This is long and all over the map. I leave it exactly as I wrote it so forgive the fact that it is sloppily written. It’s just my thoughts directly on the page.
I’ve been meaning to write this I just didn’t really know how. It bothered me for so long I delayed writing anything here at all for a long time. I wanted to explain some things about myself that I think are important to understanding who I am and why I write this blog. So what didn’t I know how to do then? What hung me up? Fear.
All different kinds of fear. One of the strongest among them is the fear that if I were to be very open and honest about what is going on with me I’d be rejected and dismissed. I have so much internal conflict over what I share with people – I get a lot of anxiety over it. I sometimes feel like putting yourself out there too much is a low instinct. That there is some magical way to promote your work and engage the people around you that can’t be seen as shallow and insincere that I just haven’t discovered yet.
So this post is about confronting that fear by just getting it all out and hope people understand. I can’t continue otherwise. I’m going to say what is on my mind and it might not all make sense but I feel a need to do it because the record doesn’t feel straight to me.
When I talk about anxiety I mean very real anxiety. I don’t know what exactly is wrong with me, I don’t have a medical diagnosis because I’ve avoided treatment my entire life. What I know is this – I’m socially isolated, I feel like I’m in this haze of depression a lot of the time. I have a hard time just getting out of bed and living life some days. My self esteem is extremely low, I hate myself and pretty much everything I do most days. Every now and again I get to pull my head above the surface, feel like a somewhat normal person and have the belief in myself to create and to put what I create into the world. When you see me posting? I’m probably feeling good or feeling like I need to be working or wither away into nothing. When I’m not? Those are the times I’m not feeling like I can do it. I’m mentally exhausted and I don’t have the self-confidence to be anything more than polite background noise, not even visible to much of the world at large. Those are hard times, I’m trying not to be ashamed to admit all this but I am.
Most people don’t really know this about me. They mostly just know I’m a bit weird, probably more than a little awkward with people sometimes. I’ve been known to get anxious about talking to fast food drive-thru cashiers. That’s how much anxiety I can feel at times, how alienating this thing that is wrong with me can feel. People probably notice I can take forever to answer their emails sometimes. It probably says something that most of my interaction with people is online. I don’t have a close circle of friends, I have a long suffering wife who has put up with my nonsense for longer than I thought possible to tolerate me. Most people don’t know me at all.
When somebody takes to their Facebook page with thousands of followers, most of whom are connected somehow to the market you write in, and calls you crazy and a talentless hack and proceeds to lie about various aspects of your life – well I don’t know how people with normal brains would take that but I know how I took it. This was the guy who gave me my break, who fulfilled the dream I had since my earliest childhood to be a published writer. It killed me a little bit inside. Maybe a lot.
The first time I read that Facebook post I wanted to curl up and die. I wanted to give up everything I was doing and fade away into even more obscurity than I was already in. I felt any pride I could try and take in what I’d written over my years with Fangoria was tainted. That’s a vain thought I guess, but I’m just being real about how I felt. Pride fucks with you sometimes. Other times it saves you.
Reading the comments was worse. A cavalcade of people who knew nothing about me stomping my face into the dirt with a light sprinkling of people who barely knew me proclaiming how they knew all along I was an asshole. Some of these people I thought could have maybe been friends of mine. Some I had helped with publicity for their films or events by writing about them and the second I was no longer useful to them in that capacity I got dumped in a ditch. If you aren’t playing the PR game you’re not really welcome at the table anymore. Most were complete strangers.
In among those comments was my own brother in law saying I was dead to him. Imagine that! We haven’t spoken since. Not a word.
Of course Chris had already unfriended me on Facebook. I couldn’t respond to his posting. I couldn’t even see it through my own Facebook account, I had to see it on my wife’s. So a guy posts a heap of abuse and outright lies about you and then makes it so you can’t even show up and defend yourself. You can’t answer to any of the charges.
I gave Chris Alexander much better treatment than all of that. I gave him every opportunity to respond and tell his side of the Ben Cortman story, he chose not to. When I wrote about the Cortman issue I wrote the truth, I didn’t start criticizing the quality of his writing or make up absurd lies about his personal life. I didn’t try and create this fake “betrayed by my dear friend” narrative that Chris did – he and I were never what anyone would consider friends. We had no social connection, he happened to be a friend of my brother in law, that was the only link we had. He was a guy I saw at a birthday party once a year and barely talked to, like many other people at many other birthday parties. Our contact was about content for Fangoria, we didn’t go grab beers together. Our relationship was business.
