Dead Gary Brandner pt 2
So why am I talking about him for a second entry? Simple. He is an example of the poor state of Horror writing.
When I realized that I had more women than men in She Nailed a Stake Through His Head, I was extremely happy. Besides Romance, horror is one of the most gendered genres possible. And yeah, I'm comparing that to Science Fiction which had the Mammoth Book of Mindblowing Science Fiction with 21 writers - ALL MALE - because women don't write science fiction or read it or...oh wait....they do. Well that is certainly mind blowing. And even though there certainly are female horror writers in the field, usually only Shirley Jackson gets enough recognition to be named off hand.
And it's not just that most horror writers are men, but most horror writers tend to push forward sexist douchebaggery as a standard. I have read way too many horror books where white male power is reinforced without much thought. Women function as plot devices to be raped and/or killed in order to drive the action. Non-white characters are either missing or tokens. The black guy dies. The author is clearly getting off on the sexual violence. Relationships between men and women are either only sexual (with many creepy lines) or bitchy ex-spouse dialogue. The few times that women are alone together, they tend to speak dialogue that sounds like it came from Showgirls (You have nice tits! I know. I like having nice tits). The girl in peril gets rescued or fucks up at the dumbest possible moment. Male power fantasies abound.
And don't get me wrong, this shit is not just confined to outright douchebags. Sometimes it gets into you. I still don't feel right about the kidnapping scene in my short story "Bop Kabala and Communist Jazz" where the two guys pick up a hitchhiker and then refuse to let her out of the car. I remember reading it at a convention and getting very uncomfortable with what I had written, which is kind of the point, but it also feels like I was just exploiting sexual violence (there is no sexual violence but you don't really know it at that point in the story) for entertainment purposes. There's a point where you are writing and even if you intend to avoid the racefail or the creepy gender politics, some of it can seep in. And don't you feel stupid for reading all those Piers Anthony books when you were in middle school?
But the thing about is that I love Horror. I grew up watching horror movies and reading the trashy horror books in my grandmother's room. I particularly remember Hobgoblin because it was one of those Dungeons & Dragons makes you crazy books (actually it wasn't, but the main character's parents die every time he plays) and even though I saw a lot of movies with my mom and my grandmother as a kid, I most fondly remember the slasher movies, Evil Dead 2, Nightmare on Elm Street 2 (the Beauty & the Beast one) and I read every single Stephen King book that had been published in 9th grade. And yeah, the creepy gender politics and the white male dominance was there as well but I didn't notice or care at the time.
But I do notice and I do care now. I have read so much that my tastes have evolved and I can't fucking read the same old bullshit. I want horror with strong female characters who have agency and inner lives and conflicts and don't get stuck in the victim role. I want horror which doesn't make me think that the writer is not the adult counterpart to the rotten kid that found dead snakes or dog shit on the playground and threw it at people because he knew he'd get a rise out of them. I want horror books and movies with interesting characters, racial diversity, sexual material that isn't some heteronormative white dude's porn fantasy (not that I hate heteronormative porn for white dudes - being a heterosexual white dude myself) and psychological sophistication.
I ain't going to get that kind of horror writing from dipshits like Gary Brandner. I'm going to get "she got raped so she took off too a werewolf colony" and "husband immediately fucks the first chick he meets who just happens to be an evil werewolf because hot sex is evil" puritanism.
Gary Brandner was not the only straight white dude who pushed a douchebag agenda on the rest of the world. But he was one of the most egregious examples of white power bullshit and misogyny in the horror field. Where other writers are pushing these douchebag tropes from sheer laziness, Brandner was proudly racist and stupid as fuck.
So not only has the world not lost anything by the death of Gary Brandner, horror writing has not lost anything. If the horror field has anything in abundant supply, it's douchebags and even though Gary Brandner was the most vocal douchebag in horror, he's not the last. That's the default.