Thursday, September 23, 2004


I write dark fantasy, a little horror and a lot of near-mainstream fiction. For a living (a few make their living on fantasy, horror and near-mainstream fiction, but I'm not one) I write for the City of Chicago and do some non-fiction free-lance scribbling that keeps me in DVDs and other toys.

As an adjunct to writing fantasy, etc., I am an Active member of an organization called the Horror Writers Association (HWA).

Every year HWA has a banquet and gives out the "Bram Stoker Awards for Superior Achievement in..." well, in various categories. The categories include Novel, First Novel, Long Fiction, Short Fiction, and a passel of others. Among the passel is: Poetry Collection.

The Stoker awards, as I understand the concept, is the HWA membership applauding a few people within the horror-making industry who have done superior work that year. You don’t have to be an HWA member to win, but you do have to be to vote.

There is a current movement afoot within the organization to eliminate some of the award categories. Poetry Collection is among them.

I support maintaining the award category--and all the other categories now being considered for dumping. I’ve written poetry but I'm not a poet. I’ve published a few poems but my support of keeping this category has nothing to do with my support for the writers I’ve published.

Here’s the thing: I cannot imagine an organization of and for writers–whether they write dark and fictive things or not--whose leading lights avow that its membership has ‘shown disinterest at best’ in recognizing the efforts of some of their fellow members who write poetry.

That is the reason most frequently given for eliminating this and other categories: Disinterest.

These Stokers? They’re not the Academy Awards. The world does not await, breathless, to see who will win what Stoker award? Getting a Stoker does not catapult one into an international pantheon of eternals. Having one doesn't mean a huge readership suddenly develops for your work. Editor's do not become weak-kneed when your work swims before their ken. A Stoker doesn’t mean that one’s novel or collection or whatever gains new life in the marketplace; publishers do not campaign for Stokers as producers and distributors do for Oscars or Emmies (I was told a few years ago by a reputable editor/publisher in the field that “Bram Stoker Award Winner” or “Stoker Nominee” on the title page of a book, in fact, produces a drop in sales. No. I won’t document this. You’ll have to trust me. It’s hearsay but true!).

Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to win one (I’ve been nominated twice and was happy for the honor) (See? I'm bragging about it!) but my happiness is of the “You LIKE me” sort: a release, the three percent upside to life in an industry that’s ninety-five percent solitary rejection and two percent money. Knowing my peers and friends and, yes, competitors, have said "Pretty good, Larry" that makes me happy to have been nominated, makes me want to have one of those little brown houses (the award looks like a dark haunted house–pretty nice, actually!) on my mantle. IF I could afford a mantle.

We live in a world that’s increasingly about sales. Worse: it’s about being sold to! We live in a country where you don’t simply buy a can of pop, you join a Club of Happy Drinkers. Every product is sold to us as something that will make us part of a group. As though we can't be happy being quirky, unique.

Okay. That rant is part of something else, but it ties in.

The HWA leadership seems to feel it has to sell itself to the world.

As if they could.

They seem to feel that even their personal in-house back-pats have to serve some greater good, some larger agenda.

HWA should be about ‘community?’ Isn’t the award a way to say within that community, “well done!”

See? This isn't about having a Poetry category. It's about NOT having one.

We’re not supporting horror or poetry. HWA members are supposed to be supporting each other. We're about helping each other. We're about growing as artists and as people. Disinterested is what we are in first grade when faced with the complexities of the alphabet as laid against our natural urge to be on the playground. Many of us get over it.

Too many, apparently, do not.

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