At ArmadilloCon: Monsters, religion, mysticism, fantasy, SF, horror, blogging, podcasting, and more
A quick update from Austin and ArmadilloCon 31 (with photos to follow within a couple of days, when I can swipe them from the sites of people who brought a camera):
It’s Saturday night — nearing the end of Day 2 of the three-day con — and everything’s going well. Lots of fun and productive schmoozing. As with most cons, this one is partly a reunion with friends I only see once in awhile. I’ve spent much time hanging out with Lee Thomas (a friend from conventions past and a really excellent writer), Joe McKinney, Nate Southard, and A(lex) Lee Martinez — all well-published writers, all cool guys.
Last night at 9:30 I gave a well-attended reading from Dark Awakenings. For the text I chose “The Devil and One Lump,” and surprised myself by being able to fit the entire story into the 30-minute slot. I had expected to read just an excerpt, but I got worked up and “into” the reading and ended up finishing the whole thing. At the end I gave the printed manuscript as a prize to the person who correctly guessed the number I was thinking. The winner was the aforementioned Joe, who’s not only a very nice guy but also an interesting (and good) writer of thriller and horror fiction who for a day job works as a homicide detective in San Antonio.
After the reading I participated in a panel titled “What happened to the monsters?” that centered around the question, “Is it harder to create horror now that most of the traditional monsters are used by everyone?” Other panel participants were Lee, Joe, Lawrence Person, and vampire novelist Jeanne Stein, who moderated, and who proved a very pleasant presence during the rest of the con. There was a solid audience for the 10 p.m. panel, and the conversation was wide-ranging, including a 15-minute-or-so excursion into the realm of the zombie, with comments flying that ended up being repeated at greater length in today’s panel (on which I wasn’t a participant) titled “Zombies!”
This morning at 10 I spoke on “Blogging and Podcasting” with Alan J. Porter, Melissa Tyler (no web link easily findable), Bill Crider, Matthew Bey, and moderator Julie Kenner. The panel was officially supposed to be about issues ranging “From keeping in touch with fans to building a community,” but seemingly by force of a gravitational pull emanating both from the panelists and the audience, we drifted in the direction of discussing the cultural desirability or otherwise of things like Facebook, Twitter, and blogging in general, which allowed me to inject some talk about Neil Postman and the destruction of culture via the Huxleyan-style dystopian scenario, which proved to arouse some responses among panelists who were also interested in such things.
Then it was lunch at a nearby Wendy’s with the aforementioned crew, after which I attended a really interesting science-oriented panel titled “Back to the Moon,” about the need for a serious resurrection and revisioning of the American and human project to go back to the moon and thence to Mars and further outward through the solar system.
Then I hung out with friends in the hotel bar for awhile, talking about 80s rock and metal bands until it was time for me to speak on the one panel that I had most looked forward to: “Religion and mysticism in fantasy and SF.” The other panelists were Joan Vinge (!), K.D. Wentworth, Paul Benjamin, Scott Lynch, and moderator Martha Wells. The room was packed to the point of standing-room only, and the conversation ended up getting fairly technical at times, with the question of how to define and distinguish magic, science, and religion coming to the fore. I talked at some length about the subject myself, bringing up Malinowski’s Magic, Science, and Religion and talking for a bit about Francis Bacon’s development of scientific method as a means to gain objective knowledge of the natural world in order to achieve power over it. I also became the only one to talk about horror specifically, as distinct from science fiction and fantasy in general, when I explicated the connection between religion and the basic premise of weird horror fiction, namely, that incursions from or encounters with any supernatural realm or reality would be inherently horrific for the human race, since these would break into the cosmic order as something from “outside” and, therefore, appear to human consciousness as something uncanny and nightmarish.
This was all great fun. So was, and is, the fact that Realms of Fantasy is one of the book dealers present here at the con, which has meant that I’ve had the chance to catch up with its proprietor, Otto, after a far-too-long hiatus. I was pleased to see that he had ordered additional copies of my Divinations of the Deep from Ash-Tree Press specifically for the event. Several have already sold. My Dark Awakenings flier has been seen by a lot of people, and quite a few have approached me after my panel appearances to ask for more information about the book and to ask me to sign copies of Divinations that they’ve just bought. So, on all fronts, the upshot so far is “Mission Accomplished.”
Gotta head back to the bar now. As Scott Bobo, a fixture here at ArmadilloCon, said to me just a moment ago as he passed through the lounge on the way to the bar and saw me sitting here at my table, pecking away at the laptop keys, “Hey, all the drinks are in there!”