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StokerCon 2024 Experience - Chelsea from Raven's End Books

Author: Chelsea McKee, Raven’s End Books: The Horror Bookshop

There’s a bizarro feeling that comes with looking at various lanyards and seeing the living, breathing versions of your bookshelves. From Paul Tremblay to John Langan to Tananarive Due, the attendance list is phenomenal but more than that, it’s surreal. It’s difficult to keep it together, assemble some cool façade, and talk like a normal person with these people who have entertained and terrified through the years. But, it’s Stokercon 2024 – we’re here to party.

Photo courtesy of Lauren Komer

Stokercon was an experience like no other. Walking into the Mariott on the eve of the event, the lobby was sparsely populated with some people sitting in the lounge and a few more in the restaurant. There was a relative calm in the air. But yet, fizzy anticipation permeated everything as people assessed one another trying to determine if they were a horror fan or random collateral damage at the con.

The next day, when registration begins, the lobby is packed with people. Everyone is communing and reuniting with friends, relaying how their trips into San Diego went. Paul Tremblay and Stephen Graham Jones discuss sports scores over breakfast, Keith Rosson meets friends at the bar for celebratory beers, and Brian McCauley, Gemma Amor, and Clay McLeod Chapman reconnect poolside.

Photo courtesy of Brian McCauley
Photo courtesy of Brian McCauley

At one point, a roar erupts through the lobby as people excitedly point at the tv. High fives smack between strangers and others are dragged to see what the fuss is about. Trump has been found guilty on all charges. This is a turning point in the convention for those whom it’s their first time. A common ground is established to make new connections. It’s on. The convention truly begins.

The days are filled with a variety of panels from Cats in Horror to Diversity in Horror Anthologies. There’s Horror University for those looking to specialize in a topic and the Ann Radcliffe series to showcase individuals’ prowess of academic study. Each of the rooms seem filled to the brim with attendees - some slinking away early to catch another panel or skulking in late and finding a comfortable spot on the floor.

Photo courtesy of Chloe Spencer
Image courtesy of Chloe Spencer

Around various corners, you can find people furiously typing on their laptops or enjoying the scenic activity of people watching. People hang out in the open lounge discussing the weather and their con experience thus far, while others continue to walk around greeting sometimes random strangers in their excitement of being there. At one point, a craft circle breaks out and people stitch and bitch. By the end of the second day, there is a warm camaraderie percolating amongst everyone. The hotel lobby is never empty despite events running from early morning to late at night – night owls and early birds each seem to find their people here.

Image courtesy of Lauren Komer

Throughout the weekend, the dealers’ room is bustling with activity. There are vendors and self-published authors galore. There are things here that can’t easily be found elsewhere. As people enter the room, they make promises to themselves that they only have limited space in their luggage and can’t justify any more books. As they leave, they begin googling nearby stores to invest in larger suitcases.

The weekend culminates in the Stokercon Prom taking place right before the awards banquet. There is a fun divide between those who knew this was a prom and those who were left in the dark. In the lovely, astro-turfed outside lounge, there is a hot pink beehive atop an Edwardian-dressed woman while, just behind her, a man wearing is casual shorts and a t-shirt he’s been wearing all weekend. Yet, there is a complete absence of awkwardness.

Image courtesy of Brian McCauley

In the corner, Chuck Tingle stands in his bedazzled pink suit and matching head cover proudly stating ‘Love is Real.’ People are eager to greet him and have their photo taken with him. With kind and humble aplomb, he greets everyone warmly never making anyone feel rushed. Tingle’s attitude acts as the perfect metaphor for the entire weekend. Despite the different involvements in the publishing world and the varying levels of fame, everyone here loves horror. Gatekeeping and hierarchies don’t exist for these few days. As the night continues, people will celebrate one another and the best horror novels from the past year, new milestones will be reached personally and professionally, people will laugh and clap, and everyone will walk away remembering the fantastic weekend that was Stokercon 2024 in San Diego.

Huge thanks to Chelsea, Lauren, Chloe, and Brian for contributing to this article! We appreciate you! 💜


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