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Melissa and PaulPrevious Convention | Next Convention

This whole adventure started as something else entirely, as many of the best adventures do. How it turned from a road trip to Ithaca to visit an old friend into a weekend of debauchery in Chicago with a bunch of horror authors, I do not know. I believe it had something to do with those strawberry-kiwi fig newtons that we brought along. Yet, whatever the circumstances, Paul and I wound up at the 2002 World Horror Convention in Chicago while en route to Ithaca, and here lie the fruits of our labors.

I think I'll just begin by mentioning that four-day conventions rock my planet.

We had a truly glorious time at the 2002 World Horror Convention. This fabulous event took place in Chicago, IL, in the airplane-noise-plagued Radisson Hotel at O'Hare, forever changing my ideals for sunny April weekends in the Midwest. The convention offered up a stupefying amount of panels, guests of honor, and good conversation. It's been a long time since I've learned so much at a convention.

WHC 2002 was my first horror convention. It was also my first World-level convention. It was even Paul's first convention that wasn't CONvergence. Neither of us quite knew what to expect. Since I had heard some tales about Worldcon, I half-expected a huge crowd to go along with the stellar log of honored guests, but that was the only assumption I had made. I was rather surprised and pleased to find that the attendance was actually rather small; around 500 was my guess. But almost all of those 500 people were horror professionals of some sort; I have never seen so many writers and publishers and artists in one place. There were very few people who were just fans (like me). It made for some extremely interesting conversations, parties, and events, and since almost everyone was there for business purposes, the panels were very professional. WHC 2002 gave me great insight into the business of scaring and entertaining people, as well as just being a great time.

I'm already registered for WHC 2003 in Kansas City.

That said, here's my standard disclaimer. I realize that most of you web surfers are likely looking for information about the wider-known guests at the convention (Neil Gaiman, Gahan Wilson, and Gene Wolfe, among others). You will probably find a few nuggets of interest in this report, hidden among lots and lots of tales about my friends and the various and sundry people who I have the good fortune to run into. This report is just about my various adventures at the convention, whatever they happened to be, whether it was convincing Neil Gaiman to pose with a purple bunny or eating tabouli at the restaurant across the street with a guy named Ziggy.

If you want further tales of the WHC 2002, check out the official photo spot for the convention here.

So, without further ado, here is my (Melissa's) little tale about the 2002 World Horror Convention.

Mel's gone Kelloggs!04102002 Our saga actually began on a rainy Wednesday evening, the night before the convention. I was working that night at the DVD store that night (no, really, I do have a real job besides that), closing up shop with fellow minion Don. Paul had agreed to meet me after work so we could hit the grocery store, pack the car, and brace ourselves for the six-hour road trip the next day.

Paul finally showed up at the shop well after we closed the store and dropped off the deposit. Don had already walked off towards his bus by the time I spotted Paul by the doors. I hadn't seen him since before Christmas, so we caught up a bit as we walked out of the building and into the driving rainstorm outside.

Paul and I had a rather long trip to plan for, so instead of feasting on expensive restaurants three times per day, we decided to reduce our budgetary damages by hitting the grocery store. We drove across the street to Byerly's, a rather posh grocery store that I like because they will actually pack your car for you, and because they have carpeting in the store. Yeah, it's more expensive, but the produce is good, and heck, it was across the street.

Once inside, we grabbed a cart and began to scour the aisles. Fig Newtons, crackers, cheese, summer sausage, hummus, pita bread… all went into the cart. It was around 10:00 PM by now, so we were just about the only people in there, and we had a great time. Apples, miniature boxes of cereal, yogurt…

We finally got to the checkout lane, where Paul merrily partook in chatting with the hoarse checkout girl. He's certainly come a long way from the meek guy I dragged kicking and screaming to CONvergence two years ago, and indeed quite different from the nearly silent person I used to work with at A World of Fish for years before that.

$40 of groceries later, Paul followed my car to my house, and we packed up all the stuff needed for the road trip. The cooler was packed with food, I grabbed a couple card games and a travel-sized chess set (just in case), and we combined both of our change jars to prepare for the Chicago tollways. I even grabbed my G3 PowerBook, expecting to write part or all of the convention report while I was actually at the convention.

Once all that was done, I set Paul up with a couch, some pillows, and a couple blankets, and I went to bed.

04112002 The alarm rang at 7:00 AM, and oddly enough, we both sprang awake. We were ready to be on vacation. Thankfully, it had stopped raining just long enough to pack the car.

We hit the road quickly, trying to race the rain out of town. Unfortunately, it didn't work; by the time we hit Saint Paul, we were in a downpour. It rained on and off for the entire road trip, which actually went by rather swiftly and without much of interest happening. I did try to win a stuffed shark out of one of those claw-dropping machines in a Perkins Restaurant in Black River Falls, WI, but that just resulted in me losing fifty cents.

The sun finally came out in Chicago, and by the time we pulled up to the O'Hare Radisson, it was blazingly hot outside. In fact, we were just about blasted back into the car once we finally opened the doors to step out onto the parking lot… or maybe that was just the DC-10 that was threatening to scrape our scalps off from above. Yes, folks, the O'Hare Radisson is indeed right across the street from O'Hare International Airport, so the sound and sight of airplanes from very close-up was something of a theme for the weekend. Paul and I gawked at the underside of a couple of landing planes before we headed into one of the side doors.

We negotiated a bit of a maze before we discovered the front desk. We checked in just fine, and I made sure to indicate that author Pam Keesey would be arriving on Friday and also requesting a key to the room (Paul had arranged for the three of us to share the space, and thus, the bill).

Armed with keys, we walked through the lobby to have a look at where the room was, and to drop off the few minor things we had on-hand before we started unpacking the car in earnest. We spotted Neil Gaiman on the way, wandering through the marble-floored lobby, clad in his omnipresent leather coat.

The eighth-floor hotel room was placed in such a way that every possible parking spot around the hotel was equally inconvenient and far away, making a long trek through multiple wings of the hotel inevitable. Other than that, though, it was a nice, unremarkable room with extraordinary sound proofing, which made the airport noise tolerable. Two queen beds, big TV in a nice cabinet, bathroom with only the illusion of ventilation… you know, standard stuff.

We unpacked the car without much ado, Paul took a quick shower, and I changed into cooler clothes. We opened a window to get rid of some of the mid-afternoon stuffiness in the room and were greeted with a fourfold increase in 747 noises.

Soon, we were ready to hit the convention. Out the door we went.

The elevator lobby was just a few doors down the hall, so when we walked out the door, we immediately noticed a few people sitting on the floor, teasing each other like friends often do. Paul started laughing a little, and had to explain, "No, I'm laughing with you."

Small talk ensued, and I noticed that they had already gotten their convention badges. Paul was talking to a tall, slender, striking brunette named Denise, who was sitting by a gentleman who bore a tag that read, "Alan Clark".

Wait a minute.

"Are you the artist Alan Clark?!?" I blurted, noting with terror that I was turning into a blathering fangirl.

In a southern accent, he said that yes, he was.

I then proceeded to explain that I had seen his paintings for the first time at ICON last year, and was so impressed that I actually bought a print, the first art I had ever purchased at a convention art show in all my years of attending cons. Then I said that I had gone to LosCon and bought yet another print, and that Paul had been staring at one of the prints at my house only the night before, and that I was so impressed by his imagery… Yup, blathering fangirl. But I was genuinely excited to meet him, and I had no clue he was going to be at the convention, much less sitting on the floor by the elevators.

We all chatted for a few minutes while the elevator took its time to arrive. I was teased only lightly for my gushing, as it was explained to me that he was a writer as well.

We parted ways when the elevator landed on ground floor, as Paul and I headed to the registration desk. One of the two women running the desk searched around for my badge, while the other gamely allowed Paul to write a $130 check for his registration, but only if he showed off his piercings. We then both received our bag o’ stuff.

Usually at conventions, you get a badge, a program, and maybe a pocket program or schedule. We got a plastic bag full of promo flyers, a beautifully printed book-sized program, a pocket schedule, a free book, some red gumballs, and a red fortune cookie. Plus, my badge, since I had pre-registered, bore the Gorey-esque pen-and-ink artwork of Randy Broecker (a reproduction, of course). I had never seen Broecker's work before, but this was to be the first of many encounters over the weekend.

Once we had our registration packs in hand and our badges on our shirts, Paul and I took in the lay of the land. The dealers’ room was only a few feet away, so we checked that out first.

The dealers’ room was set up in the South Ballroom, which allowed room for some 40 tables of stuff. A quick perusal revealed that almost all of this stuff was books; this was obviously a very literature-heavy convention. (I was pleased to see Dreamhaven tending to one area of the floor, since they are one of the only two or three decent fandom bookstores in the Twin Cities area.) Only a couple of the tables were laden with anything other than books; there was one vendor hawking video tapes (of things like The Phantom Edit and the Star Wars Holiday Special), and another selling corsets and leather armor, but that was about it.

We had only a cursory look around before we both decided that we were really tired and hungry from the road trip, so we went back up to the room, ate some hummus and pita bread, then napped until around 6:30 PM. After that, we decided to seek a real dinner.

After a quick call to my Chicago buddy Jason (who wasn't available for a dinner outing that night), Paul and I decided to just trek out from the hotel to see what we could find. The Alliant Energy Center Arena was just behind the hotel, so we figured there just had to be some restaurants within walking distance.

Indeed, we were correct. Within a block or two of the hotel, we had discovered about five restaurants, including a Chipotle, a Chili's, a little Mediterranean hole-in-the-wall named the Horizon, and a Krispy Kreme donut shop. Paul and I chose to chow at Chipotle; we left the restaurant around half an hour later, bloated up like happy ticks. (And being that we came from a state that does not have any Krispy Kreme shops, we also swung by the donut place just to see what all the fuss was about. The verdict: the fluffed sugar-dough is oh so yummy when fresh, but I imagine Krispy Kreme donuts must suck after they've sat out for an hour.)

