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Find more Notes from the Field
Becky Spratford, RA guru and horror-reviewer extraordinaire (and the mastermind behind RA for All), organized Librarians’ Day at this year’s StokerCon. We talked about what that is, why librarians should go, and what’s new in books I am too scared to read.
is different from the library conferences we’re used to talking about. Is it primarily for fans or writers?
is the annual conference of the Horror Writers Association (HWA), so it is mainly for writers and those in the book industry, although most attendees are also fans.
I attended the second annual StokerCon, in 2017, as their first ever Librarian Guest of Honor. I went in knowing almost no one and left having made so many new friends and connections. Horror writers are so interested in each other’s work and honestly root for one another.
is a typical day like?
Becky: A detailed report on the whole convention is here: StokerCon 2018 Report.
is made up of a few pieces, geared toward both published and unpublished writers or academics. I coordinated Librarians’ Day. There is also a short film festival and the Bram Stoker Awards banquet. In addition to panels, there are readings and signings scattered throughout the conference.
library conferences, there is not an exhibit hall, but there is a room where publishers can promote and sell their titles. And the conference always invites one official bookseller—a local bookstore—that provides books for sale, too.
panels vary, but most talk about different aspects of writing. A few of the panels I attended were on the use of science in horror, the state of horror fiction, and how to make ordinary things scary. I
spoke on a panel talking about how writers can work with libraries.
is the big national horror convention—are there smaller Stoker-esque events that folks can take advantage of?
Becky: HWA has chapters all over the country, and the association sends out a monthly newsletter with listings of any conferences or meetings that are happening regionally. Librarians are encouraged to join HWA to hear about these events in advance. But, really, anywhere locally where there is a Comic-Con of Fan Fest, horror fiction tends to have a presence.
can also organize your own smaller event. In fact, that was one of the topics I organized for Librarians’ Day. Librarian Liz Rieur, from Haverhill (MA) Public Library, discussed the extremely popular Merrimack
Valley Halloween Book Festival
with best-selling and Bram Stoker Award–winning author Christopher Golden. Liz shared how this event went from a small gathering of local horror authors to a huge event.
If you’re looking to start your own local event, HWA has partnered with United for Libraries to include HWA members in the Authors for Libraries database.
would you recommend a StokerCon—or another genre con—to?
Becky: All library workers should go to a writers’ association conference if they can, whether they are fans of the genre or not. All of the associations solicit librarian involvement; in fact, most have a board position for library coordination. HWA’s Library Committee
chair is JG Faherty.
Going to a genre con hosted by a writers’ association is a great way to learn about how and why writers write the books they write. But writers also love finding out from us about how libraries work. Many don’t understand
how we choose books for our collections and the resources we use to match readers with books. We have so much to learn from each other, and I think library workers going to more writers’ conventions is a great place to start.
us the hot take! What’s new in horror? What are the emerging trends? What should we be looking for, horror-wise, either to purchase for our library or to share with patrons (or both)?
is in the middle of a huge boom right now. When people are feeling stressed and nervous about the real world, they tend to look for solace. Some turn to happy, gentle books, but just as many seek out situations that
are far worse than their real lives. The success of movies like It, Get Out, and The Shape of Water shows that horror is not hiding in the shadows right now.
Brian Keene is leading a resurgence of extreme horror and splatterpunk (which last peaked in the 1990s)
with a brand-new award for the best of the genre (http://killerconaustin.com/awards).
These works are very popular, and librarians shouldn’t shy away. If we carry erotica, these extreme-horror titles are worthy of being in the public library collection, too.
fiction—especially written in a way that challenges the problems with H. P. Lovecraft’s racist and sexist views while still honoring his influence—is still going strong. Led by Victor LaValle, Mary SanGiovanni,
Laird Barron, Caitlín R. Kiernan, and Nick Mamatas, Lovecraft allusions and cosmic elements are popping up everywhere.
writing horror, especially in the short story form, is really growing. These authors tend toward weird fiction, a subgenre of horror that places fear and unease at the forefront of their works but uses dark-fantasy or science-fiction elements. Recent examples of authors whose work you should know about are Carmen Maria Machado, Emily B. Cantaneo, Damien Angelica Walters, and Kristi DeMeester.
Horror continues to excel at the short story and novella format. Target collections edited by Ellen Datlow,
Jonathan Maberry, John Joseph Adams, or published by Apex (especially for diverse collections).
presses like Sinister Grin, Cemetery Dance, JournalStone, Apex, and Flame Tree are putting out great horror and weird fiction right now. Check their online catalogs, and sign up for their newsletters. I highly recommend these publishers because of the quality of the writing and because their books will stand up to multiple checkouts.
Susan: Sounds like we’ve all got some reading to do. Thanks, Becky!
Becky Spratford is the author of The Readers’ Advisory Guide to Horror (2012) and runs the blog RA for All: Horror.
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