Michael Arruda, Dan Keohane, and Scott Goudsward sharing a goofy ice cream moment at NECON 35. Photo courtesy of Nick Cato.
July 16-19 2015
By Michael Arruda
Every summer a bunch of writers and readers descend upon Roger Williams University in Bristol, RI for Camp Necon, a writers’ convention unlike any other.
For me, I attended my first NECON back in 2001, as I had heard about it through Judi Rohrig, who at the time was editing the HWA Internet Mailer. Since then I’ve been back every year.
NECON is the most relaxed laid back con you’ll ever attend, a place where you can socialize with authors up close. It’s been said before, and it’s true: when you attend this con, it really feels like family. I can attest to this firsthand, because aside from my extroverted writer persona who can banter with the best of them on the written page, in person, I’m pretty much an introvert, and I’m never all that comfortable in social situations. This doesn’t matter at Necon. Whether you’re an introvert, extrovert, reader, writer, what have you, you are made to feel welcome. It’s family.
Here’s a brief recap of this year’s Necon, NECON 35, held July 16-29 2015, at the Roger Williams Convention Center.
Thursday, July 16
In addition to the usual panels found at cons, NECON also runs the NECON Olympics, events throughout the weekend where you can kick back and have fun. You even receive medals. Yup, there are plenty of opportunities at NECON for you to win “valuable prizes.”
One of these events, the Necon Hawaiian Shirt Contest was tweaked a bit this year, as rather than being a stand-alone event, it occurred over the entire weekend. Secret judges were on the prowl all weekend looking for folks with the best Hawaiian Shirts.
For Necon newbies there was a 5:00 event called Jitters: A Necon Primer for Newbies to help the newcomers feel comfortable and at home right off the bat.
I spent this time socializing in the lobby, the quad, and the new lounge, a spacious and very comfortable room in which to relax and chat. At 10:00 it was the Saugie Roast, that time to enjoy grilled Saugies, Rhode Island’s own brand of hot dogs, and chat with friends, old and new, long into the night—.
Friday, July 17
After an 8:00 breakfast, I attended the 9:00 Kaffeeklatsch: Promotion in Motion, featuring Jill & Jason Salzarulo, Sephera Giron, David Dodd, and my roommate and New England Horror Authors head honcho Scott Goudsward. This conversation was filled with practical tips and advice on how to better promote your work, especially using social media.
At 10:00 it was time for the Kaffeeklatsch: Best Worst Movies featuring myself, Sheri White, Bill Carl, and Nick Cato. We discussed our picks for some of the best “bad movies” ever made, and both Bill and Nick provided extensive lists of classic “good” bad movies.
Sheri talked about her love of the bad SyFy movies, and I posed the question, “does it take years for a bad movie to become ‘good’ because most bad movies I see nowadays are simply bad, and the only bad movies I really like are old ones. I suggested the grade z movies that Bela Lugosi made, and named THE DEVIL BAT (1941) as one of my favorite bad Lugosi flicks.
I also mentioned the HALLOWEEN series. For me, other than the first movie, HALLOWEEN (1978) the rest of the movies in this series are not what I call good movies. In fact, some of them are pretty awful, yet I like them all.
Before the panel ended, Craig Shaw Gardner asked us to recommend one film that we’ve seen this year, and I picked IT FOLLOWS (2015), citing it as one of my favorite horror movies of the year. After the panel, it was nice to catch up with Craig and his lovely wife Barbara Gardner.
I skipped the 11:00 Kaffeeklatsch to catch up on some rest, and after a noon lunch, I spent some time at the New England Horror Writers table with Scott Goudsward and friends.
At 2:00 I attended the panel Everything Old Is New Again: Bringing New Life to Classic Tropes featuring Paul Tremblay, Lisa Manetti, Elizabeth Massie, John Dixon, and moderator Mary SanGiovanni, and it discussed among other things writing supernatural tropes in a scientific age.
