The Show Must Go On

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I have been doing conventions for a long time. A long, long time. Both comic and horror with some art and book festivals thrown in for good measure. This past weekend I went to what was easily the biggest horror con I have ever done – Days of the Dead, Indy. I was so fired up for the show I even booked a room in the host hotel. I know, CRAZY!

It was an interesting weekend. I don’t really have a huge interest in writing a ‘review’ of the con per se because it was a good show, a big show, and there was a ton to do. If you were a fan and wanted to go to a show that gave you the best bang for you buck I am betting this is one of the ones you’d want to hit. I never want to go to shows as a fan just because I figure I’d get bored but man, there were events going late into the night on Friday and Saturday and you’d be hard pressed to be bored if you were looking for some fun. As far as I could tell it was very professionally run, the traffic flow was as good as you could have expected, and people were having a good time. Any issues were the kind of things you have with every show – it’s too cold, I didn’t sell enough, this happened, or that happened, or whatever. That’s the sort of stuff that falls under the ‘annoyances’ category but which I can’t really slam the con for – it wouldn’t be fair. No show is perfect. None.

That was one of the big takeaways for me this weekend was that, as big as this show is and as small as our Flint show was our little show got a heck of a lot ‘right’ in regards to how we ran things. Our experience came from doing community and arts events, not large scale conventions, so we did pretty darn well. We had our hiccups like every show, and limitations, but with what we had…we did pretty darn well. I was always disappointed we didn’t get more folks out to the show but I forget that we were a one day show, which limits attendance. And let’s face it, whatever it is, people will always tell you they are going and not show up. It’s not you, it’s them. It’s life. It makes me happy though to know that we did things right. We always felt like we did but it’s nice to see that, compared to big shows, we were right in thinking that.

I love, love, love the atmosphere of these shows. The ‘freak show’ nature where everyone is doing their thing and flying their particular flag. It was great to see the sheer enthusiasm people have for horror, for the guests, and for everything in between. It’s great. It really is what pure fandom is about, the fun of it all. Fans get painted in a negative light pretty often, especially horror fans, but when you see the fun these folks are having, and talk to them and see how passionate they are you see them not as a stereotype or idea but as PEOPLE. Fans. It’s silly that horror fans are seen as freaks and weirdos because we love things on the dark side, as if watching two people beat the crap out of one another in the name of money and sport is an innocent way to pass the time. Sheesh. And I tell you what, you rarely find more welcoming, friendly, and generous celebrities than you do with the genre films. Not everyone is great but man, most of these folks understand that without the fans they might not be working and they appreciate that. It’s nice to be appreciated!

It does make me sad, I have to say, when it comes to celebrities because I wonder who the next generation will be that will do these shows. There just aren’t the personalities or career horror people that we used to have. Many actors look down on genre work and would never ‘stoop’ to do a convention. It makes me wonder who the next generation will be then to populate these shows. They will find folks but I am not sure if they’ll be as compelling and fun as the generation we have now though.

I had one of those weird things happen to me that happens from time to time that I just…I just don’t get. Once in a while at shows you get the Know It All, the person that feels compelled to tell you what you’re doing wrong, that they don’t like your stuff, that you’re a hack, any number of things that are just nasty and childish to say. Giving unsolicited opinions is something a child does, not an adult with any common sense. Ah, but these people don’t have common sense. There was a woman at the show, a fellow author selling vampire books, who kept wandering around the show being three shades of obnoxious. She came up to me as I was just standing behind my table and proceeded to tell me how well she was doing, incredibly well. Great, I told her, genuinely happy for her because to me, I am not in competition with other writers. I do what I do, they do what they do, whatever. People read what they want. Well she had said this, literally, in passing, and turned to start a conversation with me. She spoke in the most condescending tone I think I have heard in many years and started quizzing me – so you’re the author, so you’re self-pub, oh… She looked my table over, then picked up one of my novels, flipped through it, got a very upset look on her face then said ‘ooooooh, do you have many copies of this?’. I was freaked out because I thought that there was some obvious typo that she’d found. I told her ‘yeah’, because I had a few copies for the show but it’s not like a keep a vast stock on hand. ‘Well, black words on white paper burn reader’s eyes. That’s why they print on off white’ she said matter-of-factly. I was at a loss for words. I had been growing angrier and angrier with her but that was the topper but I kept my cool because I am too old for games and I didn’t really wanna get into some silly vendor war at a convention. I thanked her for that ‘sizzling hot tip’ – something an ex-manager would say, which always made me laugh – and she spun around again, satisfied she had imparted her wisdom on me and heading off, and she gave me a crap eating grin and told me something like ‘any time’ and wandered off. I assume she was drunk. Both times I ran across her she seemed terribly drunk. If not, she’s got issues to deal with. I was not the only author she did this to. She made sure to go by another author I know to pull the same sort of nonsense with him, telling him all about how great she was doing and taking down to him about his work.

