June 21st, 2006

The big Stoker post

Okay, here it is. Grab some coffee or tea, this is a long 'un!

Let's start with Thursday, when I flew out. Had a squirming, rail-thin junkie chick in the seat next to me; fortunately halfway through the flight she disappeared into the bathroom for twenty minutes and came back blissed out. Yep, we're off to a fine start for a weekend of debauchery!

Arrived at the Newark hotel Thursday night, and met up with leethomas, nick_kaufmann, mssrcrankypants, Greg Faherty and birthday girl Jane Osnovich. We all passed a delightful evening in the booze-equipped HWA suite, consuming Jane's decadently-luscious birthday cake and trading book and movie talk (guess I gotta track down and see a movie called Dead Birds now).

Friday morning I tagged along with Lee on a trip into New York (yep, my first ever). As we came out of the Holland Tunnel (dead people! The Stand!) and into Manhattan, I blurted out, "Hey, this looks like San Francisco!", which of course caused Lee some hilarity. I thought the Village, the parks and the buildings in this area were all very attractive, although as a native SoCal-er I get utterly lost whenever surrounded by tall buildings on all sides. I have to say I enjoyed my tour guide as much as my tour, though - I predict the talented and charming Mr. Thomas will soon be thought of as the American-born Clive Barker!

After we returned to the hotel, I embarked on my own solo adventure - taking trains and subways from Newark to New York's Chinatown. Hel-LO - why don't they tell anyone there are TWO mofo Penn Stations?! Yes, there's a "Newark Penn Station" and a "New York Penn Station". I was okay once I'd figured this out, but...c'mon! Anyway, the New York subways were a big fat eye-opener compared to L.A.'s - where ours are clean, new, and well-lit, New York's are dark, grungy and...well, yeah, kinda creepy. I also got a train that had no AC and must have been at least 100 degrees, a regular hurtling metal sweatbox.

I took the train to Chinatown, and was utterly disappointed. NY's Chinatown is dirty, crowded, foul-smelling, overpriced, and full of cheap tourist crap. Not a DVD store or good tea shop to be found. A tiny 3"-diameter egg custard tart ran $6.00. It was sweltering, and I was tired of getting hit up by the chunky young hustler who ran up to women announcing he could "go ten hours for twenty bucks!" Uhh...no thanks. Also, as a Valley girl I just am not down with the NY notion that traffic lights serve no purpose.

Friday night the Newark Hilton turned into Party Central. After enjoying a superb panel on horror reviewing, which included the amazing S. T. Joshi, PW's Peter Cannon, Jack Haringa and Ben Indick (I had Joshi sign my Lovecraft bio), I found myself being dragged by Steve Jones, Mandy Slater and Amanda Foubister into a hotel room wherein F. Paul Wilson and Tom Monteleone prepared us lovely martinis and entertained us with stories about the old days at the cons, when people like Frank Belknap Long were the ones getting so drunk they flipped their chairs over backwards. The Secret History of Horror...

The party at some point moved to Kelly Laymon's room, where the drink of choice became "Zipperheads". Where do they find these things? Little test tubes of brightly-colored different alcoholic drinks. The bathroom sink was crammed full of 'em:

(This picture has been cropped to protect certain guilty parties!)

Saturday started quite early (no problem for me - I was so messed up from jetlag anyway) with the HWA business meeting. Yeah, that's right...the one that no one ever comes to. At least it was so short we had plenty of time for a nice breakfast with Steve, Mandy, Amanda and Doug Winter. Doug paid me a lovely, if unwitting, compliment: We started talking about Mondo Zombie, which we're both in, and then Doug asked me if I'd been in the first two - only to catch himself and say, "Oh, right - you were probably a toddler then!"

I'd hoped to attend much of nihilistic_kid's excellent programming, but as usual my good intentions blahblahblah, and instead by noon I was striding precariously along the edge of a busy highway with Steve, Mandy and Amanda in search of a hotel bar that was already open (the Hilton's didn't open until 4:30). We actually had more of a business meeting, as much of the talk turned into how HWA might present next year's Stoker Awards at the World Horror Convention in Toronto, which Steve, Mandy and Amanda are chairing.

I had to flee back to the hotel for my 2:00 panel on regional horror, which I shared with the fabulous Mario Acevedo, F. Brett Cox and Sam Weller (I actually learned some interesting things from this panel, I must say). Two intriguing bits of synchronicity: At lunch, Steve was telling me about a book on Mexican horror cinema he's working on, and he highly recommended any of the films centering on the legendary figure of "La Llorana", or "The Crying Woman"...then, during the Regional Horror panel, Mario Acevedo made the same recommendation (I'm on the hunt now!); and the name of Dennis Etchison surfaced in both the horror reviewing and regional horror panels as possibly the finest living practitioner of the genre. I'm in complete agreement with Mssrs. Joshi and Weller there.

