Candyman has always been about race

•June 25, 2021 • Leave a Comment

Candyman has always been about race and politics. The original was about a Black man who was murdered and tortured during the Reformation because he had an affair with a white woman and got her pregnant. It’s also about a white woman who goes stomping through a Black housing project, Cabrini Green, and reawakens some old horrors that put its residents at risk.

Jordan Peele has now updated the story, and has the title character murdered by law enforcement. Apparently, some white horror writers are bitching about the police brutality storyline. How dare they – Black people have the right to create horror where we are not othered.

Horror, for more than a hundred years, has been filled with tropes about scary minorities. W.W. Jacobs’ “The Monkey Paw” used the same formula 120 years ago as you see repeatedly in modern horror – strange artifact from a colonized culture has a curse. Oppressed people curse or haunt the oppressors. This formula relies on white guilt / white fear of the Other for its punch.

The original Candyman (written by Bernard Rose, based on Clive Barker’s “Forbidden”) was no different – the wronged Other coming back to kill off the oppressor. In it, Candyman’s interest in dating white women becomes an obsession with white women in his bloodline and a need to kill them off. The horror of Jim Crow and the terror that caused the death of Emmett Till is distilled into Candyman’s origin story, which is then flipped around into Daniel Robitaille (the original Candyman) becoming an actual danger to white women.

When Black writers create horror, we write about what scares us. Toni Morrison’s “Beloved” is based on the true story of Margaret Garner, who killed her own child rather than allow her to be returned to slavery. The house was haunted in “Beloved.” The child haunted her mother.

Black folks have the right to write stories about how slavery, Jim Crow, police brutality and other issues affect us. We should not only be the object of stories other people tell about us. We are allowed to write stories about contemporary horrors like the police murder of Black people, and railroading of innocent people. No one should be coming at us for “politicizing” horror – horror is already a political genre.

It has been for more than 100 years. But nowadays, we get to tell our side of the story.

Thoughts on Juneteenth

•June 18, 2021 • Leave a Comment
My mother Carolyn Saulson with my niece Elisabeta Maria Saulson at Juneteenth in Kimball Park in San Francisco, 2000

Juneteeth is living breathing pushback against revisionist histories glamorizing the Confederacy.

While I am happy that Juneteenth is a national holiday, and while cultural heritage holidays such as Juneteenth can and should be used to educate, I need all of you to understand why this is largely performative and why the performative nature of national cultural heritage holidays is problematic.

For example MLK Day is a holiday, but The Voting Rights Act of 1964 that MLK marched to Selma to get passed was gutted by the Supreme Court and still has not been repaired. Since Biden was elected, regressive backlash laws are being passed to restrict the vote. See the problem?

Despite the conviction for the murder of George Floyd, nothing has been done to reform the system of police violence against African Americans or to stop racial profiling.- Economic inequity, the schools-to-prisons pipeline, the use of prisoners as slave labor, inequity in prosecution (for example, higher penalties for variations of cocaine poor Black people use than for those that white people favor), and many more issues are still very much a problem.

All of these cultural holidays are quickly turned into an opportunity for so-called allies to gorge themselves on alcohol and cultural foods. This time next year, the Dollar Store will probably be selling Pan-African flag (red, black and green) picnic sets. So realize not everyone is happy, and a bunch of people are groaning because they know some folks are going to take things in the same direction as all of those Cinco De Mayo Corona commercials as fast as they possibly can.Well they are correct and allies need to tread lightly.

When I was a little kid in the seventies, my mom had me and my brother out marching to get Martin Luther King Day recognized as a legal holiday. We marched every Martin Luther King Day, for years before it got recognized in 1983. Later, after it was recognized oh, me and my mom and my brother and his kids still march. We were down there with Reverend JR Richardson leading us singing we will overcome together.

Sumiko Saulson (6) and Scott Saulson (5) in 1974

We were in an acting class when Obama was elected president, and everybody in that class knew it was a historical moment. Our teacher, also African-American oh, and my mother’s age oh, was crying because she had not thought that she would see a black president in her lifetime.

