Lovecraft in Vermont: After-action Report

Driving 400 miles round trip to the Lovecraft in Vermont event was worth it. Though things were terribly disorganized, and the guy-in-charge (Alan Eames) was obviously way overburdened doing the whole thing (just him and his wife running it), the speakers I saw were interesting and the haul I came back with is great stuff.

I’m most excited about the haul. To enumerate:

“The Curse of the Blue Figurine” by John Bellairs, PB, cover and interior art by E. Gorey.
“The Mummy, The Will, And The Crypt” by John Bellairs, PB, art by E. Gorey.
“The Revenge of The Wizard’s Ghost” by John Bellairs, HC, art and jacket by E. Gorey.
“The Thief of Always” by Clive Barker, HC, England 1st ed., jacket, illustrations by Barker.
“Planets and Dimensions: Coll. Essays of Clark Ashton Smith” C.K. Wolfe, Mirage Press 1973.
“Red World of Polaris” Clark Ashton Smith, signed by editors and limited 500 1st ed. 2003.
“The Whisperer in Darkness” HPL, signed limited 100 special edition, illus. by Stuart Copans. (won in a raffle)

and the treasure find of the day:

“The Dwindling Party” E. Gorey, HC pop up book, near mint

I also saw a pristine copy of the original Arkham Horror game, but didn’t go for it (the guy wasn’t even sure how much to sell it for!). I’ve heard that the new release is vastly superior, so getting the old one would just have been a novelty.

They made chili and beef stew and salad as meal options for purchase, but the prices were extremely high – it probably would have been better just to include the cost of a meal in the admission and made a choice of bag lunches. Apples, cheese, and coffee/tea/cocoa were provided with optional donations.

There were a couple of scary people there, but that’s always to be expected at fringe conventions. As I thought, there were a couple people in attendance who were at the last NecronomiCon in 2001, though we didn’t really remember each other. I did briefly share memories and chat a little bit with a couple people, but there were only about 30 folks total in attendance, including speakers and dealers. And speaking of speakers…

I met Stephen Bissette – for those who don’t know, he was the artist on Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing, and is the co-creator of John Constantine (yes, the Keanu Reeves movie, and I don’t think he got much money for it sadly). His talk was a slideshow exploring the origins of Lovecraftian comic and cinema adaptations, and he pointed me at some underground comic issues from the 1970s that I need to find (hopefully next weekend at TE). Apparently Mr. Bissette is now teaching at the Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction and generally does research into his comic interests.

Faye Ringel was a folklorist and researcher who gave a talk about eugenics and Lovecraft and the history of Vermont – those familiar with Lovecraft may know about his racist tendencies, like a character having a black cat called Niggerman in “The Rats in the Walls”. Lovecraft touched upon genetics, evolution, and race in his stories as recurring themes; how often in his stories do “degenerate cultists” turn up, or “inbred degenerates” like the Whately clan? Or consider the devolution of the main character in “The Rats in the Walls” or the overarching concept of “race memory” that can reach back into ancient aeons – in HPL’s stories, even back to saurian ancestors or further to ever stranger forms of life. These topics were common fare in all the periodicals of the day in his time; Good Housekeeping and Harper’s were publishing articles about racial purity in America in the 1920s! And apparently 31 states passed eugenics laws, and Vermont went so far as to actually implement forced sterilizations on a mass scale (to purify the “germ plasm” of races and prevent intermixing)… a program that worked so well that the Nazis modeled their own programs after it in the later 1930s. It was utterly fascinating, and she plugged a popular culture convention coming up in Boston next year that I’m seriously thinking of going to.

I wish now that I’d made it there to see the first speakers earliest in the day, but it took me three hours just to get up there; but I was very glad to meet with and hear the speakers that I did.

Oh, and I almost forgot the movies.

Unfortunately, they showed “The Cthulhu Chronicles” which is basically a lousy rip off of the X-Files with a Lovecraftian glossary. Not only that, it’s also a terrible production – bad lighting, bad foley, bad acting, bad editing, bad writing, bad camera work. Bad, bad, bad. And not even good bad, painful bad. Bad they-must-be-showing-this-to-prisoners-at-Gitmo bad. Avoid it at all costs. I honestly believe I could have done better on my worst day at any or all of the above. Quite a few people just walked right out rather than watch any more of flashlights swinging around in the dark (just the flashlights, you almost never could see the people).

Thankfully following that true horror, they showed Andrew Leman’s “The Call of Cthulhu” which, as some of you may know, is an utter masterpiece. The crowd ate it up.

There will be another LiV convention next year… I honestly hope it’ll be larger and a little better organized, and maybe take place in a more populous area rather than the Grange Hall out in the middle of nowhere! I was a little disappointed that the organizers had not made up surveys or put together mailing lists or even had a suggestion box set up to get feedback from the people and stay in contact with them for next year; but I guess I’ve just had more experience at running cons so I think about these things.

I would really love to revive NecronomiCon, but the idea of starting it again from scratch is very daunting.