Horror Writers’ Association Kicks Tom Monteleone To The Curb
After he wrote an offensive blog post and did some podcasts criticizing the HWA’s new “woke” standards, they quickly turned a Lifetime Achievement Award Winner into a pariah. We interviewed him to see if he cares.
Tom Monteleone, an established stalwart in the horror field, came under attack last week from other writers in his genre after he questioned the standards of the Horror Writers’ Association Lifetime Achievement Awards.
He started offending in a post called “An Open Letter to My Fellow Old White Cishet Male Writers,” and he then doubled down his opinion on a popular podcast. And it all felt too familiar.
It’s become the norm, particularly in SFF, horror/weird and YA fiction: some writer somewhere violates one of the ever-shifting taboos of culture and gets lashed to the gratings. Some established name sets the ball rolling on social media. Fans and aspiring writers then chime in with sardonic takes regarding the condemned. And some author’s career becomes a casualty. Regardless of the real impetus, people usually make these attacks under the pretext of “helping writers”, “protecting diversity” or the ever popular “preventing harm.”
The HWA revoked Monteleone’s membership, citing “support of our members’ right to feel safe, welcome, and above all else, respected.” And by doing so, they revoked his own lifetime achievement award, which they gave him as recently as 2017, which was, ideologically, another era.
I emailed some questions to Monteleone. Unperturbed by recent events and busily at work on a novel while editing the next in his Borderlands anthology series, he answered my questions from his home in Baltimore.
I read your letter nominating Stu Schiff for the LAA award, with its sardonic little pokes at the woke. Pretty harmless stuff, but of course they have no sense of humor. Describe your experience of learning that you had become a target.
I was pretty shocked to see how quickly the HWA people reacted to condemn me as a racist and a “—phobe.” Just because I questioned the organization’s motives for selecting people for the LAA. Just by looking at who’s been given he award lately, it’s not difficult to think that the DEI philosophy is in play. However, I think I threw gas on the fire when I explicitly questioned the credentials of two recent winners: Carol Glover and Jewelle Gomez. I guess I was not allowed to do that. Later that evening, after having had several bourbons, I got sucked onto a live podcast and said some really dumb things and insulted several members of the HWA. It was bad, I know that now, and have reached out the people I offended to personally offer an apology—which they accepted. I think the podcast was what caused them to consign me to the Outer Darkness. We have all done things we regret in our lives, but the torch-and-pitchfork brigade is too self-righteous to acknowledge such a simple truth.
There have always been literary feuds. Has this “wreck the other guy’s career” always been a thing? Or is it peculiar to the Internet age?
I think social media and the instantaneous access to technology that can record you and send you anywhere has made it very easy for people to go after whoever they want — with as much speed and viciousness as possible. I have been told there have been some posts that have savaged me in terrible ways—I haven’t bothered to read them—and often of the ad hominem variety. They gave me a LAA 6 years go, but now I am apparently not only an asshole, but also a no-talent has-been as well. And I do believe there is a certain type of individual out there who gets a true glee at knowing he or she has the power to destroy others with a few keyboard strokes.
SF, Fantasy and Horror comprise a relatively small author community. Yet it always seems to be the same set of prominent names who stoke these cancel mobs. Has that been your experience?
Yes, the genres are small ponds on the literary landscape, and don’t seem to realize that a lot of their internecine politics and palace intrigues go largely unnoticed by the rest of the world. The cancel mob mentality is very strong in the communities you mentioned. And yes, here are some strident voices among them that seem to take special pleasure in attempting to destroy anyone who doesn’t think like them. The StokerCon I attended last year in Denver was bloated with identity politics and it made for a grim affair.
People have accused you of being hostile to diversity in your field. Care to set the record straight and tell us where you actually stand on that issue? (As opposed to where they claim you stand?)
I’m not at all hostile to diversity—it’s just one of those things that I don’t think about much at all. There’s a marvelous moment in THE FOUNTAINHEAD when Peter Keating asks Rourke what he really thinks of him and Rourke replies: “I don’t think of you.” And that’s pretty much me. When it’s brought up and pushed, I simply question the woke’s dictum that diversity is always better no matter what. Is it? Do we have definitive proof of that? When I edit an anthology, I am not driven by any need to ensure it’s a diverse group of writers. I only look for stories I find well-written with no regard to the age, color, ethnicity, or sex of the writer. But you know, that’s not a good thing; it’s not the way anthologies should be assembled anymore. You have to be a bean-counter or risk being called any number of “—ists” or “—phobes.”
To end on a positive note … Who are some of the newer writers you would look to as the future of horror? What is it about their work that moves you?
I see the work of many newer writers who have submitted stories to Borderlands over the years (and some who have yet to do so), and it is an acknowledged fact that we have always included around a third of the contributors as newer or even never-before-published writers. In no particular order, I’m impressed with John Boden, Meghan Arcuri, Michael McBride, Stephanie Pendley Paul, M Louis Dixon, Victor Lavalle, S. A. Crosby, and Dan Waters. As usual, with lists like this, there are a lot of people I’ve forgotten to come up with at a moment’s notice. What moves me about the above is that they all write with not only style, but also true emotion and originality—none of them are interested in serving up genre re-treads.
2 thoughts on “Horror Writers’ Association Kicks Tom Monteleone To The Curb”
What garbage. He appeared on the “Facebook has AIDS” podcast run by alleged “white supremacist” Zak McGaha:
“In a January 23, 2023 episode of a podcast titled “Facebook Has AIDS,” McGaha joined horror writer Tom Monteleone in making transphobic and racist comments.”
Trying to make him into some victim of cancel culture is ridiculous. Most people in professional organizations do not want to be associated with bigots like him. The HWA is a private organization with clearly documented guidelines and rules for membership.
It’s shocking and disappointing that you would try to obscure the facts behind his expulsion.