My mom told me a lot of things about the struggle. She told me that even though they did not have legal segregation in California like they did in the south, she and her sisters got chased out of restrooms down on Venice Beach in the 60s for being black.

I say this to you because I think a lot of you people who are allies think that you know what I meant in my earlier post about Juneteenth but you don’t know what I am saying. I am happy about Juneteenth being a holiday and I mean what I say. I feel that every single holiday of this kind should serve as something like a reminder of what we have been through in slavery and what we still have to overcome. I think the people should be out in the streets protesting with Black Lives Matter signs singing “We Shall Overcome” and protesting the school-to-prison pipeline that keeps our people enslaved to this very day.

My brother, Scott Saulson, with his daughter, Elisabeta Maria Saulson, at Juneteenth 2000 in Kimball Park in San Francisco

I think Black folks and allies alike are should buy from Black Businesses. I am going to Emmett’s because it is a black owned business, not just cuz I like barbecue which I really do. I think that people who are not African American need to understand that this is a holiday that brings up a lot of complicated feelings for black people. A lot of us celebrated as a black Independence Day.

Since we are celebrating our Liberation from slavery we celebrated with joy. Some of us celebrate as a somber occasion but honestly there are block parties and festivals and picnics. Over the the many years that I have been celebrating Juneteenth since the early 1990s, the Juneteenth fairs and festivals have been almost all black people. The idea that they are going to be invaded by nonblack people who do not understand the significance of the festival makes a lot of Black people feel valid concern. Honestly, allies may chose to honor it in other ways, by supporting Black businesses or through protest.

You may consider it a somber occasion and slavery a painful subject (it is). You may wish to discuss the fact that slavery still exists and Black women are one of the predominant groups affected by it.But you should also, if an ally, have nothing to say at all about Black folks who have a celebratory mood about it. We are also celebrating our freedom. We are allowed to have complex and even joyous feelings about it.

Regarding Systems, Alts, and Identities

•May 15, 2021 • Leave a Comment

C/W: This post is about alternate personalities, aka alters, and systems, which are groups of alternate personalities. People who have them have had serious trauma. The term “fronting” means being aware and having control.

Author Sumiko Saulson (an African American nonbinary person with orange hair) holding a star shaped Mixy Award in hir hands

I made a major life decision recently. I decided to talk to my new therapist and my psychiatrist about my system. My old therapist knew about the system. I have had one since I went to LA Heim in 2016. Maybe it’s more accurate to say I have been aware of having one since then. I have had these symptoms since then. I am somewhat afraid to talk about them because people are really prejudiced against the mentally ill in general. People are also specifically prejudiced against people who have systems.

You should view this as a type of coming out post. More and more people are coming out about having systems. Now this is important to note: neither genderfluidity nor being nonbinary are the same thing as dissociative identities. However, many people who have alternative identities also are non-binary and or gender fluid. As a result, a lot of people under the trans gender umbrella are aware of systems. Systems are what you call groups of personalities. Some people also have subsystems, which are groups of systems that generally act as one or front as one.

Not everyone who has a system has disassociative identity disorder. I do not have it. I do have post-traumatic stress disorder as well as bipolar disorder. PTSD is another condition commonly associated with having a system. I am always aware of what is going on. That is why I am not diagnosed with dissociative personality disorder. I don’t have any blackouts. I am always aware of what is going on. Confronting is when two personalities are running the body at once.
There was a period of time back in 2004 when I had missing time. Other than that I haven’t had missing time ever. It is possible that back in 2004 I was switching identities and I didn’t know what was going on or had blank time because of that. I kept thinking that someone was stealing my cigarettes. I ended up smoking three packs a day because I could not remember buying or smoking the cigarettes. I have never been that disorganized before or since.

I know that this sounds scary. If it is scary to hear about, let me tell you, it was a lot scarier when it first started to happen. Back in the early 2016, I started to have automatic writing. My hand started to write things without my awareness. It was other personalities writing things to me. In late 2015, other voices started to talk out of my face. I was looking in the mirror and another person started to talk out of my face. It was a hostile voice and I was terrified. I had a suicide attempt immediately after.

