Friday, December 22, 2006

Stoker recs, Happy New Year, and Real Community

In what will probably be the last update of the year 2006, two more Stoker recommendations were posted this week. I don't know what to say at this point. Perhaps the Christmas card I got from an old girlfriend's mom (long story) summed it up best: she said "You're finally living the life you dreamed of in high school - writing books about zombies!" Pretty perceptive she is, because that's really about it at this point. I do what I love, I get paid (a little) for it, and some of the people who do the same thing like and respect my work. I'm not sure what more people could ask for in life. Once again, the free book offer still stands: any HWA member - active, affiliate, or associate - may request a free copy. So may anyone with a blog, zine, or print journal who would review it.

I also bought my New Year's Eve cigar. I smoke a big, expensive (by my standards - $7 or $8) one twice a year, whether I need to or not, and New Year's is the one set time. I'm thinking March 31 will be the other one next year, with my new friends in the horror community. Oh, which is another thing I've been meaning to post here. For almost 20 years now, I have belonged to various academic and religious groups, and I have never, ever been in a group that is as accepting, generous, and encouraging as the "horror community." This is all the more ironic, because the people in the various religious and academic communities talk endlessly about how important community is to them, how much they want to build up their community, how central the community is to what they do. And you know what? It's mostly all talk. Meaningless, hypocritical blather. You put a bunch of them in a room and it's like a bag of wet cats - nasty, vicious, selfish, loathsome. But you get together a bunch of people dressed in black, most of them thoroughly tattooed and pierced, who write stories about eviscerations, decapitations, rapes, and torture, and they are just the nicest, most respectful, polite, and kind people around. Now, I appreciate irony more than most people, but that's just plain hilarious, I think. But, one takes community where one can get it, and I've felt it in the horror community, and I'm just as pleased as punch to be a part of it now.


Blogger PB said...

What accounts for the difference, I wonder? I'd be interested in your thoughts, Kim.

Not to sound academic, but this may be relevant. The Roman historians (e.g., Sallust) thought that a common enemy was needed in order for people to treat each other as fellow citizens; without such an enemy, the factions turned on one another. Of course, this says something about whether Roman virtue was all it was cracked up to be. But the question is whether it can ever be otherwise. Augustine would say yes, with God's help. Machiavelli would say no.

So how to understand why academics are the way they are? Is it because they have only their abstract idealism to keep them together? And how to explain the horror community? Is it because there's a sense that when we wander off alone, the zombies will get us?

I suspect, Kim, that you'd say there's more to it than that. Not just Machiavelli, but a bit of Augustine too.

3:46 PM  
Blogger KPaffenroth said...

I suspect (and it's just that, a guess) that there's something to what you describe, but I for one would still like to hold out for some free will, so different people may react to the same stimuli very differently. In other words, the two communities seem very similar: they are composed of bookish, intelligent people, with tastes way outside of the mainstream, many of whom were probably beaten up in high school on a regular basis. But some people react to that by looking for other like-minded people to bond with, and some other people just wait, and seethe, and bide their time for when THEY can finally be the bully and knock some heads (verbally and intellectually, of course, and none of this at a conscious level). And speaking of the ancient, Roman world - the honor/shame model that my colleagues in the social sciences are constantly harping about has always struck me as a little absurd and overstated. Can't even the most "primitive" of people understand that to enhance one's own honor, it is not necessary to denigrate or belittle someone else? But, lo and behold, the one group I can think of to which this "primitive" model applies most closely are -- academics themselves. I have seldom been in a room with academics for more than a few minutes before it becomes obvious that they think they have to "beat" one another in order to enhance their status. And for what? That's the really funny part. What are the "spoils" of all this posturing? In either the academic or the horror world - not much. But the horror people just seem not to take themselves with such deadly seriousness, and therefore they can have fun and be truly communal. I like that.

5:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think some of the community spirit in the horror world you feel is also about real passion for the work. I suspect that the person, like yourself Kim, that writes horror for fun and the love of the genre is more likely to want to share that feeling.

I wonder if you are more forgiving about reading other horror than reading critical/academic work of your contemporaries. Willing to just let it be what it is, instead of imposing a quality judgment on it. (With the exception of House of the Dead, which really is crap.)

It also seems like there is more actual reading among peers within the horror group... if you write it for fun, you read it for fun. And it seems like the mutual admiration society really helps everyone.

Maybe its simply the difference between amateurs and professionals. When money is a stake, all bets are off...

For example, here in Hollywood, I have no friends at the other design firms. None. And I should. These are the only people that REALLY understand what I do for a living (and for fun.) But the competition (real and imagined) casts too long of a shadow over the landscape to actually be able to have positive connections. How can you be friends and talk about work/life, when you are competing for the same dollars that could determine your financial future? Its tough. And I can imagine, as you mention, the "spoils" of academia are similar.

6:44 PM  
Blogger KPaffenroth said...

See, that's part of my frustration in academia: if the "spoils" were higher (e.g. big bucks), then I could understand everyone being a jerk all the time. But as it is, we're all going to be cut-throat, when the money (or prestige) involved is bupkiss? Doesn't make sense to me.

Yes, I do think the observation about love of what one does is apt. I do think most academics love what they do, deep down, but there is seldom that kind of joy, or wonder, that I sense people in the horror community have much more of the time. In other words, most academics seem to have forgotten what it was like, the first time they read a book that opened their eyes, or changed the way they looked at things, or just plain excited them. (At the very least, they seem to have real trouble conveying that enthusiasm.) But talk to a horror fan or writer (and you're right again that the two seem to overlap an awful lot, with a great difference in tone in the community) and they're as breathless about the last good horror story they read, as they were the first time they read H. P. Lovecraft in junior high.

6:55 PM  

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