Fantastic Fest Report

For the first time since 2012, I made it to Fantastic Fest. Shane McKenzie convinced me to return, and I’m glad he did. I forgot how fun and exhausting the festival can be. Yeah, watching movies is exhausting. You forget what the sun looks like. It’s a very weird vibe.

So, what movies should you look for on the horizon? For me, the film of the week was 3Ft Ball and Souls.  It’s a trippy and emotionally affecting comedy about four people trying to commit suicide via fireworks.  I don’t want to give you too much beyond that admittedly ridiculous description, but I will say I was in tears at the end.

Other highlights included The Endless, the new film from Resolution and Spring directors Justin Benson and Aaron Scott Moorhead, the upcoming Stephen King adaptation 1922, and pretty much every short film involved in the annual Short Fuse program.  Five years ago, that block was the one thing I needed to see every year, and I’m glad to report the quality has remained incredibly high.

Time will tell what becomes of Fantastic Fest.  Hopefully, I can go back next year.

Appearing at STAPLE!

Ahoy, mates!  Or some other weird greeting.  I dunno.  I’m awkward.

Okay, then….

So, I’ll be appearing at STAPLE! The Independence Media Expo on September 9th and 10th in Austin, Texas.  STAPLE! is it little comic con that could, and I’m thrilled to once again be a part of it.  Sunday the 10th, at 2:30, I’ll be on a panel with Lee Thomas, Gabino Iglesias, Wrath James White, and Nicky Drayden discussing genre writing.  Come check us out and say hi, and then come see us in the dealers’ room!

Armadillocon Schedule

This coming weekend, I’ll be appearing at Armadillocon in Austin, TX.  It looks like this will be my only convention appearance this year (yay, hometown convention!), so you might want to come out.  or not.  I’m not the boss of you.

Anyway, here’s my schedule….


Career Adjustments for the Writer
Sat 3:00 PM-4:00 PM Ballroom E
Liu, Maresca, Southard, Swendson, Weisman, Wells*,
Knowing when it’s time to switch agent, publisher, genre, or even (last resort) your name.

Southern Gothic Fiction
Sat 7:00 PM-8:00 PM Ballroom D
Lansdale*, Richerson, Southard, Spencer, Wade, Wood
What is the intersection of Southern Gothic and SF/F? Do the themes being explored today differ from Southern Gothic of the past? Why does the South seem to have a monopoly on deeply flawed, eccentric, morally ambivalent characters?

Sat 8:30 PM-9:00 PM Conference Center

Ghost Stories
Sat 10:00 PM-11:00 PM Southpark A
Finn, Osborne, Rountree*, Sanger, Southard
Are they considered horror or dark fantasy, and are they even viable in today’s literature?

Short Fiction You Shold Have Read Last Year
Sun 1:00 PM-2:00 PM Southpark A
Fischer, Rylander, Sisson*, Southard, Schwarz
Our panelists discuss short fiction from the last year that you need to know about.

Sun 2:00 PM-3:00 PM Dealers’ Room
Rose, Oliver, Southard, Swendson, Yoachim

Oklahoma Appearance, Pale Horses Hardback, more….

First up, on April 11th I’ll be reading and signing in Norman, Oklahoma for another round of Noir at the Bar.  This time, I’ll be appearing with fellow Austin authors Shane McKenzie, Ed Kurtz, and Gabino Iglesias, as well as Paul J. Garth, Troy James Weaver, Robert Spencer, and J. David Osborne.  Place is The Blue Bonnet at 321 E Main St, and the time is 8PM.  Be there!

Also, Pale Horses is now available in a limited edition collector’s hardcover from Thunderstorm Books.  The print run is limited to 66 copies, all of which are signed. Daniele Serra provided the amazing new cover.

Finally, my brother Mark’s postumously released novel One Summer is now available for purchase through Barnes and Noble.  Feel free to check it out.  I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, but I’ve been reading Mark’s writing since before I picked up a pen.  Guy’s good.

The Haul. “It starts with an idea….”

Spring is here, and I’m glad to see it.  For me, it means tax time is over, the cold mornings have stopped, and I get to start thinking about taking out my motorcycle for longer rides and figuring out which conventions I’ll be able to attend.