It is super scary to talk about these things. I know the other people are aware of me talking to myself. My medications control the symptoms but not entirely. I can go for 2 or 3 days without talking to myself in front of people now. But when I am home by myself, my system has conversations with itself. It’s like I have these roommates, but they are in my body.

Over the past year with the pandemic I have had to spend a lot of time alone in my house. It has given me time to try out a new Med, which didn’t work right oh, and to go back on my old meds. I am not sure how well I am going to function when I go back to being social. It is always a struggle, trying to decide whether or not to go out and be around people knowing I talk to myself.

I had to practice radical self-acceptance in order to stop having suicidal ideation. I had to decide that I was going to be okay with me whoever and however I am. That meant I had to tell myself that I could stay alive even though I was constantly embarrassed and upset because people kept making fun of me.

It is dangerous when you can’t control talking to yourself. I had some kid start video taping me with this cell phone. I asked him to stop and he laughed at me. I took out my phone so I can record him recording me, and he threatened to grab my phone and break my phone and hurt me. That happened three or four years ago.

Sometimes I would have an uncontrollable urge to walk around. Sometimes I would be at my family’s house, and I would be trying to control talking to myself, and I couldn’t control it and I would have an urge to walk outside so I could control where I was talking to myself and not do it in front of my family. I had hella cars pulling over trying to pick me up and see if I was a sex worker because they thought I was on drugs. I have had so many cars pull over and try to pick me up, in the tenderloin, in Vallejo, and in Oakland. It is really scary.

I feel that I have been very fortunate, lucky, and blessed to have people in my life who love me. I have been lucky to have people who accept me for who I am. My girlfriend Princess Chris Hughes. Darcy is the first person who introduced me to the term system. I didn’t know where the system was. Unfortunately oh, we were in the car with my good friend Serena, who has since passed away. Serena was afraid of people with systems and said that they’re dishonest. I am not dishonest but I do go back in the closet for two more years because I was afraid of how people would react.

A lot of my horror stories are inspired by different things that I have hallucinated, and experiences that I have had as a system. The people in my system have names, and only about five of them talk to me regularly these days. A lot of them are named after characters in my book, although in the case of Dooky, the character is actually named after Dooky. The Dooky subsystem is a bunch of littles who love stuffed animals. They usually talk in baby voices. Dooky is also really good at driving cars.

Flynn is thoughtful and soft-spoken. Baby is a sweet but catty femme. Anders is a paranoid conspiracy theorist. He says he would rather write than talk, and he hopes you liked “Solitude” because he helped me write it. Pooky likes to make sure I get good self-care… We do self-care together. They cofront with me most of the time so you don’t really know they’re there.

Now that I have gotten this off my chest, you can let me know if you have any questions.

Stop Defending Morrissey’s Racism/Xenophobia

•April 30, 2021 • Leave a Comment
Morrissey being parodied on The Simpsons

In the current global political climate, given the anti-Asian hate crimes that have been taking place since the start of the pandemic, NONE OF US should be making any kind of excuse for anti-Asian hate. While this particular post is inspired by defenses of Morrissey since the airing of the recent episode of “The Simpsons,” where he got roasted for his anti-immigrant views, it is an overall call for members of the Goth community in particular, and people in general, to just do better.

Please DO NOT bring Morrisey’s “value as an artist” into this conversation. This isn’t about his “value” as an artist. This is about him calling an entire ethnic group a subspecies. If you can’t understand that is racist, something is wrong with you. His militant veganism doesn’t excuse his racist commentary. Racist people saying racist things about Chinese people’s dietary habits are racist. That is racism. Stop making excuses for it.

Maybe you feel personally guilty about some racist joke you made back when you thought it was “edgy” and “politically incorrect.” If so, apologize for it and DO BETTER. DO NOT use that as an excuse to defend Morrisey’s behavior while our Asian friends and fam, and especially Chinese people, who he specifically targeted, are getting physically attacked in hate crimes globally since the start of this pandemic. DO BETTER.

