The New York chapter of the HWA attended the New York Comic Con for the fifth year in a row recently, representing the HWA and StokerCon to a crowd of around 150,000 attendees over four days, October 5-8. The steady waves of horror fans who dropped by our booth, signed up for HWA information, bought books, and chatted with HWA members about writing or their favorite horror authors, comics, and films prove the genre remains a major branch of popular culture. Attendees showed great interest in the HWA’s guidebook for writers, On Writing Horror; Haunted Nights, the latest HWA anthology; StokerCon 2018 in Providence, RI; and the activities of the local chapter. Many local HWA authors chatted with readers and fans and helped them find books sure to give them the best kind of nightmares.
A dozen volunteers from the HWA NY chapter staffed the booth from Thursday to Sunday. Now located in the Small Press Zone, our booth, #941, stood between two main traffic aisles with high visibility. Our display this year included banners promoting the HWA, a poster touting the Bram Stoker Award® Graphic Novel category, display copies of the StokerCon 2016 Souvenir Book and the HWA anthology Haunted Nights, book racks displaying members’ work, sign-up sheets for member outreach; and bookmarks promoting Stoker Con. Members on the booth included: Ed Cardillo, James Chambers, Trevor Firetog, Patrick Frievald, Teel James Glenn, Amy Grech, April Grey, Carol Gyzander, Erik T. Johnson, Charie La Marr, Sheri Lane (aka Elizabeth Crowens), and Kristine Scheiner.
Getting into the cosplay spirit, Kristine Scheiner dressed one day as the main character from her adult coloring book, Zombie Apocalypse in Ditmas Park, and as a werewolf the next. Teel James Glenn donned several costumes, including a steampunk gentleman and Renaissance man. Charie La Marr appeared for one day as an evil clown in honor of IT and the evil clown craze.
The heart of any comic con is meeting fans. One of the best parts of running the HWA booth is helping readers find books they’re likely to enjoy. With so many writers represented on the table, the range of fiction included action-horror, dark urban fantasy, extreme horror, gothic horror, Lovecraftian fiction, science fiction, steampunk, weird fiction, zombies, and more, reflecting the broad spectrum of what the HWA’s members write. Some popular titles were Jade Sky and Twice Shy by Patrick Frievald, The Backroads Trilogy by Trevor Firetog, The Clockwork Nutcracker by Teel James Glenn, Silent Meridian by Elizabeth Crowens, Rage and Redemption in Alphabet City by Amy Grech, and The Engines of Sacrifice and Kolchak the Night Stalker: The Forgotten Lore of Edgar Allan Poe by James Chambers. Anthologies including work by our members also found many eager readers. If a reader’s interest didn’t match any books on the table, members often recommended works by other HWA writers not at the show. Twenty percent of proceeds from all books sold at the table are donated to the HWA Hardship Fund.
Of course, the main goal of the booth is to inform writers and readers about the benefits of HWA membership. Many writers spent a long time with us, chatting with several members to learn more about what the group offers but also just to share writing experiences and get advice. Many of those writers were young people, some still in high school or college, excited to learn that they’re not alone in their interest in writing dark fiction. Several were local authors encouraged by the presence of the NY Chapter. One of the most common conversations throughout the weekend was how to plan and keep a writing schedule, with the point frequently being made that writing 500—or even as few as 100—words a day would quickly add up to a short story or a novel. For many writers, it was clear that the struggle to balance time for writing with other professional commitments and family obligations made for a difficult challenge. These writers seemed relieved for a chance to discuss the issue with others who experience it.
The booth also became a nexus for connecting with old friends and colleagues and making new ones. Josh Malerman and Paul Tremblay, at the con to sign Unbury Carol and Disappearance at Devil’s Rock, dropped by to say hello and check out the HWA’s display. Artists and illustrators showed their work and talked about the horror genre, as did the coordinator of a local horror film festival, and editors from publishers on hand to promote their lists, which include new works of horror fiction and nonfiction. Readers and professionals who have stopped by our booth in past years continued to do so, some of them bringing colleagues along to meet us. We also connected with a number of writers producing horror comics who were unaware of the Bram Stoker Award® or how it works, and who now intend to submit their work for consideration.
A highlight at the booth was Ellen Datlow’s forthcoming anthology, Mad Hatters and March Hares, dark fiction set in the world of Alice in Wonderland. Tor Books sent advance reading copies, which were given away, and judging by the response of readers, the book is going to prove a hit when released in December. Another highlight was the very high interest in On Writing Horror. The HWA’s writing guide attracted a constant stream of people seeking information on writing or simply better understanding the genre—and all copies on hand for the weekend sold out.
By the end of the con, with our book racks nearly bare and the table running low on Stoker Con bookmarks, we had gathered around 200 E-mails from potential new members, people who asked to learn more about the HWA or who might come to check out a local chapter meeting. Our rotating team of volunteers had gelled into a well-practiced group, ready to answer questions and happy to share insight and advice on writing and horror. Although promotions for THE WALKING DEAD often dominate NY Comic Con’s horror content, experiences at the HWA booth showed that passion for all types of horror remains strong and that a new generation of horror writers is rising to keep dark fiction alive.