I admit it. I’m an old softie. Yes, longtime gorehound that I am, horror reader, rough and tough machinist for the Navy, I am a sentimental fool sometimes. When I read that Fangoria as a print magazine is almost certainly gone, I got teary-eyed.
It wasn’t a surprise to anyone who has had their ears close to the hallowed horror ground. It’s been some time since a print issue has come forth, and rumors have abounded.
Blame it on the Internet, and the effect it has had upon print media. Rising paper and distribution costs. Hell, blame me. I stopped buying Fangoria regularly a decade or more ago.
There was a time, especially around the mid-1980’s, when Fangoria was my Bible. My manna and my lifeline to all things horror. I devoured every bit of minutiae in every issue. The interviews, the news, the movies-in-progress reports, the fun and the excitement of each and every copy I got my claws on.
I was like a kid on Christmas morning. My trembling hands would unfold the new issue, and I wouldn’t know where to start. “The Pit and the Pen of Alex Gordon,” which delightfully talked about classic old days of horror movies? “Nightmare Library,” which reviewed horror publications? “The Video Eye of Dr. Cyclops”? “The Elegy” which opened each issue? The enticing ads?
I’d usually jump to “The Terror Teletype,” which featured news of upcoming horror movies. Much of it never came to pass, but it all always sounded so exciting.
Freddy Kreuger was often the magazine’s poster child, and issues that featured his burned visage were generally the most popular and best selling ones. Jason Vorhees was a regular, and the names of the horror elite were dropped like confetti on New Year’s Eve: John Carpenter, Wes Craven, Stephen King, Clive Barker, Tobe Hooper, George Romero, Robert Englund, and so on. I felt a much greater kinship with these renowned individuals than I did with my own birth family.
I think that’s fairly common for horror fans. Many of us were and are misfits. Misunderstood, reviled, and ridiculed by our families and fellow students. Whispered about by co-workers. Passed over by potential lovers. So we have this special affection for those whose work speak to us. Fangoria was an outlet for that.
Sure, there were fanzines and other magazines devoted to the genre, but in the ’80s, Fangoria was it. Being a regular reader felt like belonging to a club where we were accepted and understood.
As the years went on, my passion began to wane. Horror began going in directions that no longer interested me. For some, being a horror fan became about fashion. Fangoria was devoting more space for horror television, comics, video games.
Home video collecting, always a vital part of the horror community, has dried up. It isn’t dead, of course, but it’s not like it was. As destructive as it was, I liked the tape-trading days more than the streaming/file sharing practices that were to come.
Then there was over familiarity. I had all the photos, news, interviews, and information I could stand on the Internet. At first that was wonderful, but then I began to miss the mystery of it all. I found that I didn’t need to know every detail of a writer or director’s life. It took away a lot of mystique to see them on Facebook in a pissy mood. Or attacking someone whose politics clashed with their own.
It all became too much. Many of us became jaded.
Some horror fans, Fangoria readers, might have tragically grown up.
Yeah, I am a (somewhat) responsible adult now, but I still attempt to hold on to the wonder, the exhilaration of being a horror fan. I struggled with it for a long time, but I believe that I am doing better now than I was a decade ago.
It’s harder. Amazon is flooded with horror writers. Independent horror movies are everywhere. The ease of publishing and digitally-shot moviemaking hasn’t brought on a Renaissance, but a glut. No one can keep up with it all, and who the hell would want to?
Things change. I took Fangoria for granted. So, I think, did a lot of people. It’s like the drive-in theaters of old, like video stores, like the malls with their book and music shops. I thought they would be around forever. I was wrong.
Fangoria will, I think, stick around. It will be in digital form. Which isn’t the same thing as a print magazine. Not by a long shot.
So I bid a fond, tearful farewell to Fangoria.
Which brings me to Robert “Uncle Bob” Martin. Bob Martin was an early editor of Fangoria. He brought intimacy to the pages and was a spiritual uncle to all who read it. I won’t lie…my favorite era of Fangoria were the first few years of Anthony Timpone’s reign, but I loved Uncle Bob as well.
Uncle Bob co-wrote both Frankenhooker and Basket Case 3 with Frank Henenlotter. He also novelized Brain Damage for Henenlotter. He appeared in Day of the Dead and (God help us all) Nick Zedd’s Geek Maggot Bingo. But most of all, Bob Martin made it okay to be a horror fan at a time when for most people it emphatically wasn’t okay to be one.
Yeah, once more someone is down on his virtual knee trying to separate you from your precious dollars. It often seems like that’s all the internet is about these days. Uncle Bob Martin has suffered serious health problems. And, like so many in these unhappy days, has no insurance. He needs help, and there is a Go Fund Me page set up for him.
Bob Martin took away some of our loneliness. He told us that, if we were weirdos, we were cool weirdos. He was the Forrest J Ackerman of his day, and like Forry he delighted in scaring the pants off of his readers, and he put giant smiles upon their faces in the process.
If you can spare a few bucks, please do so. Anyone who knows me is aware that I always put my money where my mouth is, and I expect my tax refund within the week. I plan to send something then. Won’t you join me?
Mark Sieber learned to love horror with Universal, Hammer, and AIP movies, a Scholastic edition of Poe’s Eight Tales of Terror, Sir Graves Ghastly Presents, The Twilight Zone, Shirley Jackson’s The Daemon Lover, The Night Stalker, and a hundred other dark influences. He came into his own in the great horror boom of the 1980’s, reading Charles L. Grant, F. Paul Wilson, Ray Russell, Skipp and Spector, David J. Schow, Stephen King, and countless others. Meanwhile he spent as many hours as possible at drive-in theaters, watching slasher sequels, horror comedies, monster movies, and every other imaginable type of exploitation movie. When the VHS revolution hit, he discovered the joys of Italian and other international horror gems. Trends come and go, but he still enjoys having the living crap scared out of him. He can be reached at [email protected], and at www.horrordrive-in.com.