Today my wife, Colleen, was able to join me and we were able to arrive much earlier to the event and hit up three of the seminars they had to offer. For those not acquainted with the NecronomiCon, the seminars are basically the heart and soul of the event. Amongst the gaming, merchandise, and fun night activities the idea of celebrating not just Lovecraft, but also weird fiction in general can sometimes get lost. I know of people who only went down for the gaming or to hit the fun stuff at night who I feel completely missed the point of the event.
Rant aside, let’s move on to the actual seminars.
First up was “She Walks in Shadows No More” a discussion of women in weird fiction lead by some of the most popular female weird fiction authors including Lois Gresh, Anya Martin, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, and Ann Schwader. These ladies celebrated the rising amount of contemporary women authors in the genre and spoke passionately about their own inspirations. As well as talking about modern authors, they also brought up many of their forbears in the field and how those women helped pave the way for the next generation of writers.
Obviously, in a panel focused on female authors, the ideas of subjugation and Lovecraft’s own misogynist beliefs are going to come up at some point. The ladies seemed to disagree on whether or not women were subjugated in the genre as some attributed their rejection to being because what they wrote was not up to snuff while others believed that their work was judged in a harsher fashion because of their sex. As far as Lovecraft’s beliefs go, most of them said they did not really care how he felt as they were more focused upon the work at hand. The quote of the day came from Lois Gresh who brushed all the controversy aside with a simple, “We don’t matter as much as we think”, which was a running theme in nearly all of Lovecraft’s writings.
I felt this panel was very well rounded and informative. There was a nice mix of authors coming from various age ranges and backgrounds so that each was able to offer their own interesting perspective on where weird fiction is going. The panel delved into the history of women in the genre beginning with the era when they had to use pseudonyms to get their stories published to now when there is an all-female written, illustrated, and edited book being published (called appropriately “She Walks in Shadows”) which is the first of its kind.
Our second seminar on the docket was “Chambers and ‘The King in Yellow’” a discussion of the recent resurgence of the influential book by Robert Chambers. After cracking open a bottle of The King in Yellow Chardonnay the moderator welcomed Richard Lai, Dominique Lamssies, Tom Lynch, Daniel Mills, and Joseph Pulver to the stage to discuss the novel. Over a glass of wine, the panelists discussed Chambers’ work, the impact it has had on popular culture, and the possible impact it had on Lovecraft’s own writings.
Of the panels we attended this was definitely the least focused. Lovecraft was mentioned in passing at best and the pop culture portion of the panel gave some brief lip service to “True Detective” and spent most of the time discussing how “The King in Yellow” is mostly known because of the gaming community. This would be fine if the majority of the time were not spent railing against how the gaming community has taken Chambers work out of context or discussing which story of the collection was each panelist’s favorite. I felt little to no new information was presented so this was definitely my least favorite of the seminars.
Our final seminar for the day was “Lovecraft and Racism: Moving Past the Howies” which was moderated by event organizer Niels Hobbs. Niels introduced Morgan Grefe, Andrew Leman, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, David Nickle, and Faye Ringel as his panelists and, motioning towards the now seated panelists, said, “We are all white, and that’s a problem.” What followed was a fascinating discussion of Lovecraft’s polarizing racism and the effect it has had upon the weird fiction community.
I will not even attempt to recap this seminar as it covered a lot of ground, but I will say that the problems caused by Lovecraft’s racism are well known in the community. The spotlight recently put on the issue by the recent World Fantasy Awards has only intensified the issue to the point where there seems to be no middle ground and people are either called racists themselves or apologists. The panelists tried to take this head on and show that even though Lovecraft was indeed the figurehead of the weird fiction movement, there is a lot more going on in the genre beyond his writings. They seemed to realize and accept that there was not going to be an easy answer to the question as this is the sort of issue that will only be solved by time.
Wrapping up the seminars we went and spent some time at the Lovecraft Grand Emporium before the evening festivities.
That night brought two shows both held at the local library. To set the stage, we walk up to the entrance of the library and see a sign posted on the door that says, “Special event goers enter at the other door,” so we started to walk around the side of the building. As we meandered away a security guard came running out beckoning us back to the entrance. When we pointed to the sign he explained, “That’s because there’s a wedding going on. Earlier, some of the convention goers accidentally went into the wedding.” Obviously, this boded well for the rest of the evening.
After we were ushered back inside we grabbed our seats and waited for our event “Theatre: Monstrous Invisible” to begin. What followed was a two person play attempting to explain the relationship between Lovecraft and his wife Sonia Greene. Stephen Near, the playwright, did a fantastic job of tackling Lovecraft’s married life, which to this day remains mostly a mystery, and the actors were quite good to boot. Leeman Kessler (of “Ask Lovecraft” fame) was on point and showed off acting chops that those who only know him from his web series have never seen.
Next up we were treated to a dramatic triple feature by “Radiotheatre NYC: The Curse of Yig, The Horror at Redhook, and From Beyond”. The lights in the room cut out and the only illumination came from the three podium lights the actors were using to read their scripts. Sound effects, echoes, and the occasional laser light were used to further enhance the proceedings.
Though it is not the greatest of Lovecraft’s oeuvre, my favorite reading they did was “The Curse of Yig”. This first story involved all three of the actors so we got a taste of their range before they each took on other roles in the next two tales. Of special note was the gentleman playing the narrator was wonderfully creepy with a giggle and “Tut-tuts” that I will not soon forget.
I have to say, these guys are amazing! All four of them were very into their jobs and brought a creepiness to Lovecraft’s work that, until this point, I had not yet seen at the event. If you have a chance to catch a performance by these guys, I recommend you book tickets immediately.
Goosebumps still dappled my arm as we tried to decide what to do next. We came to the conclusion that such creepy proceedings seemed like a good way to close out the evening so my wife and I left and eagerly awaited our final day.
Tune in tomorrow for tales of letters, blindness, and a pornographic theatre.