She doesn’t know us.

She doesn’t know what we do.

She can be the world’s bestselling author of books about vampire knights but baby, if you got no class, you got no class. She has no class.  I do this because I love it. I wish, wish, WISH I could make a living with my writing but I don’t. It is what it is. I get that some people look down there nose at me for being self-published and I deal with it. I wish I had other options. I don’t. Unless someone wants to read all of my work and prove to me that my work is lesser than much of the garbage dropped into the mainstream market then they can eff off all day and night. It’s funny to me that musicians, poets, and artists are ‘allowed’ to self-publish and produce things themselves but authors can’t. We’re trash if we do. That’s ridiculous. Don’t tell me it’s about ‘saturating the market’ and ‘watering down the talented writing with bad writing’. That doesn’t wash. People choose what they want to read. If I read something I don’t like I don’t punish the world of writing by not reading anymore. I doubt anyone does that. It’s the old guard being afraid of the new wave. Sure, a lot of crap is getting published, but BIG SURPRISE! Look at the bookshelves and you’ll see a lot of crap, but someone reads it so it is what it is.

Back to our friend.

I just don’t get the mentality of talking crap to people, especially people doing something they love. It’s petty, childish, and pathetic.

We ran into her later that night and she said ‘hello author’ as if she had told me to screw myself with a wrench.

The thing too is that her ‘tip’ doesn’t hold a ton of weight. Sure, black on white CAN hurt the eyes, but that tends to fall on the lighting more than anything else. You know why paperbacks were printed on ‘off white’/news print style paper? Because it was inexpensive. There may not be a lot of books printed on white paper but, really? Magazines? White paper. Computer screens? White. Many books? WHITE! If I fail as a writer because of the color of the paper in my books then I am in bad shape.

I wish her well in her writing, I hope she’s successful, but more than anything I hope she wakes up one day and gains a little humility and some better people skills.

It was definitely not a show where I did well though with the books. I don’t feel terribly bad because a lot of the vendors and my author friend didn’t do well either. A lot of the fans were either spending their money elsewhere or not at all. It is what it is. It sucks for me, but fans know what they wanna buy and buy it. I had some sales. I had some nibbles. I got a couple people who were unimpressed I was self-published and some that were surprised at my book output – to which I answer that for ten years all I had to do was write with no publishing outlet so work piles up, as well as ideas. I get the impression that, for whatever reason, my books just won’t do well at shows, at least not horror cons. Again, maybe it’s me. Maybe the books stink. All I can do is promote and sell what I have. It is what it is.

I did realize on this trip that yeah, I am too old for the loud, late-night drunken shenanigans. I sorta always knew this but the trip definitely pressed the issue.

If there was one thing that upset me about the show it was that vendors, our writer friend among the very first, started shutting down at 3PM on Sunday. That really bothers me, as a vendor, as a fan, and as someone who put shows on. It’s unprofessional and it cheats the show and the fans. Things die around then at a three day con, I get it. You start to get antsy, you get bored, and you wanna go home. I even packed up and left at 4:30 because EVERYONE was packing up save two or three vendors by then. There were no fans. It was so bad that the hotel had a scissor lift out removing things that were hung up. If we didn’t have a four and a half hour drive we would have stayed ‘til five, but I still feel bad. I feel worse though for the fans that came for that one day and come to find vendors and guets coming in very late, some hungover. Then to have the vendors shut down early too. Why get a weekend pass? Why bother?

This is why I wish, wish, wish conventions would just move to two days shows. When you take how mediocre Fridays are, and how mediocre Sundays are and put them together you have another solid day, making two solid days. I get that venues, and guests have better prices if you book three days. I get it. But it just makes way more sense. It makes a weekend pass more exciting because you won’t get bored as easily. For vendors and guests it means you don’t have to waste Thursday to get to the show or get ready for it, you can just head out on Friday. Have two, solid days where people may miss stuff but miss it because they were so busy with awesome stuff. I’d rather that than run out of things I wanted to do.

