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ArmadilloCon 2009: Michael Moorcock, martial arts, and more

First read my previous post about last weekend’s ArmadilloCon, which I wrote on Saturday night during the con itself. Then read the following to fill in the rest of the details of my experiences there.

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Joe McKinney, Lee Thomas, Matt Cardin

In no particular order:

I attended readings by Joe McKinney, Lee Thomas, and A. Lee Martinez, the last of whom is easily one of the funniest guys I have ever met in person. Great fun, all. These gentlemen can really write.

It wasn’t exclusively a testosterone fest; I enjoyed meeting and chatting with Jeanne Stein and Gabrielle Faust, too.

After having orbited around him several times at several past cons, I finally got to meet renowned fantasy-SF-horror artist John Picacio. At least, I think this was our first meeting, and he thought so, too, although I think we both suspected we may have met before, years ago. Anyway, he had lots of stunning artwork on display in the art room. More pressingly, he has now uploaded a page full of con photos. One of them shows Joe, Lee, and me (see right). And I had the pleasure of meeting musician and horror writer Sanford Allen as well — who may, in fact, be the source of that photo, since he and John were both taking photos for Mission Unknown, which is where I found that one.

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Michael Moorcock at ArmadilloCon 2009

John or Sanford also snapped a photo of one of the more astonishing events at the con. At right you’ll see none other than Michael Moorcock making an unexpected appearance at the “Meet the Pros” mixer event, for the purpose of presenting the Jack Trevor Story Memorial Prize to Howard Waldrop. Color me bowled over. See how close that photo looks? That’s only about a person’s width closer than I was standing when somebody started shouting for everybody to quiet down and witness a special moment. For more about the prize and its awarding at ArmadilloCon, see a blog post by SF and fantasy writer Jayme Lynn Blashke. As Jayme notes in his post, it’s odd that such a momentous happening has received relatively little notice in the various con reports.

I attended the zombie panel that Nate Southard so eloquently described in a post earlier today titled “Twilight fans: officially more defensive than zombie fans.” Click through to read Nate’s brief and vivid recounting of what transpired — and then know that I was sitting directly behind the owner of the Furious Female Voice from the Back of the Room. Shudder.

On Saturday night I experienced one of the con’s highlights for me personally, and it lasted only about 15 minutes. By pure happenstance, Joe Lansdale and I ended up alone on an elevator heading to the second floor at about 9:30. We had already said hello to each other on Friday, having met previously at the 2007 ArmadilloCon, but during that private elevator ride on Saturday we sort of fell into a conversation about his life in martial arts. As I’ve mentioned various times, I practiced Japanese Goju-ryu for six-to-seven years during my teens, my first sensei being Jeff Speakman, after which I moved on to study under his teacher, Hanshi Lou Angel, after Jeff graduated from college in Missouri and relocated to California to study Kenpo under Ed Parker. Even though I haven’t actually practiced any martial art formally since then, I have remained fascinated with the field and very emotionally attached to it.

So when I started asking and Joe started freely talking about his life as a martial artist — his early beginnings, the multiple styles he has studied, his eventual and unexpected realization that he had effectively developed his own style, his induction into the Martial Arts Hall of Fame, and so on — I was fully fascinated. Most of this conversation took place in the second-floor foyer, where we stopped and chatted after exiting the elevator. When I asked him how he understands the connection between his passionate practice of martial arts and equally passionate practice of writing, with both of them constituting major aspects of his overall life path, he told me, “They’re both expressions, ways of expressing.” Naturally, that recalled Bruce Lee’s now-famous assertion in a television interview that “To me, ultimately, martial arts means honestly expressing yourself.” Donnie Yen also said exactly the same thing in an interview for the documentary The Art of Action: Martial Arts in the Movies. The idea has long resonated with me, and it was just cool to hear it being shared in person by somebody who really knows what he’s talking about.

Speaking of people who know what they’re talking about, I had the feeling that my comments on Saturday night’s panel  on religion and mysticism in fantasy and science fiction were generally well received, and now here’s some confirmation from author Wendy Wheeler in her con report:

The panel on using religion in your stories, which I myself have spoken on in years past, was pretty cool. . . . I really enjoyed the editor and essayist, Matt Cardin, who has a masters in comparative religions and studies it in genre writing. When the talk would get silly, he’d make some useful, academic comment that would ground everything.

That’s me: Killer of silliness for 39 years and counting.