On our walk back, we had a rather surreal, David Lynch sort of moment when we stopped to watch a few teenagers amusing themselves by taking turns riding around in -- and dumping each other out of -- a Target shopping cart.

Upon our return to the hotel, we decided to check out the art show, which was apparently set up somewhere on the basement level of the hotel. We wound around the bowels of the hotel for a little while before we found the art show, which had already closed for the evening. Bummer.

We then decided to head back up to the room and plan what we wanted to do with the rest of the evening. We sifted though the flyers, postcards, and ads in our convention packs until we located our pocket schedules, then sat down and started circling stuff. As I began reading, I was amazed at the panel tracks. I'm used to conventions with panels like "Buffy vs. Xena" and "Why the Phantom Menace Sucked", with most panels run by fans for fans. Here, the panels were run by authors for authors, so almost all of the panels had a practical aspect to them. There was a panel on the mechanics of guns, a panel on how corpses are embalmed, panels on how to correct errors in your manuscript so it will be published. There was even a panel about John Wayne Gacy, run by one of the prosecuting attorneys on the case. I found that my pen circled lots and lots of panels.

9:00 PM eventually rolled around, and Paul and I both decided to attend the "I Love Horror and I'm Scared" panel. We went back downstairs, wandered around a bit to find the program room, and sat down. The panel featured an array of writers, all talking about what scares them. It was at least moderately interesting for most of the time, though most of the content has drifted out of my brain by now. Most interesting was the panelist named Joel Ross, an exuberant fellow with a thick New York accent who worked at a correctional facility in addition to being a writer. I remember that his fear was irresponsibility. I also remember him posing the question, "Is the devil trying to get in, or is he trying to get out?"

Also fascinating was a point brought up by one of the other panelists (I cannot remember who he was), who observed that the horror writers he knew were also the gentlest people he knew… they are not horror writers out of a need to scare readers; they are horror writers out of a need to deal with the awful things they see in the world around them.

After that panel ended, Paul and I just stayed in the room for the next panel, which was "Turning Real-Life into Horror Fiction", about how authors have used their own true tales as basis for their fiction. This was a fascinating panel just for the people-watching factor. The three panelists were editor Loren Rhoads, the quiet-voiced moderator; author P. D. Cacek, who was a little soft-spoken at first; and author Edo van Belkom, who nobody would ever accuse of being soft-spoken. For the first quarter of the panel, Edo constantly dominated the panel, going on tangents and really not allowing P. D. to speak much at all. Finally, Loren stepped in as Edo was in mid-story and abruptly guided the panel back to P. D. P. D. then took the ball and ran. It was a fascinating push-and-pull of personalities, with a victory on the women's side when they found that by telling their own personal ghost stories, Edo was kept fairly safely on the sidelines.

It was 11:00 PM when the panel ended, so Paul and I decided to check out consuite, which we found on the tenth floor of the hotel. It was fairly tame in there, especially considering there were no other parties that night beyond the Borderlands Speakeasy party, which didn't start until midnight. The room was stocked with snack food and a selection of fruit, so I grabbed a banana and staked out a spot on a couch. Paul sat down next to me and we commenced to idly watch Say It Isn't So on a TV with the volume turned off. (It's still a bad movie.) That was only entertaining for a few minutes.

Paul then announced that he was going to bed, so I decided to run by the room and pick up my computer while he was still conscious. I was still wide awake, even though the social scene wasn't thrilling me, so I thought I might at least get part of the convention report done.

So I grabbed my laptop and trekked to the lobby while Paul crashed. I picked a suitably comfortable armchair, turned on the computer, and went to work, all the while watching people wander through the room. It was one of those perfectly beautiful nights outside, so a wonderful breeze was coming in the front doors. It was grand.

I got about six paragraphs into the report, and I noticed that my battery was within 10 minutes of running completely flat. So I moved to a spot near a wall outlet and plugged in the computer.

Nothing happened. The battery continued to drain steadily.

I tried another outlet. Nothing.

I checked the connections. Nothing.

By this time, the concierge had noticed my plight, and offered an outlet behind his desk, which he knew was good. Still nothing. The power adapter on my G3 was apparently dead (I learned later that it had been recalled by Apple, and they replaced it for free... after weeks of waiting for the part to arrive in the mail).

Thwarted, I shut down the computer and hauled it back to the room. I still wasn’t tired, so I decided I’d try one last crack at being social.

As it was well past midnight at this point, I decided to see what was up at the Borderlands Speakeasy, located directly beneath consuite on the 9th floor, and quite near to my 8th floor room. As I went to the stairs at the end of the hall, I could already hear the commotion upstairs.

Once there, I found a large hotel suite packed full of people, noise, and alcohol. I did a cursory look around, didn’t see anyone I knew, and realized I didn’t have the energy to just insert myself into any of these conversations. Declaring defeat, I just decided to call it a night and go to bed.

04122002 Okay, before you say anything, I will admit that I am a freak.

8:00 AM the next morning, I woke up. No alarm, I just woke up. 8:00 AM, on the nose. On a regular workday, I can hit the snooze button upwards of 20 times, just so I can drag my dog-tired butt off to the shower at the latest possible minute I can. But when I’m at a convention, I wake up early, and I wake up like those people you hate in those coffee commercials, only I don’t get to have the coffee. And I wake up even earlier if I was imbibing alcohol the night before.

So there I was. 8:00 AM. Wide frickin’ awake. Paul was still fast asleep on the other bed. I dragged my luggage into the bathroom so I could take a shower and get dressed.

Paul was awake by the time I came out, so we wound up eating a makeshift breakfast out of the cooler while we chatted. At some point during the conversation, one of us wondered what the heck was in hummus, so we read the ingredients on the tub of hummus and wondered aloud what half of them were. Paul, who had just been on a business trip to Israel, related a tale about asking what was in Israeli food. He was told that an ingredient in something was tahini, so he kept pointing at things, asking, "Is that tahini? Is that tahini?" He would always get the reply, "No, that is not tahini."

[5/6/02 Editor's note: Ziggy contacted us today and told us that tahini was sesame paste. "Quite tasty..."]

When We Was Flab readingAt 9:00 AM, it was time for the first event that I was interested in. I can't remember if Paul went with me or not, but I at least remember that I did turn up at the "When We Was Flab" reading. I didn't recognize any of the names listed in the program book, but the description of the event was intriguing, to say the least:

"Eleven horror writers will take part in this group reading of Mark McLaughlin’s tale of Lovecraftian horror and humor. The story concerns a flabby group of cannibalistic signers known as The Vittles, famous for songs like ‘Eight Plates of Meat’ and ‘Luigi in the Pie with Diced Ham.’ Fur flies and tentacles flail when those wacky boys join the Cult of Kugappa."

Oh, I had to see that.

The reading was probably a little less exciting than I had expected, but it was a fine way to start the day. Writers are writers, not necessarily good speakers or actors, so the reading wasn't all that great, mechanics-wise. However, the story was fun (you can read it here), and everyone involved in the reading was having fun. Plus, Mark McLaughlin himself was there to read one of the parts, and everyone in the "cast" got to wear leis and Hawaiian shirts. But the best part of the whole thing was that I realized that I was in a place where I didn't have to explain to anybody who Cthulhu was. I was home.

After the reading was done, I met up with Paul, and we wound up killing some time in the lobby by playing chess. He easily beat me for the first game, and was well on the way to slaughtering me again when we realized that it was time for a panel named "Mechanics of Violence 102". I was actually a little keener on finishing the game than going to the panel, but Paul talked me into setting the game aside. Oh, well, I was losing anyway.

The room was already packed with people, so we wound up sitting in the back row. I hadn't read the program synopsis of this particular panel, so I wasn't sure what to expect. I serious-looking gent in a suit stood in front of the room, next to a whiteboard adorned with a rough sketch of a handgun done in blue ink. The lecture was already in session.

The guy in the suit, it turns out, was U. S. Marshall Allen Reed. He looked a little on-guard to be speaking to a room full of horror writers rather than a room full of cops, but he really put on a great panel about the very basics of guns and police procedures. Every once in a while, he would produce a gun (not loaded, of course) out of some hidden holster on his body, making everyone flinch. The guy had about five handguns hidden on him. Then, just when we thought he couldn't have brought any more firepower into the hotel, he reached into his bag and pulled out an AR-15 and everyone jumped about a foot.

Neil Gaiman readingThe noon hour rolled around quickly, and soon, the gun panel was over. Now it was time for the Neil Gaiman Q&A session in the main ballroom, something I'd been anxiously waiting for.

We made it to the ballroom just in time, and managed to sit in the second row (I realized later that I was sitting right behind author Peter Straub). Neil then commenced, as usual, to enthrall everyone.

I had seen Neil read once before, at MadCon 2001, when he read a piece of the charming A Walking Tour of the Shambles, which he wrote with Gene Wolfe, and which was supposed to be released here at WHC 2002. He's a marvelous speaker, and if you have never heard him read, you owe it to yourself to at least grab his spoken word CD, if not see him read live. His writing is engrossing, but it's even better when you hear him read it.

Sure enough, Neil opened his reading with an extended version of the Shambles reading that I had heard before, then announced that the book was available for sale in the dealers’ room. The book, he mentioned, had been printed with two covers, one that lists the authors as "Neil Gaiman and Gene Wolfe" and another that reads "Gene Wolfe and Neil Gaiman."

"It's a rather transparent marketing ploy," Neil remarked before continuing with his reading.

His second selection was from his new book Coraline, which should be out later this summer. The book is about a little girl who finds herself in a parallel universe of sorts, which is lorded over by her greedy, villainous Other Mother. The reading was from a chapter that Neil had forgotten to write in his original manuscript; he read it here because when he had done a reading of the entire book at another convention, the chapter had not been added in yet, and a few people who were present at the full-book reading were there in his audience today.

