Here's the deal. Most of the people who are going to read this are nice people. Some are nice people who are a little flaky, but that's cool. Some are nice people who are a LOT flaky, but that's cool, too. But some are not nice people, and they have real problems. A few of these are dangerous, and want to manipulate and hurt other people, including us. We just learned something recently that just happened to be...
The Last Straw
This is going to offend some people. These are the people who most need to read this. This definitely has needed to be said for a long time. We're writers. We write fiction, which is, by definition, NOT FACT. Creative and entertaining lies, if you will, but still not truth by any kind of stretch of the imagination. So, we've written over 40 books, of which a grand total of three are dark fantasy that involve the occult, "real" psychic powers, and nonstandard religions. So what attracts so much trouble and so many lunatics you'd think it was a "Free beer and come as your favorite psychosis party" in downtown L.A.? You've got it. The "Diana Tregarde Investigations." Take, for instance, the undeniable fact that I haven't written (and at this point, don't intend to write) any more of them. Why? THEY DON'T SELL. The numbers are there in black and white. DT books are consistently and vastly outsold by every other type of fantasy we write. Now some people would decide that there was an Evil Force out there preventing the sale of their glorious books and determine to thwart that force and PROVE how wonderful the "unpopular" books are, but hey, call me nutty, but I believe that people are trying to tell you something when they don't buy a book, and that is, THEY DON'T WANT THEM! Why should we write something people don't want? If every hardcore Diana Tregarde fan bought fifty copies of each book, I could afford to maybe buy a new VCR with the royalties. There are plenty of other people who are already writing books people don't want, and doing it in bigger numbers than we can! Just take a look at the remainder- racks!
But, oh, the rumors! Conspiracy theories that would make Oliver Stone burst into tears of envy! Someone periodically starts a rumor that the publisher is "suppressing" the books---the fact is, that like me, they want to publish books that are going to compete with our more popular series. Another is that they have been published, but a fundamentalist group bought them all so no one else could read them, ignoring the fact that if anyone bought an entire print-run of anything, it would be on the New York Times bestseller list! Or my favorite two rumors, that appeared IN THE SAME WEEK, one that Larry was a fundamentalist who was preventing me from writing them, and a rumor that Larry was an evil pagan who was preventing me from writing them! Then there are the letters taking me to task for not following the letter-writer's own particular brand of politically correct neopaganism. THESE BOOKS ARE ENTERTAINMENT ONLY, PEOPLE! I'M NOT RUNNING A RECRUITMENT BUREAU, HERE! And if YOU want a book featuring YOUR favorite brand of religion, YOU go out and write and try to sell one, and good luck and don't let the door hit you on the way out!
They were written at the time when horror was outselling everything else, and hey, I wrote them to make money. We've got a mortgage to pay. I suppose by some people's standards that is a heinous crime, but I'm sorry for offending your delicate little sensibilities. Actually, no I'm not. Get a life, get a grip, and grow a spine; you all ought to know by now that we don't do PC. Then there are the people who insist that the Guardians are real. Hey, if there really were Guardians, you'd see panicky skinheads buying up the Rogaine supply like the KKK at a white sale. There'd be no such thing as a crooked televangelist, when they'd have real demons popping in on their shows to tell them where they were REALLY going.
"But Guardians must be real," comes the cry, "How could you make something like that up?" Oh for crying out loud, an "occult police force" is one of the oldest gizmos in horror fiction! The Nine Unknown Men, the Hunting Lodges, the White Lodges, Dr. Orient, Agatha Christie's Harley Quinn, to name a few; there's been more good and bad books involving occult "police" than there have been books about vampires! That's FICTION, people! Do you really, truly, think that if there WERE an "occult police force" they'd have let those kids in Florida kill their mother and drink her blood, that they'd let kiddie-porn and snuff-film makers continue to operate, or that they WOULDN'T make it their business to track down and dispose of serial killers? What're these guys supposedly doing, punishing junk-bond dealers?
