What's Important to You?
Less Than Pulp, Issue 52
It’s hard to believe that I’ve done a year’s worth of these newsletters. I’ve skipped some weeks, but overall, I’ve been pretty consistent. This has probably been the most consistent online project I’ve done and certainly the longest running. When I started this newsletter, I’d hoped to find a place where I could talk about family, get a little personal, and map a journey of self-improvement, tying all of this, of course, to writing stuff. I also wanted to keep readers up to date on projects I have coming out and give my thoughts on media I’m consuming, be it books, movies, or TV shows. This has been largely a success, and that’s thanks to you. If you weren’t showing up, I’d probably keep these notes in a journal, or perhaps a group chat with a select few friends and family.
A newsletter is both harder and easier than social media. It’s easier because it makes it possible for me to keep all of what I hope to say every week in one place. It’s harder because it requires me to write in a more coherent, nuanced, and well-thought-out way than a random tweet or Facebook post; no memespeak here. It also requires me to remember something that may have happened on Tuesday that I want to discuss in this newsletter, which usually drops the following Monday. When I’m on top of my game, this means I’m taking notes throughout the week or even starting the writing of a newsletter a few days early. I seldom do either of those things. Usually, I write these things in a frenzy on Sunday, or if I’m really in a pinch, I scramble to finish them on Monday. Sometimes, I don’t get them out until Tuesday (which is when you’ll be reading this particular issue). Sometimes, I need to skip a week altogether.
Thankfully, I have a forgiving audience.
Here’s the thing: I love doing it, and I’ve got a pretty good number of subscribers with a respectable open rate; therefore, I keep doing it. It really is that simple.
I’ve been thinking a lot about what’s actually important to me lately. So, yeah, this is going to be another piece where I’m taking stock of my life and reevaluating just what the hell I’m doing. If you’re here for my reviews of Yellowstone or my thoughts on horror books old and new, stick around until the end.
Last week, I made a list of what matters to me. Somehow, I’ve never actually done this before. That’s really crazy to think about when you consider that one’s values help define one’s identity. I guess then it’s no secret that I sometimes feel as though I’ve forgotten who I am, like there’s a new identity crisis every damn week.
I encourage everyone to make such a list if you haven’t already. There is a whole lot of individuals and corporations out there who love telling you what you should think is important, and they can be very convincing. It’s easy with so much competing for your attention and prioritization to forget what you want to give attention to and what you want to make a priority. With that in mind, I asked myself what matters most to me and came up with the following items. This is in no particular order.
This one comes as no surprise, right? Why would I spend the last thirteen years publishing and a hell of a lot longer than that writing for myself if creative expression wasn’t a top priority? Surely, that would mean I’m just insane. The importance of this to me sometimes feels unwieldy and intimidating. Indeed, it often makes me feel crazy. The desire to write and share that writing with others encompasses so much of what I do on a daily basis, consumes my thoughts and behaviors, and both comforts and unsettles me.
Why is creativity so important to me? I think it’s the most effective and interesting way for me to communicate with myself and others. It’s been this way since childhood, and it shows no sign of changing anytime soon.
Quality Time with Loved Ones:
This feels like another no-brainer. Indeed, it probably comes easily for some, but because I tend to dissociate as a coping mechanism, I sometimes forget just how important something like this is. I experience a dramatic upswing in my mental wellness when I am getting more social time. This can mean splashing around in the neighbors’ pool with my kids, watching a show with Jean, doing the podcast with Jeff, writers conventions, and so on. Even if you’re an introvert—maybe even especially so—it’s crucial to get out and see people.
I felt a little gross typing this one. Our society’s obsession with material wealth is more than a little unhealthy. However, staying fed, watered, and sheltered are basic human needs, and as a parent, I’m not just responsible for myself in these respects either. We can argue all day that capitalism is evil, but at the moment, it is the law of the land. Expecting that to change in my lifetime, regardless of my beliefs or the efforts of people to change it, is unrealistic, so I need to take care of me and mine, and I’ll do my best to do so in the least harmful way possible.
So yeah, financial stability matters to me. Sometimes that means I need to work harder than I’d like.
Another no-brainer. If I feel like shit all the time, be that mentally or physically, those other three items tend to fall apart. How do I not feel like shit? I wish I could say there was a formula, but it just comes down to awareness of how I’m feeling, knowing whether it’s how I want to feel, and doing little things every day to either maintain or repair my current state.
