Con Review: RKO Con

RKOby KT Pinto

 

RKO Con
August 22–25, 2013
Providence, Rhode Island
http://www.rkocon.com

I have been to many conventions over the past fifteen years: science fiction, fantasy, gaming, horror, literature, steampunk, geek-centric, media… but even the most interesting, the most original, have gotten… routine. So I decided to do something new.

I had never been to a Rocky Horror convention before. I had been in a shadowcast (before it was called shadowcasting) in Staten Island back in the 90s, and I had always had a soft spot for the really bad cult movie and its fans. Rocky Horror was the start of an art form that has become almost a living thing, encompassing movies such as Shock Treatment, Xanadu, Ghostbusters, Repo! The Genetic Opera, and Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. There are costumes, rehearsals, auditions, props, audience participation… This underground sensation has become a world-wide phenomenon, and I just had to go to a convention.

RKO Con, the 38th Annual National Rocky Convention, took place on August 22–25, in Providence, Rhode Island in various locations around town, with “home base” being the gorgeous Omni Hotel. I was able to look at this convention from various perspectives, which may be why this review is longer than most. I knew no one at this convention, save for one vendor. I had no friends there, no connections, was not a participant in any way, and was unfamiliar with the town and the venues. I also have years of con experience on concomms, on security, as a panelist, as a promoter, and as an attendee. I also have experience working behind the scenes on a shadowcast, and as a professional event planner. With all of this background and knowledge, I knew I would not be easy to please.

The schedule for RKO Con was both jam-packed and well organized, with an afternoon start time and a break for dinner each day. Signing up for the convention was a simple procedure, and the hotel liaison was helpful and knowledgeable. The concomm set up groups on Facebook for questions about the convention and for socializing with each other before the con started. The committee was hard working and very professional, but also had their fun, quirky side that was welcoming to everyone involved. Registration was open in a hotel room hours before the convention started so that people could stop by and pick up their registration packets with ease. Those that got there later could register at Dave & Buster’s, which was the first venue of the con on Thursday night.

It was there that I got my program, which was 40 pages, 8.5×11 and full color, with schedules, cast lists and vendor information. The ads (I purchased a half-page) had been easy to order, and were professionally placed throughout the program. There was also a listing in the program describing each event—which was very helpful to those who were new to either the Rocky convention circuit or to shadowcasting in general—along with a complete history of the host cast, RKO Army. What struck me the most was the other thing in the program: the thank yous. In the front was a letter from Roy Rossi, the “convention chair” (I don’t know if they used the same titles as other concomms), thanking not only his staff, but the attendees of both the con and their show; in the back was one from “the soldiers” of RKO Army, thanking everyone involved with the convention.

The Dave & Buster’s site was set up as a wedding reception for Ralph and Betty’s wedding reception (from RHPS) where BtVS: Once More with Feeling and Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog were performed by RKO Army followed by karaoke and a party back at the Omni.

Friday’s events started at noon at Lupo’s Heartbreak Hotel, which is a club used often by Tight Crew, an event production company who worked with RKO Army on the convention. There they had panels, vendors, and an all-star performance of Shock Treatment (“all-star” meaning not just members of RKO Army, but cast members from all over, including Canada and Israel), a rave, and then a party back at the hotel.

Saturday’s events were at the Columbus theater (which, appropriately, was once a XXX theater) starting at noon. The con had arranged for buses to take attendees and cast members back and forth from theater to hotel throughout the day. I never left the theater that day except to grab some food during scheduled breaks, because the day was packed with panels, shows, contests, raffles (with the one and only Sal Piro of RHPS fan fame), video pre-shows, an all-star performance of Repo! The Genetic Opera, then a dinner break before two hours of live pre-shows from various casts, and then the crown jewel: the all-star cast of the Rocky Horror Picture Show. Then there was a wrap-up party at the hotel which lasted until 6:00 in the morning.

Sunday was an informal brunch at a restaurant called Fire & Ice. Approximately 150 people showed up for the brunch; no one seemed to want it to end.

