AND I’LL LOOK DOWN AND WHISPER “NO”

Reprinted from this week’s newsletter, which you can subscribe to here.

 

I posted something on Facebook the morning after the Presidential Election. I didn’t say who I voted for (Johnson). I didn’t praise Clinton or Trump (I find them both equally loathsome). I didn’t attack people who voted for either of them, because I support those people’s right to do so. Basically, I didn’t do any of the things that you’ve no doubt seen my peers doing since the election results came in. ALL I DID was notice a lot of upset Millennial writers in my feed, who were looking to me for advice or wisdom — and I tried my best to give them some.

Here’s what I wrote:

A Message To Young Horror Writers:

Stephen King and Texas Chainsaw happened in the shadow of Watergate/Vietnam.

Splatterpunk happened in the shadow of Reagan.

Vertigo Comics happened in the shadow of Thatcher.

My generation’s success happened in the shadow of Bush Junior.

Now, it’s your turn. Go write about monsters and truth, because that’s our job, and there’s folks your age that are going to need it. Horror always does well in times of trouble, because people are seeking to escape from the very real monsters of the world, and curl up with safe, comforting make-believe monsters. Don’t let those people down.

End quote.

Now, whether you voted for Trump or didn’t vote for Trump, you can’t deny there are a lot of scared young people in this country right now. The reasonable thing to do might be to engage them in conversation, and talk through their fears. Unfortunately, we can no longer do that in this country because of the divisions on the Right and the Left. A young person on the Left says, “I’m scared.” A person on the Right points and laughs at them. But if a person on the Right did try to engage them in conversation, and said, “Hey, let’s talk about your fears. Help me understand what you are afraid of” the person on the Left will immediately point their finger at the person on the right and accuse them of being a racist or misogynist simply because of how they voted. And this vicious circle goes on and on and on. I see folks on the Right castigating those on the Left who are unhappy with the election results, but those same people on the Right seem to forget that they themselves did the exact same fucking thing when Obama was elected.

My name is Brian Keene. I am not on the Left or the Right. I used to be in the Middle. Now…?

Now I am outside the circle.

And I am beginning to hate anyone inside of it.

I wrote that piece, not to support one candidate or another, but to address the fears of the young people I saw in my timeline, without partisanship or anything else. It is a fact that horror fiction and horror films prosper more economically AND creatively under Conservative regimes than they do Progressive regimes. This has been true since the Sixties and it remains true today.

That’s not a partisan opinion. It’s a fact.

The day after I posted that was the second anniversary of J.F. (Jesus) Gonzalez’s death. If you’ve been reading END OF THE ROAD (my weekly column for Cemetery Dance) then you know I’m still struggling with his absence. And if you’ve been reading it, then you also know that the tour has come off the rails, with venues cancelling and games of musical chairs being played in editorial and money hemorrhaging and much more. What you don’t know (because we haven’t got to that point in the narrative) is that by September, this nine-month book tour starts to have a negative impact on both of my sons, and on my own health. And yet, I’m still out here, doing it. I’m in Portland, Oregon next week for BizarroCon. Why? Because I committed to this tour. I committed to my readers and my friends and my peers.

So, that morning, I wake up, and I’m missing Jesus, and I play with my youngest son and pack his lunch and take him to school, and we’re talking about how I have to go to Oregon, and he’s extra clingy and extra huggy and he tells me point blank he’ll be glad when this is over, and next year, he wants me to just stay home and play. And then I drop him off at school and I log online and I see that my little intentionally non-controversial  Facebook post has caused some controversy.

Two people say it’s racist. Another says it is misogynistic. Three say it’s typed “from a place of privilege” and therefore, must be disregarded. Seven see it as an attack on Trump. Two of those seven are incensed enough to make threats over it. Three think it says I didn’t support Clinton, and ALL of those three make threats as well. One says it is my fault that Trump won Pennsylvania, and is so incensed by this that he posts it several different times in several different places. Another, piggybacking on that, says people should boycott my books because Pennsylvania lost. And one accuses me of “Artsplaining” and equates me with somebody watching the Jews get shipped off to a concentration camp during Word War Two. When challenged, he eventually backpedals, and says he wasn’t referring to my post, even though he quoted from it.

Were these people random Internet weirdos? Were they clones of Nickolaus Pacione?

