World Horror Convention 2002 – Sweet Home Chicago!

WELL, IT’S TAKEN me nearly two months to finally recap WHC Chicago…but I think I’ve finally recovered! This year I took lots of pictures, since it was on my own home turf…I’ve set this site up so you can click any of the thumbails to see a full-size picture. Hopefully that will help download times to stay reasonable.

World Horror Con 2002 started in 2001 for me; I volunteered in the fall to handle publications for the con, and started wrangling authors and bio-writers back in October. Things kicked into high gear from January-April, with many late night planning and copy editing sessions at the Red Lion Pub and con co-chair Tina Jens‘ condo in Chicago.

I worked on the last progress report (#3), a book catalogue, the pocket program, and most importantly, the Souvenir Program Book (picture above – with original art by Randy Broecker). Finally, on the day before con set-up, I ended up with a carload of program books.

On Wednesday, April 10, I picked up Necro Publishing‘s Dave Barnett from O’Hare, and filled another car full of boxes — we picked up his print run of books for the con at a local press. My wife Geri and I and Dave arrived at the hotel with two carloads of books, offloaded them to the registration booth, checked in and then headed out to Woodfield Mall to Magianno’s to celebrate Dave’s birthday.

THURSDAY, April 11, 2002

After a morning of errands and set-up work (Geri worked the Twilight Tales bookselling table and I was a local driver with a car — ’nuff said) I had my first panel covering the Craft of Writing-Editing with Michael Slade, John Urbancik and Twilight TalesAndrea Dubnick.

Afterwards, I caught a great reading by fellow Delirium Books author Michael Laimo, and then headed up to the lobby to catch a bus to a book signing in Evanston. Unfortunately (or, perhaps fortunately), a snafu in bus scheduling left a group of us waiting for over an hour. Eventually, Dave Barnett, GAK, Gerard Houarner, Linda Addison, Geri and I played musical chairs in the hotel’s restaurants (when one couldn’t seem to figure out how to seat AND serve us we bailed for the Sports Bar). The evening culminated in Linda’s teaching Dave what hand signs NOT to make in certain neighborhoods.

My wife also explained the finer points of mustard to Dave.

FRIDAY, April 12, 2002

Thursday evening/Friday morning was spent in the warm and crowded confines of Borderland Books‘ “Speakeasy” suite, where Borderlands’ owner Alan Beatts and store manager Jude Feldman played barkeeps all night, (and where we also sampled Medium Rare Books publisher John Turi‘s glowing green absinthe). Getting up to play floor manager for the con on Friday was no mean feat. Somehow I managed, (thanks to coffee with Green Room walkie talkie girl Lisa Lowrance and Leisure BooksTeri Jacobs) and managed to be both alert for Neil Gaiman‘s awesome reading and coherent for my own reading following that.

Neil read some of his and Gene Wolfe‘s twisted Shambles “Tour” book created for the con and released by American Fantasy, as well as a “missing” chapter of Coraline, the book he read in total at Denver’s WHC a couple years ago. He took a poll and found five of us in the room who’d stayed awake for 3 hours to hear that reading, and so he read the new chapter especially for “the Denver Five”!

My own reading went well – my wife, Linda Addison, Twilight Tales vet Martin Mundt, fellow Delirium authors Charlee Jacob, Michael Laimo and Gerard Houarner and Delirium publisher Shane Ryan Staley all attended.

After catching Gene Wolfe‘s interview of Neil Gaiman, I went to the debut signing for Twilight Tales’ new anthology Freaks, Geeks and Sideshow Floozies, which includes three of my stories under one “banner” title — “Love & Rope & Sex & Screams.”

I signed more books than ever before — and at the same time had a great conversation with British poet and editor extraordinaire (and con Poetry Guest of Honor) Jo Fletcher. One of the photos below shows her with me and con co-chair Tina Jens (look for the hat in the pix below).

Immediately after the signing, I had a Horror Archetypes in Music panel scheduled, but due to some scheduling confusion, the panel didn’t quite happen (one panelist was double booked and then the panel title was scratched off the room listing, so many people walked away before the panel ever began). Still, Music Guest of Honor Liz Mandville Greeson and I held a conversation on the Blues for a handful of attendees.

After the signing and panel flop, it was time to set up for the ever-popular Mass Signing session in the main ballroom. Each author was given a balloon with his or her name on them to attach to his chair as identification in the giant room. I went through two bloated rubbers before I finally got one that would stay up in the air. Should I have taken it as a sign?

