Creepy Con and Herd Mentality a guest post by Amie Gibbons
Hey y’all. This isn’t really a legal post, so I don’t think I need to do my usual disclaimer, but I’m throwing out some theories here, so don’t take those as legal advice 😊
I went to Creepy Con in Knoxville last weekend, and it turned into a complete shit show. Now, there are parts of this story I don’t want to tell, because I let myself be bullied and I’m humiliated, especially since I consider myself a strong person most of the time, but I think it’s important for people to know how easily it can happen, because then maybe you’ll be prepared and better able to fight back.
It sounded like a great Con to promote my Scorpions series at, because that’s a paranormal thriller/horror series, and Creepy Con’s a horror con. When I applied as a vendor and paid for it near the beginning of July, I asked about the mask thing because they said on their site from the con in 2020 that masks were required. The vendor director, Jennifer, said that was a rule from last year, they’d revise the site for this year, and not to worry about it. So I bought a table.
A few weeks ago, Jennifer emailed all the vendors, stating the city of Knoxville imposed mask requirements inside their city buildings, and that the venue was a city building. So, of course I emailed, asking if there were still medical exemptions, or if I needed to cancel. She said nope, they would allow medical exemptions and not to worry about it. To send anyone who hassled me about it to her since I had a medical exemption.
Day before the con, another hiccup (I know, at this point, I should’ve just called it and stayed with the decision not to go). Amazon was supposed to deliver my author copies of my new books by Friday, but they said they were barely leaving and wouldn’t be in until Sunday. I was upset and gave up, just said I wasn’t going, I’ll do it next year, because there’s not much point without the new paperbacks for the Scorpions series. (I’d had the covers redone for the series so it matched the supernatural thriller/horror genre more, and those weren’t in yet.)
Friday morning, Amazon updated to say the books would be delivered Saturday morning. Okay, not ideal, but workable. I checked with Jennifer again about the masks, was asked if I could try a face shield because Knoxville was really cracking down. I said if I tried and it didn’t work for me, would I be okay without using it, or should I not come? She said if I tried and it didn’t work, I’d be fine.
I left BF at home for the night so he could get the books on Saturday and come out for the afternoon, and I figured I’d just sell the old cover ones for 1 and 2, and the 3rd ones had already come in, so I could sell the new one too.
At the con, I didn’t wear a mask. People helped me set up. It was great. Con opened to public at 6 pm. First staff person, the shrieking harpy who was the Mask Nazi of our story (I wish I could remember her name because I want to track her down and scream at her to get back for her screaming at me, but I’ll just call her Karen) to bug me about a mask, I said, “Talk to Jennifer. She said she’d bring me a face shield I can try because I have asthma and can’t wear a mask.”
“Oh, you’re that one.”
Red flag. I was that one. When someone says that about you, you are already other in their heads. I was the 1 person who wasn’t falling into line and wasn’t worried about fitting in or following the crowd, so I had just signaled to Karen that I wasn’t one of them. I wasn’t part of the herd.
This is where all the theories of society, tribalism, and otherness come into play. We’ve all probably gotten a good idea of that over the past year and a half, if we didn’t just by watching politics since 2012. I’m guessing most of the people reading this blog are on a certain side, and are others in comparison to media. We’re used to being the other side, the thems, to most people in news, movies, TV, books, and so on. A lot of us indie authors are indie (well, because the contracts trad pub moved to are borderline abusive, but that’s for another post where I get into legal shit) but also because we’d never get through the gatekeepers without virtue signaling, if we’d even be considered, since we’re not the “nongendered, bisexual, mix of a bunch of ancestors with whatever color of skin is cool now” authors that they want now.
Yes, this is basically a rant, and tangents happen, it’s just how my brain works. Then I go chase it down and yank it back like the bunch of cats hopping around my office right now. (By the way, BF and I got 2 new kittens! We introduced them slowly so Merlin didn’t freak out, but now he’s just cranky because 2 mini mes are following him around, and getting attention from the humans. Pics below.) 😊
Back to the con. Jennifer brought me the face shield to try, stressing that the city made this rule, not them. I asked if I tried it and couldn’t do it, would it be okay if I didn’t wear one. She said yes, as long as I gave it a try. I pressed some more, asking if I’d be kicked out if I didn’t. She said no. So I tried the face shield. It squeezed my head, and I took it off.
I held the shield over my face whenever I was talking to a customer. Karen came back after I sat down, and scolded me like I was a child that I had to have the mask on when talking to customers. I said I had a medical exemption and had tried a mask and a face shield, and couldn’t, but was holding the face shield in front of my face when talking to people.
She got huffy, scolded me some more about how I was supposed to have it on all the time either way (funny since she’d just said I needed it when talking to customers) and went away when I held it up in front of my face like I was going to put it back around my head. I also had another staff guy come by and nicely remind me that I was supposed to have a mask on. I said medical exemption, and he left me alone.