Some things I noted at this con:

  • Security: they were everywhere, but unobtrusive. They checked badges, stood in hallways, guarded stage entrances, and herded people in and out of venues.
  • Video streaming: RKO Army had live streaming of the convention events, starting with the pre-con events on Wednesday evening.
  • Con staff: The staff/cast of RKO Army was easily visible in bright yellow shirts, and were friendly, knowledgeable, and welcoming.
  • Food: While there was food at the reception on the first night, the town didn’t seem prepared for the flood of conventioneers that descended upon them (Necronomicon was also that weekend). The Dunkin’ Donuts next to Lupo’s actually ran out of food before noon, and the local deli closed the whole weekend. Fire & Ice wasn’t prepared for so many of us at all. Luckily the pizzeria across from the Columbus was able to take us on, but it seemed to be the only establishment able to do so.
  • RKO Army: What makes this convention committee the most impressive is that this was their first con ever! A cast member told me that on the RHPS circuit—unlike on the sci-fi/fantasy circuit, where established cons bid for hosting privileges—established casts talk to the “powers that be” and simply ask to host a con. Although RKO Army helped other casts with their cons, this was the Army’s first. This con had almost 400 attendees (20% higher than originally expected), plus an extra 100 guests at the Saturday night event, making RKO Con one of the largest of its type in the last several years.

To say I was impressed doesn’t even begin to cover it.

 

Con Review: Philcon 2013

philcon2013by KT Pinto

 

Philcon 2013
November 8–10, 2013
Cherry Hill, New Jersey
http://2013.philcon.org

This is a review of one of my favorite conventions: Philcon, which took place this year (its 77th anniversary) at the Crowne Plaza in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. Philcon has always been a highly intellectual convention which manages to create an equal balance of serious and playful events covering a variety of genres and interests. They are also a small enough con where finding staff and/or friendly faces as well as all the different activities is a very easy thing, even for a newcomer.

This is why I felt a little let down this year.

Philcon has fallen victim to a trap like many cons their size do: they tried to please everyone at the expense of their veteran participants’ fun.

I’ve noticed throughout the convention circuit over recent years a rash of overly-sensitive fen complaining about anti-female, over-sexualized and/or dangerous situations at smaller conventions. Now while cases of this are true—I myself have been both stalked and harassed at a couple of conventions and we’ve all seen the all-too-true reports online of these events—many of the situations are benign ones that occur when you have a bunch of socially-challenged (and I include myself in this description) fen and beautiful men and women (yes, the groups completely overlap) in one location.

The circuit’s answer to this has been to host flirting and socializing panels during the con that are aimed at educating people so that these incidents become less common. I have been a participant on many of these panels at various conventions. The audience during these panels is always filled to capacity (at Philcon it’s held in one of the large ballrooms, and last year there was not one empty seat), and I have yet to be on or at one where the panelists didn’t take the subject matter seriously. Although this is perceived as a fun panel, panelists always went over the importance of body language, saying no, inappropriate touching, personal hygiene, “flirting with intent,” and so on.

This year, things changed. It’s a change I’ve seen happen at other cons, and never for the better. From what I understand, because of complaints and concerns of some people, the flirting panel was changed into a flirting and harassment panel. I went to the panel mainly because my friends Dr. James Prego and Dr. Tobias Cabral were participants. The audience was sparse, and—although Dr. Cabral tried to keep people on point—the comments from the panelists ranged from how women are weak victims to comparing con-life to the movie Titanic (I know, I couldn’t follow that either). I think my least favorite moment of this panel was when one of the female panelists stated that women are raised to acquiesce and men are raised to demand and so females are targets for harassment.

There was another panel added to the schedule called “Codes of Conduct at a Convention.” By its description, it was yet another panel about how to interact with people and how not to harass others. I didn’t go to it because, not only was it at 10:00 a.m. on a Saturday, but I found it rather insulting that people saw it necessary for Philcon to beat full-grown adults over the head with rules for playing nice. In short, they took a panel that was fun and actually addressed the problem of harassment and turned it into a series of lectures that talked down to its audience and attracted a smaller turnout. Bad move.

I say this not only as an experienced con-goer and panel participant, but also as someone who has been a member of convention security teams and has owned a gaming company that ran LARPS ranging in size from 20–500 people. Philcon has regularly been a safe place to enjoy a weekend, and these panels seemed like overkill.

On top of all this, the rest of the con became muted out of concern for accusations. The parties—which were at first to be fun adult events like a BLT (bathing suit, lingerie, toga) party—became low-key, taciturn events which were a disappointment (more so because I actually remembered my bathing suit this time). And there was no lobbycon, which is a Philcon staple… I know because I sat in the lobby for many hours waiting for it.

I know this may all be a coincidence, but it seemed like Philcon was missing the fun.

