Ten Years Online

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Actually I got my first computer in June, 1998. Early for some, but a lot of people had been online for a long time.

I took to it like a fish takes to water. Finally I could find out all kinds of things about writers and filmmakers and favorite musicians. I could find songs to listen to and books that I had searched for for years.

Then there were the fans. I saw some horror fiction boards, but I felt insecure about participating at them. Instead I began to post at horror movie sites. Later I went into the horror fiction discussion business and I saw an amazing amount of success. I think it came from my own enthusiasm and lack of cynicism about the field. I looked at certain other forums and I saw a lot of bitter people. Jaded and often with vicious temperaments. I found it to be infantile and petty and I wanted no part of that sort of thing.

I made a move or two in this crazy environment and I somehow bumbled into making a name for myself. I always wanted to start my own place up and I did so a couple of years ago. You're looking at it right now.

There has been so many changes in the field since those naive days. The small press exploded and is still growing and mutating to adapt to the market and the community. When I started there was only a few boards dedicated to horror literature and in the course of a half-decade or so, it seemed like dozens popped up. Often at odds with other sites.

That's something I never quite understood, but I suppose that's part of the competitive nature of our species. My own perspective is that we're all part of a family. I may not exactly be crazy everyone in it, but I do feel a kinship to those that love the genre.

Computers have become such an enormous part of our lives. The effects of them have been mixed. Our lives are easier, that's for sure. Paying bills and keeping track of debts and bank accounts is far, far more convenient. It's easier to follow news and information about just about everything. We know what books, movies and music releases that are coming long before their street dates. All that's nice, but...

Maybe we've lost something. The magic of looking in a bookstore and the explosive thrill of seeing a new, unexpected book by a beloved author. That's mostly gone. And thrift store hunts--they aren't the same. Not when I can get just about any book for a nominal price at abebooks or Amazon.com Marketplace or Ebay.

We've also demystified the creative process. We've seen the writers and filmmakers at their best and at their worst. Warts and all.

And maybe we've lost some more important things. How many hours have we taken from our families to sit down and meticulously read post after post at message boards? For me, I can give an exact number: too many. I've always been a fairly big guy, but I gained an atrocious amount of weight by abandoning my formerly active lifestyle in favor of sitting on my ass in front of this screen. Like anything else, it can be addicting and it can deprive us of the really important things in life.

However, on the other side of the coin, I've seen tremendous acts of humanity at the boards. Countless instances of emotional and moral support. And, yes, financial support as well. I've seen dozens of acts of generosity from the community. I've made some of the best friends I've ever had from sitting at this computer, pecking on these damned keys.

True to the duality of humankind, I've seen hatred and virtual lynch mobs formed. Incredible ugliness.

But for the most part, I've seen the community as an overwhelmingly positive influence on publishing. So many readers and collectors are unrelentingly supportive.

I hate to resort to a cliché by a corny old movie, but Mr. Miyagi had it right in The Karate Kid. There should be a balance in everything in life. We love horror and it's important that we stay involved. Keep the home fires burning. But we shouldn't lose sight of our families and having a real social life outside the computer world. Keeping physically active is one of the most important things in life and I've made Herculean efforts to reverse the way I had let my body go to hell in for about eight years.

I've been at this for ten years and I guess I'll be doing it for at least another decade. It's been a wild ride and I thank everyone who has been along for it.


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