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Something Weird is Heading Back to Providence: An Exclusive Preview of NecronomiCon 2017, Part I

NecronomiCon-Providence-Convention-August-17-20-2017 - POSTERNecronomiCon 2017 will be descending August 17-20 on Providence, RI in the United States. The biannual convention began as a celebration of H.P. Lovecraft but now has expanded its programming to cover the broad tapestry of Weird Fiction from classic authors to the contemporary Weird Renaissance. As such, it’s evolved into closest thing to a Weird world summit, and it’s no understatement to call it one of the most highly anticipated conventions in the world of horror and speculative fiction.

This year’s Guests of Honor include renowned editor Ellen Datlow, filmmaker Richard Stanley, artist John Jude Palencar, poet  Donald Sidney-Fryer, Lovecraft scholar Steve Mariconda, and authors Kij Johnson, Stephen Graham Jones, Nnedi Okorafor, and Peter Straub. More than a con, NecronomiCon’s Website subheads accurately it as “The International Festival of Weird Fiction, Art and Academia.” Beyond panels, its many activities include the acclaimed juried Ars Necronomica exhibition themed “Wonders of the Visible Weird,” films, an Eldritch Ball, concerts, live podcasts including The Outer Dark (which will be aired here at This Is Horror), the Armitage Symposium of new Weird Fiction and Lovecraft-related research, a wide array of vendors at the “Grand Emporium of Weird,” bus and walking tours, gaming, and more.

Arch-Director Niels Hobbs always stressed that NecronomiCon is a team effort, so This Is Horror spoke to a panel of the creative minds behind NecronomiCon 2017 for an exclusive behind-the-scenes preview. This interview features the hive mind of Hobbs; Programming Committee Members s.j. bagley (Thinking Horror journal), Sam Gafford (The Dreamer in Fire and Other Stories), and Farah Rose Smith (Mantid magazine), Readings Coordinator Catherine Grant, Ars Necronomica Co-Curator The joey Zone, and Film Co-Curator Philip Gellatt (Europa Report).

 

What three things would you like people to know the most about NecronomiCon 2017? What’s new/different/bigger/better about NecronomiCon 2017 compared to past years?

Niels Hobbs: 2017 generally brings back a lot of the same types of events and programming, with an emphasis on a multifaceted celebration of Weird. But with Lovecraft’s 125th anniversary behind us, we’ve greatly expanded the subject matter to include a broader definition of Weird, and one that embraces the voices of the classic authors and their inspirations as well as all the modern voices who now chart their own path through the Weird.

Here are three things I’d like people to know about NecronomiCon Providence 2017: 1) It’s about Weird fiction in all its glory, with an emphasis on the roots in Lovecraftian cosmic horror and the other 19th and early 20th century authors who built the foundation of the genre. 2) It’s also about providing an inviting and accepting community stage and a spotlight for all the new voices of Weird that have come along in recent years and who will grow in years to come. 3) It’s about celebrating our commonalities in this particular sphere of the literary and artistic universe, and offering a place where we can all remember that commonality and grow with it.

 

What attendance is expected this year and how does it compare to 2015 and 2013?

NH: Judging by current ticket sales we may actually get pretty close to the nearly 2000 attendees and guests we saw in 2015, and more than the [approximately] 1500 we saw in 2013, though we’d anticipated fewer for this year. We’re not really interested in setting records, but rather in creating a high-quality event that folks will enjoy and leave enthused by, looking forward to returning in the future. S, the real answer to your question is: I anticipate attendance to be just right.

Personally, I’m more interested in the quality of the attendees and guests, and I continue to be thrilled at the remarkable intelligence, kindness, and patience of so many of our attendees and guests. As organizers, we really could scarcely beg to be so lucky, but yet we are. Though there are always some few people who try to ruin it for the rest of us (and sometimes almost succeed), I’ve been in a fortunate position to see that they really are just a vocal micro-minority. The vast majority of attendees and guests now know that NecronomiCon is a home [to which] they can come to be with friends, collaborators, and allies.

 

The teaser on your home page is “The Weird Renaissance comes Home.” Can you talk a bit about what you mean by the Weird Renaissance. Is “Home” simply the birthplace of HP Lovecraft or something more? I know many writers credit NecronomiCon as creating a sense of community among a new generation of Weird writers?

