Delve Deeper

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Kelly Young's MythosCon write-up...

To celebrate H.P. Lovecraft - his work, his life, his influence, the Weird Tale, and those who continue to keep Cthulhu and the Mythos alive today.

- MythosCon

Created by Adam Niswander and Mark Boniece to fill the void left by the NecronomiCon (which died in Providence, Rhode Island many years ago), MythosCon (located in Phoenix, Arizona) celebrates H.P. Lovecraft and the Cthulhu Mythos through panels, films, readings, art, music and more! Held this past weekend at the Mission Palms Hotel in Tempe, Arizona, participants included Robert M. Price (who conducted his infamous Saturday Morning Cthulhu Prayer Breakfast), Ramsey Campbell, Alan Dean Foster, S.T. Joshi, Wilum Pugmire, Cody Goodfellow, Scott Connors, Donovan Loucks, Aaron Vanek, Charlie Krank & Chaosium and many, many more (over 50 guest attended in all)...

Kelly Young, filmmaker (being one-half of
Maelstrom Productions) and creator of Strange Aeons Magazine, attended the event and offered the following write-up. So check it out below, and lets hope for an even bigger and better event in 2012...

Poster artwork © 2010 Hartter

So, finally back and recovered from MythosCon in Arizona, and ready to dish the dirt.

MythosCon is a first-year attempt at an annual convention surrounding the works and influence of weird fiction writer H.P. Lovecraft. As far as that goes, the con was a success - there were plenty of panels, a dealer's room, a film screening room, and readings by contemorary authors inspired by his works.

The attendance for the con was very low - right around 200, and that included the 60-some "professionals" that were invited to attend. I know that they had hoped for a higher turnout, aiming somehwere around 750, and so the convention board probably is not thrilled with the weekend... but there are plenty of things that contributed to that low attendance, and could easily be fixed.

As a board member for a much larger convention for two years, I understand - in detail - how difficult and expensive it is to run a convention. You need to find the right mix of board members, exhibitors, panels/events, guests, date and hotel for everything to fall into place. But it CAN be done.

The resort hotel that the con was held at was gorgeous, no doubt about it - and way too expensive. I knew of only a few people who were attending the con that actually stayed at the hotel. I stayed at a much smaller - and half the price - hotel a couple miles down the road, and knew there were people staying even further away to save money. I'd wager that a lot of people were scared away by the cost of the hotel, and compounded by the cost of the event, which at $100 for the weekend was far more expensive than it should have been.

Even this might not have been so scary if it hadn't fallen so soon after a major, wallet-busting holiday...

The guests were top-notch for this kind of event. S.T. Joshi and Robert M. Price are no-brainers for ANY Lovecraftian event, but throw on authors and speakers such as Alan Dean Foster, Ramsey Campbell and Dennis Etchison, and you're getting into the rarely seen masters. There was also plenty of new blood as far as writers go, and a large selection of old-school small-press and fanzine creators to flesh the guests out.

The panels left a little to be desired, though. While it's always a pleasure to listen to S.T. Joshi plumb the (limitless) depths of his Lovecraft knowledge, the Lovecraft fans are the few and the proud, a pretty select group. There were probably as many people in the audience who already knew all of the stuff Joshi was talking about as there were who didn't. The beauty of Lovecraft is that there's always a new generation of readers finding him, and so these panels/lectures are welcome - but there was nothing else scheduled opposite them for anyone who had already taken this class.

At the opposite end of the spectrum were young authors/speakers who just didn't have enough con experience to understand their role at the event. At least, I'd like to give them the benefit of the doubt, and hope that, at a panel titled "Contemporary Mythos Writing - Who else is keeping the Mythos alive with new perspectives?", after each writer on the panel had confirmed that they were NOT Mythos writers, it was not narcissism of the highest order that kept them speaking soley about themselves for an hour instead of mentioning the actual Mythos writers - some in attendance! - who actually ARE keeping the genre alive...

The dealer's room was perfect for this kind of event. Small, to be sure, but certainly big enough for the amount of people who showed up this year. There were plenty of used book dealers with tons of autographed paperbacks; small-press was represented honorably with the exemplary Perilous Press and the amazing Centipede Press; artists such as Paul Carrick and Allan K. and Mike Dubisch had prints available at their tables, and original art for sale in the adjoining art-show room; there were knick-knacks, clothing, weapons - some real (knives, swords), some imaginary (steampunk guns), games (a large selection of Chaosium games and fiction, and Chaosium was an official presence at the con), and jewelry.

