In the first of these blogs, a couple of weeks ago, our head honcho (big Dave Youngquist) spoke about being able to recognise the various stylings of the DCP authors, how we have different voices, and I started to think about whether there were similar recognisable images that we all had, and whether we need to have a ‘DCP image’. Clearly, we all have physical characteristics (I’m tall, blond and not that thin, John Prescott is thin like a whippet, John Irvine has long hair; biology, man, biology), but image is about more than that. Isn’t it? Well, we have a company logo – a sort of dark bat/devil thing – and a house style for our books, with the cover printed on the first page in black and white with no text, so that’s our image, isn’t it: sort of batlike and with repeated monochrome imagery?
In some of the photos from our launch, at the World Horror Convention, most of the DCP dudes and dudettes are wearing DCP T shirts. I have one myself, in a rather fetching grey. So, our image is that we wear batlike things upon our chests, yes?
No. Truthfully, the shape of the T shirt isn’t right on me for some reason and besides, I have a preference for cowboy boots, jeans and Jesus-wept-that’s-garish shirts, and I tend to wear them at all opportunities – personally, I think Joe Brown’s shirts are the best in the world, and I’m waiting for them to sponsor me. I won’t wear a DCP T shirt at my signings, not because I don’t like them but because my own image, one honed over 39 years of wearing all sorts of clothes before finding a style I was comfortable with, tends to the garish and flowery and Americana-influenced. And besides, DCP is more than T shirts.
So what is our image? We’re a mix of male and female so it’s not gender based (we’re probably better than most at giving women good representation within a field that’s been traditionally male-dominated, actually), we’re multinational (with members in the USA, the UK and Australia) so it’s not geographical. We’re a range of ages, so it’s not about that kind of demography, and we write all sorts of things with the dark fiction field – poetry, novels, short stories and novellas, and from classical ghost stories to zombie apocalypse fictions to werewolf tales to recipes (no, really) so it’s not that either.
Perhaps we don’t have an image, then, or even need one? A man who claimed to be a publisher and I once had a discussion about image, and he stated that all the authors he signed would be required to wear black suit jackets and white shirts and that he wasn’t having any ‘hats and bloody sunglasses’ (a kind of mafia writers gig, was his aim, I think). At the time, I argued that the company didn’t need its authors to wear a uniform, that the writing itself was all that mattered, and that I would continue to wear my flowery shirts and cowboy boots and hats and if he didn’t like it, tough. He and I parted company soon after this discussion. So, we don’t need an image and we’re not going to bother with one, right? Well, I’m not sure this is entirely the correct approach. Being part of DCP is about being a part of something specific, a co-operative designed to support authors and to give them greater control over how their material is distributed and presented. DCP commits to treating me well, but I, in return, commit to being professional and to ensuring that not only to I produce the best ‘product’ possible, but I present the best image possible for that product, for DCP’s other products and for DCP itself. After all, every DCP sale benefits me, not just the sales of my own book. Hey, maybe that’s it! DCP’s image is a kind of lefty, utopian ideal, yes, a sort of horror-loving hippy commune?
No. We’re realists: this is a tough time to be writing and printing and selling, especially if you’re trying to exercise quality control, and decisions by committee are always harder than decisions by one person, with a real danger that they end up watered down or a kind of bastard compromise with which no one’s happy. We’re in this to produce and distribute good works, to gain a reputation for quality and to make money.
I’m confused now, are you? I’ve managed to state fairly well what our image isn’t: we’re not universally aiming at males or females, not solely poets or novelists, not identical T shirt wearers or yanks or limeys or kiwis or aussies. Hell, I sometimes wonder if we’re all even completely human. So what is it then? An image defined in negative, by what we’re not? Again, no. The answer to our image lies in something I mentioned earlier: horror-loving.
If we have an image, it’s this: we’re horror lovers, in all of its guises. We’re passionate about zombies, about ghosts, about supernatural beings and about human frailties and grotesques. We love to be scared and to scare, we love to unnerve and creep out and to have our nerves jangled and to feel our skin crawling. We believe absolutely, while we read about them, in the worlds our reading describes, we write about places both familiar and new and we populate those places with the things you really, really don’t want to meet. We love horror.
We love horror. It’s our image and our raise d’etre, and it’s why I’m writing this now. If you love horror, then you’ve found a good place to visit. Stick around, we’re mostly friendly, except when we try to scare you or when someone tries to argue horror isn’t literature. Me, I write ghost stories and I wear genuinely unsavoury shirts and snakeskin boots and I’ll hold my hand up now and say that I’m a part of DCP because I love horror and they love horror, and I’m proud to say it loudly and in public.
Why? I have an image to uphold, of course.