Queen City Kamikaze Happens this Sunday in New Hampshire (updated)

 

By Jason Harris

 

It’s February and the third annual Queen City Kamikaze is upon us once again. It’s one bright spot during this cold and snowy month.  The one difference this year is that this anime, video game, comic book, cosplay, sci-fi, and fantasy convention takes place on a Sunday. For the past two years, it happened on Saturday.

There will be over 25 vendors at this convention including Dandelion Studios, Books & Boos, and Harrison’s Comics.

Mark Wholley, one of the Four Horsemen who founded Anthocon, Northern New England’s only multi-genre literature and arts convention, will be at QCK for his second time to promote Anthocon. He will also be selling copies of Anthology, an anthology that debuted at Anthocon. He wants to make some vendor contacts and meet some artists, Wholley said.

“I like the show because of it diverse audience it draws in, It’s local to me and I like to support other shows when I can. I enjoyed last year so I decided to attend again this year,” Wholley said.

At the Books & Boos‘ tables, there will be six authors: Stacey Longo, Dale T. Phillips, Vlad Vaslyn, Tony Tremblay, David Price, and Gordon Bean. They are all members of the New England Horror Writers organization. These authors will be selling and signing their books. This will be Longo’s third time and Tremblay’s and Price’s second time attending the convention.

“I love this convention and meeting a younger generation of readers,” Longo said.

Along with selling new and used books, Books & Boos will be presenting two panels: Horror in the Movies (1 p.m. to 2 p.m.) and Where Authors Get Their Ideas (4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.).

Horror In The Movies: authors Gordon Bean (Dawn of Broken Glass), David Price (Dead in the USA), Stacey Longo (Secret Things), and moderator Jason Harris will discuss the best and worst, darkest and most disturbing, scariest and silliest examples of horror on the big screen on the Horror in the Movies panel. From the golden age of Nosferatu to the modern-day Conjuring, this panel will cover it all. Questions from the audience are encouraged throughout the discussion.

Where Do Writers Get Their Ideas? Authors Dale Phillips (Shadow of the Wendigo), Vlad Vaslyn (Brachman’s Underworld), David Price (Dead in the USA), and moderator Stacey Longo (Secret Things) will answer the number one question writers hear from their readers: How do you come up with this stuff? From disturbing first dates to summer camp adventures gone awry, audiences will learn how the most innocent of memories and experiences can be turned into scary stories and best sellers. Questions from the audience will be encouraged throughout the discussion.

There is a third panel: How to Create, Publish, and Promote Your Own Comic, which will happen during the convention, but isn’t sponsored by Books and Boos.

The Queen City Kamikaze takes place at 1 Crusader Way in Manchester, New Hampshire from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 16. There is a $10 admission price.

Editor’s Note:
Author David Price won’t be able to attend the convention. A family issue came up.

Readercon, My Favorite Speculative Convention

Readercon, My Favorite Speculative Convention

by Bracken MacLeod

This past weekend in Burlington, Massachusetts I attended Readercon, a conference as they describe it, devoted to “imaginative literature” — literary science fiction, fantasy, horror, and the unclassifiable works often called “slipstream.”

Bracken MacLeod and Lucien Soulban at Readercon 23.

This is one of my favorite speculative cons as it is devoted (like my other favorites, Necon and Anthocon) to literature–no cosplay, no gaming, and almost no media (there’s plenty of talk about movies in panels because movies can inform prose story-telling, but no movie panels). Although the conference is usually weighted a little more toward Sci-Fi and Fantasy than horror and slipstream, there are excellent horror writers in attendance like Gemma Files, Laird Barron, Nick Mamatas, to name only a few, and the guests of honor this year were dark fiction legends, Peter Straub and Caitlin Kiernan. Sadly, I will have to defer to other NEHW contributors for a recap of Mr. Straub’s contributions to the con as his panels and readings were concurrent with other panels I attended.1 Instead, let me give you a short recap of what were the high points from the panels I attended.

The dystopian fiction panel led by NEHW member Jack Haringa, “Through a Glass Dystopianly,” was an excellent deconstruction of the recent trend in YA literature to make everything The Hunger Games. I’m not being fair. There’s a lot of good YA (and adult) dystopian fiction out there. But there’s a lot of drek too. As a genre, Leah Bobet seemed to nail the intention of YA dys fic with her deliberate oversimplification of it as the literature of mom and dad (i.e., the repressive government) won’t let me have the car or stay out late, so I’m going to escape to the forest and drink and have sex as much as I want! Or if you prefer that idea to be unpacked, the idea being, that dys fic is a reasonably fertile ground for young readers to identify their own struggles with autonomy and authority by imagining themselves as potent agents struggling under the dystopian regime. When pressed on the issue of dystopia versus utopia versus post-apocalyptic setting, Haringa threw out my third favorite bon mot of the conference: “All science fiction is optimistic because it all assumes we have a future.”