The thing is, on one level I can sympathize with people who would really like to believe that Guardians are real. The world is a scary place, and more and more scary things are happening in it, things that really look as if there was a single evil hand behind it all. Hey, I wish there were Guardians! I also wish for peace, prosperity and an end to war. There's about an equal chance for either.
But now we get a little more into the shallow end of the reality pool, because some of these people claim that the Guardians are this big, cohesive group watching over everything. As far as that goes, in MY books, the Guardians aren't even organized! They're about as cohesive a group as a herd of grasshoppers! The closest thing to "organization" they have is when two of them run into each other at the Karaoke Club and find out they both want to sing "Poisoning Pigeons in the Park." There's NO group meetings, NO politics, no nothing---yet these same people have invented an entire complex hierarchy for them, complete with lodge meetings, secret handshakes, and decoder rings! Cripes! They aren't even reading the books, they're just reading what THEY want to see into the books!
It gets stranger. A whole lot stranger. We aren't even in the reality pool, anymore, we're out in the crabgrass around it. There are people claiming to BE Guardians---and people who claim they would be Guardians if only some Evil Force wasn't keeping them from finding their own little Yoda and having their occult powers activated. Okay, I can even sympathize with this one, because I've been there too. When your life is in the crapper, you can't get a job that doesn't involve a paper hat and a nametag, and you think that if you dropped off the planet no one would miss you for weeks, it's comforting to believe that all your misfortunes can be blamed on an Evil Occult Force.
I had myself talked into that one for a while, but at one critical point I had what the Twelve Step groups call "a moment of clarity," when someone else who had bought into the delusion began coming up with things I knew just weren't true and I realized that the world is what it is, and it doesn't take an evil force to make it that way--- and that I was doing a better job of keeping myself unemployed than any Evil Occult Force could. That's when I forced myself to admit that I had the best chance of making my life better if I just got a good suit from Goodwill instead of wearing costumes, pounded the pavement looking for work instead of waiting for a Dream Job to be given to me, and put more and smarter effort into realistic goals, like learning computer programming instead of spending all my time staring at a candle and trying to contact my Personal Psychic Trainer. That's when I also realized that I really liked making up the stories, so I didn't give them up, I just stopped telling myself they were real. And I started writing them down, which was a lot more fun when other people started to read them and told me how good they were. But guys, people who tell you that they are Guardians never made that jette back to coolsville (To quote Dennis Miller). They're still in a wobbling pirouette that's taking them straight into the orchestra pit.
And here we go right off the end of the bell curve, because the same lunatics who say that they are Guardians are bound and determined that I am a Guardian! Jeez Louise, if I had occult powers, would I be sitting here writing my ass off for a living? Heck no, I'd be out in Vegas in the VIP suite with half a dozen semi-naked chorus boys feeding me caviar, that's where I'd be! I'd be cruising the Bahamas on the way to my own tropical island. I'd have a mansion and fifty servants, and the biggest aviary outside of a zoo, that's what I'd have, and I'd have more semi-naked chorus boys to do all the cage-cleaning and feeding for me! Meanwhile Larry would be winning Le Mans and Sebring in his unbreakable Lotus (a real occult miracle), and on the side he'd be having one-man shows at the Guggenheim and his personal Ford Indygo would be winning the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance. Oh, and he'd also take a few hours off to do some hawking with his Ornate Hawk-Eagle, taking the prizes for high-catch of the day, of course. I'd write for fun, when I felt like it, and not every day, eight hours a day, seven days a week.
