Housekeeping, First Leg
If you’re just joining us, this is End of the Road—a weekly column in which I detail my nine-month promotional tour for my new novels Pressure and The Complex. I write about what I’ve learned out here on the road, and how the horror genre, our industry, our country, and myself have changed over the last twenty years. Last week’s column wrapped up the first leg of the tour. This week’s column will be short—just a few notes and addendums and bits of housekeeping that apply to those first seventeen installments of this weekly feature. What’s that? Yes, seventeen installments. There have been seventeen of these columns. If you missed one of them, you can find them all here.
So far, writing this column has been an interesting exercise in time travel. The events I recounted last week actually took place on July 1st. You read about them on August 22nd. In my mind, sitting here typing this on September 1st, they feel like they just happened yesterday and they feel like they happened years ago. Back in the fourth installment of this series (which offered a brief history of the World Horror Convention), I talked about the theory of Eternal Return—best typified by some of the works of Laird Barron, Alan Moore, and Thomas Ligotti, or Rust Cohle’s “Time is a flat circle” speech on HBO’s True Detective. I told you how it would be one of the major themes of this series, and how we would return to it eventually. And we did. And we are right now. And we will again. And all of these things will happen at the same time. Next week’s column will be published on September 9th, and will detail events that occurred the week of July 9th. While you are reading about July 9th’s events on September 9th, I will be putting the finishing touches on assembling a team to help me steal a…well, you can read about it in November, unless of course my team and I get caught in the act, in which case you’ll read about it in the news well before then.
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I talked a lot in the third and seventeenth columns about the collapse of the mid-list and how it impacted prose genre, particularly horror. There’s a similar yet different debate going on in the comic book field right now. If you want to read a bit about it, I recommend this essay by the always entertaining and always incendiary Jude Terror. There’s also a rebuttal by long-time comics journalist Heidi MacDonald here. Recently on Twitter, writers Cullen Bunn, Tim Seeley, and comic shop employee Aaron X were discussing Jude’s piece, and our thoughts on it. I (mostly) agree with it. Tim (mostly) disagrees with it. Cullen is somewhere in the middle. My concern—and the reason I tend to agree with Jude—is that I see an awful lot of similarities between what happened to the prose mid-list earlier this decade and what’s currently happening in comics. I also see a lot of similarities between the collapse of mass-market horror prose in the Nineties and the subsequent collapse of comics in the Nineties. We’ve seen the market correction occur in prose. I strongly suspect we’re going to see it occur in comics, as well, within the next two years.
But that’s an entire column, and I’ll write about it here at a later date.
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My old pal Seth Lindberg reached out to me in regards to last week’s column, focusing on the gentrification of San Francisco’s Mission District and how that correlates to the gentrification of the horror genre. The first thing he informed me of was that the “Queers Hate Techies” thing is by a well-known graffiti artist and tagger who follows the Gay Shame Movement—which, according to Wikipedia, is a protest of and opposition to the over-commercialization of homosexuality, gay pride events, and the ever-increasing diverse portrayal of gays in media. Proponents attack what they view as “queer assimilation” in what they think are oppressive social structures. As someone who has been fighting for gay rights since the 1980s, I can’t get behind the Gay Shame movement. Thus, that certainly makes me reconsider my reaction to the “Queers Hate Techies” graffiti. I still think it’s a great commentary on gentrification, but I’m not crazy about the beliefs of the person spreading the message.
Seth also said, in relation to last week’s column, “What’s happening in San Francisco is really complicated. As someone who has lived here on and off since 1995, there’s a part of me that wants to assemble charts and go on rants while you patiently listen to me, but I’m not sure it would help your piece in any measurable way. Obviously, things are always more complicated than they appear. But I will say, ‘”Gentrification”‘ is useful to people for good reasons and bad. The good reasons you know—the bad is that it gets used as a safety blanket for people who fear change. It is, like many things, a tight-rope.'”
Food for thought, and something we’ll be revisiting later on in the series, as well.
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Okay, next week, the second leg of the tour begins. If you think the saga of the ISIS Psychic Suicide Bomb is over, you’re wrong. There’s also, in coming weeks, a very real visit from a dead friend, a storm, disarray at a publisher, a car fire, a store fire, an incident on and off a mountain road—with a cow, alligators, Edward Lee’s lizard hallucinations, a wedding, a road-trip with John Urbancik, and much more. If you’ve enjoyed the first seventeen columns, the best is yet to come. And if you think you know where this is going, you’re wrong. I know you’re wrong, because I am traveling through time ahead of you.
Hang on to my hand, because shit’s about to get really dark…
Brian Keene writes novels, comic books, short fiction, and occasional journalism for money. He is the author of over forty books, including the recently released Pressure and The Complex. The father of two sons, Keene lives in rural Pennsylvania.