who don’t know, I’m still grieving for my dad, who died suddenly and
unexpectedly in December. My mind is hyper-focused on him, my mom, who has late-stage
Alzheimer’s, and the depressing insurmountable and time-consuming tasks that these
life events bring. So, my thoughts may be jumbled, and I apologize.
it’s Women in Horror month, and the shit has hit the fan in the horror community
(again). I’ve been following the latest scandal a bit and listened to the
podcast where Brian Keene, Mary SanGiovanni, and Christopher Golden addressed
the scandal and offered thoughts around it, their journeys through the horror
field these past few decades, and shared distressed, conflicting emotions.
same era as they are, around the same age, maybe a few years older; we all
began our careers around the same time, admired the same authors, and have had
our mighty ups and downs; both in our personal lives and professional ones.
about being around as long as we have is that we’ve seen A LOT. Both in society
as a whole and in the horror community. The past few years are proving to be
smackdown years as the genre evolves and grows.
changed dramatically. And I don’t mean just going from writing on typewriters
to home computers to cell phones.
generations roll their eyes when us elders say, “It was a different time.” They
need to understand it’s not an excuse; it’s a true fact.
I was a
teen in the seventies in London, Ontario, Canada, not knowing at the time that
I was one of the first generations to experience women’s lib, the pill,
abortion rights, the sexual revolution, striving for equality in the workplace,
saw Star Wars when it was Star Wars, and I experienced a whole world BEFORE
Star Wars ever existed!
As I’m of a
certain age, I can say without question that I’ve been sexually harassed (as
it’s termed these days) at nearly every job I’ve ever had, either by customers
or bosses. I’m from the days when if a manager in a bar was mad at the staff,
they would wing trays around, smash shit, and scream. Bosses screamed at staff
while actively working in the restaurant or store or office or theatre or or or.
Teachers gave the strap, threw chalk and erasers, and slapped.
were mocked, the scapegoats. Arstsy fartsies, effeminate people, nerds, clowns,
and so on.
either the bully/boss/gatekeeper, or you weren’t. You learned young how to duck
and cover, how to be invisible, how to flirt to get ahead or to deflect
harassment. You learned to blend in, whether it was being part of the mocking crowd
or shrinking away. You learned how to handshake to be manly, to fit in, to be
thought of more than “others.” Movies and TV shows reinforced all the ideas.
Even if you
had something to say, (and some did have something to say over the years), a
seeming voice of reason, the majority mocked or ignored, especially if you were
blend in, playing chameleon. As most did. There might be whispers about the
mighty gatekeepers, for in those days, there were always gatekeepers. Many
gatekeepers were also “others,” but many were not. There was no internet. No way to
know who shared your thoughts or experiences. Was it cultural? You knew the
Emperor Had No Clothes, but you’re trained to blend in, don’t make waves, or
all the gates slam shut.
those days, there were not a lot of gates if you had specific goals. Especially
in the arts. Especially in the horror community.
gatekeepers, if we’re now focusing on the horror community, weren’t necessarily editors
and publishers themselves. Still, the gatekeepers rubbed elbows with all those who
had various powers to find the keys that opened the gates to the kingdom.
around the world have different world views, and so kingdoms and gatekeepers and
the gatekeepers’ gatekeepers are different as well. In Canada, the general
stereotypical regard, especially back in the eighties, was that Americans are
brash and rude. They push the envelope; they say stuff out loud that most would
never say. They bark loudly but are
usually harmless, and most mean well. So, I watched, giving a wide berth for “other
cultures” in case I wasn’t “getting it”.
Being a bit
cowed when I was younger, before the travails of life made me snarky and
outspoken (as happens with crones), I saw many words and actions that I
considered to be anything from demeaning to shocking to cruel and rude. I stood
by not doing what I should, not fighting the fight and sometimes even piling
on. I, too, have been the asshole. Absolutely.
areas of my life, I’ve been quiet when I should have stood up for myself or
someone else. We’re the product of our choices and the good thing about life is
that you can make new choices if the old ones don’t serve you. We have the
ability to transform our thoughts and behaviour. We can learn how to “judge” in
more gentle, sympathetic and empathetic ways.
something to be said for “gaslighting” and “grooming” (these aren’t just
buzzwords as people escaping cults can tell you), whether related to personal
relationships, professional relationships, politics, or society. It’s around us
in all media and entertainments. It’s only over the past few years that I’ve
come to understand that what is now considered “gaslighting” and “grooming” was
pretty much everyday life for most of us back in the day.
that’s why “the kids these days” don’t understand “why didn’t you speak up
against this or that?” or “why didn’t you report it?”