Have we got that straight, all you cosmic cupcakes? Do you think if I had occult powers I wouldn't have KNOWN those freaks in Oklahoma City were going to blow up a building with a day-care center full of kids in it practically in my own back yard and have DONE something before it happened? Do you think if I had occult powers I wouldn't have warned my friends in Los Angeles to be somewhere else when the Northridge Quake busted loose? Or warned my parrot-breeder friends in Florida to get their setups into concrete blockhouses long before Hurricane Andrew came through? For crying out loud, wouldn't I have KNOWN Larry's studio was going to have a fire, that our rearmost room was going to flood, that his car was going to have a wreck, and that our garage was going to get hit with a tornado???? Wouldn't I have DONE something to avoid these things? And just because those things all happened, that DOESN'T mean that I have these cosmic powers and I either LET them happen or MADE them happen because I am evil! Shoot, if you're looking for someone with Major Occult Powers, try someone like Dick Clark---filthy rich, no scandals, and he looks HOW old? Or Paul McCartney, who hasn't aged a day since 1972. The guy that invented Pet Rocks---geez, how many of us did he sucker into buying a road-rock in a cardboard box? Had to have been occult powers. Or--- it has to be the way the world works.
Reality check time, people, here's a whole ROLL of quarters, there's the clue machine, GO BUY SOME. And people, why would someone who belonged to a super-secret high-risk occult-society with amazing powers at her beck and call be stupid enough to draw the attention of all the Bad Guys by WRITING ABOUT IT? "Hello? Is anyone paying attention? Oh, no---well, let me just run up a GREAT BIG SIGN that says 'Guardian here! Come and get me!'" Just what was that supposed to accomplish? Was I supposed to be looking for other Guardians? But if I BELONGED ALREADY to this so-called "Inner Circle" why would I be looking for them? Was I supposed to be recruiting new Guardians? Guys, that gag is straight out of THE LAST STARFIGHTER. Yeah, that's a good idea, Gunga Din; let's just raise our profile a lot higher for the Bad Guys to shoot at, and meanwhile, we'll sort through all the mail from every guy who ever wanted to levitate and shoot lightning bolts "Just like in the comic books." Hey, we'll find a LOT of potential Guardians that way!
Now at this point, if you've somehow been sucked into a group like I've described, and you've raised these objections, your Fearless Leader the Great Cranko is saying, "Well of course she'd say THAT, she wouldn't want to blow her cover"---like it wouldn't already have been blown higher than a palm tree at Bikini Atoll---but just how many of those "of course she'd say that"s are you going to accept before your logic circuit kicks in?
Oh, it gets better! Not only am I a Guardian, but I'm supposedly the source of (or involved in) political corruption among the Guardians. The Old Order has gone bad and is trying to suppress the Young Turks (you know, if I tried to write that plot, my editors would reject it as being too trite). I helped organize some whoop-de-ding spell-casting session to "burn out" all of those who wouldn't follow and obey us. And it's time to destroy the Old Order to make way for the New, Pure of Heart, Full of---well, it rhymes with "hit." Follow and obey ME? I can't even get plumbers to finish fixing my pipes on time! Where the hell did this paranoid delusion come from? If there are any of you out there who have bought into THIS particular schizoid fantasy, I have some real harsh words for you. PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY.
You are responsible for your OWN thoughts, actions, and attitudes, dudes and dudettes. Somebody else may preach these things, but YOU are the one responsible for hanging your logic out to dry, putting your brain on "record" and forgetting that you're supposed to think as well as believe. And if your "coven leader" is feeding you this line of garbage---when you READ that this is the last thing we would believe in, you SEE and HEAR that our books are preaching compassion and not trashin', and you can find out with no trouble whatsoever the amount of charity work we do---WHO DOES LOGIC SAY IS THE REAL BAD GUY?
Whose ACTIONS are consistent with someone who does the right thing as well as talking about it? Who goes out and tries to help, instead of blaming some poor fantasy writers for "oppressing him?" And kids, when he tells you that you are all going to have to destroy the old order to make way for the new---think REAL HARD for a minute. Those same words have been spoken by other people who got their followers to go out and do horrible things FOR them. People like Thomas Mitzger, Charles Manson and Jim Jones---people who worked up hysteria and paranoia among THEIR followers then sat back with folded hands while real blood flowed, and said, "but I am innocent, I haven't done anything!"
