S.G. Browne

World Horror Convention – Brighton

The 2010 World Horror Convention took place this year for the first time outside of North America at the Royal Albion Hotel in Brighton, England – a seaside city on the south coast an hour from London.

The Royal Albion was like a maze, with twisting hallways that made it easy to get lost until you figured out where you were going. And at night, when they closed all of the dual swinging hallway fire doors, I had to make my way through half a dozen of them on a circuitous route from the elevator to my room that made me feel like I was in the opening credits for Get Smart.

Before attending the World Horror Convention, I was booked both for a panel (about zombies, go figure) and for a reading. Bill Breedlove, co-founder of Dark Arts Books, was slated to read after me and contacted me to see if I was interested in doing a collaborative story to read just for the convention. I’d never collaborated before, and had only met Bill briefly last June, but it sounded like fun. So we came up with a fun piece about air raid sirens and vultures and werewolves that I’m hoping we’ll have video of at some point.

While the reading itself was definitely worth the price of admission, having the opportunity to work with Bill and to get to know him was priceless. Even if he doesn’t believe me.

The panel (attended by myself, Weston Ochse, Scott Edelman, and Michael Marshall Smith) was supposed to be a discussion about Zombies vs. Vampires, or Are Zombies the New Vampires, but it ended up being a panel about zombies, with nary a mention of vampires. Though we all agreed that neither vampires nor zombies should ever, EVER, sparkle.

While Weston, Scott, and I tended to be more in the camp of zombies branching out to discover their inner undead soul and tell a joke or two, Michael wanted his zombies slow and relentless, like a cancer that continues to spread and keeps eating away. Fast, funny, or sentient zombies weren’t what he wanted in the living dead. By the end of the panel, however, Michael had begun to have second thoughts and actually ended up walking away with a copy of Breathers. So hopefully that’s one more convert.

The rest of Thursday, which lasted until 2am, consisted mainly of conversation and beer, more of the former than the latter, with Bill Breedlove, Bev Vincent, Michael Knost (Stoker winner for Non-Fiction), and numerous wonderful Brits and Yanks in the hotel lounge.

The rest of the weekend went something like this:

A fantastic vegetarian lunch at Food for Friends with Martel Sardina; a panel and a reading here and there; a couple pints of Guinness (which is really more of a meal in a glass than a beer) and more conversation with Rocky Wood, Simon Clark, and others; a rocking party on the St. Pete Pier hosted by Heather Graham; dancing to 80s music spun by Bill Breedlove until 2am with Michael Knost, Karen Yoder, Suzanne Nash, Debbie Kuhn, Angel McCoy, and everyone else at the launch party for Dark Arts Books; hanging out with Paul Wilson, Weston Ochse, Stephen Woodworth and Kelly Dunn; and meeting Neil Gaiman after the Stoker Awards. That was definitely an unexpected highlight.

As for the Stokers, I was relaxed about my nomination the entire weekend and didn’t feel any anxiety until about an hour before the banquet, when the sense of calm I’d been feeling revealed itself for the facade it truly was. All during the banquet I could hardly eat and wished they would just get it over with. It didn’t help matters that the award for First Novel was the next to the last one given out. And I had to pee. But while I didn’t end up taking home the Stoker, I still had a fabulous weekend. The well-earned honor for Outstanding First Novel went to Hank Schwaeble for his debut Damnable.

That’s about it. Or at least all I can remember and fit into a reasonable blog entry. While I’m sure I left out something and someone relevant, I can say without a doubt that this was the most enjoyable convention I’ve attended. Thanks to everyone who made it so.

Filed under: Conventions,Travel — Tags: , , — S.G. Browne @ 7:39 am

A Day And A Half In London

Okay, back from being more or less disconnected for 12 days. Which, I have to admit, was refreshingly freeing. However, I’m sorry I wasn’t able to share in the moment during my trip to London and Paris and the World Horror Convention, but circumstances dictated otherwise. So here’s my travel blog in flashback form, starting with my first leg in London…

Since most, if not all, of the time you spend at a World Horror Convention is in the hotel attending panels, readings or (truth be told) in the bar, I opted to take advantage of a little time in London before heading down to Brighton, England, to attend the annual World Horror Convention and Bram Stoker Awards banquet, both held outside of North America for the first time.

And yes, that was all one sentence.

While there’s not a whole lot of London you can see in just 1 ½ days, I did manage to get in a lot of walking through neighborhoods and past a lot of the iconic sights. Westminster Abbey, Parliament, Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus, Buckingham Palace, Covent Garden, Soho, and of course, the Tower of London.

One of the things I enjoy most when I visit another city is just walking around. Taking in the sights and sounds of someplace foreign. Appreciating the architecture. Listening to the language. And since I only had the 1 ½ days, I didn’t want to spend all of it inside. So I chose only a couple of attractions to visit: The Tower of London and the Van Gogh exhibit, The Real Van Gogh, at the Royal Academy of Art.

The Tower of London was a no-brainer. I haven’t been to London since 1997 and the Tower, along with the Jack the Ripper tour, were my favorite memories. So I paid my £17, walked through the Bloody Tower and along the walls, listened to the Beefeater tell his story of Guy Fawkes being drawn and quartered (which includes being disemboweled and having your intestines set on fire while you’re still conscious), and imagined what it must have been like to live under the 39 year reign of Henry VIII. Hopefully, I wouldn’t have been Guy Fawkes. Or Anne Boleyn. For any number of reasons.

But my favorite part of my stay was the two hours I spent at the Royal Academy of Art wandering through seven rooms filled with the art and personal letters of Vincent Van Gogh. While the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam is still the best place to enjoy his 10-year career as an artist, this exhibit portrayed a side of Van Gogh most people never get to see. Displayed alongside pieces of art I’d never seen were corresponding letters to his brother Theo, Paul Gauguin, and several other artists and friends. It’s amazing enough to think he decided to become an artist at 27 and was self taught and produced such an incredible and extensive body of work in just 10 years, but the exhibit showed through his letters how eloquent and poetic and thoughtful Van Gogh was about his craft.

Although Van Gogh’s letters were written in Dutch and French, the exhibit had a reading room with computer that allowed you to read his letters in any language. I didn’t have time to read them all, so I read the last one, written five days before he killed himself. The actual letter, written to his brother, was in the last room, along with a first draft of the same letter never mailed, which was found, blood stained, in his coat pocket after he shot himself.

Seeing the blood stains on the letter and listening to his final written words read on the audio tour, surrounded by some of the pieces he painted during his final year, was extraordinarily moving and the highlight of my brief stay in London.

(Next, the World Horror Convention in Brighton)

Filed under: Conventions,Travel — Tags: , , , — S.G. Browne @ 5:49 pm