The Real Strength is in the Membership
My thoughts on the conflict with the Horror Writers Association
I have grown more and more disturbed over the recent turmoil in the author’s organization, The Horror Writer’s Association. I have been an active member for a few years now. Joining it, meeting its obligations as a professional author, was a dream. Last night, I seriously considered washing my hands of the entire group. Many allegations have been raised—and I am sorry to anyone who was hurt. If I had known, I would have helped. We blame our leadership. We raise grievances that aren’t heard. I have been dissatisfied over time that they failed to protect us or provide us with the support we required. But then I realized, the blame is not with our leaders. They are just the lightning rods. The real issue—the real power is with us, the core membership. We have looked too often to the top when we are also the problem.
Writing is an insecure business, especially when the competition is so numerous and the substantial markets dwindle. We all want to succeed in that great notion of both accolade and recompense. But dreams can also make us selfish, especially the fear of not having them fulfilled. Every author—every artist suffers and nurtures the secret insecurity that they have no real talent, and this makes us desperate. We struggle, compete and fight for limited venue, and this inherently sabotages the hope of union, of a collective force of artists helping one another. Then we cut corners. We sacrifice too much. We empower bad publishers, leaders, chimeras, as I called them in Atlanta, when they tap into this insecurity. How many of us in that need for validation have compromised our professional ethics even just a little, accepting terms and behavior in the hopes of putting a crack in that wall that holds us back from our dream? This infects the Association, rotting it out from the core. Yes, our trust was misplaced, and some of our influential members have let us down; however, we allow too much unprofessionalism because of it. Now the castle is falling.
My point. Blame isn’t an arrow or a finger pointing. It’s a circle. The HWA must become a guiding light to its members, providing support, facilitating communication. But we as its members must also rise above temptation and act like professionals, creating better standards to form a collective bargaining force. Look to yourselves to create something better in your own actions. And to those who have always been professional, I salute you, but don’t be too hard on others. They have not had the chances and luck you have had. Help them. We need to help each other more.
T. Fox Dunham