(Feo note: To best understand this article, please
read Paula Guran's essay Tribal Stand at locusmag.com.)
On Monday, September 9, 2002, Horror publisher / Editor / Writer, Paula
Guran wrote an article decrying the lack of substance found in today's
Horror Literature. In essence, there was little literature to be found
in modern Horror.
epiphany came upon her, she says (though, having
read Paula for many years, I've the feeling that she has nurtured this
feeling for a very long time.) "at one gathering of the horror tribe or another: the distressing
realization that so few in our field still seek professionalism, a high
level of achievement, legitimate credits, and to gain a sense of history
attributes that combine to set what we might call the Standard."^
doubt the sudden "distressing realization". Far more likely that this article is a timed attack, based on the outcome
of elections in the Horror Writers Association.* I'll get to that in a moment.
of which Paula speaks is thus: "You're a writer when a Writer says
Not a bad
"Standard" as far as standards go, and to some extent, valuable.
Because Paula goes on to demonstrate this lack of standard.
this may sound exclusive or prejudicial, no Secret Masters or hierarchies
or Star Chambers are involved." Paula says. "This merely acknowledges that tribal elders merit respect. Why?
Because they were here before you, just might know a thing or two you
don't, and if you sit next to them at the campfire and listen, you just
might learn something."
to history and gives a reasonably accurate view of the birth of Horror
(In the world of entertainment, it's much younger
than Rock and Roll). Paula accurately speaks of Horror as a marketable
commodity, and while there were certainly Horror writers before the
1970s of which she speaks, there was not the actual genre moniker of
"Horror". Lovecraft (though he once
wrote his definition of the term "Horror") was a writer
of Weird Tales. Poe was a writer of Mystery and Imagination. Henry James
wrote charming little ghost tales that can best be defined as "Lit.
lite": Suitable for dreary little tea parties and self absorbed
"salons". Not the kind of gatherings that would ever open
a book by the Marquis de Sade unless they were feeling "terribly
naughty" that night.
It is arguable,
but Stephen King (as Paula asserts) probably
started Horror as a literary form, genre, or "ghetto of literature"
(as defined by Doug E. Winter in his well known
and wonderful essay, The Pathos of Genre" on why Horror wasn't a genre.). This may explain why King remains at the top of the
heap to this day despite the many novelists of his generation: Ira Levin,
Michael Crichton (Horror as a very scary tale?
Yes, I'll strongly defend my choice of Crichton!), and William
goes on to describe the Horror boom of the nineteen eighties as the
worst time for Horror literature. When Publishers were eager to publish
any benighted piece of crap if it could be shoved down the shelf of
a Horror section of the local Walden Books.
Dan Simmons, writer/editor Karl Edward Wagner, and some nameless others
who welcomed the downturn and eventual implosion of Horror in the early
to mid nineties as a chance to shake off the flakes and dimwits who
wrote hack after clichéd piece of garbage and stamped it Horror.
Simmons blamed the greedy Publishers and sloppy editors, as well as
the lazy writers, and he was right.
that shakedown would have occurred, Paula says with just the right amount
of drama and mystery (that a writer cannot resist),
if it weren't for something else that came to pass. Something that was
just starting to crawl over the horizon and, because of its youth, was
the Internet, gang!
there! Would you care to repeat to my face what you said about me on
the Horror World message boards?"
the new generation of Horror writers that came with the birth of the
the mid-90s, many changes were occurring in both publishing as a whole
and horror as its tiny part. Those actually in the profession were reacting
with understandable slowness and confusion. This is too vast a subject
to try to cover here, but for this context you can look back to 1994-95
and see a cusp. The old advice was no longer applicable, although a
lot of well-meaning old advisors did not yet realize this. Horror-as-a-genre
was already dead, but most were scrambling for the last scraps or hoping
for new salvation (briefly thought to be coming from gaming). With doom
descending there were those who still wanted to blame someone or something,
when really there could be no simple scapegoat.
current generation of horrorists began spawning in an abyss. The newcomers
were just as enthusiastic, just as strident and derivative and awful
as any who came before. Maybe worse, because they were one more generation
removed from true feeling a Xerox of a Xerox of a Xerox, to the
point where the copies were no longer legible.
