I don’t know about you, but those of us who at one time marked our schedules by which convention we were attending that month are really feeling the impact of these transformitive times.

Conventions are where we connect with our friends, our fans, and our family by choice. For those of us that find fandom our natural habitat, their absence is felt even more deeply in this time of isolation. Online events help fill that gap, but it isn’t quite the same.

Pros & Cons hopes to share stories of cons gone by from the authors and industry professionals around which those events shape themselves. We hope you will join us.

Real Characters by Danielle Ackley-McPhail

I’ve been to a lot of conventions over the last seventeen years. I wish I’d discovered them sooner in life, given they are the only place I truly feel at home. They’re like summer camp without the dirt and bugs…well, mostly. 

Over the years I have encountered a lot of characters, but two of them stand out bigger and bolder than all of the rest. Here I share with you my two favorite encounters with Harlan Ellison and CJ Henderson. 

I once got into a shouting match with Harlan Ellison that ended in a hug. It was at the 2005 World Horror Convention. The hotel had only one bank of elevators that went down to the basement level, which is where the mass signing was being held. EVERYone was waiting for the elevator, even though it was just one flight down…and a single flight at that. I started making my way through the crowd saying “excuse me”, and Harlan says at the top of his voice “We’re all going the same place,” so I, being the brash smart-ass that I can sometimes be, answered at the top of my voice, “Fine! I’ll race you down the stairs!” He just kind of looked at me, and then said… “Where are you from?” For some bizarre reason that I don’t even know given I lived in Queens and grew up in New Jersey, I said loudly, “Brooklyn, now give me a hug!” We hugged, then I just turned around and went down the stairs, leaving everyone else behind. I picked a choice spot while they were still waiting for the elevator. It was the highlight—sadly—of that convention.

The other amusing experience was one Lunacon where CJ Henderson had a free table by himself in the hallway and our table was in the back of the dealer’s room. Mike (my husband and partner-in-publishing-crime) went out to keep him company. CJ had a number of standard phrases that made up his spiel. One of them was “I’ll dance like a monkey for a nickel.” It was pretty safe…after all, who carries change anymore? But what CJ didn’t realize this particular weekend was that Mike heard him and quietly went out to our car and grabbed all of the coins from our toll money. When CJ wasn’t looking, Mike deposited all of the nickels on the end of CJ’s table where he couldn’t see them. For about an hour, every time someone stopped at CJ’s table he actually had to get up and dance and he was dumbfounded…until he started paying attention. When he noticed where the nickels were coming from he waited for the customer to leave, then stood up, stalked around the table, and swept the remaining nickels into his pocket.

He did not use that phrase again that weekend…Mike and I still laugh about that to this day.

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