Then Jennifer came up to me, saying I’d agreed to try the face shield, and we’d talked about this in emails. I said, we did, and she’d said I’d have to try, but it wouldn’t be a problem if I couldn’t use it after trying it. She gave me a look like she was furious and wanted to kick me out, or shove a mask down my throat, and said through clenched teeth that I had to have something up when talking to customers, that the city made these rules, not the Con. I said I was putting up the face shield to talk to people and she was like fine.
By this point, between the face shield starting a headache by putting pressure on my head (after only a few minutes, I’m not kidding) and people bugging me about the mask, my head really hurt and my anxiety was sky high. Turns out, even if you normally don’t give a shit about what others think and don’t even notice half the time that you’re being “the weird one,” you’ll feel the pressure to conform when people keep popping up out of nowhere to berate you about it. It got exhausting trying to defend myself against something I shouldn’t have had to in the first place, because I did my due diligence beforehand to make sure it wouldn’t be a problem.
This is where the wolves pushing the sheep are beating us. They turned the mask thing into a ‘You must do this or you kill people’ thing (don’t get me started on that bullshit), those in power who want to keep it shove that fear down people’s throats 24/7, and those people react to the fear. One reaction to fear is circling the wagons, which with this kind of manipulative fear turns into herd mentality. The sheep have to do something to protect from scary thing, but also have to make others do that, because if they don’t, the others not following will get the sheep into trouble/get them killed. Even if a rational person could look at the masks and figure out the masks aren’t doing anything to stop a virus, or that the scary virus isn’t more deadly than a flu.
I’ve had mild OCD all my life, so I get the response to the fear. It’s what I call magic thinking. You’re terrified of A, and have to control it so it doesn’t get you/the bad thing won’t happen. You are told (by others in this case, usually by your own brain when it’s OCD) that doing B will protect you from A, no questions asked. So you feel the compulsion to do B, because of the fear of A. Even when B would have to be a magic spell to actually protect you from A, you still do it, because of the fear. My example is when I was a kid, I felt I had to repeat a mantra every night 6 times before I went to sleep, because that would protect me overnight. It took me months to wean myself off of it by slowly scaling back how much I said each night.
That’s the mask thing. It’s basically an OCD response. But it’s created and implanted from the outside, instead of coming from your own brain. It’s anxiety over the fear of something that you can’t control, and the feeling you get when you are told you can control it if only you do this, and make others do it.
Back to the Con story. After getting out of there, I went to my friends (Brena Bock and Helen Werns, who are wonderful people that saved at least part of the weekend) where I was staying for the weekend, we hung, and I got to relax.
Saturday morning, went back to the con, had my silky scarf around me, and I pulled it up in front of my face as needed, like to talk to people, or just held up the face shield in front of me when I was talking to people. Made some more sales and handed out QR cards. I sat down and back away from my table between people wandering by. I was sitting there, head hurting again but not terrible, and BF was on his way with the books that came in, so things were looking up, like this wouldn’t be a waste. I was on edge because of the night before, and had to use my inhaler because stress can trigger asthma issues. (It also makes my body temp drop and I was chilly, hence the scarf over my arms.)
Karen popped up out of nowhere and full on harpy shrieked at me to put on my mask. That I had to have one on at all times. It shocked me, my anxiety immediately spiked to the ‘can’t handle this area,’ and my headache went from ‘ehhh, it’s there,’ to killing me, and my body temp dropped. I was in pain and freezing in a few seconds.
I said I was putting up the shield to talk to customers and I was back away from them when sitting. She shrieked again that I had to wear it at all times. And if I didn’t, then how was she supposed to make that vendor and that vendor wear theirs.
Ah ha. This is where they show the real power of the fear. The sheep are terrified if 1 doesn’t conform that others will follow, because they know they can’t control that many at once. And if that happened, then bad thing A would happen and/or they’d get in trouble with the wolf, who was the one really imposing the rules anyway. (Nice way a lot of places are coping out, by the way. It would’ve made more sense if they’d said in the, I think 4 times I asked about the mask thing if it was required, that it was required and I should just roll over my table to next year; AND if every customer was required to wear a mask because of the wolf’s rules, which they weren’t. I’d say about 10% of customers weren’t wearing masks.)
This is why you have to stand up, and, get others to. Because they can’t control us all. But I was on my own, and beaten down. I didn’t stand up. I was on empty. In that moment, I gave up.
It felt like an attack, and I wasn’t prepared to fight back. That’s the best excuse I have, because I should have. I should have screamed back at her. Fuck that, I should’ve punched her for screaming at me like that. Okay, fine, really I should have just lawyered her, argued her into submission because what are lawyers good at if not beating down the enemy with one argument after another. That’s what I should have done. I don’t take being screamed at very well. My system goes nuts. And I hate myself for not fighting back in that moment. I was so humiliated and upset. But, like an abused spouse, I pulled the scarf up just to get her to go away.