Okay, so maybe all these guys want to do is have you all hold hands in a circle and try and give me a headache. Hey, knock yourselves out, have a good time, and don't drive home intoxicated afterwards. But maybe they want to manipulate you into doing something very bad in the real world. I've got news for you, kids. IF THEY DO, YOU ARE STILL RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR OWN ACTIONS. YOU will go down; maybe embarrassment, maybe to jail---maybe to Death Row. Why? Because YOU handed over your brain and conscience to a would-be tin-pot dictator who gets his jollies out of manipulating people he thinks are weak- willed and suggestible suckers.
And right now some of you are saying "oh that couldn't possibly happen among fans!" (or pagans, or whatevers). Guess again. It not only can, it already has. Within my own very limited circle of acquaintances, I PERSONALLY have VERIFIED with mundane sources---one man ennobled in the SCA who took on a contract-killing and is currently in prison for it, one man in fan circles who was convicted of child molestation and went to jail for it and died there, one man in RenFaire, sf-convention and pagan circles who was caught and convicted of multiple torture-murders, one man in fan and SCA circles who was caught and convicted of setting pipe-bombs in public buildings. That's just among people I knew.
I'm not the only author who's had their fiction distorted like this, and it makes all of us want to track the creeps responsible down and pound them into the ground like tent pegs. But WE are adult, compassionate, responsible (there's that word again) human beings, and we know that would be wrong. So we sit in our offices and get death-threats and wonder which one of these loons is going to be THE one--- and if this time someone is going to get hurt. It might be the psycho himself, or it might be one of his followers who decides to show up. Maybe Aleister Junior will egg one of his followers into buying a Saturday Night Special and go blaze away at a book signing. Most of us writers are only partly worried about ourselves---because maybe what happens is an innocent fourteen-year-old flings herself into the line of fire, or is just standing there getting a book signed, and becomes a statistic. How the hell do you think we'd feel about THAT?
I can tell you that there are at least some writers---or the people left behind (if it was the writer who got toasted)---who wouldn't sit in their offices and wring their hands afterwards. They'd track down the creep responsible, and for half an hour forget they were adult, compassionate, responsible human beings and turn him into a thin layer of red gel on the concrete. It would be wrong, but that's what they'd do.
Want to make a judgement call on good and evil? Anyone who would be the instigator of something like that is hardly on the side of the angels. Anyone who causes that sort of disaster is propagating the real evil in the world, not some poor hacks writing thrillers to pay the mortgage.
So before your local wizard who claims to be a Guardian or one of the Nine Unknown, or the leader of a Hunting Lodge gets you into anything deeper than some joyful, joyfilled celebrations of life, compassion, and all that is right and good in the world---maybe you'd better draw his attention to that paragraph about the thin layer of red gel. Because sometimes, boys and girls, what you think is a striped worm turns out to be the tail of a tiger and no magic is required.
### Now, for all of you who are still with me, if you encounter any of these people, DO NOT flame them, engage in arguments, post to their bulletin boards, or have anything whatsoever to do with them. If you meet them in the real world, DO NOT argue; just smile and nod, back away slowly, and when their attention is taken away, RUN LIKE HELL. These are unpredictable people, and they could decide that YOU are the embodiment of the great evil that is oppressing them.
----------------------------------- End of message from Mercedes Lackey-
If you wish to write Mercedes concerning this post, you can contact her via postal mail:
P.O. Box 8309
Tulsa, OK 74101 USA
Notes from Firebird
Misty asked me to post this in our online catalog after the latest round of problems with death threats. Given that there is an ongoing investigation into this matter by the FBI, the amount that I can say about it is limited.
