The biannual NecronomiCon Providence, inspired in part by horror writer and native son H.P. Lovecraft, once again brought together authors and artists from around the world to celebrate the “weird” genre – an offshoot of supernatural horror fiction. The four-day festival explores the past and future of the genre via talks, panel discussions, readings, and workshops.
Two bright stars in the movement are Christa Carmen and L.E. Daniels, editors of We Are Providence: Tales of Horror from the Ocean State. The book, from Weird House Press, debuted at this year’s NecronomiCon, and contains 20 stories as well as an essay titled “The Roots of Horror in Rhode Island” by Faye Ringel.
Why is the Ocean State such an appealing setting for horror stories? “Rhode Island – with its capricious weather and isolating landscape – is a place from which an impressive line of writers have drawn inspiration,” says Carmen. “That landscape becomes even more isolating, the weather more capricious, during the long, dark months of winter.”
She credits New England women writers – like Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Mary Eleanor Wilkins Freeman, and Sarah Orne Jewett – for blazing the trail as they told stories that expressed frustrations with their roles in society. Horror and the supernatural allowed them to share their situations figuratively, and at times literally. Female authors, Carmen explains, “responded to the unending affronts of marriage and the burdensome strain of motherhood, and their writing was a sly and skilled act of defiance against the patriarchal homes and societies they found themselves residing in.”
The weird and the strange haunt Providence and its surroundings all year long thanks to a vibrant creative community with a long and creepy history, supported by organizations like the nonprofit Lovecraft Arts & Sciences Council. With a storefront located in the historic Arcade building in Providence, the headquarters is much more than a brick-and-mortar shop.
The council “creates a welcoming community for our local weirdos,” affectionately relays executive director Niels-Viggo Hobbs. “People come together over their love of sci-fi and horror, but they become part of something much larger.”
Although the council is named after the creator of the Cthulhu Mythos who lived and died in Providence, H.P. Lovecraft is only one small part of it. In recent years, concerns have been raised about racism in the author’s works – issues which provide the council even more reason to expand reach. “Diversity and equity are really important to us. We want everyone to feel welcome and included in this weird world,” says Hobbs.
The council’s online events have featured authors from around the world, including India and Pakistan, next to local artists. They hope to return to in-person readings and celebrations soon, especially with the success of NecronomiCon. After taking a break to recuperate from the festival, volunteers and council members are back to work promoting all things weird and wonderful.
“For many, Lovecraft is a starting point. But we introduce them to a whole other weird world of art, fiction, and gaming,” explains Hobbs. “Others are barely aware of the author but they come because they love the weird and the strange. And we are all in love with Providence.”
Learn more about the Lovecraft Arts & Sciences Council at WeirdProvidence.org or about the book, We Are Providence, at WeirdHousePress.com/we-are-providence
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