It struck me as I sat in the audience at the opening ceremony of WHC 2011 that many of the guests of honour and attending members were Gentlemen Of A Certain Age. I was called, without a trace of facetiousness, ‘young lady’ twice in the first 24 hours of the convention. Was this a good thing or a bad thing, I wondered. Obviously, being called ‘young’ when I am in the grips of middle age is a good thing, but there were larger considerations than my vanity and ego. On the one hand, seeing all these older people who had ‘made it’ was reassuring, because it meant that I still had plenty of time to become one of them. On the other hand, maybe the reason that many of the respected names in the genre were collecting pensions is that it takes 30 years to become a household name in horror.
More food for thought came in the 9pm panel, “What the Hell Happened in the 2000’s?” One of the panellists said a startling thing – in his opinion, the true innovation in horror in the 2000’s came from romance writers, not horror writers. Romance writers were keeping the old monsters alive by making them sexier.
This could have been a controversial viewpoint; mention the phrase ‘paranormal romance’ or ‘Stephenie Meyer’ to the average speculative fiction writer, and be prepared for lots of grimaces and eye-rolling. It was refreshing to hear someone acknowledge the influence such writers have had on the genre of recent years, and the audience appeared to accept it.
From this panel, I went on to the 10pm reading by Dark Continents member Sylvia Shults from her new novel “The Taming of the Werewolf”, which I had the pleasure of editing. The reading almost did not happen – she had originally planned to travel to Austin by train, and had been looking forward to the trip, when at the last minute her train was cancelled due to flooding on the tracks. A last minute plane ticket was prohibitively expensive, so she resorted to a last minute bus ticket, which should have put her in Austin around early afternoon, in plenty of time for the reading.
Note the phrase “should have”. There were delays. There were diversions. There were missed transfers. There were endlessly looping movies in Spanish with Spanish subtitles. That bus journey from Pekin, Illinois to Austin, Texas wound up taking 33 hours. She stepped off the bus at 9.45pm, where Dave and John collected her, went straight to the Doubletree Hotel, walked into the conference room, picked up her book, and started reading.
And it wasn’t just a reading. It was a performance. Either the woman is extraordinarily talented, or those 33 hours addled her brain to the extent that she thought she was Katherina, the main character of her book. This was the person I would be sharing a room with for the duration of the conference. I’d only known her in person for about fifteen minutes, and I was in awe.
The adrenalin on which we had all been running that day abruptly ran out somewhere around 11pm. It was back to the Holiday Inn for us to recharge and prepare ourselves for Friday’s Big Event, our launch party.
Oh, and somewhere in amongst all of this I sold my first copy of “Ghosts Can Bleed”.