It will never happen, but it’s my dream.

The way vendors treat Sundays it’s basically a non-day anyway right now.

Overall though I had a great time. We saw a lot of friends, bought a lot of awesome stuff, got some photos with celebs, and I don’t regret the trip at all. I am sad that it feels as if another market for my books is gone but it is what it is. I don’t blame a show for that, and I don’t blame the fans, and I don’t blame me. It just is what it is.

If there was a lesson to be learned it’s to have fun, no matter what have fun, then the rest doesn’t sting as much. I also learned that I miss doing our show, but that’s another story.

meepsheep.com

-c

One For The Road

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There are topics that I write about and will swing back to time and again as new perspective emerges, as I discover I have more to say, or when I just plumb forget that I wrote about the topic.

Oops.

As more and more films are remade it occurs to me that we still have a lot of legendary directors that are still among the living and still able bodied and who all deserve to go out on a high note. Now, WANTING them to do that and seeing them do that is another thing.

I have rambled at great length about this topic but it keeps nagging at me.

We have some filmmakers who are legitimate genre legends who deserve better.

I will grant you all day that the directors I can think of have seen better days, and have not produced anything excellent in a while BUT I also offer that most of them probably feel like the trouble to get funding, approval, a script, a cast, and then working with the studio system only to have your film dumped on home video has to really take the pleasure out of things. Worse, I can’t imagine the frustration of wanting to work on projects and not get support when countless re-treads and downright awful films are given the greenlight all the time.

Naturally, this isn’t foolproof.

It isn’t a sure thing.

It’s a what if.

But What If…

What if they did something similar to what they tried with Masters of Horror but did it with a feature film. Give the directors a hard budget of less than say, five million, pair them with a good young writer or let them adapt something. Let them focus only in the direction of the work. These are all folks that came up making no-budget films who should still have those chops where they can make a good film that isn’t about cost but is about the story and style.

You’re telling me Carpenter, Craven, Romero, Argento, Hooper and on and on, that these folks don’t have one last good horror film left in them?

Sure, not all of those people are even done with directing but they’re all getting close to being done and many directors are not focusing on horror any longer. So what if?

What if someone like Amazon or Hulu or another company came along and tried this experiment?

Old school. Low budget. Down and dirty horror filmmaking. Horror at its finest.

Maybe some aren’t any good…but maybe some are.

I can for sure tell you I’d rather watch something like this, a film from one of the old masters that has a spark of ambition and passion to it, than any of the dozen or so junk horror movies that get some manner of funding and get dumped right onto home video. You’re telling me The Pyramid was worth the time and money?

It’s a long shot and a dream. But dreaming is what we geeks do, isn’t it? Hoping and dreaming. Odds are if the stars did align a lot of the people would dismiss the idea altogether. Maybe with reason. There’d be strings. There are always strings. It breaks my heart to think we’ll never see one last try from some of these folks though. One last sincere effort that isn’t crap. There are too many yes-people surrounding them to protect them from the cruel realities of a studio system that feels like those horses should be left out to pasture. What if though?

These are folks that deserve to do things their way one last time. If they make movies after, then awesome, if not, then awesome. But one last time – their way.

With the talent in the horror world, the writers, actors, artists, effects people, lighting people, musicians, cinematographers, with all of these people we can’t get something together? People wouldn’t LOVE the opportunity to work with a legend?

I don’t get it.

Horror is so screwed up.

I get that it’s about money. It’s about franchise. It’s about popcorn and pop sales.

I get that.

It’s a business.

The thing though is that the core of the business is us, us horror geeks, and if you do right by us, we’ll come back again and again. We’ll tell people to watch the movie. We’ll buy the movie. We’ll buy the merch. We WANT to love horror, to geek out about it, blog about it, podcast about it, and tell the world about the good movies.
We just need more good movies.

We need more trust.

There is always an audience for boobs, blood, and drugs.

Always.

But that’s aiming for the lowest common denominator that MAY go see your film but will most just rent, stream, or torrent it. They aren’t invested in the genre or its creators.

It’s a risk. An experiment.

But what if?

It’s such a shame that of all the talent, all the money, all the passion that surrounds horror we can’t get more of these folks to work together.

Maybe it’s studios.

Maybe it’s fans.

Maybe it’s them.

All I can say is that, as a fan, I would love to see this.

Sure, most of these folks are done or nearing the end but wouldn’t it be nice – one last time, one last old school movie from the heart, one last hurrah, one for the road?