What bothered Misty more than the possibility of getting shot, or Larry getting shot, was the vision of some 14 year old fan standing in line at a book signing, getting into the line of fire and ending up dead or worse. I'll say it again: The idea that a fan of her work could end up in the wrong place, at the wrong time and end up dead or worse is what is driving the "Last Straw" letter.
For the record Misty and I have been friends for close to two decades. She has in that time changed from working full time as a main frame programer for a large airline, to a well respected and successful writer in the fantasy world.
Once she achieved a certain level of visibility, something strange started to happen. Odd people started crawling out of the woodwork. And some of these people were very, very odd. There were the old so-called friends who could not stand her successes. Vicious personal attacks came from people within Science Fiction & Filk fandoms. There were the SCA households that assumed that now that she had some books published, she was rich, and should give them funds to run their extended households. And got angry when she said no. There were the fanfic writers that wanted her to get them published, and got mad when she did not wave her magic wand and get them the publishing contract of their dreams.
There was the real life tragedy that ended in a murder, suicide, and nearly ended up as a double murder, suicide. This incident started when Misty and her husband Larry Dixon sheltered a woman escaping a bad marriage and her child. This episode included: pipe bombs, people (not just the woman's ex-husband) keeping Misty's house under surveillance. People with high powered rifles being run off the property in the middle of the night. Police that would not take the threats seriously, an unresponsive legal system, and a judge with attitudes firmly rooted in the neolithic age. The nut case involved tried to kill his ex-wife, and the people trying to help her. He only managed to kill his two year old daughter and then shoot himself. This was done on a court ordered visitation, despite everything Misty and Larry and the mother, and the lawyers could do.
And then there were the pagans. Once the Diana Tregarde books were published, every pagan nut (please note, the nut applies to specific pagans, not to all pagans) with an ax to grind decided that the portrayal of magic in the books was not correct. Some of these people did not take no for an answer, and when their dearly held believes were not accepted and enshrined in the Diana Tregarde books, they got nasty. Big time nasty. Death threats, curses, hate mail directed at Misty. Once it was clear that these avenues were blocked, or at least ineffective, some enterprising souls started going after people close to Misty. They tried to get to her through Larry, Firebird, family, and friends.
The problem is not SF fans, or pagans. The problem is with people who have boundary problems. People who are not real clear on where to draw the line between their own life, and their favorite author's life. Most of Misty's fans are good caring people, who would never think of stepping over the line. However, and this is a big however, there are people out there who are incapable of recognizing where the lines are drawn. These people range from annoying, to the truly deadly. And it is impossible to tell them apart.
This latest death threat is being taken seriously. It threatens Misty, Larry, and anyone who is with her. How would you like to be standing in line at a book signing when the nut with a gun or a bomb shows up trying to take Misty out? What? It could never happen? People don't do that? Remember the two year old that ended up with a bullet through her head? Not a character in one of Misty's books. But a real world small child that lived under Misty & Larry's roof, played with their cats, pulled the tails of the parrots, and never hurt anyone in her life. A small child Misty and Larry tried to protect. Dead. Brains splattered all over the crib. Too graphic for you? You bet. True? You bet. And it could be you next.
Is Misty angry? Yes, she's furious. Nuts out there have repeatedly threatened to kill her, her husband, their friends, and now the threat is to you, her fans. All over a set of characters in a fantasy book.
Becoming a successful writer should not be equal to living in a war zone. This is the kind of treatment fans are dishing out to many of your favorite authors. Crazy fans are making Misty's life hell by projecting their own fantasies on her.
By all means buy Misty's books, her music, Larry's art work. Enjoy the products of their creativity. Empathize with the characters, and the life situations that the characters find themselves in. But beware if you or anyone else starts confusing the characters with the author. Do not give the nut cases any more power. The single most important thing you can do is avoid these nuts. Isolate them. Laugh at them from a distance. Don't let them into your life. Don't let yourself get taken by some charismatic lunatic with murder on the mind. And run like hell if anyone tries to get you to buy into their warped view of the universe.