Monica O’Rourke moderated the 4:00 panel Piece of Mind: Portraying Mental Illness in/as Horror which included Paul Tremblay, Kristin Dearborn, Dallas Mayr, Heather Graham, and Trevor Firetog. This fascinating panel delved deep into what it takes to write about mental illness in horror effectively.
At 7:00 Toastmaster John McIlveen delivered the Official Necon Toast, followed by the hilarious Necon Update with Mike Myers. This year Myers brought down the house with an uproarious account of a complicated hospital visit. The audience was on the floor with laughter.
Myers comical update also featured the Necon Eggstravaganza Game which left contestants with eggs on their faces. Literally.
At the Meet the Authors Party I hung out with Daniel Keohane, who I hadn’t seen in several years. Always fun to see Dan, who has the distinction of being the first person I ever met at Necon back in 2001. I shared table space with Dan, and also with Scott Goudsward and Nick Cato. I was selling copies of my science fiction novel, Time Frame.
I also got to chat with author Gary Frank during this event.
At 10:00 it was time for the Necon Olympic events Darts and Foosball. Afterwards, it was socializing on the quad, where I had some memorable conversations with friends old and new, as always.
Saturday, July 18
With the publication of my first science fiction novel Time Frame earlier this year, I was very much interested in the 10:00 panel The Horror of the Future: Making Science Fiction Scary, moderated by Gordon Linzner, and featuring Robert Boyczuk, Don D’Ammassa, Linda Addison, Lois Gresh, and Chuck Wendig. This was a fun panel, as it discussed frightening science fiction from yesteryear, and mentioned some classic movies, including two prominent remakes which most folks these days consider superior to the originals, INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1978) and John Carpenter’s THE THING (1982).
The 11:00 panel was just as good: Fear in Four Colors: Comics, Horror, and Inspiration. On this panel were Christopher Golden, Brian Keene, Errick Nunnally, Daniel Braum, Kimberly Long-Ewing, Duncan Eagleson, and serving as moderator was Charles Rutledge. This panel hammered the point home that comics are an underappreciated literary form, and that they definitely make worthwhile reading. It certainly made me sad for having stopped reading comics regularly many years ago. Then again, I suppose it’s never too late to start up again.
At 1:00 John McIlveen interviewed the Necon Guests of Honor, Chuck Wendig, Seanan McGuire, and Paul Tremblay. While I enjoyed all the guest of honor interviews, I have to admit I was most interested in listening to Paul Tremblay speak. I first met Paul back in the late 1990s when we did some group book signings together for the vampire anthology THE DARKEST THIRST in which we both had stories. It was my first pro sale as a matter of fact. I’ve enjoyed following Paul’s career over the years, as his successes have been a nice inspiration. I’m looking forward to reading his much talked about novel A Head Full of Ghosts.
The 2:30 panel was probably the most heavily attended panel of the entire weekend. Faustian Bargains & Plans for the Afterlife: Knowing Your Rights and Protecting Your Work Regarding Writers’ Contracts and Literary Estate Planning was also the most serious panel of the weekend, as well as one of the best. Moderated by horror author and attorney Bracken McLeod, and featuring Christopher Golden, Brett Savory, Richard Dansky, Heather Graham, and Chet Williamson, this panel served as “everything you wanted to know about the legal aspects of writing but were afraid to ask.” It covered contract language, rights, wills and estate planning, and all sorts of other legal matters. The 90 minutes allotted for this panel still wasn’t enough, as it went past its finishing time. It proved so popular that later at the Necon Town Meeting it was agreed that there would be a follow-up panel and perhaps even a workshop at next year’s NECON.
At 4:00 it was time for Almost Human: The Art of the Monster, moderated by Cortney Skinner and including artists Duncan Eagleson, Jill Baumann, Ogmios, Rhea Ewing, and Glenn Chadbourne. The panel featured a lively discussion about traditional drawing and painting vs. digital drawing and painting, which has come so far and yields such impressive results it’s difficult to ignore, and for most on the panel it’s warmly embraced.