I deactivated my Facebook account within days. I couldn’t deal with it. I’m a person who already feels isolated, who already worries everybody he knows secretly hates him and thinks he’s an idiot. I’d watch my stupid Facebook feed go by and look at all the people and wonder who I was to them, what they thought of me. I worry constantly I’m this big joke and maybe I am, I don’t honestly know. I fear that all the people around me think I’m some nutcase loser. I have no idea if I can trust people. There is something wrong in my brain where I can’t imagine why anyone would like me or think what I do is worth anything. I work really fucking hard to overcome this and manage to produce things and release them, but it’s a fight every step of the way against my own insecurity. I often wish I could just write things and put them in a box somewhere and someone else could handle everything else because I every time I sit down to work, every time I get ready to submit something I have to overcome this urge to scrap it and never risk being ashamed or embarrassed by my work, never have to feel like people are rolling their eyes and then humouring me and I’ll never be good enough to deserve recognition. I would pick away at myself in the voice of people I know and respect. To see all these people and know some of them “liked” that rant about me, to know more probably agreed with it but remained silent out of courtesy really got into my head. I had to pull the plug on all that.
What would I have even said to all that was written about me? I’m not the kind of crazy you are accusing me of being, I’m a different kind of crazy? Does that really sound much better? Would it make my later protestations over the lies about my personal life sound more or less credible? Calling somebody crazy is easy because you don’t even feel like you have to engage or internalize anything a “crazy” person has to say. They’re fucking crazy, right?
It’s quite a headfuck when you start feeling like the only way you are going to feel authentic is to be open about who you really are but that doing so is going to play right into a misconception. Into a smear.
I’ve written a version of this about 20 times in the last 6 months probably. That fear always kept me from going with it.
I don’t fully understand why I feel like it’s important to just write this out in public but I do. I think it’s because I’m just sick and tired of feeling so shitty and having to make like I have my shit together because I’m ashamed. I’m just done with it, I don’t feel like I’m being as real as I want to be when I’m trying to play like everything is cool. The funny thing is that big thing I worry about is people thinking I’m just being some kind of attention whore for coming out on my mental illness. I’m afraid that doing something that feels authentic to who I am will be seen as insincere. How fucked is that, right? People are out there posting their dinner on Instagram and I’m paralyzed over talking openly about where my head is at. In a society that is increasingly tolerant and sensitive to mental health issues. I have a problem.
I want to be a better person for a whole lot of reasons. I’m not having an easy time of making that change because of mistrust and fear.
I get this is kind of stupid. I get I’m being horribly idealistic. I get there is only a handful of people who care about what I’m writing about here. What I want people to know is that all I wanted was to be a good writer, to earn the respect of others I respect in kind and to write about things that really matter. Not everything I’ve ever written “matters” in that sense, but I always tried to inject something bigger into everything I did. Maybe I failed, I don’t know. What I do know is that over the years that I was involved in the rather small way I was I experienced and observed some things that raised some questions. The more of those questions I started to chase down the answers to, the less I liked what I was seeing. When Spiderbaby happened I didn’t know all these things were going on at Fangoria, I just knew that everything I had gathered to that point set off that alarm bell that said I couldn’t continue there. Something didn’t feel right anymore. If I’m being honest a part of that was really feeling dejected at being published by the same outlet as a massive plagiarist who couldn’t write to save her life. The same quality control system that utterly failed with her may just have utterly failed with me. How was I to know if my work at Fangoria was an achievement to take pride in or if I was just a guy willing to give content away for nothing and anybody who was semi-literate and not expecting compensation or even mentoring could get in. I felt bad about everything I produced to that point. I felt like it could no longer be a source of confidence and a sign that in some regard somewhere I was accepted by people.
It wasn’t until later, when I started to read comments about the Spiderbaby scandal where people were alluding to Fangoria not paying writers and being involved in some unsavoury practices. I might have dismissed these kinds of stories were it not for two things: Fangoria hadn’t paid me $400 for content I had created for them that they agreed to pay me for and then didn’t. The money was outstanding for nearly a year at that point. I had resigned to never getting it after spending months asking Chris for the money, after being made to feel like an asshole for even wanting to get what was promised. I had given up and just figured there was disorganization behind the scenes to blame. No doubt it is hard to run a mag like Fangoria with only 4 or 5 staff.
The other thing that made the stories credible was the fact that I had shot the breeze with a few local Fangoria freelancers and heard some discouraging stories.