generations may not realize that things like human resources departments only
really came about in the nineties and beyond. Even into the 2000s, there were
no real rights at jobs, at being human. There was no manager to talk to at all
about anything. You just had to shut up and suck it up. If you complained about
something you heard/saw to the wrong person, it could get out, and you’d never
enter the kingdom. There was no one in charge, and self-policing groups for behaviours
that weren’t outright assault or stalking weren’t really a thing yet.
masks. There are different personas for different people. Not everyone sees a
person’s every side. We all have different sides, I would think. Especially if, over the years, we’re on various medications, drugs, alcohol, are in a cult,
abusive relationship, someone died, and so on. Some people change over the
years. Some for the worst. Some don’t change at all.
were words or actions that felt wrong, who did you tell back then?
internet or mass communication, there was no way to know that others felt it
But now we
do have mass communication. Sometimes, too much.
admire the newer generations pointing at infractions of humanity, grievous
infractions that many had slipped past, denied, ignored, placated, or shrugged
genre has evolved into sprawling octopus tentacles where there are no more true
gatekeepers. Not like back in the day. Publishing opportunities are nearly
endless. You don’t have to deal with agents if you don’t want to, unlike back in
the day. You can pop an editor an email or check out their social media; no more waiting for the key to the kingdom. There are many kingdoms these days. Everyone is welcome if you show talent.
like Brian, Mary, Chris and myself are listening and learning. We’re learning
that being silent did no one any good. We now have our eyes open that allies
fighting for what’s just common decency are in full view and in great numbers.
We don’t have to make nice anymore. We can call it as we see it, and people will
back us up.
been a great awakening for me these past few years. I’m hoping to find my own
strength to call out that which isn’t right. And I sincerely apologize to those
I let down or didn’t protect. I’m working harder all the time to be better. A
few years ago, I began making a YouTube theme of “Writers Behaving Badly” in an attempt to uncover some of these things but then stopped when the depression of
lockdown and such kicked in.
My dad was
an immigrant, part of a boatload of children from Spain sent to the States as
“orphans” to start a new life. His life was a series of horrors; racism,
religious abuse, physical abuse and more for being “others”. Yet, for my whole
life, he judged people by deeds and character and devoured history about all
cultures, races, genders and sexuality, always trying to understand why humans
are so horrible to each other. He shunned all organized religions, believed
they were invented to control others, and that you don’t need a religion to be
a decent person. He was a humanist.
I miss my
But I know,
parents die, and I was lucky to have him in my life for sixty years. I credit
him and my mom for making me more focused on character and deeds and to be
curious about how we historically got here from all cultural, religious, and
racial aspects. My whole immediate family is prone to giving people “the
benefit of the doubt,” and I’m learning as I age that there’s no law that says
we have to do that. That was from the “don’t make waves” generations. We don’t
have to be that anymore. I’ve felt distressed for decades about some things
I’ve seen and heard in many areas of my life, and regret rarely doing much
about but, usually, because I didn’t know what to do.
generations are giving me the strength to see that something CAN be done about a
lot of things.
eye-opening for so many of us. Sometimes evolution and revolution are good
To a very
few, I’d like to suggest that instead of shaming and blaming and JUDGING us with
“how could you not know?” or “why didn’t you report it?” why not be patient and
teach us how to be better at fighting it? One day, you too will be of “a
on social media, there are witch hunts for the witch hunts and I’m not sure
that’s any better than the original issue. Digging into people’s privacy (spying
on who is “friends” with someone, for instance) and dictating your personal
beliefs on how things should be handled (unfriend or else…!) is just as bad as
being the misogynist, racist, homophobic asshole you’re complaining about, in
my opinion. So to those few, I suggest you focus on getting your own life
straight and do your part to fight the fight, which doesn’t include shaming and
blaming other people for their own choices in how they handle a controversy if
they even know about it. Not everyone spends their time online sucking up your
the spirit of Women in Horror Month, I say, ladies, let’s keep fighting against
the misogyny. As those old Virginia Slim cigarette commercials used to say, “We’ve
come a long way, baby!” And as we now know, cigarettes will kill you, and so
will our old ideas. So, butt out that cigarette, and let’s all move forward to
new days ahead.
|See how much we've learned since this ad ran in the sixties?!?!|
And to everyone
and especially to those who feel like they’re on the outside looking in, “others,”
let’s keep fighting and learning and growing together. There is room for every
human being at the table in every house in every kingdom. Claim your spot!
in Horror Month!
Books from Tales
If you strategize, you can read these books for free on your phone, both Android and iPhone!
This was a team project and a lot of fun to write.
I'm doing this one completely by myself so it will take longer even though the book itself is finished in a rough first draft. It's a learning curve adding pictures and sound effects but I'm enjoying the process!
Dearly Departed came out in late 2022! Have you picked up your copy yet? Lots of horror shorts in this collection by Andrew Robertson and myself from The Great Lakes Horror Company!