Halloween Convention Report
© By Gary Morton (2,200 words)
Sometimes I see melon tears on the horizon. Tonight they’re a smear on the darkness. Leaves are falling. A big moon is rising, laying a silver carpet on the crisp autumn field. The trees and towers of Toronto rise in the night, granting me that illusory feeling of loneliness. And I use the word illusory because all human feelings are little more than that. There isn't a kernel of reality in others than we can touch and we haven't a definite core ourselves. It all shifts like mist, yet I do agree that occasionally faces form and touch and some part of the world is shared.
We really are ghosts, we can be nothing more, and if ghosts are what we fear, then we fear ourselves.
As the host of this convention - Halloweencon Toronto - I‘m a man who has written about ghosts, and one of my key guests specializes in ghosts. Of course the difference is that my tales have never been completed -- a sort of writer's block that never lets me end a story. My manuscripts remain like ancient scrolls, having lost detail that will never be recovered.
I do admire San Allan, because he did finish his tales and they are the best around. I invited him because of his talent -- finding his demands so disappointing. Would the wine and partying flow freely, and just between two lovers of dark fantasy, would I provide him with cocaine and a lover for the weekend? It certainly is true that the stories are beautiful and the flesh is spotted corruption.
Ghost stories are often told by firelight, and now as I light the kindling I can tell you how they end. They end in fright and death. But that is nothing to fear because death cannot be real. Like all else it too is an illusion and a ghost. San Allan said that, and I quoted it to him just before I shot him with his own antique pistol.
He had no last words. San died quickly, like the characters in his tales, leaving the reader the sole right to speculate on the meaning of his death. He certainly was frightened as I held the gun and told him why he would die -- so call this one a scary story -- for him.
Flames lick up and if you were here you would see San Allan as I see him. Though perhaps you wouldn't recognize him. I have hung him from an oak bough, holding his spirit here to wander. He wears my manuscript around his neck because he is the final chapter. San once said that Halloween without a ghost story is not Halloween -- and now we have our tale through my manuscript and San, and we have perfection.
Vance Kingsley is another talent I invited to Halloweencon Toronto, and he was very hard to get. My news briefs on the many goodies of the convention had little influence on him. It was only when I notified him that our panel had selected him for a special award for accomplishment and perseverance that he agreed to attend.
For many years Vance was noted for starting the old shouldn't-it-be-called-dark-fantasy-and-not-horror debate at conventions. And I don't suppose writers can ever resolve that question when publishers seem to name the genre. No matter what you tell them they'll use the name they think is going to sell the work.
Vance arrived from the airport in a limousine -- a striking man with a classic mouth that properly belonged on a statue, and gray eyes that bore into me with the power of a Satan child. After introductions we sat in my back yard, discussing convention events while the LSD I put in his drink took effect. Once it did I overpowered him and tied him to a totem I keep. I killed him with two hundred feathered pins -- tossing them in to puncture him from his feet up, the last two going through his eyes to his brain. With each toss I asked him - Is it horror or is it dark fantasy? Too bad his replies were never more than curses, agonized moaning and babble. Now he hangs here in stiff beauty on his special bough, and the attached manuscript remains incomplete. I really don't know if it is horror or dark fantasy.
Ricky Layton is probably one of the sweetest guys around. He bubbles with warmth and inspiration. In less than half an hour I felt like I'd been his friend for years. His knowledge of the field is tremendous and he is one of those people that can sit down and quickly write an excellent fright novel. He's a big jump from other writers -- we tear our hair out and can never finish the work.
I suppose my best memory of Ricky has to do with his way of spinning intellectual rings around me without making me feel inferior -- a wonderful thing in a world of people who all want to be one up on you. His bad reputation has always been totally undeserved. If you haven't heard, Ricky is the novelist the censorship lobby always attacks -- mainly because of the imitation killings.
Ricky can't be blamed for that -- though his usually upbeat expression melts to sadness when he speaks of it. It really is a freedom of expression thing for Ricky. He maintains that he never glamorized suicide. Depression has been a condition he's suffered all of his life. A fight to stay alive. "Damn kids," Ricky said, as I drove him out to the field, "they imitate every killing I write about. What option do I have? -- it isn't horror fiction if there are no victims of the evil forces."
Poor guy, he’d got himself into a state, and his eyes seemed to well with confusion when I parked, handed him a pistol and told him to take a walk in the field.
He did take that walk -- but he didn't walk back. Guess it was the depression and finding San and Vance hanging there. Ricky shot himself, and perhaps we shouldn't let the news get out. We wouldn't want people to imitate him, would we?
