Yesterday, Jim Mcleod over at Ginger Nuts of Horror talked about a failing sense of community in the horror genre, and people freaked out at him in a demonstration of exactly the narcissism he was talking about.
I disagree with Jim a little–at least from my own lens the horror community is extremely helpful and friendly. The people I’ve met, both IRL and online, have by and large been supportive, friendly, interesting, awesome people who recognize that this isn’t a zero-sum game. We all write because we love to write, and read because we love to read, and are happy to promote stuff that we find promotion-worthy. We help each other out because we’re all enthusiastic about the good stuff that’s out there.
But then again, maybe he’s right. I delete a gazillion posts a day from the Horror Writers Association Facebook Page that are of the BUY MY BOOK BUY MY BOOK spam variety, and on Saturdays (Spammerday) I let through another giant pile from HWA members, some of whom never interact on the page or the forums except to advertise. The vast majority of authors–not just horror authors, but authors–on social media are little more than meaty spambots, who never say or do anything interesting at all. This is why most writing-related groups on Facebook are utterly useless, just never-ending streams of desperate authors trying to shill their work to other desperate authors.
I mean, I want more people to buy and read my books, too. Every writer does. Writing novels and short stories is fun, but ultimately you go through the oft-aggravating process of submission and rejection and ultimate publication so that people will read and enjoy your stuff, and my plans for world domination take a kick to the baby-maker every time people pass by my work…I mean, c’mon, who doesn’t like thrillers or high school satire twisted up with zombism? BUY MY BOOK! BUY MY BOOK!
…but this desire doesn’t make me special. It does quite the opposite, it makes me uncomfortably like the meatbots that everyone finds so boring and annoying. Everyone thinks their work is worth someone else’s time, someone else’s money. Most of those people are wrong, and most think they’re the exception. Hell, you have to think you’re the exception to grind through the publication process; and yet, by definition the majority can’t be the exception to the rule. (Here’s where my self-doubt goes all Hulk on my Lokian ego. Puny god.)
As a relative newcomer to this scene–my first novel was published in 2012, and my fourth last May–I don’t have a lot of perspective on how large or small the horror community used to be. I don’t know if the community has shrunk, or if it’s just being washed out by (BUY!) the meatbots. But I can speak to what it looks like from here.
I interact daily with a huge number of great people who Like and Share and review and promote, who work at helping other people not out of some sense of expected reciprocity but because they love great stories, they love writing and reading and things that go bump in the night. I found these people in a crowd of desperate BUY MY BOOK narcissism, and they found me, not through some magical happenstance or favoritism or clannishness or guildership or privilege, but by being and behaving like real people.
So Jim is wrong and Jim is right. There’s an incredible sense of community in the horror genre, but only among those who are…well…communal. The sea of BUY MY BOOK white noise is vast, but navigable, and you can find and be part of a tremendous community. If, you know, you act like an actual person worth communing with instead of a desperate meatbot.