I sat between veteran short story author James Dorr and Brian Hopkins, Stoker-winning author and head of Lone Wolf Publications, which published the Bloodtype anthology edited by Michael Laimo (and including my story “Mutilation Street” as well as a techno “theme” song).

I’ve just finished incidental music for another of Hopkins’ anthologies — Carnival. Robert Weinberg, who shared a table with me at the signing last year (and who gave me and Geri the lowdown on the comics business the previous night at the Speakeasy) was just a couple seats down. Since business at my table was a bit slow, I bounced around the room a bit, hooking up for pictures with P.D. “Trish” Cacek and my publisher Shane Ryan Staley and Dave Barnett.

We also pulled together an impromptu Delirium authors photo and shot a couple pictures of Neil Gaiman signing books for Shane and me (what fanboys!)

After the signing, Geri and I hooked up with Shane and his Delirium Books table assistant Jessica, and headed off-site to dinner at Chili’s. It was great to finally be able to sit and talk face-to-face with Shane; we began an e-mail and eventually phone dialogue three years ago now, when he first bought one of my stories for the debut issue of Delirium Magazine and then offered to put out a collection of my short fiction through Delirium Books.

After months of working out the collection contents and details, I started helping out Delirium in other ways, handling copyediting now and then and helping out with the design of the web site. But this convention was the first time I’d gotten to meet Shane — and Friday night the first time we really got to sit and talk. Unfortunately, it couldn’t go on for hours — I had to get back to host a screening of “Six Feet Under,” the HBO series. A handful turned out for the screening/discussion, mostly newbies, which made for a lively discussion afterwards.

From there, Geri and I stopped in at Darrell Schweitzer’s reading, and then made for bed…after the late nights Wednesday and Thursday, we just weren’t ready for three in a row.

SATURDAY, April 13, 2002:

I was far more awake for floor managing on Saturday morning, but no disasters ensued. I caught a bit of Neil Gaiman‘s interview of Gene Wolfe (I think the most fascinating thing I learned there was that Gene and his wife have known each other since kindergarten!) and later on saw Charlee Jacob‘s intense reading from her next novel for Leisure, and Martin Mundt‘s knock-em-down-laughing reading about a necrophile.

Then it was signing time again — Delirium Books held its first official event in the foyer of the hotel, gathering authors from its Dark Testament and Dead Inn anthologies, as well as authors of short fiction collections and chapbooks. It was an impressive lineup, though the turnout was a little slow. From Brian Keene, Michael Laimo and Michael Huyck to Mark McLaughlin, Charlee Jacob and Gerard Houarner, the tables were packed with authors. I made the fashion faux pas of wearing the same outfit as my publisher. How embarrassing.


The day turned a little surreal after the Delirium Signing – Jim Jacob, Andrea Dubnick and I piled into my car to head into the Korean section of Chicago to find — get this — a fresh pig’s head and whole (beak and feet attached) plucked chickens. Seems Charlee had decided to “spice up” her Gross-Out Contest reading with some props, but had a panel to do and couldn’t leave the hotel. So the three of us walked a section of the city I’ve never been in, despite a lifetime lived here. After garnering the puzzled laughter of a couple Korean grocers, we finally found a good stock of whole chickens, but no pig’s head — order ahead, we were told. Who knew?

Once we got back to the hotel, I locked myself in the Convention Office to finish brushing up and printing out my Gross-Out Contest reading (I’d been scribbling about two sentences every few hours since the beginning of the con). Then it was off to the Gene Wolfe Radio Theatre, an old-style radio presentation of one of Gene’s stories adapted and directed by Twilight Tales regular Larry Santoro. Between the skills of the “actors” (including Trish Cacek, Neil Gaiman, Liz Mandville Greeson and more) and the sound effects, the result was an amazing sonic experience.

After that, it was Gross-Out Contest time…Geri and I sat with the Jacobs and their bucket of chicken (housekeeping loved them!) and watched Rain Graves, Brian Keene and Kelly Laymon stage a cool (but not particularly gross) toe jam-augmented poetry play, Wrath James White deliver an astoundingly gross bit, and John Turi go for the prurient (dis)interest (he unveiled all but the grossest bit of his anatomy). My reading went well, (well meaning I didn’t get the hook this year!) though I was a bit rushed. Charlee’s went over big — the chicken was a hit, and she took home the prize.

