Monthly Archives: May 2012

More news about World Horror 2013

To follow up on yesterday’s comment on possibly getting a table for the 2013 World Horror Convention in New Orleans, I’d like to add one note. Because of both the cost and the logistics required for a successful show, the sooner event organizers respond to a query, the sooner we can make plans as to whether or not to pay for vendor space. The only thing that’s more worrisome than not hearing from a venue at all is hearing from a venue only after the official registration deadline. (In this case, this almost always means that the show organizers don’t have anywhere near enough vendors to fill their space, and they’ll take anyone whose money is green. If the show has a lack of vendors, it usually means that it’ll have a lack of attendees, too.)

Now, there are times when hearing from a venue late is better than hearing from them early. With Texas Frightmare Weekend, for instance, I received a response to my first vendor query about a month after the show. Considering that I only contacted the crew about a month before the show, well, that taught me to be a bit more prompt. For the most part, waiting anywhere between two weeks to two months is standard, as the convention organizers have enough other things on their plate. This is why I was thrilled to get this response from the dealer’s room chairman at World Horror:

We are still in the layout stages for the dealer’s room, but as soon as we get something nailed down (which will be very soon) I will send you an email detailing all you need to know! Thanks in advance for your interest!

The surprise? I received this message within six hours of sending it. Oh, hells yes will we be out there in June 2013.

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Things To Do In Galveston When You’re Dead

The Czarina and her best friend are absolute suckers for visiting Galveston in the off-season, but I’ve had to beg off their previous trips because of Day Job and plant schedules. (We love each other dearly, but sometimes our taking vacations by ourselves is the only way the other can get anything done without interruptions, such as starting an idle conversation that ends sometime around 3 in the morning.) However, hearing about the new Amorphophallus titanum bloom at the Moody Gardens Rainforest Pyramid in Galveston means that I may have to tag along on the next trip. Besides, how could I resist visiting a plant nicknamed “Morticia?

World Horror Convention 2013: a new Triffid Ranch show?

Until very recently, I’ve been reserved about doing out-of-town Triffid Ranch shows for many reasons. Not that I haven’t had convention and event promoters asking. At least three times a year, I’m asked, very nicely, by the folks at a big steampunk convention in Oklahoma about attending, and I decline, very nicely, and explain why. Namely, it comes down to pure economics. Doing a show in Texas outside of the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex is expensive enough with gasoline, vehicle rental, hotel accomodations, and food allocations. Combine that with the necessary legal permits required to transport plants across state lines, and I do NOT want to make Wikipedia for being the guy who introduced some horrible invasive species or deadly floral disease to a new area, and the finances get a bit thin. When I explain to the steampunk convention crew how many plants I’d need to sell just to break even, they blanch and apologize for up my time.

(As a sidenote, I’ve been planning to compose a little essay on why vendors to shows and conventions choose the shows they do and why. In the interim, let’s just say that repeated nagging to attend a gaming convention with an admitted attendance of 200 to 400 people, screaming “You never got back with me!” at another convention, and literally whining about how it was in my best interest to cancel an existing commitment and reschedule isn’t the way to do it. And yes, that really happened last year.)

Recent news makes me reconsider this assessment. For the last fifteen or so years, I’ve received regular postcards from the folks at the World Horror Convention, a big traveling show hosted by a different city each year, asking about becoming an attendee. I had considered being a vendor at the 2011 WHC in Austin, until I saw it was scheduled opposite Texas Frightmare Weekend, and the logistics came into play. (The fact that I’d sooner live in Houston than so much as soil a gas station restroom in Austin had something to do with it, too.) This year’s WHC is in Salt Lake City, which is just a little too far to travel in the summer with a truckload of plants. In 2013, though, World Horror comes to New Orleans.

I reiterate: New Orleans.

My first encounter with New Orleans was fourteen years ago this coming November, when I was invited by the god-in-human-form Robert Fontenot to be a guest at a new genre and pop convention in New Orleans called ExotiCon. I’m still good friends with many of the people I met there in 1998, and I came back for the next two shows run by Robert. So did the Czarina, with her now ex-husband, and she’s still famous for running the world’s most quiet convention party at the 2000 show. I still tell him, to this day, that were he insane enough to try this again, we’d both come down, without hesitation, and do our best to promote the show as much as we were able. In the intervening years, we’ve looked at other excuses to head down that way, and just haven’t quite had the opportunity.

