Laura Long is a Tennessee-based journalist and horror fan. She recently attended MoCon 7 and was gracious enough to share her observations with us.
MoCon. Indianapolis. Cinco de Mo Yo. Where do I begin?
From the perspective of an outsider, not a published author of fiction (or a horror/sci-fi artist, comic book writer, film maker, etc.) the experience of attending a writer’s convention to observe and listen can be overwhelming and scary, to say the least. But having attended this exceptional event recently (May 4-6, 2012) I asked Mark Sieber if I might share some thoughts from my convention journal for the folks at our beloved All-Things-Horror-And-Then-Some watering hole, Horror Drive-In. He said (since Mark is pretty open to new ideas and a wide variety of perspectives), “Sure, send it to me and I’ll look it over.”
So here it is. This is what I learned; a few of the best things I came away with.
HORROR WRITERS ARE CRAZY.
No surprise there, right? And I mean it in a very good way. Horror writers, sci-fi writers, writers of fantasy and sorcery and magic (and all points in between) are a unique breed. They are highly creative, interesting, compelling, and they ALL have a crackerjack prize deep down inside – a red and white striped package of twisty-bendy that make them, in my opinion (and yours, too, probably, if you’re reading this) the most desirable companions in this weird-ass journey of life that you could ever hope to share the planet with. They dream big. They argue. Some of them have egos so big they had to pack a suitcase just for swagger. Some of them are so painfully shy they had to pinch their own hands and keep resisting the urge to avoid conversations and slink back to the hotel. Horror writers tend to laugh loudly while they share balls-to-bone fears and grief and wonder with each other and of course, (sooner or later) with their readers. They tend to enjoy all the cultural aspects of living, from a cold beer (mostly, some didn’t drink) to good food, movies, music, history, design, technology and the list goes on and on.
They are the crazies. And they are the party.
WRITING IS STILL HARD WORK
Mary Robinette Kowan gave a presentation about readings, and about the value of it to introduce and market new work. She talked about the importance of vocal volume and projection, about reading slow enough to give the listener time to create a mental image. “This is the first time they have heard the words,” she said. “Slow down.” She talked about vocal distinction for each character in the story, and about giving people a complete emotional experience. Even though her instructions were about reading work out loud, I thought that the advice could also apply to writing in the first place. The point being that novice writers could and should take time to really think about the words, to slow down, and to work towards providing the reader with a complete emotional experience. I was reminded of the effort and diligence required to write a good story, and about how it is still hard work, very hard. And how slowing down might be good advice for a beginner. I’m grateful for this reminder.
LOVE IS A SPIRITUAL EXPERIENCE
I would not presume to understand anyone’s world view or spiritual perspective on the basis of one panel presentation, but there were some things said that made an impact on me at MoCon.
The first quote is from Bob (“The Occult Detective”) Freeman. He was standing outside the front door of Trinity Church chatting with me when another person came up and joined the conversation. She pointed out his necklace, mentioned she shared she shared his world view, and then Bob said, “Pagans, REPRESENT!” He said it so joyfully that I was glad for him, truly glad that he felt comfortable enough at MoCon to celebrate his own view without having to defend or explain it. I had been told that this was the flavor of MoCon, and that was my first opportunity to appreciate it. I did feel that persons from all walks of life were able to be there, to take part in a little discussion or a lot, to (as Bob put it) “represent.” It sure felt good and right to me.
Other memorable quotes made during the panel presentation on spirituality that made it into my MoCon journal were these:
“There is nothing holding any of (the material world) together, which lends credence to the theory of central intelligence.”---Gary Braunbeck
“Sometimes it’s just more important to be human.” ---Nate Southard
“What if God is the thing that wakes your dog up to tell you that the house is on fire?” ---Mary SanGiovanni
“If there is a universal mind, who says it has to be sane?” ---Tim Waggoner
I don’t think it would be wrong for me to include my observations of the panel on “The MisEducation of the Writer” under the “Love Is A Spiritual Experience” heading. Here is why I think it’s appropriate.
The discussion that had to do with improving relationships among different races, at the end, pointed to love and patience as the only thing that was going to ever make a difference. John Lawson made us realize we sure had plenty of work left to do. Maurice Broaddus declaring that his family believed “Jamaicans are like a whole different race altogether,” got laughs from the audience but the thought occurred to me that we are all like that. We ALL tend to focus on how special our own lives are when what we could really benefit from is a commitment to relating to one another.
It hurt to hear Chesya Burke say that all minorities had some kind of dual lives, living their lives in two worlds and not ever really being accepted in either one. I know that is the truth, and it hurts.
I told John Allen that I thought improving race relationships was like dancing with someone for the first time. It’s really awkward at first, and it may have missteps and stumbling along the way, but if we keep trying, it can get smoother, it can be really good if we relax a little bit (without compromise) and keep going.
And that kind of commitment to genuine relationships will be good for my writing, too. I’ll be richer for it, be more genuine, and write from that place.
(cue theme from JAWS)
That’s what I hoped MoCon 7 would be for me. It was.
The Mo-Man himself, Maurice Broaddus