My Time at CthulhuCon – A Graduation



Facebook is peppered with the post-convention reports from CthulhuCon in Portland and I figured I might as well add my own thoughts to the mix for thems as may find it interesting. Folks might also remember our Con episode here.  I’m still fairly new to conventions and so whenever I attend, I feel a bit like an interloper and I’m never quite sure what’s expected of me so I have a tendency to meander and hover until I’m expected on stage or behind a panel table. Luckily for this con, the world of Facebook meant that I at least had tentative connections with a handful of attendees and guests so I was able to find them I meander and hover without feeling completely like it was the first day at school all weekend long.

Before I even got to the hotel, however, I managed to have a delightful interaction with Leslie Klinger whose flight arrived close to mine so we shared a courtesy shuttle ride from the airport and I got to hear his and the driver’s thoughts on hockey before he regaled me with his legal battles with the Arthur Conan Doyle estate over the use of Sherlock Holmes. That conversation was an electric shock that got me very excited for the rest of the convention. Here was the man whose annotated HP Lovecraft collection I have sitting on my shelf and whose annotated Sandman volumes I’ve drooled over and he was chatting amiably and pleasantly with me, a fellow traveler.

My schedule was fairly light although more robust than my other conventions. I had a general meet and greet Friday evening, a specific meet and greet/Q&A session Saturday morning followed by a panel that afternoon and Ask Lovecraft Live that evening with one final Ask Lovecraft Live Sunday at noon before skipping on back to Toronto. Lots of gaps to try and fill which given my above meandering meant I popped my head into various panels and hovered over a few games being played or live art competitions. Still very much feeling a bit like an outsider but finding warm welcome throughout.

My Coffee with Kessler morning Q&A session had a handful of very keen folks who were curious and eager to talk with me about the process of the show in a tucked away, intimate board room at the hotel and I’d love to see more of these breakaway sessions in the future. Doing mine so early meant that I got to get a bit of a glimpse into the kinds of folks who were going to come out and see me. My appearance on the panel, “External Monsters, Internal Demons” was a huge surprise as I wound up talking a lot about Lovecraft’s inner mind from my vantage point of having read many of his letters in my preparation to play him. The highlight of that was getting a huge laugh from the crowd making a mildly suggestive joke about his honeymoon. The live performances themselves were very well attended and I got my normal rush from having to respond to folks’ questions in milliseconds rather than in the hours of thinking over and playing around with the questions I get emailed in. Taken together, these scheduled sessions – my reason for being at the con – were absolutely delightful and by themselves would have made the entire experience worthwhile.

But now I want to go back to the Friday night meet and greet which  turned out to be an eclectic mix of guests and attendees who had paid a little something extra to get to meet and greet said guests. Moments before, I had just met Ken Hite with whom I’ve been familiar for a number of years thanks to my interest in gaming and his podcast Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff and another game designer Scott Glancy whom I met at NecronomiCon back in 2013. I also got a chance to reconnect with Wilum Pugmire who gave me one of the first glowing recommendations for Ask Lovecraft right when I was starting out. After the to-do, Robin D. Laws from Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff arrived. He came out to see my Fringe Ask Lovecraft show so we were minimally acquainted. Over the course of the rest of the convention, I spent a good deal of time with many of these fellows.

Now the reason for all this be-wikipedia’d dramatis personae is to highlight that a big theme of this convention for me was coming to terms with seeing myself not just as a star-struck fan among some of the personalities I have been fond of and following for some time or as some amateur who got lucky but rather as a respected colleague, the word Ken used when I told him how much I appreciated him letting me tag along with him and the others after he invited me to join them for dinner. Ever since I started Ask Lovecraft, I feel like I’ve been downplaying it and making apologies for it even as I’ve tried to sell it and get people excited about it. “I’m just some Canadian actor dancing in front of a bed sheet” was one of my standard half-smiling descriptions as I felt the standard, gut-wrenching need to appear not too braggy or cocksure. Indeed, this very post made me furrow my brows as I tried to figure out how to make it not sound like some pat on the back. However, this whole experience is convincing me that I don’t need to do that. I don’t need to sell myself or my show short and that’s a weird lesson that I didn’t know I needed learning.

The con ended in something of a farce as I had to race to get to the airport – convinced I was going to miss my flight – which involved taking a cab to an attendee’s house and being driven to the airport by this complete stranger as we discussed politics and religion. When I got to the airport and through security in plenty of time, I noticed a fellow with a convention badge and I went over to say hello, discovering he was a puppeteer and filmmaker who along with his film had been featured at the convention. Neither of us had been able to see the other’s work but we had heard good things about each other and shook hands as colleagues before heading to our respective gates.

Rachel referred to this weekend as a kind of graduation and I think that’s a useful image. A graduation isn’t a moment where you suddenly become something new or where you accomplish everything in one moment but instead it marks an occasion and gives you a chance to look back and see what you’ve accomplished that brought you there and that really is what this convention did for me. I had my face on a poster, had folks come up and ask for autographs and pictures (without confusing me for Agent Coulson this time) and it’s okay for me to be proud of that. For sure, I had a lot of help and support getting here from Rachel, my friends, my fans, the con organizers, and the kind folks who trust me and like what I do enough to financially support it and I am absolutely grateful for all of them and I hope to make them proud. But I, myself am also incredibly proud of Ask Lovecraft and I’m excited to see where it goes from here. It’s nice to realize that I’m allowed to feel that pride even if it’s not very Canadian of me.

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7 Responses to My Time at CthulhuCon – A Graduation

  1. Wait, you’re not Agent Coulson?

  2. Rachel Kolar says:

    That is spectacularly awesome and I am proud to know someone so awesome.

    Do you want to try to come to Balticon next year? It’s Memorial Day weekend every year, and you’d get free lodging at Casa de Kolar (we’re about 40 minutes away from the con). I think you need to send in your request by September or October in order to be on a panel.

  3. Allison M. says:

    Wow, that does sound great! I see that you rubbed shoulders with the guy at the helm of Delta Green, a game which, if I RPG’ed, I’d definitely want to play.

  4. Ruina says:

    …And now I want to hear that joke about honeymoon.
    I think Lovecraft Puritan image automatically amplifies effect of any joke of such kind. From your videos and texts I’ve got the impression you have a lot of interesting things to say about Lovecraft, so I doubt it was the only highlight of your speech. 🙂

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