NECON 33 – More than a con. It’s Family.

Panel audience at NECON 33.  That's me, Steve Dorato, and Scott Goudsward in the front row.  Nick Cato and friends behind us.  Thanks, Nick, for the photo!

Panel audience at NECON 33. That’s me on the left, next to Steve Dorato and Scott Goudsward in the front row. Nick Cato and friends behind us. Thanks, Nick, for the photo!

NECON 33 Recap

By Michael Arruda

Every summer a bunch of writers and readers descend upon Roger Williams University in Bristol, RI for Camp Necon, a writers’ convention unlike any other.

Here’s a brief recap of this year’s Necon, NECON 33, held July 18-21 2013, at the Roger Williams Convention Center.

On Thursday July 18, things got off to an emotional start with the Rick Hautala memorial.  For those of us who knew Rick, which is pretty much everybody at Necon, it was a poignant evening, filled with fond remembrances, stories, and even a picture slide show.  Rick really was everyone’s friend, and as was said that night, Necon was Rick’s Christmas, the event he looked forward to most each year, the days when he would be reunited with his “family.”

That was one of the prevalent themes of the weekend, how Necon is a family.  It is.

On Friday morning, July 19, I attended a new Necon event, the Kaffeeklatsch, a more laid back version of a panel where we sat around in comfy chairs over coffee.  The very first Necon Kaffeeklatsch was hosted by Matt Bechtel, on the subject of All Things E-Books.

Two more Kaffeeklatschs followed.

After lunch, I spent some time in the dealer’s room, spending time at the New England Horror’s table, keeping NE Horror head honcho and my Necon roommate Scott Goudsward company.

I attended the 2:00 panel on Writing Across Media, moderated by Craig Shaw Gardner.  Also on the panel were Richard Dansky, John Dixon, Errick Nunnally, and Brian Keene.  A good chunk of the panel was spent discussing John Dixon’s very exciting— and very much deserved— contract with CBS which is producing a TV show based on Dixon’s latest novel.

The 4:00 panel on That Line We Crossed:  How Explicit Is Too Explicit with Robert Devereaux, Jack Ketchum, Hal Bodner, Sephera Giron, and moderator Jeff Strand, discussed the intriguing premise that taboos of today have less to do with sex and violence than political correctness and race/religion issues.  It turned out to be a very thought-provoking panel.

After dinner Toastmaster Rio Youers delivered a hilarious toast which lampooned last year’s Necon and poked fun at this year’s, and it was followed by the equally entertaining Necon Update with Mike Myers.

This was followed by the Necon Hall of Fame Induction, which saw the induction of both Chet Williamson and Mary Booth.

The Hawaiian Shirt Competition followed, and this year it was won by good friend and fellow Cinema Knife Fighter Barry Dejasu.  Congrats Barry on that homemade shirt!

Later that evening came the Meet the Authors party, where Necon attendees can meet and greet their favorite authors, including Christopher Golden, F. Paul Wilson, Tom Moneteleone, Jack Ketchum, Doug Winter, Linda Addison, Kealan Patrick Burke, P.D. Cacek, Gary Frank, Craig Shaw Gardner, Brian Keene, Nate Kenyon, Elizabeth Massie, Mary Sangiovani, and Jeff Strand, to name just a few.  How about that for a partial author line-up?

I set up shop next to fellow authors Nick Cato, Tracy Carbone, and Dan Foley, and I was fortunate enough to sell and sign a couple of copies of my new print edition collections, IN THE SPOOKLIGHT and FOR THE LOVE OF HORROR.

I finished the evening talking movies with Craig Shaw Gardner, and I always enjoy hearing what movies he has to recommend.  This year he pointed me towards THE INKEEPERS (2011) which I hope to check out very soon.

Actually, this isn’t really how my evening ended.  Necon social gatherings go well into the night, some not ending at all, and so I my night ended much later than this.  It’s one of the best parts about Necon, staying up forever chatting with friends.  Yep, it’s the best part— until the next morning when you have to wake up for an 8:00 breakfast.

