Like everyone else in the horror literature community, I’m deeply saddened and disappointed by what went down this week.
Tom unfortunately made his recent Lifetime Achievement Award nomination of Stuart Schiff all about race by implying that literary awards are given out based on minority identity rather than merit. He doubled-down within a nearly 1,000-post Facebook flame war. And what I found most offensive was that he tripled-down within a livestream with some awful individuals in a homophobic and transphobic Youtube cesspool titled “Facebook has AIDS w/ Tom Monteleone.”
The Horror Writers Association had no choice but to respect their own anti-harassment bylaws and expel him from the organization.
I’ve known Tom for years, but I was blind to his deeper character flaws. We’ve been friends at conventions, and I’ve been to several Borderlands Boot Camps for Writers (twice as a grunt and a few times socially, once when my brother-in-law attended at my urging). Tom and Elizabeth kindly traveled several hours to my home in 2012 for the premiere of Pirate Appreciation Day at a community theater. Heck, I’ve been enjoying my whiskey cocktail ever since then because he introduced it to me.
What’s more, and what hurts me so deeply, is that I’ve looked up to the “Padrone” as little bit of a father figure — and that desire to seek out father figures is my character flaw, as I haven’t had a real father for 25 years. When Deena and I had our second child in 2011, we once again faced the challenge of picking a boy name with which we had no prior associations. Finally, one of us suggested the name Thomas. I was, after all, an admirer of Tom Monteleone and of my former boss Thomas Knoll. We only had good associations with that name, so it was perfect for our second son. And I will add that Thomas Ernst Warner, now in the 6th grade, has exceeded my expectations as a loving, brilliant, talented, and wonderful boy, now becoming a young man. I will always have positive associations with the name Thomas Warner.
But Thomas F. Monteleone? I heave a great sigh this morning. I am deeply hurt with disappointment. When Leonard Garment died, I wrote here that he was my last, best role model. That still apparently holds true. Despite whatever unfortunate associations Len had with Richard Nixon, he remained a wise and empathetic man who suffered more at the end than he deserved.
As I read this morning’s newspaper, I’m reminded that Tom’s prejudices are not isolated. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has announced plans to block DEI and CRT programs in colleges. The Tennessee legislature wants to ban gender-affirming care for transgender youth, and they are absurdly tying all this to drag shows, which they are trying to restrict. The Tennessee talking points against transsexuals and drag shows were echoed in that vomitous YouTube stream. and it saddened me to hear Tom repeating them. I have many gay friends, and I cherish my sons’ trangendered friends. Ron SeSantis and Tom Monteleone really have no idea what they’re talking about. I wish they would take the time to actually meet these children before they presume to spout off nonsense. But of course they won’t.
Tom’s troubles will not destabilize the turning wheel of the publishing industry. In the end, he has only hurt himself. But this wrongheadedness is not limited to him. It’s not limited to his generation. It’s a widespread cancer on our national consciousness, and we need to fight it. Speak loudly with your voices and your votes.