FanBoy Moment: Meeting Brian Keene at WHC


About eight years ago I was a completely newbie author with a couple of fantasy books out and maybe three horror short stories published to my credit (I have a lot more horror stories published now), and I went to Horrorfind Weekend convention in Baltimore, Maryland. I sat at a table in the dealer room and sold a few books and met a few people. It was fun. 

But I stayed in the dealer room for 99% of the weekend, convinced no one there would give me the time of day. And, unfortunately, I was kinda right. A couple of authors were friendly (Michael Laimo said hi to me) but I was just there. And it was my own fault, because I didn’t talk to anyone or make any effort. Believe it or not, I was shy and insecure among all these great authors. 

Cut to the bar area that night. 

Brian Keene was sitting there, and I knew who he was thanks to MySpace (remember MySpace?) and because his book The Rising had completely knocked me off of my feet. I kid you not. I owe the Dying Days zombie series to this man, because without his book I wouldn’t have attempted zombie fiction. I even wrote a piece about it conveniently titled “Why I Write About Zombies” (feel free to read it and then come back for the rest of this post… I’ll wait…)

Brian Keene - The Rising zombie

I walked up to the bar, as close to Brian as I could get without bumping into him, and casually turned and stared at him like a little schoolgirl. Brian Keene turned to me with a smile and said hi. 

I said blahbehchickablehblehugghhhh and felt my chest and throat tighten. Then I did what every cool person does when meeting an idol… I ran away like a little schoolgirl.

Cut to eight years later and across the country in Portland Oregon. 

The World Horror Convention, and while I’d come a long way but had much more to do and to rise, I felt I’d earned a place at least at the kid’s table. And I was fine with it. And when I heard Brian Keene was going to be the Grandmaster of the weekend, I was excited. And then nervous. 

I wanted to meet him. I needed to meet him. I posted on Facebook about my last and only encounter with him, and how this was going to be cosmic payback. I would stride up to him with a grin, pat him on the back and we’d hug it out like real men. Or something like that. 

Of course, on Thursday afternoon, as Special Gal and I had lunch in the hotel restaurant, Brian Keene walked into the lobby and I might have squealed a little. She thought it was quite amusing and ‘threatened’ to call him over, but I was not ready. I needed time to prepare. 

Cut to a few hours later. 

Special Gal and I were walking through the lobby, minding our own business, when I saw Brian Keene chatting with a few people. As I went to go past him he suddenly turned and noticed me. He smiled and said hi. He put his hand out and I turned my brain off and gripped his hand, shaking firmly. 

He said something but I have no idea what because I was too busy trying not to talk or say something incoherent. I nodded, smiled back, and walked away. Special Gal busted my chops the rest of the night but I was flying. 

The next time I saw Brian Keene was at a zombie panel, and as it wrapped up Special Gal turned to me and said in no uncertain terms we weren’t leaving the room without a picture of me and Brian together. 

I nodded dumbly. She asked him to take it and he smiled and took us into the hallway.

Then he put his arm around me and said “we need to do the Devil Horns, right?” 

He had either done his homework and knew who I was (and that I was a fellow Metalhead) or it was an excellent guess. Either way, I was damn proud as the picture was taken. But, wait… there’s more…

“Are you going to the Gross Out Contest tonight?” Brian asked me.

I had no intention of going but I said yes. Of course I was going to go! 

We made small talk for a few minutes and the guy was just genuine. He gave me a few minutes of his time and even said to find him at the bar that night so we could have a drink. 

I learned three things from this encounter… 

1. I am still such a FanBoy when it comes to him but at least I strung a few sentences together

2. THIS is the way you treat fellow authors, no matter how big or small they are. Brian Keene’s WHC posts aren’t just about what he did and accomplished but about pointing out all the new writers he met during the con, and praising the new batch of authors who are inspired by him

3. Special Gal is the greatest woman I have ever met and I am damn lucky to have her in my corner to help me fumble through the non-writing parts of this career. Friends lucky enough to have met her in Portland can attest to this

Brian Keene 

My goal for years to come is not only to emulate him but also to remember this lesson. Oh, and now I want to hang out with him again and pick his brain for hours… and I’ll try not to make it too creepy…

Armand

Horror Authors And Religion


This post is a bit more ‘controversial’ than my normal ones, in that I talk about something I swore I’d never talk about… religion. I also will not talk about politics, and will never bring up the New York Yankees and World Series victories. 

A few years ago I was at a horror convention, hanging out after hours with 7 or 8 other horror authors. We might have had way too much to drink. OK, I know I had at least three beers so I was probably lit. Someone had just had a short story they’d written rejected by a magazine (this is a few years back, obviously) and the one thing that stuck with the writer was the note back from the would-be publisher: ‘Your religious overtone might scare away some readers, too controversial’. 

The funny part was the story was actually pro-religion. I forget the main gist of it, but I remember a clergyman saving people from a minion of Satan and sacrificing himself so everyone could live, but then God ends up saving him… something like that. Very Happy Ending. Now, if it had been rejected as being cliche or too cheesy happy in the end the author would have no problem with it. The fact his ‘religious overtone’ scared people away made him confused. I remember all of us being guarded when talking about his story, because we were all afraid to voice our opinion about what we individually believed in. This always stayed with me, because we were all drunk and talking stupid crap all night and goofing on each other, telling dirty jokes and being pretty vulgar. Once religion was added to the mix we all got quiet. 

I was born Roman Catholic but haven’t been to church unless I’ve had to (weddings/funerals) in years, probably since I was a teen. I’ve gone through life believing in God, not believing in God, wondering if there was a God, and anything else over my 43 years. I’ve had a lot of questions and had some poor priests and religious people in my life who’ve given me bad information or simply told me I was not being faithful by asking so many questions, which turned me off. 

I also think, as a horror writer, it is almost a given to think being Agnostic or an Atheist is the norm. I only know of a few horror authors who will talk about religion in a positive light. Most won’t talk about it at all (like myself before this post). Everyone has their own beliefs and I have no problem with it. I’m not really even sure what this post is about, to be honest. 

I also wonder: is it just horror authors who shy away from religious talk? Or is it deeper, with creative types in general who seem to think a certain way about religion? I’ve preached myself long and hard about keeping your ideals about religion and politics off of social media so you don’t alienate potential readers. It’s a no-win situation, but I felt I had to get this out for some reason. 

I believe there is a God in this moment. I guess it’s good enough for me. Things in my life have been great, and the people I’ve met in the last year or so have only made me a better person. For me, it seems when I believe God is up there and watching me, I feel better. Is it real? I guess we’ll all find out in the end.  I’d like to think God is real and he’ll meet me in Heaven and ask me to sign a copy of one of my books for him, although I’m sure he’ll want to have a stern talking about my zombies trying to rape people. 

Armand