By Weston Ochse
I was thinking the other day about my friends.
Not those people I went to high school with, or old army buddies, but the friends I’ve made in the writing profession. It’s amazing really how close you can get to someone without spending any real time with them, and on some occasions, never having met them at all.
I started writing in the mid-90s. Very soon I fell into a group of troublemakers in the HorrorNet Chatroom (who have come to be known as the Cabal). Most of us (with the exception of Ray Garton, Tom Picirilli, Douglass Clegg and Paul Wilson who stopped in to harass us) were at the same place in our writing, struggling to find our voice and be heard over the great chorus of creativity. Honestly, every evening was like being a member of the Little Rascals. We were close friends, eager to speak with each other and able to tell secrets that we couldn’t tell those closest to us.
Then I discovered List Serves and subscribed to a few. Darktales, MIT Writers and HorrorWriters were my favorites during those days. The lists weren’t as interactive and lacked the immediacy of the HorrorNet Chat, but they served their purpose, allowing me to reach out to a growing fan base, discover new friends and enter into business enterprises. I became the editor of the online journal Bloody Muse because of this. I collaborated with this guy from Pennsylvania on what would become a Scary Redneck franchise. I met editors, I met fans, I met fellow writers and I met friends.
Know how you can tell which ones are friends? When you meet them in real life you’re smiling like a giddy school girl and find that you have nothing to say because they already know all there is to know about you.
I remember the first time I met my Cabal Mates. I was sitting in the bar of the Drake Hotel in Denver drinking a Fat Tire wondering what the hell I’d gotten myself into (my first Convention). Suddenly a bunch of inebriated ne’re-do-wells stumbled into the bar. After awhile, one came over to my table and asked if I was Weston. Five seconds later I was being introduced to the members of the Cabal and it was like we were old friends. The feelings of acceptance and friendship I experienced were those you usually felt only after years of terrestrial friendships; or after a traumatic or life-changing event.
Why was I so happy to see these folks?
I’m not the end all be all of knowledge, nor am I some great Buddha coming down from a Tibetan mountaintop to dispense wisdom, nor am I a Jungian psychologist who can tell you what dreams are made of, but I think I have this one figured out. I think it comes down to this. What we do in the backyard and in the grocery store and in our living rooms rests firmly in the realm of the normal and is a part of the lives of our friends, neighbors and family. But the out-pouring of our souls, the writing if you will, that we do in front of our computers is as personal an activity as there is. We interrogate our imagination with words and plots. We delve into the hoary depths of our fears and report what we’ve seen. Sometimes we are embarrassed with how our minds work. We don’t understand why we write what we do and we can’t stop.
Our family loves us. We have friends from high school and college and our jobs. We have our favorite checkout line at the grocery store. We know people in our towns and they know us. But for all the love and all the friendship and all the kum-ba-ya how ya doin’s that we exchange with our barber and the cute girl in aisle three, they cannot understand where the viciousness, the horror, the weirdness, the many-tentacled beasts, the vile murder, the unrelenting mayhem, the putrid grotesqueries, the rapes, the disembowelments and the just plain evilness comes from.
We’re afraid that they’ll associate what we write with who we are; and sometimes they do.
Leave behind whatever psychosis makes us do what we do. That’s for another article down the road. The fact is that we write this vile stuff and we love it. These friends I spoke of earlier, those who I never met, but felt close to– they all had one thing in common. They accepted me for what I wrote, gave me encouragement to keep doing it, and understood the catharsis inherent in the writing of it. I was able to get closer to these strangers about something very personal and dear to me than I was to my family or friends.
This isn’t an indictment on my family and friends. They’re normal people and should live normal lives, thinking normal things, doing normal tasks.
Who are we to try and make them understand what they can’t understand?
And guess what? We don’t have to.
Because of the magnificence of modern technology, we’re able to reach out and touch people of our ilk at any hour of the day or night, on message boards, chats, lists, MySpace accounts, Live Journals, blogs and instant messages. No longer are we alone in what we do. There are entire communities out there who accept and encourage us.
I wonder how writers communicated before the internet. My wife tells me of this thing called a letter. Days, sometimes weeks, would pass before a single thought could be conveyed. What a lonely existence it must have been.
So let me take a moment and thank all of my writing friends. Thank you for being there, for accepting me and encouraging me. There are those of you who I feel closer to than some members of my own family. And one day perhaps we’ll even meet.
Until next time…see you in virtuality.