Tag Archives: KillerCon

Goodbye KillerCon 2018

It turns out there is such a thing as summer camp for adults, a place where friendships are founded on a mutual love of monsters, where ghost stories are on tap 24/7, and according to Jeff Burk Dinosaurs Attacks trading cards are still in fashion. Thanks to camp director Wrath James White KillerCon was the summer camp I’d always dreamt of attending. It was a place where kids weren’t shamed out of wearing Hellraiser t-shirts, where all the counselors swore (especially Matt Shaw), and telling dirty jokes meant you were developing healthy social skills (at least that’s what Edward Lee told me).

Instead of a dining hall we had a continental breakfast, followed by a blindfolded tasting of freaky foods and a hot wings challenge. Then Michael Allen Rose, a saintly gentleman in a Nine Inch Nails tribute band, passed around Jeppson’s Malört to help us wash it down (type #MalortFace into Instagram to see just how refreshing it is).

Instead of fireside hymns our camp gathered around a keg of beer. Instead of a talent show we had a gross out contest. And our prayer circles, well, they looked a little different.

The panels with Brian Keene, Matt Shaw, and Lucy Taylor gave me an invaluable peak into the bloody inner workings of the publishing industry. It was a hoot to sit in on readings by Joe Lansdale and his daughter Kasey Lansdale.

I was blown away by Nate Southard’s shrewd then outspoken performance as he weaved through the audience throughout his reading.

It was treat to working the conference floor with Rose O’Keefe and Max Booth III (congrats on the Hulu pilot, btw).

Thanks to Leza Cantoral and Christoph Paul the ClashBooks reading was easily one of the best experiences of my life. I was happy to share it with such sketchy individuals as Brendan Vidito, Charles Austin Muir, Jeff Burk, and of course Wrath James White… and I’m pretty sure Sam Richard was the attendee of honor (seeing as how he got an exclusive lap reading from Brendan Vidito, I mean I’m not saying I’m like supes totes jelly or anything, but… lucky).

Killer con was all of my summer camp dreams come true. I shouldn’t have been surprised by how sweet, charming, and utterly disarming horror authors can be. I can’t wait to come back next year.

KillerCon Travel Journal: Strange Rites

I’ve read books with gaudy covers because I’ve loved their authors and I’ve watched as the cover art shifted in my mind as I went. Geometrically the illustrations were in the exact same positions, but I’d attached new meanings. After putting the book down I was hard pressed to imagine any other cover. The design had improved upon association.

The same phenomenon applies to people. Charm can make an average looking Joe handsome and a sense of humor looks great on a woman. A positive association of someone attaches to their form, like an aura of positivity, and makes you eager to see them.

I felt these positive associations form in my brief time here at the KillerCon, getting to know established writers, up and comers, and the fans roving the hotel floors.

In my home city of Minneapolis I function on a safe predictable loop (yes, like the second season of Mr. Robot). I go to work, for coffee, and my weekly club night. I’m less likely to feel socially anxious when I know what to expect.

My first day at KillerCon I was out of element, a stranger in a strange land of splatter punks and hardcore horror aficionados who’ve traveled on the same circuit. At first I felt less like a participant and more like a pop cultural anthropologist.

Then I realized everyone was wearing conversations starters on their sleeves, literally tattooed right on: portraits of the Bride of Frankenstein, Edgar Allan Poe, Lovecraft, Pinhead, and Cthulhu.

Eventually those of us with thousand yard stares at the bar started looking closer at one another, laughing over shared obsessions, pitching stories, telling morbid tales of our own hometowns.

Since opening ceremonies we’ve tortured ourselves with hot sauces, death peppers, strange foods, and gross out stories. Last night I took the Malort challenge, shots of a drink whose creator says is for drinkers who disdain the light flavors of neutral spirits. If you enter #MalortFace into Instagram you’ll see a series of portrait of people who’ve taken the same challenge.

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#malortface

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That was last night, a whirlwind of hotel room parties, singing, and storytelling. This morning on the final day of KillerCon the event feels like summer camp. I wasn’t sure if anyone would like me on the day I arrived now I wish I had more time with everyone.