NH: Thank you for saying that! Yes, the “Weird Renaissance Comes Home” refers precisely to the growing, thriving, multifaceted community of Weird authors and artists who’ve made this genre about so much more than just one particular style or influence. And, while the “…comes home” part is a bit of hyperbolic marketing, it’s also partly our pledge to continue to provide the creators and fans of Weird with a place they can always come to and feel welcome and be among likeminded family, no matter who they are. Similar to our more critical academic take on the genre, whether focusing on Lovecraftian aspects or other corners of weird, we welcome and encourage all positive voices and contributors. So long as NecronomiCon Providence exists, it will be a home and a harbor for all in the Weird community.

 

Also you say: “NecronomiCon Providence is an expansive exploration and celebration of all the greats of weird fiction, including predecessors and contemporaries of Providence’s H.P. Lovecraft and the many authors and artists who have forged their own paths of Weird.” Can you talk a little bit about what this means?

s.j. bagley: For my part, it means seeing the entire line up of the conference—guests of honor, panels, etc.—as a living breathing organism that is eternally in the process of forward growth and development which requires diversity of body, voice, and theme. And it demands that we be very careful of the twin horrors of ostracisation and tokenisation in order to create a conference that fully celebrates the present, the NOW of Weird fiction. And in order to properly do that, we need to simultaneously build from the foundations of Weird fiction’s history while exploring where the field could go.

I’m certain that we’ll see some folks unhappy that there’s too much Lovecraft still, and other folks unhappy that there isn’t enough Lovecraft.  And honestly, that’s as it should be because it creates the dialectic through which the conference—and the wider world of weird fiction, as a whole—can grow and change and where we don’t have to be concerned with feeling as if we’re ‘stuck in a rut’. For my part again, it’s vital that we retain the idea that historical voices and reexamining and finding NEW things in older works of Weird fiction add to that diversity of voice that we’re all, in the end, looking for.

 

A wide array of classic authors are featured in the programming, perhaps more so than at past NecronomiCons. Broadly, why these?

Farah Rose Smith: Every fan and writer of weird fiction has a unique collection of preferences when it comes to the authors they appreciate the most, and this can extend into both general/speculative fiction and literary fiction. The recipe for nurturing unique voices is as rooted in influences as it is in experiences, so we felt that it would do a great service to the community to provide a platform to discuss some of the most influential predecessors, contemporaries, and heirs of Lovecraft. This will also provide an opportunity for newcomers to the genre to learn a little bit about some other writers who they may like to—and should!—be reading. So though it may at first glance look like a historic survey, I think [of] it rather [as] an opportunity to harness the unique individual voices of the past in order to further and encourage the diversity of future voices.

 

To what extent, will programming focus on the contemporary vs historic Weird?

FRS: The panel programming is roughly one-third Lovecraft/Lovecraftian history, one-third Lovecraft’s contemporaries and historic figures/themes in weird/spec fiction, and one-third modern weird and the arts—film, visual art, gaming, etc.. The division of content became slightly skewed in favor of historic content, but this is healthily balanced with external programming—readings, presentations, the Armitage Symposium—that highlight new voices in both Weird fiction and academia.

 

Could you talk a little about the specific themes for this year (Modern Weird Fiction, Historic Weird Fiction, Weird Howard, The Greater Weird) and perhaps highlight  a few not-to-miss panels for each themes?

Sam Gafford: Part of NecronomiCon’s mission from the beginning has always been to include the entire history of Weird Literature, and our programming reflects our commitment to that goal. In addition to our primary core programming revolving around H.P. Lovecraft, we are also remembering the past with our Classics/Contemporaries and the Modern Weird tracks. In this way, we look backward at the history of Weird Literature while lighting the way to the future.

It’s hard to pick just a few out of our many panels as representative, but the Mary Shelley, Arthur Machen, and Robert Chambers panels are good examples of panels about classic authors that should not be missed. Lovecraft is represented with many fine panels, and this year we will be presenting some that deal with issues like Lovecraft’s relationships with other women writers, the state—and future—of Lovecraft scholarship and even a panel on the often-forgotten Robert Barlow, Lovecraft’s friend and literary executor. In the modern track, we cover such topics as “The Weird, Weird West”, “Dark Crimes: The Weird in Noir Fiction”, “The Future of Small Press”, not to mention panels on film and art! Clearly, NecronomiCon offers something for everyone to enjoy!

Panel line-ups have been announced and are available on our webpage here. As always, appearances by guests and speakers are subject to change.

 

ANYA MARTIN


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