Moral of the story: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Philcon didn’t need fixing. Like every other living organism (for that’s what a good convention is) it needs to grow and expand, not contract and chip away. Hopefully Philcon will be able to reboot and tweak itself, and get back to being the fun, safe convention it has always been.

 

Con Review: RavenCon 2013

RavenCon2013by KT Pinto

 

RavenCon 2013
April 5–7, 2013
Richmond, Virginia
http://www.ravencon.com

It took me a while to do a review of RavenCon, but one of the reasons was that I was trying to figure out a way to review the convention without sounding like a huge fangirl.

The problem is… I can’t do it! I absolutely love this convention.

I usually describe this convention as follows: The con is run by a bunch of geek-frat brothers (the cool, fun ones; not the ones I went to school with) who got together one day and decided to create an intellectual party-con.

And they succeeded.

There are a handful of people who are the main core of the concomm but—unlike many other cons—there is no clique feel.

The programming was intelligent, varied, and a lot of fun! What made it even better was that the process to choose panels and events to be a part of was a breeze and scheduling was done well in advance.

Guests of Honor this year were Kevin J. Anderson and Rebecca Moesta, Jennie Breeden, and Bella Morte.

The parties and concerts were excellent, although the parties ended earlier than expected. But then we all met in the lobby, and the hotel staff wasn’t scared by geeks in the lobby (like a lot of hotels are).

My only complaint: it ended too quickly! Yes, it was the standard three days that a convention is, but we were all so sad to see it end! I hope to be invited back next year!

RavenCon will be held again on April 25–27, 2014.

 

Comic Review: Shadoboxxer #1

Shadoboxerby KT Pinto

 

Shadoboxxer: The One Man Riot #001
by Victor Toro
Toro Comics

Shadoboxxer is an urban ninja hero with mysterious powers and an amazing physique who, with his hacker friend Kim and his ghost cat Phantom, saves those in trouble, defends the defenseless, and takes on a variety of bad guys—both human and non—who are out to cause havoc. In this issue Shado runs into a burning building to save two young children who are being surrounded by a fire that is clearly more than it seems to be.

I have been following Victor’s work, and the evolution of Shadoboxxer, for quite some time, which makes me think that someone new to Shado’s world may be confused by the storyline in this premier issue, and on a couple of pages the narration inadvertently rhymed. But putting that aside, this comic has amazing art, great characters, and some intense action. And there’s a cliffhanger ending that’s going to leave readers wanting more.

You can find out more about Victor Toro and the world of Shadoboxxer at theonemanriot.com. Issue #002 is available now as well.

 

Movie Review: A Dance With Andrea

ADanceWithAndreaby KT Pinto

 

From the minds of award-winning director Lance J. Reha and screenwriter Christopher Mancuso, who created such thrillers as Bullet and Between Floors, comes A Dance with Andrea, a paranormal romance short (29 minutes) that made its world premiere at the Garden State Film Festival in 2012.

The movie is about Victor (played by Frank Albanese from The Sopranos), a man who for over sixty years has lamented the loss of his true love, and he finally makes a decision to get rid of the pain. Does a supernatural visit help him ease his suffering?

A Dance with Andrea takes you on a roller coaster of emotions using very little dialog and a lot of visual impact to drive the story home. Those who live in New York City will notice some familiar locations throughout the movie, but you don’t have to be from the area to appreciate the great characters and emotionally charged story. Definitely a must see!

You can preview the trailer on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/lakefilms.

 

On the Dotted Line

by KT Pinto

 

People never read what they are signing anymore. With the influx of internet disclaimers and contracts, people have just gotten into the habit of signing anything that’s put in front of them.

So I ask you, why not take advantage of it?

It’s pretty simple: you just slip in that extra piece of paper with the confirmation slip and the credit card application and you now have written permission to kill them.

It’s hokey, I know. I mean, we could kill them without their permission, but it’s such a rush to see their faces blanch when you show them their signature on the paperwork. Their whole lives flashing before their eyes as they realize that they wouldn’t be in this predicament if they had only read the form before they signed it…

We take our turns killing the customers. Since we’re a small garage it would be wrong for only a select few of us to get that rush. We keep track of our kills on a board in the office; we can’t kill indiscriminately or often, otherwise someone might catch on.