The chapter was a great taste of the book. I'm anxious to see it hit the shelves in a few months.

By the time he finished reading, it was nearly 1:00 PM, and almost time for the session to end. Neil only had time to take one question, which was about proper etiquette in asking an author to sign a book. The truncated answer: if he doesn't seem to be doing anything else, it's fine; just don't come up right after panels or readings because it delays everyone.

The audience dispersed after that, and Paul took off to somewhere (I think he went off to look for Pam, who was scheduled to arrive from the airport around then), so I went to the dealers’ room in search of my long-awaited copy of A Walking Tour of the Shambles. I found the publisher, American Fantasy, right next to Dreamhaven's tables, and indeed, they had stacks of the books out in anticipation for the hoardes of Neil fans who would be searching for their copies. And just as Neil mentioned, the book was printed with two different covers.

The transparent marketing ploy worked. I grabbed one of each. The woman at the desk wrote my name and credit card information in a spiral notebook, with "$30" written next to it, and the books were mine. I'd been waiting for this publication since October.

A quick perusal of one of the copies revealed a rather intriguing collaboration of artists. Neil Gaiman and Gene Wolfe had written the text, of course, but I didn't know that Gahan Wilson was doing the cover, nor that Earl Geier and Randy Broecker were illustrating the innards of the book. Plus, four of these five talented gentlemen were in attendance at the convention. [Randy Broecker later mentioned that Earl Geier was supposed to make an appearance, but I never ran into him, nor did I hear that he was ever actually there.]

Treasures in hand, I ran back to my hotel room to drop off the books and see if Paul was there. He wasn't there, but a very sleepy and groggy Pam Keesey was. She had been taking a nap, and woke up when I came in. I had never actually met Pam before, though I had seen her on panels at Diversicon 2001, and had been trading e-mails with her regarding the hotel room for the last week. I apologized for waking her up and was going to leave so she could sleep, but we wound up chatting instead.

Pam's an utterly wonderful woman, and I hope to have many more misadventures with her in the future. We had a great time chatting, covering everything from her impending interview with Microsoft (she was flying to Seattle on the Tuesday after the convention), her recent gall bladder excision (she has only recently recovered – with flying colors, as far as I could tell), and the inexplicability of Chevy Chase. She was very excited about the great people she wanted to introduce me to and all of the great parties that were going to happen. [Pam, I'm going to hold you to that promise you made about introducing me to Neil sometime…]

Finally, around 2:00 PM, she realized that she needed to go back to sleep, so I finally let her be and ducked out of the room. Besides, it was time for Gahan Wilson to interview Neil Gaiman.

I walked back downstairs to the ballroom, where I found Paul chatting with a pony-tailed, bearded gentleman with a sketchbook. The three of us managed to chat only for a few moments before the interview started.

Gahan Wilson interviews Neil GaimanThis is the first time I had ever seen cartoonist Gahan Wilson in person. Imagine Alfred Hitchcock as an American and a cartoonist, and you would probably get a pretty good idea of what Gahan Wilson is like. Unfortunately, he didn't have a whole lot to do during the interview; he only managed to get about five questions out during the allotted hour time slot. Neil had fun just taking the questions and running with them, telling anecdote after anecdote until he finally ran out of time.

The interview began with Gahan and Neil jesting with each other about the pronunciation of "horror." Neil, being a native Brit, was pronouncing it "hora," which honestly sounds a lot better – and less confusing – than the way Americans, particularly Midwesterners, say "horrrrr" (a sound that Neil aped with glee).

Most of the interview covered various points in Neil's career, particularly about how he began writing fiction in the first place. I won't bore you with details of that (it's much more interesting coming straight from him, anyway), but I was rather amused by his discussion of "figgins," which cropped up while he was talking about another author (I think he was talking about Gene Wolfe at the time, but I'm not sure). A figgin, according to Neil, is a little nugget that gets repeated throughout a story just to add a little something. It doesn't have a purpose, but is often funny whenever it turns up. A figgin is the International Brotherhood of Meat Workers in A Walking Tour of the Shambles, it's the tea and the towels in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. I just thought it was humorous that someone has named this device.

All throughout the interview, the gentleman with the ponytail sitting next to me was sketching out a remarkably good cartoon of Neil and Gahan talking. In the drawing, Neil looked his usual self (though with Sandman tendencies), but Gahan had been turned into a comical, bug-eyed, gelatinous monster wielding a microphone at the end of a tentacle. The caption read, simply, "Gahan Wilson Interviews Neil Gaiman."

After the panel was over, the cartoonist brought the drawing up to the front of the room to show the two panelists. Gahan smiled at the cartoon with glee. "That's me!" he grinned proudly, pointing at the critter.

After the cartoonist returned to his chair, I finally managed to introduce myself to our new cohort, Ziggy McMillan. He was an ex-comic shop owner from Tennessee with a wicked sense of humor and a growing penchant for teasing Paul. We got along just fine.

Since the next interesting panel was also in the ballroom, we just waited there until a bevy of publishers arrived to discuss the common mistakes made in the submission of manuscripts. Unfortunately, the panel was all about common sense (remember to double space, check your spelling, put proper postage on the SASE, etc.), and really told me nothing new, even though I am not a writer. (Yeah, you're reading a 30-page convention report from someone who's not a writer...)

Even after this panel, Ziggy and I decided to stick around for yet another event (I think we lost Paul at some point along the way). I had initially thought about going to the "History of Horror" presentation by John Pelan, but instead decided to just stay in the same room again with Ziggy for the multimedia projects panel. (I learned later that the "History of Horror" presentation was canceled, so I didn't miss anything.)

The multimedia panel consisted of, interestingly enough, of Alan Clark, author Brian A. Hopkins, photographer Beth Gwinn, and Gahan Wilson. Unfortunately, this panel was also not as exciting as it should have been, perhaps because I've been in art school too long and seen much more advanced things happening in multimedia than what these folks were dabbling in. I was actually a little amazed about how sold they all were on Adobe Acrobat as a medium, when there were other multimedia formats that would likely yield better results for their projects.

The panel ended at 5:00 PM, which was when I decided that I had reached my critical overload point for panels, and when Paul turned up again and asked Ziggy and I if we were game for dinner. We were, so the three of us walked out of the hotel and down the street to Chili's.

The place was teeming with people, but thankfully, there was no waiting. One of the waitresses tried to make small talk as she assembled our menus.

"I keep seeing those badges on people," she said, indicating our nametags. "What are they for?"

"The World Horror Convention," one of us replied, probably pronouncing it "horrrrrr."

She gave us a lost look as one of the other waitresses seated us.

Dinner was quite pleasant. The three of us ate far too much fried food for our own good while we chatted about various and sundry things. I didn't feel like talking much, so I pretty much just let Paul grill Ziggy about comics, Neil Gaiman books, and conventions.

After the meal and before we set foot outside the restaurant, Paul began going rabid for another Krispy Kreme donut, even though we were all uncomfortably full, and despite Ziggy's protests that Krispy Kremes are nothing more than fluffed lard. A few lard rings later, we slogged our heavy bodies back to the convention.

It was around 6:30 PM, only a half hour before the mass autographing was to commence in the ballroom, so Paul and I had to go to the hotel room to pick up our books. Ziggy tagged along, since he had been toting his signing fodder with him the entire time. Paul had picked up a hardcover copy of Gaiman's Smoke and Mirrors in the dealers’ room, so he grabbed that. I pulled out my copies of Good Omens and Smoke and Mirrors, and I grabbed my brand-new pair of Shambles books. They were all paperbacks, but I have my books signed for sentimental reasons, not to increase their value.

Laden with our books, the three of us trekked back downstairs to wait in the foyer in front of the ballroom. Once there, we stood in sort of a makeshift line in front of the doors, chatting with other book-laden folks waiting patiently around us. Authors and artists filed into the ballroom, toting red and black helium balloons that bore their names on placards. Ziggy's travel-mate JaNell showed up, and we chatted with her a bit. We waited, waited, waited…

The mass autographing started a bit late, but since it was to be a two-hour session, no one seemed really worried about it. A long line formed in front of Neil Gaiman right away, so we immediately headed for that line. Lesser lines formed in front of Gene Wolfe and Gahan Wilson, while the rest of the thirty-or-so authors and artists in the room had very little to do. Neil was the only person who was swamped for the next two hours.

We eventually got to the front of the line, and Neil gamely signed all of my books. I was hoping that he might write, "Burn this book," in the front of Good Omens, like I'd seen him do before, but instead he wrote, "We made the devil do it." I asked him to make out one of the Shambles books to Ted, who thoroughly enjoyed the reading at MadCon and who would appreciate the gift.

Neil and PaulPaul was behind me in line, so as soon as I collected my books, Paul put down his one book and immediately asked Neil what he was reading at the moment. Neil looked a little thrown for a moment, then looked up, thought a bit, and listed off a few biographies. As I've said before, Paul has come a long way. (And as Ziggy said later, "He has no shame at all, does he?")

I then waited in the second-longest line in the ballroom, the one for Gahan Wilson. Gahan emblazoned my Shambles books with his characteristic signature, which looks like the hand used by a fourth-grader carefully learning to write in cursive.

Next, I went to Gene Wolfe. I hadn't seen him in any panels yet, but I recognized his face and formidable gray mustache from the backs of books. I didn't chat with him much, but he seemed to be a kind, amiable fellow. I handed him my Shambles books, and he gently opened the first one (the "Neil and Gene" one) and signed it. The second one he opened, then chuckled in discovery.

"Ah, that bastard!" he exclaimed, and he showed me the title page of the book. It read "by Neil Gaiman and Gene Wolfe" in both copies, even though the order was switched on the front covers. He signed that one, "Ted, from the lead*, Gene Wolfe," with an annotation at the bottom of the page: "* See front cover."

