Wednesday Addams, the Headless Horseman, and Velma from Scooby Doo walked into a horror convention.
They walked with me from the parking garage to Spooky Empire, along with gender-swapped Beetlejuice and more than one Pennywise. Sam from Trick r Treat greeted me when I walked in. I love Sam, and Halloween was only a few days away, but I had a writing panel to catch.
Spooky Empire started in 2003, and it’s grown to be one of the largest horror conventions in the nation. The self-proclaimed ‘dark side of Comic Con’ is held in Orlando, Florida nowadays, and this year included Q & A’s with artists and filmmakers, appearances by horror movie and TV stars, a tattoo festival, a film festival, a costume and cosplay contest, live musical acts, and a huge exhibitor room of vendors and artists.
Above the floor filled with Oogie Boogies and an original Ecto-1, the Spooky Empire Creators Track was a horror creator’s dream. Horror has expanded in popularity through all forms of media, and this year’s track included panels of horror writers, artists, podcasts, filmmakers, prop makers, directors, actors, bloggers, and podcasters. The diversity of horror writer and storyteller panels was impressive. Participants included short story writers and novelists, screenwriters, and graphic novel and comic book writers.
Horror as a genre is sometimes sidelined in traditional writing conferences, though many writers incorporate horrific things in their stories. They put their characters into frightening situations that lead to romance or catching a thief. It’s still the same breathless running and racing heart. But the craft of horror writing isn’t usually a focus.
It was wondrous to be surrounded by other writers who focus on spooky elements and explore the depths of fear. The presenters were delightful. They spoke earnestly about using creepy settings and building tension through a scene. They shared paranormal phenomena they’d experienced, or wished they had, and giggled together about especially bloody deaths they’d written. These were the people who love the dark as much as we do.
Women horror writers were highlighted in the Women in Horror panel, but female writers and artists were on every panel and track.
The main Spooky Empire convention is held each October, and the cost of a full-weekend pass is lower than you’d expect. The spring Spooky Empire event is coming on April 6-8, 2018 in Orlando, Florida.