It’s important to remember that just because I write about terrible things doesn’t mean I need to be miserable. We never should have romanticized the tortured creative type. While using your trauma and fears to write horror is usually a good path toward writing effective dark fiction, I recommend doing everything you can to keep that shit on the page. Otherwise, inner darkness becomes this crutch you rely on for coming up with ideas, and you might even come to resent your own creativity.
I finally pulled the trigger on deactivating my Twitter account a few weeks ago. Though I’m no mark for Musk, my departure has nothing to do with him. It’s just not fun for me anymore. It hasn’t been since the pandemic, honestly. The culture there is just openly hostile, getting off on constant in-fighting while throwing around the word “community” like if you say it enough that somehow makes it true. It’s not a right/left issue; it’s an issue of me knowing malevolence when I see it. This malevolence lives on both sides of the aisle, and I will not engage it.
I shouldn’t need to spend a weekend worrying about a friend’s mental health because some semi-famous YouTuber sent a bunch of trolls after him for (correctly) telling a fan fiction author that they may be sued for selling their unlicensed novelization of a mediocre slasher sequel.
Weekends are for family and sometimes writing, not stressing over this bullshit.
Leaving Twitter did get me thinking about how the concept of freedom has been redefined, not just for me but for many peers as well. I think my parents’ generation measured freedom by accumulating things (not just material things, but capital P projects to occupy one’s time). Gen Xers and elder millennials seem to measure it by stripping things away (whether moving into a tiny home, transferring their physical media collection in the cloud, or deactivating their account on a popular social site), seeking a blissful minimalism. This is a half-formed thought, and I’m hesitant to leave it in here, but I may want to further explore it at a later date. I’m leaving it in, so you won’t let me forget.
Anyway, this exile will likely stick, and here’s why. I got a new phone. It was free, as most new phones are when you switch plans because phone companies are cartoonishly competitive with each other at this point. Anyway, I didn’t even download the bird app. It feels symbolic, and I believe in the power of symbols.
The bird is dead, at least to me.
Jean and I finished up all the available episodes of Yellowstone. The final half-season starts up again in November, and the creators have done a good job putting all the pieces in place for a banger of a finale. I am predicting, however, that the best season will remain the second, as it had the most concise arc. The scene where John Dutton and Thomas Rainwater sit down to form an uneasy alliance is straight out of a classic Western and will forever live in my head as an example of great scenes where rivals put aside their differences to face a larger enemy.
But holy shit. Yellowstone is not the most interesting story in that media franchise. No, my friends, that honor goes to 1883. Leaning fully into the harshness of frontier life, the single-season prequel is essentially The Oregon Trail television show. People die of smallpox and dysentery, get shot and stabbed by bandits, and face all sorts of troubles. It’s exactly what I want out of a Western, and I think that it will go down as the franchise’s true treasure, its thematic heart. Even if you haven’t watched Yellowstone, check it out immediately.
I’m also nearly finished reading Frank De Felitta’s Golgotha Falls. It’s a tight, creepy novel about a Catholic priest and two parapsychologists running afoul of Satan in an old, disused church. De Felitta was known for books like The Entity and Audrey Rose, books where supernatural horror and psychology join together in an unholy union, begetting the sort of tale that will keep you up nights. Golgotha Falls synthesizes what makes his works sing: he explores the depths of faith and madness, of science and the supernatural, of love and lust, playing each of these oppositions against each other in a truly excellent horror novel from the 80s boom.
It’s also, sadly, a mostly forgotten work, so check it out if you’ve never heard of it. You’ll be glad you did.
I was interviewed byon his excellent Substack last week. Topics range from the kinship between splatterpunk and bizarro, the appeal of horror’s more extreme strains, novellas vs novels, and why being imperfect is actually a good thing. You can check it out here.
Our most recent episode of Make Your Own Damn Podcast, Jeff and I unpack the notorious exploitation horror movie A Serbian Film. You can check it out here.
I’ve also begun serializing my new novel here on the newsletter. It’s called Barn Door to Hell, and it’s about a town under attack after an extraterrestrial entity breaks out of an old barn. $5 a month gets you two chapters and any bonus material. Plus, I’ll send you a signed copy of the book when it’s done (U.S. readers only). You can check out the Prologue here and Chapter 1 here.
Thanks again for reading, for sticking around, and for being friends.