the hacks, bottom-feeders, and lemmings began bailing out of the shrinking
pond of horror. But it was not the good who always survived in the remaining
shallow puddle. Some good writers had the ability to remain good writers
and stay in the game by disguising horror as something else or writing
something other than horror. It was tough luck for some writers of originality
who were discarded. But many of the those most lacking in talent had
no where else to go. They weren't versatile enough to write anything
else, so they remained. Some saw their betters leaving the pond for
more healthful waters and realized there might be an advantage in that
for them. Some bottom-feeders stayed because there was less competition
for the scum that was left.
planted themselves in the mud and whined.
in large part to the networking capacity of the Internet, the wannabes
could, for the first time, easily find their peers. The Net also became
was an efficient way to set oneself up as a false writing idol. The
mud-whiners were, to the wannabes, "real writers" to be looked
up to and listened to. The wannabes and the mud-whiners found great
strength in one another."~
assails the foolish morons who are rapid with their cowardly e-mail
attacks and message board flames. This was tiresome back in 1996 and
it's still going on in 2002 by the same people who wrote this crap six
years ago. Tiny little pin prick egos, or cowering squeaking hypocrites
that shut up damn quick when you step up to them at a convention and
say, "Hi there! Would you care to repeat to my face what you said
about me on the Horror World message boards?" Even worse are the
gutless cowards who make these posts anonymously. But they will always
be with us: These nameless, faceless voices shouting from the crowd
will be at every gathering, trying to stir up, instigate, and tear down
to point the finger for this new group who don't give a tinker's damn
for real writing? Paula lays much of the blame on the new feet (on
the rebirth?) of small press publishing.
of this has emerged what we might call the "minuscule press."
The primary fallacy "anybody can be a writer"
has exacerbated into "anybody can be a publisher." Minuscule
horror press consists in part of what we used to call self-publishing
or vanity publishing. In part it promotes the Publishing Buddy System:
A buddy of yours becomes your publisher; you become your buddy's publisher.
No one ever has to deal with an editor's opinion, judgment or, for that
matter, assistance. (Most don't even have to be slowed down by something
as mundane as copy-editing.) No one has to work and re-work a story
or novel and improve it to the point of acceptability. No one needs
to learn the craft of writing. No one even needs to fill in plot holes
the size of Lake Erie or to be told a story lacks logic or characterization
or is an overdone cliché.
grind it out, accumulate approbation from your similarly-ranked pals,
and vigorously ignore the Standard.
princes and princesses of the minuscule press read each other
as well as many in the almost-small press and the smallest of the mass
market congratulate each other, publish each other, edit each
other, blurb each other, review each other, recommend each other for
awards, twirl around together in an unending incestuous dance of parochialism
while giving the finger to anyone who dares mention something as passé
as a standard of excellence. Professionalism? You'll find more of that
in any Girl Scout during the annual cookie sale.
the tragedy is that the most self-aware among this new breed know they
don't measure up to Real Writers, and are happy to tread water in an
eddy that is 90% pointless, derivative crap, appearing in dreadfully-conceived
anthologies full of amateurs, or excreting another novel-length waste
of time about vampire cockroaches.
more delusional among them have no reason not to believe that the loudest
voice wins the debate. Operating under the misapprehension that an Internet
connection makes them the epistolatory equivalent of H.P. Lovecraft
reborn, they lay siege through e-mails, message boards, and chat rooms,
easily finding other mud-whiners to mentor and succor them. They have
learned the flashy trick of using attractive Web design to promote sub-par
work - classic sleight of hand learned from modern advertising
and attract the gullible and the foolish into buying the lie that they
really are writers."*
you haven't noticed it yet, Paula's argument is starting to unravel,
as the above snubs self-promotion. As if it only matters if you or your
publisher can afford to pay someone else to promote you. Even more contradictory
is the fact that Paula holds her place in the Horror community specifically
because of her own self-promotion and little else. She is an editor
because she made herself an editor. She has a small press anthology
out because she made it (and in this article she
honestly admits to it). Yet at the same time, Paula decries this
action when others do it. With this article, Paula is trying to validate
her own work, speaking as a voice of (limited)
experience, while attacking others whose body of work is equal to, if
not greater, than hers.