We each have our favorite types of victims:

Brady hunts the storytellers. You know, the ones who have to tell you how they got up early in the morning to take their dog to the vet, because the dog’s nose was dry and he was sluggish, and neither of them wanted to go out in the snow, but the vet was nice enough to fit them into his schedule, etc, instead of just saying that their battery was dead.

Linda likes to take the condescending men—the ones who call her “dear” and talk like she couldn’t possibly know the difference between an idler arm and a ball joint.

Jerry likes to spill foreign blood. It doesn’t matter what country they’re from, as long as it’s obvious that English isn’t their first language.

Roam takes on the P.I.T.A.s—you know them as the Pains in the Asses—the customers who keep bugging us every five minutes, wanting to know why their car isn’t in the garage yet; why cars that are getting an oil change are out faster then their car, when they’re getting a full brake job; why their size 20 tires are so much more expensive then the size 13s in the paper…

Mike kills old people. This brings up questions from us about any paternal issues he may have, but he gets people to sign up for credit cards, so we let this slide.

I personally kill women—the mousy ones that have to call their husbands for every little thing, or the ones that try to bond with me with comments like “This is something that only men are really interested in, don’t you agree?” I cringe at the thought that I am the same gender as these creatures.

It’s usually easy to pick who our next victim is going to be. There’s always one “shining star” who aggravates one of us to the point that we have to go out into the garage and have ourselves a good scream. If it happens to be that person’s turn to pick a victim, then that customer is asked to sign three forms when he pays: the pick-up slip, the preferred customer card, and the special pink slip, all of which we keep. We then take a coded sticker off of the pink form and put it on their receipt.

That innocuous little sticker contains a tiny GPS homing device that our resident techno-geek designed. We realized that we needed this particular toy after we tracked one of our would-be victims to an apartment complex—and lost the trail. This sticker helps us track our prey right into their home. It’s very rare that someone would leave their receipt in the car, since most people rely on the misguided belief that we are responsible for monitoring every bit of work that they’ve had done at our garage. So, the receipt gets brought into the house and put in a pile with overdue bills and memos from work.

Then we hunt.

Most people are simple creatures of habit. They go home; they eat; they watch TV… then they hear a noise outside… and they go to investigate.

The scenario changes from there, depending on who comes outside, but the ending is always the same:

Blood.

Guts.

Death.

And, sometimes, we get a nice car for the mechanics to chop up and sell for parts.

My favorite kill was the woman who had more plastic in her than Barbie. Her nails were long to the point of uselessness; her cheeks and chin were obvious implants; her lips looked like a hive of bees had stung her.

And she was as dumb as a box of hammers. She came into the garage in her spiked heels, her hair sprayed high, and her breasts looking like two beach balls pushing their way out of her shirt.

And, of course, she walked right over to me.

“I need tires,” she said, inhaling deeply as Tony walked past with another customer.

“OK,” I replied, already knowing how this conversation was going to go. “Do you know what size tires you need?”

“No,” she giggled, putting her hand on my shoulder. “Women aren’t supposed to know things like that.”

Stepping out of her reach, I asked, “What kind of car do you have?”

Maybe it’s just me, but that shouldn’t be a stumper.

We finally walked out to the car. It was one of those German luxury cars that hardly ever sees the road.

I measured the depth of the tread on her tires and tried to explain why her tires were wearing unevenly.

She giggled again and said that it was all just too complicated for her.

So then I gave her the price of the tires, with all the labor costs.

“Do I really need the alignment?”

So I again explained to her why her tires were wearing unevenly.

“Do I really need the balancing?”

“Unless you want the car to vibrate.”

“My car doesn’t vibrate.”

“Because your tires are balanced.”

“So why do I need to balance them again?”

Grrrrrr. “Because you’re getting new tires.”

“Don’t they come balanced?”

“When you pay for balancing, they do.”

“Oh, I don’t know. It’s all so complicated! How do you remember all of this?”

I held back the urge to say “because I have a brain”.

Ironically, stupid people tend to understand when they’re being insulted.

The rest of the conversation consisted of her rambling about the amount of time four tires and an alignment was going to take, because she had a nail and tanning appointment in a few hours, and couldn’t we push things along.

I never understood this logic. Why in the world would you want the people who are working on your car to rush through their job? Would you want a doctor to rush through your bypass?

I told her I couldn’t guarantee the time, but told her that she could take the shuttle and come back after she was through with her appointments to pick up the car. As I was explaining this, I saw her reading the work order closely; I hoped that the words weren’t too big for her to understand. I knew the question that was going to come next.