Well, now that may change. I’ve already contacted the WHC 2013 crew for further information, but the thought process ran roughly similar to this:

Negative: One solid day of driving between Dallas and New Orleans, and flying down there with plants isn’t an option.

Positive: New Orleans.

Negative: Considering the cost of renting a cargo van, including mileage, it may actually be cheaper to buy one.

Positive: New Orleans.

Negative: A big portion of the trip entails going over the Atchafalaya Basin Bridge, which is one of the most knuckle-whitening, anus-puckering trips I’ve ever made…in a truck full of carnivorous plants.

Positive: New Orleans. Oh, and did I mention the food?

Negative: Phytosan permits, hotel reservations, trying to go anywhere outside of the hotel, old writing acquaintances terrified of leaving the hotel for fear they might miss out on an editor they haven’t already harangued, going back home, and all of the usual logistics of doing a big show combined with the logistics of doing one outside of Texas.

Postive: NEW ORLEANS.

I haven’t brought this up with the Czarina, but that’s on the plate for this evening. I pretty much know what the answer will be, though, without asking. If I don’t check, I know what that answer will be, and if I’m going to be rolled up in a fetal ball while she beats me with a rolled-up magazine and screams “WHAT the hell is WRONG with you?”, I’d prefer for it to be something worthy of the offense.

Ain’t no cure for the summertime blues

Always be careful of what you wish for. Always. This spring, my only concern was that we weren’t going to have a repeat of the hellish summer of 2011. Welp, that’s not a concern any more. The last two days have dumped lots and lots of rain on my little corner of North Texas, and we’re going to get more before June 1. Even now, with a nice hefty dollop of Angelspit and Ministry in the headphones, the roar of the thunderclaps intrudes, over and over.

Because of how we’re situated between southern winds coming up from the Gulf of Mexico, northern winds skirting the Rockies on their way from Canada, and the prevailing jet stream currents, this little allotment in Hell’s Half-Acre already has a propensity for terrible storms brewing up from nowhere. Watching weather radar scans, as tremendous thunderstorms emerge and disappear while you watch, has already been entertainment for three generations of Dallasites, and last night’s storms were making someone at the National Weather Service absolutely orgasmic. I have a small weather alert radio intended to warn of thunderstorms and hailstorms, and that blasted thing kept going off all night. After about the fourth alert, screaming of half-dollar-sized hail in far southern Oklahoma, and the storm that produced it heading right for the Dallas half of the Metroplex, I just started grumbling about sending a tornado out this way to give us something to panic about. I don’t even need to go to Oz: Nehwon and Melnibone are nice this time of the year, from what I understand.

And so it continues. If there’s any one good side to all of this, it’s that I’m probably the only farmer in the vicinity who’s glad of the immediate effects, much less the long-term precipitation. The rainwater tanks are full up, the sundews are nearly unrecognizable from the number of trapped mosquitoes coating them, and the Sarracenia pitcher plants think they’re back home. I may grumble about being awakened by the racket of another brutal thunderstorm, but if we get a summer more evocative of New Orleans or Tallahassee than Phoenix, I’m certainly not going to complain.

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Vulture in Garland

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And this is why I stay in Texas. Garland: come for the Zombieland jokes, and stay for the vultures on the neighbor’s front porch. It doesn’t get more bluecollar goth than this.

Have a Great Weekend

Last Wednesday was the tenth anniversary of two major changes, the second of which was the ending of my career as a writer. Because of this, you get a double feature. Mash these two, and the resultant mess is the official anthem for that lost period between 1997 and 2002.

A pressing need to buy some land

One of the many reasons why the Czarina and I are coming up on ten years of successful marriage is because we always bounce our insane business ideas off the other before we do anything. (Well, that’s one reason. Another one is that a steady diet of science fiction television shows as a kid meant that I have a decided attraction to women much smarter than I am. Friends went crazy over girls in Slave Leia outfits, while I had much more interest in the Maya/Delenn/Saavik/Martha Jones girls in school. The Czarina, in turn, has one particular type: Rik Mayall.) The idea is that we hone project proposals and show concepts until they’re stable and reasonable, and then let the other burn big holes in those proposals and concepts with acetylene torches and thermite. If they don’t collapse, implode, or catch fire after the interrogation, then they’ll probably work in real life. After a decade of the Czarina giggling with glee as some of my business proposals crawl on the floor, begging for a quick death, preparing for an oral defense of my Ph.D thesis is going to be a doddle.