I recall clearly a night out with Lianne where she told me Chris was ripping me off and I should demand to be paid for everything I do. She had the same advice for the other writers with us. That rattled me a bit at the time. Looking back it’s interesting that she was the one to warn me that Chris wasn’t all he appeared to be. I think the two are more alike than either would like to admit. That same night she told me to submit to Famous Monsters of Filmland, they would pay me and give me more respect she said. At that time she claimed she was being groomed to be an editor there. In any case, it got me thinking.
Another thing that got me thinking had happened almost a year earlier. Chris had assigned me a set visit for The Conjuring. This was a huge deal for me, a big chance. I was terrified and didn’t really know what the hell I was doing. So there I was, going to the famous former DeLaurentis lot in Wilmington NC, the lot where classics like The Terminator were shot. I was freaked out but determined to be cool. That plan lasted maybe five minutes.
As we piled into the van that would take us to the lot I got introduced to the rest of the junket. I won’t name names, but there was a writer from Rue Morgue, Horror Hound and SciFi magazine. Chris had basically instilled in my head that Rue Morgue was the enemy, they were conspiring to ruin him. I was really nervous. The reporter from SciFi, a grizzled vet who was a learning experience to watch in action, asked me if Tom DeFeo was still running things at Fangoria. I replied that he was and the reporter proceeded to tell me a story about how he used to write for Starlog and he and several other Starlog and Fangoria writers were not paid for thousands of dollars worth of work. They were told the check was in the mail and given every excuse in the book and then they announced bankruptcy. After a quick corporate shell game where The Creative Group died and The Brooklyn Company took over they said they no longer owed the writers, that was a different company and that company was bankrupt. So sorry. A group of writers got together and sued DeFeo – one of many lawsuits against him, including defaulting on Brooklyn Company credit card debt as recently as 2013. He ended up settling with some of the writers for undisclosed sums.
He told me this story and then, right there in front of everyone in the van including the unit publicist he asks me:
Are they paying you for this?
Everybody is looking at me, waiting to see what I had to say. I was dying inside. What the hell did I have to say to all of that? Can I admit to these people I’m not getting a dime? A writer from our biggest competitor is sitting there and I’ve been told they are all praying for the failure of Fangoria. I had no way to process all of this.
I’m not proud of it but I lied that day in front of all of those people.
I smiled and laughed and said of course I was getting paid! It’s not like the bad old days at Fangoria, Chris Alexander is cleaning things up and making sure we are doing things right. I stood up for him and the mag. I couldn’t let these people think I was some rube getting suckered! I couldn’t let them think Fangoria wasn’t viable enough to pay writers. So I lied. I lied about it being my first set visit too, I didn’t want these people to think I was some dumb amateur, even though I was. If any of those people ever read this I’m sorry I lied to you, I didn’t mean harm by it. I just didn’t know how to handle what I was being presented with.
What I’m trying to say here is that I know now I was involved with something I didn’t fully understand and someone I didn’t fully understand and wasn’t who he seemed. There were all kinds of warning signs and yet I mulled them over for years. It took the Spiderbaby thing to tip the scales. The scales broke when I saw the other stories of writers not being paid or having to go through utter nightmares to get paid what was promised to them.
It wasn’t some admin error. It wasn’t because things were disorganized and not well controlled. It was starting to look like standard operating procedure. The SciFi magazine writer didn’t bullshit me.
I really started to lament the fact that nobody was likely to try and get to the bottom of the Fangoria pay concerns and a bunch of the oddities about the Spiderbaby story. I was disappointed that all we had were rumours and speculation, I felt like somebody should be able to do better than that to either confirm or debunk. It began to dawn on me that maybe I was going to have to be the person to do it. This was the motive for creating LPP. To unpack a lot of those issues and explore the ethical and journalistic issues at the heart of the whole Spiderbaby scandal. I had a slate of things I wanted to talk about and I had this possible story about pay at Fangoria that proved very difficult to verify to mine or Mike White’s satisfaction. Not a lot of the current crop at Fangoria want to talk about their experiences. We found some people willing to relate their stories but it wasn’t enough. I started LPP with a lineup of Spiderbaby-related items, an interview with Dave Alexander of Rue Morgue (the only editor who responded to questions about the Spiderbaby affair that I sent out) and some stuff on how the creative class is being exploited. No Chris Alexander revenge plot in sight.
Then a source put me on to the Cortman story and the more I dug at Alexander and Cortman the more I found. I went with the story because it’s clearly newsworthy and I managed to verify it completely. I expected Chris would be unhappy about it, issue a quick mea culpa and it would go by the wayside.
Wrong. So wrong.
