Back from Necon. People ask me how many times I’ve gone, and I’m not entirely sure of the answer. I believe my first time was in 2003, the year I had a story accepted to Borderlands 5. I went six years in a row, and then missed out on 2009 and 2010. I was back in 2011, and attended last year and this year, but I’m not entirely sure about 2012. I don’t think I was there that year. So this would make my ninth.
Connections were a little dicey on the outbound trip. A squall blew through Houston while we were on the way to the airport, which delayed take-offs. My flight pushed away from the gate right on time, but we stayed on the tarmac for nearly an hour. Given that I had a 50-minute connection at Dulles, that was bad. I received a text from United saying they had rebooked me on the next flight between Dulles and Providence which, unfortunately, wasn’t until the following day. However, we made up most of the time en route, so I had fifteen or twenty minutes to scramble from gate C-high number to gate D-high number. Got there with a few minutes to spare and, fortunately, I didn’t have any checked bags to worry about.
I arrived at the Necon hotel by mid-afternoon on Thursday. Found Brian Keene via Twitter and hung out with him in the lobby for a while. The highlight of the evening was a concert given in the courtyard by Kasey Lansdale, the daughter of Joe R. Lansdale and a fine musician in her own right. Her concert brought everyone to the courtyard. On Thursday night, people tend to be scattered, so this was a good thing, and everyone stayed on afterward, so there was a lot of socializing. Surprise vocalist at the show was Chris Golden, along with backing vocals by Amber Benson (who you may recognize from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but she’s also an author). Thursday was also the first appearance of the famous Saugies, which are cooked in the courtyard and consumed with the (usually alcoholic) beverage of choice.
I was very pleased to get a chance to meet and talk to another writer Guest of Honor, Michael Koryta, whose novel The Prophet I’d read recently and enjoyed. His newest book, Those Who Wish Me Dead, has been getting rave reviews. I haven’t read it yet, but I bought a copy at Necon and got him to sign it. Koryta has ten books out (nine of which are optioned), so I’ve got some reading ahead of me. He’s one of the people who seemed to get Necon right away, and I think he enjoyed himself. Also had a good talk with Amber Benson about Scandinavian TV shows.
On Friday, I was shanghaied into joining the “best books of the year” kaffeeklatsch in the atrium, which was well attended and interesting. With four people on the panel with varied reading interests, people were pretty much guaranteed to come away with a good list of potential material to read. I was also co-opted onto the non-fiction panel, which turned out to be an interesting discussion of book reviewing, primarily. Sixteen of us went out to Jackie’s Galaxy, our regular Necon restaurant, on Friday night. That evening was the toastmaster’s welcome, aka Jack Haringa’s pre-roast warm up. Then it was the mass signing, followed by a return to the quad until the wee small hours.
On Saturday, a group of us that included Brian Keene, Mary Sangiovanni and Nick Kaufmann took a meandering tour into Providence to track down a few sites that have Lovecraft connections. Last year we visited his grave. This year, we went to the house where he wrote many of his most familiar works, another house that was an inspiration for one of his stories, and a graveyard where he and Poe used to hang out. That’s where I’m standing in the accompanying photo, taken by Brian.
In the afternoon, Jack interviewed the writer guests of honor for two hours. Saturday evening’s entertainment consisted of the “even longer than the game show” talent-less show, which was enhanced this year by the presence of a gong, followed by the roast. Usually the people organizing the roast use one level of subterfuge to misdirect the victim. This year, there was an additional level as the person who was roasted thought he was hosting the event. When Nick discovered how he’d been tricked, the look on his face was priceless. The roast is a no-holds-barred insult fest, and the honoree isn’t the only victim. There is a lot of collateral damage. Afterward, a small group of us stayed in the bar until the even wee-er, small-er hours of Sunday morning. Then I had to get up and head for the airport for the return trip.
It’s hard to convey what Necon really is. It’s a conference unlike any other. Repeat attendance is high and it’s addictive. If I can only swing one convention a year and I have to choose between Necon and, say, World Horror, Necon usually wins. It’s a family reunion, in a sense, and there are people who have been to almost every one (and a couple of people who’ve been to them all). Sure, a little business is done on the side, but it’s more about making connections. Those connections often give rise to writing opportunities in the future, but that’s not what it’s all about. It’s something of a busman’s vacation. I always come away from the four-day weekend simultaneously exhausted (I don’t function well on 4-5 hours of sleep for three nights in a row!) and rejuvenated. The weekend is full of little moments that you could never really explain to someone who wasn’t there, but it’s kind of magical.