I ran from the panel right to a pitch meeting with an agent. All I will say now is that it seemed to go very well. Hey, at the very least I actually enjoyed it.

Found my roomie Ellen Datlow, and we adjourned to our room to prepare for the evening's big festivities. We traded girl talk and giggles while we got into our fancy garb, then headed down for the cocktail reception. I was thrilled earlier in the day to find that my Chizine "Throwdown" partner Mike Marano was in attendance, and so Mikes Marano and Arnzen served as my dates throughout reception and banquet.

(Lisa and Mike Marano - see, we really do love each other!)

I was a mildly bad girl at the banquet by refusing to sit at the table designated for HWA officers, but I had already gotten comfy at another table with my two Mikes, and besides my table featured a particularly fine centerpiece:

After a really very good meal, the awards began, with one of my dates picking up the first award of the evening (Mike Arnzen took the Poetry award for Freakcidents), a trend which eventually resulted in us having a table positively groaning under the weight of all those awards! I was also very impressed by the presentation of the awards, which included a video screen showing the cover for each nominated book and each winner. Wish I'd thought of that for the 2005 awards.

When they got to Anthology, I was utterly prepared for the winner to be Corpse Blossoms. When they announced Dark Delicacies, it actually took me a few seconds to process that we'd won! (I say "we" partly because I'm in the book, partly because Del and Jeff are good friends, and partly because I did enough work on the book that Del and Jeff like to jokingly refer to me as the "third editor".) I had an acceptance speech from Del which I read, and then had to stagger back to the table to add the latest two statues to it.

The presentation of the President's Richard Laymon award added to my being floored. Gary's speech (as read by the delightful Hank Schwaeble) was funny, thoughtful, and moving, and any shreds of dismay I'd had in being given a service award were promptly swept away. The trophy itself is lovely, but I'm just really incredibly honored and flattered by Gary's speech. My only regret now is that he couldn't be there to deliver it in person.

(Lisa and Mike Arnzen - Lisa's award is the big shiny one front-and-center)

The final delight of the awards presentation for me was Peter Straub's acceptance speech, in which he delivered his own personal history of the HWA. Suffice it to say that Mr. Straub and I share a similar opinion of a certain individual whom he described as "magnificently self-involved" (my new favorite phrase. Ever.)

At the end of the presentation I had to file onto the stage with the other award winners, attempting to juggle three trophies. Even though I probably look clumsy in the photos, I'm at least glad I was there to represent the other half of the human race, what with all the manmeat on display!

(Standing, left to right: Tom Monteleone, David Morrell, Peter Straub, Joe Hill, Mike Arnzen, Lisa; kneeling, Hank Schwaeble and Steve Jones)

The instant the awards were over, I fled to the nearest phone so I could have the great pleasure of calling Del and Sue and saying, "Guess why I'm calling?" They were stunned. Ecstatically so.

Post-award partying was appropriately bawdy. We managed to get ourselves thrown out of both the HWA suite and the bar. I was congratulated by Peter (me, congratulated by Peter Straub? Is this a great universe or WHAT?!), and received many congratulations to carry back to Dark Delicacies. The evening ended with more late-night girl gossip with Ellen, and my attempt to pack three trophies and all the goody-bag books into my garment bag.

The plane trip home (during which the weight of said garment bag frequently threatened serious bodily injury) was rendered amusing by the young Puerto Rican man who sat next to me - he looked like Ewan Bremner from Trainspotting, spoke no English except "Coke!" and "Thanks!", and kept offering me food he'd brought with him - and the all-time most insipid conversation, which was shared by the fifty-something heavily-Bronx-accented couple seated behind me:

MAN (as the plane is going over the Rockies): Oh, hey, look - mountains with snow! We must be over Colorado.

WOMAN: Colorado? Why are we headed west?

MAN: Uh - to get to Los Angeles.


Doesn't get much better than that. Oh, wait, yes it does - like whenever this same dunderheaded woman stuck her vast clad-in-bright-lime-green ass in my face, which was more often than I wanted.

In Los Angeles, we took a slight detour on the way home to drop off the two Stokers at Dark Delicacies, where we shared a bottle of champagne. Del told me that when he called Jeff to tell him about the win, Jeff made some derogatory comment about the HWA. Del asked him why he was saying this when he'd just won the Stoker. Jeff responded, "Wait - I thought you were kidding!" This was Jeff's 20th anthology (!), and he's never even been nominated before, so he has good reason to be incredulous, I suppose.

The partying will continue at Dark Delicacies throughout this week. Me, meantime, I'm still basking in my own small glow, keeping my fingers crossed that this weekend was a good business investment in myself, and trying to return to normal life.

Time to cut back on the drinking...

(Special thanks to Greg Faherty for all photos but the one of Lisa and Mike Arnzen, and the one of the Dark Delicacies decoration - great work, Greg!)