taken as a whole, I agree with much of what Paula has to say. Most of
the Horror being written these days is dross garbage. Instead, I disagree
with the direction her finger points.
percent of everything is crap."
much finishes up her article with these words,
there's absolutely nothing wrong with the idea of a group of like- minded
people uniting to promote public awareness of the best their field has
to offer; that is the raison d'etre of any organizational effort among
artists. But the grail has been...misplaced. If offered an opportunity
to promote the latest in horror, few foolishly waste time actually investigating
what is being published. Why bother when you have your own book or press
to push? Reviews? Don't worry about integrity, it's just another promotional
opportunity for yourself, and the chum produced by your chums.
be concerned that some truly terrible books and stories make it into
the hands of readers who will be so insulted they will never come back
to horror. Who remembers the '80s anyway. Awards? Why look for and try
to conscientiously select works that achieve true excellence in the
field? How silly. Just recommend each other and don't bother to read
the rest. And don't forget to scoff at any effort by the knowledgeable
to seek out and reward excellence deem them snobs and denigrate
them whenever possible.
for those of you with the most to offer horror, don't call attention
to the problems. Stay silent. Making too much noise is impolite. Be
like me and spend years trying to avoid upsetting anyone and trying
not to give offense. You'll lose anyway. As Richard Matheson said, "It
doesn't have to make sense. The mere fact that you exist means somebody
out there hates your guts." When the reek of rotting rectitude
gets too rank to bear any longer, quietly creep away from the stench
in embarrassment ... just as most of your peers and betters have, before
you. If there is a truth here, dismiss it as a squabble of decades past
with no relevance to the here and now."+
on, this article will direct itself as a rebuttal in respect to the
specific passages quoted here. If you still haven't read Paula Guran
Stand, at locusmag.com,
please do so now.
few in our field still seek...attributes that combine to set what we
might call the Standard."
Paula refers to "The Standard" in writing. And its a very
good method of determining quality. But it must be stressed that The
Standard is a living thing. Everyone in this group, and Paula and I
attend pretty much the same conventions so I am intimately aware of
the group she speaks of, seek out the experience of their favorite writers,
even embarrassing some of them by calling them "child-hood heroes".
They learn what they can from The Standard, but they also recognize
that the Standard changes and grows - and it only does so by the quarrelsome
noise of a generation who insist on setting new standards. This is
how humanity evolves on a social scale both large and small. It is because
of this ever changing "Standard" that the voice of women in
writing isn't simply tolerated, but respected and given credence. Your
writing is what matters. Not
your skin color, sex or sexual orientation. So
out of this boiling, enthusiastic, strident, though sometimes derivative
and even untalented pool of hot gas, stars are born.
In the beginning many talented artists are derivative. The Beatles tried
to imitate Chuck Berry. Chuck Berry tried to imitate white kids imitating
black people. This is how some of the best talents start out, before
discovering themselves. In art school students are taught to paint like
Renoir. Musicians are taught to write like Mozart and learn the fretwork
of blues musicians of old. Writers today try to write like Lovecraft
from before who tried to write like those who inspired him and so on.
We begin derivative, we learn from our chosen masters or heros, and
if we are talented, move on from there.
there must be more to the Standard than waiting for another writer to
call you a writer. Major cities like Tokyo, Los Angeles, New York, and
London have long nurtured their local boys and girls who could never
crack a nut as large as the world. Could never even crack a smaller
nut like their country. Yet they become the darlings of local critics
and the bohemian art-house theater patrons who equate their own intelligence
and self worth with how much they spend a month at ten seat theater
houses and side alley art shows. What's important, what has meaning,
is when you can appeal to a far larger audience. An audience made up
of people from all walks of life. People whose lives and livelihood
is as disparate from one another as a Texan Cowboy from a Munich dance
club hopper. A true writer can reach inside these people and touch that
King can do that, touch a common thread and communicate to the masses,
and that is why he is so popular. And it's important to remember the
incredible non-uniformity of those masses. They are not faceless drones
and they are not gray proles without intellect or value. They are people
who share our feelings even if their strongest most cherished beliefs
are poles apart from my own - from ours.
elders merit respect."