Morrisey is also a member of a political party known for its xenophobia and white supremacy. He and other members of said party make racist and xenophobic comments about non-white immigrants on the regular.

If you chose to listen to or play Morrissey can you try to do so without DEFENDING HIS HORRIBLE RACISM? HP Lovecraft was a racist and an antisemite. People can read HP Lovecraft without coming at the marginalized people he made racist and antisemetic things about for outing his racism.

Also “Hong Kong Garden” by Siouxsie and the Banshees is a racist song. “Pure Morning” by Placebo is a racist song. “Turning Japanese” by the Vapors is a racist song. That special pass you THINK you have had for all of these years, that makes you THINK that anti-Asian racism, yellowfacing like Scarlett Johansson in Ghost in the Shell, etc. are okay DOES NOT EXIST. Stop telling yourself that it is OK to be racist towards Asian people. It’s NEVER been okay, and with the sheer number of hate crimes their communities have been experiencing, you should be showing SOLIDARITY WITH THE ASIAN COMMUNITY, not with fucking Morrissey.

Black Mental Health Resource Guide

•April 2, 2021 • Leave a Comment

I got this with this letter via email:

Earlier today, I was checking your website for information on resources for the African American community when I found a list of helpful websites on your resource page

And I thought you might be interested in a guide that was created to discuss the impact of Racism, Discrimination, and Systemic Racial Inequities have on the Mental Health of our Black Communities.

As you know, mental health is one of the vital issues facing the Black community in America. Sadly, given the racism and racial injustice African Americans have faced, it’s not surprising that they have become more susceptible to struggle with mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, and substance abuse.

Unfortunately, just 1/3 of Black people will receive the help they need. For some, longstanding racism has hurt their economic prospects and their ability to access affordable, high-quality mental health assistance. Other African Americans are afraid of the stigmas regarding mental illnesses and treatment. The stigmas of mental health have been historically embedded into our culture to signify weakness and instability.

But not finding help can make mental illnesses even worse. One of our goals is to help people find the assistance they need when they need it.

We also want to help ignite the conversation about how racism affects the African American community’s Psychological wellbeing And help to reduce the shame and stigma sometimes associated with seeking mental health and the treatment of mental illness, by spreading awareness through education.

If you are interested in reviewing, please see here:

 Mental Health Issues facing the Black Community

Some Universities that have already shared the resource are:

UC Berkeley, The University of Minnesota, and The University of Michigan.

I would appreciate it if you could add this resource to your page. If you have any questions regarding it, please do not hesitate to contact me.

There is no obligation. I thought we could work together to raise awareness of such a meaningful issue, as this topic is deeply important to many students, staff, and web-visitors.

Thank you for taking the time to review the guide. I look forward to your feedback.

Interview with EF Schraeder, Author of “Liar”

•January 23, 2021 • 1 Comment

The Author

E.F. Schraeder hails from the rustbelt and loves to get lost in the
woods, but has never gone beyond the aspen. Schraeder’s creative work has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies. Author of the story collection Ghastly Tales of Gaiety and Greed, Liar: Memoir of a Haunting is Schraeder’s first novella.

The Book

Who doesn’t crave a little escape? Dreaming of small town life and rural
charm, Alex and Rainey find a deal on an old rustic home they can’t
resist. But soon after Rainey moves, her preoccupation with weird local
history and the complications of living alone in the woods take a toll.
Alex worries that the long nights and growing isolation are driving her
stir crazy. When the Sugar House is damaged and Rainey goes missing,
Alex doesn’t know where to turn. Was it a storm, vandals, or something
worse? What happened at the Sugar House?

The only thing worse than wondering is finding out.