Don’t think that we necessarily enjoy this. It’s bad enough that we’ve watched a lot of retail concepts, ones that would have worked at any time other than the worst recession in the last 80 years, died because the concept planned for profitability in three years instead of six. We both have equipment purchased from once-successful and once-popular companies at their liquidation sales. Most of all, I was in incredible lust for a defunct garden center in Plano a few years back: the garden center had been in business for 30 years before the founders sold it to their son, he decided to neglect the longtime customers in favor of getting into high-end landscaping, and defaulted on his business loans when the real estate bust hit and his big clients decided not to pay their bills. It’s not just because we wanted to avoid really bad business ideas, such as starting a street-corner circus troupe or opening a bookstore with no money down.

As far as that garden center was concerned, I didn’t go for it for multiple reasons. The least of which was having three-quarters of a million dollars on hand, which is what the property was valued at the beginning of 2009. (The garden center itself was recently bulldozed to clear the land, because any other potential buyers felt the way I did.) The other big reason is that while the Triffid Ranch is nowhere near ready for a full-time retail presence, getting a more serious growing environment is becoming pressing. This requires buying land, and the rest of the garden center can wait.

Right now, two things conspire against me on finding a suitable tract of property, properly zoned for agricultural activities and not harboring hidden munitions dumps or chemical waste caches. (Don’t laugh. Around here, it happens.) The first is that North Texas is flat, meaning that only the occasional creekbed and the even more occasional lake or reservoir prevents farmland from being used for other things, such as strip malls or apartment complexes. In fact, those minor impediments have never stopped local developers unless city ordinances, state laws, and smacks in the head stop them. I once watched as a large apartment complex was condemned because the developer built right to the edge of a creekbed, and a sudden gullywasher wiped out the foundations on five buildings and the tennis court. This means that odd little spaces perfect for carnivorous plant propagation just aren’t available.

The other big part of the conspiracy lies with the owners. The Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex owes most of its growth, most of its problems, and most of its desirability on being able to expand outward, and only $4 gasoline has made the idea of living a two-hour drive from one’s place of employment unacceptable. During the real estate boom, developers bought every last bit of farmland they could get, with intentions to flip it to anyone actually planning to use it. Some of these developers are hanging on in the hopes that 2006 land prices will return, because Some Guy told them that it would happen any day now. Others were foreclosed upon, and then their banks went under and their assets acquired by other banks that themselves blew up. The same thing happened during the oil bust of the late Eighties and the bank bust of the early Nineties, when the game was “This is Thursday, so our owner is Hibernia Bank”. If the property has a sign on it, you have a 50/50 chance of the contact name and phone number being four years obsolete, with the realtor returned to a more suitable career in child pornography or regional magazine journalism, and a lot of good lots had the big wooden signs chainsawed down three years ago. They might come back onto the market before 2020, and the Dallas Cowboys might win a shutout World Series pennant this year, too.

This is why I feel particular jealous rage toward the Idiot Gardener, who apparently found his perfect locale. I’m certain that the Czarina can sympathize with his wife: we regularly drive past a failed experiment with Home Depot for a landscape supply outlet, already set up as a full greenhouse, and she has to listen to me whimper about how all I need to do is sell body parts to take over the space. Telling her “I didn’t say they had to be my body parts” doesn’t help, either.

And so the search continues. Licensing and financing issues are entertaining enough, but then we get into the discussions of renting said land versus buying it. Now that’s one route I won’t take unless I can’t help it, as a particular favorite nursery of mine shut down in 2000 when the property owner decided to sell the space and gave the nursery 30 days’ notice. (I’ll note that the property is still up for sale and still empty, as the price quoted by Some Guy as its value isn’t close to a reasonable price.) One thing is absolutely certain, though. If anyone had told me a decade ago that I’d be researching farmland prices and checking for spring flooding, I’d have called that person a loony. Today, I’d hand that person a spare smartphone and said “Call this realtor and see if anyone’s made an offer on that corner lot.”