A little while back, I decided maybe I’d combine the two.

See, about three years back, I bought my first motorcycle, The Late Late Show.  I’d been wanting one most of my life, but through a combination of finances and not wanting to give family members heart attacks, I waited.  In the three years since, I’ve spent a fair amount of time winding through the Texas hill country.  I took a weekend trip to Abilene (a tourist destination if ever there was one), but I’ve never done a looooong trip on The Late Late Show.  That’s about to change, though.

See, this September, I’ll be attending KillerCon in Las Vegas.  I’m choosing KillerCon as one of my stops for several reasons: it’s affordable, it’s a great excuse to go to Vegas for a weekend, and it’ll make for a great ride.

My plan is to take four days to get there and four days to get back.  I’ll get to see The Very Large Array and The Petrified Forest.  I’ll roll over Hoover Dam.  I’ll be making nightly stops along the way, and I’ll be updating my progress here.  This will be my longest trip on two wheels, and I plan to share it with you.  In the meantime, I’ll share some of my preparations.  It’ll be fun. 

It starts with an idea.  This is mine.  Hope you’ll all be along for the ride.

Fantastic Fest Memories

In two days, I’ll be heading to the Alamo Drafthouse to spend a week at Fantastic Fest, the annual festival of scary, gross, creepy, hilarious, bizarre, and otherwise awesome movies.  Hard to believe, but this will be my fifth year attending. 

Fantastic Fest has brought me some amazing memories over the past few years.  I’ve eaten stirfry cooked via flamethrower, watched a Viking chorus/karaoke line, watched The Road Warrier outside, turned around to tell someone to stop jostling me only to realize said jostler was Bill Pullman, and listened to Thomas Haden Church explain how learning to roll joints is the only thing he picked up in college.

The best part of Fantastic Fest, however, is the movies.  Some of the flicks I’ve seen at the festival have gone on to become favorites of mine.  Even some I didn’t catch during the festival, but caught up with later, have become important to me.  I just wanted to take a second to run down some of my favorites and thank the festival for introducing them to me.  I owe you one….

Donkey Punch
Not the first movie I ever saw at Fantastic Fest, but the first one that thrilled me.  This drug-drenched story of vacation flirting gone horribly wrong has since become a go-to movie for several friends of mine in that “It’s late, and I want to watch something fucked up” kind of way.

Let the Right One In
After all the buzz that surrounded this one at the festival, I went to see it as soon as it returned to the Alamo Drafthouse.  Wow.  The best vampire movie of the last decade, and one of my favorite movies of all time.

I Think We’re Alone Now
In 2008, Fantastic Fest allowed some of their films to be viewable online during the festival.  This quirky, disturbing documentary about two different people stalking former bubblegum pop star Tiffany was one of the movies I watched that way.

Trick R Treat
Possibly the best horror anthology movie ever made.  This love letter to Halloween gave me the most fun I’ve ever had at the movies.

Clive Barker’s Dread
One of Clive Barker’s best short stories comes to life in a truly grisly way.  The beef scene still horrifies me.

I suppose this one skates dangerously close to being torture porn.  Maybe it’s the long shots that never seem to end, or maybe it’s that opening scene that makes almost no sense, but this movie just drilled down to my core and infected me.

A man tries to win back the love of his life on a day zombies rise and attack Berlin. This is a zombie movie that made me cry. 

We Are What We Are
This amazing flick from Mexico plays like a family drama: the patriarch dies, and the family is left to pick up the pieces.  One hitch…they’re cannibals.

A romantic/sci-fi comedy filmed in a remarkably short period on a remarkably small budget packs a lot of laughs.  An office worker realizes his new girlfriend is alien…and that an interstellar war may be right around the corner.

Mo*Con Recap

May 4th through the 6th, I was in Indianapolis for Mo*Con.  Founded and organised by Maurice Broaddus, Mo*Con is a convention that looks at genre fiction through the lens of spiritual, gender, and race issues.  Instead of panels about vampires or selling your first novel, you get discussions of how your spirituality affects your writing.  For an atheist who’s never considered himself very insightful, it was a little intimidating.

It was also the best convention I’ve ever attended.

