Last night, I had a rather calm meltdown on Twitter, probably the most sedate ranting I’ve ever done. It started because I was having a long discussion with someone about how I should sell my work by giving them hope in redemption. I told them that this wasn’t the point of the story, that much like Humbert in Lolita, I was aiming at showing how a character’s mistakes led them astray. Well, they said “Who’s Humbert?” I responded “I’m guessing you haven’t read Lolita.” They said no, and was it another of my stories? No, I said, and I explained the basic plot before bowing out of the conversation when they again explained that I should sell my story with the promise of redemption. Otherwise it wouldn’t be enticing.
That’s not what led to the meltdown. After that, I’d ask if there was any way I could convince readers to go back to older challenging styles of fiction that didn’t start trying to soothe their vanities right from page one. I suggested that the classic American writers who wrote about destructive and unlikable characters wouldn’t have much chance in a market who must feel good about what they read all the time. And that led to someone saying that I needed to find a group who like miseries placed upon their characters, and who liked supernatural settings. And I thought, but that’s horror, and I got shunned by the horror community.
THAT’S what started the meltdown. There was no explosion, no long cusswords, and no naming names. I just started listing all the horror books I’d read as a kid or a teen where minors were involved in sexually explicit scenes. And this is part of the reason why I chose horror as my starting place for my writing, because I’d already been shown time and again “Here in horror, we won’t judge you for having a dark past.”
I was just about wound down when someone who didn’t know the situation tried to sort out where the prejudice against me was coming from. Maybe the people who’d called me names wouldn’t read stories with minors? No, I said, the person who attacked me published an anthology featuring a pedophile ghost sodomizing a minor, incest with a minor, necrophilia with a minor, and necrophilia of a dead teenager. The people who shunned me were willing to read Ketchum’s The Girl Next Door, a story about a girl being held prisoner who was tortured, sexually assaulted and murdered. That was based on a true story, and they would read that, but they told me they couldn’t read my dark fiction because I was “doing it wrong.” The person questioning me said, “Maybe they’re prejudiced against women,” and I said no, because the anthology I’d mentioned was all stories from the same woman. Furthermore, another member of their publishing collective was a woman who wrote a book with minors being incestuous, and where the main character was molested by an adult as a child.
And the more facts I laid out, the more this shunning hurt. I have not done anything in my fiction that they would not publish or consider reading. In my personal life interacting with these people, I have donated my time, money, and energy into their projects without asking for anything in return. The first time I’d sent them a story, it was because they approached me and asked me to write a story based on a joke I’d made. I wrote reviews for them; honest reviews, and even some low scoring reviews for the books that didn’t work for me. I was not kissing their asses to get on their good sides. I was just doing my best to support them and the horror market in general.
And so here I am, a day later, and still I have the same questions: if it’s okay for them to write these things and publish them, and their constant spiel is “Don’t judge me for what I write or read,” then what happened that I deserved to be shunned by people who had claimed to be my friends? Why was I shunned and called a pedophile? Why was I judged for what I wrote? It isn’t because I’m a woman. It isn’t because I’m a cling on or a suck up. I gave everything I had to these people, and they cut me loose and said “We don’t tolerate that kind of fiction around here.”
So what the hell went wrong? Later on in the night, someone I hadn’t talked to in ages said, “Beat them with a stick,” and I didn’t feel it. I don’t want to hit them. Not any of them. I just want one of them to apologize. And at this point, I don’t even care which one. I just want one of the two people who publicly attacked me to sit down, look at the facts and realize they blew up at me for no good reason. I want them to eventually say “I owe you an apology for how I treated you. You were a good friend, and I shouldn’t have said that.” Failing that, I want someone who shunned me to think about how easily they cut me loose and say, “What I did was wrong, and I’m sorry.”
I still think the market that best fits my story is horror, but the horror market doesn’t want me. And what upsets me, is, I don’t understand why. I’ve written nothing that Ketchum, King, Rice, or Anthony didn’t already write, and I wasn’t nearly as graphic or explicit. So why am I unfit for them? No one seems to have a satisfactory answer, and while I spin the questions around in my head, I can’t get any sense of closure to let me move on. I want an explanation or an apology. I want someone who was there and who knows what happened to acknowledge how unfair this shunning was, and how unfair it is that it’s still going on one year later.
Again, I gave the market everything without asking for anything in return for years. I gave reviews. I bought books. When people got sick or ran out of groceries, I sent money without wanting anything in return. When I finally had a story that I needed their help on, one of my closest friends attacked the people who gave positive reviews and insinuated that I was trying to train molesters. Shortly thereafter, another close friend told me I abandoned my people (It’s not true, I never did. But my financial and emotional support of other trans people is a private matter, not a badge I need to wear on my sleeve.) and that I was a pedophile. (It’s not true, I’m a recovering sex addict, and age has nothing to do with my problems.) And after I called the second attacker a hypocrite in a public space, the whole rest of the community backed away from me and surrounded him. People I’d spoken to for years couldn’t even be bothered to look at how unfair the situation was. They simply chose to shun me. Or to lecture me that I should have taken the attack and just shut up.
And yes, I’m still hurting over it. I’m still wishing that someone would think about what I gave to them, about the hours of work I put in for them, and recognize that I’m at least due an apology in return.
And if I can’t have that, then I fear this wound in my heart will continue to fester. Because I didn’t do anything wrong, and this isn’t right. I shouldn’t be shunned by the same genre that saved me from bullies. I shouldn’t be shunned by the genre that inspired me to write with its stories of minors being mistreated by monsters. I shouldn’t be judged by the crowd whose mantra is “don’t judge me for what I write or read.” And yet, I was judged for what I wrote. How is that right?
It isn’t, and I just wish the people who attacked me would read this and recognize how poorly they treated a longtime friend and fan of the same genre.