Books of Blood

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I recently got to have the fun of desecrating some of my own books for the cause of creating some artwork for a flier for an upcoming event. I really had fun with it, despite having to sacrifice some books for the project. I took a bunch of pics but here are a few of the fun ones.

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www.meepsheep.com

Podcastin’!

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Hey, I am part of a podcast!
Huzzah!

PODCAST!

I have wanted to try my hand at the casting of pods for some time now but wasn’t sure how or what or any of that stuff. A friend and I made a dry run at it once but we never posted it, and this was YEARS ago. recently some horror con friends and I decided that we should try our hand at a ‘cast and we finally got together this past Friday to give it a whirl.Our podcast is called The Ghoul Cast and we had an utter blast doing it. It was fun to nerd out with friends and, for our first one together, we did really well. There’s a lot I want to do with the ‘cast, like getting more of the convention Ghoul Crew involved, changing our format around from time to time, and just keeping things fun and different, but we’ll see where this goes.

So far, so fun.

Hope you enjoy it too.

The Ghoul Cast

http://flinthorrorcon.podomatic.com

www.meepsheep.com

Visitor – a story

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Visitor

This is my Christmas story. You can take it as real, or fake, or a mix of both.

Most stories are that way.

True and false.

Because the truth is sometimes scarier.

And a lie offers more warmth than the cold, hard truth.

I was ten when it happened. It was Christmas Eve and we had just gotten home from my aunt’s Christmas party. The family always got together on Christmas Eve and put away the bickering and the spite, or tried to, to celebrate the holidays together. When I was ten these were still fun, but then I also still got presents from everyone. Once I hit my teen years the novelty and presents were gone and so were everyone’s filters. Such is life, I guess. That night though had been another fun one full of ethnic food from family recipes, stories about past Christmases, and presents, presents, presents. We left at eleven, two hours after dad had wanted to leave but mom was aglow from Fuzzy Navels and I was stuffed with food and pop and other than dad’s complaining all was well with the world. When we had first headed over the landscape had still been green but things were now covered with a thin layer of snow and more was falling. Dad insisted that we’d get four inches if we got anything and mom, feeling warm, told him four inches sounded good and told him it was good cuddling weather and then they started to laugh. I fell into dreams after that and was asleep until we were home and dad was shaking me back to wakefulness. I stumbled into the house, barely made it to my room, undressed then redressed for bed and was asleep before my folks could even say goodnight. All night I had strange dreams but I can’t tell you what they were about, and won’t dare to now that I know certain things.

I will say they were weird.

Because they were.

Very weird.

Eerie I guess is a better word.

Yeah. Eerie.

I woke up at four in the morning, my heart racing, my mind spinning, and every muscle in me twitching. Christmas. CHRISTMAS! I knew I was the first up and would remain the first up for a few hours so I made sure that everything I did, every movement I made was as quiet as possible. I slid out of bed and almost let out a cry at how cold the floor was on my bare feet so I stepped into my slippers and slowly moved towards my door. I could hear dad snoring so I knew I was safe and I pulled my bedroom door open inch by and when it was wide enough I slipped through the opening and crept down the hallway. There, at the top of the stairs was my stocking, full to overflow with candy and small wrapped presents. My face almost split from the grin I had. I loved stockings but didn’t have time for it now.

I had other business in mind.

I looked down the stairs and saw the twinkling of the Christmas lights and put caution out of my mind and ran down the stairs, taking them two at a time and almost falling as I went. The downstairs world was a rainbow of magic – red, blue, green, yellow, white, and orange lights and variations of all of them. The tree was lit up, a miniature 19th Century village my mom collected was lit, and so were the snowmen my dad collected. It looked right out of a painting. And presents. So many presents. Everywhere I looked. It had been a good year for dad at work, the last good year it’d turn out, and they had gone overboard and I loved it. It seemed like every present I saw had my name on it. I spun around and did a dance in the middle of the room.

Oh, the snow!

The snow!

I ran to the window to check how much snow had fallen – and secretly look for any signs of Santa and as soon as I looked outside the day changed.

My life changed.

My world changed.

