YEAR 2000: THE CHANGING FACE OF HORROR
It came unexpectedly. It looked like just another post on the message board. But just after Andy Fairclough finished announcing that another author (Robert Devereaux) would be added to the growing authors' message boards at Masters of Terror 1, he dropped the bomb: "And the not so good news . . . Basically, I'm taking a temporary (possibly permanent) leave of absence from MOT. Essentially this means that MOT will only have rare updates and most areas will remain in their current state. MOT will either be sold or ultimately closed down. Anyone interested in the former should get in touch."
Though concerned about what it might look like, Imaginary Worlds' website chief Steve Savile did quickly make an offer.
"The moment I heard about Andy leaving, I placed a bid to takeover MoT under the IW banner whilst maintaining the integrity of everything he has built. The main attraction of MoT is the message boards and with or without Andy they will function as long as people keep visiting them."
If Savile's actions appeared hasty, they were not. Life on the Internet has taught those who create and wrangle websites that the only sure thing is the constant struggle to survive.
to feoamante.com are going places!
Long time feoamante.com contributor Mike Oliveri, busts out with his first hardcover novel.
horror genre has a new name to watch."
with action, sex, and carefully-crafted characters . . . a strong new
voice in the horror genre,"
might be the perfect example. After Matt Schwartz abandoned that site
2 leaving it in stasis,
Vincent Harper of Bereshith
Publishing picked it up with big plans of his own. "Having
some background in researching the whole e-business revolution, it was...
my intent to really utilize evolving technologies to create a thorough horror
e-community. We had people working on proprietary applications that we hoped
to unleash on the world through the venue of HorrorNet..."
Except that didn't happen, and loyal followers of HorrorNet eventually drifted to the message boards at MoT.
"There was a communication breakdown across the board," Harper says. "We all had other business and HorrorNet was paying zip. For me, the kicker was when I realized I'd taken on this HUGE project that was moving slower than I do at a fast trot (which is to say not very f*cking fast). I was spending more time on other projects that were bringing in money, only now they were bringing in LESS money because I'd taken time away from them to devote to HorrorNet. Something had to go. For me, that had to be the project with the least amount of invested dough... HorrorNet. Of all my projects, HorrorNet started out with the worst ROI (return of investment)... seriously red. But that didn't worry me... what worried me was that to really do HorrorNet right I would need to dedicate ALL of my time to it... I couldn't do that... I still have books I want to publish."
Which may echo the angst of Weston Ochse whose own site, Bloody Muse, ceased active operation this past November. "When I took over Bloody Muse and made it my own," Ochse says, "I had a plan to both pay authors and to provide a print outlet in the near future, whether it be an anthology of the year's best or turn the magazine entirely to print. Many things conspired against me, not the least being my own selfishness in finishing up my current novel. Bloody Muse may not be dead, however. I have received interest from some sources in purchasing the magazine."
Which still translates that riding the e-zine bull is not for those without solid stones.
"It's a shake out," offers Darren McKeeman of Gothic.net. "The Internet is a fickle mistress, and it's the same phenomenon we're seeing in the dot-com world right now. Only the people with the heart, the time, and the capital funding are able to make it. You have to have all three, honestly -- if you don't have the heart, you'll grow disinterested with phenomenal speed. If you don't have the time, you'll be left with a website that is only updated once every three to six months (or even up to two years). If you don't have the capital funding, you won't stand a chance. This used to not be true, but everyone is realizing that they have to pay the bills somehow. It's been a long time coming, believe me. It will definitely get worse before it gets better. On the other hand, online magazines like Gothic.Net are having to evolve to keep up with the times. If you see icebox.com 3 then you'll see an example of some of the things that are possible in this medium, and we may have to evolve into something like that to capture more viewers. I think that concentrating on gaining a reputation as a great place for horror literature could serve the entire website/server well over the next 30 to 40 years."
Brian Keene, fiction editor at Horrorfind and departing associate editor at MoT, adds, "The Net has taken some losses, but I don't see that as an indicator of the (horror) revival dying off. Sure, we lost Bloody Muse and MoT and Brett left Chiaroscuro, 4 but in each of those cases, it wasn't because of a lack of visitors. It was because those involved wanted to move on to other horror projects and be as successful with those as they were with the websites. In the case of Weston and myself, it was to concentrate on writing, and I think fans will see the fruit of those efforts next year."
The "Brett" Keene mentions is Brett Savory, creator of the Chiaroscuro website and ChiZine. Though he recently handed over the reins of the operation to Patricia Macomber, the site was never in danger of becoming complacent. Savory, like Ochse and now Fairclough, just wanted more time to pursue other things.