KillerCon Travel Journal Day 1: Check-in and My Room

Windgate by Wyndham Round Rock

Turns out I’m not afraid of being alone in a creepy hotel room. (The ghouls, phantasms, and phantoms have all been accommodating.) This king-sized bed is my element. It’s the lounge filled with strangers that scares me: laughter growing to a cackle, individual speakers cutting through the crowd walla, referencing authors I really ought to know by now. I’m at the front desk checking in. I can’t see them, but I’m casting them in my mind. I just know they’re covered in conversations starters: Clever horror t-shirts, sleeve tattoos that tell stories, and then there’s me still rocking a wallet chain I bought in the 90s. Now I’m looking at the mirror thinking I really should’ve learned to accessorize before I came down here.

After a long flight and a long drive all I want to do is amble across the highway and get me some Taco Bell. Daddy needs his guilty pleasure comfort food and he’s willing to hike through the 102 degree Texas sun to get it… But that wouldn’t be making the best use of my time here. I should be networking, talking fiction, and inserting business cards into hands.

I’m going to assume that fleeting moment of social anxiety is a natural part of con and that the only remedy is fear aversion therapy. So. Here. Goes.

KillerCon Travel Journal Day 1

Minneapolis International Airport

It’s been a while since I’ve found myself biding my time in an airport lounge hours before a flight. The last time was in the early aughts, back before there were complimentary charging stations, free Wi-Fi, and touch screens drilled into every flat surface. Back when a book, a Discman, and a beer were your only distractions. Now everyone is plugged in, multitasking on multiple screens: dual wielding tablets and laptops, smartphones and smartwatches.

I’m one of them, typing in my awkward little chair, cutting out the boarding announcements with my giant head cans, and scrolling through Paul Tremblay’s t-shirt collection on Instagram. I went to my gate without setting foot on the moving walkway just so I could check how many calories I burned on my Apple Watch.

I’m not saying that if it weren’t for all these screens the frequent fliers would lean over their dividers and start getting to know one another. There’s just something to be said about being trapped with your own thoughts for several hours. There’s a mandatory meditative quality. Boredom has a way of forcing the imagination to surface.

Maybe we’re all maladaptive daydreamers, scared that too much time to ourselves will have us looking back on our lives wondering what could’ve been. So we lean into our connections. We keep things real, stay in the present.

There’s something to be said for indulging in fantasy, cartoonish, spooky, outlandish fantasy (even if you’re not a writer). The imagination is a muscle far too many people let atrophied.

That said: my flight boards in a half an hour and I’m going to get myself a drink.

See you in Austin.

Messing With Texas: I’m Coming to KillerCon!

I’ll be attending the KillerCon in Austin Texas from August 23-27. You’ll find me hovering around the Clash Books table talking about my latest horrifying creation He Has Many Names. I’ll be reading an excerpt on Sunday the 26th(at 1pm, location TBA).

This will be my first public reading of the book tour, and my career. No pressure, right? I mean what’s the worst that could happen? Scaffolding near the stage could come undone the moment I step behind the podium. A steel beam could impale me through the lungs. I could cough out a geyser of blood as my stomach lining seeps down my lap. I could stagger forward a bloody bile encrusted mess and realize my fly has been down the entire time. Now that would be embarrassing. If this plays out as I’ve foretold then I promise to haunt the Conference Center of the Wingate hotel as the Fly-down Phantasm(I expect a listing on hauntedrooms.com by the end of the month).

I’ll be really honest. This is my first one of these events and I have no idea what I’m supposed to do. I assume I’m supposed spend the first evening waving a microcassette recorder around my hotel room, checking for electronic voice phenomenon.

“Is there anyone here who wishes to speak, someone with perhaps with some insights into men’s casualwear?”

“How many of the spirits with us identify as fashionestas?” “Is an all black ensemble slimming or does it make me seem less approachable?

“Is this Edgar Allan Crow t-shirt ironic enough for this venue or does it look like I’m trying too hard? Be honest. I’ll appreciate it.”

I’ve scanned through the event programming. There are screenwriting workshops, panels on mythology, horror movie screenings. All stuff I’m keen on. I’m probably going to do the same thing I do every time I’m faced with the paradox of choice: wave an enchanted pendulum over a map of the grounds and scry out the best option. If the ritual keeps pointing me to the hotel bar well then that’s where the universe has decided I need to be.

In any event I’d like to meet like-minded lunatics with an affection for the abnormal, a penchant for the paranormal, and a weakness for weirdness.

If you’re attending the KillerCon in Austin between the 23-27, find me at the Clash Books table or drop me a line at drewchialauthor@gmail.com.