StokerCon 2023 recap edition

Hello internet loved ones!

First things first, I apologize for spouting off about Shiny Happy People last time. After the first episode, I thought it was going to be a true crime dramatization of the rise and fall of the Duggar family. Then I watched the second episode, which did exactly what I wanted it to do—focused on the IBLP’s victims and the history and deep reach of the movement—and so now I think it is something everyone needs to watch after all, with apologies for my ignorant first reaction.

I’ve also not had air conditioning in my house for the past seventeen days. I live in the South, it’s summer, the planet is on fire, and it’s basically like trying to live inside a hot wet sock and I hate it, so please excuse my grumpiness.

On to the better stuff. I had a whirlwind few days at StokerCon. This was my first horror convention outing, and I learned a lot about how to handle myself and my ridiculous brain at one. I am emphatically Not Good in big groups or in classic networking situations. I am Much Better in smaller groups, though, and that’s where I would focus my energy given the chance to do it again. I had a wonderful, non-anxiety-riddled time going out for food with some absolutely lovely and incredibly talented people, even though the bigger official events and parties freaked me out so much I had to flee upstairs to my room for hotel blob time.

I also learned that at a writing convention, it is very normal for someone to ask, “so what do you write?” and would behoove one to be prepared to answer so you don’t wind up stammering that there’s been some sort of mistake and you’re actually only here to throw yourself headfirst into the Monongahela River.

But! It wasn’t all anxiety and imposter syndrome, by any means. I got to meet online friends in person for the first time, and I learned that Apex Magazine is basically entirely staffed by kind, generous, and awfully fun people. I also loved the panel discussions. Being in an entire room of people talking and laughing about the kinds of things that are usually relegated to solitarily bouncing around inside my own skull felt like slipping into a warm bubble bath. There were also so many slivers of story ideas flying around that I felt the well refilling a bit.

I think next time I go to one of these I need to find a better-defined reason to exist there, either by trying to get on a panel (weirdly, I love public speaking and have no problem doing it) or signing up to volunteer. I think finding a way to participate that isn’t just floundering to make conversation with someone in a crowded hallway would probably be a better inroad for me to actually be a part of the community and not just a starstruck tourist. So, lessons learned, and an overall great time was had before returning to my airless-hot-sock summer life down here.


  • Chaingang All-Stars by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah was strong coffee and a great read, with parallels to Squid Game and The Hunger Games. But it takes its social commentary a step further by forcing the reader into an extremely complicit position with the depravity of its premise (convicts compete in death matches for the tiniest sliver of a possibility of freedom). No one gets to walk away from it feeling moral, and that’s as it should be, given how close to the reality of American incarceration it hews.

  • Sister, Maiden, Monster by Lucy Snyder is a batshit cosmic horror story that is a lot of horrifying fun and plays particularly well after having gone through a few rounds of covid realities. Just know that a lot of real bad shit happens to various human bodies and no punches are pulled.

  • Such Sharp Teeth by Rachel Harrison is the werewolf trauma story we all need and deserve in our lives.

  • I’m halfway through Reluctant Immortals by Gwendolyn Kiste, and it is a delight. I didn’t know how badly I needed a Dracula/Jane Eyre mashup set in California in the 70s.

  • The Salt Grows Heavy by Cassandra Khaw more than lived up to the hype.

  • Like everybody else, I’ve been hypnotized recently by visualizations that thoroughly illustrate exactly how fucked-up the depth of the ocean is, and I so just started Below the Edge of Darkness: A Memoir of Exploring Light and Life in the Deep Sea by Edith Widder.


  • My spouse and I watched the second half of Murderers Row (1966) on TV at the AirBnB we broke down and decamped to last night because of the AC situation. Just, watch it. There’s nothing I can say about it that will do it justice, and I’d like for you to have the same experience of nigh-religious bewilderment that we had going in cold.

The Murder Garden

At least someone is enjoying the southern summer. My cape sundew is flowering, my nearly-dead red dragon flytrap is producing traps again, and everyone’s looking healthy and strong.

Keep up with me.

No promises.


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