Remember Sandy Smitherman's famous voodoo tale where a movie director has his cuts to an author's work come back on him. Sandy did well by that story. But he didn't do me a good turn on the story I sent him. In my submission to his Bag of Shining Bones anthology, I asked him to end the story as I couldn’t complete it. Instead of help I got cut to pieces bit by bit. It took months to get a one-sentence rejection, and seven more letters for a proper explanation. All I wanted was a proper review of my tale and he told me to never submit again. Then when I read the anthology, I noticed that every single writer published in it was a big name, and had attended a recent convention with Sandy.
That whole anthology was a lie. These guys claim they are publishing new talent when they are really just making deals at conventions with name writers. And of course editors like Smitherman appear in the Gauntlet rag to launch lofty attacks on all forms of censorship. The one point not mentioned being that editors cut and censor more material than anyone else. They pimp for publishers; they grab all the top posts and jobs, and use them as a springboard to get ahead. The little guys are bled to death.
When Smitherman arrived at my house I thought I had blasted into the past -- he looked so much like a beatnik. But a sophisticated one with a holier-than-thou attitude. His attendance at the convention I had simply bought -- money being his prime mover. Blood and money, the blood coming into play when I got him to the field, stripped and switched him with hickory. His was a painful, numbing death -- a lot of screaming as I worked him over with the branch. Of course I waited while the welts and cuts rose, then I opened the largest of them with my hunting knife and watched as he shivered and bled to death.
He begged for his life as I had begged him to help me with my story. Begging did not work for either of us.
The only person to arrive unannounced and uninvited to the convention was an official for a literary union -- a big beach-boy type of guy with a mat of blond hair and a California tan. And get this - his face was painted like a Goth. He had his first book of stories with him and I could identify with that -- though his tales were all steaming organ and gore tales written in a nerdy first-person style. During breakfast with him I remained silent, listening to him talk about union stuff. Then I took him out hunting in the field and when I was the right distance from him I gut shot him with a crossbow. It was a barbed arrow and he was such a big guy he remained standing with his hands on the shaft. Coming to his aid I seized the bolt and yanked it out. And there were the old steaming organs -- blood and slimy blue-pink tissue. There has to be more to a story than this, I said as he collapsed and died. And on the union issue -- I've always hated unions that include writers. The first reason being they aren't real unions, the second being nearly all writers in the world are poor because of them. They're all too weak. They all sell out. They‘ve created a world where a few top novelists make all of the money and the rest of us starve. If it were possible I would kill them all along with every publisher in the industry, and write a new chapter to the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Getting one was better than none. I feel much better now……………
Reviewers and critics -- three of them showed, and I won't tell you what I did to them. Just be satisfied that it was another gore story with elements of the gross out, involving piano wire, spinning blades and a nail gun. Get to them before they get to you is my motto when it comes to reviewers.
I didn't invite or kill any publishers -- in horror they’re nearly all Americans, they’re crooks and bums and everyone knows it. Let's just say their reputation has saved them. The last two were teachers -- or should I say writers who teach. Nearly all writers teach; you would think there wasn't another job a writer could do.
No more classes, no more books, no more teacher's dirty looks. That's what I said to Janice Elwood just before I opened fire on her with an Uzi. She was an amazingly tough sort of person, continuing to live with a strange scream frozen on her face as the bullets sent blood, skin and bone spurting up like rain.
Her friend Candy I saved for last. And of course you all know the lovely Candy. The most admired woman at all conventions. She always takes the awards and has more awards than any other writer. And included in that raft of bronze, silver, plastic and glass is my Halloweencon award. A special design it has true beauty -- in appearance it is a small head painted with a gasp of terror. The hair stands up in a thousand sharp points, and those points were well received by Candy as I shoved them down her screaming throat.
So now the star guests have all arrived at Halloweencon Toronto and only the convention itself remains. It’s too bad the larger audience will never find more than empty rooms. They’ll arrive at the hotel, only to find that there isn't a convention -- I never arranged the one advertised in the flyers and text posts, though I did arrange gasoline bombs and fire.
Drunks, drugs, costumed fools and the disarray of a horror convention; it’s best to put an end to it all. Call me a Gothic sort of guy -- because the real convention is being held out here where the moon silvers the leaves and a haunted house creaks in the darkness.
This is a private mini convention -- my first reading.
Inspiration – I’ve completed nearly all of the tales in my first book, which I’ve tentatively titled Halloween Convention Report. And I’ve used my cell phone to invite a select group to this special Halloween reading. They should be arriving soon. Imagine their excitement and mine. Imagine the thrills and chills when I fire up the lights in the pumpkins and draw back the curtain of darkness shielding the boughs.
The masters will look on as they swing from the boughs, and the night and the audience will be at my command.