Columns and Editorials

Column

The rub is, we're born into a world where the two states of being are a craving for the things and situations that we feel will bring us satisfaction, and a variety of systems of belief hinged on atoning for those same things when we attain them. Most belief systems that last beyond the first generation begin to take on the aspect of the ravings of lunatics, on close inspection, and the further they range from sanity, the more fiercely their supporters cling to them and fight to enforce their tenets. The state of most spiritual consciousness is a delicate balance of the inability to truly believe and a burning desire to force others to believe what we cannot.  The world turns, hell burns, and at what stop do we exit the bus? Are there any answers to eternal questions, or are they more aptly named than we suspect, complete in and of themselves?

Just what the hell is this guy talking about? Everything and nothing, worlds and the head of a pin co-joined in a philosophical meander down weird street.

We live in a world, my friends, where you can spend fifty dollars on a genuine vintage disco shirt, but a first edition book can be had for 4.99 most days of the week, if you are patient. We live in a society where politics are things that interrupt Buffy the Vampire slayer on television and the line at the airport. Our children care more about the newest Pokemon adventure, or hitting "sweet air" on a skateboard than they do about their own futures - where pants that show your underwear are "stylish" and you can't function in polite society without a cell phone, a beeper, laptop and - if possible - a personal digital assistant. ( God forbid they all go off at once ).

We continue to put men and women in charge of our world that we loathe,...

Column

I sat down here at the keyboard, and I wondered. Can the world stand it? Can the Internet support it? Can another diatribe in the wilderness make a difference, or will it just piss more people off, end up rebutted on a bunch of flaming bulletin boards and deepen the gloom. I stand on the brink of nonsense and hesitate. Ah, what the hell.

Horror. The genre, the publishers, the writers, the critics, the fans. Where is it? Where has it been? Where is it going? Everyone seems to know, and that is the only truth that stands out in the crowd. There is no lack of advice on the subject, no limit to the opinionated diatribes that filter out through keyboards and pens across the nation. Is there a problem in the genre? I don't know. I'm still uncertain, after all the years I've written horror, dark fantasy, sci-fi and fantasy, what comprises this genre. In truth, it seems nothing more than a marketing scheme dreamed up in the early eighties to take advantage of certain trends among readers. Those of us who prefer dark fiction have gathered under that dubious banner, and hunkered down to defend territory that might not even exist.

Most independent and smaller publishers of horror would tell you that there is a small, fanatical crowd who buy most of what is printed. There is a reason most of the things they publish are in limited edition formats and smaller circulation magazines. There is a reason that a magazine with a circulation of 10,000 is considered successful in a world where a magazine on Beanie Babies could generate 100,000 without blinking an eye. Do I really know that reason? Not exactly.

I know that almost everyone I know and meet on a regular basis loves a good horror movie. Most of the readers I know have sifted through King and Koontz, at...

Column

I was having some trouble deciding what to rant about this time.   Nothing earth-shattering has happened to me in my writing career, and usually I use at least one incident to launch off of before diving in.  No go this time, so I had to think.

The one thing I have been doing that involves writing and is different from the norm, is that I've been experimenting with the AOL / Time Warner on-line publishing site, Ipublish.com.  I know, I know.  The contract (particularly for an author with a career in progress) sucks.  That is the party line.  I've read the contract, I read the Author's guild commentary and several others.  I agreed with the Author's Guild, and I wrote Ipublish.  Guess what?  No matter what they say, if you have a track record, you can get your agent to negotiate.  In any case, I submitted mystery work, which is not what I do - and the contract only binds up the genre to which you submit - so it was a relatively safe experiment.

Anyway - I'm on this site, and I see that there are young writers there, beginning writers, a few very talented professional writers, and everything in between.  They have a rating system, very much like that in use at Zoetrope.  For every so many stories you rate and critique, you get to submit one of your own to the same process.  I figured, what the hell.  There are some budding horror authors here, and I don't mind helping when I can.  I critiqued.

Bear in mind that I cut my teeth in a writer's group in Virginia Beach with Mr. Richard Rowand, editor of the late and lamented Starshore magazine, John B. Rosenman, Professor of English at Norfolk State University, and several others who were anything but appreciative of my...

Column

A lot has happened in the world of Shadeauxs since I last sat down to write something for this column.  I'd be dishonest if I said they were all good things, but then, what would I judge the good against without the bad?  If nothing else, life gives one reason to pause and think, to put things into perspectives that wouldn't occur to anyone in a world where everything just worked.

