Six Hundred Sixty Six Bottles of Blood on the Wall: My First Con


So I went to my first con last Saturday. For those of you that don’t know, I live in Dayton, Ohio and before you scoff at that, just remember, so does Tim Waggoner and Dave Chappelle. At least I don’t live in Cleveland.

Anyway, Columbus (which just got recognized as the smartest city in the United States… Google it. What’s up now? Haha) hosted Marcon last weekend and I went. I didn’t go to dress up like my favorite Game of Thrones character (John Snow) and argue about Magic: The Gathering, (Red/Black > all other colors) although the people that were doing that sure looked like they were having a blast. I think I even saw zombie origami. What a great time to be alive!

The only reason I went to Marcon was to hear Brian Keene speak and hopefully meet him. I tweeted Keene on Thursday or Friday saying that it was my first con and that I was looking forward to hearing him speak. He tweeted back a couple hours later and told me to make sure I introduced myself. I made sure I did. It was an awesome experience.

I had to work before and after the event so I could only stay for the afternoon, but it was absolutely worth it. My cousin met me there and we made it just a shade under 10 minutes late to Keene’s panel on post-apocalyptic fiction. If you know either one of us, 10 minutes late is about as close as either of us is ever going to get to on time.

I was intimidated at first, but I quickly picked up the flow of a panel. It wasn’t hard. Keene and three other guys, who I didn’t know, but knew their stuff, were sitting in front of a conference room. There were 30 or 40 people in there and it was pretty informal. I don’t know what they started with, but in the hour and half I was there, they covered all different types of apocalypse, from manmade, to aliens, to zombies, to natural and everything in between. It was fascinating. The crowd interacted and asked questions. It reminded me of seminars that I took in grad school.

I wanted to say something, but I was scared.

Here’s the deal. I teach college and get rejected by women and publishers for a living. I don’t get nervous, but I was a little tense about contributing to the conversation. I’ve never been to Alcoholics Anonymous, though I probably should’ve been years ago, but people tell me that when you go to your first meeting you just shut up and pay attention. You don’t contribute. You observe. That’s the way I felt, but I also had a legit comment, one that I thought Keene would acknowledge and appreciate.

Screw it.

I raised my hand. My voice shook, and an hour later, browsing comics and talking books with Keene, I realized how stupid it was to feel fear at that point. Or really, at any point ever. Most of the stuff we’re scared of either never happens, or doesn’t matter an hour a day or a week later. I digress.

They were talking about humans being stagnant and lazy to the point where they went mad and crazy and that somehow leading to the apocalypse. Cited examples of this included the random acts of violence steadily on the rise in the world.

Lucky for me, I’d done my homework.

Last year I’d read two books that took place in that kind of setting: “Blood Crazy” by Simon Clark and “The Devil Next Door” by Tim Curran. I’d recommend them both, by the way. Keene has a blurb on the book jacket for “The Devil Next Door.” I saw my opportunity and seized it. And I asked something about evolutionary regression leading to the apocalypse as it does in those two books. The idea is that our brains evolve to a certain point and then overload, and they reset, turning us into id dominated savages. My voice shook, and I was terrified. Those are pretty underground books, especially the Curran book. It’s also the most violent thing I’ve ever read. That’s saying a lot and no one in the room had any idea what the Hell I was talking about.

Except Brian Keene who smiled and nodded enthusiastically. It’s probably a much bigger deal to me than to him, but I felt like I made an impression.

I met him after the panel and I realized that I didn’t need to make an impression. BK is a a cool dude. Several people told me that they’d met him and that he was cool, but you never know. They were absolutely right.

He was sitting at a table selling books at the back of the Marcon marketplace. He’d told me to introduce myself via Twitter and I did and we started talking. We talked about his books and books by other authors. Most of my extreme horror friends are online friends, and it was cool to talk horror in person with someone so well-schooled. We talked about Tim Curran and Edward Lee, two authors that a lot of people are unfamiliar with. We talked about “The Human Centipede” knocking off a short story by Edward Lee. It was pretty cool. I didn’t want to linger or lurk so after a few minutes, I bought “Kill Whitey” and he signed it for me. (Great book. I just finished it) He also signed my copy of “Unhappy Endings” that I brought from home. I said thanks and goodbye and went to check out the rest of the convention. I couldn’t have been happier with the way it went.

Me and my cousin shopped around the rest of the place. I bought a shirt that says “Torture makes the meat taste better.” It was like the perfect day.

There was one more comic book shop that we wanted to check out. And guess who was walking in just as we were? BK.

kgsl and brian keene

We talked for another 10 or so minutes. He told me a story about when he was thirty going to a con and drinking with as he put it “Richard F*cking Laymon and Jack F*cking Ketchum.” He asked if I wrote and I told him I did. I wish I would’ve told him I had a story coming out in a collection with Ketchum later this year, but I didn’t. In my experience most nobody writers who talk/brag too much about their own work are annoying, pretentious people with low social intelligence. That ain’t me.

He asked if we were staying the night, said he wanted to get beers with us later.

I should’ve called off work.

I didn’t.

I tweeted him afterward and thanked him. He tweeted back, told me to keep writing. He may not remember me the next time he meets me (although he seems like the kind of guy who would) or the time after that. But I plan on seeing him at cons for a long time to come. And I’ll conclude this blog the same way I said goodbye to Mr. Keene, “One of these days I’ll be on your side of that panel and we’ll have some fun.”

Keep reading, keep writing, and keep it real,

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