Next on the list of favorites was the panel titled “Wet Dreams and Nightmares” about weird and transgressive erotica. This panel stayed blissfully distant from paranormal romance and actually addressed real erotica and transgressive sex in a mature and unflinching way. Would you expect anything different from a panel featuring Caitlin R. Kiernan? The give and take between Gemma Files and Kiernan regarding their distinct approaches to erotic body transformations and what they individually find sexy made this panel pure gold.

The panel on horror and the social compact (another one featuring Dear Leader Haringa) presented some interesting viewpoints on the scope of horror versus science fiction, wherein it was posited that it is actually very difficult to discuss horror in the context of a Hobbesian social contract. With a few exceptions (e.g., Soylent Green—which I’d say is both sci-fi and horror), most horror is about violation of trust and/or autonomy on a personal scale as opposed to a societal one.

This panel shared an interesting deconstructive quality with one on Sunday titled “Uncanny Taxonomies,” where the conclusion was also reached that taxonomies of speculative fiction (i.e., genres) weren’t all that helpful for anyone other than book marketers and possibly consumers. It was during this panel that Kiernan gave my second favorite line of the convention: “All [novels], by definition, are fantasy; they did not happen.”2

My second favorite session of the weekend was Dr. Laura Knight’s slideshow titled “Autopsy and Postmortem Primer for Writers,” which gave the audience a basic rundown of the process of a typical autopsy and human decomposition. The con organizers grossly underestimated the appeal of a dead body slideshow to fantasy and sci-fi (and a few horror) fans and about a quarter of the attendees to the session were left sitting on the floor or standing when all the seats filled up. One poor woman who was standing in the back of the hot room (possibly with her knees locked) fainted when Dr. Knight put up the slide of decompositional bloat and a little body degloving (I am sure the heat and having to stand were also contributing factors). Sadly, that attendee missed the next slide of the two people whose little yappy dogs had partially eaten their faces. (Cat lovers take note: Dr. Knight commented that in over 2,000 autopsies, she had yet to see a feline case of filiaphagia–but those nasty little dogs… they’ll turn on you in a minute.)

Finally, at the top of my list of favorite events at Readercon (unrelated to standing in a blacked out hotel bathroom staring at disintegrating atoms in a spinthariscope—look it up—and drunken yoga in the hotel lobby) was “A Story from Scratch.”

The basic conceit of the session (in several parts over three days) was that using models from the audience and props provided by celebrity guests, Hugo-winning writers Michael Swanwick and Elizabeth Bear will crowd source a story outline and write a short story to be professionally brought to life by photographer Kyle Cassidy and illustrator Lee Moyer. On Sunday, the story would be read aloud by Swanwick and Bear accompanied by a slide show of the work that Cassidy and Moyer produced. Bear provided a very condensed version of her course on effective fiction writing and the small crowd of participants began throwing out ideas for the story. What eventually took shape was the sad tale of a Chinese restaurant owner whose wife has been taken hostage by the Yakuza (I know), and must find the ransom before her wife (it is Massachusetts after all) loses all of her fingers and her entire memory (somehow stolen with each successive finger chop).

When the call was made for volunteers to be photographed by the amazing Mr. Cassidy, of course I volunteered. Given my cuddly and welcoming appearance, I was immediately cast as one of the Yakuza gangsters. The short version of the rest of the story is that, as one could predict, this became another instance of “and then Bracken took his shirt off” at a con. Fortunately, this bout of semi-nudity led to Cassidy and Moyer making me look like the coolest fucking American Yakuza since Viggo Mortensen and Bear and Swanwick crafting a Philip K. Dick style story containing my single favorite line of the entire Con: “Tom and Bracken were evil men, but not brutal.” (As soon as the story, titled “Dismemberance,” and photos are posted online I’ll be sure to link to them.)

The bottom line is, if you have a broad taste in genre literature, you could do a lot worse than attend a Readercon, but you’re going to be hard pressed to do better.
Cheers!

1 I know. I know. Revoke my horror fan card if you must.
2  Other excellent lines came from Michael Swanwick: “Wincing equals good fiction,” and Elizabeth Bear, “The worst reaction a reader can have to your story is ‘Fuck you!’”