I attended my first ArmadilloCon three years ago, after decades of staying clear of the SF convention circuit. My memories of cons past were of people in badly fitting Star Trek costumes haggling over toys and packing into hotel rooms to watch sixth-generation copies of anime shows.
If that’s also your memory of SF cons, listen up: ArmadilloCon is not that. Not by a long shot. It’s a con for writers, aspiring writers and people who love SF, fantasy and horror literature and art. Sure, there are a handful of people walking around in steampunk duds and few toys on sale in the dealer’s room, but mostly it’s about the books.
ArmadilloCon 32 was last weekend, and I spent a good portion of it hanging with author and Missions contributor Joe McKinney, podcaster and whisky expert Brent Bowen and the brilliant horror scholar and writer Matt Cardin (who also records eerily beautiful music, it turns out). The three of us put down unhealthy amounts of booze and spent quite a bit of time talking about our favorite obscure horror films. I also enjoyed hooking up with old friends Nicole Duson, an up-and-coming Austin writer, and John DeNardo of the brilliant SF Signal website.
This was the first year I participated in panel discussions, and they turned out to be a blast. During a panel on the New Weird, Neal Barrett Jr. and I agreed that there probably isn’t a New Weird, per se, since many writers — including Neal — have been weird for a long, long time. I also enjoyed my panel on the challenge of writing short stories, where I ended up between luminary authors Michael Bishop and Howard Waldrop (how the hell did I end up so lucky?). Finally, I ended up on a panel about H.P. Lovecraft’s enduring legacy with Matt Cardin and Don Webb, who displayed amazing knowledge of the author’s work. The always witty Joe R. Lansdale made a great case (and one I agreed with) that horror authors can learn far more from writers like Ray Bradbury, Robert Bloch and Flannery O’Connor.
Between all the panelizing, socializing and drinking, I managed to fit in a few readings. Stina Leicht read from her upcoming novel, which mixes Celtic mythology and the complicated politics of Northern Ireland. Can’t wait for that one to hit the stands. Joe McKinney’s Sunday afternoon reading of his story “Survivors” proved a great capper to the con.