After dinner, I attended the Artists’ Reception at 6:30. It’s always a highlight of the weekend to walk through the gallery to see the latest prints, paintings, drawings, and sculptings by the featured artists. This year I bought a colorful rendition of Carl Kolchak by Cortney Skinner. This digital print of the popular NIGHT STALKER character contains a NECON in-joke, as one of the items in the painting has a NECON history. During the reception coffee and some mighty delectable desserts were served.
At 7:30 it was Live DVD Extra: Director’s Showcase where some new film shorts were shown, including Lynne Hansen’s CHOMP and Izzy Lee’s POSTPARTUM. Both Hansen and Lee were available for questions and answers afterwards.
At 9:00 it was time for The Infamous Necon Roast. This year’s roastee was Sephera Giron, who was a real sport about the whole thing and seemed genuinely relaxed and appeared to be having a good time, which is how it should be. As always, the roasters were hilarious, and included Christopher Golden, Mary SanGiovanni, Cortney Skinner, Linda Addison, Monica O’Rourke, Nick Kauffman, Jack Haringa, Jeff Strand, and Brian Keene. All these folks are entertaining, although my personal favorite is Cortney Skinner whose impeccable timing is unmatched and who has the whole “Bob Newhart” deadpan mastered like a pro.
Afterwards it was more Saugies and socializing on the quad into the wee hours of the morning, since Saturday night is the last night at the con till next year.
Sunday, July 19, 2014
Today’s 10:00 panel was It Only Laughs When I Hurt: Comedy and Genre, a panel that looked at humor and horror and featured Craig Shaw Gardner, Hal Bodner, Jeff Strand, John McIlveen, Frank Raymond Michaels, and was moderated by P.D. Cacek. The panel included many neat moments, amongst them Frank Raymond Michaels citing ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN (1948) as one of the all-time best horror comedies, and the discussion of how to effectively mix humor and horror by placing horror characters in a comedic situation, and vice versa by placing comic characters into a horror situation.
At 11:00 it was time for the Necon Town Meeting, the chance for folks to give the Necon committee feedback about the weekend. It was agreed by all that NECON 35 was another grand success.
At lunch, I sat with Nick Cato and his wife Ree, and before leaving for another year, I made the rounds and said goodbye to as many folks as possible, including Craig Shaw Gardener, Barbara Gardener, Matt Bechtel, and Laura Hickman.
I’m never able to see everyone during the weekend, but here are some folks I did get a chance to spend some time with or at the very least exchange a quick word with: Linda Addison, Meghan Arcuri-Moran, Matt Bechtel, Hal Bodner, Mary Booth, Ginjer Buchanan, P.D. Cacek, Sara Calia, Bill Carl, Nick Cato, Ree Cato, Glenn Chadbourne, JoAnn Cox, Dennis Cummins, Don D’Ammassa, Richard Dansky, Barry Lee Dejasu, John Dixon, Dan Foley, Gary Frank, Barbara Gardner, Craig Shaw Gardner, Christopher Golden, Scott Goudsward, Catherine Grant, Jack Haringa, Laura Hickman, Nicholas Kaufmann, Brian Keene, Nate Kenyon, Dan Keohane, Paul McMahon, Bracken Macleod, Elizabeth Massie, John McIlveen, Frank Raymond Michaels, James Moore, Mike Myers, Jose Nieto, Errick Nunnally, Monica O’Rourke, David Price, Matt Schwartz, Cortney Skinner, Jeff Strand, Paul Tremblay, Tony Tremblay, K.H. Vaughn, Bev Vincent, Sheri White, Scott Wooldridge, and Trish Wooldridge.
I apologize if I’ve missed anyone.
Another memorable NECON has come and gone. Thanks to the Booth family, including Mary Booth and Sarah Calia, and Matt Bechtel, and the entire NECON committee and volunteers, for all the hard work they did to pull off yet another amazing con.
Can’t wait till next year.
Thanks for reading!