"I've been involved with Chi for the past two years," new editor Macomber says. "Until recently, it was mostly Brett, myself and either Steve Eller or Brian Hopkins as cast and crew. Adding Louis Maistros, Sandra Kasturi, Bill Gagliani and Nick Kaufmann has been a great decision on Brett's part. We all work so nicely together that it makes my job an absolute pleasure."
But Macomber is also honest about what rough-riding the website has cost her. "It's a lot of work, takes some good amount of money to do right, and puts a strain on your time. Brett handed Chi over to me because he needed more personal time as well as more time for his writing. I know his pain. I haven't written a thing in about a year."
It's the pain part Fairclough may be seeking relief from when he wrote: "It's been fun but 3 1/2 years is a long time and at some point the fun has been replaced by obligation, and MOT has become a millstone around my neck."
Yet by the time he'd posted his last "official" message, Fairclough had perhaps begun to shed the sting of his difficult decision. "...it's time for me to walk away from Masters Of Terror. There's never a right time to quit, so I plan to walk away while MOT is on top and doing well. I've had a terrific time running the website and it has grown into something beyond my wildest expectations."
And what does he intend to do? Says Fairclough: "I won't be disappearing altogether as I hope to remain in the BFS (British Fantasy Society) and plan to continue to attend some get-togethers and conventions. I've made too many friends to give up all that in a swoop! But, I do plan to take more of a sedentary and backseat role in the horror world."
As to how the news has been received, newly
elected president of the Horror Writers Association and MoT message board
author Richard Laymon comments:
Added Osche, "MOT is closing? No way? I think MOT is a critical entity. When HorrorNet closed, I thought that would be the end. As it stood, MOT took over adroitly, adding to their already heavy load with us that left HorrorNet. Rumors abound that HorrorNet will be back, and I hope it does. But there are things that people go to MOT specifically for, not the least being the author message boards. Andy offered a very unique and special service to people by providing this access. It would be a shame to see it go away. No, more like a crime."
So what of the future for MoT and other sites? Macomber offers her examination: "The past year has been sort of a weeding out process for electronic publishing, I think. Brian Hopkins (Lone Wolf Publications) managed to make major inroads in the arena with his CD anthos. He proved to the world that you can do it, do it well, and sell it hard." Adding: "I think the coming year will see a decline in online magazines. There has been such growth in e-publishing, as far as novels go, that the magazines are starting to suffer and lose a bit of exposure. But once that has passed -- as everything does -- I think we'll see a resurgence in online magazines. And I think the quality will be even better than the great ones we have now."
"Change is constant," offers Vincent Harper who just recently sold his interest in HorrorNet to others. "I still think we're all seeing the beginning of the boom... there will be a lot of experimentation and projects started and ended before it settles down enough for us all to enjoy the ride. But I'm optimistic about it... but I dream cool dreams...."
While new owners have still not been located for Masters of Terror or Bloody Muse, times are looking rosier for the rebirth of HorrorNet. Apparently Richard Chizmar of Cemetery Dance Publications, William K. Schafer of Subterranean Press, and Dominick Cancilla of the Beast House have formed a partnership to breath new life into the much loved site. Except . . . the revamped site looks bereft of any message board or chat areas.
"I honestly don't know what the plans for HorrorNet are," says Harper, "when I sold it I threw myself into a shitload of contract work to make some money to publish Bereshith's upcoming titles. I've been out of it, news-wise . . . and that's kinda been a boon . . . for the publishing company, that is. . . for me, the fan of horror, that sucks ass. I hope they get it right, though . . . I have been and always will be a fan of HorrorNet."
Could there be a point at which Darren McKeeman see himself hanging up Gothic.net?
"I reach this point every day. I've come to realize that I can't stop it, though. It probably won't even stop if I die. Some people might scoff at that, but I have very sound reasons for believing this. Remember - the critics used to call the new style cathedrals 'Gothic' because they thought they were ugly when the first ones were built. This emphasis on breaking new ground is one of my favorite paradoxes in the history of the word 'gothic.' I didn't know what I'd gotten myself into when I registered the gothic.net domain. I think it will live on after I die."
Which makes Fairclough's final post not as final, as he wrote: "But from me, this is goodbye for now. I will be lurking around in the future, and as I sign this off I must admit I have a bit of a lump in my throat. After three years and thousands of updates and thousands of e-mails and dozens of chats, this is it: My final update to Masters Of Terror. Bye folks. Andy."
Only as any horror fan knows, death is usually only the beginning of something else.
- Judi Rohrig
Amante's Horror Home Page and feoamante.com are owned and copyright 1997,
1998, 1999, 2000, and 2001 by E.C.McMullen Jr.