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What Keeps You Alive: Thoughts on the Horror Community


I don’t know everyone in the horror community.


For those of us who use social media to connect with readers, authors, and reviewers, the horror community becomes an integral part of our experience as creators and fans.


There’s been some horrible behavior discussed on social media over the past few months. No, not some. A lot of horrible behavior.


I’m going to presume to be, to some small degree, part of the horror community in this post.

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What Keeps You Alive

A few weeks ago, I watched What Keeps You Alive. In this horror film, a couple heads off to one woman’s family home, in a rural area, right on the lake. Her wife, Jules, falls in love with the setting and house, and it seems like the perfect romantic getaway. Things take a turn when Jules learns that people from the area don’t know her wife, Jackie. They know Megan.

And there are some hints that give Jules an unsettled feeling. That her wife’s real name isn’t the only secret she’s keeping.

She’s right, and the revelation of the truth will put her life—and the lives of others—in danger.

Recently, I found myself thinking about this movie and the horror community, and the parallels between them.

As one of the newbies around here, I sometimes see references to problems, conflicts, or drama that preceded me. And part of me is tempted to think, “It was before my time, I don’t need to know about all that.”

After all, I didn’t start reading and reviewing horror because of the personal drama. 

However, I have watched events as they’ve unfolded over the past few months, and have a few thoughts to share.

It’s Privilege to Ignore Abusers and Their Victims 

Yes, it’s been a tough year, and I understand that some days, you may not have the spoons for it all. I’m not talking about taking social media breaks or the days when you genuinely can’t cope with one more thing. I’m talking generally here.

But if you are a part of the community at large, some issues should not be ignored, and at some point, each of us really should process the critical details for ourselves. One of the questions we all have to ask ourselves is how we want our community to be. If you tweeted about your community and people from that community automatically jumped into your DMs with unsolicited dick picks, how would you feel? Would you be excited about the community? Would you want to engage with it?

I think one of the challenges with communities based on social media sites, such as Twitter, is that they can seem leaderless. They are what they are, until some people behave in a way that is unexpected.

The problem is, who decides they’re in or they’re out?

Well, each individual person does. And unfortunately, sometimes people disagree, which can cause the community to fracture.

So yeah, if you aren’t taking time to learn the essential facts about what’s going on, it’s privilege. You have (or think you have) that luxury. In What Keeps You Alive, Daniel had privilege. His wife, Sarah, had clearly told him she didn’t feel comfortable with Megan/Jackie. And he still made plans for them to have dinner with Jackie and Jules. He didn’t think it was a big deal. Whether that was because he felt (as the only man) he was strong enough to handle Jackie, or that Sarah was overreacting, or he had some morbid curiosity he wanted to satisfy, he still made the choice to put his wife through that.

You know who doesn’t have the luxury of ignoring a person’s abuse? Victims.

And you know what could happen if you don’t inform yourself about serious conduct matters? You could leave yourself vulnerable and become a victim. That is, after all, why there are entire sites dedicated to exposing scam presses and publishers who don’t pay authors. To keep writers from being victimized and to limit the damage predators do.

There’s No Such Thing As Neutral

We all know that saying. If you aren’t for me, you’re against me. 

I’m not talking about the fact that green and orange are the best colors in the world and if you don’t think so you’re wrong. I may be right, but I can overlook your flaws. 😉 

I’m talking about the critical stuff.

If a man harasses a woman and you think you can just ignore that fact and be friends with both or accept both as part of the community, you can’t.

All too many of us women won’t have to pretend here, but imagine for a moment that you were raped. And your rapist has never gone to jail or repented or faced any consequences, although you told your friends what happened. You’re going out to an event you’ve been looking forward to, and will get to see those friends. You walk in and see the friends you’re meeting at a table, laughing and joking with your rapist.

Would you feel comfortable? Safe? 

More likely scared, hurt, and betrayed.

Sometimes, there isn’t room for everyone at the table, and if you welcome someone in or indulge someone who is known for harassing others, you’re helping to maintain an unsafe space.

