In the last few days I’ve been recipient of the Internet phenomenon of instant criticism in the form of user comments. Since Monday (and today is only Wednesday), I’ve incurred the wrath, scorn, sneering derision and hurt feelings of horror and fantasy/Furry folk (though mainly the latter).
In conjunction with the release of Pariah, Entertainment Weekly’s web edition ran an item in which I recommend the work of some of my favorite contemporary horror writers. Now, maybe the title of the article (“Pariah author Bob Fingerman reveals his five favorite tomes of terror”) was a bit inexact. They were five faves that came to mind of authors I like and/or feel don’t get enough notice. So, I knowingly left out people whose work I’ve enjoyed, like Stephen King, because I figured he’s not hurting for readers. The thing is, by not touting King I’d committed the crime of omission and was dubbed a “moron” for such (and for not hyping Poe or Lovecraft, either). Thing is, over the course of my nearly hour conversation with Mr. Collis, I did mention Lovecraft in regard to one of the authors I commended, Ramsey Campbell, who is present day’s closest heir, having even started off as pretty much a Lovecraft imitator. But the article compressed and edited the discussion (of course), so I appeared to some as a culturally illiterate horror dilettante.
The urge to respond is hard to suppress. I want to address my critics and in a reasonable tone explicate what’s what and how, “No, really, I love Lovecraft and Poe! But again, they don’t need the ink (or pixels, as the case may be).”
And always Michele sagaciously instructs me: “Don’t you dare!” Because it’s a slippery slope that leads to a bottomless hole.
Today brought back memories, though. A piece I wrote went up on tor.com, today, about my aversion to Avatar and its elongated blue cat-like native critters, the Na’vi. I wryly posited that I regarded Avatar as a mainstreaming of the Furries, those people for whom dressing up as curvaceous cartoon animals is an erotic experience. I thought it was funny, but clearly I was wrong. I’d offended, big time. The fur flew. It was a dog-pile of censure.
Years ago, when I first got on the ‘Net—back in probably 1993 or ’94—my buddy John introduced me to the Furries. My gateway Furry was called AJ Skunk (you never forget your first). I thought it was a joke, but John assured me, “Oh no, this is a real thing. And he’s not alone.” I was gobsmacked that this was a lifestyle people would pursue (or would that be fursue? And don’t give me shit about the bad pun; they call their gatherings ConFurences.).
So, anyway, my Tor item brought the thunder. I had offended the sensibilities of this not officially classified special interest group. Thing is, that wasn’t my intent. In my own wiseass way I’d been quite naïve. I thought it was just a droll (humor being subjective) puff piece that turned out to be neither droll, nor puffy enough. Seeing the comments (which were, I must say, articulate and mostly fairly reasonable, given the subject matter) part of me thought, “Oh, get over it. Really? Really? This is what sets you people off?” Another part felt genuinely bad about offending. It was like I’d stepped into their clubhouse and taken a shit right in the center of the floor. The third part, the dark side, wanted to egg it on. Throw down.
But I didn’t. This is my response. The response is: never respond. Walk it off. Take a breath. Write a one-off essay about the self-destructive urge to participate and get on with your life.