I recently finished a short piece for a project my friend Brian Hopkins is working on with Garret Peck, Personal Demons.  The piece was short, and very personal.  I titled it, simply, The Embarrass, which is the name of a river in southern Illinois.  When I was finished writing this, and re-reading it, I began to see that my own writing is falling into a trend I have sought to avoid.  This piece broke that mold, and that is how I caught the trend.

The advice I am always giving newer writers is that you have to let go.  You can make a small career out of writing "neat stories" and you can follow the trends of themed anthologies and forumlaic fiction quite a ways down the road to success, but at some point you have to stop.  You have to look at what it is you want to do with your writing, at the talent given you, and choose a path.  My own path has been full of things I now see as either "learning experiences," or flat out detours.

The work I did for Personal Demons is exactly what it sounds like it would be.  A personal slice of my own life, my thoughts, my mind at work against the tension and conflict of the world I live in.  It is myself, in words, painted roughly, I'm certain, but painted in a way that is true to my "voice."

I can write to a themed anthology like nobody's business...

Column

There are times when things shift deep inside, and things you might not think about as often as you should rise to the surface.  The catalyst can be something you hear - something you read, a piece of art, or just a moment in time that resonates in ways that drive away the deep dark clouds of not caring very much that seem to obscure most days.

Recently, a number of things have slipped into perspective very suddenly, and I'm left, as usual, with words to draw them into a reality that can be shared.  Last year I read a story by one of my best friends and long-time collaborator, Brian Hopkins.  "The Secret Life of Stones" may have been the title, or it may not.  The point is this.  I took something from that story and carried it with me throughout a year so full of change, pain, and stress that I would never have believed, had it all been laid out for me, that I'd make it through sane and well.  Not that I'm often accused of full sanity.

The story was about a man in love with a sculptor - but the point is this:  He said, paraphrased, that we all change because of those we care about, those we meet and interact with.  We say we won't change for anyone - that if someone loves us, they won't ask us to change, but the very act of spending time together, sharing, and re-aligning your life to be with someone changes you.  The way they talk changes you, the way they act, the way their emotions draw on your own with the certainty of moon and tide.  Everything changes you.

So, here I was, clutching this small bit of profundity to myself tightly and wondering what it would mean, if anything.  It meant everything.  Brian contracted Lymphoma.  I believe in my heart that if anyone is too...

Column

I've had an idea what I wanted to write in this column for some time now.  I get ideas in bits and pieces.  They form in stray words I read, or hear?in the comments of others that either intrigue, annoy, or infuriate me?in the news and on the streets.  The temptation right now is to jump in and add my support to the country's anti-terrorist effort.  I want to stand on a mountain and bare my chest to all cowardly human monsters everywhere, sporting a new tattoo of Old Glory in full-color splendor across my bare skin, but I won't.  There are others more eloquent in this regard, and better suited to the task.

I've had an idea what I wanted to write in this column, as I said, and I think I'll just let what has happened recently in our country mix in naturally, as life does.  I think I'll write about man's capacity for inhumanity to man.

Recently, Trish and I and the kids moved to a very rural, very quiet new home that is far removed from everything, including work.  It takes me an hour and ten minutes on a good day to get to work, and another hour and ten to get home.  In the interest of sanity I have taken up the habit of listening to audio books.  In the course of choosing books?mostly because they were either in a thrift store, or on the bargain shelf at Waldenbooks, I picked up The Reader, by Bernhard Schlink.

I won't go into the entire plot of this novel, because it is only peripherally on topic.  The story involves a young man who gets involved with an older woman.  There are odd things about this woman that he never quite figures out, and one day she disappears, just as she's about to be promoted at her job.  The novel takes place in Germany, post World War...

Column

Sometimes it doesn't pay to sit back and consider the world we live in. Sometimes it is better to let things rush by at life-speed and ignore the incongruity of it all. Other times, realities slap you in the face and you have to sit back on your haunches, scrutinize the damage and shake your head... So I ask you—candidly and without reserve—what kind of a fucking world do we live in anyway?

I couldn't begin to count the number of conversations I've dragged late into the night over the state of what we call literature. I am a dreamer, by nature—not a state condoned by society in general, at least not if unleashed with regularity. I think about days long past—days I know from the very detail of my own dreams were not better. They were harsher, at times desperate, filled with disease and ignorance we have leashed after a fashion. I don't romanticize things the way movies can, or even fiction, but there are things we have lost. That world needed our words in ways our modern world does not.

