Paul’s family invited me to speak at his memorial service. This is what I said.
Paul Haines was not just another writer. He was the kind of writer who is rarer than you’d think: a writer who actually had something to say. The term ‘unique voice’ is often overused, but in his case it was true.
Paul inspired trust in all who knew him. Grateful for the inclusion he experienced from more established writers early on, he made a point of extending the same friendship and courtesy to newer writers following behind.
Paul focused a spectrum of disturbing truths though the prism of his lens. His writing style was tough, mesmerizing, visceral, no holds barred. In a word: authentic, just like the man himself. He wrote with certainty and strength. Sympathetic to tragedy, he enticed us to engage with and acknowledge elements of the dark within.
White middle class man stands as the presumed western default, yet so often he is presented as an underarticulated creature. Ubiquitous, in control, yet at the same time mute and impenetrable, mysteriously impotent on the subject of human emotion. Paul worked hard at deconstructing the male mystique. He provided potency and voice. Not always one we were comfortable with, but one we believed in, utterly.
There’s an element of bullying and coercion to his style, but let us not forget the humour. Sharp, smart and observant, he managed to make the grossest of gross stuff funny — and therefore accessible.
Much contemporary horror writing is lazy: shock factor blended with tired tropes. Paul’s work stands out as a cut above skin deep. He interrogated the horror constrained within the heart of civilized convention; the difficulties of being human while living with animal instincts in tact.
True horror is the fact that we’re all standing here today when Paul is gone.
Paul, I want you to know how many of us would have traded a year of our own lives for you if such a thing were possible. How you’re the bravest man I’ve ever known and how much we will always love you. How strong your wife is, how beautiful your daughter. The indelible mark your words have left on our world. An illumination of masculinity so many of us would never have accessed any other way.
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