Trust that I come to this post with enough sadness and disappointment to go around. Unfortunately, Silent Motorist Media is closing up shop. I’m going to give you two versions of this announcement: the short and the long. Feel free to read whichever suits your level of interest. You can ignore the other without guilt.
I’ve run up against rocky financial shores and can no longer justify the ever-increasing expense of running a press. SMM came tantalizingly close to showing potential for profit only a few times over the course of its existence, and while it’s been fun, I am in a place where I’m forced to dedicate the entirety of my occupational efforts to more practical concerns. All future projects are canceled. The webstore will remain open until I run out of stock, or until the maintenance bill comes due again. I will try to ensure that SMM maintains some semblance of a web presence, and since the “blog” site (silentmotorist.media) is relatively cheap, this will probably become, once again, the “main” page. This will exist for nostalgic purposes only. Please do not expect regular posts.
I will print and distribute Philip Fracassi’s Altar. I refuse to skimp on Kickstarter obligations, no matter how difficult a place I am in personally. Contributors to that Kickstarter have no cause to worry. I also refuse to “bail” SMM out with an additional Kickstarter while there are obligations waiting to be fulfilled from previous campaigns.
All other projects are canceled. I know many of you were excited about Mysterium Tremendum IV, The Endless Walk, The Box, and our anthology of labyrinths, but they are no longer feasible undertakings. I am deeply sorry for this. I assure you that no one is more disappointed than I.
We’re also canceling the annual list of “10 Weird Writers to Save Us,” as I simply do not have the time, between pushing Altar to completion and addressing hardships in my personal life, to dedicate the necessary attention to this list. I’m sorry for that as well.
Patrons have no need to worry. I will close the page out before the next billing cycle.
I feel the need, in this next segment, to show you how all this transpired. I need you to know that I don’t come to this decision lightly. Fair warning: abundant personal details follow.
Throughout my occupational existence, I’ve tried to ignore my profound hearing loss. I worked in the medical field for ten years, and since my hearing loss is progressive, I had more and more trouble communicating. My hearing loss led to countless embarrassments, confusisions, and miscommunications, which I once swallowed and tried to forget, acting as “normal” as possible. I did this instead of accepting that I couldn’t hear.
Then came COVID.
When the mask mandates at work came along, I suddenly couldn’t communicate at all without great difficulty and embarrassment. I realized with dismay that I had been relying almost entirely on my ability to read lips. My job largely consisted of route responses and brief interactions that I could breeze through on the assumption that the patient was providing the expected response, but that’s a scary thing in the medical field, isn’t it? Assumptions have no place there, and I was wholly unable to navigate unexpected interactions, which occurred in abundance.
In a panic, I alerted my supervisors to the issue. They calmly reassured me that they’d find me a more suitable position. I was relieved until the days turned into weeks and weeks turned into months. The stress of trying to navigate a world without faces and without the ability to understand speech was eating me alive.
Finally, I reiterated my request for a new position. They refused, and also declined my request to provide documentation stating that my hearing had left me unable to perform my basic job functions. In desperation, I quit.
Immediately, I contacted the workforce commission and began trying to transition into data entry, editing, or any computer-based industry utilizing my experience as an editor. Anything that wouldn’t require me to interact constantly with masked customers and coworkers. As nothing materialized, I leaned harder into Silent Motorist Media, initiating a series of projects I hoped would kickstart the press into providing some semblance of a humble living. At the very least, I wanted SMM to bridge the gap while I attempted to transition into a new industry.
Fast forward to Hymns of Abomination. Despite the consistent applications, I hadn’t even landed an interview for a desk or computer job. The workforce commission did little more than send me links to jobs I’d already applied for. Freelance work dried up. And worst, difficulties with Amazon forced Hymns onto a new distribution platform, one far more costly than what the Kickstarter was originally budgeted for. I sank into the last of my stimulus checks, refusing defeat. I fought tooth and nail and finally pushed Hymns through.
In desperation, I turned back to the medical field. I have two children to provide for, after all. I landed an interview at the only major lab in my area, and was offered the job. I quit the job search, relieved that I’d somehow found a way to survive at the last possible moment. Days before I was due to start, the offer was rescinded.
Penniless, I finally broke down and decided to apply for disability. The process is supposed to take 5 months, according to SSD.
And that brings me to the present tense. I can’t survive for five months waiting on the disability application. I will have to somehow find work in a masked world that I can’t navigate, that I couldn’t truly navigate to begin with. I’m starting with entry level positions and hoping without true hope that I can find a manager willing to accommodate my hearing loss.
How does this relate to SMM? Well, I simply won’t have the time to do this anymore. I throw my everything into these books, and my everything is needed elsewhere for the foreseeable future. And as Hymns has proven, even a successful book can reach deep into personal funds when ruffled by the slightest difficulty. I can’t afford making that gamble again, no matter how much I love the work I do.
I hate this. It’s hard not to despair.
I’d like to think that I’ll rise out of the dust to compile an anthology again in the future. But that will have to happen from a place of financial stability. I’ve never quite managed that before, and it seems an even more illusory dream now than ever.
So thank you to everyone who bought a book, shared a post, followed the site, and sent words of encouragement my way. Much love to you all. I’ll always look back on SMM with pride.
-Justin A. Burnett
PS. I’m including my personal PayPal below for those of you who want to donate. I’m also linking the SMM vintage SciFi eBay store, which still has stock. Please know that I deeply appreciate your help. I have no plans whatsoever to start a GoFundMe or other crowdfunding campaign.