It is not
enough to garner admittance into the cherished inner sanctum of your
group, however respectable those peers may be. Though their admiration
may be worthwhile, and some of them may even be your heroes, it is important
to remember that new directions must always be sought, and the old guard
rarely approves of the vanguard. What's important to remember about
those new directions is that they will be tested by many. And many are
part of that fabled 90% of which Theodore Sturgeon believed were crap.
that 90% crap have their contributions. In the context of the birth
of Rock and Roll (Because this article refers
to the birth of Horror and where its going wrong) we have Elvis,
The Beatles, and Led Zepplin. But there were smaller contributors (sales-wise,
in their day) like Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry, Little Richard,
The Beach Boys, Jimi Hendrix, and The Rolling Stones. They too had their
one hit wonders made their mark, contributed in their tiny meager way.
Even Donnie Iris (Who? Donnie...nevermind)
gave something. Inspiration can be found everywhere, anywhere and the
many who are putting out crap are not intentionally putting out crap.
They are trying to discover if they have found a new direction. Are
they going to be a pioneer or will they get lost along the way? Can
they go deeper than Ed Lee, Richard Laymon and the rest? And by doing
so, is that a better way? Is there something there? Something they can
touch, tell, communicate to people?
them won't be successful. But they don't simply pull up stakes and leave
for greener pastures. Many, having put all of their effort into what
they love, discover that they were wrong. For all of their passion and
love for what they were doing, at the end of the tunnel there was no
light, just the end of the cave. Their dreams will be crushed, the smarmy
insects who mindlessly crowed "I told you so!" will rejoice.
Exhausted, rejected, and hurt, the losers will walk off the stage while
someone else gets the rousing applause. Some go in search of other ways
to communicate. Maybe it was just the style they chose; maybe they could
be better at something else: they go off in a new discovery of themselves.
~ The primary fallacy "anybody can be a writer"
has exacerbated into "anybody can be a publisher."
Paula said this, in the same article, mere paragraphs above, she quoted
Dan Simmons as saying that the garbage that passed for Horror Literature
in the 1980s was due to "greedy publishers, sloppy editors..."
You can't attack these major publishers and editors for their greed
and sloppiness, and then turn your nose up at the new generation of
small press publishers. If the major players are too greedy or piggish
and drop the ball or don't care to even carry it, where else is a writer
to turn? And if the market is still there, as small press has shown
that it certainly is (so much so that major publishers
and major agencies are now eyeing small press books for new talent to
cull), why should anyone ignore it? Back in 1997 and 1998, major
book publishers were folding up their carnival canvases and proclaiming
Horror dead. At that same time, PC games were turning out major sellers
like ZORK, DOOM, MYST, QUAKE, and RESIDENT EVIL - every one of them
a Horror / Thriller game and the biggest sellers of all time (Computer/console
games outsell the entire movie industry by about 3 to 1). Then,
in 1999, the book publishing industry was further caught napping by
the rash of Horror releases from Hollywood and independent movie makers.
The biggest money makers out-did both Steven Spielberg's effort, THE
HAUNTING, and George Lucas, Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. THE BLAIR
WITCH PROJECT was made by young people in junior freaking college and
garnered more profit than Star Wars at the theater. M. Night Shyamalan
became the new name of Horror, to be later associated with the likes
of Alfred Hitchcock and Steven Spielberg. Doug Clegg decided to try
his hand at launching an e-novel, NAOMI. The success of which got him
an interview in WIRED magazine and probably inspired Steven King to
try the web out next. King's short story made him more money in 1 week
than any short story he had ever sold to anyone anywhere.
became a major contender and the old publishing houses HATED it. The market was still there. The money was still there. What wasn't
there was the major publisher's ability to tap into it. They had betrayed
the Horror hungry fans with over a decade of what Wagner called "pointless,
derivative crap". What was worse, in 1998 it started to look like
the major publishers might not be able to get that market back. Small
press publishers were giving the fans what they wanted, and there certainly
was no more crap this time than there was before. What was in
place was an understanding. Because these books came from small press
publishers, expectations were lowered even though the price was raised.
