Many fans of horror, amateur and professional alike, have devoted themselves to blogging about the thrills, chills, and no-frills side of the genre as seen in cinema and print. In this ongoing series that highlights the writers behind the blogs, we meet the unique personalities and talents that make the online horror scene so engaging. Up close and personal.
In this installment, Jeff Allard invites us to Dinner With Max Jenke and reminds us how easy it is to be a horror fan these days.
Writing about horror has been a constant in my life for, well, long enough to scare me. In the early ‘90s, inspired by the Lester Bangs of horror journalism, Chas. Balun (Horror Holocaust, The Gore Score, Deep Red magazine, GoreZone’s “Piece O’ Mind” column), I thought it’d be a great idea to start self-publishing my own fanzine and with some expert help from a friend who did layout and design work at the newspaper I wrote for at the time, the first issue of Gravedigger’s Union made it into the world back in 1993 – a year that now seems ancient to me.
Looking back on that issue, which included a tribute to Night of the Living Dead – then celebrating its mere 25th (!) anniversary – I have to marvel at one thing: how much free time I clearly had on my hands back then! But I’m very glad I had the time and money to devote to publishing Gravedigger’s Union as the four issues that eventually saw print over the next four years (the mag that started as an intended quarterly became an annual event!) before being forced by financial realities to throw in the towel (seeking out advertisers might’ve been a smart move but I opted not to) remain a nice little personal snapshot of a different age of fandom.
Back then it took some work to be a fan. Now many of the movies I used to make the yearly trip from Western Massachusetts to FANGORIA’s Weekend of Horrors in Manhattan to search the dealer tables for can easily be found on the shelves of my local Best Buy, be purchased online, Netflixed, downloaded, or watched on YouTube. Call me easily amazed but this never fails to blow my mind – how incredibly convenient things have become.
Today, we as horror fans have it ridiculously easy. And that extends to having communication with other fans. Before publishing Gravedigger’s Union I was a regular letter hack in the pages of FANGORIA’s Postal Zone. Now the idea of sending a letter (a real letter – in an envelope!) out to a magazine and seeing it in print months later seems like a laughably dated thrill in an age where you can have instant interaction with fans around the world with just a few hits on a keyboard. Younger fans understandably take all this for granted but I still find the changes that have taken place over the last ten years or so to be astonishing.
For a while, I honestly wasn’t sure how I felt about the internet. While I wasn’t dumb enough to look at it as a fad (just wait – these damn computers will go away one day!) but at the same time, I did – and still do – feel that print publications should always be an indispensable cornerstone of fandom. There was probably some elitism in my resistance towards the internet coupled with nostalgia for the role that magazines and books had played in shaping me as a fan, but eventually I came around to seeing the incredible value of being able to immediately have a voice online and to also not go broke in the process.
I ran a website called Undertaker’s Lounge for several years starting in 2001, but as time went on I had to admit that something hadn’t clicked with it. I think I felt that having a horror site meant I had to keep up on daily news in the way that sites like Dread Central or Bloody Disgusting did and that was just sucking a lot of energy out of the whole enterprise.
It wasn’t until coming across the blog community thanks to a late, lamented site called The Horror Blog (on hiatus now since June 6th, 2008) that I saw the proverbial light. Soon after discovering the sites involved in THB’s weekly Horror Roundtable (several of whom – like Kindertrauma, Vault of Horror, and Evil on Two Legs – are fellow LoTTD’ers), I launched Dinner with Max Jenke on September 12th, 2007 (the same month that I began contributing reviews to Shock Till You Drop as well) and haven’t looked back since.
When I think about the difference between the arduous, yearlong ordeal of putting a fanzine out (others in the ‘zine world may have had much speedier, efficient publishing schedules but between marshalling time, money, etc., it always was a long process with me), and the relatively instantaneous satisfaction of conceiving a blog, writing it, and posting it, it seems incredible to me that I ever had the patience to do the former, which was like running a triathlon hauling a backpack full of bricks. But I did it for the same reason that I post on DwMJ today – because I love the horror genre with sheer stupid joy and whatever forum is available is what I’ll be using to write about it.
In the course of almost two years now I’ve never checked the traffic that DwMJ receives (call it a superstitious reluctance on my part) so I have no idea numbers-wise how well read my blog may be but I’ve been gratified from Day One by the positive response it’s gotten and feel honored by the online company that DwMJ keeps.
There was a site (now defunct) called Video Junkie (a ‘transfer service’ – wink, wink) run by a guy named Tom Simmons (anyone in the fan community know what happened to him?) and their tagline was “it’s not just a hobby, it’s a way of life” and that’s exactly how I feel.
Writing about horror? It’s in my blood.