“I have to pay for the labor?”

“Yes, ma’am,” I replied, pulling out the pink form for her to sign.

“I don’t understand that.”

“Ma’am, would you do your job if you weren’t getting paid for it?”

She laughed. “Oh, I don’t work!”

Of course not.

When I finally convinced her that our mechanics don’t fix cars out of the kindness of their hearts, she agreed to the whole thing and went on her way.

Then we went to work.

Based on the address she gave us, we knew that she lived in a middle-class neighborhood where the houses tried to look pretentious even though they only took up part of a city lot and boasted a postage-stamp sized lawn. We knew the best time to arrive on a block like that was between 8:30 and 9:00 pm, when dinner was finished, the kids were being tucked in, and the evening line-ups were just beginning.

So, at 8:47 that night, our inconspicuous mini-van pulled up across from her house. (The company owned five mini-vans, each registered to a different dummy corporation in Asia.) The one we were in was blue with a dent in the front bumper and a “My kid’s an honor student” sticker on the back.

That night it was me, Roam, and Jerry, with Tony driving. Roam scanned the house with his night vision goggles. “There’s only one human in the house.”

“Oh good,” I drawled, “So we don’t have to bring our alien gear this time?”

He made a face at me. “I meant as opposed to pets.”

“Is that what you meant?”

“Is it our target?” Jerry asked.

I looked through the regular binoculars. “Yep. That’s her in all of her plastic glory.”

“How do we know she’s not waiting for her hubby to come home?”

“Easy,” Krantz said from the back of the van; sometimes we forget about Krantz. We heard a couple of taps on his laptop before he spoke again. “According to her tax returns, she’s single… and her on-line date book has nothing scheduled for tonight. There are also no reservations listed in her name anywhere in the tri-state area.”

“What about phone calls?”

Krantz shook his head. “Nothing of note, and her blog is coming up with nothing either.”

“OK then,” I said, slipping my mask on, “Let’s have some fun.”

* * * * *

She woke up bound and gagged in the tire room of our |garage. We were all there; it’s like a little party when we make a kill, even down to the munchies and beer.

I walked over to her, pressing a long, thin blade against her cheek. “Now, if I take the gag out, and you scream, then you will lose your nose. Understood?”

She nodded.

I pulled off the gag and watched her rubbery lips quiver with fear. “What are you going to do to me?” she asked.

“Oh, we’re going to kill you,” I replied with a smile, “After a long, painful torture session, of course.”

Her eyes welled up with tears and I cringed. The bitch had contacts. I hate it when they have contacts. “I don’t understand…”

“And that’s your problem,” I snapped, “You don’t understand a damn thing. Everything is too difficult for you to grasp. You depend on all of this phony crap. This hair, those breasts… it’s all fake. It’s time for us to meet the real you.”

“What… what do you mean?”

“Wow! You are thick!” I shook my head as the group laughed behind me. “We’re going to take you apart. We’re going to cut away all the plastic until all that’s left is skin and bones… so to speak.”

I grabbed her arm, cut her bonds, and wrenched her hand in the air, causing a sickening popping sound as her shoulder dislocated. “Who wants the nails?”

Mike waved his hand in the air, as if he were still in school. I had known he was going to volunteer. Mike collects nails. He keeps them in shoe boxes under his bed. We’ve told him that keeping trophies like that was not a good idea—especially when he keeps the ones with skin still attached.

If he doesn’t start listening to us, Mike is going to have to go.

He came over with his silver-plated pliers and sat on her lap, leaning back on her so she couldn’t struggle as much. Then he started to rip her fake nails off, causing her to scream into his back as her real nails came off with them. He dropped each bloody tip into a plastic bag, sealed it shut when he had all ten, then walked over to a dark corner to admire his new prizes.

By now the girl was blubbering, her fake lips moving like a bleeding gash across her face. I found the irony interesting. The simile made me think of Nick; I called him over. Nick was new to our sales team, and had an affinity for scissors. He sat on her lap, facing her, and showed her a pair of tongs.

“Someone grab her hair,” he growled. Tony stepped forward, took hold of her hair at the crown of her head, and pulled her head back. Tony’s a good egg. He’s not really into the maiming and killing, but he helps out when he can.

So Nick, with the tongs holding the upper lip out, slowly cut the woman’s puffy mouth off of her face. Blood poured from her face as she tried to turn away, but Tony held her fast, and the lower lip came off just as easily as the upper one.