I then spotted Randy Broecker across the room, a tall, slender man in a sport coat who would look more in place at a law office than the World Horror Convention. No one at all was bothering him. He was chatting with a couple other authors who likewise had little to do. When I walked up and asked him to sign my Shambles books, he looked almost bit flattered that anyone would ask him to sign anything. He signed the title pages, now crowded with signatures, emblazoning my book with, "Melissa, who are these guys?!?"

Pam then appeared in the room, not for signing, just for socializing. Paul and I wound up standing in the middle of the room with her, chatting with a woman named Paula Guran (web master for Dark Echo) and editor Melissa Ann Singer. The five of us talked about the Impending Microsoft Interview quite a bit, with a tangent about how working in a corporate workplace isn't so bad (Pam told tales about coworkers at non-profits who put sigils and curses on other people's cubes). Midway through this conversation, a tall, dark-haired man with shoulders like a refrigerator walked up; Pam introduced me to Crash (aka Greg), a Chicago native who frequented in the Minneapolis fandom crowd.

Soon afterward, I thought, you know, I'm going to really regret going back to Minneapolis without something for Joe and Erica, the other two people in the Cthulhu Coffee MadCon outing. As die-hard Gaiman fans, and as people who heard that first reading of Shambles, and as the folks who got me into reading Gaiman in the first place, they really deserved signed copies of Shambles as well. So I excused myself from conversation, dashed back to the dealers’ room, had American Fantasy add $30 more onto my running tab, and dashed back. I only had time to ask Gene and Neil to sign them; after that, the mass autographing session was closed.

(And if I had been thinking and less broke, I would have picked up about six more copies for other friends. Rick and Sharon at least deserved one, but alas, I am a loser.)

As the authors filtered out of the room, Pam, Crash, and I continued to chat a bit (mostly about steak, if I remember correctly). Pam then proceeded to convince me to attend the Morbid Curiosity Reading, which was commencing in a few minutes, at 9:00 PM.

Several of us went to the reading, though I cannot remember for certain who was there; I know for sure that Paul and Pam were there, maybe Ziggy and Crash. The reading began with the editor, Loren Rhoads, introducing the panel in her soft voice. All of the stories told that night were true, as each of the authors have been asked to write tales from their own life. Then, one by one, various authors stood up and told their tales. I have no recollection of who told what tale, and I remember only some of the stories themselves (one was about being mugged, one was about being carjacked), as that portion of the evening went by in something of a haze. There was one tale, though, that I think everyone in the room will remember with frightening clarity for a long, long time: one author read a story he had written about how his testicles were pulled off in a foundry accident. Even the women in the audience were squirming. But the rest of the tales didn’t engage me.

The reading was still going at 10:00 PM, so I ducked out without Paul and Pam and went to the "I Died Laughing" panel, which featured Gahan Wilson as the moderator. It promised to be very good: an exploration of how humor and horror often walk hand-in-hand. Unfortunately, in a brilliant stroke of programming folly, someone scheduled a live band in the room next door, which pretty successfully drowned out almost the entire discussion while it distracted the panelists. There was a very funny connection made between mimes and zombies, but I’ll be damned if I can remember what it was. When the panel ended, the audience applauded for their noble efforts in the face of adversity.

At 11:00 PM, I wound up with Ziggy at the "Should You Make Your Reader Ill?" panel, which was supposed to debate if there was such a thing as too graphic. It opened with the moderator joking, "Should you make your reader ill? The answer is yes. Thank you for coming." It was too bad that his joke was prophetic of the entire discussion. Everyone pretty much agreed that there was no such thing as too much, and it’s hard to have a debate amongst people who all agree.

Finally, at midnight, I adjourned from that final panel to my room, so I could drop off my books and change into a sweater (the conference rooms were freezing). While I was changing, my cell phone rang. Paul was on the other end: "Come to room 712!" I told him I’d be there in a few minutes, since I wanted to bring the sleeping bag and ground mat up from my car (two beds + three people who are platonic friends = one person on the floor).

After the run to the car, I went to 712 and knocked on the door. Paul, Ziggy, and Pam were inside, along with fellow Minnesotans Scott Wyatt and Mike Waltz (husband of author Anne Waltz), and a gentleman named Phil. Everyone save Paul (who is a non-drinker) was sampling various alcohols from around the world. I tried a sip of a rather odd Hungarian wine and I was glad there was only a sip left. I also found out that even good sake does not appeal to my tastes. One of the fellows finally presented me with a tumbler of Glenfiddich, and all was right with the world.

I had only been in the room for a few minutes when everyone else decided to move their private party to the Borderlands Speakeasy room, where the bottles were much less empty. I hurriedly finished my Scotch (not a recommended thing), and off we went, en masse, to the 9th floor.

The Speakeasy was packed solid with people, like it was the night before. Ziggy and I managed to fight through the crowd enough to make it into the bathroom so we could nab a few beers out of the bathtub. I was thrilled to find that underneath the floating ice resided a fine variety of beers, including my very favorite beer on the planet, Newcastle Brown Ale. Luckily, the bartender just outside the door had a church key, because it certainly wasn’t a twist-off cap.

After we all managed to obtain drinks of all sorts, the seven of us squeezed through the crowd to the less-choked half of the suite, where we staked out some floor space by the windows and sat down. We all chattered loudly over the surrounding din, giggling and laughing more as the evening bore onwards into the morning. Since I drank until my face was numb, I really don’t remember many of the conversations we had, but I talked mostly with Paul and Ziggy, and Ziggy was having a merry old time picking on Paul for his "doomed to a life of cuddling" demeanor.

Sometime before 2:00 AM, Paul stood up and announced he was going to bed. Pam cried out, "Hey, am I sleeping with you tonight?" Everyone burst into laughter; Pam had meant it as an honest question, since had she assumed that two of us had to share a bed, but it just didn’t sound like that. Ziggy and I started cackling like fiends.

A few minutes later, a guy walked by wearing two leis, which Ziggy remarked, "Hey, everyone wants to get lei’ed…" We looked again, and he was picking his teeth with his mouth wide open and his fingers shoved into the back of his mouth. Ziggy said something about how his chances were going down by the second… and we just lost it. We completely lost it. We giggled until it hurt and we couldn’t breathe.

Finally, several minutes later, we began to regain composure, and we looked up. He was still there, only looking at us with a bemused smile. We cracked up again.

After a while, I excused myself and ducked back to my hotel room to use the bathroom. Paul was still awake, reading Smoke and Mirrors. I chided him a little, and then went back to the party.

Ziggy grabbed a Guinness and we sat on the floor again. I had sobered up a little, so we actually started talking about things I remember. We had a rather good debate about the values and pitfalls of The Brotherhood of the Wolf, followed by the Obligatory April Oscars Bitch Session. Bill Breedlove even joined the conversation for a little while.

Finally, Ziggy's Guinness can was empty, and I was idly rattling the can around wondering what the little nitrogen capsule looked like. My curiosity eventually got the best of me, so I half-crushed the can and ripped the aluminum open to reveal a little device that looks just like a ping-pong ball with a few holes.

I took it out of the can, peering at it. "That’s it?"

After some more discussion (about the upcoming Spider-Man and Episode II) the clock read 4:00 AM, and it was clearly time to turn in. I offered to let Ziggy use the bathroom in my hotel room; he was camping at a hotel several blocks down the street, and was evidently planning to walk there.

When we got to the room, we found Paul quite asleep on the floor and Pam awake, but ready for bed. While Ziggy used the facilities, I showed Pam my dubious ping-pong ball prize. She, in turn, presented me with baby condiment bottles that she had stolen off a room service cart. There was a little glass mustard bottle and a matching ketchup bottle, both still sealed and sitting on top of the TV cabinet. Pam is so cool.

We bid Ziggy good night, and soon I was drifting away to sleep.

04132002 7:00 AM on Saturday, and wham! I was wide awake for no reason whatsoever. Why can’t I sleep until noon like normal people? Pam and Paul were still comatose, so I rolled over and forced myself to snooze fitfully until around three hours later, when my roommates woke up.

The three of us had a makeshift breakfast from the cooler and chatted for the next couple hours. Pam regaled us with tales of Neil, telling us how around 300 people crashed a party at his house once, and how she once spotted him in a corner of the famous First Avenue nightclub, reading a book by candlelight while a Creatures concert played around him. From Pam’s tales and from my observations at the convention, he appears to be just entering a stage of celebrity that he doesn’t seem to really want. He was always very friendly towards his fans, but I got the sense that he would rather be someplace quieter, and that he probably had a book in his pocket just in case he found himself in such a place. [I read later in his online journal that he wants only to be famous enough to get phone calls returned.]

After Neil tales came a couple of Forest Ackerman tales, which are always a treat. [Hallelujah! Forry will be appearing at WHC 2003!] Apparently, Pam had wound up at the Playboy Mansion with Forry last year.

One of these days, I’m going to have to take Pam out for drinks just so I can hear her tales of fandom.

It was around noon by the time I got cleaned up and out of the room, and it was then that I realized that I had completely missed the Gene Wolfe interview that morning, something that I had been looking forward to. Oh, well, I was tired of sitting in panels anyway. Time to check out the art show.

The art show was a real class-act, befitting of a world-level convention. All the work was professional, without the usual smattering of amateur art that I am so used to seeing at regional conventions. Most of the works were originals, with the few prints on sale being mainly relegated to a table on one side of the room.

One aisle displayed large prints of Beth Gwinn’s gorgeous black-and-white photography, all portraits of various authors and artists. You can see her work here.

The next aisle harbored a large span of Randy Broecker’s pen-and-ink work, which is where I really had a chance to look at his stuff in earnest. Many of the works were originals from A Walking Tour of the Shambles. I spied one in particular that I rather fancied, an image of Gene and Neil walking over a stone bridge while eerie things stalked them and stirred the canal waters below. It was only $75 for a starting bid, too. But then I looked at the sheet, and saw that the last bid was from Neil Gaiman himself. I wasn’t about to outbid him on that.