It had snowed. Not a lot, just enough to blanket the world and a little more. Certainly not the four inches dad predicted. The world was a clean, white slate. A beautiful white space ready to be discovered except…except someone had already been out in the snow. Someone had already been by the house. I looked outside the window and saw that in the middle of all that unbroken snow though were footprints, one pair, coming from the woods in back of our property and heading straight to the house. They came to the window I was looking out of, the bay window, then cut to the left and towards the side of the house. I ran from the window and went from window to window checking the trajectory of the traveler and found they had stopped outside the back corner of that window, near fireplace. I put my head against the cold glass and looked down and screamed. The person who had come to the house last night had come barefoot and their footprints didn’t leave, they just…arrived. Suddenly I realized that whoever had come here was still here.

They were still here.

I screamed again and ran away from the window. I heard a loud clatter above me and dad stumbled to the stairs and yelled down to me, then started down the stairs when I screamed a third time.

“They’re still here. THEY’RE STILL HERE!” Was all I could say. I was in shock and it took hours to come down from it.

Mom was on the stairs now and when dad looked outside he immediately turned and told mom to go back upstairs and call the police.

I screamed again.

The police were there in about half an hour and I was immediately taken upstairs by mom while dad spoke to the officers. Dad got very upset at one point as he was speaking to one officer, the main one, and then more officers came inside, out of breath, and very loud about how they didn’t know where the ‘weirdo’ had gone. The first officer in charge told them to watch their volume and they weer suddenly quiet. I had heard them say – how is that even possible? – but never heard an answer. A few minutes later dad came up to get me because the police wanted to speak to me. While two of them spoke to me three other officers went upstairs and searched the rest of the house for the fourth time. The officers made their time with me short but wanted to know exactly what had happened this morning – what time I had gotten up, what time I went downstairs, if I had heard or seen anything out of the ordinary, and what time I had looked outside the first time. I didn’t tell them about the dreams. It just didn’t seem like a good idea so I didn’t. I dunno why. I just, I just knew that they’d tell me I was being silly so I didn’t say anything. Afterwards the lead officer patted me on the head and then all of the police people told dad they’d be in touch and they left.

We tried to do Christmas after they left but I was inconsolable. I just kept seeing those footprints (even after dad had gone out and kicked snow over them) and I wanted to know was who had made them, why they had come to our house, and more than anything…where they had gone. We didn’t end up celebrating Christmas until three days after and while I got spoiled Christmas just wasn’t the same and never was. Every Christmas after that I would have nightmares about the footprints and who, or what they belonged too. Even into my twenties.

They never did find out who had made the tracks, though the police said it was either a local kid playing a prank – those were some big feet for a kid – or it was someone from one of the elderly care homes in the area. We have a lot of those so that made sense, though there was no answer as to how they left without making footprints and where they went to. If they ever discovered who it was that left the tracks I never heard and mom and dad never brought it up again if they could avoid it. We actually ended up moving the next Summer. Dad said it was time to downsize, and that was probably true with the cuts to his and mom’s jobs but I also think my night terrors and maybe their own fears were a part of it as well.

After we moved we thought we were done with all of that.

The worst part came after we had moved though.

The footsteps never returned after that night but then, we weren’t there for the next Christmas, either.

The following Christmas my dad got a call from the owner of the old house wanting to know if the local kids would keep up the gag every year or if the gag would stop now. I had overheard dad tell mom about the conversation and knew dad had answered – what gag? You know, the walking around the house barefoot gag. Dad had stopped then. I peeked around the corner and saw that mom was crying. He began again. They did it at Halloween and at Christmas. It’s a real barn burner. These kids are a real gas but the gag is old. Hell, I wish you had mentioned it so I could have had some ice water ready to return the welcome. Dad stopped again. I peeked around the corner and saw him grab mom’s hand. There’s one other thing, something we need to talk about. I am not sure how to say this but I’d appreciate it if you would cover the cost of cleaning out the chimney. Dad had gotten a little angry being asked to do something after the house was sold. Look, if you don’t want to, it’s fine, I guess. I just, well, I dunno how the inspector missed it but it is a damn miracle you folks didn’t smoke yourselves to death with all that stuff stuck in the chimney. What stuff, dad had asked. The presents. They’re all old and burned now but gosh, prolly fifteen to twenty presents dropped from the top and into the fireplace. No idea why you did it but man, I am just saying, it was a health hazard and the least you should do is pay for it to be handled. It’s lucky I had the chimney cleaned or WE mighta been the ones that paid for your weird Santa fetish. Dad stopped one last time. He had never dropped presents into the fireplace. Never. Dad hated messing with the roof. And if he hadn’t no one else had that he had known about. It’s stupid and dangerous to do that sort of thing but, he asked my mom, do I tell this guy that and scare him to death? Dad didn’t. After what happened there the next winter he’ll be damned for not telling the man but he didn’t. Dad apologized, told him he’d forgotten all about that, said he’d pay for all the costs, and asked, as an aside, if the man could make out what any of the gifts were. Dad told him they’d hired someone to drop them down there but had never gotten them and had forgotten all about them until the new owner had called. The man had been quiet a few moments and then told dad that in all of the boxes, as far as he could tell, were the same thing. Dad got quiet and leaned in and told mom what was in the boxes and she started to cry again. I never heard what was in them but I think I know. I think I know. After that phone call I can only assume dad sent the man the money because for the next six months we were really tight with money.

