There are those in fandom who have experienced the sensation of being treated like they were “different” for one reason or another. Science fiction and fantasy culture seems rife with these kinds of stories. Sometimes being seen “different” can be dangerous. Take the case of Damien Echols: In 1993 Echols and two friends were arrested and eventually convicted for the gruesome murder of three boys. Echols received the death sentence. His two friends life sentences. From the very beginning there were those who considered the case flawed, the evidence inadequate and the investigation rushed. Echols and company were local rejects: longhaired metal-head teens in a dirt-poor Southern town. They were the perfect scapegoats, a trio of unwanted weirdos some suspected of being “satanists”. West Memphis may have thought that no one would give their imprisonment a second thought. They were wrong. A documentary titled “Paradise Lost” brought their story to the attention of the public, and soon the boys had some very famous friends. A combination of high profile campaigning and grassroots advocacy eventually resulted in the release of West Memphis 3, but not an exoneration of the charges: the boys, now grown men, were released under an Alford Plea, under which the defendants plead “No contest” but maintain their innocence. It’s better than prison, and certainly better than death.
Now a free man, Echols has written a memoir of his time in prison titled Life After Death. Here’s Echols discussing the book at a recent event: