Oh Uncle Steve..

Before I get going, let me give y’all some background.

I have loved Stephen King since I was 8 years old. The first adult novel I read was ‘Firestarter’. I thought it was verboten so I hid a borrowed copy and read it feverishly whenever I could until I finished it. I have been a lover of horror since.

As an adult I have struggled with my love of King. I wanted to excuse his Magical Negros and constant fallback to racist tropes. I tried.

My love of his oeuvre and the impact on the artist I am not withstanding, I gotta once again realize that Uncle Steve ain’t here for folks like me.

ohnobb
[image description: a tweet by Stephen King that reads: …I wound never consider diversity in matters of art. Only quality. It seems to me to do otherwise would be wrong. Dated 4:20 AM Jan 14, 2020
Unky Steve tried to walk it back but look.

This issue is something I’ve spoken about for ages. I’m not gonna rehash. But let’s get a few things 100.

  1. This position assumes all things are equal. They are not.
  2. This position assumes that, things like institutional racism, sexism etc has no bearing in the arts. They do.
  3. It is just a goddamn bad take.

The main problem with people in Kings position making these type proclamations is that, he is in SUCH a position of influence. Like when I wrote about Phil Anselmo from one of my fave bands Pantera doing Nazi-esque shit as “jokes” I have the same issue here. Yeah, he might not have meant it that way but, there is an impact.

Like Phil, I fucking still love the dude. If I knew either of them, I’d probably just be like BRO WHAT THE FUCK IS U DOING….because I care about them. I enjoy their art.

Here’s the thing.

When people in positions of influene, like Mssrs. Anselmo and King, say and do dumb shit like this, there is a large part of their fans/followers and people they influence in their respective arenas who absolutely use things like this to back their own bias and put it into action.

The problem is that, it is #20-dingdang-20 and we HAVE to stop allowing White liberals to say shit like this and pretend like it is fine. It is not fine.

Had Uncle Steve been paying attention to his own industry for I dunno the last 15 years, he’d probably be well aware that in his most famous genre in particular, women, POC, etc have not been exactly welcomed with open arms.

We who are not cis white hetero men, don’t have the luxury of sitting back and resting on the quality of our work. We never have. Here in the year of fuckery of 2020 we still don’t.

As it is, right this minute. There are many white people in influential positions in horror publishing who are publicly neonazis. This is happening now.

How about a storytime? This is post Racefail ’09 and happened to me a few years ago when I decided to maybe start easing my way back into the horror area of lit life, I went to an event where there were HWA people.

It was some bucketlist shit for me. Many moons and out of prints ago, I was super close to making enough pro horror sales to qualify to be a member. That is all I wanted in life. Now, you may or may not know that in meatspace, I can be kinda shy and skittish. I’m a feral cat in a dress and easily startled. BUT when I wanna meet folks, I sweat and get it done.

I met some folks from the org and they were nice white folks. Generally welcoming, I don’t know if they were local to me. BUT, when we started talking authors, neither of them (and they were both older than me) had heard of not one SINGLE Black writer I mentioned. Most of the writers I tried to talk to them about were members in good standing, several of them were quite prolific and included Tananarive Due.

Tananarive Due.

……………

Y’all. It was enlightening to me.

The fact that they had NO IDEA of contempary horror writers who were producing work for big houses at that point, and weirdly they were all not White….

For a bit further sauce, around the same time I had been contacted by a small (no longer around) horror start up mag. They knew of my work from my porny horror I’d had published years earlier, they were nice White folks who said diversity a lot.

They liked a lot of the horror stuff I like. They solicited work from me. I may have the bones of the story somewhere but basically, it was a hood ass haunted house story. Very classic haunting and yes in the hood without the smirk. Hood kids, one of them with a root working Nana,

Their style of editing was quite eh, handsy. They wanted to work in a very collaborative, edit as you go type of way that they framed as “shaping” and “development”. I wasn’t a fan but I really wanted to be in their debut issue with a fat ass Blackity Black Black horror story.