No. They were readers and friends and fellow authors.

And I’m done. Sooner or later, there was going to be a straw that broke the camel’s back. This was it.

For twenty years, I have bent over backwards for this genre, this industry, and the people who both love it and work in it. And I’ve been spit on and laughed at and stabbed in the back for it over and over and over again.

“But not everyone did that,” you shout. “You’re taking your anger out on everyone but it was just a few.”

Well, see…here’s the thing. They say that success breeds contempt, but what success really breeds is distrust. The more successful you get, the more “friends” you have. Sooner or later, you reach a moment of clarity where you figure out which of those friends are really friends and which ones aren’t. You ask yourself, who is there because of who you are and who is there because of who you are. That’s an important distinction, and I don’t know…maybe it’s not something you’ll understand unless you obtain a certain position, but it’s a realization I came to about six years ago, and I began to narrow my social circle accordingly.

Now, I’m gonna narrow it more. If I’m being fully honest here, I started narrowing it this summer, right before the bulk of the tour started. I threw a big party at my house, and I invited a lot of people, and — unbeknownst to them — I spent the day watching them. I spent the day watching my “friends”. I watched how they interacted with me — or didn’t interact with me. More importantly, I watched how they interacted with each other. How they treated each other. And how they interacted with and treated my girlfriend and my oldest son (who was also at the party). And I learned a lot of things.

And I’ve continued to learn a lot of things out here on the road. It’s called the Farewell (But Not Really) Tour, and part of that was the fact that I’ll be fifty next year, and my friends are fucking dying, and, to quote Waylon Jennings, “Living legends are a dying breed, there ain’t too many left. To tell the truth I ain’t been feeling too hot lately my damn self.” So, yes. That’s part of why it’s called Farewell (But Not Really). But the other reason it’s called that is because all year long, I’ve known I was going to have to sequester myself a little bit more, build more walls, be less public, less accessible.

I’d planned to wait until January 1st. As I said above, sooner or later, there was going to be a straw that broke the camel’s back. This was it. This week’s events just pushed me to do it a little sooner.

So, what does that mean? Does it mean I’m flouncing from Twitter, like Stephen King did earlier this week? Does it mean I’m going Bentley Little, and disconnecting from the Internet and never appearing in public again?

No. It doesn’t mean any of those things. It simply means that if you’re not my sons or my girlfriend, then you’re no longer a priority for me. You either respect that or you don’t. Either way, I don’t care.

I write books. You can like or dislike those books. But if you want to engage me in a 20,000 word Facebook discussion of what you didn’t like about the book, I’ll probably ignore it, because quite simply, I’m not writing books just for you. I’m writing them for the other 75,000 people also reading them. If you want a book specifically written just for you and tailored to your individual tastes then go write it.

If you’re an author and you’re texting or emailing me and your text or email starts with, “Hey, I know you’re busy but can you give me some advice on what to do about this publisher?” my answer will most likely be, “No, I can’t.” Because that’s no longer a priority for me, and because you just acknowledged that I’m busy, and because I’ve already given you that advice. My advice on contracts and agents and publishers and pay and harassment and all the other things that go on in this business are well-documented. No, I will no longer fight your battles. You need to start fighting them for yourself.

I am well-aware that what I’ve just written here will itself be just another source of controversy. That people will pick it apart, and divide it, and pull out select quotes to fit their own individual narrative or confirmation bias. I don’t care. That’s exactly what I’m getting away from. This newsletter is my last refuge. The last place, other than the podcast, where i can speak my mind. And though I love doing the podcast, I’ve always preferred to write my thoughts down rather than shout them into a microphone. I’ll continue to do so here, every week. I don’t Blog anymore. I have this.

Maybe you can dig that. Maybe you can’t. Either way, see above.

Those who don’t react to this in a negative way will no doubt ask, “What can we do?”

You can start being decent to each other. You can stop living in your safe social media bubbles where everybody agrees with you, and you can start having conversations with people who have a different fucking viewpoint. And you can listen to their viewpoint. You don’t have to agree with their viewpoint. But would it fucking hurt you to listen? Maybe you’ll learn something. You can start treating each other like human beings, rather than opposing teams that must be vanquished and defeated. You can stand up to racism, misogyny, misandry, harassment, bullying, and nitwittery, and a good way to start is by acknowledging that your team is just as guilty of those things as the other team is — because we’re all human, and we’re all flawed. BOTH sides are awash in intolerance, bigotry, and harassment.

