THE SEARCH FOR MONSTERS IN FLORIDA: The UCF Book Festival

The UCF Book Festival sponsored by the University of Central Florida happened in Orlando over last weekend and turned out to be a great opportunity to talk monsters with some smart readers and writers.

I decided to drive down to Orlando, in part because I feel like I’ve seen the inside of enough airports the last few months (and I’m not the best flyer). It was a longer drive than I expected and, sadly, a little less reflective than I hoped it might be. Crazy traffic on I-95 all the way down. I did get to listen to music for hours and hours and hours and put together quite a concert…everything from the Shins to The Carter Family to Piedmont bluesman Brownie McGhee and lots and lots and lots of Tom Waits. I actually cannot get enough of the latter. Rain Dogs has to be on my top ten list of all time great albums and the new one, Bad as Me, also makes me awfully happy.

My panel was at 2:00 on Saturday with a signing to follow. I did a short presentation on the basic themes of the book, trying very hard to make the case for a historian writing a monster book. Great questions afterward that focused a lot on things like writing process, experimentation with other genres, etc. On the latter question, I simply said that I have a couple of novels no one is ever allowed to see and some poetry I only read to my dogs. Nobody seemed to want to know more about that, strangely.

But speaking of poetry, I shared the panel with the amazing Allan Wolf. Wolf has most recently authored The Watch that Ends the Night: Voices from the Titanic. A novel in verse, we get to hear the doomed voices from the past…including the ship and the iceberg who develop a kind of erotic dialectic as they begin their tragic dance. Great stuff.

Allan was also kind enough to bring along some of his monster drawings from childhood that I have been thinking about every day since I got back.

The signing that followed was great fun with crowds just swarming me. And by swarming me, I mean a handful of folks dropped by to chat and have me sign their copies of Monsters in America…or to tell me that they might get it someday.  I actually find both of these things to be amazingly kind. You have no idea how surprised and pleased I am whenever anybody, anywhere wants a copy of something I wrote.

Also, inexplicably, various stormtroopers, tie fighter pilots, Sandpeople and even Darth Vader himself wandered about the book displays. As I was signing someone’s book, a Sandperson came by and stood beside me and then left. I told the person kind enough to buy my book that “they would return…and in greater numbers.” She smiled politely and I know she had no idea what I was talking about. Do people not memorize every line from Star Wars anymore?

So, it turns out that Orlando is a comic book mecca. After the festival, I visited like four stores in two hours. I was on the hunt for some classic monster mags and here is part of what I came back with. Also found some old Weird mags.

I’m not travelling again til April 20th when I’ll be going down to give the plenary keynote at the University of Florida’s Grad Student Symposium on Myths and Monsters. More on that soon.

Stick with the blog. I’m hoping to update a bit more frequently now that I’m not on the road as much for a while. Expect some upcoming book reviews (including of Jay Smith’s Monsters of the Gevaundan), updates on new projects and some reflections on some of the horror films I’ve been ruining my mind with lately (hi mom!).

Stay scary!

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