When you bought a book from a major house, you expected to get your
money's worth. These publishers had been around forever, they tightly
controlled the publishing market, they hired the best and brightest
and had years of experience and knowledge behind them. When they start
churning out shit, one smells a rat.
other hand, if you get a dud from a small press publisher, you went
in knowing that these stories would be talent in the raw. Who the hell
were these people? You didn't know! They were folks you never heard
of! Yvonne Navarro? Joe Nassise? Weston Ochse? Harry Shannon? David
Whitman? And there were anthologies filled with people like Tim Lebbon,
Brian Keene, Michael Oliveri, Ed Lee, Sephera Giron, and Monica J. O'Rourke?
You had no idea about any of these people. In 1998 I sure as hell never
heard of these people. But I bought those books. Apparently, so did
a lot of others. Richard Laymon proclaimed some of them the new vanguard
of Horror. And if you want respect from the old guard, you can't get
much more respectable than that. Many of them have gone on to major
book contracts, mass market published, and even movie contracts. EVEN - current events just revealed - high office in the Horror Writers Association.
of that massive boiling pool comes a little talent.
people have got it and some people don't. You haven't got it."
-A major Paramount Pictures executive giving his expert opinion
to Harrison Ford.
-A memo from a studio exec who didn't think Sean Connery was right for
the part of James Bond.
likes to say that he was rejected by every major publisher ten times
before a small press publisher (in this case a
U.S. Naval text book publisher) gave him a break.
of what I'm saying is this. The experts cannot always be trusted, and
especially if these experts caused the problem in the first place, then
abandoned their responsibility to it, why in the world should you turn
to them of all people for validation? How long should we wait for the
major houses to get their act together and why should we? Life is short.
To be even more precise, why should I trust the blessings of a publisher
that is still churning out "new" titles from a writer who
not only did not write them, but has been dead for over 20 years?
have learned the flashy trick of using attractive Web design to promote
sub-par work ... and attract the gullible and the foolish into buying
the lie that they really are writers."
can it be for writers, even small time beginning writers, to present
their work in as nice a package as possible? Is this only acceptable
if the writer has the money of a major publisher to build them a really
spiffy site? If this person has the ability to do it themselves - or
get a friend to do it - then where is the harm? And how many of that
writer's fans are gullible and foolish before they are finally accepted
as cutting edge literati: first to appreciate the new talent? How long
were Tim Lebbon's fans "gullible and foolish"? Is someone
as (largely) small press or midlist as
John Shirley to be associated with gullible and foolish fans? To be
fair, Paula Guran does say that there are bright talents among these
people, but who is to choose? Many of these people I mentioned came
from this Internet pool and, unfortunately but to a large extent, blurb
each others books. That said, they were all or individually heaped with
accolades ranging from fellow writers like Richard Laymon, John Shirley,
and Richard Matheson. But again, what is wrong with presenting your
work with the best cover possible? Does it matter that your work is
not ready to live up to the professional expectations set by the web
page? Does it matter that the stories within your magazine have nothing
to do with the hot babe in the bikini on the cover?
for those of you with the most to offer horror, don't call attention
to the problems. Stay silent. Making too much noise is impolite. Be
like me and spend years trying to avoid upsetting anyone and trying
not to give offense."
that this last part was meant to be tongue in cheek, as Paula is well
aware that she has never spent her time "trying to avoid upsetting
anyone and trying not to give offense". The persona she chose for
darkecho, and the way she writes her newsletters is of the same cut
as Olde Hollywoodland Hedda Hopper, with a dash of bandit queen and
Jerry Springer. But while Paula goes about attacking the seeds just
starting to sprout, before they have even had the chance to grow, let
alone bloom, other, more established and even best selling writers like
Douglas Clegg, William F. Nolan, Richard Laymon, Peter Straub, as well
as prolific lesser selling talents like Joe R. Lansdale, and John Shirley,
have gone about at these same conventions giving encouragement, advice,
tips, and most of all, their time to these same adoring fans / writers
who are more than eager to question and listen. The thing is, people
who have something of value to offer tend to shy away from caustic,
acidic characters. Caustic people attract hooting, mean spirited vandals.