And if you tell a harassment victim that they just need to put their thoughts aside and remember everyone’s friends here, you are perpetuating that abuse. You are dismissing the very real trauma they’ve experienced. And you are responsible when that abuser goes on to victimize someone else.

When Sean Penn went to jail, he didn’t discover total solidarity with all the other inmates. He didn’t think, “I’ve done something wrong and been locked up, so I know all these other guys just made mistakes and are really great people.” Know how I know that? Because of the note he sent to Richard Ramirez

Who you even simply tolerate as part of your circle—never mind who you call friend—says something about you, and it will understandably affect how people feel about you.

Those telling people they don’t have a right/aren’t being helpful if they discuss incidents and how they feel are adding to the damage by perpetuating a cycle of secrets and telling people what they are and are not allowed to think/feel/talk about. And in some cases, they’re gaslighting victims. Be wary of anyone who tries to shut the conversation down. They can certainly choose not to participate, but its an abuse of power or attempt at control to try to pressure others to stay silent, no matter how much time has gone by.

Again, I find myself thinking about Daniel from that movie. It doesn’t matter if you like Jules and she’s innocent. If socializing with her means socializing with someone who your wife believes killed their childhood friend, then you need to keep your distance out of respect for your wife and her safety.

It’s Up To Aggressors to Redeem Themselves

There’s a path to redemption in most situations. The question is whether or not perpetrators will take the steps to make amends.

Other people can’t do it for them. I understand that, as a friend, if someone screws up you may want to try to help them process their actions and reach a point of accountability. Friends and family do this for each other. On a regular basis, I tell my spouse what I’m thinking and then ask, “Am I wrong?”

I have a sounding board, and I use it most of the time. But sometimes, our emotions get the better of us, or we say something thoughtlessly, and we have to account for that. That means apologizing if it’s possible. If it isn’t possible, it means showing the people around you that you understand what you did wrong and will do better.

A director of a child care center I knew told me once she didn’t make children apologize to each other. That may have been when I heard a four-year-old in her center use the F word. And a few other choice words. (Turned out, the family didn’t take issue with children swearing.)

I thought about that a lot. She said it’s because you can’t make someone actually feel or be sorry.

That may be true, but you know what? The act of apologizing reinforces the fact that your behavior was wrong. It establishes a legal or social norm. It teaches children, and adults, what is and is not acceptable.

A sincere apology should be the first step on the path to redemption. It should indicate the person has had a change of heart and will change their behavior accordingly. Although I believe the apology is important, it’s more important that the person shows meaningful change. 

And that isn’t simply about the absence of bad behavior. It’s about making deliberate actions that show a change. I recall several years ago someone broke into a friend’s home and stole their TV. The police barely bothered to fill out a report. On a pure legal level, the value of the TV defined the crime, and it was “minor” so they weren’t invested in finding the burglar.

People should remember that the Golden State Killer started out committing burglaries. And he didn’t take a lot of extremely valuable items. He scattered people’s clothing. He invaded their privacy. He made people feel unsafe in their own homes. But he also left valuables behind. 

Small things lead to big things. And this is also true about redemption. If your crime was bullying a kid at school and making them give up their lunch money, then start by bringing extra food you can share with other kids. Or earn money to pay for your victim’s lunches. Stand up for someone else when they’re being bullied.

There are ways to show you’ve made meaningful change, and it is not up to everyone else to reach for those moments. In What Keeps You Alive, when Jules starts to have suspicions, she is easily swayed to fill in the gaps and believe the best about her wife. She rationalizes the behavior away and gives her outs. 

That doesn’t foster genuine repentance, or redemption. It enables abusers to perpetuate more abuse.

A Follow List Isn’t *Always* Proof of Support

Look, Sarah may have gone along with the dinner Daniel agreed to, but she didn’t want to. In fact, it seemed like she’d tried to come up with an excuse to get out of dinner. If they hadn’t been put on the spot, maybe Sarah and Daniel would have stayed home, and What Keeps You Alive would have lost some of its dramatic tension. Since it was a movie, they went to dinner and major stuff happened that advanced the plot.