On the other side of the aisle lived crooked and twisted things by Wendy [okay, folks, help me out... I can't remember this woman's name]. All were approximations of animals, either crafted out of bits of fur, leather, and bone, or out of parts of old stuffed animals. Here was a purple bunny with bug-eyes, three ears, and six legs, as well as other critters of great implausibility. Wonderful stuff.

In the next aisle over, there was a bevy of Alan Clark’s work, all originals. I recognized several images from The Pain Doctors of Suture Self General. I was a little surprised to see that he worked in acrylics, not oils.

The other stuff in the show was also quite good, but didn’t grab my eye in any special way. (There was one display in the back that had me thinking of the old Sesame Street song, "One of these things is not like the others…", but we'll just let that be.)

Around 12:30 PM, I wandered out of the art show and almost immediately bumped into Pam. Since she had never had a Krispy Kreme donut, we both decided that a donut would make a fine afternoon snack and walked out of the hotel towards the pastry factory. It was another gorgeous day outside, so it was a pleasure to be walking around outdoors after being sequestered in the hotel for so long. While we walked, we discussed the virtues and pitfalls of purses, cell phones, and Guillermo del Toro. (Note to self: must see Cronos.) Pam tangled a bit with her cell phone in an attempt to get Crash on the phone, an attempt that was not entirely successful.

A couple of glazed donuts later (mmm, fresh Krispy Kremes…), we found ourselves chatting idly with Crash and Ziggy in the foyer in front of the ballrooms. Not much was going on out there, and everyone still had that dazed "I just woke up and still need to be sleeping" look, so I eventually just wandered over into the dealers’ room to get a better look at the stuff in there.

As I walked towards the back at the room, I noticed that the video kiosk had somehow obtained a copy of Fellowship of the Ring on DVD, many months in advance of its proposed August release. This confused me, and I was confused even more when I picked up the DVD case and I noticed that the running time was 102 minutes, much shorter than the three-hour epic I remember sitting through twice. The thing was even playing on the television they had at the table, and yes, that was Ian McKellen, and yes, that was John Rhys-Davies, and they were indeed slogging through the snow towards a mountain pass, so it was obviously some sort of version of the same movie that was still playing in theaters. Hmm. I set the DVD case down. I never did figure that one out.

To quell my confusion, I walked across the way and toyed a bit with the leather armor. I chatted with the proprietor for a few minutes, complimenting him on the lovely cutout work on the leather.

As I walked on down the aisle, I came across the table for Medium Rare Books, where they were handing out free neon-yellow-green shot glasses on lanyards. I scooped one up immediately. I can use that! (Incidentally, Medium Rare Books is assembling an absinthe anthology for release next year, hence the color of the shot glasses. One of our friends is dying to get her work into the anthology, so our fingers are crossed.)

I browsed some more tables of books. I saw very little to interest me, since I am honestly not a prolific reader, but I did find two almost-but-not-complete sets of the five volume Selected Letters of H. P. Lovecraft. They were too expensive to buy, especially since they weren’t full sets, so I passed those up.

Eventually, I stumbled across the IFD Publishing table, where Alan Clark was sitting, selling his books. I said hi, and we chatted a bit and I took a look at the books on the table. There were two copies of The Pain Doctors of Suture Self General, a gorgeously printed, limited edition coffee-table book with loose-leaf, full-color prints by Alan and contributions of nine other artists and authors. Next to it were various story anthologies, all illustrated with more of Alan’s artwork. Along side the piles of books were piled of his new CD-ROM, The Last Halloween, an "interactive sculpture" in .pdf format that combines sculpture, music, animation, and storytelling in one playful package.

Alan eventually became busy in selling one of the CD-ROMs to a potential customer, and so he brought out a Sony Vaio, booted it up, and let us play with the The Last Halloween for a while. I’m still not completely sold on the concept of using Adobe Acrobat for artistic means, but The Last Halloween is quite fun to play with.

Eventually, after he sold one of the CDs to the other customer, we started talking about art. Since I have been considering returning to the fine arts, I asked him how he became interested in painting and how he finally managed to turn art into a career. He generously invited me to sit down next to him behind the table, and we talked for a good forty-five minutes or so. I talked a little bit about my goals, and about how I was hoping to find something that I could contribute back to the fandom community that has treated me so well, but mostly, I just picked his brain and listened to how he arrived where he is today. In a nutshell, he became an artist because he felt that he wasn’t good at anything else, and thus focused very hard on developing his rendering talents at an early age. He schooled in San Francisco, and was very lucky to have a wife who provided financial support for the four years before his artwork began to support them. Apparently, she’s now the business behind his artwork; he makes the paintings, then she sells them and does the paperwork.

I didn’t get any specifics on How to Make It as an Artist in the Real World, but I wasn’t expecting any. It was just helpful to know it could really be done (albeit with a little luck and a lot of hard work).

Gahan Wilson, drawingAround 2:00 PM, I excused myself and let Alan get back to work without me pestering him. Besides, it was time for "How I Draw Cartoons, With Gahan Wilson."

I walked into the ballroom, and sure enough, Ziggy was already there, armed with string cheese, which he was feeding to everyone else around him. Sitting nearby was also a friendly woman named Meg, who was telling Siouxsie and the Banshees stories to a raptly attentive Paul.

We all noshed on string cheese as we waited for the next half-hour or so. The event finally commenced a half hour after it was supposed to, but it was well worth the wait. This was my first really good chance to really see Gahan in action. It was a treat.

Gahan came in, armed with a few permanent markers, pad of newsprint, and an easel. He talked as he drew, telling stories about how he became a cartoonist and how he met Hugh Hefner and how to set up jokes in cartoons. While he told us all this, his arms would move, creating cartoons that seemed to be composed of only one or two impeccably planned lines. And as he drew, the drawing itself became a setup for his humor, and he always saved the punch line as the item to be drawn last. His first image appeared before us in stages: first he drew a nose that grew into a menacing vampire, then the sleeping damsel before him. Only when all of the other elements were added did he draw the salt shaker in the vampire's hand. Later, he drew a ragged castaway sitting on an island in the ocean, adding a coconut tree and lots of waves before he drew the giant, mean eyes on the "island". It was, as my mother would say, a hoot.

The session ended all too quickly, and several people crowded the front, hoping to obtain one of the 11" x 17" cartoons. Paul, Ziggy, Meg, and I all stayed put. The next intriguing event was taking place in the same room in a few minutes. This event was the one I would have paid good money to see on its own.

I don't know who thought of having a John Wayne Gacy presentation at WHC 2002, but if I ever meet them, I want to shake their hand. At 3:00 PM, Cook County attorney Robert Egan took the podium and began a two hour slide show and presentation about the life, crimes, capture, prosecution, and execution of the notorious serial killer, John Wayne Gacy. Egan was not only one of the prosecuting attorneys at Gacy's trial, he was also a wonderful speaker and presenter (as I imagine all attorneys should be), and he was blessed with a wry sense of humor.

He opened the presentation by telling us about the two slide carousels that he brought with him. His partner generally tended to the slides, and normally removed and added slides to tailor to whatever audience Egan was speaking to, whether they be forensic pathologists, criminologists, or law enforcement offices. When Egan found out he was to be presenting at the WHC, he called up his partner to ask for the slides.

"Who are you going to be speaking to this time?" his partner had asked.

"The World Horror Convention."

And there was a pause.

"Yeah, that works," his partner quipped, and sent over the complete set of slides.

Thus began the two-hour slide show. Sure enough, we got to see everything, from photos of Gacy's final victim, Gacy with Rosalyn Carter, Gacy as a clown (everyone jumped about a foot when that image was projected 20 feet high on the screen), his house, the excavation of the crawlspace, bloated corpses in various states of decay, evidence displayed at the trial, and even Gacy's eerie Snow White drawings that he made in jail. The ballroom was packed fairly full, and every person was sitting in rapt attention as Egan described everything from Gacy's origins to his death by lethal injection.

Most of the details of the case itself can be read about in many books (I have heard Killer Clown is quite good, written by one of the other state's attorneys on the case), so I will only recount what was probably the most poignant part of the tale, one that likely never made it into one of the books.

During the assembly of the prosecution's case against Gacy, the prosecuting team subpoenaed about 85 witnesses, one of them being Gacy's ex-wife, with whom he lived in Iowa before he moved to Chicago. The prosecution felt she might be an excellent character witness, since she was married to him when he began his sexual deviancies in Iowa.

Since she hadn't answered to the subpoena, Egan called her home. A man answered, and Egan explained that she was being requested to be part of the case against Gacy.

"She's not coming," the man answered.

"What?" Egan cried, "This is going to be the biggest case of the century!" ("…unless some football player goes off and kills a couple people," he added at the convention. The audience laughed.)

"She's not coming."

Egan told the man that it wasn't a request; the subpoena was enforceable by the police. The man on the other end of the phone wouldn't budge, and said he was willing to go to jail to protect her identity.

Floored, Egan listened while the man explained that he loved his wife and the two children he adopted, and that he would rather go to jail than to have his kids find out who their real father was.

"I have to call you back," Egan said, and hung up.

He then called someone else on the prosecuting team and told him the story. Egan then asked, "Do we really need her?"

The rest of the team agreed that no, they probably didn't. Egan called the husband back and said, "Have a nice life."

Even without her, the jury only deliberated for 15 minutes before signing the paperwork to convict Gacy.

ZiggyAfter the presentation was finished, Egan answered a bevy of questions about everything from Gacy's behaviors to where people could find forensics photos from the case. It was a fascinating presentation, and two hours elapsed without anyone really noticing.

When people finally began filing out of the ballroom, Paul, Pam, Ziggy and I decided that we were hungry, so we all went back up to the hotel room to snack out of the cooler. It actually turned out to be quite a feast, with hummus, pita bread, crackers, cheese, sausage, rum balls, and sodas making up the bulk of the meal. Ziggy was making great sport of teasing Paul again, incredulous that Paul is actually straight. (No, he really is straight, despite the fact that he used to be a caterer and that he sets off gaydar for a 15 mile radius around him.)