They attract Jerry Springer and Ricki Lake audiences who are only interested
in destruction. Is your acid the truth? So what? Even if that acid can
kill the pond scum, it also kills the gold fish. If speaking your mind
or your experience means complaining instead of encouraging, setting
fires instead of growing forests, then it may be because you haven't
garnered the experience to promote growth.
it doesn't mean you should shut up. It does mean you should recognize
your talents and act accordingly.
do you ask your neighbor, 'Let me remove the splinter from your eye.'
when you have a beam in your own? Remove the beam from your eye first."
- Attributed to Jesus Christ.
this last bit is highly suspect
each other, publish each other, edit each other, blurb each other, review
each other, recommend each other for awards, twirl around together in
an unending incestuous dance of parochialism..."
at the World Horror Convention in Denver, Colorado, Paula Guran presided
in high positions of power on both the Horror Writers Association and
the International Horror Guild. She was nominated in both organizations
for the same website (Internet!), darkecho.com.
Now whether she voted or not is inconsequential. In the realm of speaking
out against these folks who "twirl around in an unending incestuous
dance of parochialism", Paula was easily surrounded by cronies
and friends in both organizations. Whether they voted their consciences
in a respectable manner or sided with cronyism is also beside the point.
The point here is, to remove all question of conflict of interest, Paula
Guran should have done the right thing and removed herself from the
vote. She did not. Many of the people who voted were not best selling
authors or top list writers. Many of them were small press and short
story writers. Some had not had a professional sale in quite a while.
Basically, many of these people who voted would appear to be the very
people Paula demonizes in her essay at locusmag.com. And yet... Paula
Guran's darkecho.com won both awards, from two different organizations,
that year. From that moment on, the finger pointing pointed right back
at Paula. Not because she was highly critical, not because she had never
wrote a mass market published novel, not because of any other reason
but that there was a highly suspect conflict of interest that Paula
did nothing to diffuse. Her response was in fact, the whine she stains
other people with: The very same whine with which she ends her article.
The worst part about this article is the same something that has always
haunted Paula, one she chooses to ignore. It tears down without offering
anything constructive. And as for Paula's voice of experience, she is
known more for networking and politicking than creating any substantive
work in this field of Horror.
mean she has nothing of value to offer. With everything I'm writing
here, I still like Paula. Some of my friends would disagree and that
is their opinion. But at every convention I will still greet her with
genuine warmth, a hug if she welcomes one, and conversation. Paula has
something positive to offer the Horror community, even if she chooses
to hide it behind a caustic persona. I've attended many of these same
conventions Paula refers to. I know precisely the people and types of people of which she speaks. Many of them are churning
out crap, many of them wrongly consider themselves true writers when
they aren't. But consider: David S. Goyer was one of the worst writers
in Hollywood before he came into his own with DARK CITY, and later again
with BLADE. John Skipp and Craig Spector remain branded with one of
the worst NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET movies ever made. Schow wrote the heartbreaking
and twisted THE KILLING RIFF, and co-wrote the beautiful THE CROW (with
John Shirley) but he also wrote CRITTERS 4!
should I do? Is the best course to draw a line in the sand, designate
myself adjudicator more through political manuevering than any substantive
contribution to the form, and decide who will and who may not enter
that pantheon known as professionalism? Is having an Us vs Them mentality
the best plan of action?
not. Its not for me or any other single individual to decide. Every
individual has their specific likes and dislikes and will always rule
against even a magnificent work of art if it does not suit their taste.
So who should judge? Call it the market, call it the masses, call them
the great unwashed if you feel particularly mean spirited, but it is
the reader who decides. The hundreds of them - The thousands and millions
of them - It doesn't matter if they cannot recognize "true art".