If what I’ve said above makes you feel victimized or triggered or offended, I understand if you want to leave. No harm, no foul. If something is toxic to you, remove it from your life.

But if you do dig what I’m saying above, or you don’t agree with it but are willing to hear an opposing viewpoint, or you have the self-awareness to know that it’s not you, and you didn’t inspire this, then thanks for sticking around. Next week, we’ll talk about nice things, like THE NAUGHTY LIST movie.

End of rant.

13 thoughts on “AND I’LL LOOK DOWN AND WHISPER “NO”

  1. I’ve learned the hard way that the OPTIMAL perspective is outside looking out. Silent as extragalactic void, but you can see the multiverse in all its starry splendor. Wear a warm jacket, carry a big Thermos. It’s a great place to write—I’m there every day.

  2. I know how you feel. I’ve been avoiding Twitter lately, because other than Scalzi and Mamatas, everyone I follow who tweets about the election seems convinced that anyone who voted for Trump is a crazy racist, which is BS (and I’m someone who voted Hilary despite not liking her all that much). Until everyone calms down I’ll be avoiding social media as much as possible.

  3. Wow B-man, that was deep. It’s kind of weird the day I woke up and knew we had someone else in charge of our country I got scared. I think waking up and having either one of those to run our country I still would have been scared. I have 2 kids of my own and I’m worried about their future and where things are headed. I haven’t had cable in over 10 years because I’m so f****** sick of the news and the b******* they spew and your faces every day. I moved up to the mountains to get away from human beings, cuz frankly I’m sick of them. You are one of my few sources to the outside world. I don’t care about anything except for making sure my family is happy and taken care of. As always I support your views and respect them. We may never meet face-to-face but know that you’re always someone that I respect from afar. Anyway I hope you’re doing well and hope your tour ends soon… much love and appreciation for you and yours…. PS that was a perfect header for this and that has always been one of my favorite lines from Watchmen.

  4. Thanks for writing that, Brian. As a new writer, I found it inspiring and encouraging.

    Politics has always been tribalistic, but over the last few years, it has escalated to the level of a cult. This election has shown just what happens when we allow ourselves to retreat into echo chambers, when we trade away our tolerance and take up the self-satisfying pleasure of shouting petty invective at anyone who doesn’t stand within our ever-shrinking circle of righteousness.

    That’s not what art is for. If we care about the future, we need to do better.

  5. I lost a friend of 28 years over this nonsense. I’m with her, he’s with him. The friend said some very hateful things and in the end I realized I’m better off without that kind of “friend” ~ My mom was always fond of saying, “everything happens for a reason” I too am unplugging from social media for awhile and am going to read, (I’m reading your Castaways!!) watch Christmas movies, and enjoy the holidays with my family. I hope you do the same. Peace and love from New York.

  6. Sometimes people just suck and it seems that humanity just gets worse and worse everyday. I am a liberal and an LGBTQ American and I voted for Clinton and I don’t find your post offensive in the least. My first thought upon learning Trump won, other than fear (especially for my community) was that if there’s one silver lining, it’s that horror will thrive. The 1980s is my favorite era of horror and under the GW Bush administration we got the best episode of Masters of Horror: Homecoming. At least I’ll have some place to escape if things get bad.

    It pisses me off that people took what you said and twisted it into something negative. You were only speaking the truth and being encouraging. At this point you probably could have just posted “Well…” or “Hey…” and people would’ve found a way to spin it negatively. It’s sad that we are so divided and negative. And it’s sad that you have to deal with this crap and that it came from people you would’ve thought would not only know where you were coming from, but would have your back.

    I don’t blame you for pulling back and refocusing your life. I think a lot of us need to do that. Regardless, the negativity has to end. We can all have differing viewpoints and beliefs and still get along. Obviously, you have to cut off “toxic” people, but I would hope most people could get along without things getting vitriolic. I want people in my life with different viewpoints. All I ask is that we respect our differences.

    I’m glad we still have your newsletter and podcast. I look forward to reading and listening to them and seeing what you’re working on and such.

  7. Good for you Brian. Take care of yourself. You sent me a copy of your first book way back when, I still have it. I always wanted to say Thank You.

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