Like all good cycles, every so often in horror community there arises the discussion about the death of the genre (say for example this discussion over at Shocklines) and how all the truly “good” horror is to be found in, yet ignored by, the small press. Of course this discussion is a matter of perspective, as over on the Horror Writers Association, they are arguing/wondering why the nominees for their Bram Stoker Awards are so heavily weighted towards the small press while ignoring the fact that there is so much horror to be found on the New York Times best sellers list. The scapegoat of this atrocity, of course, is that group of writers in between, the mid-listers. THOSE BASTARDS!!!

Every so often I find a quote or comment that I just like to preserve for the ages (against the perils of thread deletion), and there’s this bit of cogent sanity from Mary SanGiovanni (who I’d refer to as “the lovely and talented”* but I don’t want to offend any of my feminist friends, so instead I will refer to her as one of those many women ignored by the genre when the other cyclical discussion of “are there any women who write horror” comes up.):

I mean all this with the utmost respect.

I find that many conversations about the “death of the genre” trot out uninformed opinion, tired or inaccurate statistics, or narrow views and definitions to back their claim. And this has been going on for decades.

A hundred people could say the genre isn’t dying and people who like debate and/or controversy or even, to be fair, just have a genuine desire to fix what they see are failings in a community they love are simply never going to hear it.

The fact is that until one knows what goes into writing for a living, or completing novels, etc., one can’t really say whether the people doing those things are giving it everything they have or not. They don’t know if illness, divorce, death in the family, financial troubles, a wedding, a new baby, a new job, a new house, etc. etc. etc have contributed to a time crunch on a contracted project. They can’t tell if a person spent three years plotting out an idea they loved, and executed it at night while the new baby slept or the husband went out with the guys or the wife went to bed angry again that he wasn’t joining her. Writers are people, and many of the full-time working writers I know give everything they have every time they can, not for publishers or critics or decriers of the genre, but for themselves and their fans.

Also, seriously, this idea of an in-crowd ought to be put to rest. This is an entertainment field. You might get a chance because of who you know. But you only hold up to the fans, the critics, the test of time if you have the capacity to be good. I’ve been in the business for about a decade. Most of the people who didn’t have either talent or persistence when I started out and yet somehow made it through faded away. Even some very good folks fade away. It’s a tough life, rejection and publication. But you ask Tom or Paul or Rick or Doug how many folks they’ve seen come and go, and I’ll bet they’ll tell you the chaff falls away after a while. The wheat keeps growing. There’s this pervasive and only passive-aggressively hinted idea that Keene and Mamatas hold secret candlelight meetings of hand-picked minions, and we all get together in black robes, make fun of the little people until our thirst for meanness is quenched, have orgies to strengthen our power, and then plot and plan ways to destroy people’s careers and keep down all these folks with talent who keep struggling from the primordial sledge of slushdom to the sweet air of publication.

It doesn’t happen. Ramsey Campbell is not holding you down. Doug Clegg is not holding you down. Mort Castle is not holding you down. That sounds paranoid. The cold, hard truth about publishing is that you keep working at writing until you’re good enough to be published. Then you learn the markets and see where your work might fit. Sometimes you get a hit. Sometimes you don’t. But you keep at it. That’s how it works.

I used to post tirelessly about how so many writers who are successful, who are full-time, putting-food-on-the-table types are genuinely good, genuinely helpful, genuinely folks who would go out of their way to give you every possible benefit of their knowledge. But they, like me, are tired of getting bitten in the hand for it. So maybe what folks think is elitism is maybe just exhaustion, frustration, or even self-preservation. Cut them a break.

Yes, I know, all of this could just be avoided if I’d simply skip going to message boards. But, hey, I am supposed to be writing and I have to keep coming up with new ways to procrastinate. Plus, as you all know, my life goal is to become a mid-list writer who exists to keep other writers down.

*For the record, we now only refer to Brian Keene and Gary Braunbeck as “the lovely and talented”.