May 01, 2004

World Horror Convention Roundup

by Alan Beatts

Though they are terribly tiring, one of my favorite things about the genre book business are the yearly conventions that I get to attend.  At the least, each year I go to the three "world" conventions.  Each convention is different, from the casual and enthusiastic World Horror Convention in the spring to the huge and bustling World Science Fiction Convention in the summer to the World Fantasy Convention in fall with its consummate professionalism, but they all have one strong common quality -- it's a chance to visit and catch up with many, many old friends and a chance to meet new ones.  Oh, yes, and along the way we'll sell a few books, too.

This year's World Horror Convention in Phoenix, Arizona was no exception.  Though smaller than usual this year (perhaps due to being over Easter weekend), WHC was as pleasant as always and convention chairman Mike Wilmoth did a wonderful job.  Surprisingly, given the smaller attendance, sales in the dealer's room were very brisk and, at least for Borderlands, new sales records were set.

Personally the high points of the convention are too many to mention here but there are two or three standout incidents that bare mentioning.  The first actually started before the convention proper with a visit to our store from editor Stephen Jones.  He stopped by SF on his way from England to Phoenix to sign copies of THE MAMMOTH BOOK OF VAMPIRES (NEW EDITION).  I've known Steve for years, but our dealings have always been of the five-minute-chat variety or have taken place very late at night when we were both a bit worse for wear.  It was great to have some more relaxed time to talk with him while he was in SF and that continued over the weekend.  I also met for the first time an author by the name of Tony Richards.  Tony was attending WHC for the first time and, based on his comments, will be back again.  During our first conversation he was kind enough to give me a copy of his current book, POSTCARDS FROM TERRI (Sarob Press, Hardcover, $32.50).  I didn't have a chance to read it until after the convention but once I did, let's just say that I'll be looking out for anything else that Tony writes.  POSTCARDS is a ghost story with a really original twist and, despite its modern setting (which can really damp a ghost story for me), it's really creepy as hell.

There is a little tradition that we have at WHC.  I'm not quite sure how it started but, late Saturday night (or, more likely, very early Sunday morning) some mismatched group will get together and start a debate.  The subjects have varied over the years but it's never something simple.  Past topics have been things like -- the effect that language has on thought -- the existence of god -- the possibility of a "just" war -- anyway, you get the idea.  This year the topic was even more abstract than usual.  Years ago, it seems, author and editor John Skipp (THE BOOK OF THE DEAD and THE LIGHT AT THE END) coined the term "Stupography".  It's a delightful word.  The world needs more words like that.  Ah, what does it mean, you may ask?  Certainly we (myself, Jude Feldman (Borderlands General Manager), Peter Atkins, Eric Cherry, and a number of other folks) asked just that question and from that sprang an hours-long discussion of its exact nature, whether it's avoidable, where it came from and whether it should be a capital crime.

"Stupography" has as its roots the words "stupid" and "pornography".  In short it is the production and delivery of material that is blatantly incorrect, misleading, or just plain wrong.  Though it is an extension of both propaganda and advertising, it is distinct from either of these in that everyone know that is untrue and yet everyone swallows it whole.  I can't truly do justice to the conversation or the concept but if you're curious about it, check out John's site at in a few weeks.  He's promised to put up his original rant on the subject.

As much fun as WHC is and has been, I fear that it's having a bit of trouble right now.  Conventions in the genre are almost all labors of love.  The people who put them on do not get paid and in fact stand to lose a considerable sum of money if the convention is poorly attended (this was not the case at WHC this year).  For local conventions, this is less of a problem, since the same group puts on the convention every year and benefits from experience and builds a solid following.  But the "world" cons move around each year and so they are in constant need of new groups who are willing to step up to the plate and put on the convention.  Normally a convention will work two to three years in advance so at any given time there is one convention about to happen, one ready for the next year and one that is in the planning stages.

For the last two years, the World Horror Convention has not been able to work more than one year in advance.  In fact, as of this moment the location for next year has not been decided.  The reason for this has been a shortage of people offering (or "bidding" as it's called) to put on the convention.  However, also as of this moment, there are several very attractive bids being considered by the convention board of directors and I have high hopes that next year will be an outstanding convention.  And that brings me to the public service portion of this column.  Next year's World Horror Convention will need to be put together in record time and one of the obstacles that the organizers will have to overcome will be a lack of funding.  They will have to start working on the convention very quickly and they'll have to do this without the usual two years to sell memberships (which is the only source of funding that the convention has).  So, if you are thinking of attending the World Horror Convention next year, please be ready to purchase your membership as soon as the location is announced.  Not only will you be supporting the convention and, by extension, the whole field but you will, in all likelihood, be able to get a discounted membership if you act quickly.  The final decision about the location should be made by the middle of this month and we'll put that information in the next issue of this newsletter.  Or, you can check at the convention's web site at .

One other thing that some of the readers of this newsletter might want to consider -- WHC still needs bids for 2006 and 2007.  Chairing a convention can be a great opportunity to get to know all kinds of people in the field.  It's a hell of a lot of fun too.  Information about making a bid can be found at the convention's web site.  And WHC isn't the only convention that needs bids.  The World Fantasy Convention has been a bit short on bids lately as well (thought not as short as WHC).  Information about that convention can be found at

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