Monday, March 23, 2015

My Back Pages

After watching the Blu-Ray of Doctor Mordrid (1992) the other day, feeling flush with nostalgia for the hey-day day (such as it was) of Full Moon, I pulled a copy of my long ago fanzine Gravedigger's Union off the shelf to re-visit my account of the Full Moon Roadshow I had attended in Boston back in June of 1993 with my pals Marty and Darren Langford and Marty's then-fiancee, Lori (Marty and I both worked at the same local video store chain, which is what gained us an invite to the FM road show as it was aimed at retailers). My write-up of the event wasn't a flattering one as I spent the majority of the two page article grousing about how disappointing most of Full Moon's output was and what a supreme huckster Charles Band was.

That said, re-reading it brought back fond memories of a fun night enjoyed by an impossibly younger version of myself and it also brought back an additional wave of nostalgia for my days as a fanzine publisher.

Looking back at the four issues of GU I put out in the '90s - a feat achieved only with the invaluable assist of ace designer Paul Bissex and with writing contributions from Marty, who penned a laserdisc (!) column - is a strange experience. Like the video store era that briefly brought Charles Band and my group of friends together on a June night in Boston, the era of the fanzine is a thing of the ancient past.

Flipping through the handful of issues I produced not only brings back memories of my own life as it was back then but makes me reflect on how much fandom has changed in the internet age - the faster ways in which we communicate and how differently information travels.

When a movie opens today you can tweet your opinion of it while you're still sitting in the theater and if you haven't given your two cents before the opening weekend's done, it's already old news. When I was publishing a 'zine, however, it didn't seem like a big deal that my review of, say, Warlock: The Armageddon wouldn't see print until many months after it had been in theaters. I was used to reading reviews of films in Cinefantastique long after the movies had come and gone so it didn't seem unusual to have a long delay but it seems incredible - almost incomprehensible - to me now that I would take, on average, an entire year to put together a single issue of a fanzine and that I wouldn't consider its content to be hopelessly outdated.

I used to think those simpler, pre-internet days (or at least back before everyone was online) represented better times but while they were good, I realize now that making them out to be that much better than the present is just - for the most part - nostalgia talking.

Yes, I do wistfully recall the days when news traveled more slowly, when thoughts had time to simmer, and when words were chosen more carefully - all of which the internet has abolished. But as much as I miss those days, the idea of going back to them after being spoiled by the immediacy of the digital age holds no special appeal.

And yes, while it was a labor of love to put together a fanzine, it's a fact that - internet or no - I would have eventually just stopped publishing. When I look at those old issues, I see something that only a young guy could've devoted so much time and money to. It's a safe bet that I wouldn't be in my forties and still be putting out a 'zine, that's for sure. I mean, anything's possible but I just can't envision it - not when even keeping up a steady pace on a blog feels impossible! I used to drive from Western Mass to Boston (about a 90 minute drive, on average) just to shop for stills to use in GU. Now, I have to feel really motivated to do frame grabs in the comfort of my home.

As much as I loved working on GU for the years that I did, and as much as the finished product was always something I was proud of, it never came close to broadening my world as much as being online has (then again, the fact that I only published GU once a year didn't help!). As opposed to the trickle of (much-appreciated) reader mail that GU would receive, the internet put me in the company of many great people who I likely wouldn't have otherwise never met - like my fellow Horror Dads, for example, or Shock Till You Drop's former head honcho Ryan Turek, or the bloggers that comprise the League of Tana Tea Drinkers. In general I'm not crazy about how the internet has transformed fan culture and I feel mostly disdain towards our age of tweets, selfies, and hashtags. I tend to pine for the way things used to be. But yet I can't deny that blogging did far more to introduce me to my fellow fans than being a 'zine publisher ever did.

Mind you, I'm not willing to say that everything's great about our current age. But while I lament some the things we've lost along the way, I'm coming to realize that I may tend to give the past too much credit at times. Sentiments aside, maybe I shouldn't miss the old days all that much. Except for video stores. Those I'll never stop missing.