But we had Christmas that year.

And Christmas was good. It wasn’t big, it wasn’t lavish, but it was Ok. It was safe.

We didn’t learn about the family in our old house until three days later, when the story hit the news. After that we didn’t really celebrate Christmas or Halloween. We went on vacations for those holidays and that was that.

We were the lucky ones.

Family of five disappears on Christmas.

All five members of the family that had moved into our house had disappeared on Christmas morning some time. No note. No cars or money taken. No one dressed for the weather. Just six sets of footprints heading out into a bad snow storm towards the woods. One set approaching the house and six leaving. No sign of the family anywhere. No answer as to who had come to the house to begin with. There was nothing. The area was swept again and again and there was nothing. The only evidence found was a gift opened early, a gift opened and dropped on the floor. The gift of a calendar with this year’s Christmas day circled in red paint.

I don’t celebrate Christmas anymore and I live in an apartment. The nightmares have receded but I still think about that family and our old house and those footprints in the snow.

c – 1.15

Boo.

Keep Believing – In defense of small conventions

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Keep Believing

Sometimes we need to fight. Not out of anger, or against some grand enemy but for what we are passionate about. We need to fight because sometimes we’re the only one that will and because if it’s our passion and our dream it’s worth fighting for.

Too often we hit road blocks, drop our heads, and wander off to something else. That’s fine…but there has to come a day when you are willing to fight for something you are passionate about or you’ll be left with nothing but regrets.

That’s a hell of a way to live.

It’s an empty way to live.

One of the things I am willing to fight for are small shows. As you know, I guess, I created and was part of the Flint Horror Con, a one day show here in Flint that brought horror and fun to folks for a low price. We created the show knowing that we were doing something most folks don’t do – a convention – in a place they don’t do them, and as a one day show and not a weekend. The odds were against us but we did it. We lived our dream. It didn’t last forever but nothing does and we ended things on our terms. Not many can do that. One of the things I loved about our show was that we knew what we were and were OK with it. We weren’t a mega show and we didn’t try to be. We grew when it made sense but stayed true to what we were – an intimate show about the fans and put on by fans.

Our show folded but there is still a place for shows like that.

There is still a place for small shows.

I believe this.

I believe it but not many do.

We are in the era of the super-con and that means that the smaller shows are losing interest, funding, and hope.

But hope isn’t lost.

Hope is never lost.

I get the interest in super cons because as a vendor and fan I like them too. From a vending standpoint you see big cons as a chance to potentially sell to a LOT of fans. Makes sense. As a fan you see all the guests, the dozens of guests in most cases, and think it’s a perfect chance to load up on autographs, pictures, and casual celeb encounters.

Alas, life is not as we usually think it will be.

Mega conventions bring in a lot of people but they also cost a lot to get in, to park, to stay near, and the celebrities and the photo ops eat up most of the spending cash people have leaving vendors to fight over the few people who still have money left over. It would seem as if the mega con would be one of those Oh My God sort of shows that you attend once a year but there are so many big shows now that they are starting to feed on one another. This one has THAT guy, that one has THIS guy, this one has THAT exclusive, that one has THIS exclusive and each show is billed as a can’t miss event. Which is what you’re supposed to do if you run those shows. Except, with so many huge shows, and all of them with huge guests you get two things – a plethora of lower rung guests who end up not drawing attention and vendors who don’t make their table fees back. The economics of the large shows has created a killing field where shows are dying left and right because they can’t compete. This is a war that is only going to harm fandom.

But fans are partially to blame.

And so are vendors.

Naturally I am both.

