Sunday, September 1, 2013

We'll Always Have Providence

Last weekend I was lucky enough to attend the NecronomiCon Providence, the premiere Lovecraft/weird fiction convention, held in Lovecraft's home city of Providence, RI. The event had built up a high level of anticipation, with many convention goers booking flights and hotel rooms nearly a year in advance. The air in Providence was thick with excitement at the gathering of so many devotees in one place. I no longer had to explain the meaning of my Miskatonic University shirt, I was surrounded by people who understood. Anywhere I went led to striking up conversations with total strangers, be it in the elevator, or the food cart a block away. I ran into some people who were familiar with the blog. "You're the guy who runs The Arkham Digest?!" Some of the magic of the weekend is truly hard to form into words, and for days afterwards Facebook was abuzz with pictures, comments and jokes about the con. On one post, author Jeffrey Thomas pointed out: "Does anyone notice the con is still kind of going via Facebook?". I myself had to wait a week before attempting to write a recap of the con, as the days following led to a post-con blues, and now that I'm writing I find it hard to put the magic that was the con into words.

Niels Hobbs and the Lovecraft Arts and Sciences Council, Inc. put together a multi-day extravaganza, utilizing several local hotels as the focal points for what was undoubtedly the biggest Lovecraft-themed convention ever. Local theaters were showing Lovecraftian films, The Providence Biltmore and Hotel Providence hosted numerous panels and author readings,the Hotel Providence was the site of much gaming, Lupo's on The Strand featured Lustmord's first North American show in a long time, and the local Waterfire event hosted some Lovecraftian bands. Panels encompassed all facets of Lovecraft: gaming, Lovecraft's influence, writing Mythos fiction, the New Weird, Lovecraftian filmmaking, and art. Vendors consisting of artists and small presses filled areas on two floors of the Biltmore, offering Cthulhu sculptures, dark ambient music, original artist prints, and books. There was a Friday night masquerade ball and the final day of the convention kicked off with the infamous Cthulhu Prayer Breakfast. It felt like I had died and gone to Lovecraft Heaven (or Unknown Kadath?).

There was always something to do, and usually multiple panels going on at the same time, giving convention-goers plenty of choice. I myself sat in on some interesting panels: Writing Mythos Fiction Today part I and part II and The New Weird, as well as several author readings. I attended the masquerade ball for a couple hours, went to see Lustmord with several of my new friends, and attended the Cthulhu Prayer Breakfast. The New Weird panel was a fun one to watch, as all authors on the panel (as well as myself) feel disdain for the term "The New Weird". Author readings were a particular highlight, especially the Saturday morning Joe Pulver/Laird Barron reading. Joe opened with a reading of a new Mountains of Madness inspired short story, and then introduced the audience to authors Mike Griffin and Scott Nicolay. In a surprising moment, Joe split his reading time with the two new authors, who read a few pages of their short stories from The Grimscribe's Puppets. The anthology sold out not long after the reading. Laird Barron then read his tale D.T. from A Season in Carcosa in it's entirety. Later that afternoon I came late to John Langan's reading, but I was able to see him read some of his story Bor Urus from the Shadows Edge anthology, before Caitlin Kiernan took the stage and gave a wonderful reading.

The highlight of the trip, without a doubt, was being able to hang out with new friends and meet many of the authors/publishers I only knew from online. As much as I enjoyed the panels, I even more enjoyed everything on the more personal level: hanging around the vendor area discussing the current state of weird fiction with The Arkham Digest's new contributor Alex Lugo; attending panels with new friends Alex Houstoun and Patrick McKitrick; lurking at the rear of the ballroom during the ball talking real life weird stories with Scott Nicolay and Sam Cowan; going out for an opening night beer with the Griffins, Nick Gucker, Mike Davis, Peter Rawlik, Tom Lynch, Joe Pulver, Kat, and Sam Cowan; grabbing a post-ball late night beer with Sam Cowan and Jeffrey Thomas and talking about how we first fell into the rabbit hole of weird fiction; seeing Lustmord and then checking out Waterfire with Mike and Lena Griffin, Sam Cowan, Nick Gucker, and Cody Goodfellow; having lunch with Laird Barron, John Langan, Richard Gavin, Simon Strantzas and Sylvia Feketekutty; attending Joe Pulver and Kat's small wedding ceremony ministered by Robert Price; and watching the hilarious Cthulhu Prayer Breakfast. These are the things memories are made of, and everyone mentioned contributed to it being an amazing weekend.

Now I find myself back in the mundane, the excitement of the con only just now dying down as everyone eases back into their daily routines. Some are planning on reuniting at other cons, such as the Lovecraft Film Festival, or the World Horror Convention. Some may go years before seeing one another again, while others are keeping in touch via the internet, eagerly awaiting the day they can once again swap stories over beers. Word is that 2015 is being considered for the next Necronomicon, and I have a feeling most of us will be returning.

While I sat in the Providence TF Green airport last Sunday, awaiting my flight to Philadelphia, and relaxing while looking over some of the new books I picked up at the con, I noticed another young man sitting near me awaiting the same flight. He wore a black button-up shirt, with green tentacles on it, and was reading the Del-Rey paperback The Transition of HP Lovecraft. He looked up at me, noticed my convention t-shirt, and his serious face split into a large grin. His smile was accompanied by a knowing look, and a nod, which I returned. We didn't speak a word, but we didn't have to. We had both gone to the same con and although we had two separate experiences, our path's not once crossing, that was all we needed. We were strangers, but at the same time we weren't. I soon boarded the plane, and after several hours at the Philadelphia airport I finally made it home. I look forward to the reunion of so many great people, and hope that it's sooner rather than later. For all my con friends who feel the same way, just remember, we'll always have Providence.

Sitting in on the Writing Mythos Fiction Part 1 panel. Also pictured: Alex Houstoun, Kat.

Laird Barron reading D.T. from A Season in Carcosa.

Jeffrey Thomas, myself, and Scott Nicolay.

Scott Nicolay reading part of Eyes Exchange Bank.

Lena Griffin, Mike Griffin, and myself.

The Cthulhu Prayer Breakfast. Joe Pulver, Lois Gresh, myself, Laird Barron with Tom Lynch and Mike Davis in the background.

Mike Griffin, Cody Goodfellow, Nick Gucker, and myself.

Mike Cisco, Jack Haringa, Laird Barron, John Langan, myself, Richard Gavin, Simon Strantzas and Paul Tremblay.

Mike Griffin reading Diamond Dust.

John Langan reading Bor Urus.

Alex Lugo, Jeffrey Thomas, and myself.

Alex Lugo, Richard Gavin, Sam Cowan, and myself at the Lustmord concert.