As we worked, most of their inquiries were thinly veiled white folks being amazed that Black things exist. A lot of the story was hooked to 90s r&b and they questioned if their audience would recognize it. See also questions about if their audience would “feel” things like:

  • Mentioning braids or beaded hairstyles
  • Very light AAVE
  • Endless questions about things folks in the story did/knew about. Black biker gangs, passing mention of thins like Rodney King (remember this was very much placed in the 90s),

Etc etc. It became very clear to me that their discomfort was not the story itself but the absolutely unapologetic Blackness. That this story was not centered in the White gaze and thus was not “relatable”. They never questioned the quality of the work. They loved the idea but not the execution in that it was not, centered in the traditionally super whiteness of Horror.

I pulled out. I couldn’t take it. I felt so beat down and defeated. After that, I bounced off of horror for a long time. I didn’t read a lot of it, I didn’t follow the industry. I stuck to tried and true faves until the Anti-Blackness in those (UNCLE STEVE) was too much for me.

So look.

We can’t keep pretending that all things are equal in any sense of the word. Uncle Steve, please stop. This shit is exhausting. Read the link below and follow the links in it. Y’all can we fuckin not.

#StokersSoWhite: 2016-2018, the fall of tokenism at the HWA by Sumiko Saulson. 

Fiction Fun Using Prompts

OH Hi there.

So one of my favorite things in the world is to write mythos, y’all know this. I’ve been feeling a little creatively constipated so I brought out the big guns.

Instigation: Creative Prompts on the Dark Side by Michael A. Arnzen.* (evil empire affiliate link srry).

This book came out in 2013 and I’ve literally been using it since the week after it debuted. This is one of my favorite books of prompts and it has been so well worth the money. I love to use prompts to see what happens when I poke my brain meat.

Below find a um, refashioning of a Lovecraft beasty. For reference this is about Shub-Niggurath.

For whatever reason, my brain parsed the prompt as, write a Black as fuck new Lovecrafty thing. SO I present you a fresh out of my brainmeat, recrafting of Shub-Niggurath. An origin tale if you will. With the prompt. ENJOY!

Prompt-1.57  

The title of your piece is “Death by Chocolate.” Go.  

Tarasha Golden had a routine. She woke at 5 AM sharp, did her fifteen-minute yoga practice, made her smoothie bowls and spent time caring for her skin and body. Most mornings, she even managed to use some little part of herself as an offering, she kept bits of herself to offer to her Mother to keep their connection. To exist on the Earth meant she had options, her decisions to transubstantiate revolved around her love of the gibbering lust of weak men and her perverted desires to procreate just to see what could happen.  

This time around she built herself in the image of the ones she loved to look at. The Black girls she liked were thick, goddess bodied women who lived in the liminal shadow of hate and desire. She made herself to be in that place. Prior to committing to the physical, she had looked at women all over the world. The coveted beauties. The lotus footed beauties in the Song Dynasty, the lead poisoned priestesses in Greece, the blessed Hijra, the masculine beauties with wives in the American west, so many to choose from. She loved them in their intricate diversity, she walked in their skins feeling herself as the kids started to say at some point. 

Tarasha had been all of them, she inhabited the flesh and the experience in ways that as she had learned by the modern age, were easy to use as weapons. The twin flames of lust and hate, rather than greed or even religion were the means she liked to use to destroy the weakest amongst men. Upon close examination of her earliest mates and playthings, their desires cut into their most secret hatreds, their petty jealousies and could turn from a lovers touch to an abusers slap, with the speed of the word no crossing her lips.  

Once she happened upon the broken mix of human malaise and the depths of depravity her favorite prey mates could reach, there was no turning back. In modern times, Tarasha watched for a time. It was time for her to mate and cultivate the Gof’nn hupadgh, her most beloved worshippers once more. She was ready to give them suck of her milk and bear her many children.  

Tarasha chose wisely for both her own aesthetic pleasure and to tickle the hateful madness in her prey mates. She made herself tall and deep dark brown, thick as the human children said, fine and yes, yes she could look at her new form in the mirror, naked and gleaming, gloriously fertile and everything, her prey mates hated, she felt resplendent and ready.  