I went outside because my head was killing me and I was freezing. I called BF because I was upset and didn’t know what to do. I wanted to make money because after ordering paperbacks, the new covers, and my laptop crashing last month, plus the cost of the con, I needed to make it worth it, and sell. I was determined to stick it out and make it work after all that’d happened. And BF was on the way with the books, about 3 hours out, so I’d have the new covers soon. I called and told him what was going on. The more I talked about it, the more upset I got. And he was upset he wasn’t there with me to be backup.
The stupid thing is, if BF had come with me and just not stayed to get the books, he would’ve been there to fight with me, especially when I was getting worn down, but then I wouldn’t have had the books to sell, which was the point of going. But I didn’t even need the new covers books because I was so beat down, I ended up leaving. Yeah, the whole thing was stupid.
When I went back in, I didn’t put back on my mask. Told myself next staff member to bug me about it was gonna get it. I was going to tell them I had a medical exemption and to back the fuck off or kick me out.
This lasted about 10 minutes. Every time someone walked by wearing a staff shirt, my adrenaline spiked, the headache got worse, I was shaky, and having a hard time breathing. I couldn’t take being on edge and ready for a showdown like that for long.
So I wrote a note on my table explaining I was leaving because they lied to me about the masks, and I couldn’t wear one, but to please check me out online. And I left bookmarks and QR code cards there.
While I was packing up, 2 staff guys came over, said the note was unfair, and could they work with me. I told them everything that went down with Jennifer, how I was lied to, and the shrieking harpy that screamed at me, and that my head was killing me, so I had to leave then either way, and if they weren’t going to drop the mask thing, I couldn’t come back. They said the city was making them, it was the city’s rule, and they couldn’t do anything about it. I maintained the note was fair then because Jennifer lied to me. She could have told me when I asked right before the con that it would be a problem, and I would’ve said roll me over to next year, and left then. They were very nice (but still took my sign) and helped me pack and haul stuff to my car.
I drove back to my friends’ house, and nursed a headache for about 5 hours until it calmed down. They we hung out, BF was there by then, and we had a great time. On Sunday we did photoshoots for our paper books to do an online paperback sale because now I have a lot of paper copies and noooooo money. Yeah, I didn’t plan this well/was counting on at least a few hundred from the con. Never think you’ll make money at a con. Even without mask bullshit, you don’t know what’ll happen, no matter how many people who like what you make are there.
After that shit show known as Creepy Con, I still have a ton of paperbacks that aren’t going anywhere because all the other cons near here I was looking into are doing mask mandates now (at least they told the truth before I bought a table).
So, I’m having a “Creepy Con Lied, but my Zombie Tree Versions are Live, Paperback Sale,” AKA “Labor Day Sale,” for a week! 😊
Books are $10 each. The Supernatural Streets Anthology is $12. And the Evie Jones Compilation is $8.
Bullet bookmarks are $4 each, 3 for $10, OR, you get one free for every 3 books you buy.
Book sale: Buy 2 get 1 half off, buy 5 get 1 free, buy all 12 for the price of 10, which knocks it down to $100 total since you get the extra bonus of chopping down the cost of the Anthology. (Plus shipping and handling.)
The SDF Series: Paranormal Mystery Romances: Ariana’s like Buffy with a badge.
Ariana’s a cute, spunky FBI agent who only has the job because she’s psychic, and she’s desperate to prove to her coworkers and herself that she’s more than just a pretty face on a too young psychic when a serial killer strikes.
The Elemental Demons Series: Psychic Thrillers: If you loved ‘The Conjuring’ this is a must-read series. Fans are saying these ain’t your daddy’s psychic thrillers.
Sarah is shattered after the man she loved dumped her, throwing away their life plans, and ran back home after college. But the refuge of home isn’t when strange things start happening. She’s not religious, but there are more things in Hell and Earth than are dreamt of in her philosophy. She’s going to have to face her fears and find her strength again before one of those dark things she doesn’t believe in uses her broken soul against her, and all of humankind.
AND Brena Bock joined my paperback sale (after being voluntold 😊 )
Brena is in 3 anthologies, and has them up to be signed and shipped at sale prices the next week too!
Email Brena at Brena.Bock @ yahoo dot com to order your signed anthologies directly!
And, because I promised, kittens!!!
We got Elijah and Klaus last week, got Merlin acclimated to them, and now we have 3 monsters running around. 1 of which is really missing being an only child because his little brothers already love to follow him around and want to do everything he’s doing.
To contribute to my feed the kitties fund, go order your signed copies of my books, and your really cool author shot, author made bullet bookmarks. 😉
*Apologies to Amie, because I think I’m missing two kitty pics, but WordPress is being a pain and I’m tired of fighting it. Also, that kitty looking into the camera looks so much like Greebo as a baby that it hurts… SAH*