I think everyone involved in horror fiction fandom has seen the furor over Keene’s Hail Saten comments. If not, take a deep breath and try to slog through this:
First off, I wanna clearly state that I like Brian a lot. And I think he’s a terrific writer and I know that he cares a hell of a lot about the genre. He has put his heart, soul and guts into it. If he goes too far from time to time, it’s just because his passion gets the better of him.
Right up front, I agree with much of the original Rant. But I think that the time devoted to Pachione diluted the main points. I’m one of the people that hate that this guy has reached such a proportion that he is affecting the genre. People should be warned about him, but I don’t think the barrage of insults, ridicule and attention heaped on him has been wise. Especially if he is as dangerous as he seems to be. *
Pachione strikes me as one that craves attention above all else. And he’s getting bucketfuls. I can only imagine him cackling with glee as he sees longterm friendships and business associates turned asunder in his name. This situation should never have gotten this far. I’m not blaming any one individual or group…it kind of snowballed and grew into the Attack of the Fifty-Foot Would-Be Horror Writer.
I like Matt Schwartz one hell of a lot. And, like I said, Brian Keene. I can’t think of any other individuals that have done so much for the small horror press/community than these guys have. Both of them are looking out for their own pockets, of course, but they both care about the genre and have incredibly supportive to almost everyone. I wish they would try to look around their differences and come to some sort of mutual understanding. People can be as stubborn as mules though and often it won’t happen.
I guess I’m naive. I’ve often felt that it was Us, the horror reading community, against Them, the world. A world that all too often looks upon us as trivial or immature, if not outright deviants. We’re a family. A dysfunctional one perhaps, but family. We all need each other’s support, but in all too many cases there is antagonism. Of course, if you preach for any sort of universal respect and support, you get accused of being of the Kumbaya set. And they can Kum Ba my ass and kiss it too.
A lot of the friction is about message board politics. I’ve been involved in running message boards for nearly a decade now and I’ve seen great success at it. My take has always been that the one that pays the bills calls the shots. To me it is not a bit different than entering someone’s house. Visitors should wipe their feet at the door and remember their manners. And like in any home, the rules vary wildly. The old saw holds true, When in Rome, do as the Romans do. That’s not good enough for some though; they act like they hold some sort of proprietary rights. Or some think it should be the community’s property. Isn’t this the reason why Communism failed in so many places? It usually doesn’t work. If someone comes into your home and behaves in ways that offend you, you throw them out on their ass. And yes, sometimes preferred friends get preferential treatment. It’s not always fair or right, but as a Heinlein character once said, “We’re dealing with men here, not saints”.
And that is NOT about Brian Keene being banned from Shocklines. I’m speaking on general terms. I wish that he WAS back at Shocklines and that all of this mess had never happened. Brian and Matt go way back and I know that they’ve done lots for each other over the years. It saddens me at a deep and personal level.
Some excellent points were made about small press publishing. Not the least of them was about the potential dangers of putting all our eggs in one basket. I’m a big Shocklines supporter and I do not buy from any other independent bookseller. I do purchase titles direct from the publishers from time to time. Brian is right about this: Should Shocklines fold for some reason (God forbid), it would be a crippling blow to the genre. This store has gotten so big that many of the smaller presses would be devastated if it were to happen. It’s making me question my loyalties. I love Matt and I’ll always be a customer for him. But maybe I should spread the wealth a bit more.
As for me, I’ve given as much as I possibly can to the field. More than any sane person should. Ask my wife how much I’ve spent on small press books and she won’t know the answer either. Countless dollars and I’ve even bought books knowing that I’ll probably never read them. Just to support my friends and people I admire. Crazy, right? It’s a big reason why I have absolutely no savings and my van just died yesterday and I have nowhere to turn. Yeah, you could say I’m starting to question my loyalties.
Back in the early-mid 90’s, when I first began collecting small press books, there weren’t all that many out there putting them out. But when CD or Subterranean came out with a book by an unknown writer, I was excited. In most or possibly even all of the cases, the books were well worth my time and money. Excellence across the board. Now I’m extremely cautious about small press writers. Too many, far too many, are being touted as bold new voices in the genre, while fewer of the books satisfy me. I’m turning more into a mass market reader because I’m getting more satisfaction from them. And let’s face it folks, most of the writers in the big leagues got there for good reasons.
Of course there are exceptions. Kealan Patrick Burke comes immediately to mind. Harry Shannon. Matthew Warner. These guys and some others deserve a broader audience. And I think they’ll get it.
Brian’s final point about voting with your wallet holds truest of all. Every purchase is a vote and we all have the power to change the genre. Continue to vote for Shocklines if you wish. Vote for the publishers you believe in and we should buy direct from time to time. If you don’t like a publisher, but can’t live without some of their books, buy from a secondary seller. And let them know why you won’t support some of their decisions in polite, yet pointed posts at message boards. They all haunt the forums to see what customers and potential customers are saying.
No matter what happens, horror won’t die. It can’t. Should this ‘Small Press Apocalypse” occur, the real writers will emerge. Perhaps not unscathed, but intact. Sometimes when things get too big, like with the boom of the 80’s, it’s essential for an implosion to happen. so the field can redefine itself.
*I can hear it now..”Then why are YOU devoting time here about him? Nyah!” The answer is, because sadly, he and his actions have become a hell of a lot more influential than they should ever have gotten to be and it has become a big deal.