Once, she had to wait for a new moon and a woodland and the call of sacrificial flesh and blood and other nonsense.  Instead, there was one of her Gof’nn hupadgh, her most fervent true believer who, in lieu of a woodland or person to sacrifice, called under a new moon, in a room reeking of her offspring and jittering with the ruckus of her gibbering dark offspring. They made the wood and thus she came. 

The Gof’nn hupadgh, fell to his knees before her. He could not hide his surprise nor his momentary uncontrolled feral hate and lust, it was delicious. She smiled at him, “what’s wrong Gof’nn hupadgh? Do I not please you?” From her voluptuous lips, the voice churned in the human. He felt it pull and the dank heat of it in his bowels, “forgive me mother but you, you’re-” 

She bent forward and the splendid Black body she had created, undulated and flickered to give glimpses of the gleaming wet black maw of her true self. “I am, what?” The Gof’nn hupadgh’s eyes went white all round as the Black body he wanted and hated, exposed the corpse scented tentacled true body of his most beloved Mother and his little mind, his poor mind could not reconcile the two. Hate, lust, want, need, the impostures of his own broken desires begat a new madness. 

Tarasha, so named by her own mind wanted this and when the Gof’nn hupadgh at her feet, let go and raised his hands to her, his eyes settling between her legs, she understood this new game. She understood the new game in this world, to use their latent hate and allow them to fertilize a new generation of her Dark Young. A new tradition. New fun in form and function. 

She took the Gof’nn hupadgh into her womb and felt, his anger and disgust and need and it was good. Upon taking him in, she let the blessed event proceed as it had done for millennia before. He would be her first, and yet not her last. Upon his rebirth, he knelt at her feet mewling for her milk.  

Tarasha stroked the creature tenderly, a smile on her lush carmine lips. “Yes, I know. Now come on, we have things to do, come come come.” 

Tarasha Golden strode out of the makeshift wood, under the New Moon, in her new skin and feeling fine and ready for the realm.  

Horror Musings- Ma and #ownvoices

I saw the movie Ma recently and (spoilers in link) and I have some thots. Buckle up. SPOILERS bro.

On the surface of it, Ma is a pretty okay movie. Good amount of suspense, interesting main antagonist but, by the time they started to “reveal” Ma’s backstory it was really too late. This was obviously not written by a Black person. I checked and sure enough, nope.

From the start, this had potential had someone Black written it. Here we have Sue Anne, one of obviously very few Black folks in this town and we (we as in probably mostly Black folks lezbehonest) know some shit happened. When you are one of few Black folks in any very white place, shit is gonna go down.

Perfect set up for a psychological thriller where you Sue Anne get your revenge by killing the kids of the folks who fucked with you. However, this is where #ownvoices is so important, in spite of how magnificent and menacing Octavia was in this role, the lack of providing us even glimpses via flashback, nightmares, something left the later mentions of stuff having happened empty to me.

In the end, regardless of the performances (I also really loved Juliette Lewis playing a grown person) there is a disconnect in this film. I could tell very quickly this was not a Black story. From wiki, this is the problem:

He read Scotty Landes’ script of the film, which Blumhouse Productions had bought the day before.[5] Although the original draft was written with a white woman in the title role, Taylor immediately thought about Spencer.[4] He went out to the hall, called Spencer, and asked her if she would like to be in a horror film;[5] without reading the script, Spencer boarded the project.[5]

The issue is that, you can’t just plug Blackness into any story. You can’t always just say NO BUT MAKE THEM BLACK and have that make the Blackness in the media you’re creating work. To put a finer point on it, if you’re going to bring in that racism and misogynoir into the story, the men who wrote it have no clue about how those things could make a monster like Sue Anne and for me it fell flat.

This is where I would say the solution is sensitivity readers/writers. I think Blumhouse really missed a great chance to look at a script and say, we need Black folks on this to make this story better. If you want to:

“I want to do something really fucked up.”[5]

Do the damn work.

This is why #ownvoices is so important. This film could have been so much better. Deeper. Richer. A more terrifying experience.

Overall, it was ok. I’ll probably watch it again for Octavia’s work alone but, really if you’re gonna make a Black ass horror story, consult some Black people.

