Weston Ochse is the author of twenty books, most recently SEAL Team 666 and its sequel Age of Blood, which the New York Post called 'required reading' and USA Today placed on their 'New and Notable Lists.' His first novel, Scarecrow Gods, won the Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in First Novel and his short fiction has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. His work has appeared in comic books, and magazines such as Cemetery Dance and Soldier of Fortune. He lives in the Arizona desert within rock throwing distance of Mexico. He is a military veteran with 29 years of military service and currently returned from a deployment to Afghanistan. Please contact him through this site.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Hate Mail for my Stoker Finalist Story

Reactions: 
I never used to get hate mail. One of my stories has changed that. It's called RIGHTEOUS, appeared in the Black Dog and Leventhal anthology PSYCHOS, and is a final ballot nomination for the Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in Short Fiction.

For those who haven't read the story, RIGHTEOUS is a story about PTSD. It's a story about a thing called Secondary PTSD. It's also a story about guilt, both shared and individual, both human and that of our nation. It's a story about America's love of war. It's also the idea that patriotism might be like alcoholism and too much of it might just be bad.

Here's a sampling of some of the emails I received, with my replies:

"You don't know what the f&ck your (sic) talking about. There's no excuse for your character's behaviour (sic). He's a f&tard!"

My reply: Well, actually, I do know what I'm talking about. I'm a retired army soldier with twenty years of service and am currently civil service employee working for the department of defense. I'm also deploying to Afghanistan next month. I get patriotism better than most. It's why I wrote the story.

"It saddens me that you've decided to join the lefties."

My reply: If by lefties, you mean those who see both sides of things, who take the time to think through things, and who are concerned with everyone's rights, then yes.

"How dare you trample the red, white and blue! You claim to be a soldier, but you couldn't have been. I was a soldier and am proud to show my flag and I'll kick anyone's ass who wants to try and stop me."

My reply: I never said anything about flying the flag. Thanks for your service.

"F&ck you F&ck you F&ck you F&ck you F&ck you! My brother died in Iraq."

My reply: Sorry for your loss.

"Your idea that a recruiter might be an accomplice to a soldier's ultimate sacrifice is distasteful. Everyone has a choice, whether to serve or not to serve. There isn't a draft, but rather a choice to join and become something you might not be able to become otherwise. Recruiters work long hours and should not be the target of anyone's anger."

My reply: The idea that there is a choice is a little sophistry. Many under-privileged and inner-city young men and women don't really have a choice but to join the service if they have any chance of pulling themselves out of poverty. I agree that recruiters work long hours  I have several friends, whom I respect tremendously, who are recruiters. But recruiters, like society, are (perhaps unwitting) accomplices to the deaths of America's children. As long as we promote the idea of patriotism at all costs, then this is what we grow.

The story was one I questioned writing. I stand by the story. I stand by what it says. I even stand by Mutt, the talking dog. I especially stand by the grieving father. God bless him.

Thanks to John Skipp for editing the Psychos anthology and for letting me be a part of it.

7 comments:

  1. You should stand by it. Where is all their patriotic support for their homeless, sick and damaged brothers and sisters in arms? It's easy to salute the flag before mounting the old lady at night, not so easy to look into the dark recesses of effects our choices as a society have on the people who we count on to carry out those missions.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I appreciate your service. I too am a Army veteran. Unfortunately, most Americans are all too willing to wrap themselves in the flag and follow a government blindly; without ever questioning the motives or understanding the mission, or lack thereof.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thanks people. I appreciate your responses.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Your story was one of the highlights of that anthology.

    It is hardcore and quite thought provoking, which is what really makes folks squirm. Some aren't used to that burning tickle in the brain pan when thoughts occur...they've been out of practice for so long.

    Congrats on the Stoker nom.

    Carry on.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I haven't read the story yet but I look forward to it. I just finished ST666 and loved it.

    The nature of the hate mail you posted here, though, strikes me as pure knee-jerk reaction. That tells me that the story did its job.

    A good story [at least in the dark fiction genre] - especially about a touchy subject - should grab the reader by the throat, drag them through the muck, and shine a light on the reader's own fears, prejudices, misconceptions, and beliefs.

    Ultimately, fiction is about truth. Fiction is able to shine a light into the nooks and crannies and hold a mirror up to reflect the demons. Non-fiction rarely achieves that same depth of honesty.

    Truth is often painful. Especially if it's been repressed or rejected for any length of time.

    The responses you got strike me as coming from either ignorance or fear. Mostly from fear. Fear that what you wrote is far too close to the truth they'd rather deny. Maybe they see something of themselves in the story and it terrifies them. Maybe they're ignorant of the realities of PTSD and the pain it causes. The nightmares. The survivor's guilt. The endless self-recrimination about choices made.

    As I said, these responses indicate to me that the story was (as I'd expect from you) very well written and, like any good story, it got people thinking - even if they disagree.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Thanks Guru Mike,

    I clearly peed on the false idol of patriotism. Don't get me wrong. I'm extremely patriotic when it comes to America. I've served the last 28 years and am trundling off to war in a few weeks. But patriotism is the like of something, not the hate of something. It's also an emotion, and like all emotions, if gone unchecked, can take over our thought processes. The best cure for this -ism is thought. People need to think. They need to realize that a raised fist in protest, or a raised flag, has the same effect as a butterfly batting its wings in Japan.

    ReplyDelete