I LOVE big shows but the fact is that I don’t really go but to one or two celebs, and maybe one or two vendors. I just don’t have the money to do more than that. So it ends up being huge costs for everyone when I don’t even take advantage of it all. At the big FLASHBACK show in Chicago I ‘met’ Robert Englund and my wife and I got our pic taken with him in makeup and I did the whole package so that was great. After that I met Robert Kerman from CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST and talked with him for a bit, and I met and we got our picture with Lance Henriksen and got an autograph but that was it. There were about, well, twenty guests I didn’t even say hello to. Which is not to say they didn’t do anything, as I am sure fans turned out to some degree for everyone, but the fact is that these shows are so big and so expensive that many of the guests end up as little more than filler. The bigger problem is that the shows are so pricey to attend and the guests so expensive that fans can’t keep up and vendors don’t have people with money to spend on their stuff. When everyone is a mega show the whole eco-system suffers. Every other week is another ‘CANNOT MISS’ show and eventually fans will have seen all the big names and won’t care enough about the smaller names and then even the big shows will start to falter.

This dragon will eat its own tail.

There are ways to make the big shows work but the way they are growing, and with as many as there are it just doesn’t feel like this is something that can sustain itself.

Think small.

There is a charm to a small show that is desperately absent in the large shows. An opportunity to chat with fans, to meet and speak, even for a moment, the guests, and opportunities to not feel rushed from here to there to get this or that. I have vended at big horror shows and comic shows and everyone seems rushed and not relaxed. With small shows you don’t feel that same push, push, push. Which isn’t to say that the small shows can’t get good guests, they just get different guests. We focused on more cult personalities and props, things that created moments for people. You can still get ‘big’ names, you just don’t populate your show with so many people that they are the only draw. You also can’t create a show so big, so costly that it collapses in on itself.  That’s something a lot of people forget – the show has to continue so don’t break the bank. And then there’s the shows that WAY over-extend themselves and harm not just themselves but the whole convention circuit. Shows that want to be too big, too much, and want to compete on a national level with other shows when this ISN’T A COMPETITION. If you do it right you don’t compete, you accentuate. You can’t always avoid other shows but if you can you should. There’s no reason to compete when there’s an entire calendar to use. There’s no reason to be snotty and snippy and childish, as many promoters can get.

This is supposed to be about the fans and guests.

The one thing that sets horror apart is that we’re all family, of a strange kind.

The more we fight amongst ourselves, the more we harm one another the worse the scene gets.

We need big shows. We need the shows that can afford to bring in the superstar guests that make your mouth drop and eyes go wide. Only at genre shows do you get the biggest names making time to meet fans. Only at these shows do they want to meet the fans. But not all the shows can or should be mega cons. As soon as that happens fans get unrealistic expectations – Why isn’t THAT person at the show? How lame? – the vendors get unrealistic expectations – I paid that much money for THIS sort of show – and the fun factor falls.

The fun of a convention is in discovery as much as it is in going in with a plan. I have made so many friends at shows, and have met so many incredible people and the bigger the show the less that tends to happen. Not every show should be small, and not every show CAN be small, but they can be intimate, they can be fan-focused, and they can be fun.

And that’s the key, fun.

Cons are not as fun anymore.

They feel bulky, expensive, and jaded.

We need the small shows to bring back the wonder and fun of conventions and to remind fans that it’s an honor and privilege to be able to meet these people, to have merch like we have now, and the acces to indie horror like we have now. This is a special time to be a horror fan. Let’s not screw things up.

Keep it small and let the big boys fight amongst themselves.

And YOU CAN DO IT!

If I can put on a small show with friends so can you. With careful planning, favors, and a great concept anyone can do it.

Anyone.

…c…

www.meepsheep.com

Pulling Down The Tents

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Pulling Down The Tents

The thing you never think about when you do your little dreaming is – what happens if you get to live that dream? What then?

Good question.

Though first, let’s take a moment and appreciate the dreams when we can live them. It’s not all the time, unless you have very narrow focus and dream small, which is fine, but sometimes, SOMETIMES it’s the big dreams that really push you. Sometimes it’s the big dreams that make you stretch. If nothing else it’s the big dreams that keep our hope alive. Even if it’s a dim and distant hope. Hope’s what drives us through life, and without it things get awful bleak.

We recently decided to put an end to my baby, the Flint Horror Con. This was a decision made for many reasons but for now, and maybe for good, it seems that it’s an idea that has run its course.

