Sunday, February 5, 2023

A Different Time for Others


A Different Time for Others

Sèphera Girón

For those 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.

However, 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.

I’m from 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.

One thing 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.

Times have changed dramatically. And I don’t mean just going from writing on typewriters to home computers to cell phones.

The younger 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.  

“Others” were mocked, the scapegoats. Arstsy fartsies, effeminate people, nerds, clowns, and so on.

You were 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 “others.”

So, you 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.

And in those days, there were not a lot of gates if you had specific goals. Especially in the arts. Especially in the horror community.

The 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.

People from 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.

In many 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.

There is 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.

And maybe 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?”

The younger 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.

There are 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.

If there were words or actions that felt wrong, who did you tell back then?

With no internet or mass communication, there was no way to know that others felt it too.

But now we do have mass communication. Sometimes, too much.

I truly admire the newer generations pointing at infractions of humanity, grievous infractions that many had slipped past, denied, ignored, placated, or shrugged off.

The horror 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.

Many elders 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.

This has 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 dad.

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.

The younger generations are giving me the strength to see that something CAN be done about a lot of things.

This is eye-opening for so many of us. Sometimes evolution and revolution are good things.

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 different time.”

These days 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 drama.

However, in 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.

Virgina Slims Ad
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!

Happy Women in Horror Month!


Books from Tales

If you strategize, you can read these books for free on your phone, both Android and iPhone! 
Please give them "likes" or whatever it is so they can get up in the searches. 

Let Us Burn
is finished and up. 
 This was a team project and a lot of fun to write.

Four Witches and a Dude is a work in progress. Chapter Three should be posted soon. 
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!



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