Saturday, July 20, there were panels all morning, but I actually decided to stay in my room and get some writing done.  This is a writer’s convention, after all.

I did attend the 11:00 panel on Don’t Do It Like That II:  Mistakes I’ve Stopped Making moderated by Doug Winter, and featuring Tom Monteleone, F. Paul Wilson, Chet Williamson, and Heather Graham.  This was a very informative and education panel, but I couldn’t help but think that this was exactly the type of panel that Rick Hautala would have been on.  I missed his words of wisdom this year.

The other driving emotional force of this year’s Necon was the presence of Bob Booth.  For those of you who don’t know, Bob Booth, “Papa Necon” himself, the man responsible for starting Necon 33 years ago, is battling lung cancer.  To see Bob here, to hear him speak at the Town Meeting and elsewhere, was truly inspirational.

In fact, for me, the highlight of this year’s Necon was spending a moment with Bob, shaking his hand, and wishing him well.

.

The other equally memorable moment for me was being able to give Holly Newstein Hautala, Rick’s wife, a warm embrace.

Yes, Necon is family.

At 1:00, I attended the Guest of Honor Interviews, where Toastmaster Rio Youers interviewed Guests of Honor Kealan Patrick Burke and C J Henderson.  It was great to hear these two authors speak about their backgrounds, and of the journeys which got them to this point in their careers.

I spent some more afternoon time writing, and then caught the 4:00 panel We’ve Got You Covered: How Print Cover Art Happens, featuring Caniglia, Jill Bauman, Courtney Skinner, Stephen Gervais, and moderator Duncan Eagleson.

The Artists’ Reception followed dinner, in which art work was on display, along with coffee and desserts for all to enjoy.

The evening’s festivities began with That Damn Game Show! hosted by Doug Winter and Craig Shaw Gardner, and included their running gag of the simple rules, which are anything but simple.  This year’s game show was surprisingly quick— unbelievably so— and Chris Golden emerged the winner.

This was followed by the shaving of Rio Youers’ head for charity, for the Jimmy Fund to be exact.  This was prompted by a bet last year between Youers and Chris Golden, over who would go further into the NFL playoffs, Peyton Manning or Tom Brady.  You should have listened to Chris Golden, Rio.  I know I’d never bet against Tom Brady.

The Infamous Necon Roast came next, and this year’s roastee was three time Bram Stoker Award winner and poet Linda Addison.  It was hilarious as always.  Courtney Skinner has a deadpan Bob Newhart style down to an art form, and Brian Keene takes no prisoners.  His humor is brutal and honest and always a hoot.

Sunday, July 21.

My Sunday began bright and early, as I was on the 9:00 panel, Cinema Knife Fight:  Best Genre Films of the Year.  On the panel with me were Sheri Sebastian Gabriel, Nick Cato, Barry Dejasu, Craig Shaw Gardner, and moderator William Carl.

We tried something new this year, as we ran the panel like the old Match Game show, in which Bill Carl would ask questions, the panel would fill in the blanks and two lucky contestants would try to match our answers.  This worked very well, and Bill Carl deserves a lot of thanks for writing up the questions and getting the prizes.

The panel pretty much agreed that it really hasn’t been the best year for genre films, and that some of the best horror films continue to come from foreign countries.

Necon concluded at this year’s Town Meeting, and the sentiment here was that this year’s con went exceedingly smooth, and that high thanks were in order for Bob, Mary, Sara, and Dan Booth, and Matt Bechtel.

I know that Necon is always a special weekend for me.  Good friends, good times, professional panels which are as entertaining as they are informative, and the intangibles.  It’s a family, no doubt about it, and is why I keep coming back year after year since my first Necon in 2001.

Yep, Necon is one of the highlight of my year.  Isn’t it time you made it yours?

—Michael

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