In the hope a few poorly chosen words, slightly late, are still better than none ever: Among the highlights of WFC weekend were having my Clarion mates all crammed into my mom’s house, on floor and sofa, in room and hall. Waking every morning to jaw around the breakfast table on three hours’ sleep. We also did some serious hanging out with the awesome Clarion ’08, as well as assorted Westies and past grads, largely thanks to an afternoon Clarion alum party that Leslie Howle threw Friday afternoon. While we went around the crowded room with AA-style introductions, I was mesmerized by the view of dry and distant hills from the 14th floor: a reminder that there was a world outside, beyond the heavy curtains, carpeted corridors, deadly dull brocaded walls of conference suites. A world beyond a swarm of faces—and for a moment the prospect of another handshake felt crippling. Sunshine! Fresh air! Through the tinted window it seemed almost a back projection, or a collective hallucination, as loud an announcement as a long shot of landscape in a sweeping old epic, the green world (though it was mostly brown) they run to at the end of some cut of Blade Runner.
Peter Straub, S.T. Joshi, Tim Powers, Brian Evenson, and Gary K. Wolfe held a panel on the Library of America’s handsome American Supernatural Tales, edited by Straub, who made this astute observation: “Making the case for a canon isn’t the same as choosing canonical stories,” Hearing his tales of editorial “horse trading” and Joshi’s lively interjections was a hoot. Together, those five mugs were like a heist gang put together by Straub’s bow-tied mastermind from some B&W noir like Rififi or The Asphalt Jungle. Evenson would’ve been the muscle, Wolfe the bookie, and Powers the safecracker.
For some reason, the soundtrack in my head that weekend was The Velvet Underground’s Peel Slowly and See… I mean, the whole album, on repeat. Right after I’d had my second Red Bull of the morning I’d be thinking, “I’m Waiting for My Man.” In the post-dinner slump, it’d be, predictably, the languid “Heroin.” Saturday morning, it was “Sunday Morning,” because I was that tired already, and in the presence of some people it was definitely “Femme Fatale.” And after all my Clarion buddies had left the house, and I was alone, I turned “once more to Sunday’s clown / And cried behind the door.” Where shall I go, and what shall I do indeed. The long-awaited sunshine seemed a bit paler than before.