During this dinner, we somehow managed to wind up talking about the film The Lion in Winter, with Peter O'Toole and Katherine Hepburn. Paul confessed he had never seen it, to which Ziggy and I both cried out in alarm, quoting passages from the movie as if it would cover that gap in Paul's life. Later in the conversation, I mentioned that Ted had played a part in the stage play, and mentioned to Paul that when he saw the movie, he had to guess which part Ted played.

Ziggy said, "Let me guess… from what I've heard of him… I'd say he played Geoffrey."

Dammit, even people who've never met Ted know him.

6:00 PM rolled around pretty quickly. Stuffed full of snack food, we all wandered back downstairs for the next gotta-see-this-one panel, "What Happens to Dead Bodies?" which was about to take place in the ballroom.

We found seats in the ballroom, and yes indeed, the panel was about dead bodies. Ex-mortician John Turi was speaking alone from the stage for most of the time, and ran through details of mortuary school, embalming, and various disturbing stories about exploding and rat-gnawed corpses.

"Never own a motorcycle," he commented at one point, straight-faced. "Except a Harley. I ride a Harley."

For the most part, it was a very serious panel about the finer points of mortuary science, though one of the stories still cracks me up:

John Turi was working in a mortuary in California, with a coworker who actually rented an apartment in the basement of the mortuary. The apartment was apparently a great place for parties, so there was one night when they were having a particularly noisy and alcohol-laden get together when they heard a knock on the door.

The woman outside was the woman who gets to go around the country collecting eyes from eyeball donors. She had come for one corpse's set of peepers.

Inebriated but serious, the two morticians led her to the corpse, where she prepared to remove the sight organs.

Then she smiled. "Do you want to see something really cool?"

Fascinated, the morticians watched her work.

Thomas Roche, Robert Z'Dar, and Pam KeeseyEye removal is a quick process, only requiring three minor cuts to extract the eyeball from its socket. The woman extracted both eyes fairly quickly, then told the young men to watch the sockets.

Blood pooled in the sockets, beginning at the very back of the cavity and slowly filling the socket until the level stopped just behind the eyelids. The two pools reached equilibrium and stopped without spilling a drop.

The two slightly drunk morticians gasped. "COOL! Do it again!"

After that tale, the second panelist showed up, a woman with some experience in gross anatomy. She had some good reading suggestions, but really didn't have time to say much. Before we knew it, the corpse panel was over, and it was time for Pam's panel about horror films. Paul and I (and Ziggy, I believe) found our way to the smaller conference room for the panel, and sat down in the front row next to Crash.

Pam's panel was an interesting one, though it turned into another study in how some people just don't get along on panels. Pam was moderator, and she was joined at the table by writer/editor Thomas Roche and actor/producer Robert Z’Dar (best known from Maniac Cop). Pam and Roche had a good repertoire going, but Z’Dar would often talk over both of them, and Pam started to look a little rankled by the end. Fortunately, Z’Dar actually did know a bit about what he was talking about, so his grating personality didn’t harm the content of the panel much. By the end, everyone in the room was talking animatedly about digital video and its potential impact on independent film.

After an hour of that, it was time for "Gene Wolfe Radio Theater", which was to commence in the ballroom at 8:00 PM. Pam and Paul had planned to meet a few people at the bar at 9:00 PM, so I didn’t manage to talk them into attending the radio show. It was a shame that I wound up going to the show alone, because it was magnificent.

Gene Wolfe Radio TheaterI was half-expecting for the radio show to be an event similar to the "When We Was Flab" reading on Friday, with lots of writers reading parts of the same story just for the fun of it, without microphones or much planning. As soon as I walked into the ballroom, I saw that this was going to be very different. Several tall microphones were set up on the stage, and spotlights illuminated them. Two musicians played free-form bongos-and-zither music on the floor to the left of the stage. To the right of the stage, a man sat with a huge spread of sound mixing equipment. Another gentleman up front sat before an array of doorknobs, sugar glass, and other primitive sound-effects equipment, just like on the old radio shows.

An usher handed me a program. Most of the speakers would be professional voice actors, with a couple of the more verbally talented authors thrown into the mix (Neil Gaiman and P. D. Cacek had both been recruited). The reading of the night would be Gene Wolfe’s "The Tree is My Hat."

Once everyone settled in, Gahan Wilson took the stage. After a dramatic pause, he set into a wonderful – and very funny -- Alfred Hitchcock impression. Gahan is my hero.

After that, the reading began. It went by smooth as glass, a very classy interpretation of an eerie story. Thank the heavens they were recording that night; I hope that someone has the presence of mind to package the reading on a CD and sell it, because I would love to own a copy. P. D. and Neil held their own with the professional actors, and the actors were spot-on perfect. It was wonderful.

The performance ended at about a quarter after nine, so I wandered out to the hotel bar to see if Pam and Paul were around. Sure enough, there they were at a corner table, chatting with a woman named Denise (not the Denise by the elevators on Thursday, a different one) and a man in hypnotist garb, named Marty. Marty had just bestowed Pam with a bag full of little gifts and treasures, so Pam was playing with all sorts of toys, like a plastic wolf’s head with biting action and a Mexican wrestling action figure.

A few minutes later, Neil Gaiman walked past, fresh from the radio show. He didn’t look like he had any particular place to be, so I said to Paul, "Go get him!"

I meant it in jest, but I forgot that Paul has no shame. Zoom! Off he went to fetch Neil.

About this time, Marty started passing out some flyers to us about a proposed bill that would grant some $270,000 towards "combating Goth culture." Pam and I giggled at the silliness of it, even as we scanned the article with a degree of horror.

A few minutes later, Paul returned without his quarry. Neil had apparently gotten sucked into another group, and Paul decided not to bother him.

More socializing ensued, and Paul dashed off to grab drinks for everyone (I guess that if he couldn’t get Neil for us, he could at least get drinks). I eventually wound up at another table, chatting with Meg and a couple of fellows named Derek and Bryan. I wound up talking shop (web portals) with Bryan for a while. (I think I ran into Bryan at ICON last year, a connection I didn't make until well after the conversation was over.)

10:00 PM snuck up on us rather quickly, which was when Paul and I decided to attend the "Draw For Your Life!" game/auction. The premise of the event was very tasty: Gahan Wilson was to draw cartoons, improv-style, from the suggestions of the audience, and author Peter Straub would auction them off for charity at the end. We dashed downstairs to join in the fun.

The event was being held in the foyer in front of the art show rooms, and the place was already packed. Paul and I were lucky to find seats. Gahan was set up with an easel at the front, and Peter Straub, looking dapper in a blue suit, stood to the side and provided wry commentary while Gahan drew. Gahan was already mid-cartoon when we got there.

Draw for your life!Straub had already taken suggestions from the audience for the characters, place, and event that the cartoon would depict. The first cartoon wound up being a couple of mermaids at a tea party on a subway train. One was remarking, "What a stupid place for a tea party."

That cartoon done, Straub turned to the audience and asked for three more suggestions. "New person or characters?" he asked.

"Peter Straub!" cried one audience member. Everyone laughed. Gahan got a wicked twinkle in his eye.

"Oh, no…" Straub muttered. "How about a place?"

A few suggestions went past when someone quipped, "Purgatory!" The audience roared.

"And the event?"

"A book signing!"

Gahan took to his work. He first drew a scared-looking Peter Straub, sitting at a desk with towers of books surrounding him, but no customers. Behind the desk, Gahan drew a door, then two devils sticking their heads in the door. Then, in one final, graceful touch, he added a word balloon to one of the devils, which read, "Fucking brilliant!"

Peter Straub in purgatory.The rest of the event progressed in a similar fashion. Gahan scrawled out cartoons based about Elvis, Bin Laden, Andy Warhol, and the Three Stooges, gamely drawing up whatever the audience dreamed up. Every once in a while, he would glare at people who offered up particularly difficult suggestions, but he used their ideas anyway. I even received a particularly deadly glare when I shouted out, "Tupperware party!" for one of the cartoons.

Gahan drew up six cartoons, then the auction started. I thought briefly about bidding on the Peter Straub-in-purgatory one, but I should have known better. All of the cartoons went for hundreds of dollars. It was a good night for the artist emergency fund, the charity of choice, to which all of the proceeds went.

After the auction, Paul and I walked up to third floor to the Fedogan & Bremer party, where we found Pam and Mike Waltz. Pam had changed clothes since I last saw her; she was now in her Hugh Hefner outfit, complete with pipe. [I have no clue why Hugh Hefner keeps coming up in this report.] The four of us managed to talk a bit over the din of the party, which was going quite well. The bar was well-stocked with many fine and unusual things, but the Fedogan & Bremer specialty, Pam informed me, was a drink called the sidecar. I had never had a sidecar before, so that’s exactly what I got. Scott, who was tending the bar, didn’t have any sugar for the rim of the glass, so the drink was tarter than it should have been, but I have certainly tasted many worse things in my life. Thus armed, I chatted for a good long while before I realized that I almost forgot to attend the Gross-Out Contest.

Paul and I ran back downstairs to find that the contest was well in-progress and going strong. We sat down near the back and began listening to a story about people eating pus.

The Gross-Out Contest worked like this: Each competing author would go up to the mike one by one. They only had three minutes to tell their gross-out tale, and if they went over, the audience were allowed to give a thumbs-up or a thumbs-down sign, depending if they wanted the author to continue. A panel of three judges graded the speaker on content, audience reaction, and presentation.

Beyond that, anything goes.