LPP is about exactly what I’ve always said it is about – reporting on issues in the horror business. These aren’t always going to be comfortable stories but people in positions like Editor in Chief need to be able to weather criticism and avoid even the appearance of impropriety. They are in positions of trust. Commenting on and examining those things is perfectly valid. I feel it’s unfortunate so much of this is about Alexander but if he’s involved in things that are questionable, haven’t I taken on the responsibility for reporting on that and asking the questions about whether it is acceptable or not? Do I just ignore it? What do I do?
I write this for a small audience and a potential future audience. I think these “behind the curtain” stories are important to the history of the industry if nothing else. My work and work similar to mine is going to help tell a story which is very different from the public PR narrative. In an age where image control is rampant, being able to break through that and get at something real and not stage-managed is vital. Everybody is trying to shape a public narrative and the truth has very little to do with that narrative, I’m just looking to mix that up a bit and bring some reality into it, ugly or not.
People have a hard time with the fact that I really believe this kind of idealistic nonsense but I do. I really do and I don’t think some people can deal with that kind of sincerity. Sincerity is hard to come by in the age of irony.
A final thing that is important for everyone to know is why I have chosen to write an article for Rue Morgue. I understand that by doing so I open myself up to a certain amount of criticism and I guess I deserve it. Here is why I ultimately did it though.
#1 I still have things I want to write that aren’t about politics. I wanted an outlet for that.
#2 Because I needed to prove something.
In that Facebook rant, Chris said the following:
“But the thanks was peppered with the hard truth that no matter what he fancies is insight into “media”, he has never been – and likely never will be – a writer nor has he ever been employed as such.Though he comically rails against Lianne the plagiarist sneaking through the cracks and getting published in major niche magazines, the truth is – and he KNOWS this – that his own sporadic blog, the one that he used to bill himself as “FANGORIA’s Dave Pace” was edited within inches of its life, leaving his own byline questionable. The man’s postage stamp of fame was forged in charity, plain and simple.”
Every time I’ve sat down to write anything more than a grocery list in the time since this was posted I’ve heard these words in my head. I’ve heard that I’m not good enough, that I’m a joke and a failure and because I’m not okay I believe everything negative about myself. I internalize all that.
I had no choice really. It was prove him wrong or always wonder if he was right about me. I know this is vanity. I know this is opening the door to compromise.
I may never be published in Rue Morgue or anywhere else ever again and I’d be okay with that. I had to stand up against somebody telling me I couldn’t do something. I had to fight someone who built me up when I was “his” guy and tore me down the second I wasn’t any more. I don’t think I could ever have really felt accomplished if I didn’t have that bit of validation.
So now that I have that validation, honestly Chris Alexander you can go fuck yourself you miserable little pile of secrets. All your attempts to bluster and bully me out of speaking my mind will fail. I won’t let you do it. You don’t get to decide that my writing career is over, that nobody will ever publish me. Your game has always been to humiliate me into silence and it’s not happening. I have nothing to lose and now I have nothing to prove. I’m a writer. You couldn’t ever take that from me and now nobody can dispute it. You aren’t shaming me away.
Do you know why Alexander went nuclear on me so fast and why he can’t stop himself from trying to poison the well about me? Because I’m telling the truth about him and if there is one thing I can tell you Chris Alexander doesn’t want people to see it’s the truth about himself. He has no idea what I’ve uncovered about him because there is so much to uncover, more than I could have imagined. So much he doesn’t even now what might be lurking out there waiting to be revealed. That’s what I think his fear is – he’s so unaware of his ethical problems and there are so many of them he has no idea what might be coming next. It must be tough living with fear like that. What I learned about that kind of thing is that it’s much easier to try and lead an honest life. I hope he learns the same lesson.
This is all rambling nonsense that may not do much for my whole “crazy” reputation but ultimately this is what is on my mind and what I felt I needed to say. If you made it this far and you aren’t Chris Alexander, I hope this gives you some insight into where I am at and what this is about to me.
Every single day I grapple with self-confidence. I am scared to hit that post button every single time but I refuse to be kept down. Whenever I can pull my head above all this shit I’m struggling with I send out a burst of writing and ideas and I hope I can keep surfacing. That’s the best I can expect, to just keep surfacing every chance I get. That this guy wants to make me feel self conscious for the meagre self-promotion I partake in to share my work with people when he is the biggest self-promotion whore I’ve ever seen blows my mind. What the fuck is wrong with me that this stuff gets in my head? Why do I doubt myself?
Just keep surfacing.