If you’re gonna use a racism trope, use it. Don’t drop it in cause you’ve switched your main antagonist to be a Black person. This is an instance where I want to cheer but I feel like, y’all coulda done more. Blumhouse has the cash. Do the work. Take a chance on doing something great and fucked up.

In terms of horror fiction, this is a great set up. It is rich territory to explore and we need more of it. Just, not done by a team of white folks.

I think that’s all for now. Coming soon, book reviews!!

First up next week, beloved Jen Pastiloff then beloved Gabino Iglesias. WOO!

 

Yeah Write #452- Harold in the Afterlife

 

Harold in the Afterlife

by

Shannon Barber

He was excited to see 150 new emails in his inbox. The world had given him the gift of solitude in his communications. No more ridiculous chanting, no more exhausting transmogrification on demand, a simple button push and voila, everything he needed to get it all done. The little ding of an email sent or received had become his greatest pleasure.

He thought he would spend the rest of his eternity quietly tapping away on his miracle machine with dignity and organizational beauty but, no. One email, a single line and the dreaded high importance flag.

“Fifteen minutes.”

He left his little safe space and appeared as summoned. He stood with his hands folded in front of him, trying to look pleasant. The Boss looked at him over his glasses.

“Harold. We need to talk.”

“Yes sir.”

The Boss nodded.

“Harold, you are not an administrator anymore. You are dead. You are a ghost. Do your job please. Those emails you send, they don’t go anywhere. Please, you are assigned to full manifestations and shadow person appearances. We have tried to work with your needs and this, situation is untenable. It has been fifteen years.”

Harold sighed and squirmed.

“Yes sir.”

He looked so dejected and heart broken, The Boss held up a finger and tilted his head back. He hated to see such a face and made a decision.

“Harold, we’ll be moving you into this new industrial office park. It was built on desecrated ground. They have a lot of those computers you are so fond of. You can get in there and do whatever you want. Send emails, block emails, uh do the YouTube.”

The grin that spread across Harold’s misty face was beatific for a moment.

“Oh yes sir. I would like that very much. May I go right now?”

The Boss nodded and Harold dissipated. The Boss shook his head a little and muttered as he got back to work, “once a bureaucrat….”

###

Yeah Write #442-….safe.

….safe.

by

Shannon Barber

In the sun, in June you are safe. But, it grows. Cradled in light and heat, you are free, safe. There is no reason for the world to slip and slide on the periphery of you. No reason for the chill between your thighs.

You will not scream. The darkness will not come. And yet the cold place grows inside.

###

Yeah, Write #430

Yeah, Write #430 

-you’ll Laugh

You Know.

by Shannon Barber

You know.

-you’ll laugh.

You want to call them faceless, nameless, formless even- it would be easier wouldn’t it? Everything would be better if you didn’t feel their name songs in your bones when you lay down to sleep, if you didn’t see their faces smile at you from darkened corners, if your skin didn’t remember the heat of their touch. Easy, you crave any ease and moments of illusory peace.

You know.

-you’ll laugh.

You watch everyone else. Their petty struggles and their ignorance of the name songs and weight of the dead that hangs on them make you smile when everything else is- as is. You hold your truth close, truth is your secret. Watch the rest of the fools dance and squirm. You tell yourself while your bones vibrate with name songs and your skin buzzes with ghosts, at least you know. Tonight you’ll laugh.

You know.

-you’ll laugh.

You know. You will take your complexities and one foot on the other side life because-

You know-

-you’ll laugh.

###

Ay listen.

Hi babes.

Can we talk about some shit I’ve been learning lately?

First thing I’ve not learned but we’ll say that has been reinforced to me is that, a lot of general promotional advice is woefully out of date. It doesn’t account how a lot of us have our links on platforms like FB throttled so hard, even our “close” friends don’t see them.

So I kinda am trying to make a deeper peace with that. I’m working on it.

The other thing is that, I’ve noticed that even with me taking pains to reduce how much stuff I give away, I STILL don’t really generate things that are buyable by my general audience across a few platforms. How do I know?

