A person whose opinion I trust very much told me once never to get down in the mud. It might surprise some of you to know that I not only have strong feelings on the various shakeups, kerfluffles, and scandals which seem to monthly or even weekly rock this genre, my genre, the horror genre, but that I've been personally affected by more than one.
And if you don't know me personally, you don't know that. Because I don't talk about it. Because talking about it isn't my style, and I don't see what it benefits me. And fuck anyone who thinks they can get a rise out of me.
Or as the legendary Lieutenant Gene Hunt put it, "Thanks for the gunshot, dinkweed, but I didn't even feel it."
But let's push that aside and talk about some truths. Some universal truths.
There's a darkness in the human soul. Poe called it "the imp of the perverse." Roman Catholics call it "original sin." However pure your behavior in thoughts, words, and deeds, every one of us stands perpetually on the precipice of the abyss.
"What would I do if there were no consequences?"
It's a thought that haunts us all. It is why, perhaps, we enjoy stories of corruption as much (if not more) than stories of redemption.
There's nothing wrong with the imp of the perverse. Not inherently. As long as you tame it. And that requires acknowledging it.
In this regard I find horror authors to be way ahead of the curve than the general public. My colleagues and I exorcise our demons on the page. And you'll find, perhaps contrary to stereotype, that we're often quite personable and healthy people, because our derangements don't plague us, unaddressed. Some people swallow and ignore their imps until they become walking, talking derangements, incapable of human empathy. Better, I think, that you find THE GHOUL ARCHIPELAGO reprehensible than that I wear a gray suit and scream obscenities at gay couples and migrant children.
Another thing I've never spoken about, publicly or otherwise, is my sexual predilections. I'm not ashamed, though, to admit that I have desires of a very dark and, frankly, very deranged nature. Some desires that would quite simply be criminal if I ever played them out in real life.
And why am I not ashamed to admit that? Because I am wholly and completely aware of the difference between fantasy and real life. I am under no confusion about the meaning of the word "consent" and that, regardless of what I may want to do in bed, if my partner doesn't want to, we don't do it. Whatever it may be.
In the exact same fashion that I can write about juicily dismembering someone without ever carrying out such a heinous deed in real life, I can fantasize about rough sex without ever actually hurting someone. Thomas Harris is not Hannibal Lecter. We are not our darkest fantasies made manifest.
So what is the point of this post? The point of this post is that if you are incapable of keeping your inner darkness in check, if your imp of the perverse drives you to actually harm people, to make that leap from fantasy to reality, then you have no place in this genre. Quite frankly, you have no place in civil society. But as we are a rather quirky, rather understanding little bastion of strangeness in the sea of civil society, you particularly have no place with us.
We, the horror community, are a people who quite enjoy indulging our imps in rape, dismemberment, and every form of degradation. By which I mean, of course, the fictional kind. The healthy kind. The kind where ninety minutes of celluloid or three hundred pages of pulp provide you with all the titillation and itch-scratching that you desire.
If, even knowing that this community, if nowhere else, is a safe haven where we can all expose our imps without having to be belittled by the common muggles who think it's better to stuff such impulses down until they explode out unhealthily, if even after all of this, you completely misunderstand the entire point of horror fiction and you do actual horrible things to people, you have no place among us.
If you don't understand what consent is, you need to be ostracized from us. You probably need to be jailed, too, but you definitely need to be ostracized from us.
If, after all this, you don't understand the difference between dark fantasy and dark deeds, you need to be ostracized from us.
As has been pointed out many times before by greater men and women than me, horror may be a fractious community, but we are a single community when threatened by foes, whether internal or external. And predators, sexual predators particularly, are foes. They are antithetical to everything I have seen the horror community stand for: support, empathy, welcomeness. And on this point we must also stand as a community.
So, for whatever it's worth, even though I don't usually speak out on these sorts of things, I will join in the chorus of voices saying if you have been sexually harassed or assaulted, I will listen to you. I will not dismiss you.
If I am physically present, and you need assistance because someone is threatening or bothering you, do not hesitate to ask me. I don't care what I'm doing. It's not as important as the rest of your life. Because if you are in some way sexually taken advantage of, you may well carry that for the rest of your life. And nothing I'm doing at a convention or event, not signing books, not blathering about social media or whatever, is more important than your life.
In any group this large there are bound to be bad apples. But it is my sincere hope that rather than allow them to "spoil the whole bunch" the rest of us can work together to root out these bad actors and make the horror world everything it should be.
"Manuscripts don't burn"
- Mikhail Bulgakov
Hi, I'm horror and science fiction author Steve Kozeniewski (pronounced: "causin' ooze key.") Welcome to my blog! You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Amazon. You can e-mail me here, join my mailing list here, or request an e-autograph here. Free on this site you can listen to me recite one of my own short works, "The Thing Under the Bed."
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