Held in a church basement, Mo*Con is a pretty intimate gathering.  I’ll admit I was a little nervous about that, because crowds of people tend to scare the living hell out of me.  At your typical convention, I’ll spend about half the day hiding in my room, psyching myself up to go talk to people again.  Maurice knew this and was sure to tell me where there was a room I could go to hide.  Surprisingly, I never needed it, as I felt perfectly at ease all weekend.  The folks at Mo*Con are that welcoming.

After a brief opening ceremonies, we were treated to a performace by author and puppeteer Mary Robinette Kowal, followed by a presentation regarding puppetry and its ties to writing fiction.  It was fascinating, easily the most informative panel I’ve ever seen.  Her Saturday presentation on public speaking and readings was just as good, and the two presentations really inspired me to up my game both writing and reading-wise.

Maurice was joined by Chesya Burke and John Edward Lawson for a discussion of race and genre that was both informative and (I’ll be honest) eye-opening.  I always strive to make my characters real and true to their roots, and this discussion really highlighted some areas where my knowledge is lacking.  Later that night, Mary Robinette Kowal read the first chapter of her current work in progress to get feedback on it, prompting another discussion of race in genre.  The discussion was so intelligent it had Mary Sangiovanni and I talking about how we just write monster stories and feel a little dumb around such thought-provoking matters.

Saturday afternoon, I served on a panel with Sangiovanni, Gary Braunbeck, and Tim Waggoner on spirituality and how it informs our fiction.  As the only atheist on the panel, I worked hard to be as inoffensive as possible (this is difficult for me, because I uusually just say anything that appears in my head), and I think I was successful.  I might have been a little too honest with the crowd here or there, but it was a great discussion, all around.  I always enjoy hearing others’ perspectives, and this was no different.  By the end of the panel, I was shocked to find that my reasons for being an atheist are the same reasons some others believe.  A little strange, but very thought-provoking.

There’s a lot more I could say–how the food was amazing and the late night disucssions in Maurice’s garage kept us in stitches–but I guess I just did say those things.  A sincere thanks to Maurice for inviting and hosting me, the Indiana Horror Writers for all their help with the convention, and Rodney for driving me around all weekend.  I really hope I can make it out next year.

Killer Con

All right, so this week marks my first trip to sunny Las Vegas.  I’ll be out there for Killer Con, and I’m about as excited as one can be without bursting into flames.

My schedule is pretty light.  You’ll be able to find me at Sinister Grin’s opening night party. I’ll also be attending the Friday night parties for both Burning Effigy Press and Deadite Press, as they’re publishers of mine.

At 5:30PM Saturday, I’ll be reading from This Little Light of Mine and Just Like Hell.  Please come out and see me.  i’ll have books on hand.  And probably a drink or two.  We’ll see.

My Armadillocon Schedule

Armadillocon is this weekend at the Renaissance Hotel in Austin.  I’ll be in and out all weekend, because life is a little crazy right now and I have a million things to do, but I will absolutely be there at the following times…

Texas is a Scary Place
Fri 6:00 PM-7:00 PM Sabine
S. Allen, M. Cardin*, J. Lansdale, J. McDermott, N. Southard, F. Summers
A discussion of horror written by Texans and/or set in the Lone Star State.

Fri 8:30 PM-9:00 PM

Sat 3:00 PM-4:00 PM Dealers’ Room
R. Clement-Moore, T. Mallory, N. Southard, D. Sylvan, D. Webb, B. Yansky

Kindle: Friend or Foe?
Sat 4:00 PM-5:00 PM Sabine
I. Andrews, N. Barrett, B. Crider*, K. Frost, N. Southard
What does the popularity of this e-book reader mean for readers, writers, publishers, booksellers, and collectors?

The Rising Popularity of Zombies
Sat 9:00 PM-10:00 PM San Antonio
S. Allen, L. Donahue*, S. Johnson, J. Rountree, N. Southard
The walking dead have invaded movie and tv screens, bestsellers lists, and even Pride and Prejudice! What’s next for the living-challenged?

Ghost Stories
Sat 11:00 PM-Midnight Trinity
S. Allen, S. Johnson, J. McDermott, N. Southard*, W. Spencer, D. Webb
Want to hear something really scary? Our panelists tell their favorite ghost stories.