Mike, Pam, MelissaI heard stories about zombie porn, sex with dead and rotting dogs, a super-fetus who rips his mother apart, and coprophagy. Whole (dead, plucked, dethawed) chickens were thrown into the audience, as were fake severed fingers. One guy stripped down to his underwear, revealing a thong adorned with a stork head in front. One tall, handsome black gentleman stood up to tell a tale about eating a rotting 500 pound contortionist, whose fat body split wide open to reveal a lithe woman inside; his punch line was, "Inside every fat woman there’s a thin one trying to get out…" (He won second place.) One guy got up to the mike and announced that his story was called, "My Horny Prick," and his daughter cheered from the audience, "I love you, dad!"

(Incidentally, the "Horny Prick" story was about a guy who got a thorny fish stuck in his urethra. I know it smacks of urban legend, but the fish is actually a real Amazonian catfish called the Candiru, the Vandellia cirrhosa. I took Ichthyology. I know these things.)

I thought this entire spectacle was hysterical, though Paul disappeared after about two stories. The audience gasped, groaned, and roared with laughter throughout the event, and a very good time was had by all.

After the prizes were given out and the event ended, I wandered back up to the Fedogan & Bremer party. I didn’t find Pam, Paul or Ziggy, but instead I found myself chatting with Joel Ross for a while. I can’t remember quite what we talked about, though I think New York was part of the conversation (I was heading to Ithaca after the convention) and I’m pretty sure horror writing was in there somewhere. Peter Straub wandered into the room for a while, though I didn’t get to talk to him.

I’m really not sure what time it was when we were all kicked out so the F&B people could sleep, but that’s when I migrated to the Borderlands Speakeasy. I imagine it was around 2:00 AM at that point.

The Speakeasy, as usual, was packed to the gills. I found Paul and Ziggy there, as well as Meg and a woman named Mikhaila, who was chock full of good humor and wit. The five of us staked out a spot on the floor, where we all sat and shouted at each other over the din of the crowd.

Mel, Meg, Mikhaila, Ziggy, and PaulThe conversation turned out to be one of those intensely funny and odd conversations that only happens at parties at 2:30 AM. There seemed to be little internal logic to the subjects we talked about, but the discussion of accents (particularly Minnesotan and Canadian accents, don’ cha know) was a great highlight, as well as the summary of Paul’s profession of engineering buoyant water-testing equipment.

"So, you play with balloons, then?" one of the others asked.

"No, I hate clowns," Paul replied, without missing a beat.

After an hour or two of this, everyone decided that the hours of the morning were growing rather large, and it was time for bed. We all exchanged e-mail addresses, resulting in a brief flurry of pens and little torn bits of paper. Paul then offered use of our room’s bathroom for those not staying in the hotel, so all five of us walked in a group to our hotel room. After liberal use of the facilities, everyone said goodnight, Paul snapped a photo of all of us, and the group dissolved.

Paul decided to go to bed then, but I wasn’t sleepy yet, so I went back to the Speakeasy. Pam was there, sitting on a couch, engrossed in conversation with the same guy who presented the 500-pound contortionist story at the Gross-Out Contest. He looked a little out-of-place in this crowd. I mean, really, how many tall, good-looking, athletic black men do you see at sci-fi / horror / fantasy conventions? Not many. Not in the Midwest, at least. (I say this only as an observation. Conventions up here are populated almost solely by Caucasians. Whether that’s a symptom of fandom in general, or if it’s just the way our population up here is structured, I don’t know. As a white, middle-class suburban kid, I’m the wrong person to ask.)

I sat on the couch next to Pam and played fly-on-the-wall for a while, and I was very glad I did. The gentleman she was speaking with was Wrath White, kickboxer-turned-horror-writer (!). They got into this fascinating discussion about how race issues, gender issues, and sexual preference issues all relate, and about the reverse-stereotyping that tends to happen within minority communities. It was the sort of conversation that you wish you had taped for posterity and future reference.

After some time, Pam was called away, and I talked to Wrath for a while. I was tired enough now that my eyes were deciding to try chameleon-like independent movement, but the conversation was so interesting, that I had to stick around. We talked mostly about his writing and what sorts of things inspire him, but we also talked about the World Horror Convention, the people who attend it, and other horror-based conventions. He gave some praises to Baltimore’s Horrorfind Weekend before Denise Hill (the Denise who was sitting by Alan Clark at the elevators, who looked rather striking in tight hip-hugging pants and a halter top) walked over and gave him a hug.

Wrath watched her walk away after the hug, and he grinned like a bird who had eaten a cat. "I love conventions!"

It was nearing upon 5:00 AM, so we talked a little more, and then I excused myself so I could finally go to bed. I was actually a little worried that he would think that I had some sort of disorder that caused my eyes to spontaneously roll back into my head, but only one at a time. I was that tired.

Pam and her toysOn the way out the door, Pam caught me and gave me one last set of advertisements for the Dead Dog Party on Sunday night. I had plans to go out with Jason instead, and I really couldn’t afford a fourth night in the hotel, but it was tempting, and I said I’d sleep on it.

And so I did.

04142002 7:15 AM. Awake. Dammit. Back to sleep.

8:50 AM. I wake up, again for no apparent reason. I looked at the clock and thought, "Hey, Pam has a panel in ten minutes." I looked at the other bed. Pam was there, sound asleep, still in her clothes from the evening before.

I rolled over and grabbed my pocket program from the chair. Yup, Pam had a panel in ten minutes. I checked the alarm. No alarm set.

I wrestled a bit with what I should do. I felt a little guilty about waking her from a pleasant and obviously much-needed sleep (remember, she was still awake when I went to bed at 5:00 AM). However, I would have felt even guiltier if I knew she was missing a panel, and I had done nothing about it.

So I got up and tried to wake her up quietly enough that I wouldn't wake up Paul as well. "Pam? Pam. It's time for your panel. You'll miss your panel."

She sighed and moved a little.

"Time to make the donuts, Pam." (Sorry, that commercial is part of my childhood memories.)

She smiled sleepily, but no signs of cognizant life.

Oh, well, I tried. [I learned later that the 9:00 AM panel had been canceled entirely. She wasn't the only one to oversleep.]

I went back to bed.

Pam, Marty, Paul11:00 AM. I woke up again, but everyone else was still in Dozeland. I didn't want to get up and wake up my roommates, so instead I grabbed my copy of Smoke and Mirrors off the chair and read for a while.

Eventually, Paul and Pam came to life, and we set about cleaning up ourselves and the room. Checkout was at noon, so since Paul and I decided not to stay for a fourth night, we had to get the stuff out to the car, and Pam had to move her stuff into Phil's room. Around an hour later, the three of us were clean, our stuff was out of the room, and the hotel was able to send the maid in to clean up after us.

After our final trip to the car (and Paul's generous tip to a very helpful bellhop), Paul and I went back into the hotel and went straight to the art show. Paul had bid on a two pieces of art, so we had to see if he had won anything. Once there, I checked my camera bag in with the people at the front desk, since it was policy to not allow cameras into the show. Paul picked up one of the two prints he had bid on; the other was subject to a bidding war, so he didn't even bother checking to see if he won it. We promptly took the print, an image of a woman holding a knife behind her back, to the car for safekeeping.

We then went back to the dealers room to do a final scan of the nifty buyable things there. This time, we both went to the IFD Publishing table, where I finally had the chance to introduce Paul to both Alan and Alan's work. Alan still had two copies of The Pain Doctors at Self Suture General left, and Paul utterly fell in love with it. He easily forked over the required $100 for the book. That, of course, prompted me to fork over $100 for the other copy, giving Alan a very nice profit from the two of us.

Before I left the table, Alan noted that there was a large scrape across the dust cover of my book, and offered to send me a replacement cover. I picked up a business card and said I'd send him a note with my address after the convention. (I later got hold of him and told him that he could just bring the dust cover to Demicon, which we would both be attending as well.)

After I wounded my bank account with that, I continued wandering the room. When I walked past American Fantasy again -- a dangerous prospect by now -- I noticed they had a chapbook featuring the works of Randy Broecker. It was only $10, and Randy had signed the title page. I had them change my running tab from $60 to $70.

After that, I wandered past the leather armor kiosk in the back corner. I was poking at the corsets when Wrath walked past and teased me about looking at naughty things.

Wrath and I chatted for a bit, mostly about some of the publishers in the room and Baltimore's Horrorfind Weekend. Paul waked up while we were talking, so I introduced him to Wrath, and the three of us chatted idly for a while.

Later on, Paul and I ran into Mike Waltz and Pam, who were hanging around the Dreamhaven table. Just as we started talking, I realized my digital camera was gone, along with my convention notes.

Panic clutched my chest as I desperately tried to remember where I had last seen my camera. I hadn't dropped it off in my car, had I? I just had it, didn't I? Did I have it when I walked into the dealers room?

It actually didn't take me long to realize that I had left it at the art show, checked in at the front desk. I excused myself from my group and dashed to the art room. Sure enough, there it was, and I breathed much easier. Of course, the fellows at the desk teased me a bit, wondering if they should charge me money to hand my camera over.

On the way back to the dealers room to find Paul again, I walked past the hotel bar, which is where I found Ziggy. I sat down for a few minutes to catch up with him. He had rented a car so he could drive back to Knoxville, TN, that night, because JaNell's car was having brake problems, and she wanted to get them fixed before leaving Chicago. He looked a little dazed, but happy that he had a way to get back home before work on Monday.

Midway through our conversation, a petite woman in a striking black dress rocketed past us, wielding about four radios and phones. She looked frazzled. I had seen her earlier in the weekend, and she was never without her radios. She was apparently the person designated to keep the guests running smoothly from place to place. I learned later that her name was Lisa.

She spotted us and stopped by our table. She explained her current plight. The signing at the Evanston Library on Thursday night, an event that most of the WHC authors participated in, was something of a disaster because of chartered busses that got lost with the authors in them. Today, the Guests of Honor were supposed to do a signing at After-Words Books in downtown Chicago. She was hell-bent to make the convention's guests comfortable, so instead of putting them on the bus again, she was looking for people with cars who could drive the authors to and from the book signing. Any volunteers.