The Interview

  1. What initially attracted you to the horror genre?
    I’ve been a reader and fan of horror since I was very small, and in many ways my mom fueled that interest. She had some old record albums with creepy tales that I couldn’t get enough of, and she introduced me to a lot of classic horror cinema early in life. As I grew up, I continued to be drawn to and intrigued by work that explores unseen elements and stories that are at least a bit reality adjacent.
  1. How long have you been writing, and is horror your only or predominant genre?
    I’ve been writing for a long time- I think I’ve been telling creepy tales and writing poems for nearly as long as I could pick up pencil. I generally write speculative work, though sometimes in poetry my writing bumps into more realistic themes. Horror has always been my first love in reading, so it’s where I often tend to dwell in writing.
  2. How as the pandemic affected you as a writer over the past year?
    This been a challenging year on a lot of levels. I’ve been grateful for the folks in my life as well as the many artists, musicians, organizations, and others who have found ways to stay connected, share creative work, and build community amidst these many difficulties. In writing, I’ve tried to stay focused and productive, but flexible.
  3. Liar deals with themes of stir-craziness, obsession and the isolation of living in the woods. Do you think that 2020, the pandemic, and shelter in place helped you develop these themes?
    The manuscript was completed before the pandemic, and working through edits and production during this period definitely heightened the resonance of these themes.
  4. Your story is built around the marital woes of Alex and Rainey, a same-sex couple. Do you think queer representation in horror is on the rise these days, and do you feel it is important?
    Thanks so much for asking this question. Diverse representation does seem to be on the rise. It’s definitely an exciting time to be writing and reading as more voices are represented across a variety of perspectives, including folks from the LGBTQ community. I think it’s great to see more diversity in the types of stories being told, because every new perspective adds to the landscape of fear in rich, distinctive ways.
  5. Rainey, the writer, is very wrapped up in the similarities between their lives and different horror genre tropes such as The Last Girl. Was it fun writing such a self-aware/referential character?
    Rainey was a blast, and her POV provided an interesting lens to work with in the narrative. I had a lot of fun building up a character whose fondness for the genre played parallel roles in the story.
  6. What is your favorite character the book and why?
    That’s a tough question because both Rainey and Alex have qualities I came to appreciate, like Rainey’s snarky humor and Alex’s sheer determination. I also came to see the house they purchase as a sort of unwelcome third party in their relationship, and that became very alluring too.
  7. What other projects are you working on?
    I have two projects in the works at different stages: a supernatural mystery and a futuristic book about, among other things, the pitfalls of a world where everything becomes a product.

The Link

Liar is available from Omnium Gatherum:

Things We Are Taught To Settle For

•November 23, 2020 • Leave a Comment

As a young Black girl, in the late 70s, when I was in 5th grade, I remember one day our teacher gave us a lecture about how they’d done a study and learned that girls, and especially Black girls, were not learning as well because we teachers ignored our raised hands in class. This was an early lesson in privilege. Little white boys learned that if they raised their hands, their questions would be answered. Black girls learned ours would be ignored, and eventually we stopped raising our hands. We were taught not to occupy space.

Mom, me, and my grandmother on the beach when I was a toddler in 1970 or 71 (Los Angeles)

When the society sends out messages telling you that you aren’t to occupy space, and other people have been subliminally indoctrinated to treat you as though you don’t deserve to occupy as much space, time and attention – then you have to counter stereotypes of the “loud” and “aggressive” Black woman, which are designed to double down on the idea that you should be sidelined, less important, and all things should be centered around men and white people, particularly white men, but also white women in groups of women white center.

My Black mother talked to me in my 20s about additional stereotypes white culture has for mixed race Black women, as a Trojan horse hidden usurper who was still vilified even if white people stole the estate she rightfully inherited from her father (Bertha Mason), tragic mulatto, white passing pretender (Imitation of Life). She taught me that the Uppity Black Girl stereotypes also clung to Uppity Yellow Girls, and that the cred checking, and treating me as though I was undeserving were a part of the macroculture, which taught Black women to settle for crumbs from its table.So my parents taught me to hold my head up high and act just as entitled as the American macroculture, doing my best to ignore those who resented me feeling equal.