Medium for instance. I currently have 19 pieces behind the paywall, a good variety of type of content. Here in 2019 I’ve made less than a dollar. I mean…my read ratio regardless of topic or length is under 2 out of 10. Then of course when I can read stuff on medium, I see a LOT of bullshit that makes hundreds of dollars likely.

It makes me tired.

I’ve been using KoFi for almost a month exactly and have three things to read. One poem, two essay type things. And goose eggs.

I talked about it on my main fb account a while back. And funnily enough when I said, don’t blow smoke up my ass if you’re not going to at the very least share, my share rate went from few to literally 2-4. And so did engagement.

So really, I’ve learned that the call to action, the asking my community for help etc etc. Ain’t for me. I’ve tried. I’ve modified my tone, I’ve changed what I’m giving, etc. I think I can make some peace with that. Silence and inaction says volumes. More so when the folks who do the share because they don’t have $$ to support, are literally the same 4-6 people it has been for a decade. That’s my real audience. They are the real Gs and I’m not talking about them.

What else?

In terms of Gasoline Heart here’s some interesting things. (NOTE TO SELF ASK PUBLISHER FOR NEW BOX O BOOKS) Some of the folks who’ve read it, really loved it. one of the things I’ve seen in several reviews are along the lines of, HOW DID I MISS THIS/THE WORLD MISS IT?

Easily. SO the above issues. I mean, a few people (the book has been out for a while now) who’ve known me for a long time have said, I didn’t see X links. Sorta believable. Also I am not represented, I am not a darling, I am not very famous or really even connected in the poetry world. So yeah, you won’t find my lil book in lists and shit. That is just how it is.

Also, I learned that I do not have the cash on hand to be trying to get my lil book awards. Shit is expensive. In secret I spent a few months last fall really dedicating hours of my week to submitting to free publicity or award things with my lil book. The hours cost me in terms of spoons and time not spent writing and netted me one very nice rejection letter.

And real talk. I STILL can’t get poetry published. At last submission spree, even with mentioning the book and including a poem or two from it, I don’t really get no love from the lit poetry world. That’s fine but it also means that I’m chasing my tail trying to promote my fucking book.

So yeah. That’s been a struggle but I’m glad I did it. I can see the whole pathway and what obstacles exist for me in particular and that I don’t honestly have the spoons to try to get around them. So I do what I have energy for.

NON BULLSHITS.

So last year I decided to focus more on getting back into the fiction world and boy howdy. Quite a few years ago I had about a 60% acceptance rate in the short fiction world. That was huge.

My return to it has been fucking lit.

This year I’ve placed stories in two anthologies that are both HUGE DEALS to me. Huge. I got an experimental horrory story into Would but Time Await: An Anthology of New England

I was REALLY nervous because the story was an experiment. It is a Black story and I haven’t really been in the horror community for a while.

THEN I got a little tiny horror story accepted over at Heavy Feather (will announce when it goes up). The editor Jason dropped me a note months ago and I FINALLY made something I’m into.

And then, I got the notification and one of the best damn acceptance notes ever. My lil supernatural noir story got into the Gimme the Loot: Stories Inspired by The Notorious B.I.G. Forthcoming from Clash.

The uniting theme in these is that, I’m at my best when I write what the fuck I want to write. I think freelancing really kind of crushed that in me to a degree. Yes there are some publishers who have been all the way the fuck in with me. But, largely that is not the case. This is the same thing with the flirtations with agents and mainstream publishing.

It is like, OKAY we fuck with you but about 40% so dial it back.

I don’t write great things with that in mind. I don’t write great things when I’m trying so hard to get paid what I’m worth.

All of this is really about me pupating so I can in fact find my place in the lit world. Someone who was trying really hard to be encouraging was comparing me to two very famous, very amazing Black writers and y’all, it made me cry. I like both authors. But, I am not like them and cannot be.

I hate this whole struggle between wanting a seat at the table, wanting some “success” (as termed by our culture) and just wanting to be my weird little self, make some writing, make some pomes, do my shit and maybe sometimes be shown appreciation in the form of coins.

I’m working on it. One lil thing at a time.