With a fresh box of buttered popcorn in my lap, I watch the seemingly endless loop of Twitterati YA scandals unfold, laughing at the absurdity while nursing a paranoid thought about when they will come for me. As a horror writer, I’m guilty of many of these Twitter mob’s narrowly defined transgressions. Just recently, I learned that my use of gay male protagonists in not one but two of my horror novels is not me embracing my own vision of the characters I created, but fetishizing gay men. I wonder what they would say about my victim with Down syndrome being tortured in the basement of my short story, Traci. And I’m certain the two-faced (literally) hermaphroditic killer in my story, Janus, is some reprehensible affront to inclusion.
Just recently the mob turned on one of its own. The author, a gay black man, was initially praised for his #ownvoices narrative until someone posted a bold-typed “review” pointing out that his novel’s setting during the Kosovo War was insensitive to the people who actually suffered during those events, that the author’s views on it were too western and privileged. Apparently, expatriate narratives are no longer allowed in this ever-moving target of acceptability. Frantic attempts at damage control by the author begging “friends” to up-vote his book to temper the storm was met with further shunning by the YA “community” until the author (ironically one of the major stone-throwers during the Blood Heir scandal) decided to “pull” his book from publication, and issue a prostrate apology with the usual promise to “do better.” You’ll hear this mantra a lot whenever one of these scandals erupt, and there is something eerily sinister about it, more frightening than a Richard Laymon panty fetish.
While members of the YA book “community” are donning their red pointy hats in preparation for the next auto-da-fé, we horror authors are high-fiving each other for writing that flesh-flaying scene in exquisitely gruesome detail. We may swim the warm waters of sins of the flesh, but you’ll never meet a nicer bunch of folks. In my one year on BookTube, I’ve had fellow horror writers give shout-outs about my channel and my work, publish my stories in their anthologies and zines, and send me personal emails offering support, reading suggestions, or just a friendly hello.
I have found most horror writers (myself included) to be shy introverts, with a few nightmares of their own they’re trying to keep at bay with their fantastical visions. For whatever reason, we found balm of Gilead in horror. Barker’s Cenobites soothe us; real life generally does not.
If you care to traverse the rabbit hole of the latest YA controversy, Jesse Singal’s exposés are a good place to start. He was called a Nazi (he’s Jewish) by a YA writer on Twitter for even covering this topic. Scary times indeed.
If you are an aspiring author and all this is making you wary about your own writing endeavors, consider coming over to the dark side. Our stories may bite, but we don’t.