We Were Providence
As I entered Providence I saw trees and water and then felt the wheels of the plane touch the tarmac. My flight in had taken me from Kansas City to Atlanta, where I was able to find a bottled Pepsi (a rare jewel in that land of endless Coke) and thence to the gabled roofs of Rhode Island.
As those who have traveled through it already know, the Atlanta airport is one of the largest and busiest in the world. By contrast, the airport in Providence (technically Warwick) feels like someone’s country house. Small and cozy, to the extent that airports can be, and sparsely populated.
Phil Gelatt picked me up from the airport and drove me in to Providence proper, where he and Victoria Dalpe let me crash in their guest room for the first night of NecronomiCon. I am happy to report that Providence looks today much like I picture it when I read Lovecraft. Hilly and beautiful and brooding, with plenty of old buildings and narrow streets.
Their house is tall and old enough that it has a historic plaque on the outside. The rooms within feel old and yet are cluttered with modern and eclectic comforts, Phil’s attic office filled with movies and books and mannequin ghosts, as one would expect.
That first night we ate food and talked shop and dodged rain and the next morning I rose early and walked around the neighborhood, ducking into an old bookstore to browse. Phil drove me past the Shunned House, to make sure that I saw it.
That was Thursday, when NecronomiCon proper began. Phil dropped me off at the Omni hotel–across the street from the Biltmore-cum-Graduate–where I met up with Amanda Downum and Joshua Hackett, with whom I was rooming for the weekend.
We had drinks in the hotel bar, ate Korean food, and wandered over to an Eldritch block party, complete with alien dancers and giallo-tinted lights in a parking lot behind the propped-up facade of a building next to one of the oldest malls in America.
In said mall, the Lovecraft Arts & Sciences store, where I took photos of some of my books in the wild. Unfortunately, Thursday, the night of the block party, was a thousand degrees and dripping with humidity, which would break the next morning and the weather would remain pleasant for the rest of the trip.
Friday was the first day that I had any real obligations, and those not until late in the night. We caught a panel on forgotten authors first thing in the morning and browsed the dealer’s room.
Amanda and Joshua caught a panel on mysterium tremendum, which I gather was phenomenal, while I signed books in the dealer’s room and tried to say “hello” to a whole lot of people. Mike Bukowski brought me the original artwork for the cover of The Cult of Headless Men.
Friday night, I introduced a secret screening of Matango and then poked my head into the Outer Dark room party, though by then it was after midnight, and exhaustion put paid to my enthusiasm relatively quickly.
Saturday morning I was a bit worse for the wear from the previous night’s debaucheries, so I missed some morning panels, but managed to slouch to my own first panel of the convention, in which Nathan Ballingrud, Mike Bukowski, Adam Bolivar, K.H. Vaughan, and I all talked about Manly Wade Wellman and American folk horror.
From there, I stuck around for a panel on creepy puppets, mannequins, and other simulacra featuring Messr. Bolivar again, Matthew Bartlett, Jon Padgett, Molly Tanzer, and teri zin.
My next obligation was also a pleasure (as were they all), the book release event for Pluto in Furs, where I read my story “Stygian Chambers,” and listened to readings from Gemma Files, Richard Gavin, Adam Golaski, Clint Smith, and Jeffrey Thomas.
That night, we walked a very, very long way to a delicious vegan place where I had ramen (apparently I traveled to New England to have Asian food, which I ate at probably half my meals) and pleasant discussion before walking back to watch the late showing of Occult.
Sunday morning, I was on my next panel, ostensibly about cinematic adaptations of other weird writers besides Lovecraft. Despite the early hour and some less-than-optimal conditions, I think we managed to extract an adequate panel on the subject. A little later, I attended my final panel of the weekend, on “kaiju as device and metaphor in weird fiction.”
John “Deathginger” Goodrich moderated, introducing us all in pro-wrestling style, while I shared the mic with Larissa Glasser, Seia Tanabe, and Dempow Torishima. Given the fact that two of the panelists held forth through the intermediary of an interpreter, I would not have been surprised if the panel had been less-than-usually focused, but actually I think it was one of the smoother and more rewarding panels I have ever been on.
I missed a showing of Phase IV and instead walked up the hill to find the Ars Necronomica art exhibit and take another peek at the Shunned House. Then it was back to Phil’s place for a backyard hangout that was the perfectly understated cap on a perfectly weird and wonderful weekend.
Regrets? Sure, I have a few. There were panels I really wanted to see that I had to skip for one reason or another (one on cosmic horror in Warhammer being near the top of my list) and readings and screenings that I would have loved to attend.
Always, there are going to be people I miss who I had truly wanted to catch up with in three (or more?) dimensions. Tom Breen and s.j. bagley are high on the list of folks who I would have loved to have seen in what passes for “person.”
And there were many others I got to see only briefly with whom I would have loved to have discoursed at great length–Sam Heimer, Nick Gucker, Yves Tourigny, Jason Bradley Thompson, Dave Felton, the list goes on and on and on.
Even the people with whom I spent the most time all weekend felt much like ships in the night, and I came away missing Providence and all the weirdos I met there, whether briefly or for longer stints. If that isn’t the sign of a great convention, I don’t know what is.
And NecronomiCon was, for me, a great convention. A reminder of why I do what I do, why this work and this world fill me with so much love and excitement. From my first moments on those fabled streets, Providence felt like the weird homeland, which makes sense, after all.
I’m back home now, with a bag full of books and strange little plastic critters and albino bats that hide behind their wings and lots of memories and snapped photos of a nighted city and people and places I already miss as though I have known them all my life.
A lot of other things happened over the weekend. It would be a fool’s errand to try to summarize them all. The people I met, food I ate, places I went, things I bought and wanted to buy and saw. Already, they are jumbled together in my mind. One thing I know, though; I will be back.
I may not be Providence but, after this weekend, it is at least a little bit of me.