The Incredible Shrinking Horror Panel, and Other Tales from NASFiC/Detcon1 (Part 3)

Several days before leaving for Detroit, “The Darker Side of SF & Fantasy” moderator Bernadette Bosky emailed the other four scheduled participants with suggestions of what we might plan to cover.  Panelist Christian Klaver responded, followed by me, but then potential disaster struck.  A third panelist reported that due to a last minute work obligation he wouldn’t be able to come after all.  Then, apparently just to Bernadette, the last participant said she would need to drop out too — leaving just us three, enough to present a panel of sorts, but with a danger of ending up more a question and answer session than the free-wheeling seminar-type discussion we’d hoped to present.  Bernadette would let Programming know in hopes they might find a last minute addition, but all would be up to fate.

Fast forward to Saturday in Detroit and the10 a.m. “SFWA Regional Meeting” where they were discussing possibly expanding membership requirements to accommodate successful self-published authors.  Holding dual citizenship, as it were, as a member of the Horror Writers Association as well, I pointed out that the HWA has actually put a proposal up for a vote, so SFWA might want to look over their metaphorical (if horrible) shoulders to see if there were ideas that they could use too.  A woman a couple of rows in front of me also recommended they look at the HWA’s proposal, allowing she was a “dual citizen” too.

Now by then I knew that a fourth person, Suzanne Church, had been added to the “Darker Side” panel and so, two hours later, was not too surprised to find out that she was the one at the SFWA meeting.  So that gave us four, not quite up to our original five, but enough that we had what I thought was a great discussion — and with a reasonably large audience especially considering we were scheduled at lunch time.  Topics discussed included genres in general with “horror” perhaps more a mood than a genre, intended to gain a specific reaction, and thus by analogy to comedy usually found combined with sf, or mystery, or fantasy — i.e. humorous sf, etc. —  or some other genre rather than standing by itself; whether horror has changed over time or do the same things continue to scare us — in this I noted DRACULA as an example of Victorian “invasion story” with intimations of disease as well (see also July 1, below, “Dracula Fun Facts and Fancy”) in light of news reports on TV where some people genuinely fear the children at the Mexican border are carrying diseases with the government unable or unwilling to keep them out; vampires and imageszombies with the transition from I AM LEGEND to the movie NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD to Fulci’s ZOMBI 2 (which first rechristens Romero’s flesh-eating “ghouls” as “zombies” as well as setting the film’s major part in the Caribbean) as contrasted with the original Haitian idea of le zombi; guilt and the Seven Deadly Sins as subjects for horror; Freudian psychology concerning sex and death — Eros and Thanatos — as driving motivators of horror, noting that in the movie PSYCHO prior to the shower scene everyone recalls, the movie begins with the actress in a hotel with her lover during her lunch and, after she’s been killed, ends as a movie that’s really about an Oedipal situation on wheels; and the suggestion that the ultimate universal fears are (1) the unknown, and (2) possibly knowing what’s causing a situation but helpless to do anything about it.

In all, the panel went over quite well* judging from the audience reaction, which might suggest fantasy/sf con programming directors could take a chance on giving horror panels a more prime time slot.  Or maybe even have more than just one panel on darker fiction.

And that I think has covered my official duties.  Ex-girlfriends aside, there were some people I knew from before and some that I met.  There was food and schmoozing in the ConSuite, grabbing desserts at later night parties followed by the frisson of walking back to my hotel.**

Then a few other things.  Something new this year were the Detcon1 Awards for Young Adult and Middle Grade Speculative Fiction, voted on by the convention members a la the Hugos at WorldCon in London later in August.  These were announced Saturday Night during the Masquerade with Young Adult going to Maggie Stiefvater for THE DREAM THIEVES (Scholastic Press) and Middle Grade to Merrie Haskell for HANDBOOK FOR DRAGON SLAYERS (Harper Collins).  Also the Golden Duck Awards went for Picture Book to VADER’S LITTLE PRINCESS by Jeffrey Brown (Chronicle), the Eleanor Cameron  Award for Middle Grade to HELLO NEBULON and JOURNEY TO JUNO by Ray O’Ryan (Little Simon), and the Hal Clement Award for Young Adult to THE PLANET THIEVES by Dan Krokos (Tor Starscape).  Or so I read in the program update Sunday morning, I having missed the Masquerade (hey, they ought to have pictures of it in LOCUS), opting instead for that night’s “Film Festival — Horror Shorts #4,”**** which included a premiere of “The Tell Tale Heart,” the first of three stories in TALES OF POE directed by Bart Mastronardi and set to premiere as a whole in Hollywood next month.

 

(As the Friday afternoon “Poetry Corpse” session continued, I graduated more toward surreal and absurdist treatments)

 

NIGHT WHISPER

The Dark King proclaimed,

from his Jovian room,

that honor required

the sun cease to shine.

 

 

(In this one I riffed on the title of one of Deanna’s poems)

 

THE FIERY TENTACLE

an octopus out

of the water, a bright sun –

eight bursts into flame

 

 

(In this, the first line is from a title idea of Sean’s, except I’d forgotten the final word so I made up my own)

 

MISUNDERSTANDING

the first magic comes as a quiet room

wrapped in a white fabric

with well-padded walls

 

 

NOTES:

*Not to mention gave a platform to show off THE TEARS OF ISIS, as well, at one point, to plug it in passing as an example of a collection that gives a variety of different kinds of horror and in different levels of intensity.

**While, generally speaking, I met no drug dealers, there was one strange phenomenon*** which seemed to occur at perhaps around 1 or 2 a.m. every night, the revving of motors of what seemed a large number of motorcycles.  This was enough to wake me up but it didn’t last long (it might in fact have been cyclists just passing by on a fairly major street outside) but, not wishing to make a show of myself peeping out my second floor window at people who might not want to be peeped at, I just rolled over and went back to sleep.

***Another phenomenon possibly not so strange relates to my disappointment last year at World Horror Con in New Orleans that I heard virtually no French spoken (Creole or Cajun) on the streets even though I was in the French Quarter.  In Detroit, however, taking an elevated walkway between the convention hotel and a shopping center across the street, I suddenly noticed several couples and families conversing in French which, thinking about it, no doubt just meant they were tourists from Canada.  Nevertheless, I did sense a bit of irony in it.  Also I might add that, speaking of French, I picked up ribbons from two con committees pushing for WorldCon in Montreal in 2017 and in New Orleans (but to be in one of two hotels in the CBD, not the French Quarter, due to the size of World SF conventions — and yes, I asked, expressing my preference for the one that would be nearest the River) in 2018.

****Horror was much better represented in film than in panel discussions, for whatever conclusions one might care to draw.

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  1. What a fascinating account! Thanks much, Jim!




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