Daniel I. Russell is the author of Entertaining Demons, Samhane, Retard, Come Into Darkness, Critique, The Collector Book 1: Mana Leak, Mother's Boys and the huge collection Tricks, Mischief and Mayhem. Daniel is a HWA active member and represented by the Tobias Literary Agency, NYC. Daniel has also been the vice-president of the Australian Horror Writers' Association, special guest editor of Midnight Echo, associate and technical editor for Necrotic Tissue, and Shadow Awards judge.
Swancon, going ginger and digital
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Thursday, April 28, 2011On the road to Swancon
Thankfully, because I didn’t wreck the new car this week (despite the best efforts of a 2x4 becoming lodged in the under carriage) we were able to drive up to Perth this Easter weekend for Swancon. Swancon is also hosting Natcon, so promises to be a big convention of fantasy, sci fi and horror.
The drive was a surprisingly quick one, with only one hairy moment. The recently built highway, just after it has become the Kwinana Freeway, has a bit like a bridge that goes on for a good way. We chose this spot to pull over and change drivers. You don’t really notice as your zipping along at 110km, but the railings along this bridge are covered in GIANT AUSTRALIAN SPIDERS! I took a photo of one, but it doesn’t do it justice…
We found the hotel first time, which was really weird for us. Our room is on the top floor at the very end of the building. You look out the window expecting to see Pluto, or one of the outer planets. Instead, we have a nice view of the Swan River and the posh people’s pool and tennis courts.
So we laid base and walked the ten minutes down the street to the Hyatt Hotel. First major set back of the day. We headed straight for the bar only to find we had to order a meal to be allowed to buy a drink. This is something that would raise its ugly head a few times, as this was Good Friday, this was the licensing laws on the day! We just thought the guy was being an arse though, as he never mentioned the licensing laws, rather just requested we ordered a meal, in that smug ‘Tim Curry in Home Alone 2: Lost in New York’ kinda way. So no booze for us right away.
We got our badges that allowed us to wander around, cast our award votes and were given a bag full of books, mostly fantasy. We got weird looks when we asked for nasty horror. NOT a good sign! We then headed into the dealer room.
Weird how I managed to buy a few books that I’m actually in and meet the editors! First Russell B. Farr, editor of Red Dead Heart (who offered a very tasty contrib discount!) and the charming Anthony Ferguson, editor of Devils, Dolls and Duplicates who also offered a tasty discount! Hopefully be catching Anthony’s talk tomorrow and grab the man for a drink afterward. We also met a man I dubbed the liar. We were perusing a large range of Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine and noticed that the issue featuring my story By the Banks of the Nabarra was missing. Some random guy said that it was a rubbish issue, and he should know, he edited it. LIAR! I know the editor, and you, sir, were not the editor.
After buying all these books, we left to return to the hotel to drop them all off to save my aching back. We then had the randomest of meetings as Alan Baxter stepped into the lift. Hopefully see more of him in the next few days.
Now desperate for a drink, we walked into Perth in search of a bar…only to be fully clued into the licensing laws. Deflated, we returned to our hotel once again and found we could drink there! Beers and vodkas later, and back at Swancon, we attended a talk on emotional attachment to videogames that was all right (despite Sherie insisting we sit on the front and then fidgeting all the way through!). We then watched Kaaron Warren’s short film A Positive, after very briefly meeting Pete Kempshall for the first time. Although not as nasty as my tastes, it was good to finally see some blood being spilled! This is a very fantasy based con, with horror seemingly on the fringes. Hopefully this will change tomorrow with the zombie talk, etc. I also couldn’t help but shake the feeling that I’d read something like this before. Indeed I had! The original short story is in the MACABRE anthology! Dumbass points awarded to me and thoroughly deserved. This short film is well worth a look if you can track it down.
After another wander around, we decided to come back to our room, were I watched Due Date, which wasn’t that bad.
So that was day 1 of Swancon for me. Not great, but I got a lot of books, finally met some people I’ve wanted to meet and had a wander around Perth which is always fun. Bring on day 2!
One of the best things about being on holiday, especially in a half decent hotel, is the knowledge that, when you wake up, you can get ready and go downstairs for your fully cooked buffet! This was no disappointment and there was also an unexpected bonus (Sherie knows what I’m talking about!). We then headed into the convention, hungry for some horror.
