Today, yesterday, and tomorrow mark seven years since I attended my first convention of any kind in my life. This anniversary is especially poignant because conventions are outright shut down for the next year or so. I’m missing them a ridiculous amount. These restrictions make me even more nostalgic, like I’m some sort of sentimental vacuum, filling my wistful tank until it pops in a cloud of chalky dust.
Crypticon 2013 was my first event of that kind, but it would not be my last. It was the one to introduce me to this communal celebration of fandom. Everyone was welcome to this community. You could like any genre. I hadn’t felt like I belonged more than that in my entire life. The con was taking place at the Doubletree in Bloomington, a cavernous tower of beige meeting rooms and hallways. It was the typical setting for local conventions. The air smelled like ammonia, grilled meat, and sweat. There was a general hubbub of people laughing and talking no matter where you went in the building.
I remember I had just one book to sell there. Beware the Ills, my first and favorite novel. It wasn’t really horror, so I was worried my book wouldn’t resonate with the aura of the convention. Nick, the head honcho of Crypticon kindly assured me that it would be okay. I remember getting there super early, hours before the door opened. I was ridiculously nervous, so I ended up carrying everything I had in one trip, which made my form vanish behind a wall of boxes with a just a pair of shaky legs visible. When I got inside everyone was incredibly kind to me, and showed me to a table inside the plaza, which was parallel to the elevators that rose up to your rooms. I remember I set up my table quickly, expecting people to instantly arrive, but nobody appeared. I wore a suit coat to try and look official, like I knew what I was doing, but it instead made me sweat terribly. I eventually sat down on a grey folding chair and lost myself in my phone in the effort to calm my anxiety.
As I was mindlessly scrolling through Facebook and attempting to think of something clever to post on social media, Billy Dee Williams walked by me with his family and handlers. He was dressed sharp in a periwinkle scarf, tan trench coat, and walking stick. His hair was groomed backwards and glistening. He was honestly the very definition of cool. I didn’t say anything to him. He just nodded his head at me and said hello. I remember sinking into my spot and thinking: “Star Wars. He was in Star Wars. Star Wars. STAR WARS.” Then I giggled awkwardly to myself.
Once the convention opened, my memories are a bit of a blur. About a dozen people bought my book. Everyone that sauntered by talked to me. My parents dropped in to give me a break so I could take a nap in my car. Socializing with strangers takes a lot out of you. My brain was fried after just one evening. I went to party rooms. Talked to my neighbor Kathryn Leigh Scott and learned about her career in Dark Shadows. Had a publicist compliment my strategy of free candy to lure people in. Talked about obscure horror references that I thought no one would even know. Met a ton of awesome people, many of the friends I met are permanent to this day. When I was finished with the convention, I started a little tradition of having a pint of Guinness at the hotel bar. If I have time, and I have sold enough books, I maintain that ritual.
To commemorate my first ever con, I’m offering my book Beware the Ills for free today on Kindle if you want to download it. A promotion like that seems fitting for what happened seven years ago. This pandemic has been hard for many people for different reasons. Missing out on these gatherings is what has been difficult for me. That is a small consequence in the galaxy of tragedies COVID has caused for so many people. Thank you all for reading and please have a safe and healthy week.