Poetry is almost a laughable art form now. It pays little, those who pursue it get any reaction in the spectrum of disdain to condescension. There was a time when the talent and inner magic required to render life to image to verse was revered in the highest offices, when a poet could earn his living by his words alone. There was a time when an author was not asked by his family and friends when he was going to do some "real" work. There was a time when literature was literate - that education was a precursor to publication.

I wonder if I'm even making sense.

I hear this all the time. It is the "cutting edge." It is "raw, pure emotion." It is so "relevant." I say that doesn't excuse poor grammar, an inability to spell or proofread—in...

Column

It is odd how we attach importance to dates, like the turn of a new year on the calendar, or the death of an historical figure. Like sign posts littering our lives, we celebrate these days, and inevitably, remember those past. Holidays can be happy, merry times, but more often, they are reflective, emotional times, and just as often, melancholy, lonely times. Our days, of course, are what we make them. Our lives, the same, to a point, and they are chronicled by the number of New Year's champagne corks we've flinched at, and how many times we've had the chance to give, or receive, the perfect Christmas gift, or the candy and card that will seal the great love of our lives.

Sometimes holidays are just days. The big year 2000, for instance, has begun. Another milepost. Threats and fears, hopes and dreams. Another day, come and gone. The first day in the 2000th year of our calendar. Nothing blew up. No huge disasters occurred. No viruses brought the Internet to its knees, and no governments crumbled to rubble. Good. These are things to be thankful for. Now comes part two. Reflection.

If nothing horrible has ushered in the year 2000, how can we make it work for us? How can it be better than the last year, and the one before? In particular, since this is a magazine column, tentatively about writing, I want to focus on horror, and fantasy, as they have been, might be--on publishing as it is and could be--and once was. Once again, the only thing I have to measure this all against is my own career as writer, editor, and publisher.

I can remember when people would ask me what I'd written. Would they know me? Do I know Stephen King? I dreaded those questions, and still do, but for different reasons. The answers, then, were nothing...

Column

Sometimes these columns seem to write themselves. Something surfaces in the darkened recesses of my mind and just spills out. Later people compliment me, call me astute, and I blink, wondering what I wrote, and why. I've even had to go back and read over the words, on occasion, to see what it was that spurred a comment, or an insult.

This time is different. I've known the column was due for some time, but nothing surfaced. Not a ripple in the murk. Inner silence - great for gurus and the cosmic children of the circle of inner light, but for a columnist, it bites. I like to think that from time to time I can take the events of my chaotic life and arrange them in a sequence of words that makes a difference. Small difference, mind you - a smile, a laugh, a curse. Something. This time I waited a long time for that inspiration, and it was handed to me by fate. Go figure.

Last weekend I was out sifting through piles of old books to sell on ebay with my two boys, Zach and Zane. It was getting late in the morning, and we were tired and hungry, so I pulled into the parking lot of "Waffle World" with high hopes of finding greasy eggs and pasty pancakes to dull the ache. Zach had a coloring book and some markers gripped tight in one hand, and Zane had a plastic bag of WWF wrestling figures, so I knew the hope of intelligent conversation while waiting on food was zilch. This prompted the first in a series of events that seem, almost, to have happened for a reason. I hate that.

I grabbed the local artsy newspaper, free to those willing to put up with the ratio of words to advertisement, and I dragged it with me to a booth in the corner. Zach was carefully pigmenting Scooby Doo in a manner that brought the sixties and psychadelic drugs to...

Column

So many things are changing I hardly know what to write about.  Life changes, career changes, and all around me the world changes.  Some things never change, but somehow those are the ones we pay the least attention to.

 For starters, I'm acting and soon to be actual Vice President of the Horror Writer's Association.  This is good and bad, both for myself, and for the HWA.  I will work hard.  I will do anything and everything I can to make it a better organization, to bring back some of the professionalism that has slipped, and to see if I can't help to make the dues a worthwhile investment.

 The goods and bads, though?  Still there.  I will have less time for writing, less time for a lot of things, because I have to give some of that time to the organization.  I could, of course, give very little and get away with it.  Traditionally, the VP isn't an over-worked guy.  That isn't my style.  I will no doubt be tempted again and again to plunge into things I should leave to others.  The good, for me, lies in the accomplishments I hope to achieve, and in the slight boost that the position and visibility can give to my own career.

 For the organization, though, there is more food for thought.  When I joined, people like Dean Koontz, Jerry Williamson, and Joe Landsdale were officers.  The membership included names that people recognize - not horror fans, but everyday people.  The awards were just as messed up and controversial back then, but they meant more - still.  Active membership in those days meant a sort of camaraderie with the likes of King and Clive Barker.  Not their money, of course, but still.  There were a LOT...

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