Conference Insider: StokerCon

This spine-tingling conference offers a one-stop shop for all things horror.
By Melissa Hart | Published: October 24, 2017


George R. R. Martin, Linda Addison, and Les Klinger at StokerCon 2017

George R. R. Martin, Linda Addison, and Les Klinger at StokerCon 2017

In March 2018, Bram Stoker, author of the 1897 Gothic novel Dracula, will meet horror fiction author H.P. Lovecraft.

More specifically, StokerCon – the third annual conference sponsored by the Horror Writers Association, featuring the Bram Stoker Awards for Superior Achievement in Horror Writing – takes place in Providence, Rhode Island, which also happens to be H.P. Lovecraft’s birthplace.

The four-day event includes “Horror University” workshops focusing on the craft and business of writing; the Ann Radcliffe Academic Conference, where attendees can present a horror-themed paper; the Final Frame Film Competition for filmmakers working on short horror movies; and Librarians’ Day to encourage discussion and tips on how to build a horror collection. In addition, there are pitch sessions, panels, signings, parties, and a gala banquet.

“The horror genre is thriving and strong,” says Brad Hodson, administrator of the 2017 conference. “We help aspiring writers and provide information for writers who are working in one medium and want to transfer to another medium. Novelists who to work in film, TV writers who’d like to work in video games – we provide information and networking opportunities while maintaining an overall level of fun.”

 

What you’ll learn at Stokercon

Hodson worries that people have an erroneous conception of horror writing. A Los Angeles-based screenwriter himself, he blames the movies. “The first thing you think of when you hear the word ‘horror’ is a guy in hockey mask with a machete killing a bunch of teenage girls, whereas the genre is just so much wider than that,” he says. “It covers everything from Silence of the Lambs to Henry James’ Turn of the Screw.”

One of the goals of the non-profit Horror Writers Association, an international organization of writers and publishing professionals, is to educate people about the genre. “We counter this idea that we’re a bunch of dour people dressed in black gathering to perform satanic rituals,” Hodson says.

The conference workshops taught by award-winning and best-selling authors are particularly popular each year, Hodson says. He suggests that writers register early so that they can attend their preferred classes. “All the instructors have fantastic information, and the bigger names sell out pretty quickly,” he says. “It’s very intensive. People come out publishing their first short story. People who’ve never written a script come out of screenwriting workshops being able to write a screenplay.”

Aspiring horror filmmakers can take workshops in the genre and submit their short films to be screened during a public presentation. Director Anthony Cousins won last year’s grand prize for When Susurrus Stirs, based on the short story of the same name by Jeremy Robert Johnson. “A body horror tale like no other,” reads the film’s description on StokerCon’s website. “The story of one man’s bond with a parasitic creature that could result in the end of us all.”

Featured Stokercon presenters 

While the roster of presenters for Horror University was still being decided at press time, the 2018 conference will include British horror writer and critic Ramsey Campbell and science fiction/dark fantasy author Caitlín Rebekah Kiernan. Past guests have included writer and producer George R.R. Martin, award-winning author Elizabeth Hand, best-selling author Chuck Wendig, and YA horror writer Gretchen McNeil.

Agents, editors, and film producers take pitches from attendees during 15-minute sessions. “Work on your pitches and get them tight,” Hodson advises. “We have official sessions, but people are more than willing to take pitches at the bar and restaurant and waiting in line at Starbucks. Everybody’s cool with that.”

 

Advice for first-timers

Attendees complain that they’re disappointed at not being able to attend everything StokerCon has to offer. “We have too much good programming,” Hodson says. “People have to choose between this panel or that presentation.” He suggests that participants look at the conference schedule beforehand and plan what they want to see and do, so that they’re not frantically searching for an event five minutes before it begins.

He also urges first-time attendees to sign up for any part of the conference that sounds remotely intriguing. “Don’t feel intimidated,” he says. “People who’ve never published or made a film have beers with people like Mike Flanagan, who just directed Gerald’s Game, or hang out at an after-party with Daniel Knauf, who created Carnivàle. The horror community is very welcoming, very inclusive.” 

Contributing editor Melissa Hart is a frequent conference presenter and an editor/consultant at Creator & Collector Services. Web: creatorcollector.com.  

 

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