First up was the Oh Zombie, My Zombie panel, which was a great and horror themed way to start the day. On the panel were Robert Hood, Alan Baxter and Jason Nahrung. Well done, guys. The hour went way too quickly! Next, we attended a talk on sex dolls. Now obviously I don’t have a personal interest in sex dolls myself, but as the talk was by Anthony Ferguson, the editor of Devil Dolls and Duplicates in Australian Horror, I wanted to show my support. The talk was interesting and amusing and actually generated a few short story ideas.
There was some reported controversy over this talk. People disagreeing that it any good. My personal opinion was that, yes, the talk was from a heterosexual male point of view and there was scope for other lifestyles’ opinions, etc. But Anthony was lucky to fit the whole thing into an hour. This was a talk, not a debate. I actually approved of Anthony’s way of dealing with these points. He admitted there were other views, and then continued with his prepared talk. Some people were spoiling for an argument and were getting more and more irate that Anthony simply would not rise to it. The majority enjoyed the talk despite all this.
After the morning events Sherie and I headed back along Adelaide Terrace to an Irish bar to meet up with fellow writers Alan Baxter and Pete Kempshall, where the writing world was put to rights over a few beers. Then came the first mistake of the day.
Alan headed off to catch the Ellen Datlow interview, soon followed by Pete. We were hungry, and I wanted more beer, so we decided to stay. A good few beers later, we headed back to the Hyatt.
And what a scene to greet us! The crème de la crème of Australian horror fiction around one tale! We had the honour of meeting Kirstyn McDermott, Jason Nahrung, Robert Hood and Lee and Lyn Battersby. Alan was there too and I also got to play musical chairs (only with trips to the bar) with the charming Rob Hodge. More alcohol was consumed, which culminated in us abducting Robert Hood. Well, it started as a simple question that went on for a bit. Sorry again, Rob! We also met Sean Williams uber sci fi legend and #1 Bestseller of Star Wars: The Force Unleashed. Funnily enough, Sherie got attacked by a life-sized Star Wars furry monster in the dealer room. She screamed and ran out, and the dealer’s head (who had shaken said monster at her) popped up over the counter and said quietly “I never expected that reaction…”
We walked (or maybe some staggering?) at this point to a curry house on the way to the city centre. Mistake number 2. If you haven’t had curry for a while, and been on the beer for the last seven or so hours, DO NOT order the hottest curry they have! More beers were required to wash down the chicken lava, which arrived in a bucket. Literally. Sherie didn’t fair much better… Peter M Ball and Paul Haines were there too.
Back to our hotel and into my retro punk (if that’s what it was) outfit ready for the masquerade ball. The ball itself was pretty quiet, despite Sean Williams DJing, so again we spent most of the time in the bar. I think that my fellow writers now have a pretty good idea of the tasteless jokes I like to spin. At least a new book publisher may have been born. VagPrawn Press. Look for us at Swancon 2012. (Cheers, Lee!)
Other fleeting memories: Sherie having the pinkest cocktail in the world, watching a guy dressed as Arthur Dent dance to 99 Red Balloons and comparing Jason to a goth ninja. The rest of the night is pretty hazy after that…
Bit ropey, but full on cooked buffet again and glasses of apple juice. Room packed, ready to go. Mountains of books taken to the car and we go out to Swancon for the last time.
The morning consisted of Alan Baxter’s workshop on writing fight scenes (summarised in his ebook). If you write horror, fantasy, sci fi or action, I can thoroughly recommend buying this book if you weren’t there for the workshop. This was a highlight of the convention as it has already impacted on my writing (readers of The Collector: Book 4 are treated to a slightly rewritten fight scene). Alan also helped with my hangover with some simple group demonstrations. If Anthony talking about sex dolls for an hour was impressive, then Alan talking about fighting for two hours is incredible. He also told us a story about bicep ligaments detaching…which invoked the same reaction I go for in my torture scenes! Nice work, Alan. Hope sales of the ebook go well.
We returned to the Irish bar for meals so big we couldn’t finish them, including the world’s nicest fish and chips. I do not bestow that honour lightly. A guy also brought in a joey in his bag. Only in Australia.
Next up was Paul Haines’ book launch for The Last Days of Kali Yuga from Brimstone Press. After the night before, it was great to meet Paul properly after being at opposite ends of the curry table. He did an amazing reading, and out of all the books, this is the one I HAD to dip into on the way home.
And that was it! We had to leave then as we had a very sick little boy to come home to. A shame we missed the Ticonderonga Press party and of course the Tin Ducks and Ditmars. I had to read the results via Alan’s Twitter page as I lay in bed with a touch of the flu on Sunday night.
So although we off to a slow start, we had a brilliant Swancon and will definitely be coming back next year…if you’ll have us?