As for the people who ran the con, Adam Niswander is a hell of a nice guy. He bent over backwards to make sure every guest and attendee alike were being treated well. Beyond that... well, it gets a little shaky. The people at the registration desk were either cranky from lack of sleep - a definite possibility, considering that they were at a convention - or just plain assholes. From discussions with everybody else on the topic, I'd wager on the latter. And on a late Sunday panel aimed at taking praise and criticism for the event (in order to make the next one better), Con Chairman Mark Boniece seemed to have an excuse for everything that anyone criticized, rather than an apology or a promise to improve in that area. In other words, I don't think they really wanted to hear what anyone was saying.

So... the con was a mixed-bag for me. I really enjoyed seeing some of the people I only see at Lovecraft-centric events. A lot can be forgiven in a first-year con, especially one that has its heart in the right place, and this one certainly did.

My suggestions:
Throw out the idea of a convention. This can't compete with the sci-fi/horror/pop-culture cons that have sprung up everywhere over the last two decades, and it shouldn't. This should be labeled a regional conference, and should be treated as such. That means that some effort must be made to make sure that a panelist is appropriate for the panel they are on.

Open your minds to the other worlds of Lovecraft. There are a ton of comic book creators, game creators, film makers and their ilk that are playing in the Mythos right now. While Joshi's lectures are always jammed full of important information, there are people who aren't that interested in hearing it again. I'm pro-choice, dammit! Give me the option to learn something new.

A cheaper hotel. I think it's important to stay at the same hotel the con is happening at. In my experience, the hotel bar is where deals are made. It doesn't have to be a resort - I'm inside the various conference rooms the whole time, I don't need to pay for the pool, the views, and the room service.

So that's it. I had a good time and made some good connections. I'm looking forward to seeing where this goes.

Poster artwork © 2010 Hartter

(Thanks to Kelly Young)


  1. Thanks for the review, Kelly, I concur. I'd say that this should be more of a pro-only con, without the fans. More like a retreat for the practitioners of Lovecraft to get away from it all, talk about what we're all working on, get honest criticism and feedback, etc., away from the buying public.

    Any panels and such would be high end, that is, we won't need a Lovecraft 101 panel.

    I had to leave for the airport before the dead dog panel, though.

    Good seeing you there, can't wait to dig into the new issue of Strange Aeons!

  2. Excellent post, Kelly. I am still in a state of high ecstasy from the con. I didn't think of it as a mingling of pros and fans, but as Lovecraftians. Interesting that the one panel had writers who affirmed that they are not Mythos writers, I don't recall that, but much of the con & panels is a blur. For me, the convention was a celebration of the fact that I am a Mythos writer to the core of my soul, and determined to remain so. It has been my personal conviction that if I stayed true to writing Mythos fiction that one day I would do it well enough to actually contribute worthy work. Lovecraft and the Mythos seems more alive for me nw, as an artist, than ever before, and MythosCon was a fabulous confirmation of that!

  3. Thanks, Aaron and Wilum. It was great to see both of you there and I dug the panels and reading quite a bit.

    The non-mythos writers only made a point to mention that while they are writing Lovecraftian fiction, they don't play in the Mythos per se. Which I have no problem with at all - in fact, it can be refreshing. But it was just a little confusing to have that happen when there were obvious mythos writers - yourself and Cody, right there in the next room. I half expected to Cody to kick in the door and storm down the aisle screaming "This is a tapestry!" Okay, I didn't *really* expect it... but I would have paid to see it. :-)
    In the end, I had a really good time, and that's all that matters. But in the future, I'd prefer to see it go more the way of Aaron's "pro-con" idea.
    Aaron - how's that issue of SA treating you?

  4. Hello, folks. I enjoyed your review, Kelly, and wish to chime in:

    While I cannot speak for my distinguished co-panelists, my own relationship to Mythos fiction is strong. Though I admittedly only reference its formal entities and such on occasion, I have always been proud to have my work dubbed "Lovecraftian" by readers and critics alike, as I stated on the panel.

    Also, there were indeed other Mythos/Lovecraftian writers mentioned. I personally praised Wilum's work, as well as that of Laird Barron, Thomas Ligotti, and others.

    I do apologize if we steered the panel in a direction that was disappointing to some attendees like yourself. The four of us decided to try and talk a bit more about the Mythos/Lovecraftian "process" if you will, as there had already been a panel on contemporary Mythos writers the previous day.

    Ultimately I'm just glad to see you enjoyed MythosCon as much as I did. Let's do it again next year!

    All the best,


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