This is writing. And writing means communication. If you cannot communicate
to the wildly disparate masses, with all of their myriad walks of life;
if you can only speak to the small minority, then take pride in your
small achievements, but leave your bitterness behind.
of us: the "group" she bemoans that accepts everyone as a
writer; will continue to write and encourage each other. We will pat
each other on the back. The group she could be a part of, if she only
would encourage instead of discourage, will remain. What Paula is dead
wrong about is this; nearly all of this group seek out the advice of
their elders, their mentors, people who know. I've sought out the advice
of Doug Clegg, who, in turn, gave me a great bit of information when
he told me to seek out Robert McKee. One of the most inspirational people
I've ever read. I've sat down and shot the shit with Ray Bradbury, who
wanted to just kick back and talk and listen to his fans. He did this,
while the self-important professors of this particular University, snubbed
the very people they were trying to sell their University published
tomes to (!). I spoke to Richard Laymon
and you never met a more encouraging, honest, and helpful guy. The very
brief time I spent with him, moments actually, gave me hope and drive.
I sat down with William F. Nolan and listened to what he had to say.
His anecdotes (helpful and illuminating - the
real truth of getting published and what you must go through, regardless
of how good your writing may be) are making me smile right now
as I recall them. Now then, multiply me times the number of these other
folks. My brothers and sisters. My kindred. Some of their writing makes
me cringe, not because its good and affects me on an emotional level,
but because its just so damn awful. Would that writing get any better
if I tore them down? Of course not. No one learns by being berated.
Successful teachers, good teachers, are those who inspire. They don't
choose who they will and won't inspire, instead they try and lift the
entire class, every class, every hour.
90% of every class will produce crap. That's the way it is.
thing to realize, eh? You look at your friends, these people you've
invested your time and emotions into. Who will rise? Who will write
one crap story after another and then, suddenly, surprise us all? Many
of us don't know it yet, but we are part of that 90% crap. Who will
it be? Who will win and who will lose? Who knows? There are many who
will be discouraged, disheartened, and have to face the bitter truth.
One among us may write a single literary classic and have nothing more
to say. Another of us may make a lifetime career out of churning out
one popular title after another but never write that one magnum opus.
PAULA AND FEO IN HAPPIER TIMES
encourage each other. Give each other tips. "I spoke to "X"
the other day and he recommended "Y"'s "Z". Have
you read it? Its incredible! It really opened my eyes!" We listen
to Ellen Datlow when she speaks because she has proven herself. We listen
to John Pelan, Gahan Wilson, and the many others at their panels or,
if panels bore us, we try and talk to these people outside of the panel.
We do this because the large majority of us in the Horror community,
who fight and flame and boil away in this mad pool that births talent,
will come away knowing we can never be anything more than fans. But
that being said, the losers in this game and in this group which has
no walls, no proving ground, no fences and no doors, will go away knowing
that they were given every chance, by their peers, to shine. Call it
incestuous, call it parochialism or find another acidic stamp to burn
into this mentality. All it takes to be a part of this crowd is a kind
word, a kind deed, and an honest desire to give at least as much as
you take. We are aware of the problems and we do more than address them,
expose them, and trash them. We offer solutions, even if that solution
is only, "Go ask this person, they would know better than me."
can that be?
Paula: while you were busy trying to create your "Stable of writers"
as you once called it, there was an entire herd of wild mustangs out
there running through the hills. You could have chose to run with the
mustangs, you chose to stay on the farm. To this very day, as evidenced
by your article, the only one keeping you there is you. But as far as
the readers are concerned, it seems they prefer to watch wild horses,
than ones in captivity. You could have run with us. Instead you chose
to step on us. How easy to step on the newbies and beginners. How very
easy. You took the easy way out, Paula. If you ever get your act together,
you can still run with us, as all are welcome. In the end, you may not
be able to keep up, but that's a risk we're all taking. No one knows
who is going to go all the way. Are you willing to take that risk? Or
are you going to sit and jeer from the sidelines?
*After publication, Paula sent me an email
to clarify an assumption I made with this article. The highlight color
is my own.
want anyone to think this is true. It's not:
seriously doubt the sudden "distressing realization". Far
more likely that this article is a timed attack, based on the outcome
of elections in the Horror Writers Association...*
genesis was in April at WHC. The first draft came in May. I spoke to
several people about it in June at HWA. In one form or another it's
been read by several other people. The timing was no timing at all.
I just felt it should be published by someone other than myself. I had
pitched several ideas (reviews and interviews)
to Mark Kelly earlier this summer. I later pitched more. He said he
always neeeded essays. I submitted it. He decided to publish. That's
no idea of my thoughts on HWA.