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser” stories, e.g.), and the use of maps by authors in creating stories.  While maps in a book are prestige items — for the publisher to agree to (or suggest) using one can indicate that an author has “made it” as well as the work itself possessing some “epic” qualities — much of our most interesting conversation went into discussing actual maps and the geographical, historical, and economical features they illustrate (e.g. the distance between towns as that of a day’s journey by oxcart, the location of cities by navigable rivers because that’s how goods can be shipped in bulk).  Also discussed, how an author might use features on actual maps, perhaps modified, as inspiration for his or her world building (my example here being my far-future dying-Earth “Tombs” stories****, set on a great river that could be only one of three on the Earth as it exists in the present).

Duties over, Friday also involved settling in, including checking out the Dealers Room and the ConSuite, the latter of which had good roast beef sandwich makings at noon, and potato soup, but was a bit more sparse for dinner.  But also, through a set of intricate moves around the 3rd level donut, one could find a down escalator to the 2nd level, which then led to other escalators down to a basement level food court that provided nourishment of a fast-food sort for less than ten dollars.  Entirely through my fault, however (well, that and the fact it was sort of tucked behind the dealers), I never did get to see the Art Show.





the zombie stalks,

its smell not delightful

especially in hot weather,

ready to negotiate

for your brains.



*Technically one could fish for verbs as well as nouns, etc., and assemble the entire poem from words picked, but most (all?) of us interpreted the “rules” more gently, to pick six or eight words and use four or five in a poem that they would suggest.  In my case I might even change a word form as the emerging poem might require, as in one example substituting “Jovian” for the word “Jupiter.”

**Deanna, in fact, went even further actually publishing several of hers on Twitter as soon as she wrote them.  At the end of the session she defined them as being successful insofar as several had already been re-tweeted.

***The story, the next-to-last in the book, was “River Red” which times to just under 15 minutes, thus giving me a chance to display both the old and new covers of THE TEARS OF ISIS while making sure that everyone knew it had been a Stoker® nominee (that is, the “horror equivalent of the Nebula, or if you’re into mysteries the Edgar”).

****One of which I might add is “River Red,” noted just above, that involves in part a trip up that river.


  1. Sounds most interesting, Jim –both panels (sorry for those that lost out on attending both! And enjoyed your poems here posted.

    At least you got some sustanence to keep you going, unlike last year non-hospitable suite –but that wasn’t HWA ‘s fault. 🙂

  2. The food was good if perhaps not quite up to WorldCon standards,* but more in line with a large regional convention — which is sort of what NASFiC is. Re. WHC, I’d put Portland this year a little above it, Salt Lake City a bit below (though the all-day simmering soup pots were a wonderful plus). We shall not speak of NOLA : )=

    *Interestingly, though (and speaking of NOLA), DETCON1/ NASFiC did have hot rice available at dinnertime both Friday and Saturday, but only bottled sauces (like soy or teriyaki) to go with it, while my immediate thought was someone should have added a big pot of Cajun-style red beans. Or, failing that, maybe black eyed peas and ham, but maybe you have to be Southern to think of that.

  3. Just rice & bottles of sauce? Gads, only my picky granddaughter would have been keen on that. She loves plain white rice. Unfortunately, she has little or no interest in reading fiction. Don’t know what that has to do with the plain rice, though!

    Yes, at least beans Cajun-style!

  4. They did have the various snack foods too (chips, candy, grapes, veggies ‘n’ dip, curiously at one point a plate of fortune cookies — not to mention lots of bananas that I took advantage of at breakfast along with coffee and sweet rolls). Also I think I say at lunchtime and early afternoon there were roast beef, ham, cheese, and bread and spreads for great sandwiches (though the meat tended to go fast). And of course pop, coffee, orange juice and milk at least for breakfast as well as, on Friday, bottled unsweetened tea (which I took advantage of with a bottle on the table when I did my reading — the bottle also had a picture of a tea leaf on the label which, at a distance, looked at first glance like marijuana).

    • Too funny — about the “tea” leaf! Well, sounds not so bad, all in all, for hospitality. I think I’d say the best I’ve seen was in Phoenix (both times) –well maintained, with a variety. Though mostly finger foods, nothing really heavy. And maybe it was at an Atlanta con where they had alcoholic drinks one evening –gratis.

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