A couple of weeks ago, I was working on a new short. But, for me, the first part of the process is to come up with the title as well as the quote/tagline that sets the story off; a process that has been known to take hours, rather than minutes. Anyhow. When I finally come up with the title, Phil Sloman says, 'Please tell me it's The Art of Hugging by CC Adams.' And (with love, I assure you) I told him 'fuck you.'
So, you can blame Phil Sloman for the title here.
With both StokerCon and FantasyCon shelved for this year in light of the current pandemic, I think it's fair to say more of my peers are feeling it. The good thing about these conventions - certainly from an author point of view - is that sense of camaraderie. And part of that camaraderie is to hug those people: your peers. The authors, editors, publishers, readers/reviewers, artists, et al. who make up our genre. Those who not only share a love for the genre, but share the similar methodology. Now I didn't realise that I'm apparently someone that people queue up for hugs from. This only came to light a little while ago, when - given that current conventions are being postponed/cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, someone mentioned they missed the hugs. Then came talk of best/preferred huggers - for which, my name came up. What was ironic is that at the time; in this case, the Nov/Dec Ghost Story festival from last year, it didn't register. Especially since I went at the last minute, and only for about an hour. A real fly-by, to catch up with both Dion Winton-Polak, as well as Lewis and Sue from Corona Books. As such, when I finally set foot on site and I see the usual suspects, I'm on some, 'okay, you get hugged first; you, I need to catch up with as soon as I'm done here, you get hugged next...' Apparently, I give good hug.
From the last day (1st Dec. 2019) of the UK Ghost Story Festival, in Derby. l-r: Dion Winton-Polak, Lisa Childs, me, J.R. Park, and Tracy Fahey. Note that, for this picture, I'm rocking Dion's hat.
Usually before a convention, I'll comment that bespoke hugs are available, 'from Quiet Reassurance to Full-On Dislocation.' Those, like Steve Shaw, have the strength, size, and audacity, to sweep me into a bear hug. Those like Laura Mauro and husband Mr. Mauro get the quiet reassurance. The likes of Eric Ian Steele, Georgina Bruce and Dave Watkins get the warm fraternal (although fellow comic fan Eric usually hits me with the look of exasperated amusement that says 'you're such a child'). Marie O'Regan and Paul Kane who hit me with the maternal/fraternal - not overbearing, but more like I'm the kid who blew through town after a year away. Which is partly true. The likes of Kit Power who get the Full-On Dislocation. My earliest memory of this good man was at my first signing (for copies of Turn To Ash, Vol. 1), he comes to the table, asks me who I am, what I'm about and if he can get me a drink. I had no idea who he was, but figured, 'uhhh, o-kay...' Thankfully, Kit is again one of the nicest guys in the business, and genuinely passionate about the well-being of his fellow human. As such, he's one I always try and make time for. And many more besides. So many of my peers worldwide I've had the pleasure of meeting and those not as yet (J Daniel Stone, Daniel Braum, Karen Runge, et al).
Note that my standard disclaimer before a convention is that I'll try to greet and hang with everyone, even if it's only for a minute. So, to make sure I don't miss you out at any point,
1. if you see me eating, say hey.
2. if you see me at the urinal, say hey.
3. if you see me eating at the urinal, give me a slap.
This is where I'll reference Phil Sloman again, because, in the relatively early days of me stepping to conventions, Phil was one of the first to make me feel welcome. The feeling of trepidation when someone takes time out to ask a (relative) rookie the who-are-you, what-do-you-do-and-how is always some kind of humbling. So you talk game for a while, and realise you have the common ground. And in the case of Phil Sloman, when you agree to connect on social media, you (well, okay, me) are damn-near waiting by on Facebook on some 'come on, connect, already'). The camaraderie here in part is not only because Phil is genuinely The Nice Guy Of Horror, but he, is regularly working on something. Plus, he's got that goofy ass-sense of humour. Don't believe me? I dare you to ask him about 'the best legs in horror.' So whenever he spreads his arms and says, 'bring it in', I'm there. Bear hug for him.
The camaraderie runs deepest with the likes of one Andrew Wilmot; author/editor based in Toronto. This bond goes back to when the first volume of weird fic journal Turn To Ash was published, since we both have stories in there. Seeing the cover art alone, blew me away. What's notable about this book is that, for all the magazines, anthologies and journals I've been published in, this was one of the rare few where I got around to reading it cover to cover. (Note that this is where I first discovered author J Daniel Stone, whose name is firmly engraved on my hug list). Having read all the stories in this journal, Andrew's story stood out. With a title like, 'The Recovered Journal of Marius Vladimirescu, Last of the Clown Hunters', I had to reach out to the man, since it was my favourite story in there by a country mile. Finally got to meet him a couple of years down the line, since I'm usually in Toronto each summer. The common ground here is that while we don't always share the same aesthetic taste, we have a similar work ethic, the 'publish or perish', along with a mutual appreciation for each others' work. So always a bear hug for this good man. And yes, there needs to be roti at some point.
Thinking back on this mountain of text I'd written, I'd be be remiss if I didn't mention that on social media of late, some women have come forward to mention inappropriate conduct from men. Inappropriate words. Unwelcome hands. Drunken phone calls on how horny they are. Sexual harassment. Regardless of their gender, treat them as people - hell, treat people as people - this goes for any kind of harassment. Not everyone will be so comfortable with even friendly displays or encroachment into their personal space; so, be mindful of boundaries and respect them. Not everyone is so outgoing or sociable, especially from the first encounter. But here's the thing:
Taking time to get to know people and taking an interest in them is partly what the art of hugging is about. A genuine sense of connection which, if it's done right, make that connection - that hug - not only genuine but welcome. Which is part of what makes conventions good fun.
That's the art to it.