Nick dropped the lip on the floor, then wiped his scissors off on her silk shirt and stood. “Thanks, Tony.”

“Anytime.”

While Nick worked, I had noticed Brady starting to fidget. Brady is a breast man: he enjoys cutting open women’s breasts and finding out what’s inside. This woman’s breasts fascinated the fuck out of him. I was surprised he was able to hold out as long as he did.

So when Nick left the unconscious, lipless woman slumped in the chair, it didn’t surprise me that Brady stepped forward. He leaned towards her, resting his hand on the back of her chair, and slapped her over and over again, leaving gashes on her cheeks from his ring.

“Wake up,” he purred, ripping her shirt opened, “the fun isn’t over yet.”

Before she became fully conscious, he pulled out a professional looking scalpel and plunged it into her left breast, cutting through the skin like it was butter.

She screamed, loud and long. The thing was, our tire room was in the sub-basement of an old bomb shelter, so she could scream as much as she wanted. Our closest neighbors, three miles away in any direction, were not going to hear her. Roam had the DJ turn up the music. Nothing kills a party like a woman screaming her head off.

Brady stuck his hand into her breast like a kid cleaning the guts out of a pumpkin. Blood cascaded from her chest as he dug inside until he found what he was looking for.

The wobbly implant was streaked with blood and other things, and Brady felt the weight of it in the palm of his hand before hurling it across the room, where it made a satisfying splat against the wall.

He then dug for the other one. The woman had passed out again; Brady didn’t seem to notice as he pulled out his second prize. This one he cut opened and squeezed the goop out of it, letting it pour down his arm. He stared at his arm for a few moments with a small smile on his face before he stepped away.

Disgusted with how weak she was, I plunged a needle into her arm, making sure she’d stay awake until the very end. “Who’s next?”

There was a rustle through the group—what part of her should be the next to come off?

“Hey Jerry,” I said as I discarded the needle and got a drink from the punch bowl, “she’s wearing contacts.”

I walked back to the woman with Jerry in tow, watching as she tried to form words with her lipless mouth.

“Why me?” she finally managed.

I smiled sweetly and held up the pink form. “Why? Because you gave us permission to do so. ‘I, the undersigned, give Kear’s Tire and Auto permission to torture and kill me by any means they deem necessary… blah blah blah… give my car to Kear’s to be dismantled… blah blah blah… and have my body incinerated in the furnace.’ And look, right there is your signature.”

Her eyes widened in shock and tears started running down her bloodied cheeks “I didn’t know,” she croaked, “I didn’t read it…”

“That’s really none of my concern,” I answered, “I would say you are now finally seeing the error of your ways, but that would be too cruel, even for me…”

I stepped back as Jerry walked to the girl, holding something that looked like small, flat salad spoons. I turned away. Eyes creep me out, so much so that I won’t even wear contacts. I avoid the eye doctor as much as I can. Just the thought of the grape-like texture and fragility of eyeballs makes me cringe. And now Jerry was going to slide those little disks into her eye sockets and rip the orbs out, holding them gently between the disks so they won’t splatter like her implants did.

What he did with them after that, I didn’t want to know. Roam told me that Jerry made a tasty stew out of them. Linda says Roam is crazy—he only uses the eyeballs to make a broth, then tosses them away. Mike believes that Jerry eats them whole, popping them in his mouth and savoring the juicy middle like it’s a chocolate-covered cherry.

Mike worries me.

I know you’re wondering why I hadn’t done anything at this point besides talk. As I said before, I kill my victims; I don’t torture them. I torture Linda’s (picture a tazer and man’s most sensitive spot); I torture Roam’s and Jerry’s and Brady’s; I don’t torture Mike’s (torturing old people unnerves me). But my own victims, I just kill. I let my co-workers have their fun.

I waited for Roam to finish shaving the woman’s head, all the time whispering to her about her impending death, then stood in front of her, feeling the weight of my gun in my hand.

I’m the only one of our group that uses a gun. Brady uses a knife; Linda favors the garrote; Roam is fond of axes.

I like guns: the feel of one in my hand, the smell of a freshly cleaned and oiled piece, the sound of bullets penetrating flesh…

Roam slapped her a few times, making sure she was awake when I killed her, then walked over to Fredo—our resident DJ—who had just started the song “Last Dance”.

