by Scott Cupp
Welcome back. You know it has been about five years since I last did a GEEK WITH (LOTS OF) BOOKS column. It’s amazing how time flies. During that time I have gotten older, acquired quite a few more books, been to a WorldCon and participated in panels, sold a few short stories, and gone to several conventions.
Speaking of which, it is convention season! I have been to at least one convention of some sort every year since 1973. In a bad year, I go to three or four. In a good year, it can get to be quite a few more. And I have been to a large variety – science fiction, fantasy, comics, anime, western, mystery, romance – they all have their conventions and I have been to some, including the large World conventions for some of them.
Each convention has its own tone or feel. For example, ArmadilloCon is a convention I have attended every year it has been given, some 37 conventions now. The first time I went, there were maybe 120 people there. They were fun people and a great time was had by all. Howard Waldrop read “The Ugly Chickens” which he had just written and there were some fantastic charades in GOH John Varley’s room with literary guys against the feminists. You have not lived until you watch someone try to act out “The Crime and the Glory of Commander Suzdal” or “Why Has the Virgin Mary Never Entered the Wigwam of Standing Bear?” Such memories.
Last month I went to one of my favorite gatherings – Robert E. Howard Days in Cross Plains, Texas. It is held every June and features fans of REH from all over the US and the world. This year I was lucky enough to be a Featured Attendee and was on a panel about the horror stories of REH and H. P. Lovecraft. The panel was Conan versus Cthulhu and I was there with Howard scholars Jeffrey Shanks and Mark Finn (if you have not read Finn’s REH biography Blood and Thunder, you have missed a treat). There were 60 or 70 people attending the panel in the Cross Plains library which houses many of Howard’s original manuscripts and a large variety of the pulps he appeared in.
The Howard Days is not a traditional convention. It is held at Howard’s home/museum in Cross Plains. There is a nice pavilion there. There is some programming, generally 3 -4 panels per day. There are some awards. A Guest of Honor is present. This year, writer/artist Howard fan Mark Schultz was there and was on some panels and gave a nice talk/slide show at the annual banquet. On Saturday there was a barbeque.
And the post office has a special cancellation for the Friday of Howard Days. This year Mark Schultz designed an image showing REH and HPL and a clever conjoining of their initials. I sent out 19 absolutely lurid postcards to friends that I thought would love them (including one to Canada) and got ten blank envelopes hand cancelled at the post office. The conversation with the postal clerks was fun. Apparently the special day is their biggest day of the year – bigger than Christmas! And they loved the postcards I sent, mainly reproductions of famous old paperbacks like Plaything of Passion, Reform School Girl, Strange Sisters, Spoiled Lives, Marijuana Girl, and more. I sent myself the Avon version of The Moon Pool by A. Merritt from 1951. The one with the girl in odd red lingerie and the menacing giant frog.
And there are dinners and conversations! Oh, the conversations are wonderful! The attendance is small and varied but everyone there has a passion. And there are souvenirs available in the Howard House. I filled in the two Del Rey collections that I was missing. I also got seven (!) Robert E. Howard Foundation hardbacks at the pavilion. I got all four of the REH boxing collections (Fists of Iron 1 – 4 and got then signed by the editors Finn, Chris Gruber, and Patrice Louinet), the Pirate Stories, Tales of Weird Menace, and Spicy Mysteries. There were too many others there that I wanted and really need but fiscal restraint was reluctantly practiced. I spoke with people I had never met before. I got reacquainted with people I had met at the earlier Howard Days I had attended.
And there was an auction. I bid, I lost, others won! I saw some items I had never thought to ever see – some very early pulps, a signed Frazetta comic, the British A Gent from Bear Creek. There are multiple holy grails out there. There was a reprint of “The Hyborian Age” with wonderful ephemera included from SKELOS Press.
In short, I had a great time. I then went to ApolloCon where I attended some panels, saw some friends that I have not seen in a while, had a couple of great dinners, read one of my new stories, and generally relaxed.
I am off to ArmadilloCon this weekend where SF Signal guru John DeNardo will be Fan Guest of Honor. The GOH gigs are great fun and I hope he is able to stay for the traditional “Sunday after the con Barbeque. Again, panels, friends, books, and stuff. It will be totally different from the others but just as exhilarating and fun.
You should attend the convention of your choice at some point soon. Everyone who reads this blog is a fan of something and there are many folks out there who share some of your likes. Check them out.
I hope to be posting more GEEK WITH (LOTS OF) BOOKS columns here in the future.