First things first…let me make it clear that (despite the slightly tongue in cheek headline) I’m not writing this post to complain. I’m not a complainer and I personally find online complaining a bore. I’m forty-fucking-two years old and if I don’t have a thick skin by now, I probably shouldn’t be a writer.
No, I’m writing this blog for the benefit of newer writers who look at the critical acclaim my novel Mr. Suicide has received and feel emboldened to write transgressive fiction, themselves.
The good news: If you write transgressive fiction, your book probably won’t be banned from U.S. shores (like Henry Miller’s was). You probably won’t be taken to court in the U.K. for obscenity (like Hubert Selby, Jr. was).
The bad(ish) news: You will, from time to time, be horribly misunderstood. You might even be snubbed by certain journalistic entities on the blogosphere.
Case in point: a freelancer (known only as Carl…no last name provided) initially agreed to interview me for a popular SF/F/H website. Then he pulled out of doing the interview, after doing a little research and finding out that my work’s transgressive.
I’m not going to name the website, because if Carl’s a freelancer he’s not on their staff and his actions really don’t reflect on them. I’m not going to quote directly from his emails (because that’s not right either). But I will say this: when he agreed to interview me he stated that my Shirley Jackson Award nomination and Bram Stoker Award® nominations definitely made me newsworthy enough to cover. He sounded upbeat and enthusiastic about the whole thing. It was the nature of my work that made him reverse course.
Now, Carl certainly has a right to do this. I’m not going to whine that this is unfair (because I long-ago accepted that the world’s unfair). He’s under no obligation to interview anyone. I’m sure, if we met each other, we might even get along well. He’s not Darth Vader, nor is he the worst person in the world. To his credit, he was exceedingly polite about withdrawing from the interview. He’s just a human being, like all of us. I honestly wish him well.
But I will say that this ranks among the strangest incidents I’ve encountered during my eight years in the business (and I’ve seen some crazy shit go down, y’all). At this point in my career, I’ve done dozens of interviews for all sorts of venues (including–a couple of years ago–the one Carl freelances for). I’ve never had anything close to this happen before.
But I’ve never had a transgressive novel up for a Stoker before, either.
Anyway…I’m inclined to turn this around–look at it as a positive instead of a negative. I feel like I’ve just earned my wings. Transgressive work probably isn’t truly transgressive unless it rubs some folks the wrong way. There has been a bit of a backlash against Mr. Suicide, but it’s been mostly confined to Goodreads. Now I feel a bit more “officially” transgressive (if I had any lingering doubts about my bona fides, they’re now gone).
But yeah, newer writers take note: doing transgressive work still has its consequences. If you need to be universally adored, it might not be right for you.