“Do you have to play that song every time?” Roam asked.

“You bet I do!”

I shook my head with a smile, and turned to the woman. “You can’t see this, but I have a revolver pointed right at your thick head. And, in a moment, I am going to shoot you. It’s a lovely little weapon, engraved with spiders on the handle and polished so well, it shines. But the best part, in my humble opinion is that the trigger pull on this is so smooth…”

The gun rang out three times: once for her head, once for her bosom, and once for her uterus. Those were the three places many pagans believe to be the parts that identify the woman as Goddess.

She wasn’t worthy of those parts.

The party wrapped up at that point. Charlie and George—our stock guys—turned on the hose, sending blood down the drains in the floor, while the body and the paper bag full of her hair were put on a gurney.

We have greased a lot of palms to get the permit allowing us to melt down tires on our property. That’s where the bodies go: into the fiery furnace. The temp is high enough that all that remains is ash among the melted tires, and the smell of the rubber hides any other distinctive odors.

* * * * *

We really don’t have much fear of being caught. We take back with us all of the incriminating paperwork from our victims’ homes, and our clothes, being black, tend to hide any blood spilled… unless they used the black lights and luminol.

But that means that they would have to suspect us, and what simple mechanics—who deal with a thousand customers a week—have to do with one lone woman who disappeared?

Will we ever stop? Perhaps. But why should we when fate keeps dropping stupid people right in our laps?

Stupid people who don’t read what they are signing.

So the next time you’re asked to sign something, and you jokingly comment that you’re signing your life away, don’t laugh.

You may be doing exactly that.

 

Con Review: Philcon 2011

Philcon2011by KT Pinto

 

Philcon 2011
November 18–20, 2011
Cherry Hill, New Jersey

For many years, there have been three reasons why I always liked going to Philcon:

1. The location. Originally in Philly, which was easy enough to get to from NYC, but now it’s in a hotel in the more easily accessible Cherry Hill, NJ.
2. The panels. A lot of literature panels, a lot of professionals, a lot of different topics, a lot of intellectual conversations. What more can one want?
3. The people. Three generations of fandom walk the halls of Philcon, and it’s safe to say that they are some of the friendliest geeks on the convention circuit.

All of these things are great if you are an attendee of the con. But when you are going to the convention for business reasons, that isn’t enough to make the grade. There were a few issues this year…

Programming. The programming for many of the professionals was not only finalized with very little time to spare, but the individual schedules were also very sparse. Panels are many authors’ and artists’ bread and butter; it gets them noticed, and gives them a chance to promote their work. Two panels for some—which is nothing for a three-day convention—while others had eight or nine panels left the sour taste of favoritism in the air. There was also a disregard for requests such as time restrictions and moderator requests. For example, Dr. James Prego asked to not have any panels before 11am, and did not want to moderate. Out of his three panels, he had 10 am panels on both Saturday and Sunday, and was slated to moderate on Sunday’s panel.

The Dealers’ Room. Along with programming, professionals have to have a good experience in the Dealers’ Room to make a convention worthwhile. Although the convention cannot be held responsible for the lack of buyers, they do have to consider how the attitudes of the staff members in the Dealers’ Room may affect the professionals (making one feel like they’re a bother is not the way to go when dealing with people), and from an author’s perspective, having the room saturated with used-book dealers makes it that much more difficult for small press authors to sell their wares. It doesn’t seem like the convention—which is supposed to be pro-literature—took this into consideration at all when planning out who was going to be vending.

Would I go back to Philcon again? Definitely.

As a panelist? Maybe. Minor changes need to happen for that.

As a vendor? Not unless there is a complete overhaul…

 

Book Review: Scary Tales of Scariness

scarytalesby KT Pinto

 

Scary Tales of Scariness
by Brian Koscienski & Chris Pisano
Fortress Publishing, Inc., 246 pp.

It’s great when you are an author with a huge publishing company that can get your books reviewed and get the word out there about your talent and creativity.

This review column is for the other authors and their work: the ones who write for small publishing companies and need to network and promote themselves. Their novels may not be hot off the presses, but many are worth adding to your book collection.

There are some horror novels out there that are serious, dark and scary. That look into the inner workings of man and the evil inside as they fight their inner demons.

This is not one of those novels.

