KillerCon 4 Day 2 Recap
Day 2 of the KillerCon 4 festivities kicked off with the Pitch Sessions during which the convention attendees pitched their work to the publishers and agents with high hopes. Elsewhere, in the Sierra Room, the very talented William Gagliani, most renowned for his Wolf Cycle series, did an intense and interesting reading, or as he put it, he served as the opening act for a horror scribe who needs no introduction, Gene O'Neill, who (very commendably) uses his readings at conventions not to read from his own work, although he does mention some particular highlights of what he's got for sale in the dealer's room, but rather to share center stage with some up-and-coming writers whose works he feels deserve promotion.
Next up, it was a crowded room for another horror writer who needs no introduction—Stephen King famously called him the scariest man in America—Jack Ketchum, who read a selection from The Woman and answered some questions from eager fans about his own writing process, the origins of his pseudonym, and the film adaptations of his works.
As writers rushed off to the Self-Editing for Fiction Writers workshop led by the Editorial Department's resident horror editor, RJ Cavender, Brian Keene and Edward Lee gave entertaining back-to-back readings, which made for one hell of a two-hour reading line-up. Still, the most fun was seeing all three horror writers on the previous night's panel, “The Book Was So Much Better! Film Adaptations of Books,” which, incidentally, saw Jack Ketchum and John Skipp doing an impromptu interpretive dance, which was delightful ;-)
Kelley Armstrong, Maurice Broaddus, and F. Paul Wilson answered some fascinating questions from moderator Bailey Hunter about the state of young adult fiction in horror and dark fantasy on the "Why Strangers Have the Best Candy" panel, and recounted their own experiences of what led them to make the foray into the wildly popular and massively successful category. Ms. Armstrong made some particularly insightful contributions to the conversation, including the importance of not pandering or talking down to the teen audience or assuming that they wouldn't understand certain references, as well as the heightened and infectious level of excitement that teen readers exhibit in a way that's very different from adults. Maurice Broaddus referenced his work with special needs students and his experiences with his own sons as being vital to the formation of his young adult works, while F. Paul Wilson pointed to the challenges of getting into the head of a thirteen year-old and consulting his daughters about the pop culture of the early 80s for authenticity to his young Repairman Jack novels.
Those in the mood for thrills and chills went to the Alien Autopsy presentation by Pat MacEwan, while others flocked to make-up and FX artist Mike McCarty's “Zombie Effects: The Make-up of The Dead!” and reveled in the experience of getting some professional zombie make-up to showcase for the rest of the day.
Con attendees flocked to the dealer's room for the mass signing to get their books signed by some favorite authors, new authors, and to stock up on the best horror fiction up for grabs during the weekend. Samhain Horror authors had a particularly good experience with many authors selling through the stock they brought. Adam Cesare, Damien Walters Grintalis, and Brian Moreland were among the Samhain authors present at the con.
Monica O'Rourke and Adam Pepper each did readings followed by Maurice Broaddus. The next panel, “Plots and Characters That Should Die! Clichés in Fiction that Make Readers and Editors Cringe,” was one of the best of the weekend as the discussion, moderated by the always fabulous and entertaining Hal Bodner, kicked into high gear right away with panelists (including Don D'Auria, Robert Fleck, Gene O'Neill, John Skipp, Erik Williams, and Monica O'Rourke) chiming in about tropes vs clichés, when something becomes a cliché, and interestingly, the fact that even though writers are advised not to repeat them or imitate the writers who came before them stylistically and instead to find and show their own voices, readers still return to the tried and true clichés and keep buying the books we all deride for the most part, because they're comfortable, safe, and people know what they're getting. There was a high level of audience engagement and some very intelligent questions with equally intelligent answers.
Benjamin K. Ethridge, John Palisano, Gene O'Neill, Brad Hodson, and others took part in a touching tribute to Michael Louis Calvillo, a bright and talented young author who we lost too soon.
Next up, the Creative Fiction Contest and the Gross-Out Contest both presented some interesting and highly entertaining pieces of fiction, with Mason Bundschuh taking home the prize for the former and this year's reigning World Horror Convention 2012 Gross-Out Champion Jason Reinhardt winning the latter.
The Deadite Press/Cutting Block Press party came next with people having an absolute blast to cap off a jam-packed and intense but fun-filled second day at KillerCon 4.