July 15, 2019
StokerCon is the annual conference held by the Horror Writers Association, culminating in the Bram Stoker Awards. This year, NoveList was one of the sponsors of Librarians’ Day portion of the conference, and I was fortunate enough to attend. With just over 400 participants, it’s a smaller event, but the daily schedule (which ran from 8 a.m. to midnight) was filled with an impressive number of sessions, panels, and activities. Many offerings were specifically geared toward writers — pitch sessions with publishers, tips and tricks for marketing, and sessions to hone the craft offered through “Horror University.” However, there were also many panels for the genre fan, from the newly introduced Ann Radcliffe academic track to author readings and discussions of genre history and trends. Late-night activities included a film festival and a midnight reading by Josh Malerman in which audience members were blindfolded (a la Bird Box).
Librarians’ Day was a lot of fun. Sessions included fandom programming at the library, information on the Summer Scares Reading Program, lunch with Gabino Iglesias (author of the stunning Coyote Songs), a podcasting 101 session for librarians, and a panel of small publishers. The dynamic Becky Spratford coordinated this activity and shared impressions from the conference on her blog RA for All: Horror and a resource sheet here.
The role of podcasts in navigating the world of fiction was a recurring theme. Some featured on The Rise of the Pod(cast) People panel include The Horror Show with Brian Keene, where the author interviews various folks in the horror industry (he loves to give up-and-coming authors a chance to shine). Scott Edelman’s Eating the Fantastic (covering horror, fantasy, and SF) places a spin on the traditional interview format by having it take place over a meal in a restaurant (he warned sufferers of misophonia to exercise caution). The Know Fear podcast views horror through an academic lens (I have hosts Lisa Kroger and Melanie Anderson’s new book Monster, She Wrote — a history of women in horror – on my bedside table now). For those who love listening to stories, NIGHTLIGHT (brainchild of Tonia Thompson) offers short-form horror by Black authors, and PseudoPod has over a decade’s worth of short horror fiction in audio format.
From my perspective as a genre fan, the variety and array of content focusing on the books went to a deeper level than at other literature-related gatherings with a more general focus. As I attended this conference, it got me thinking about other such occasions. Where do libraries fall within this space? I’m thinking of things like fan conventions, Comic-Cons, and author associations. What can we do to help authors find an audience? What can we do to connect fans with the resources available at their library? What can we do to take a place at the table in conversations not only about books and reading, but stories in all formats? Showing up is a good place to start — it will allow us to hear the conversations and identify the places we can help. Some of the author or publisher events already offer library-focused programming — there is Librarians’ Day at the RWA Conference (Romance Writers of America), and Bouchercon offers a Librarians’ Tea. There’s Thrillerfest (from the International Thriller Writers) and the Nebula Conference (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers Association). This list is just a handful of some of the more prominent conventions, but there are many local and regional instances of similar communities coming together, offering opportunities to connect with groups not utilizing library resources.
Victoria Caplinger Fredrick is the Director of Book Discovery at NoveList. She is currently reading Garden of Eldritch Delights by Lucy A. Snyder, and listening to The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson.