I don't read a lot about writers or the process of writing. Usually, I'd much rather be reading about giant squid or dinosaurs or cryptozoology or quantum physics — almost anything is more interesting to me than the lives of frelling writers. So, I was more or less unaware of the commotion caused by the publication of Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" in the June 26, 1948 issue of The New Yorker. By contemporary standards — hell, by the standards that had come about by the time of my childhood in the '70s — "The Lottery" seems far too genteel and soft-spoken in its delivery of horror to have possibly caused such a ruckus. Outraged readers, cancelled subscriptions, mountains of hate mail, the South African government banning Jackson from ever visiting, etc. Which just goes to show you (what it goes to show you I'm not going to say, because I don't feel like courting scorn today). In her biography of Jackson, Judy Oppenheimer writes of "The Lottery," "The fact that the story was not as readily understood as, say, a Lone Ranger episode — that, in fact, it might even require a few moments of thoughtful consideration — seemed to anger them [the readers] most." This line caused me a moment of serious déjà vu. Decades after "The Lottery" was originally published, readers might have less trouble with horror or with the suggestion that the veneer of civility hides a fundamental evil in the human spirit, but, in my experience, they're no less angered at having to think. It would be presumptious of me to draw parallels between my own work and Jackson's, but it's impossible not to note the similar reactions elicited by the endings of "The Lottery" and Silk, Threshold and various of my other works. You'd have to be looking the other way not to see it. And it's frelling depressing. I think Jackson's response to the kerfuffle was quite on the mark. She wrote, of the letters received by The New Yorker and passed along to her, "if they could be considered to give any accurate cross section of the reading public, or the reading public of The New Yorker, or even the reading public of one issue of The New Yorker, I would stop writing now."
Similarly, if I'd taken the general reaction to Silk as an accurate cross section of readers of dark fiction today, I'd never have written Threshold, and if I'd taken seriously all those "what happened?" reactions to the end of Threshold, I never would have written Low Red Moon, and so forth. I know now that many readers expect me to do all the hard work for them. But they're just as out of luck as they ever were. And, of course, so am I. It's not that I don't want a wider readership and the financial rewards that follow, just that I can't figure out how to stoop low enough to win that much vaulted status — "accessible."
This is turning into a rant, and I did not mean for it to.
Spooky broke a tooth yesterday and getting it fixed has now supplanted the Emory Library fee as the driving force behind our most recent eBay auction, because not only do few working writers have dental insurance, fewer still have dental insurance which covers their partners. Monday, Spooky goes to the dentist.
Anyway, there's work to do. Roll credits. Lower the curtain. More later.