This past weekend, some friends and I flew out to Colorado to visit Tom Piccirilli. These are the thoughts that have been bumping around in my head since returning home — some fairly lengthy musings about friendship, time, writing, and life. Some folks dig those type of Blog entries and some folks don’t. So I’ll just hide it under this cut tag—–>
Okay. Now that the people who don’t like that sort of thing are gone, here are two pictures of John Urbancik, Geoff Cooper, myself, Mike Oliveri, and Michael T. Huyck. The first was taken in Seattle in 2001 by Sephera Giron. The second one was taken last weekend in Colorado by John’s automatic camera. Study them for a moment.
A keen observer (see what I did there) will no doubt notice a few things when comparing these two pictures. The first is that while the passage of time has had an impact on Oliveri’s hair color, my hairline, and Urbancik’s waistline, it has had no discernible effect on Coop whatsoever, and Mikey’s posture 12-years later is still that of a man twenty years his junior. (That is because Mikey is, in all actuality, perpetually frozen into that kneeling position. This is why you never see him at horror conventions anymore). Another thing one might notice is that we’re smiling more in that original picture. Probably because writing hadn’t yet broken our hearts the way it did years later.
What I notice about these pictures is something you probably don’t. What I notice about these pictures are all the other people that are in them — people you can’t see, but that I see as clear as day. Tom Piccirilli, Weston Ochse, Regina Mitchell, Ryan Harding, Mary SanGiovanni, Tim Lebbon, Rain Graves, J.F. Gonzalez, Wrath James White, Mehitobel Wilson, Carlton Mellick, James Newman, Mike Bracken, Drew Williams, Jack Haringa, Nicholas Kaufmann, Sephera Giron, Monica O’Rourke, James Futch, Donn Gash, Gak, Bryan Smith, Linda Addison, Michael Laimo, Alan Beatts, Matt Johnson, Seth Lindberg, Brett Savory, Darren McKeeman, Mike Marano, Brian Freeman, Chad Hensley, Holly Newstein (now Hautala), Gerard Houarner, David Niall Wilson, Vince Harper, Dave Barnett, and so many more. So very many more. An entire generation of writers. Enough for a cabal…
That was what some in our generation used to call ourselves — the Cabal. It was a tongue in cheek tag, but it gave us a sense of community and a sense of identity in the days when the Internet was still quite new, and the horror literature community was a very different thing.
We had mentors — folks like Richard Laymon, Edward Lee, Ray Garton, John Pelan, Brian Hodge, Yvonne Navarro, John Skipp, David Schow, Gene O’Neill, Joe Lansdale, Jack Ketchum, F. Paul Wilson, and Tom Monteleone. And again, many more. Veterans who took the time to offer advice and counsel, or maybe just a drink when we needed it.
It truly was all for one and one for all.
We intended to set the genre on fire. Fifteen years and some change later, it is the genre who has often burned us. Some fell by the wayside. Some folks have passed. Others have just drifted away. Some moved on to other types of writing, or quit writing altogether. Some stuck around, experienced varying degrees of success, and learned just how fucking brutal and savage and unforgiving this business can be. Some who have persevered ask themselves why, and if it was worth it.
I ask myself that quite often. I ask myself if my success has been worth the cost. And believe me, the toll has been high and there have been times when the weight was unbearable. I’ve sacrificed a lot, and have lost a lot more, and there have been a higher abundance of tears than there have been laughs.
But yes, it was worth it. It was absolutely worth it, and I’d do it all over again for one thing.
For the friendships I’ve made.
These days, there is no cabal. It’s more like a collective. But the sentiment behind it still hasn’t changed. All for one and one for all.
Today, my four year old son and his classmates went on their first field trip. The parents went along, which means me and all the other moms (yes, I’ve become a soccer mom, and I am totally okay with that. The girls give me recipes and tips on how to make jack-o-lanterns last longer and I entertain them with tips on the best cigar to smoke or how to increase your grain alcohol tolerance. It’s a wonderful symbiotic relationship). But I digress…
The field trip was to a local pumpkin farm. At the end of the day, my son and his three friends climbed atop a stack of hay bales, and I took a picture of them. In a rural community such as ours, it is conceivable that these four boys will remain friends until they graduate from high school. In the seconds before I snapped the picture, they were pretending to be Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, and Captain America. In the picture, they are smiling, arms clasped around each other, ready to conquer all that life will throw at them. All for one and one for all.
I want to warn them about what life has in store. The hurts and disappointments and heartaches that will come, but these are things they will have to learn for themselves. With luck, they will learn them together, and live them together, side-by-side. Because that’s what friends do.
I have been blessed with many good friends in my life, but none like the friends I’ve made as a writer. So yes, it was worth it. Each and every time I got financially screwed by a publisher or criticized by some illiterate dingbat on Amazon or stalked by a lunatic who was convinced that I was the source of all his problems and also the anti-Christ — it was worth it.
You can judge a man by the friends he keeps.
And I’ve got some of the best god-damned friends in the world.
We went to see Tom because he is one of those friends — one of those best god-damned friends in the world, and he’s fighting brain cancer, and because a friend should never be alone in a fight. A friend should be able to glance around the bar, back against the wall, and know that other friends are wading into the fray with fists and guns and knives, ready to kill motherfuckers for him.
I’m not going to speak to the details of Tom’s condition. That’s for Tom and Michelle to decide what they want made public and what they don’t. But I will tell you that post-operation, he is most definitely still the same old Tom, still full of wry humor and sarcasm, and wonderful insights, and still a connoisseur of Asian cinema and noir paperbacks. The cancer has not beaten him, and it is my sincere belief that he will beat it in the end and emerge stronger than ever before. But the battle will not be easy, and he will need the support of friends.
Friends like you. Here again are some ways you can help Tom and Michelle.
1. You can donate money directly via this fundraiser on IndieGoGo. The fundraiser has been set up by Tom’s niece. All proceeds will go directly to Tom.
2. You can donate money immediately via PayPal to Tom’s sister-in-law. This money will help Tom’s wife Michelle with living expenses now (as the fundraiser money won’t be available until the end of October). See the Donate button at the top of this page.
3. You can purchase one of his digital books published by Crossroads Press. From now until the end of the year, they are waiving their percentage, and 100% of the sales will go to Tom.
4. You can purchase the digital edition of Tom’s Every Shallow Cut from Chi Zine Publications. Until the end of the year, 100% of the sales for the digital edition of will also go directly to Tom.
Coming soon, look for an announcement from myself, Edward Lee, Jack Ketchum, Bryan Smith, J.F. Gonzalez, Wrath James White, and several others about yet another way to help (all courtesy of Deadite Press).
I’d take a bullet for Tom. So would Coop, John, Mike, and Mikey.
I’m not asking you to do that. I’m just asking you to do what you can.
All for one and one for all…