Scary Tales of Scariness is a collection of stories about a pair of drunken reprobates who find themselves face-to-face with some of the best B-horror movie monsters ever! Werewolves, zombies, vampires, ghosts, la chupacabra, and ten other horror staples torment our heroes as they stumble their way through fifteen different hilarious tales of insanely hysterical horror.

The two main characters—whose names and visages are those of the authors—have this great back and forth conversational style that takes the reader quickly through a roller coaster of bantering, insults, action and insanity that leaves you happily breathless (and sometimes a little giggly) at the end of each story.

But be forewarned: you will be craving a few pitchers of beer by the time you reach the end of the book (“The 64 oz kind; Not the wussy 48 oz kind.”)!

 

Con Review: Balticon 45, pt. 1

 Balticon45by KT Pinto

 

Balticon 45
May 27–30, 2011
Hunt Valley, Maryland
http://www.balticon.org/

A few months ago I received word from my publisher that my new book Beer with a Mutant Chaser was being premiered at Balticon, so I was asked to change my plans of going to Ohio. My editor got in touch with the head of literary programming to see if I could be given panels. She was told that I could be on panels, but that it was “too late” for me to get a guest pass. Already I started to feel bad vibes about going…

I sent an e-mail to the programming chair thanking her for letting me participate, and asked her if I could have a list of available panels.

No response.

A week before the con, my publisher sent me the list of panels that had space on them; I still hadn’t heard anything from the programming chair. I chose some panels and sent it to our contact.

No response.

So, I get to the con. I was not mentioned anywhere, I was not given any panels save the panel my publishing company hosted… I didn’t even have my name on my badge! It said something like “Darkon 2”; I was a non-entity.

Never one to blend into the woodwork, I went in search of panels that I could crash; I was rather disappointed as I went through the program. My author compatriots had little to no panels, and my favorite topics—sex, vampires, villains, and flirting—were non-existent… on the literary track.

That’s when I noticed that almost the entire con was overrun with “new media” panels. Anything relating to sex, taboos, or vampires was all put aside for “new media”. When I went to my first Balticon in 2007, I was on panels like “Romance, Love, Sex, and Erotica,” “How to Get Laid at a Con,” “Sexy Vampires?” and “Creating the Perfect Villain.” None of those panels existed in 2011. Now such topics had been reduced to things like “Erotica… Iron Chef” and “Alien Sex: What Could Go Wrong?”.

Author Michael A. Ventrella commented, “…many participants were willing to do more panels but the convention had no place to put them, and as such some panelists had decided it was not worth the trip and expense to show up only to be on one or two panels.”

On top of all that, there were no late-night social events. The couple of events that were planned were more dance classes than socials. There were no other parties, no gatherings… only a late-night hula-hooping event. This is why I spent most of my Memorial Day weekend in my publisher’s hotel room, reducing their alcohol supply.

Summing up the situation, author Stephanie Burke said, “As always, Balticon is a lovely four-day endurance trial… But it is the people, open, friendly, and beautiful, that makes this a con to remember.”

 

Con Review: Confluence 2011

by KT Pinto

 

Confluence 2011
July 22–23, 2011
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
http://www.parsec-sff.org/confluence/

Getting to Confluence took me and my friend Matt a good six hours on one of the most boring strips of road in the country—from New Jersey all the way through Pennsylvania—but Confluence 2011 was most certainly worth the trip!

It was a much smaller convention than I’m used to, but it comes with that small-town friendliness and attention that sometimes gets unintentionally lost at the bigger cons. In their own words, “Confluence is about programming that lets fans of science fiction and fantasy hear about the views and visions of some of the leading authors, editors, and critics in the genre.” This is a very accurate statement. Lately I’ve noticed that many conventions let anyone who has a passing interest in a topic sit on a panel, minimizing the importance of a professional’s years of knowledge. Confluence didn’t do that.

Not only was the programming staff a pleasure to work with both before and during the con—thanks to the hard work of Karen Yun-Lutz and Kevin M. Hayes—but the panels were interesting, the hotel staff was polite and efficient (and we got an amazing shower in our room) and there was enough to keep me entertained without any alcohol involved!

One of the best parts of the weekend was that I finally got time to hang with Chris, Brian and Christine from Fortress Publishing. I’ve known them for a while, but usually only get a chance to say hi as I run past them in the vendors’ room. This time I got to be on panels with each of the guys and go to their meet and greet. Sadly, I didn’t get a chance to drink with them… next time, I promise!

Am I going to Confluence again? Definitely, if they’ll have me back… hint hint.