I have had many dreams throughout my life but as an adult one of the ones I had was to see a horror convention in Downtown Flint. This is a story that anyone who knows me or has read my blog knows so I won’t go into it again. It was thanks to some amazing friends, the trust of some great folks, and a lot of hard work but we pulled it off and the Flint Horror Convention had four fantastic years. We had our bumps and bruises, we had our stress, but we did what very few manage to. We did it our way, and we did it following our rules.

For me, and for the group that did the show, we started things as fans and remained fans throughout. And as such, it was about the fans. Too many conventions focus on hanging out with the celebs or on everything but the fans. It’s the fans that are the reason to DO a show. It’s the fans that make horror so special. And in Flint, there are a lot of fans. The thing is, we were a one day show, with a limited budget, and we weren’t going to try to drain every last dime from those fans. I figured ten bucks was a good price to get in. It is low enough for casual attendees to try and leaves people money for celebrities and vendors. And the thing is that you can do as well as you want at the gate but if the celebs and vendors don’t do well you’re screwed and the show was a bust. It’s a hard line to walk. But if you don’t walk it you don’t do future shows. I am sure we could have charged more, but I am glad we didn’t. Same goes for vendor tables. I have vended shows for twenty years and the costs are outrageous. I get that most shows are huge these days and that you have to charge according to cost of the show and the size of the guest roster but for smaller folks like me there was just no way I could make the table cost back. I would love to say I could but two hundred and fifty to three hundred dollars for a small writer like me is a LOT of money. I still did the shows, so I am not complaining that loudly but I also was keen to that when we did our show. For many vendors this is their livelihood and they have to be able to make money. For us, by treating the vendors well we got a LOT of good will from them and in earning their trust and respect we earned a lot of allies. That’s worth much more than money. Each of the four years we had to turn vendors away, something you hate to do but which happens…if you are lucky.

We built a community, and I am happy about that.

Not everyone loved us. Not everyone was happy with us. But that’s the way of the world. We did things our way and we stuck to it.

We built a show that we hoped was family friendly and tried to stick to that because every monster kid has to get their inspiration from somewhere and from something and we hoped we’d be part of that inspiration for some kids.

I am really happy at the work we did in the community. From the start we wanted to partner with charities and people in need to help as much as we were able. I am not sure what kind of impact we made but for four years we did the best we were able to bring in some extra funds. We tried not to beat that drum too loudly because charity shouldn’t be about taking credit but about helping people in need. We tried our best.

Unfortunately in the kind of business like cons you have to beat the drum a little because you need the attention and the exposure. You need the help. We had a LOT of help from people. From fans, to celebrities, to vendors, to friends, and to some local sponsors we had a LOT of help. We were never able to bring in much sponsor money but that’s blame I’ll take because I am sure there’s more I could have done. What, I am not sure, but there had to be something. As it stands we had more support than I could ever have dreamed of having. This began as my dream and became a dream a lot of people began to share. That’s what’s so humbling to me – that so many people believed in what we were doing and supported it. We had never put anything on of that scale, I know I never had, and we did it. For four years.

For four years we put together shows large and small where were able to showcase artists, musicians, and movies many would never have seen. We had an outdoor movie night at a local park. We helped other events with their shows. More than anything we tried to create fun, inexpensive things for fans to do.

Doing the convention I learned a lot. We all did. Sometimes you can build it and ‘they’ don’t come. Just how it goes. Sometimes people don’t care, don’t have time, and don’t have the information they need to come out. Sometimes things don’t work. All you can do is learn, learn, learn and move forward.

I believe in conventions and more than that I believe in doing small shows like we did. Shows that can be intimate and affordable and fun and family friendly. I believe that you can do some amazing things with shows that size. I think the super shows have their place and have their importance but not everyone can make it to those, or afford them, and those fans still deserve to get the benefits of going to a show on a budget. Heck, small shows can build a love for conventions that makes them want to go to bigger shows. Sadly, I think the days of DIY shows like ours are coming to an end but if we can do it, anyone can do it. All it takes is a little money, a lot of heart, and a lot of trust.

I am honored that we got the opportunity to do our show for four years. I cannot believe we did it. It’s sad to let it go, but we’re not letting go completely.

We still plan to do locally produced shows focused on horror that will be smaller but just as fun and just as passionate. This will allow us to be more experimental and still remain active. We are no longer the Flint Horror Con but are the Flint Horror Collective and we aren’t done, not hardly.

If you supported our show, or me, or us, or even gave half of a damn about any of it we thank you. We truly couldn’t have done it without you.

Thanks.

Chris Arrr

www.flinthorrorcon.com

www.meepsheep.com