Consent > Confidentiality

•November 23, 2020 • Leave a Comment

Last night I had occasion to give my “consent is greater than confidentiality” lecture once again. Kevin Spacey is an extremely high profile example of why this is true. For three decades, Spacey took advantage of people’s moral positions about protecting closeted people’s identities to hide his sexual misconduct and abuse of minors.

A person who has been a victim of sexual abuse has the right to out their victimizer, period. The victimizer’s closeted status as a queer or a kinky person is NEVER greater than the victim’s rights.

Closeting has LONG been a construct that protects abusers in situations where they have more power than the people they abuse.These situations include: cismen dating transwomen in closet situations who commit domestic violence, economic abuse, and sexual violence; child molesters and statutory rapists, closeted bisexual people in down-low relationships with gay/lesbian partners who commit domestic violence, economic abuse, and sexual violence. Grown men who hire underage transgender prostitutes do not have a right to protection from “outing” when it is used to pressure said transgirls into silence and sweep the abuse of underage transwomen under the rug.

The kink community should follow the LGBTQ community’s example and begin to explicitly make the right to closeting / not be outed a right of considerably lesser magnitude than the right to protection from economic, sexual, and domestic abuse.

To refuse to do so is to allow passing privilege to continue to make the most marginalized and vulnerable people unsafe. Further, and this is very important: Transpeople and gay people and lesbians do not OWE IT to straight passing cis people to be available for clandestine hook-ups or down-low relationships and don’t have to “settle for” that kind of relationship, and are allowed to want the same respect and social clout as straight to straight passing people who are in socially condoned mainstream relationships. Queer people in closeted relationships are at a lot greater risk for psychological, physical, emotional, and economic abuse.

Tonight at 7pm Halloween HYDRA Reading!

•October 31, 2020 • Leave a Comment

Association of Black and Brown Writers presents:

The HYDRA returns for one night only. Halloween night. The night of the full Hunter’s Moon with horror stories from Audrey T. WilliamsThaddeus Howze, Elwin Cotman, Lynn Brown, Paul Corman-Roberts, Reggie Peralta, Sumiko Saulson, and Ebony Williams.

The Hydra: A Series for Experimental, Flash, Sci-Fi, and Horror Writers and the People Who Love Them is returning for a Halloween special with EIGHT readers who are going to do their best to shock and startle the audience.Those of you who are new this series may not know the lore of this HYDRA, the beast that sleeps under mouth Diablo. Every so often the beast stirs and it needs to be lulled back to sleep with stories. You may have felt the HYDRA stirring in the tiny earthquakes in the dead of night, or in the embers that are beginning to escape its nostrils and ignite the land like a gender reveal of godly proportions.On Halloween night EIGHT brave readers will venture into the den of the beast to read it their stories under the Hunter’s/Blue Moon. And hopefully their sacrifices will silence the beast in mountain, and it’s lava-skinned cousin in the Alabaster Mansion.

The wonderous line-up includes:

Audrey T. Williams
Ebony Williams
Elwin Michael Cotman
Lynn Brown
Paul Corman Roberts
Reggie Peralta
Sumiko Saulson
Thaddeus Howze

Curated and hosted by Trey Keeve (Vernon Keeve III).

Ben Monroe’s Tale of Horror

•October 29, 2020 • Leave a Comment
Today Tales of Horror debuts Ben Monroe, reading from “Scritch Scratch”.

October opens with horror writers reading from their scary works for the Fourth Annual Tales of Horror, a collaboration between San Mateo Public Library and Subscribe to the City of San Mateo’s YouTube channel to see and hear costumed HorrorAddict authors put you in the mood for Halloween all month! Today Tales of Horror debuts Ben Monroe, reading from “Scritch Scratch”.

Ben Monroe

Check out all of the authors Tales of Horror! Emerian Rich (October 1), Loren Rhoads (October 5), RL Merrill (October 8), me, Sumiko Saulson (October 12), Alanna McFall (October 15), Jonathan Fortin (October 19), Laurel Anne Hill (October 22), Jay Hartlove (October 26), and Ben Monroe (October 29). Today was the last day, and now ALL of them are available on the San Mateo County Library Youtube and Web Page.