Ziggy and I paused. I had a swift, tempting daydream about driving Neil Gaiman to a book signing.

I told her that I only had one seat to offer, and I would have to foist Paul off on some other activity for the evening in order to get that seat open. However, if she needed it, I could drive one person. Then Ziggy spoke up and said that he had a car, but he could only drive people to the signing, not back, since he had to leave town as early as possible.

Lisa said, "Well, we have one guest who isn't going to the signing, so he just needs to go back to his hotel. How do you feel about taking Gahan Wilson downtown?"

Ziggy kept a straight face, but I think he just about did a backflip. "Sure!"

I gave Lisa my cell phone number, and told her to call me as a last resort. Paul and I did have some plans to meet up with Jason that night, so I was hoping not to be tapped. Okay, I was sort of hoping that I had to call up Jason and say, "Er, sorry, but I have to drive Gene Wolfe to a book signing...," but I figured that she would need people with larger cars than the one I had.

Just after Lisa left us, my phone rang. Pam was on the other end, wondering if I was interested in lunch.

Ziggy, Paul, Pam and I met by the dealers' room, ruminating a bit over where to eat lunch. We were all pretty tired of Krispy Kreme by now, and we had already exploited the restaurants on the hotel's side of the road, so we decided to check out the Horizon Restaurant, which was just across the road.

Now, I don't remember the exact reasoning why we actually drove Ziggy's rental to the restaurant, since it was a beautiful day, and the restaurant was directly across the road. It may have been the fact that he was parked in a reserved space, or it may have just been an excuse to ride in the bright white rental car. Whatever the reason, though, we drove there and parked by the door.

The restaurant was one of those little hole-in-the-wall places that can yeild great things. A woman was taking orders at the front counter, fast-food style, while a half-dozen men threw things on grills in the back. A backlit menu was on the wall, garnished with photos of various Middle Eastern cuisine such as tabouli, gyros, hummus, and pita bread. It was one of those places that remind me of the old A&W restaurants, with the formica counters and those squeezable red non-specific ketchup bottles with the narrow cone nozzles that kids love to squirt each other with. It is odd to see a Middle Eastern restaurant in the midst of such America-specific imagery, but it was oddly fitting at the same time.

We walked up and placed our orders with the woman behind the register. I was fascinated by her accent; I don't think I've ever heard a colonial British/Indian accent outside of the movies. I ordered a gyro and a grape soda, and she charged me a few dollars and handed me a number. The grape soda was in bottles in a glass-fronted refrigerator, so I grabbed one and sat down with the others. While everyone else chatted, I began catching up on my notes. (I take notes while at conventions, which is how I manage to remember everything that has happened two weeks later when I'm still struggling to write the convention report. There, now you know my secret.)

One by one, we were called back to the counter to pick up our food. I picked up my gyro and continuted writing.

"Shouldn't food come first?" Ziggy asked me when he saw me scribbling instead of eating. But I was on a roll, and I only had a few more lines to jot down.

Paul and his tabouli.Paul got back to the table with a huge plate of food. Paul is a little wiry thing, so it's always funny to me when I see his eyes get bigger then his stomach, which is quite often. He had ordered a full meal, then a tabouli salad on the side, which in itself could have fed a small village.

We chatted and ate for a good 45 minutes or so. The restaurant was a great little place, the food was good, the company was great, and sunlight was streaming in the windows.

By the time we began thinking of returning to the convention, Pam had only put a slight dent in her food, explaining that since her gall bladder surgery, her digestive system works in strange ways. I suppose that once you're missing an entire digestive organ, you tend to lose efficiency.

Paul, too, had only put a small dent in his mound of food, and hadn't even touched his tabouli. When the woman behind the counter came into the room to start cleaning tables, Paul shyly hid his plate of tabouli underneath another plate, which of course caused no end of teasing from us.

After driving back to the hotel, Pam and Ziggy went off to other places, while Paul and I hung around the foyer in front of the dealers room. We discovered a table full of free bottled water; at one point, it had been Aquafina or some other brand of bottled water, but someone had covered the original labels with stickers that read "Unholy Water." Thirsty patrons eagerly walked off with these small prizes.

Meg was hanging around the table, so Paul, Meg and I grabbed some water and went into the dealers room, which was in the midst of destruction. Books were being packed into boxes, shelves were being disassembled, and tablecloths were being folded. The three of us sat on a table by the entrance and watched the spectacle. I found myself wishing that I had a video camera with a time-lapse option; it would have been fun to capture the buzzing activity in the room as it emptied.

The three of us chatted lazily while we kicked our dangling legs like bored schoolchildren. We felt a little guilty for watching all these people work while we sat and watched. At one point, Paul's conscience got the better of him, and he leapt up to help Scott pack something up. Aside from stopping our dangling feet from kicking while people walked past us, we didn't contribute in any other way.

Neil in purgatory.It was not very productive, but I did some great people watching. The spectacle was rather good after Neil Gaiman walked in. It seems that, for him, walking into a hive of publishers and booksellers is almost as bad as walking into a hive of fans. At least fans only walk up with three or four books apiece. Soon after walking into the room, Neil was practically walled in with piles of identical books, and he was sitting at the end of a table, gamely signing all of them.

"Look," I said, "Neil's in purgatory," referring to Gahan's cartoon of Peter Straub.

Soon, 4:00 PM rolled around, and it was time for the Closing Ceremonies. Paul, Meg and I all reluctantly gave up our table and walked next door to the main ballroom.

We found seats in the second row, directly behind Gene Wolfe and author Caitlin Kiernan. Since Caitlin was a tall, commanding redhead, clad in a black motorcycle jacket, Paul was immediately smitten. Neil came in later and sat down next to her.

As people filtered into the room, we found Pam, Ziggy, and JaNell, making for an oddly appropriate cast call for the weekend.

The Closing Ceremonies at The 2002 World Horror Convention were an example of the way Closing Ceremonies should be done. (See the MarsCon 2002 report for the way they shouldn't be done.) Gahan Wilson presided over the event, calling up the various featured guests one by one for brief comments and announcements. It wasn't necessarily remarkable, but it was classy, and it did yield a couple of memorable moments, many of them attributable to the wry wit of Gahan.

Neil and his bunnyOne of my favorite moments, though, was when Neil was called to the podium. He walked up, carrying a small, purple stuffed bunny... the same mutant bunny that I had seen in the art show. He placed the bunny on the podium.

"When I came here this weekend," he began, looking fondly at the bunny, "I was an author... who was missing something." The audience giggled.

Another great moment of a completely different flavor came when it was time to present the GrandMaster award, which went to Charles Grant. If I remember correctly, convention chair Tina Jens presented the award herself, and by the time Charles Grant walked, cane in hand, to the front to take the podium, the audience was standing and applauding. It was a sober, heartfelt tribute to someone who was obviously very respected in this community.

After all of the featured guests had a turn at the podium, a few brief announcements followed. A rather unusual tiara, made out of small mammal bones and wire, was bestowed upon Neil Gaiman, who said he would give it to his daughter, who would be delighted to have it.

After Neil sat down, the person at the podium asked, "Is there a Paul Fisher here?"

Paul just about jumped a foot. "Yes!" he called, sitting forward.

"You have a piece of art still sitting down at the art show."

Apparently, he did win the bidding war on the second piece he was interested in.

After that, the ceremonies, and the convention, were declared over. Like the fangirl I am, I scrambled around the row of chairs in front of me and asked Neil if I could get a photo of him with the bunny.

Several minutes later, I spotted Randy Broecker wandering around the back of the room. Recalling that my badge bore his artwork, I thought it would be cool to have him sign my badge, so I rushed over to him and asked him for his autograph again. Again, he looked very flattered that someone was asking for his signature, and he gladly signed it. I didn't look at what he had written, but instead let him know that I really enjoyed being introduced to his work this weekend.

After that, I wandered back to the front of the room by Paul and Pam. I showed them my badge, and I finally read what Randy had written: "Thanks for asking! Randy Broecker."

Really, that was the last of the official convention events, so all that was remained was cleaning up the loose ends, which resulted in some dull chaos. I shall be brief with the remainder of the tale:

Paul and I scrambled downstairs to pick up the his second print, which we stuffed in my now very-crowded car. We found Lisa and Ziggy again, and had just enough time to say good-bye to Ziggy before he took off for downtown Chicago with Gahan in tow. Lisa was still unsure whether she would need my car, so Paul got on a chartered bus heading for the After-Words Book signing, so he could kill some time while I (hopefully) played chauffeur.

I waited by the Green Room a while, waiting for a verdict whether my car would be put to use. Lisa brought Gene and Rosemary Wolfe to the room to meet their driver, another woman about the same height, build, and hair color as me. Ever the gentleman, Gene introduced himself and his wife to me, assuming that I was their driver's sister. The driver and I gently corrected them, and the four of us chatted very briefly before they left.

After Lisa scrambled past me in confusion and urgency several more times, it was finally decided that no, my car would not be needed. She thanked me profusely for sticking around.

For that, I was thankful, since it meant I could still get together with Jason and the crew that night. However, that didn't save me a trip into the grid of Chicago, since I now had to go rescue Paul at After-Words Books. I asked Lisa for a copy of the directions to the store, and off I went.

The rest of the evening entailed a circumnavigation of Canal Street, some creative city driving, illegal parking, a rousing game of cell phone tag, filet mignon to go, and finally, a grand dinner at Bennigans with Jason and my Chicago buddies. But that is a saga in itself, and if I were to tell it, this report would be even longer.

I'd like to thank pretty much everyone at the 2002 World Horror Convention for their hospitality. Thanks especially to Pam Keesey and Ziggy McMillan for playing with us, to Alan Clark for taking time out to chat with a fan, to Neil Gaiman for being nice enough to allow for a few photos, and to Paul for putting up with me.

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