From the Gross-Out Contest we ended up at the Speakeasy for another night, where we met Christopher Teague, a British editor who has bought stories of mine for both his Nasty Snips and Tourniquet Heart anthologies…At some point, either Thursday or Saturday, a group of us including con co-chair Tina Jens and her husband Barry, ended up singing “Kum By Ah, My Lord” in the bathroom hallway of the suite. This evil song effectively chased everyone else out of the room. :-).

SUNDAY, April 14, 2002

Somehow we managed to get up Sunday morning, and took the Jacobs out to brunch and a quick tour of our house (it IS nice to live close to a world con!) Then they were off to visit family in Wisconsin, and Geri was helping tear down the Twilight Tales table while I took a last run around the Dealer’s Room – buying some last minute books from Dealers Room Manager Alice Bentley at the Stars Our Destination table, getting William Nolan to autograph a last minute book purchase and carting a couple boxes of books back to my car to ship home for Dave Barnett.

Then it was Closing Ceremonies (where the Grandmaster award was given to Charles Grant). The photos of Gene Wolfe, Charles Grant, Melissa Singer, William Nolan and Neil Gaiman below are all from Closing Ceremonies.

After the hotel lobby emptied, a group of us went off-site trip to after-words books in Chicago for a signing wherein I found to my chagrin, that both Geri’s and my car’s air conditioning systems had died over the winter. It was over 80 degrees and we were driving Neil Gaiman and Caitlin R. Kiernan downtown. We all survived (and I found out that Neil had thought the Shambles piece he agreed to write with Gene was for the official Program Book I created, not an “unaffiliated” book…I would have killed to have had that in the Program Book!)

After the signing, Neil and Caitlin went off for dinner with a group, and Geri and I caught a good steak across the street at Rock Bottom Brewery (Neil and company should have joined us…they ended up lost and headed for Wisconsin, we later found out!)

And then…the Dead Dog Party. Somehow not many people looked that dead…but we gave up the ghost by 2 a.m. At some point that night, E.C.McMullen, Jr. a.k.a., the “Feo” of Feo Amante.Com whispered Sean Connery impressions in Geri’s (and just about every other female’s) ear and I agreed to drive Trish Cacek around on a cemetery tour the following morning.

MONDAY, April 15, 2002

And so, sometime after 11 a.m., Trish and me and Joel Ross hooked up, had brunch at Downer’s Delight by my house and headed farther south to Resurrection Cemetery, where the ghost of Resurrection Mary is reputed to have bent the bars of the gates (if you look close at picture #2, you can see her fingerprints burned in the metal). She is also sometimes picked up hitchhiking down Archer Avenue. We saw lots of great gravestone architecture (they really used to know how to send a guy out, ya know?).



Then we dropped Joel at the airport before heading farther south to take a quick tour of Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery, a haunted cemetery set off the road in a forest preserve, which has a number of stories of phantoms associated with it.

Finally, we headed back to pick up Geri and went downtown for the convention’s last hurrah – readings at the weekly meeting of Twilight Tales by Gahan Wilson, Jo Fletcher and Brian Hopkins. The TT group meets to listen to fiction readings every Monday at the Red Lion, a reputedly haunted pub, and in the summers, the whole show moves outside to a picturesque deck (which, thanks to unseasonable warm weather, we were able to enjoy on this particular night). At one point, Trish and Gahan went across the street to the famous Biograph Theater (where John Dillinger was shot) to vamp it up WHC 2002 Photographer Guest of Honor Beth Gwinn got a good shot of it while standing in the middle of a busy road, and Geri snapped a quick shot from across the street.

And then, as the last of the audience filed out of the upper story of the Red Lion Pub…we finally had to admit it. WHC 2002 was over.



We could at last go back to our normal routines. God, what did we do with our time before the months of constant e-mails, phone calls and late night meetings talking about the details of this con…some of us wrote stuff, I remember…Now that I’ve finally caught up on my sleep, I’m thinking maybe I’ll try doing that again…

About John Everson

John Everson is a Bram Stoker Award-winning horror author with more than 100 published short stories and 14 novels of horror and dark fantasy currently in print. His first novel, Covenant, won the Bram Stoker Award for a First Novel in 2005. His sixth novel, NightWhere, was a Bram Stoker Finalist in 2013. Its sequel, The Night Mother, was released in June 2023.

One Comment

  1. Pingback: From World Horror to SXSW to a trilogy for FREAKS, GEEKS & SIDESHOW FLOOZIES ~ John Everson

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