In real life, things are a little different. One of the things people look to, sometimes, is followers. Now, yes, I understand that most people who are following JK Rowling are fans and enjoyed HP and have appreciated her presence on social media. After all, Rowling used to be the queen of the zingers.

However, since her beliefs about transgender people have come out, many people have distanced themselves from her and anyone who supports her. Including those who follow her.

Twitter is uniquely set up to enable people to use block chains, which means that by blocking one problematic person, you can block everyone who follows that person.

Now, when it comes to more community-based stuff with people who are not as well known as Rowling, people sometimes look at follow lists and unfollow people who follow those they have issues with.

Sometimes, people deliberately go follow a person who is embroiled in controversy. They do it so they will be more likely to see any subsequent statements. Sometimes, it’s part of their fact-finding mission. 

It does not necessarily mean they support the person.

If you’re really unsure, then message the person and ask them. There are several possibilities. They may have forgotten they followed that person. They may not be aware they follow that person. (I could not even name half the people I follow or who follow me.) And they may have followed just to simplify the process of staying informed.

Also, when people come under fire, they sometimes lock their account. Followers may be the only ones who can see their tweets then. If you unfollow, you may not have access to information.

So, yeah, Sarah went to dinner. But that didn’t mean she supported Jackie, or even liked her.

The Greatest Fear

I was talking to my mother recently, and she told me that she doesn’t care about politics or about informing herself. “They’re all just crooks and one’s just as bad as the other.” 

It irritates me that people like that vote. Yes, she’s my mom and I love her, but really Mom? I am a big believer in an informed populace voting responsibly. And I have real issues with people who just vote party line, or who they think will help them make the most money, or for the cutest candidate or whatever. I’d go so far as to say we wouldn’t be in the mess we’re in now if people actually used a few brain cells and educated themselves. Not just about what politicians say, but about their voting record and how that impacts specific things, like social security, but I’m going to button that down now so we don’t lose sight of the point.

Knowledge is power.

Unfortunately for Jules, in What Keeps You Alive, knowledge also meant vulnerability. Ultimately, I’d say this is a C+ movie that has a lot of violence, but the real point of the movie is to explore one of our greatest fears.

The fear that the people we think we know best are the ones we don’t know at all.

We take what our partners, family, and friends say at face value and put our trust in them. And when we learn the truth contradicts what we’ve believed, we feel betrayed.

Sometimes, people do not want to risk getting to know others because they don’t want to be disappointed. I understand that. I’ve got the ‘the more people I meet, the more I like my dog’ T-shirt. 

However, I didn’t let betrayal and abuse from a former spouse keep me from taking that risk with my current spouse, and I’m thankful for that every day. I would have missed out on the love of my life.

I took time to get to know him, though. We talked on the phone almost every day for about 90 minutes. You can’t fill that time with fluff. Being physically apart but talking requires communication and you’ve got to be committed and serious. 

Sometimes, you can think you’ve known someone a long time before they show you something about themselves you didn’t know. And that something can change how you feel about them. Be mindful of that. Get to know people. Keep your eyes open. Remember what you know about the people you meet online is limited by what they choose to share. Be informed before you choose sides, but be prepared to take the steps you need to take.

And remember, if the filter you put everything through is, “Will this be better for me financially?” you’re making selfish decisions based on your needs. When it comes to community matters, the question always should be, “Does this help make our community the kind of place I want it to be?”

And then act accordingly.

I certainly hope that the vocal majority of people out there will be acting to keep predators and their enablers out.

Published inHorror NewsMovie Talk


  1. This is a fantastic post! I agree with your thoughts.

  2. Thank you, this was quite a nice read – now i’m tempted to watch the movie to have more knowledge of the points you based yourself on.

    That fear is mainly what drives me from getting to know people; you never know who they really are. Granted, that goes for forever-friends too but; at any given time they can just turn around on you and everything was fake. Do we truly know people?? We can’t really know for sure..

  3. THANKYOU for the Follow Is Not Support. I argue this constantly.

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