Recently, I attended Dog Con IV in Philadelphia. This event, celebrating releases from Raw Dog Screaming Press and its imprints, included a group tour of the Eastern State Penitentiary, readings from thirteen RDSP and Dog Star Books authors, and the transfer of the Readers’ Choice Award from last year’s winner Matt Betts to this year’s, Stephanie Wytovich. More fun-filled adventures took place on Sunday, but sadly I had to depart early that morning and missed more readings and signings. Pictures from the event are trickling out slowly over at my Instagram account, @kwtk, and Twitter, @kwtaylorwriter.
In addition to fangirling all over the authors I already knew and adored, I got to meet lots of new folks and heard some amazing bizarre fiction that made my brain hurt (in a good way). As always, Dog Star SF/F authors K. Ceres Wright (Cog), J.L. Gribble (Steel Victory and the just-announced sequel Steel Magic), Albert Wendland (The Man Who Loved Alien Landscapes), and Matt Betts (Odd Men Out and Indelible Ink) brought their A game. I was delighted to also get to hear readings by new-to-me DS author Drew Conry-Murray (co-author of Wasteland Blues, with Scott Christian Carr) and was massively impressed by poet impresario B.E. Burkhead (The Underside of the Rainbow). Stephanie Wytovich is doing the amazing feat of turning one of her poetry collections (Hysteria) into a novel, and her reading featured both poetry and prose versions of the same scene; the effect of this was pretty fabulous and even gives me ideas for my creative writing pedagogy. Leland Pitts-Gonzalez (The Blood Poetry), D. Harlan Wilson (premiering his newest release, Battle without Honor or Humanity Volume 1), and Michael Arnzen (The Gorelets Omnibus among others) left the audience questioning the nature of reality, and horror authors Andy Deane (All the Darkness in the World) and Donna Lynch (Driving through the Desert among others) showed us the far pendulum swings of their subgenres from the darkly funny to the deeply affecting.
Prior to Saturday night’s readings was the aforementioned prison tour. Eastern State Penitentiary is a fascinating historical site, tragedy-filled not only for what went on there during its years of operation but for what it attempted to do yet couldn’t—rehabilitate inmates through solitary confinement. Our tour guide was a wellspring of both history and sociology about the prison system at the turn of the twentieth century as well as incarceration trends up to the present day. So while it was very cool on one hand to see decaying post-Victorian quasi-ruins and apply our observations to horror work or period pieces as fiction writers, it was also fascinating to think about the implications and relevancy to issues we still face in the US today regarding crime, race, and gender, and the oftentimes too dichotomous purposes of imprisonment (rehabilitation versus punishment). I’ve already discussed this tour with my women’s studies students, in fact, during a class session on women giving birth in prison.
Between the prison and the evening’s main event, attendees scattered to different museum sites around the city. K. Ceres Wright and I chose to stroll through the Rodin Museum, which proved a nice reprieve from considering heavy social issues. We spent a leisurely afternoon appreciating Auguste Rodin’s skills with the sculpture medium, primarily of faces and figures. This is the largest collection of Rodin pieces outside of Paris, and includes both originals and castings. Several versions of the iconic Thinker adorn the grounds, as does a copy of The Kiss. I was particularly taken with a portrait bust of playwright George Bernard Shaw, author of Pygmalian.
This whole weekend was well-attended, and it was amazing to connect with so many folks I’d never met, see old friends, and talk more deeply with people who have only heretofore been acquaintances. So much thanks to Jennifer Barnes and John Edward Lawson for making such a great weekend possible. I couldn’t be more excited that my first science fiction novel, The Curiosity Killers, will join such great company when it’s released by Dog Star next spring.
And fish store comrades: let’s get to work on those 55 fiction pieces recounting our harrowing brush with death.