I first made the acquaintance of Brian Keene at Horrorfind 2002. I had previously known his reputation and I had interacted with him a bit at The Gorezone Book Forum, which I used to moderate. When I first began hearing about him, I must admit that I didn?t know what to think. A word was associated with him. That word was ?gangsta?. I wasn?t real impressed with that, even while I was pretty sure that it was at least halfway facetious. Much like the term ?splatterpunk? was. I had heard both good and bad things about Mr. Keene. I heard that he was a human monster that rallied his posse against unwitting innocents. I heard that he was an unflagging friend to have in your corner. I heard that he was a genius at fiction. I heard that he was a hack.
So, when Brian Keene made an appearance at Gorezone, I wasn?t quite sure what to expect. I did the only thing I could do: Treat him exactly the way I did everyone else and I offered him a hearty welcome and I gave him the benefit of the doubt.
I never had a single moment of trouble with Brian, or his friends, at Gorezone. But then that?s the kind of place it was. I truly believe that Gorezone was one of the best bulletin boards in the history of horror fiction. I would still be there today if it weren?t for (as Divine put it in Pink Flamingos) rampant assholism. But that?s another story.
I went to The Horrorfind Convention in 2002 and it had been my first con in a long, long time. I was alone, as finances kept my family from coming along with me. I am not normally very shy or awkward, but I was a little bit nervous about meeting all the writers. One of the first people I saw was Brian, and I went up and introduced myself to him. Brian was extremely busy, as he always was while working the HF weekend, but he stopped to warmly greet me. On several occasions of the convention, Brian seemed to go out of his way to make me feel at home.
Considering it, a cynic might think that Keene was trying to suck up to a guy that ran a very popular message board. Was he? At least partially? I don?t know, but I do know that I don?t take friendliness or human warmth for granted. You know what I really think? Brian likes horror people. He likes the writers, because he always wanted to be one and he became one. He likes fans because, at heart, that?s what he is. He likes talking books and writers and movies and comics. It?s rare in the so-called real world where you can find someone that speaks the same language as we do. The horror community.
Brian takes a hard stand on a lot of things. Some I emphatically agree with; others I don?t. I know he doesn?t always agree with my pompous opinions or methods of running a site/board either. That?s cool and we don?t always have to be in agreement to be friends.
For instance, Brian dislikes Harlan Ellison. I know it. I love Harlan Ellison and Brian knows it. We avoid the subject when I see him at signings, etc. It?s funny though, how much alike I find the two of them. Consider it: Both BK and HE have reputations that arguably tower over their fictional accomplishments. Both have numerous friends and supporters in their corner that would gladly get into a physical fight for them. Both also have plenty of people that wouldn?t drop a tear if they were wiped off the planet. Both are geniuses of self promotion, yet both have a hell of a lot of talent to back it up. Both Harlan and Brian write prose as if their very guts are pouring out on the page. Harlan is a mean old bastard, but consider this: If Brian is around for forty more years, how will he be? Forty more years of dealing with deadlines. With fickle publishers. With unscrupulous Hollywood people. With demented fans. Forty more years. When Brian Keene reaches the age Harlan is now, he might make Ellison appear to be a kitten in comparison.
Brian Keene has a new novel coming out in paperback very soon. It?s called The Conqueror Worms and Leisure is publishing it. I read the small press hardcover and I had an awfully good time with it. I?m not going to sit here and make some sort of claim that The Conqueror Worms is a genre masterpiece. Because it?s not. Brian?s masterpiece to date is probably Terminal, but I think his best work is to come. The Conqueror Worms is this: A damned good time. It?s like a huge postmodern B-Movie horror extravaganza, bursting at the seams with action and humanity. And you will certainly get your money?s worth out of it.